This article proposes three ways of using the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to encourage students' curiosity about language and develop research and analytical skills in the literature classroom. By considering the OED as an object, including the size and cost of its multivolume physical format, students learn about the vast amount of information it includes as well as the limits of that information. Through interactive exercises on etymology, students see the value—and the fun—of investigating questions about language and its development. Students can also explore the history of lexicography and of the OED itself, coming to understand dictionaries as human endeavors rather than decontextualized resources. The activities and assignments described can be adapted for a variety of courses on literature, linguistics, or the history of the language.
The OED in the Literature Classroom
Tara Williams is associate professor of English and associate dean of the Honors College at Oregon State University. She is the author of Inventing Womanhood: Gender and Language in Later Middle English Writing (2011) and Middle English Marvels: Magic, Spectacle, and Morality in the Fourteenth Century (2018). Her work on teaching medieval literature and culture has appeared in Pedagogy, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching, and Profession as well as Approaches to Teaching the Canterbury Tales (2nd ed.).
Tara Williams; The OED in the Literature Classroom. Pedagogy 1 October 2018; 18 (3): 547–550. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15314200-6936973
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