Archive for Writing

The Sea is my Secret-Keeper: in Honor of National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share this.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had at least one moment in your life in which you were afraid to tell someone something. This is my feeble attempt to put that feeling into words.

Sunset on the beach
When the waves whisper
stories entrusted to their keeping
by overflowing hearts.

The sea swims with secrets.
They play around
our feet like puppies
As we walk along the shore.
Now scampering forward.
Now retreating.
Wanting to share
hesitant to trust.

I watch you toss
up handfuls of sand
Just to see
them dance on the breeze
a little boy
playing catch with the wind.

Your laughter tugs
at my heart
And I feel the words
begin to form
the faintest quickening
in my belly.
Your fingers brush
the back of my hand
like an afterthought
and I roll my tongue
across the words
testing them.
I am a mother
blowing on a baby’s spoon.
I shiver at their taste
Like morcels of baker’s chocolate.

I rest my cheek
against your shoulder
and the words tingle
on the tip of my tongue.
A diver poised to spring.
Do my words have wings?
Can I cradle you in them
and fly over the horizon?
or will I fall
Foolish little Icarus.
So I watch the sun
slip over the horizon
and I blow a kiss
to the wind
that caresses your cheek
and wonder if you can hear the secret
in the whisper of the waves.

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The Cultured Cocktease: or, Why you can’t Take a Blind person to an Art Exhibit

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder, but if, like me, your eyes don’t behold much beyond shadows and the occasional patch of sunlight, beauty, or at least visually-appealing beauty, is bound up in the equally creative art form of the descriptions relayed to you by sighted companions.

so when a group of friends and I decided to head into downtown Gainesville several weeks ago to check out the local art walk, I anticipated an evening of free entertainment provided by my friends’ running commentary. As I meandered in and out of each gallery, I admit to being more preoccupied with the challenge of nibbling pretzels, sipping lime punch, and weaving through the maze of masterpieces while silently praying that my guidedog wouldn’t suddenly demolish the entire display with a single sweep of his lethal Labrador tale. I was also teetering precariously on high-heals, a dangerous fashion choice in the current environment for someone who epitomizes the proverbial rhinoceros in an antique shop. Still, considering I have about as much class as blue jean cutoffs at a 5-* restaurant, I managed rather well despite feeling a bit like Eliza Doolittle at the embassy ball. I kept waiting for someone to expose me as the uncultured, squashed cabbage-leaf of Covent Garden—I, who probably can’t tell the difference between a priceless Renoir and a child’s finger-painting, even with the gift of two working eyes.

My last trip to an art gallery of any kind occurred when my college roommate and I paid a mandatory visit to our university’s local art exhibit to complete an essay assignment for an online class in which we were both enrolled. My roommate, understandably, chose what seemed the least complex of the pieces on display: a glass jar filled with sand, containing a miniature car, palm tree, house, and scattering of seashells—some eclectic assortment of items you’d expect to find in South West Florida.

“OK, I don’t get it,” my roommate declared after describing the piece to me.
“What don’t you get? It seems pretty straight-forward to me,” I replied.
“Well,” continued my roommate, “the piece is called Neapolitan Landscape, and I don’t get what any of this has to do with ice-cream.”
“Please tell me you’re kidding,” I managed between bursts of hysterical giggles.
“What’s so funny?” asked my roommate.
“Well,” I said slowly, “I’m not exactly an art expert, but I’m pretty sure ‘Neapolitan Landscape’ isn’t referring to a flavor of ice-cream. I’m pretty sure it’s a reference to Naples, Florida. You know…the city we live in?”

I couldn’t help recalling this story as I wandered past various carvings, photographs of mountain-ranges and sunsets, and the occasional hunk of twisted metal masquerading as a masterpiece. Suddenly, the friend with whom I was walking paused and laid a hand on my arm.

