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Common Errors in English Usage and More The Website of Prof. Paul Brians

Public Talks & Presentations

Paul Brians
11734 Kirk Ave NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
206 780-5926

The Roots of Star Wars: or, Why Princess Leia Fights Like a Girl (75 min.)

When George Lucas planned his original Star Wars trilogy he had in mind the model of the 1940s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials. This lively presentation demonstrates how closely he hewed to that model by comparing clips from the older films with the same sorts of scenes as transformed by Lucas. It also emphasizes his basic conservatism regarding women’s roles, especially the ways in which Princess Leia is depicted as much more traditionally “feminine” than her counterparts in the old serials, who often displayed more competence, courage, and strength.

The Art of the American Comic Strip (60 min.)

The comic strip as we know it is an American invention. This illustrated talk concentrates on the innovative artists who created the most visually interesting and influential strips from the classic period (1905–1945) and also takes a look at some current artists. Included in this discussion are such strips as Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo, Frank King’s Gasoline Alley, Cliff Sterrett’sPolly and Her Pals, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts, and Lynn Johnston’s For Better or for Worse. Because the presentation focuses on the visual aspect of the color Sunday strips, there is no need for the audience to read lots of text or follow complex plot lines. A bibliography of currently available reprints of the strips discussed is provided.

Krishna as Lover (60-75 min.)

This multimedia presentation can be presented in shorter or longer formats as needed. It explores the art, music, dance, and poetry that reflect the popular Hindu images of Krishna as lover of his consort Radha, and of all humanity. It concentrates particularly on the art which illustrates the classic Gita Govinda. The material is placed in the context of erotic mysticism, a thread of which runs through most of the world’s great religions.

Classic American Love Songs (60-90 min.)

This presentation can be given in various lengths as desired. It concentrates on the texts and music of “standards” from the 1930s and 40s, showing how the popular culture of that period treated love themes, and how the music was performed by classic artists like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra. These songs, by composers like George Gershwin,  Duke Ellington, and Richard Rodgers, are still widely popular today, including among a remarkable number of young people. Ends with an illustrated version of Cole Porter’s You’re the Top.

Love in European Art (60 min.)

A visual presentation of famous and influential paintings depicting love, from ancient times to the present, exploring traditional themes and images and tracing changing attitudes toward love through the centuries.

The Goddess of Love in Art (60 min.)

Images of Aphrodite/Venus and Eros/Cupid in art ranging from ancient Greece to modern times, concentrating on themes and motifs.

When Is a Rose Not a Rose (30 min.)

This talk explores the image of the rose in love poetry from ancient Rome to modern America. Roses have traditionally had more to do with seduction than with romance. Suitable for poetry and reading groups, garden clubs, literature classes.

Science Fiction Film Classics (30 min. plus film showing)

This is a series of short illustrated talks prefacing showings of classic science fiction movies. Films available include 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, Blade Runner, Brazil, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, The Iron Giant, It Came from Outer Space, Metropolis, Dr. Strangelove, and The Thing. Each talk puts the film in its historical context, explores the techniques and imagery of the filmmakers, and explores various other issues. One of the goals of this series is to dispel the image of SF as being primarily about “monsters from outer space” or killer robots.

Common Errors in English Usage (60 min.)

Explores in a lively and entertaining manner some of the patterns that people struggle with in trying to speak and write standard English. Explains how Paul Brians’ popular Web site Common Errors in English seeks to provide unthreatening and helpful guidance for users of English.

Watch a video of Paul Brians’ illustrated lecture on student activism at Washington State University 1968-1970 on YouTube.

All presentations require a good digital projector to which a laptop can be connected, a screen, and a room which can be suitably darkened. Some also use speakers for sound, though small portable speakers can be provided by the presenter if necessary. Add any discussion time desired to the stated presentation lengths.

Paul Brians is a retired Professor of English who taught at Washington State University, Pullman, for 40 years. He has a Ph.D. in comparative literature and has taught, written, and lectured widely on popular culture, world literature, and the history of ideas. He has published many articles and several books, including Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction 1895-1984 (Kent State Univ. Press),Modern South Asian Literature in English (Greenwood Press), and Common Errors in English Usage (William, James & Co.).

He and his wife now live on Bainbridge Island. He has lectured internationally, in Moscow, Bonn, other German cities and in various cities in the U.S. including Washington D.C.,  Las Vegas, and Portland. He has lectured regionally in Sequim, at the University of Washington, The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Shoreline branch of the Seattle Public Library, where he was the keynote speaker in 2007 for a community reading project of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.