Tag Archives: research


This reading on ARPAnet, which it will tell you, was the precursor to the Internet, has invariably been a high interest item for the students with whom I’ve worked over the years. Here is its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

If you find typos in these documents, 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.


“Hubris: (Greek “wanton insolence”) This shortcoming or defect in the Greek tragic hero leads him to ignore the warnings of the gods and to transgress their laws and commands. Eventually hubris brings about downfall and nemesis (q.v.), as in the case of Creon in Sophocles’s Antigone and Clytemnestra in Aeschylus’s Oresteia trilogy. See HAMARTIA; TRAGEDY.”

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

Paul Bowles

Paul Bowles: (1910-1999) American writer and composer. Born in Queens, New York, Bowles fled America at the age of eighteen to live in Paris. His early mentors Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas advised him to travel in order to develop as an artist. Bowles went on to exhaustively explore the issues that arise when modern Westerners confront non-Western cultures. Bowles first gained attention as a composer, studying with Aaron Copland and Virgil Thompson and producing scores for work by Tennessee Williams and Orson Welles. He is best known, however, for his first two books, The Sheltering Sky (1949), a novel, and the short-story collection The Delicate Prey and Other Stories (1950), which introduced his central theme: the disintegration of developed Western culture as it encounters more primitive societies and a less mediated natural world. Bowles is also highly regarded for his translation of North African tribal tales and his poetry. Sympathetic critics have praised his work as a powerful encapsulation of existentialism, while others have found it repetitious and stunted in development.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Historical Terms: Cabal

cabal: The name given to the ministry which took power in England in 1667 (when Charles II dismissed his chancellor, Clarendon), taken from the initials of its members: Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale. The term is also used to mean any close-knit group of persons, particularly those involved in intrigue.”

Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.

Nikola Tesla

His name is now a corporate brand, so perhaps this reading on Nikola Tesla and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet will help students understand the significance of that fact–and learn something about the plot of the recent film The Current War.

If you find typos in these documents, 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.


commodification: A term derived from Marxist analyses of the social forces that guide the production and sale of products, or commodities. Since the Renaissance, artworks have been commodities paid for by religious or royal patrons. By the 20th century, art production had become entangled in a complex web composed of collectors, auction houses, galleries, and museums. In the tradition of Dada, 1960s artists feeling constrained by increasing commercialism sought to create unmarketable works, giving rise to conceptual, political, performance, and earth art. Recent artists concerned with issues of originality, authorship, and camp, are indirectly addressing issues of commodification and canon formation.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire: An intense drama (1947) by the US playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-83) about the relationship between a faded Southern belle, Blanche Dubois, and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. It was subsequently turned into a successful film (1951), directed by Elia Kazan, starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. The play had several titles before the final one, including The Moth, Blanche’s Chair in the Moon and The Poker Night. The eventual title was inspired by a streetcar labeled ‘Desire’ (for its destination, Desire Street), which, together with another called ‘Cemeteries,’ plied the main street in the district of New Orleans where Williams lived. In the play the names are taken symbolically, Blanche contending that her sister Stella’s marriage is a product of lust, as aimless as the ‘streetcar named Desire’ that shuttles through the narrow streets. The name of the street does not denote a place of pleasure but derives from the French girl’s name Desiree. A monument, the ‘Streetcar Named Desire,’ now stands on the site near the French Market. The play is a leitmotif in Pedro Almodovar’s film Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother1999).

‘They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, then transfer to one called Cemeteries.’

Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire (Blanche’s first line).”

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