Reinventing English: The Troubled Future of Reading, Writing, and Thinking

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Duration 01:12:05

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, Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language, and Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage.



The English language is changing at a faster rate than almost ever before. Not only are new words and new expressions entering popular expression, but 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, led by literature professor and award-winning writer Seth Lerer, 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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Gail Naruo

Reinventing English

This was my introduction to One Day University—I am hooked! Great lecture! Thank you.

3 years ago
Mark Brazitis

Outstanding lecture!

The professor presented a fast paced, informative and thought provoking lecture. His delivery was engaging with in-depth insights on this fascinating topic. Very well done!

3 years ago
Judy Wolkenstein

Troubled English

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation – it is disturbing to lose the presentation mid-way through. I find it hard to pick up where the presentation stopped and started again. Also, it is extremely rude not just to the instructor but to the class as well. I would like to grade this talk with more stars but due to the interruption – I cannot do so.
ODU – this is not the first time a presentation has stopped mid-talk. Pls review your procedure recording process.

3 years ago
Nelson Mendell

Reinventing English

Most of your lecturers are excellent, but Seth Lerner is in a class by himself. Makes me want to go back to college and enroll at UCSD to get him as a teacher. He is so knowledgeable and an eloquent speaker. As a former English major, I feel relatively qualified to judge him.

3 years ago
Joyce Dudash

Reinventing English

Excellent lecture! Thank you!

3 years ago

Absolutely spectacular!!!

As a lover of words and languages, I felt like a kid in a candy store listening to Dr. Lerer! What a brilliant, fascinating, and engaging scholar and professor!! And kudos to those who submitted those terrific questions! Many thanks!!

12 months ago
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