Erin Sherrets

I am currently a graduate student at Wright State University studying English literature. I am particularly interested in environmentalism and ecocrticism in 19th-century to present-day American literature. Outside of academia, I enjoy running long-distance and backpacking through mountains.

Public Intellectuals and Academia

The term “Public Intellectual” has been circulating around academia for quite some time, but what does a Public Intellectual do? A simple answer could be that it is an intellectual who addresses the public sphere. But, in what ways does an intellectual utilize a public domain? Hua Hsu asks “How does one address a public that is constantly shape- shifting, expanding, an infinite terrain overrun with opinion?” I pose a question asking what constitutes intellectual material and who is an Intellectual?

Hsu finds “Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads allow us to instantly share what we read and think about with thousands of friends and strangers. Every day millions of people online model intellectual engagement and critical scrutiny for all to see.” This kind of thinking proposes that all people have access to these platforms, so is someone without a degree discussing a novel an Intellectual? Can their opinion be useful? What if the discussion is about the weather and the author has credibility within their profession? This is where this kind of publicity gets complicated. The ease to access virtually anything on the internet deems suspicious to me. Who can I trust with intellectual conversation? Are the platforms in which Intellectuals post what distinguishes and Intellectual from an average writer? And, how does one categorize which platforms are to be trusted and unbiased?

Hsu gathers that the public sphere is ever changing and that adjusting to this shifting world is crucial. So is Hsu proposing academics adopt journalism? I don’t necessarily think so. I find that this public sphere of writing is just academia adjusting to the shifting world. What is problematic though, is how the Public Intellectual fits in with this shift. How do we keep ourselves as intellectuals? And again, what is intellectual material?

Works Cited

Hsu, Hua. “In the Context of Infinite Contexts.” PMLA 130.2: 2015. 461-466. Web.

hypterxt lib.pngNoah Eisen and Robert Rose find that literature can be analyzed in a hypertextual manner by studying meaning embedded in reoccurring words and phrases in a novel. The Hypertext Library includes many classic books such as Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, George Orwell’s 1984, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and even Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.The pair encourages readers to treat every work as its own link and to “click it to see where it leads.”

I choose to search how often the word “rain” and “snow” occurred in Frankenstein. Each word resulted in 15 matches in the text. “Weather” occurred 9 times. “Clouds” occurred 13 times. There’s so much more and I got a little carried away, but it does reveal interesting ideas presented in the novel.

Explore your own favorite novels

video game

Did you know there was such a thing as videogame criticism? Well, there totally is and it’s surprisingly fascinating even for someone who refuses to play anyone but Toad in Mario Cart and only dabbled into World of Warcraft during an awkward stage. But, videogames are a part of culture, so shouldn’t they be studied critically?

Ian Bogost is one humanist who studies videogames and even wrote a book called How to Talk About Videogames. Also published last year, Carly A. Kocurek produced Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade and Michael Clune wrote Gamelife, all discussing videogames in extensive detail. An even further form of criticism is Matt Margini’s article “How to Write About Videogames” published on Public Books (a platform I wrote about in my previous post) (I’ve been exploring this site all morning and I’m slightly obsessed because it’s awesome). Read more about this sort of research:

Flow of Public Scholarship

publin books image

Does academic writing need to be so academic? This question asks if academic writing needs to cater to only other scholars who could possibly understand academic concepts. This is a question that has been circling around the classroom lately. An issue with scholarly writing is that it’s marginalizing itself by focusing its audience on other scholars who would understand a higher level of writing.

However, all book lovers aren’t always interested in pursuing a degree in literature, so how can the general public also contribute and read intellectual writing without subscribing to a library database? It seems that Sharon Marcus has found a sort of “in-between” platform for intellectual writing called Public Books. In “How to Talk About Books You Have Read,” Marcus claims “Readers outside the academy are clearly curious about what scholars have to say about contemporary books” (475).

This literary platform reviews books, fashion, film, television, emerging trends in environmental history, technology criticism, museums, and music writing by embracing an immense and diverse range of contributors from scholars to journalists to undergraduate students. Marcus’s idea is to treat Public Books as a site for teaching the public more complex and enticing concepts present in aesthetic forms.

“What we might call teacherly writing does not avoid difficult ideas or terms; it explains them. Professors teaching undergraduate courses on the novel don’t drop terms like focalize or free indirect discourse into lectures and expect students to know their meaning; a good teacher denies those terms, illustrates them with examples, and helps students to see how naming these techniques improves our understanding of novels” (476). This seems to be the antidote the Humanities have been looking for to de-marginalize themselves. By providing a digital landscape, Public Books attributes to the Digital Humanities and especially to providing accessible intellectual and scholarly reviews. (This is really awesome)

Works Cited

Marcus, Sharon. “How to Talk about Books You Have Read.” PMLA 130.2 (2015): 467-73. Web.