“You need to see this,” she said. I should point out that she was using that phrase fairly loosely; by “see,” she naturally meant “Someone really needs to point this out to you, because your inability to see it shouldn’t deprive you of what the rest of us have to suffer.” It was rather like the time in middle school when a friend of mine insisted on removing the rubber bands in her braces at the lunch table and thought she would enliven the process by making noises so that I wouldn’t feel left out of the entertainment. While I love my friends, I think I can safely say that this just takes the concept of accommodation to a level beyond appropriate.

Anyway, it turned out that my friend and I had stopped before a sculpture of what was unmistakably a naked man. This in and of itself wasn’t terribly shocking; what my friend felt compelled to point out was the fact that the artist, for one reason or another, decided to represent the man’s genitals with a pine cone. Perhaps Said artist was attempting to remind the viewer of the link between man and nature, or maybe he’d just run out of whatever material he was using for the sculpture. In any case, because my inner child has the maturity of your average four year-old, I was intrigued by the pine cone penis.

“You’re not serious. A pine cone penis?”
“I’m totally serious. It’s…definitely interesting,” said my friend. This description wasn’t nearly colorful enough to satisfy my curiosity.
“Are we allowed to touch it?” My friend hesitated.
“I…don’t think so. There’s a sign that says don’t touch.”

Well, this was disappointing, mostly because suggestively fondling a piece of local art would have been the most action I’d gotten in some time. Reluctantly I went off in search of a piece of art on display that was less touchy about being tactilely appreciated, but needless to say, I left that night with a very different impression of the concept of the cock tease than what is generally meant by the expression.

Question: what is the strangest piece of art you’ve ever seen?

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Here Comes the Bride’s Maid (or, reflections on growing up)

After a typical hither-and-thither Sunday afternoon of church and errand-running, I leaned against my kitchen counter and idly scrolled through my cell phone to check for any missed calls or texts, expecting the usual ‘0’. To my surprise, I had not one, but two missed calls from my oldest and dearest friend: two missed calls, but no voicemail or text. With the mind-reading efficiency that comes only as the result of a friendship spanning two decades, I deduced that my Siamese twin (hereafter referred to as S.T) had something to tell me that she deemed of too great importance to communicate in a voicemail or text.

With best-buddy antennae tingling, I settled on the sofa to return her call, with a very clear suspicion of what I was about to hear. After greetings and small-talk were exchanged, I waited in breathless anticipation for what I knew was coming.
“I’m engaged!” (Ha! Girl Sherlock wins again! Seriously, if I could high-five myself in admiration of my kick-ass deductive reasoning powers, I’d be doing that right now.).
“And I wanted to ask you if you’d be one of my Bride’s maids?” Um, hello? Does Colin Firth look hot in a wet shirt?
“Honey, we only planned this about, what, 20 years ago?”
“I know, but I had to ask. Make it official.”

Congratulations were given, dates were discussed, and the call ended far sooner than either of us would have liked, but adult responsibilities called. Gone were the days of spending hours on the phone inventing elaborate contraptions that did everything from math homework to unenjoyable chores. Speaking of being an adult: holy shit, batman, my best friend is getting married! And I’m not talking about Game-of-Life-add-a-little-blue-plastic-dude-in-a-car getting married. I’m talking about an actual wedding, with an actual bride and groom. This is the same girl who split granola bars with me at lunch; who read my teeny-bopper fanfiction (not that I wrote teeny-bopper fanfiction); who dutifully remembered the secret code name of every single boy I had a crush on; who inadvertently saved the life of a classmate while impersonating the “lice lady” and finding a tick in her hair. If you want to put our friendship in quantifiable terms, between the two of us, we’ve held about 8 million conversations, shed nine thousand buckets of tears, and consumed a rough estimate of 84 million calories in brownies and ice-cream. Most of the sleep debt I accrued before graduate school is probably the collective result of every single Siamese twin slumber party we ever held.

Still cradling my phone in my hand, I sat on the sofa and gazed out the window as a slideshow of memories rolled in my brain, amazed, and feeling supremely blessed, to have kept that solemn oath of friendship made with clasped hands on a school playground long ago: “One for all and all for one…and a partridge in a pear tree!”

