Category Archives: Essays/Readings

This category describes readings of any kind for either teachers or students.

2001: A Space Odyssey

“A science-fiction novel (1968, from his own screenplay) by Arthur C. Clarke (b. 1917). While the novel demonstrates Clarke’s ability to extrapolate from known data, it also represents a philosophical quest for the meaning of life and an investigation into the evolutionary process. 2010: Odyssey Two (1982) is a sequel; it was followed by 3001: the Final Odyssey (1997). The film version (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick, was a masterly blend of technical wizardry and obscure symbolism, criticized by some for its tedium but praised by others for its moments of striking imagery. The music was by various composers, but most memorable of all was the ‘Sunrise’ opening of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra (1896). The film acquired a cult status as a vision of the technological future, even if space exploration had not advanced nearly as far in reality by 2001. It inspired a sequel (1984) directed by Peter Hyams under the title 2010, but fans of the original movie were not impressed and gave it the alternative title Ten Past Eight.

David Bowie’s song ‘A Space Oddity’ plays none too subtly on Clarke’s title.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.


“The Sanskrit word ‘Nirvana” means ‘blown out’: a profound peace of mind, a freedom from suffering, and union with the Brahma-like symbol for the universe.

As the Lord Buddha explains, ‘Where there is nothing; where naught is grasped, there is the Isle of No-Beyond. Nirvana do I call it–the utter extinction of aging and dying…That dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support. This, just this, is the end of stress.'”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Learning Support: The Verb To Be Conjugated

While I’m pretty sure I’ve somewhere on this site posted another version of this document, here, nonetheless, is a learning support on the verb to be. It’s a conjugation table that separates the verb into its parts.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Term of Art: Grammar of Schooling

“The assumption that schools have certain invariable features, such as classrooms, teachers, subjects, textbooks, tests, report cards, rewards and sanctions, a certain architecture, and a certain layout of the classroom. Education historians David Tyack and William Tobin are credited with the phrase and the observation that the grammar of schooling is remarkably resistant to change.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Alliteration (n)

“Alliteration: (Latin ‘repeating and playing upon the same letter’) A figure of speech in which consonants, especially at the beginning of words, or stressed syllables, are repeated. It is a very old device indeed in English verse (older than rhyme) and is very common in verse generally. It is used occasionally in prose. In Old English poetry alliteration was a continual and essential part of the metrical scheme and until the late Middle Ages was of was often used thus. However, alliterative verse becomes increasingly rare after the end of the 15th century and alliteration—like assonance, consonance and onomatopoeia—tends to more to be reserved for the achievement of special effect.

There are many classic examples, like Coleridge’s famous description of the sacred river Alph in Kubla Khan:

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

Any others less well known, like this from the beginning of Norman MacCaig’s poem Mutual Life:

A wild cat, fur-fire in a bracken brush,

Twitches his club-tail,  rounds his amber eyes

At rockabye rabbits humped on the world. The air

Crackles about him. His world is a rabbit’s size.

And this, from the first stanza of R.S. Thomas’s The Welsh Hill Country:

Too far for you to see

The fluke and the foot-rot and the fat maggot

Gnawing the skin from the small bones,

The sheep are grazing at Bwlch-y-Fedwen,

Arranged romantically in the usual manner

On a bleak background of bald stone.

Alliteration is common in nonsense verse:

Be lenient with lobsters, and ever kind to crabs,

And be not disrespectful to cuttle-fish or dabs;

Chase not the Cochin-China, chaff not the ox obese,

And babble not of feather-beds in company with geese

in tongue-twisters:

Betty Botter bought some butter,

But, she said, the butter’s bitter;

If I put it in my batter

It will make my batter bitter,

But a bit of better butter,

That would make my batter better.

in jingles:

Dingle digle doosey,

The cat’s in the well,

The dog’s away to Bellingen

To buy the bairn a bell.

and in patter beloved of drill sergeants and the like:

Now then, you horrible shower of heathens, have I your complete hattention?

Hotherwise I shall have to heave the whole hairy lot of you into the salt box

where you will live on hopeful hallucinations for as long as hit pleases God and

the commanding hofficer”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Copulative (n/adj)

“Copulative: Indicating linking or predication of words, phrases or clauses, e.g., the verb ‘is.’”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Book of Answers: The Red and the Black

“In The Red and the Black, what do the colors stand for? In Stendahl’s 1830 novel, the red refers to Napoleon’s colors or the military life, the black to the clergy or religious life.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.