Saturday, April 11, 2015

URCA Presentations Showcase Student Achievements

By Hilary Donatini

On Wednesday, April 8, the College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium showcased some of the brightest and most accomplished students at Ashland University. I had the privilege of sponsoring two students presenting on Frances Burney's 1778 novel Evelina—English majors Emily Cardwell and Kristin Herrick—both of whom delivered sophisticated arguments about the representation of gender in this important literary text. Both essays grew out of an assignment for English 408: Eighteenth Century English Literature. It was gratifying for me to witness the evolution and refinement of their ideas, from brainstorming for their essays in the course to adapting their writings to an oral presentation format. In a testament to the impact of our Core classes, Charles Michel, a math major, presented on the representation of capitalism in the film Glengarry Glenn Ross. His sponsor was Dr. Maura Grady.

Integrated Language Arts major Megan Scarberry presented on E.M. Forester's A Passage to India, which originated in an essay for Dr. Sharleen Mondal's Literature and Gender course. Megan found value not only in the experience of presenting, but also the opportunity to learn from the other students: "I really enjoyed the opportunity to present at the symposium on Wednesday. It was awesome to be able to share my work with the student body, professors, and the community. It was also very interesting to see presentations from other fields of study while learning about things I may never have otherwise."

Creative Writing major Garrison Stima read a personal essay originating in a writing workshop course, concerning an encounter on a mission trip in Chicago that changed his understanding of his faith. He describes the development of the project: 

The piece I wrote began as an assignment for my Problems in Creative Writing class where we were asked to describe a moment or short scene in great detail, trying to keep the action within a short span of time. After completing the first draft and reading it to the class, my professor and URCA sponsor, Joe Mackall, encouraged me to submit my work to the URCA symposium. 
I ended up doing so, and the process of preparing the piece was an interesting one because this was the first scene I jumped to when we were given the assignment and the first nonfiction work I'd ever written. We worked for weeks on it as I attempted and eventually managed to grasp the right words to describe this powerful fragment of my life. 
Actually presenting at the URCA symposium was a far easier task, despite baring my soul to a crowd made-up of mostly strangers, because the people organizing the symposium were quick to help and answer any questions I had from start to finish. I had no problems working with anyone affiliated with URCA and they only aided the process of presenting and solidified my experience in an extremely positive manner. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Composition Students Reflect on Cummings Class Visit and Reading

By Hilary Donatini
I decided to feature some works from our spring reading series writers on my English 102: Composition 2 syllabus this semester. On March 23, J. David Cummings, author of Tancho, visited my class, sharing his writing process and providing context for understanding his poetry. Two of my students who attended both the class session and the afternoon reading agreed to write about the experience: Amelia Sidley, a nursing major from Thompson, Ohio, and Jessica James, a social work major from Loudonville, Ohio. Their responses show how core classes such as freshman composition can open new intellectual vistas for all majors.

Amelia Sidley:
I found the experience of the J. David Cumming’s reading and class discussion to be especially enriching. Cummings was a very interesting person to talk to, and I really enjoyed being able to sit and converse about Tancho. I found it extremely interesting how he came about writing the book and how he was able to organize the poems in an order that made sense to the overall image of the book. From this experience I got to hear a different perspective on many of the poems, from the author himself. A poem that I may have interpreted one way he saw a different way and it was interesting to be able to compare my ideas with his. Being a nursing major and a non-English major I may have taken the experience a different way. I was able to ask questions on his writing process as well as his revising process that I could apply in writing my papers. I was able to have an insight into something that I would not always be able to have in my major, and I think that this experience will only help my writing abilities in any class. This experience was very beneficial to me as the reader of the book as well as someone who wrote about it.

Jessica James:
At first when I heard about the poetry reading that J. David Cummings was going to put on, I wondered how exactly it would work. And who would want to sit for that long and just listen to poetry being read? But I am very glad I went! Hearing David Cummings read his poetry aloud really brought it to life and made me think about it on whole new levels. He paused in certain parts and separated everything out how it was suppose to be and it helped me truly understand the poetry. I also thought it was very interesting when he talked about the order of the poems in the book, and how they were not originally planned this way. Of course, nothing is perfect the first time around, but when you think about a professional and published writer, you just don’t think of them making mistakes and having to edit as much; but truly, they probably do more editing and revising then just an average writer.

