Category Archives: literature

Is It Time To Stop Reading Shakespeare?

I never really liked Shakespeare.

Never hated the guy, mind you- downright enjoyed a few of his plays (The Tempest, Coriolanus, Hamlet). Still, I never really could bring myself to relish the bard’s works with the same zealous enthusiasm of the drama geeks and English majors.

With that in mind, you might spare me perhaps a little of the horrified gasping when I ask:

Is it time to stop reading Shakespeare?

And I ask that with all sincerity. I’ve made no secret about my general dislike of the theater and the culture surrounding it, but I’m not here to talk about those guys.

You know the type. Melodramatic airheads who’ll actually only refer to this as “the Scottish play”…

I’m talking about the actual works of William Shakespeare here.

Why still read ’em?

After all, with every passing year, we drift further and further away from those stories. In spite the film industry churning out one or two adaptations or modernizations of Shakespeare’s plays, there’s only so many ways to re-imagine Romeo and Juliet.

Continue reading

Re: #DontStayInSchool: In Defense of the System

A few weeks ago my brother sent me the following video and asked if I could write about it on the blog. He challenged me to defend academia and promised that he would respond by commenting on why this video resonated so deeply with him. So, although I agree with many of the comments Dave from Boyinaband makes in his video, I’m going to offer you several reasons why our education system can be, and has often been, a good thing.


1. Our education system was designed to promote equality

In his video on the history of education, Salman Kahn explains how our contemporary education system was shaped by ideologies that valued class equality. According to Kahn, the Prussian education system, despite its faults, insisted on providing public education for all citizens. Meanwhile, even the “Committee of Ten”,  the group of educators who originally introduced standardized curriculum, were motivated by their belief that economic status should not prevent students from having access to “higher order” skills. Standardization of curriculum meant that every student would (ideally) have access to the kind of information that was once restricted to the elite.

Continue reading

Perfunctory Valentine’s Day Post 2015 [Yes, I Write About That]

To start things off, Happy Galentine’s Day. What’s that, you say, you’re not familiar with the term? Well, I’m sure Pawnee’s very own Leslie Knope could, as Gordon says, “break it down for you”:

That was a lot less specific than I had hoped, but the point of that was to a) reference a sitcom, the last season of which you should all be watching right now, b) bring attention to a day that is for “celebrating special lady friends”, and c) start things off on a lighter note before I have to tackle what has been all over all of your social media feeds for the past two weeks now.

In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, it’s 50 Shades of Grey.

Continue reading

Writers’ Roundtable Interview: Stew, Old Friend and New CWR!

EVAN: I have a dream. That one day this blog will rise up and establish a regular schedule. From that point on each weekday will have its own writer, and all five will be equal. Today, friends, we grow one step closer to that dream becoming a reality.

Joining us officially as of this week is Stew, who both Gordon and I attended college with. He’s also left a grand total of 47 comments on this blog, so you know he is a person with thoughts to share and things to say. Honestly, I could go on, so let’s just start things off already.

Similar to our introduction of Kat two years ago [has it really been that long?] each of the CWR regulars will be asking Stew four questions apiece, ending with the chance for him to throw a couple of his own at each of us. Considering that she knows him the least well, and not for any chivalrous reasons…

KAT: My first question for you is, what makes you want to write for the blog?

EVAN: Wow, Kat, way to take my first question. And now I regret my decision.

STEW: Too slow, Evan.

KAT: Sorry, but you guys wanted me to go first, so…

STEW: Well, I’ve been a pretty avid reader of CWR since it first started. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of topics that you guys cover. But I’ve been harassing Evan to cover more science-y topics for ages now, and apparently this is the best way to make that happen.

EVAN: Favourite Lovecraft-themed alcoholic beverage?

STEW: Narragansett Lovecraft Honey Ale, both because it is delicious, and because I don’t think anything else fits the category.

GORDON: Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?

STEW: Nah, I love sitting on the fence.

KAT: Would you consider yourself a feminist and/or feminist ally?

STEW: Absolutely!

KAT: I feel a little bit like we are browbeating you right now, haha.

EVAN: If his brow makes it out in one piece we will have failed in our mission.

STEW: Generally, brows should be in two pieces anyway. Mine is no exception. Continue reading

The Last 3 Books That Made Me Cry (And Why You Should Read Them)

I love getting lost into the world of a book. You know how it is when you can’t handle taking a bathroom break or stopping to eat lunch because it might mean tearing your eyes away from the page? Luckily, as an English major, reading is a big part of my learning experience. Not every book I’ve been assigned to read has been my style, but some of those books have been so good that they sucked me deep into the story until the next things I knew, tears were streaming down my cheeks.

For the sake of this article, I won’t be focusing on all the books I’ve read over the past year. If you want to read a fantastic overview of a wide span of books, I suggest you check out Evan’s 2014 Literary Awards. Instead, I want to share the last three books that made me cry, and, more importantly, I want to discuss the larger issues that make each of these three books valuable reads.

Each of these novels engages with what it means to live in a post-colonial world. In each story, it quickly becomes apparent that the horrors of colonization do not simply end the moment government policy changes.

While I will avoid any key plot points in these books, I will be alluding to general context around the books. If you prefer to go into your reading experience with a blank slate, I should warn you, Spoiler-ish content below.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Generally regarded as the post-colonial prequel to Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea opens in Jamaica, shortly after the abolition of slavery. Rhys’ protagonist, Antoinette, comes from a family of plantation owners who were brought to financial ruin by abolition. As a child, Antoinette struggles to understand what separates her family from the rising class of British capitalists.

By writing from the perspective of a child on the wrong side of history, Rhys prevents any oversimplification of her narrative. She also challenges the idea that colonial injustice somehow ended when slavery did.

Rhys’ strong narrative style creates a story that will immediately pull you in, but her imagery and carefully thought-through word choices create layers of meaning that make this novel much more complicated than it appears at first read. While it initially seems to be a Gothic Romance, Wide Sargasso Sea also explores a variety of important questions around race and gender. Continue reading

Jane Austen vs. Nicholas Sparks (How Romance Literature can be Empowering or Enslaving)

When I first attempted to write this post, several months ago, I titled it “the real reason Nicholas Sparks is the worst”. I was planning to discuss the lawsuit against Nicholas Sparks that has accused him of being racist, antisemitic, and homophobic in the workplace. I then planned to use that as a lead-in to discuss how romance novels are just awful in general.

Something about that original post just never feel right. Maybe it’s because I have no way of knowing if Sparks is really guilty of what he has been accused, or maybe it’s because any time I start to attack the Romance genre I find myself haunted by the memory of Jane Austen.

This is what you find when you search for “Jane Austen” and “ghost”.

Continue reading

The 2014 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

My mom taught me how to read when I was 4-years-old, which WebMD, a reliable source if there ever was one, says is about two years younger than average. According to Iowa Tests [American standardized tests that I ended up taking at an American school] I was reading at a 12th Grade reading level when I was only ten. When I inevitably ended up majoring in both English and Writing at a Christian liberal arts college I was, to put it directly, horrifyingly average.

evanyeongliteraryawards2014I write all of that not to share that I was some sort of prodigy [I wasn’t], but that I was good at reading because I loved it. The written word continues to be my favourite artistic medium, and my appreciation for the literary has not faded. Today I start what I hope to be an annual tradition, a review of what was read in the past year to acknowledge the standouts [for better and for worse]. These are the 2014 Evan Yeong Literary Awards.

In 2014 I resolved to read 52 books, and while I only ended up stopping just four short of my goal, I do believe it was an overall success. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link. Continue reading