Humanities professors have taken upon themselves a new wave of pedagogy. This, of course, being digital methods of teaching. A collaboration of universities from around the world have created a workshop for teachers who want to incorporate methods of teaching with digital outlets. Their webpage also doubles as a peer review journal for other Digital Humanists. They term Hybrid Pedagogy to explain their combination of critical and digital pedagogy and invite open discussion.

Public, Accessible Academics

publishing 3.0

It seems that universities’ humanities programs are being marginalized now more than ever. Well, that’s at least what Ian Bogost argues but, doesn’t find that it’s quite the universities faults. “The problem is not the humanities as a discipline… The problem is its members. We are insufferable. We do not want change. We do not want centrality. We do not want to speak to nor interact with the world” (Bogost). I wonder though, isn’t this why the Digital Humanities became something big and real? By incorporating the digital, professors can allow their work to be shown in public formats.

Nicolas Kristoff says academics are walling themselves off from the rest of the world and pleads to professors to not “cloister yourselves like medieval monks.” So, is not publicizing a choice made by professors? Do they not want to move in the direction of the Digital Humanities? I’m sure the response cannot be answered with simultaneous agreement.

Could academic writing be too academic in a publicized environment?  Joshua Rothmam finds “There are more writers than ever before, writing for more outlets, including on their own blogs, Web sites, and Twitter streams. The pressure on established journalists is to generate traffic.” Since pop-culture media seems to generate the most traffic, maybe academic writing just needs to find a different outlet rather than journals that only the universities library has a subscription to.

I find issue with this need for professors to be more public and accessible than “before.” Academic writing is indeed quite academic and I worry that issues and ideas could be misconstrued if presented on an outlet like say, Twitter. I don’t find that professor’s work should be accessible for “free.” Their research is time consuming, intricate, and involved. Of course, certain aspects of work could be presented on pop-media as a marketing tool but, I find that the benefits of free publicized information to be detrimental and worth less than it should be.

Works Cited

Bogost, Ian. “The Turtlenecked Hairshirt.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Ed. Matthew Gold. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2012. Web.

Kristof, Nicholas. “Professors, We Need You!” The New York Times. 15 Feb. 2014. Web.

Rothman, Joshua. “Why is Academic Writing So Academic?” The New Yorker. 20 Feb. 2014. Web.

*Image courtesy of 3D Issue

How would Frankenstein change if it were based in 2018?  How would the Digital Age inspire changes in the plot? How would the weather be different? What forms of communications would change?

Distraction Not Necessarily New


Living in the Digital Age has opened the doors to constant access to streamed information. Google provides answers and opinions to virtually any question and online magazines and blogs provide entertainment, inspiring self-help, and horoscopes. There has never been another time where humans were exposed to such attainable information. There is also this idea that the internet has incredibly distracting venues and is typically viewed negatively. Pop-up ads at every site, hyperlinks of further exploration, and Facebook is just a tab click away. “The Internet is an interruption system. It seizes our attention only to scramble it,” Nicolas Carr mentions in his book The Web Shatters Focus. “There’s the problem of hypertext and the many different kinds of media coming at us simultaneously.”

Attempting to do work while on a computer can provide easy access to distraction. But is distraction really something that only comes with the internet? Arguably, I think that humans have always been distracted in some form or the other. in “In Praise of Distraction,” Christina Lupton mentions Florence Nightingale’s argumentation of women reading books in 1852 as “no door is ever closed in favour of their seclusion; no protection ever erected to favour their concretion.” There was always outlying factors to enhance distraction like a crying baby or work to do.

Even today, attempting to rid possible distractions people may venture to the library. Other people moving around, talking, or even a slam of a book may stop a train of thought. Singing birds and loud cars driving by typically force myself to look out the window, away from what I am working on. Though, I am not denouncing the Internet for not being distracting; it totally is. I am just thinking that humans have always been around distraction and that it is not a relatively new thing.

Works Cited

Carr, Nicholas. “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains.” WIRED Magazine. 24 May 2010. Web.

Lupton, Christina. “In Praise of Distraction.” Avidly. Los Angeles Review of Books, 09 Dec. 2015. Web.

Image by Yoshi Sodeoka

Transforming Literature

University of Michigan English professor gives a talk on transforming how students think about literature and language. He also discusses various projects he has undertaken throughout his long career as a scholar.”You are the voices of the future.”

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