I was also privileged with the chance of having Cummings come to my English class earlier in the day before his poetry reading. This allowed me to get a background not only on how the book was developed but also on his life, and it really allowed me to understand where all his poems in Tancho came from. The one thing that stuck out to me was that he actually worked in a laboratory that actually worked on the development of nuclear bombs and weapons. But he didn’t agree with the thought and idea of them, so he gave up his career to become a writer. Sometimes when reading poems or stories, the reader will wonder, does the author truly know what they are talking about or did they just do very extensive research? Cummings actually had experience and background around the nuclear weapons, which is what partially inspired him to write all these poems. Overall, the experiences I had with J. David Cummings really opened up my eyes and made me have more appreciation for poetry.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Upcoming Reading: Tom Montgomery Fate

Tom Montgomery Fate, author of Cabin Fever, will hold a reading at 4:00 on Monday, March 30 in the Ronk Lecture room in the Dwight Schar College of Education. 

Tom Montgomery Fate is the author of five books of nonfiction, including Beyond the White Noise, a collection of essays, Steady and Trembling, a spiritual memoir, and Cabin Fever, a nature memoir. His essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, Orion, Iowa Review, Fourth Genre, Riverteeth, Sojourners, Christian Century, and many other journals and anthologies; and they regularly air on National Public Radio and Chicago Public Radio. He is currently a professor of English at College of DuPage, in suburban Chicago.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Poet Kicks Off English Department Spring Reading Series

By Deborah Fleming, Professor of English
Our first reader this year is J. David Cummings, winner of last year's Richard Snyder Poetry Prize from the Ashland Poetry Press. The reading will be held at 4:00 on Monday, March 23 in the Ronk Lecture room in the Dwight Schar College of Education.

Educated at Pennsylvania State University, Cummings worked as a theoretical physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for more than ten years.

Deciding in 1973 that he could no longer work in nuclear weapons development, he resigned and never returned to defense work or physics research.

In the early 1990s he traveled to Japan where he visited the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park.

In response to the controversy over a planned Smithsonian Institution exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he began the nearly two-decade project of writing the poems that culminated in Tancho.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Eakin

By Amanda Eakin, class of 2012, Integrated Language Arts major

Most teachers will claim that they wanted to become educators (“to fight the good fight,” as they say) since they were little, but I actually had different plans at first. Or rather, no plans at all. I entered college without a clear idea about what my career would be. I considered being in business. Journalism. Even culinary arts. The options whirled in my mind. But I never would have anticipated becoming a teacher, since I had always considered myself shy and the type of person who felt her batteries were drained after interacting with others—not exactly the best fit for teaching! Hundreds of interactions are made a day when teaching, and I can attest that not all of them are pleasant! Nevertheless, I love literature like I love late-night snacking and I felt it was my duty to spread the word (yes, pun intended). Through the process of getting my degree at Ashland University, I have gained confidence in my thoughts and abilities and have been able to share the insights that I have developed with my own students today. At Ashland University, I have learned that I do have something meaningful to say and I’m glad that I have the opportunity to teach my current students the value of contributing to a discussion or finding their own voice in writing. As a matter of fact, I have heard many students comment on how I have challenged them, and I think about all of the times I was challenged through the rigorous courses at AU and how I have steadily developed my skills as a literature student. From intensive small-group discussions to analyzing the etymology of words we take for granted, the courses in AU’s English program have sharpened my abilities as a reader, writer, and even communicator.

