During my college days, I ended up taking a lot of English literature classes which counted toward my degree. There are several that I still recall. One was a funny Mark Twain class and I remember the professor holding up the entire class with a banana. (Don’t even go there.) Another was a class about British literature — my nickname for it was “Brit Lit”.
In the third class, my professor gave us quite a puzzling assignment. All of us were to keep a literary journal about the books that we read, handing it in at intervals so the professor could see what we’d written.
Huh? Literary journal? What’s that?
It was the first time I’d seen an entire group of college students completely perplexed. We were College Students, used to writing down Very Important Thoughts in our Very Important Term Papers. We were Serious Scholars, partial to analyzing those mere literary trifles such as character motivation, plot development and authors’ writing styles. (Ha, ha.)
After we wrote our first entries and the professor had read them, he explained — in front of the entire class — that only two of us had produced what he’d wanted. He copied those two entries, gave them as handouts to the entire class and read them aloud.
Guess who was one of those two journal entries? Yup.
Thankfully, he hadn’t put our names. I had written about how I was baffled by the assignment and how I thought the professor didn’t want scholarly analysis but he was more looking for our personal reactions to the literature. That turned out to be the right answer.
You could say that in one way, that class was a predecessor to personal blogging. Many book bloggers discuss their personal reactions to books and its characters and love to debate the strong and weak points of the book with their commentators.
I notice that each blogger’s personal beliefs and life experiences color his or her interpretation of a character. I saw one character in a Nora Roberts book as irrepressible, meddling, and well-intentioned (it’s Daniel MacGregor of her MacGregor family series) while another blogger found the same character’s zeal for matching his relatives to their perfect mates to be creepy. It’s opposing viewpoints like this that keep literary discussions on blogs lively.
Who did actually write the first blog? I got to wondering, so I did some Google research. According to a New York source, Swarthmore College student Justin Hall created the first blog ever, Links.net, in January 1994. The same source notes that online diarist Jorn Barger created the word “Weblog” in December 1997 and programmer Peter Merholz shortened the word to “blog” in April 1999.
Now, personal blogs have grown to be this 24/7 means of international communication with each other. We’ve got this amazing ability to touch each other’s lives, find qualities and personal likes in common, educate and “e-meet” people who we wouldn’t normally encounter. I see remote parts of the world through someone else’s eyes without ever leaving my computer screen.
Fascinating, isn’t it?