Laura Heffernan's OED Assignment
by Laura Heffernan
For this assignment you'll be using the Oxford English Dictionary to explore the past meaning of a word, as well as the full range of meanings in our own usage. The OED is available both in book and electronic form. The book is available in the Van Pelt Reference section and the on-line OED can be accessed at <http://dictionary.oed.com/entrance.dtl> (I have a link set up through our coursepage). Note that to login to the OED on-line you need to enter your last name as "username" and the last ten digits of your PennCard barcode as "password."
Assignment Part One:
Assemble a Roxana vocabulary list for yourself with a minimum of five words. Look specifically at words that are used frequently (or infrequently, but seem important) in the text. Alternatively, you could choose your own word that you feel conveys an idea or theme expressed in the text.
Assignment Part Two:
From your list above look up one word in the OED and write a paragraph about the OED entry. I find that the OED is often most helpful and interesting when I look up a word that seems basic. Read about the etymology of the word and use the dated quotations to trace changes in meaning. When you are writing your paragraph, it may be useful to think in terms of the denotation of the word as opposed to its connotation(s).
denotation: The most specific or direct meaning of a word
connotation: The set of associative implications constituting the general sense of a word in addition to its literal sense.
Assignment Part Three:
Write an additional paragraph taking what you have learned about your word from the OED exercise and applying it to Roxana. This is probably best done by focusing on a specific passage in which the word appears and discussing how the connotations or older meanings of the word inform (or change) our reading of that passage.