On another note, I think it’s a testament to the program when my principal told me one of the reasons he was initially interested in my resume was because he knew I was from Ashland University. It was only until later that I found this out of course, and my principal also informed me that my “well-spoken” demeanor upon our first encounter convinced him that he knew he wanted to hire me (even though he made me go through two more interviews without indicating this to me at all). I would have never guessed, even as little as five years back, that I would grow to become the type of person to appear confident and articulate. Today, my goal as a teacher has been to ensure that my students gain confidence in their own words and learn to appreciate the beauty of language as I did at Ashland University.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reflections on the Passing of a Cultural Icon: Leonard Nimoy

By Maura Grady, Assistant Professor of English

Last week, actor, photographer, writer, and activist Leonard Nimoy passed away from complications of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) at the age of 83. He is one of 15 million American sufferers of this disease, chiefly linked with long term exposure to tobacco smoke. Scientific American reports that 6% of deaths (more than 3 million deaths) worldwide can be attributed to COPD[1]. Every one of those lives lost to COPD is precious and every one of those deaths causes grief. This COPD victim in particular touched millions around the world, as the outpouring on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and other online gathering spaces demonstrates. Nimoy had a long and productive acting and directing career, performing in television series such as Fringe and Mission Impossible and directing films such as Three Men and A Baby and The Good Mother, though he was most beloved for his role as Spock, the half-Vulcan first officer of the USS Enterprise, in television and film series Star Trek.

Star Trek was groundbreaking television in a number of ways. Yes, England’s Doctor Who beat Star Trek to a number of punches (popular show starring a humanoid alien encountering new cultures, nerve pinches rendering foes unconscious, etc.), but unlike Who’s delightful lack of regard for the laws of physics, Star Trek was beholden to science as much as possible, at the insistence of series creator Gene Roddenberry. Among the show’s most devoted fans were members of the United States nascent aerospace community, and Nimoy’s Science Officer Spock was a particular favorite.

In 1967, only a year into the series, Nimoy visited Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington DC, and wrote a letter to Roddenberry describing the enthusiasm he had encountered there.

I do not overstate the fact when I tell you that the interest in the show is so intense, that it would almost seem they feel we are a dramatization of the future of their space program, and they have completely taken us to heart—particularly since you and the rest of the production of Star Trek have taken such pains in the area of scientific detail on our show. They are, in fact, proud of the show as though in some way it represents them.[2]

This photo shows NASA scientists sporting Vulcan ears for the Launch of Mariner V in 1967.
And this week, as a tribute to Nimoy, International Space Station astronaut Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) tweeted this image of the hand salute over Nimoy’s birth state of Massachusetts.
Nimoy’s insistence on Spock’s consistent use of logic and benevolence as an alternative to violence and impulsive action influenced not just his performance but the direction and tone of the show. The famous Vulcan nerve pinch was an improvisation by Nimoy in response to a direction in the script for Spock to hit another character over the head with a phaser. Nimoy reasoned that surely, by the 23rd century, we would have found a better way.[3]

Nimoy also contributed the now iconic Vulcan hand salute, which he explained came from observing a blessing at his Synagogue as a child. The hand movement is in the shape of the letter “Shin” in the Hebrew alphabet. In an interview with the Yiddish Oral History Project,[4] Nimoy commented that it was a “very interesting letter in the language. It’s the first letter of the world Shaddai [the Almighty or God], the first letter in the word Shalom [peaceful greeting], it’s the first letter in the word Shekinah, which is the name of the feminine aspect of God, who supposedly was created to live amongst humans… the legend is that during [this particular] benediction, the Shekinah comes into the sanctuary to bless the congregation” and the congregants are not supposed to look at the rabbis. Nimoy notes that as a curious little boy, he peeked and saw the rabbis making this sign.

When shooting the episode “Amok Time” in the series’ second season, Nimoy noted: “it was the first time that we were seeing other Vulcans, other members of my race. So I was hoping to find some touches that could develop the story of the Vulcan [culture], so I said to the director, I think we should have some special greeting that Vulcans do” and suggested the hand sign. Nimoy recalled, “Boy, that just took off through the culture. It was amazing. Within days of when the episode aired, I was getting it from people on the street…People don’t realize they’re blessing each other!”