Considering the fact that I fell asleep that night and had a very strange dream involving Livia Firth designing me a sustainable bride’s maid dress woven out of something resembling palm-tree branches and a pair of shoes made of recycled Coke cans, this whole experience is going to offer significant amounts of blog fodder.

Question: Have you ever been in a wedding party?

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Open Your Eyes: Blogging Against Disablism Day 2012

Those of you who know me or who have been following this blog for any length of time know that in addition to being sexy, intelligent, witty, a decent cook, and modest to a fault, I am blind: or rather, I am a person who happens to be blind. There is a difference between being a blind person and a person who happens to be blind, and it is not a subtle one. Every day, we tell ourselves stories about who we are, and those stories shape the images we create of ourselves and the world in which we live. To call myself a blind person would be true, but it would also be a gross understatement—an oversight of the many ingredients that, mixed together, make up the unique flavor of my personality.

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day, and as I reflect upon the ways in which society defines me by the disable label, I also find myself thinking about the eye-opening moments I have been privileged enough to share with those who have been willing to look beyond that label.

Last spring, I taught a course in 20th Century British Literature, but I was transparent about my passion for my area of specialization—the Nineteenth Century—and especially my Jane Austen fanaticism. One of my students, who I afterward affectionately termed my “Jane Austen student,” came gushing to me after class one day about her trip to England the previous summer and, in particular, her visit to Chawton House—the residence of Jane Austen.
“I have pictures,” she informed me. “If you’d like, I can bring them next class and show you.” Insert very long, uncomfortable pause punctuated by chirping crickets. Class had been in session for roughly four weeks at this point; either this student was terribly unobservant of the Labrador that sat curled at my feet during every lesson, or she needed to have her own eyes checked out. That said, I have non-confrontational tattooed across my forehead, so rather than point out the obvious and add an even thicker layer of awkwardness to an already awkward situation, I smiled and responded, “I’d love to be able to see them.” ‘Hurrah,’ I thought. ‘I am paragon of inner poise and diplomacy.’ I said “I’d love to be able to see them,” which was, I thought, the truth. I would, but I could not.

“great!” responded my student. (Did she need a bomb to drop on her?). IN this case, it was my dog discretely, or not-so-discretely, treading on her foot with his paw.

When I walked into class the following day, I wondered whether or not Jane Austen student would in fact remember to bring her pictures of Chawton and, if she did, how I would explain to her that I would not, in fact, be able to see them, much as I wished to. ‘Idiot,’ I thought. ‘Golden opportunity for a teachable moment here, and because you’re such a politically-correct chickenshit, you’ve let it slip right past.’ As I suspected, Jane Austen student did in fact bring her pictures and suggested walking to my office with me so she could share them. Now the moment had come; there was no way out, but how could I offend her when she’d gone out of her way to bring the pictures and seemed so enthusiastic about sharing them with me?

We walked across campus together, chatting about the weather, classes, my dog—safe subjects. As we drew nearer my office, I was still wondering how I might be able to salvage what was left of this uncomfortable situation and transform it into a teachable moment. While I rarely if ever call attention to my blindness, I try whenever possible to educate my students about how best they can be of service to someone with a disability when the need arises.

When we arrived at my office, I thought I’d let the student initiate the dreaded picture conversation and see what might happen; I was buying time. At this point, “Lovely, but I can’t see it” was still the only thing I could conceivably think of saying. Subtlety is not a virtue I claim to possess in large quantities–in any quantity actually. To my astonishment, with no prompting from me, Jane Austen student brought out her pictures and, flipping through them, proceeded to describe each and every shot to me in detail. It was as if she were simply sharing her adventure with me, using the pictures as a way to refresh her own memory. She must have spent a good hour with me, describing in detail the landscape surrounding Chawton House and sharing the story behind each picture—like the one of the exit-ramp off the highway where she and her friend had accidentally found themselves when her GPS inexplicably switched from the pedestrian setting to the car setting.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this instance, it truly became that, and so much more. IN that moment, it was my ignorance, and not my student’s, that had been exposed—my assumption that this girl wouldn’t be able to fathom how to bring the world into view for someone who couldn’t see it.

