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Portmanteau is a big word with a simple meaning—to combine two words into one using both sound and meaning. Freshmen in Professor Sean Meehan’s English 101 class might hear this word a lot, as Washington College’s Director of Writing loves to make them. He even makes portmanteaus out of other portmanteaus: blog (web log) and reading log become “glog,” for example.
In addition to “The Gutenberg Progenies,” his English 101 class, Professor Meehan teaches classes on Transcendentalism, environmental writing, nonfiction writing, and also the Humanities component of the Chesapeake Semester.
His classes contain an online aspect where students are asked to keep a blog, allowing them to write towards a more general Internet audience as they explore their ideas and their writing style.
“I tell students that I am a reader of their work, but I don’t want to be the only audience for that work,” he says. “I want student writing to participate in a conversation with other writers and readers, as all writing should.”
The blogging project also allows students and Dr. Meehan, who blogs for these classes himself, “to model for students ways of developing ideas in writing,” to practice what Thoreau calls “deliberate reading,” delving deeply into a passage to incorporate the origins, associations, and nuances of meaning of words and phrases into their analyses.
“My interest as both writer and teacher is with the way the blog requires readers to become writers and writers to be readers with a fluidity that is important to learning,” he explained. And, yes, he has a portmanteau for that:” “wreading.”
— Emily Blackner ’13