Asking this basic question can train your brain to make better decisions.

For the last few years, I’ve had this question taped to my office wall: “What would a smart person do?” I was in a leadership role at work, and I was looking for help making decisions. I found some online advice that recommended asking this question as a way of…


Macbeth demonstrates the perils of ambition and the emptiness of pursuing power.

Based on my own experience, Macbeth seems to be one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays today. That might be because of its grim subject matter, or the fact that it’s one of his shortest plays, or the fact that it has supernatural/occult elements. People seem to love those. It’s also…


You should make the kind of claims that you can support with evidence from within the literary text.

It should go without saying that the principal task in a literary analysis should be analyzing literature, i.e. explaining how specific words and phrases from the text support a specific argument about the text. You will have to make claims in order to propose a particular way of understanding the…


You could be trying so much harder to be an insufferable asshole.

With so many people refusing to wear a mask or get vaccinated, societal collapse is just a few short months away. Here are some things you can do* to move it along:

Call your father to tell him what an awful parent he was. Sure, you could just leave him…


It made me feel powerless to see how powerless you feel.

Dear Esteemed Co-worker –

I was spying on your social media activity recently when I came across some troubling posts about how unhappy you are about being a team member here. I was super bummed to hear that your morale is so low, and I really want you to stop…


The Merchant of Venice shows how friendship, fatherhood, and community intersect in interesting ways.

The Merchant of Venice is most interesting when it demonstrates the antisocial tendencies of friendship, courtship, family, and community. It might seem like an oxymoron: antisocial community. But we all know that communities can be ruthless in snubbing or ostracizing members for a whole host of reasons. Communities often restrict…


Literary texts are products of specific cultures and historical moments.

In literary analysis, it’s important to be able to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant context, because it impacts your ability to effectively analyze a text. The bottom line is that a literary text is best understood as a product of its own historical and cultural moment.

Beginners often expect to…


Part IV of Gulliver’s Travels is based on an interesting inversion. Instead of humans being the dominant life form and subjugating animals, it is the opposite between the Houyhnhnms and their humanoid livestock, the Yahoos. As silly as it seems, it raises interesting questions about the natural order of things…


Part III of Gulliver’s Travels is the hardest part to love. It’s more scatological, more abstract, and more mean-spirited than the other parts. …


In Part II of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver finds himself in Brobdingnag, where most people are about twelve times his size. Gulliver goes from being a giant to being an insect, and it has a profound effect on him. …

Matthew Thiele

Matthew Thiele teaches English. He publishes humor writing and academic research, and he maintains a blog about appreciating literature.

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