In honor of Blogging Against Disablism Day, I urge you to check out Gin and Lemonade, a wonderfully witty blog by a wonderfully witty woman who, among other things, writes prolifically about living with a disability. She rocks—and (quite literally) rolls.

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The WineDiaries: or, the Boston Chronicles, Part 2

Friday, April 13, 6:30PM
Success! K and I have managed to deliver a perfect presentation. “That thing we did…that was…good,” I can’t resist declaring. You’d think we’d be feeling elated, but after having spent nearly every weekend for the better part of the last year preparing for this moment, what I’m feeling is a kind of post-academic project postpartum depression. Alcohol. We need alcohol, stat. The only obstacle to obtaining said alcohol is that neither K nor I are willing to purchase a $40.00 bottle of wine from the Hotel restaurant. Then, of course, there’s the problem of inquiring at the front desk where we can obtain less-than-$40.00 adult beverages without appearing a: cheep, or b: like the functioning alcoholics we most certainly are not. A gentleman at the front desk suggests an Italian eatery down the street and a seafood place behind the hotel.
“We want wine,” K and I interrupt. I repeat: we are not functioning alcoholics. We’re simply pointing out what we’re in search of because we recognize the value of this gentleman’s time. I don’t want anyone getting the wrong impression. After thanking him for his help, we head toward the doors.
“Just one more thing,” another young woman at the front desk calls after us. “If you bring anything back, just make sure it’s covered, because *lowers voice conspiratorially* you’re technically not supposed to bring alcohol into the hotel.” I refuse to feel guilty about violating hotel policy, because the staff are obviously skilled enablers.

Undaunted, we venture forth and, feeling slightly self-conscious, enter the Italian restaurant that, according to the desk clerk, looks-but-isn’t-fancy.

“Can you by wine here?” we ask the hostess. (Being a proud, card-carrying Italian with that passionate and spicy blend of the Sicilian and Neapolitan in my blood, I realize as soon as I ask that inquiring if you can purchase wine in an Italian restaurant is like…asking a Catholic priest if he believes in the Immaculate Conception.) “Yes, of course.”
“By the bottle? For takeout? OR just with dinner?” (Now, be honest: does that sound like the sort of question a functioning alcoholic would ask?)
“No, only with dinner,” replies the hostess apologetically. K and I exchange a look. This is not going well. We were specifically told we could purchase wine, and only wine, if we chose. Short of singing to a crack in the sidewalk and waiting for a grapevine to magically spring up, there seems little hope of accomplishing our mission.
“Wait, you want to buy wine? I can tell you where to buy wine. Come!” The hostess guides us outside and points directly across the street to a grocery store—one that the hotel staff has conveniently neglected to tell us exists—and assures us that “They sell wine.”

We enter the grocery store expecting to find wine, and discover instead a fully-stocked liquor store on the second floor. Hallelujah! Eureka! And suddenly there appeared in the sky a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God, etc. Flash to scene in “Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory” when Charley discovers the ostensibly found fifth golden ticket glimmering from within the wrapper of his candy bar. So drastically has my mood been lifted that when the cashier neglects to card me, I forget to appear insulted at the implication that I am old.

