Monthly Archives: October 2014

Reading Series: Robert Pinsky

robert_pinsky_credit_eric_antoniouLast week at the English Reading Series we had the privilege of hearing from Robert Pinsky. Not only did Pinsky serve as poet laureate, he also turns out to be a marvelous reader. I’ll be the first to admit that my eyes tend to glaze over a bit when I hear poetry read aloud (sorry, no tar and feathers, please), but Pinsky had an entertaining and almost magical way of reading. He read a bit out of his translation of Dante’s Inferno (which I didn’t know about but seriously, it was so much better than the other translations I’ve read–no offense to other translators), and then he took requests for individual poems. He also answered several audience questions, such as “What advice would you give an aspiring writer?” His answer–take note, you aspiring writers out there–was to “Make your own anthology of works you love.”

This week’s reading (Friday at noon in the library auditorium) will be from Wade Bentley, one of Utah’s own poets. Don’t miss it!

Did you attend Robert Pinsky’s reading? What did you think?

Writing a Thesis Statement

The following is a sort of “advice column” from the Writing Center that gives some writing tips for academic papers.

In high school you might have learned to write essays with five paragraphs: one to introduce your thesis, three to argue it, and one to conclude it. Writing at the collegiate level, however, rarely allows for such a rigid formula. Depending on the complexity and depth of your assignment, you might have to provide more than just evidence for your thesis. You may have to contextualize it, challenge its counterarguments, offer solutions—things that could employ any number of paragraphs, not just five.

A strong thesis can help you avoid formulaic writing and effectively communicate with your audience. The more you learn about the purpose, definition, and technique of thesis statements, the stronger your theses will become, and the more your subsequent skills of organization, technique, and style will improve.

A thesis defines the scope of a piece of writing, the limits of what material your work will cover. It helps readers understand what to look for as they read, and it can help keep you from digressing as you write. Additionally, a thesis gives the writing energy, a sense of forward motion, which captivates your readers and leads them through each paragraph to the conclusion.

Your job in researching a topic is to compile observations, which are deductive statements about the facts that you discover. You may conclude something like:

“Julius Caesar was a tyrant.”

While this opinion is useful in beginning your writing, it’s difficult to sustain strong academic writing on such a one-dimensional idea. A strong thesis combines observations with perspective. As you collect your observations, ask yourself what factors might have caused the conditions of your observation or what implications your observation might lead to. You might posit something like

“Julius Caesar’s experience in the military cultured his tyrannical behavior.”

A perspective like this adds dimension to your writing, which will ultimately make it more reasonable and engaging.

Strong theses also employ concrete words, which reference particular, explicit ideas. Words like “Julius Caesar,” “aggressive,” “establishment,” and “dictator” are specific enough to form a coherent concept and keep your reader from getting confused. With more concrete words, a thesis might look something like this:

“Julius Caesar’s aggressive leadership at the Battle of Alesia led to his establishment as a dictator.”

Try to think of your thesis from an unbiased perspective. Have you considered all the implications of your argument? What would someone who disagrees with you have to say? The strongest theses do not ignore their counterarguments, but confront them openly. They inspire opposing points of discussion, rather than put them down.

Developing these advanced strategies might seem overwhelming, but practicing them as much as you can will improve your writing in the long run. If you ever need help, come talk to a Writing Center tutor.

Sam Lund

I’m a social media fiend, an introverted people person, a wanna-be foodie, a college cheerleader, and I’m an English Major.

Sam, Lund

Sadly, not an Oprah gif.

Some people may think that being a cheerleader and an English major is contradictory. How is it possible to be a quiet bookworm and yell like a crazy person in front of 60,000 people at the same time? To answer that question—I’m not sure. All I know is I love people and I love reading. That’s what brought me to English.

For me, the English major has been anything but burying my nose in dusty books (although I don’t mind brushing the cobwebs off an old friend now and again). In case you weren’t aware of what you are viewing, it’s called the Internet, and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not all cat videos and Oprah gifs. Everything I love about literature and English can be seen through the fresh and exciting lens of social media. And trust me; it’s not as contradictory as it sounds. Right now on social media, people are taking literature and making it new, interesting, and even more meaningful. I thrive on seeing my favorite works remixed online, and all the ways people interact with those texts and with other people.
It was here at BYU where not only I found (mush alert!) my husband, but I discovered that I could do many things I enjoy simultaneously. Thank goodness for the English major. And gooooooo Cougars!

One of my favorite books is The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon by Washington Irving.




Jessica Romrell

I am a reader, a writer, a tennis player, a violinist and I’m an English major.

Romrell, Jessica

Jessica Romrell

I am and always have been an avid reader. This began with my father buying me the Harry Potter books on CD. I spent many hours listening to those books, and since then I have loved reading. I love it so much, that I’m going to turn it into a profession. I am minoring in editing, and my dream is to become an editor or book reviewer for science fiction/fantasy novels.

One of my favorite books is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Experiences Abroad: The Wordsworth Trust

The following is a summary of our vice president’s, Shane Peterson, summer internship with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, U.K. If you have been on a study abroad trip, international internship, or travelled anywhere exciting, then please share your experiences with us by submitting to our website. If you are interested in applying for the Wordsworth Trust internship, then visit for more details.


This summer, I had the opportunity to work as a student intern for the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, U.K., which is situated in the beautiful Lake District National Park. The Trust maintains the museum of William Wordsworth, a famous Romantic Poet. During my stay at the Trust, I was able to give tours of Dove Cottage to tourists, guide people around the museum full of Wordsworth artifacts, work on research projects in the Jerwood Centre, help out at special events for the Trust like exhibit openings, and attend sections of the annual Wordsworth Conference. I was also able to help the head curator, Jeff Cowton, curate and create a gallery for a WWI exhibit coming this November and create a guide for future BYU interns coming to the Trust.

My favorite part of the whole experience was being apart of an even the Trust put on to commemorate the centenary of World War I. We hosted an event at the Jerwood Centre, where a local history group and the glee club read letters, recited poetry, and sang songs from the time period. Then, for attendees of the annual Wordsworth conference, we opened up the Cottage and only had candles lit inside, reenacting what it would have looked like during Wordsworth’s day. Then, at eleven o’clock, we put out all the lights in the Cottage, museum, and residential houses as part of a nationwide blackout to commemorate those who lost their lives in the war. It was surreal and wonderful just being there on this historic occasion, and I felt privileged to be apart of it.

In my spare time, I was able to read a lot of Wordsworth, learn some basic Japanese vocabulary, eat some real English fish and chips, and explore the surrounding lakes, fells, and footpaths in the Grasmere Valley. I also visited surrounding villages like Ambleside or Bowness-on-Windermere and see some famous tourist attractions in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle, the Cotswolds, and Oxford.

In all, this has been an incredible experience for me, and I hope to go back and see the Lakes again someday.