This Week in Poetic History

Just for fun: we’re celebrating the lives of three poets that were changed this week in history, many years ago, and examining the curious ways one turn of events can change a legacy. Here are three world-altering events from three years in poetic history…

“The Raven” Is Born

Tenniel-TheRavenOn this day in 1845, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” one of the best-known poems in the English language, was first published. But it was no easy feat getting it into print. Poe first submitted the poem his friend and owner of Graham’s Magazine George Rex Graham, who declined. He did, however, give Poe $15 out of what could best be described as pity. The poem was eventually bought by The American Review, for $9. Still, Poe was not yet to become the household name he would shortly be; the magazine printed it under the pseudonym “Quarles.”

It was in the Evening Mirror that the poem first appeared with Poe’s name beneath it. Thanks to this publication, Edgar Allen Poe and his “Raven” achieved Read the rest of this entry »


The High Cost of College

How to decide whether a four-year degree is right for you.

high cost of college

In a post from May last year we pondered the question, should everyone go to college? And what might still be surprising to some, the answer was a resounding no. As eNotes editor and college professor Jamie described it then,

I believe anyone who wants an education should  pursue one. But I also see many incredibly gifted students who have skills that they are actively discouraged from mastering because they are supposed to have a Bachelor’s degree.  I see young people who have no real interest or desire to stay in school another four years who are miserable and many who are racking up debt when they could be doing something they enjoy, avoiding debt, and making money.

The prevailing opinion in America is that every student must go to college; if they don’t, they’ve somehow failed, or been failed by the system. Yet the cost of an American college education is among the highest in the world. So, if that college degree does you no favors in the job force, or if you drop out before completing your four years, you’re burdened with a mass of student debt to shoulder for the next twenty years.

That’s why it’s important to look at the costs of a college education, weighing out the pros and cons of each side and determining what’s right for you. If you plan to spend your life in academia, of course a university education is a necessity. But if you’d be better suited to a skilled trade, would the debt and time spent out of the workforce pay off? Here’s an excellent infographic from affordable-online-colleges.net to help you weigh your options. You might be surprised by what you find, like the high success rates of those who choose a two-year college over pursuing a Bachelor’s degree.

Read on and let us know your thoughts and questions!

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Zeroes and Ones and Your Odds of Writing a Best-Seller

best-sellers

Did you ever suspect the runaway best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey was written by robots?  Well, somebody check E.L. James for vital signs because she might actually be an algorithm.  Check this out:

wordrep

Surely a human being would die of boredom before biting a lip in print forty-three times in one novel.

Actually, I’m skewing things a bit.  But it is true that “[s]cientists have developed an algorithm which can analyse a book and predict with 84 per cent accuracy whether or not it will be a commercial success.” (Source)

By downloading books in public domain from Project Gutenberg , scientists from Stony Brook University in New York developed a program called “statistical stylometry, which mathematically examines the use of words and grammar” to determine the popularity of a book, matching the programs results to the sales of works from the past. The experiment involved a wide range of literary styles, from science fiction, to novels, to poetry. Factors in determining sales and popularity included the “style” of writing as well as novelty in plot and character (they do acknowledge that “luck” plays a role as well.)

The program accurately predicted success, or failure, of those works an astonishing 84% of the time.

So what factors seemed to indicate, in a more concrete way, what you should do to increase your odds of becoming a best-selling writer?

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Dear Professor Einstein

Albert-EinsteinAs arguably the most important intellectual of his time, Albert Einstein exchanged letters with powerful contemporaries: fellow scientists, heads of state, dignitaries, philosophers. But what most might not know is that he also corresponded with children around the world.  That’s right–curious children would write and Einstein would reply, even at the height of his career and influence. Their letters back and forth are touching, honest, often hilarious but also poignant, thanks to the tone Einstein took with every note, never talking down to the children. A selection of these can be found in the book Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children, as well as a sprinkling below.

In a 1920 response to the question of what he looked like, Einstein wrote

Let me tell you what I look like: pale face, long hair, and a tiny beginning of a paunch. In addition, an awkward gait, and a cigar in the mouth … and a pen in pocket or hand. But crooked legs and warts he does not have, and so is quite handsome – also no hair on his hands as is so often found with ugly men.

In 1943, a young girl wrote to Einstein about her difficulties with mathematics in school. He encouragingly replied

Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
Best regards
Professor Albert Einstein.

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The Best Book I Read Last Year

Looking for a good read to begin 2014 right? We have some recommendations for you! Here’s a list of eNotes’ staff members favorite picks from a year of reading. We hope it inspires you when creating your list for 2014.

Clearly the editors, interns, marketing staff and others behind eNotes are a mixed bunch, with high-brow, chick lit, and even photography manuals between us. Check out our reads and let us know what’s on your list in a comment below.

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Gone Girl

This huge bestseller was probably on many readers’ lists for 2013, with its spellbinding plot and really, pretty horrifying characters. It had me compulsively turning its pages, making Gillian Flynn’s dark thriller easily a one-weekend-read. Warning: don’t pick it up without a bit of time on your hands; you won’t want to put it down without solving the mystery of Amy Dunne’s disappearance.

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Infinite Jest

One of eNotes’ co-founders selected a throwback for his 2013 pick: David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest. The book is set in a futuristic society of North America and has inspired some polarizing opinions from readers for its complex plot, but it has to be admired for its influence over the past two decades of fiction. If you’re looking for a challenging, important read, look no further.

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And the Oxford Word of the Year is… Selfie

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Must. Remind. Self..  The OED is not an arbiter of, but a chronicler of,  English language use.

Every year, the Powers-That-Be lean over the windowsills located high atop their Ivory Towers and cock an ear towards the milling crowds below. When they hear a word they do not recognize being shouted often enough, they dip their quills into wells of octopus ink and inscribe that word on gold-rimmed parchment.

Okay, not really.  Actually, it’s only been since 2004 that Oxford has selected a word of the year at all. Judy Pearsall, editorial director at Oxford, explains that a language usage program “collects around 150m words of current English in use each month.”  The word in 2013 that has become the most frequent was “selfie.” According to The Guardian

The word can be traced back to a post on an Australian online forum in 2002: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

So now we can blame Australia for both Crocodile Dundee and the word “selfie”! (Just kidding, mates!) 

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New Look, Same Expert Content

Go ahead, judge us by our covers.

eNotes’ study guides are getting a fresh new look, thanks to incredible artist and illustrator Yumi Sakugawa. Sakugawa took 200 of our most popular titles and interpreted each in a fresh and interesting way. The end results are as enlightening as they are beautiful; not only is each image a stand-alone work of art, but an insight into the themes and concepts that make these classics what they are.

We hope you enjoy them as much as us! Browse the images attached to our most popular titles here, or scroll down for a sampling.

midsummer-nights-dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

heart-of-darkness

Heart of Darkness

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