9:00PM
Mission accomplished! Back at the hotel, we stroll across the lobby and have almost made it safely to the elevator without notice when we hear, “Did you girls find what you were looking for?” from the woman at the front desk. Can we do anything in this hotel without attracting the attention of the entire lobby? First my guidedog decides to perform a rain dance in front of an audience of about 50 bellhops. Now the desk clerk is broadcasting our quest for cheap liquor to the entire lobby. ON balance, we decide it’s best to respond politely.
“Yes, we did, thank you, and actually, we discovered a grocery store just across the street that we didn’t even know was there.”
“Oh, yes, and it’s open 24-hours,” replies the desk clerk, adding after a pause, “So, if you ever…need anything, you know where it is now.” (Translation: when you run out of alcohol, you know where to restock). WE nod and thank her again before making our escape.
“Enablers,” whispers K, which I suppose is some way of assuaging my Catholic guilt (not, of course, that I have anything to feel guilty about. I’ve been tottering around Boston in high-heeled boots all day in an endeavor to appear sexy and sophisticated. This alcohol is medicinal. You know, for the leg cramps).

Saturday is, I must confess, basically an over-caffeinated rerun of Friday, so allow me to leave you with the highlights encapsulated in a few choice quotations while the closing credits roll to the background music of “Me and my Shadow”.

Me (commenting on the dog’s position at my feet while we sit in the coffee shop): “He looks really adorable. You should take a picture.”
K: “He’s kind of just lying there, looking up at me with this expression like ‘Paint me like one of your French girls.'”

Hostess from previous evening’s alcohol adventures (standing outside restaurant and spotting us as we pass): “Hello, my friends! Did you find wine?” (That wasn’t at all conspicuous. Keep it classy, Boston).
K: “We did. Thank you for your help.”
Me: “We’re just…enjoying this spring weather…while it lasts.” (Translation: we are just two sober citizens on an evening walk. Judge us not.)

Tiny humanoid creature (running up to dog): “Hi, doggy!”
Mother: “Yes, nice doggy. But you can’t pet the doggy, because he’s doing an important job.”
K (attempting to distract small humanoid creature): “You’ve got an elephant on your shirt. I like that.”
Small humanoid creature (as he crosses street): “Bye, doggy!”
Mother (in v. “I-do-teach-my-child-manners” way): “Bye people, too.”

And so, it ends.

Author’s note: if any of the above appears less amusing than anticipated, a formula of less than 4 hours of sleep, several caffeinated beverages, and a few shots of vodka should spice things up a bit.

Related post: Doggone It: or, How to Avoid being Kicked Out of a Boston Hotel with a Service Animal

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Doggone It: or, How to Avoid being Kicked out of a Boston Hotel with a Service Animal

Thursday, April 12th, 5:00PM, Boston

I’m standing at the front desk in the Boston Copley Marriott with my friend and colleague, the lovely and talented K. Flush with the success of having completed the Sherlock Holmes book chapter we’ve been slaving over for the better part of this past year, we have arrived to present our labor of love at the 2012 conference of the Popular Culture Association. The day has been a haze of airports, metal detectors, and bad coffee. (I am still determining whether or not to grant amnesty to the Atlanta airport for that assault on my digestive system they called coffee). My guidedog is unceremoniously dripping rain-water on the highly polished lobby floor, and after months of anticipation, I’m thinking this is a rather inauspicious beginning to our adventure.

After determining which of the hotel’s approximately eight elevators will take us to our room and depositing our belongings, K and I descend to the lobby to discretely inquire where we might find a patch of grass for my dog to relieve his bladder. Being a suburban Floridian where foliage is plentiful, I have apparently underestimated the difficulty of locating greenery in downtown Boston. A severe-looking bellhop informs us that our only option is to walk around the corner of the hotel, which seems simple enough until K and I walk outside and discover that a: it’s still raining, and b: “around the corner” is actually about three blocks away. A simple trip outside has now become operation dogwalk, which we will execute about four times a day during the duration of our stay. (On Friday I will attempt, with only partial success, to execute operation dogwalk in high-heeled boots, a decision for which K will remonstrate with me in mingled amusement and exasperation). For now, we slosh through the puddle-dotted streets, dodging raindrops and the occasional pedestrian-oblivious driver, Zeus does what he set out to do, and we trudge back to the hotel. I am about to express my relief at being indoors when my dog, ever a paragon of poise and grace (except when he isn’t) performs a muddy paw-print prance across the lobby, shaking the water from his back and spraying a half-amused, half-disgruntled bellhop in the process.
“Bit wet out there, eh?” he remarks as we pass. Since my teeth are chattering with cold, I cannot smile without biting my tongue, so I settle on a nod of acknowledgement as we head for the bank of elevators that seem more at home in Panem’s District 13 than here.
“I think he shook his fist at us,” whispers K as the doors close behind us. She doesn’t think he’s actually angry; Zeus has probably managed to diffuse the situation with cuteness, but I wonder if there’s a button on the wall panel that will take us to a subbasement, since there doesn’t seem any hope of the earth opening and swallowing me whole. We’re going to be kicked out…and we haven’t even made it to the hotel bar yet.

