Reinventing English

Seth Lerer
Seth Lerer
University of California at San Diego

Seth Lerer is Distinguished Professor of Literature and former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on literature and language– most recently on Children’s Literature, Jewish culture, and the life of the theater. He has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Truman Capote Prize in Criticism. Among his many publications, he has written the books Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past, Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage, and Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language.

Overview

The English language is changing at a faster rate than almost ever before. Not only are new words and new expressions entering popular expression, the language is becoming more evocative and idiomatic. Digital technologies have changed the way we write and read. Global media has helped make English into a world language — but a world language with many different social, regional, and cultural variations.

Should English be an official language; what standards do we use in public discourse; what happens when cultures come together and introduce new words; what role does technology have in language change? These are all questions that, in one form or another, have been asked for a thousand years — ever since the Anglo-Saxons first committed “English” into writing and created poetry and prose of power and imagination. English has always been reinvented by everyone who speaks and writes it. In this course, we will search for ways of anticipating future changes to the language and prepare for a world in which English will be reinvented before our eyes and ears.

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