Associate Professor of English, University of Michigan-Flint. I research and teach rhetoric, technology, and writing.
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Airs and disgraces: how city pollution is killing residents

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Dirty air accounts for the premature deaths of people in London, New York, Paris and Beijing
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betajames
9 hours ago
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Michigan
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ancient feelings

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Why doesn’t ancient fiction talk about feelings? “I’d often wondered,” says Julie Sedivy, “when reading older texts: Weren’t people back then interested in what characters thought and felt?” Let me put this as politely as I can: What the hell are you talking about?

If you read the Iliad you’d know how Achilles felt when Agamemnon took his “prize,” or how he felt when his beloved friend Patroclus was killed. If you read the Odyssey you’d know how Odysseus felt when his men were being eaten by Polyphemus, and how he felt when he fell, at last, into the arms of his beloved wife Penelope. If you read the Oresteia you’d know how Orestes felt when faced with the task of killing his mother. If you read Antigone you’d know how the title character felt when told she could not bury her brother. If you read the Aeneid you’d know how Aeneas felt when he saw his fellow Trojans painted on the walls of a palace in Carthage — sunt lacrimae rerum, there are tears for things, possibly the most famous line in ancient literature — and how Dido felt when she learned that Aeneas would leave her. If you read Beowulf you’d know how Beowulf felt when, after slaying a dragon, he lay dying, abandoned by all but one companion. If you read the Divine Comedy you’d know how Dante the pilgrim felt about everything, from getting lost in a selva oscura to disappointing his guide Vergil to meeting his old friend Casella the musician to being reunited with Beatrice.

I’m old as dirt and have seen people take many ridiculous positions in my time, but none more ridiculous than this.

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betajames
18 hours ago
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Michigan
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“The deepest motive for writing”

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Richard Lanham:
Motive has always been the question of questions for Freshman Composition. Perhaps more success might flow from assuming, paradoxically, that the deepest motive for writing is not communication at all but the pleasures of writing for its own sake. Writing to others is a writing for ourselves. Clarity in communication may be less the cause of our pleasure in prose than the result.

Style: An Anti-Textbook, 2nd. ed. (Philadelphia, Paul Dry Books, 2007).
Also from this book
“Slow Reading”
Writing and speech
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betajames
1 day ago
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Michigan
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Even climate do-gooders end up hurting the environment

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The ‘environmental rebound effect’ probably negates any green-thinking choice you make.
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betajames
1 day ago
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Michigan
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Flint loses focus in finding lead water service pipes

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The city of Flint's ban on a cost-effective tool and its method for finding lead water service pipes may mean it could run out of money before all its hazardous pipes are removed.



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betajames
1 day ago
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Michigan
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Climate stress will make cities more vulnerable

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The fall of Angkor has long puzzled historians, archaeologists and scientists, but now a research team is one step closer to discovering what led to the city's demise -- and it comes with a warning for modern urban communities.
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betajames
1 day ago
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Michigan
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