12:30AM

After what will hereafter be referred to as the “lobby incident,” nothing—not even increasingly painful stabs of hunger—could convince me to leave my room, where I was content to hide my face in shame for the remainder of my stay (assuming, of course, that we weren’t going to be asked to leave, or at the very least to mop the floor). It was with the suggestion of alcohol and the assurance that the hotel’s restaurant’s location on the 2nd floor would allow us to avoid another encounter with the wet bellhop that K coaxed me to leave. We ate a celebratory “hurrah, we are in Boston and will kick ass tomorrow” dinner in the hotel restaurant, where I am compelled to emphasize that we partook of only one adult beverage each. Note this for future reference: it will become important later in the story.

After another trek to the poop park to avoid potential dog-related shit hitting the fan, we popped into 7-11 to obtain alcohol only to remember that grocery and convenience stores in the North do not carry alcohol. From the perspective of the girl who runs into her local grocery at 12:45PM on a Sunday for a bottle of wine and purposely spends an unnecessary amount of time deliberating over red or white until 1:00PM so she can purchase said wine under Florida law, I found the resignation of returning to the hotel from an aborted mission to obtain adult beverages just a little sad.

In any case, we are now snugly settled in our room for the night, depressed by, well, our failure to obtain depressants. We discuss what time we should be up and about the following morning, and K heads for the bathroom to brush her teeth.

K: We have a problem.
Me (pausing in the search for my own toothbrush, which I suspect might be buried in the dog food): What’s the matter now?
K: it’s…the bathroom door.
Me: What’s wrong with it?
K: It’s stuck. I think it’s locked.
Side Note: the bathroom door is a sliding contraption with no outer handle–just a screw to indicate where the inside lock has probably, and, inexplicably, gotten stuck. Additional note: alcohol has been consumed only in limited quantities–see above.
Me: but that’s impossible. It can’t just lock itself. Are you sure?
K: Well, I can’t open it.
Me: Let me try. (Pull, grunt, insert four-letter expletive of your choice. Lather, rinse, repeat).
Zeus: looks on in bewilderment at strange humanoid antics.
Me: Um, you’re right. It’s locked.
K: (in v. “Thank you, Captain Obvious” tone)I told you it was.
Me: Well, I just wanted to be sure. I guess we should call the front desk.
K: Which would be fine, but I don’t see any numbers posted anywhere.

We begin searching for paper containing need-to-know information. We discover a room-service menu advertising Eggs Benedict for the reasonable price of $17.00. (Let it be known that unless the Benedict associated with said eggs is one named Cumberbatch, I cannot justify the cost).

K: I’ve found something. This says to call “at your service, and we’ll be happy to assist you.” Which would be great, except there’s no number listed.
Me: Maybe there are dialing instructions on the phone?
K: I don’t see any.
Me: Are you sure? (Pointing to phone on nightstand).
K: Oh my god, there are two phones. (Walks over to examine keypad) and, there’s a button labeled “At your service” right here on this phone. What a waste of time!
Me: Just so we’re clear on this, I’m the blind one, right? But wait…what phone were you using? I’m confused.
K: This one, over here (pointing to phone at the other side of the room).
Me: I…what?

Apparently, for reasons clear only to the hotel staff, there are two phones approximately 10 feet from each other, both of which connect to the same line, rendering the necessity of two phones essentially pointless, what with this being the 21st century and all, where people need to be surgically detached from their portable electronic devices. I want to laugh, but consider banning this activity until the bathroom door has been unlocked, because I’m not sure my bladder can withstand the unnecessary pressure.

1:00AM
K has successfully placed a call to the front desk, after which we endure an agonizing waiting period. Finally two men from the maintenance staff arrive, screwdriver in hand, and the path to the porcelain throne is unbarred, much to our relief.

Me: Well, we’re off to an interesting start.
K: That was weird. Two strange guys with screwdrivers just came into our room, at 1:00 in the morning.
Me: and I wasn’t wearing a bra. V. awkward, that.
The only thought I can form as I crawl into bed is “Thank god they haven’t kicked us out…yet.”

Coming soon: Episode 2 of the Boston Chronicles-stay tuned!

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A Little Birdie Told Me: Academic Research and the Twittersphere

Amidst headlines about the ongoing violence in Syria, the 2012 presidential race, and people (myself included) griping about Facebook’s mandatory rollout of Timeline, I was fortunate to stumble upon this little gem in my Twitter feed: MLA Releases Guidelines for Citing a Tweet.
‘Great,’, I thought. ‘As if taking up arms against the persistence of plagiarism isn’t already challenging enough what with Wikipedia, Google, and the fact that the I Phone has shrunk the world of information to a pocket-sized piece of plastic’. Now we’ve got to contend with Twitter.

You would think that, having spent roughly half of my life becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet, that I’d be a bit less of a Luddite about this most recent acknowledgement of the extent to which internet technology has altered the way we conduct (and in turn cite) research. But the truth is, I needed a moment to pick my jaw up off the floor before I could actually process this information. Several cups of coffee later, with the gears of my brain grinding, I challenged myself to step back and evaluate the situation from a more technologically open-minded perspective. Let’s face it: I blog, I use Facebook, I tweet like a twit, and I’ll be much surprised if I am never called upon to address a question from a student about the correct method for citing a tweet. Thanks to the MLA, I now have a default response.

That being said, there remains the issue of what constitutes legitimate, authoritative sources, and the circumstances under which Twitter might be considered appropriate for academic research. Admittedly, I was hard-pressed to think of such scenarios; as a literature and writing teacher and a Victorian scholar, I’ve never encountered (at least not yet) such a scenario. However, I am aware that in recent years, scholars in my field, as well as fans, have taken to creating accounts on Twitter impersonating—for entertainment as well as edification—fictional characters and their creators, everyone from Wilkie Collins and the great Sherlock Holmes to Mark Darcy of Bridget Jones fame (though he hasn’t tweeted in months…not that I know this, because I don’t follow him or anything). To return to the point, if someone, whether a student or professional scholar, wanted to conduct research focusing on the use of social media such as Twitter for engaging with literature and encouraging the “I Phone generation” to read, this might be a scenario where citing a tweet might be academically appropriate.

To use another example, the course I taught last semester—Writing through Media—and the course I’m currently teaching—Advanced Argumentative Writing—both have a heavy emphasis on the usage of new media tools, including Twitter, as means through which to enrich our writing experiences and create new spaces for readers and writers to interact with one another. I’ve just assigned my Advanced Argumentative Writing students an essay addressing this very topic, and in a context where one is studying the trends of popular media, there might be cause for incorporating Twitter into the research and writing. In that case, the MLA has offered us a solution to a question for which, until now, teachers have had no standard, textbook response.

How do you feel about the acknowledgement of Twitter as potentially suitable for use in academic research? What situations can you think of in which such usage would be called for? How can teachers instruct students about how best to use Twitter as an academic tool? Is Twitter even an internet resource that can offer students legitimate, authoritative information, or should we teach students to treat Twitter as we instruct them to treat Wikipedia–a source of general (though not necessarily verifiable) information?

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