My affection for Star Trek started early, heavily influenced by my late mother, a huge fan of fiction of all kinds, including science fiction. We watched re-runs of the TV show together and I attended my first Star Trek convention at the age of 10, when my family was living in Texas for a year. I was obviously thrilled to meet Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Janice Rand on the series.
A young Dr. Grady meeting Grace Lee Whitney
I idolized Nichelle Nichols’ Communications Officer Lt. Uhura, one of the first starring roles for a Black woman on American television. My mother, a neonatal nurse, was in college when the show premiered in 1966, and told me about how she and her friends would sit in the basement of their dorm watching it on a very small TV. They loved the attention to science on the show and optimistic picture of the future it depicted—a future of equality for all kinds of people—a future earned by adherence to principles of scientific inquiry and respect for other cultures. The show featured the work of female screenwriters, a rarity for the genre even today—writer DC Fontana contributed 8 scripts and 4 story concepts for the series, including some of the most beloved and well-regarded episodes: “This Side of Paradise,” “Tomorrow is Yesterday” and “Journey to Babel,” the episode that introduced Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda. And female fans were behind the first conventions for the show.[5]

I now research and write on what is called Fandom Studies—the scholarship of Fans, Fandom and Fan Communities. I am on the editorial board of The Journal of Fandom Studies, and it’s no coincidence that the founders of the journal, Kathy Larsen and Lynn Zubernis chose a photograph of the Vulcan salute for its cover image.

Fans of Star Trek waged a letter-writing campaign to convince NBC to give Star Trek a third season after cancellation was announced and successfully lobbied NASA to rename one of its shuttles Enterprise, after the Star Trek vessel. [6] [7] Those early fans, people like my mom, who gathered together in person in those long ago pre-internet days to discuss their passion for science fiction, made it possible for all of us today to geek out on what we love

Fan culture is mainstream culture now, as an increasingly segmented and fractured media environment demands that producers of entertainment target their projects to very specific audiences. Most network executives today would kill for the “low ratings” that the original Star Trek series earned in 1967, but more than that, they would certainly kill for the kind of cultural penetration the show achieved at a time when the only way fans could communicate with one another was in person or by mail.

Nimoy often praised his character Spock, who espoused a philosophy of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” and parted ways with the blessing “Live Long and Prosper” (Nimoy signed all of his posts on Twitter with LLAP). His last Tweet left us with the words: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”[8]

Leonard Nimoy, like castmates DeForrest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), James Doohan (Lt. Commander Scott), and series creator Gene Roddenberry, is gone now. The legacy they gave us, individually and collectively, is a vision of a better, brighter future.

Dr. Maura Grady is an unapologetic fan of genre fiction. She teaches writing, screenwriting, film studies, and literature at Ashland University. You can see a personalized signed photo of Mark Lenard (Sarek) hanging in her office.


Friday, February 27, 2015

English Department Course Offerings for Fall 2015

English 203 X: American Literature 
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman 
Tu 6:00-8:30 p.m. (Hybrid) 
Core Humanities, Elective for Middle Childhood Education English/Language Arts
This course will examine the tropes of freedom and fear that have extended throughout American Literature. What does “the land of the free and the home of the brave” signify? How is the rhetoric of freedom and fear articulated and exploited? What are the possibilities and limitations of freedom and fear for a nation and for an individual? These and many other questions will be explored in relation to the often-intertwined literary representations of freedom and fear. The course will consider and complicate, as well as define and redefine, the differing perspectives and different understandings associated with these key terms. A diverse range of authors in a variety of literary genres will be analyzed to consider the promises, perils, and paradoxes of an America that is both free and afraid. From captivity narratives to slave narratives, Iron Jawed Angels to Freedom Riders, and the Cold War to the Age of Terror, the course texts will focus particularly on the literary works and voices of Native Americans, African Americans, and women. This is a reading-intense, writing-intense, and discussion-intense course. Assignments will likely consist of two extensive papers, short literary analysis papers, presentations, and lots of assessed in-class and online participation (short assignments, research projects, rigorous discussion and debate, and so on).

ENG210A: Bible as Literature
MWF 9:00-9:50
Core Humanities

Possible Texts (in addition to the Bible):
Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? or
Gabel, Wheeler, and York, The Bible As Literature or
Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted.

This is a course in the Bible as literature, not the Bible as Revealed Truth. Students who come to the Bible with strong preconceived notions about what it "means" may find themselves frustrated with the class. For example, in Christian tradition, the serpent in the Garden of Eden story is thought to be Satan. However, the actual text of Genesis makes no reference to Satan. If we can approach the text with fresh eyes and read it on its own terms, we may find other interesting meanings in addition to the traditional Pauline doctrine of "original sin"-- it may also be an allegory for growing up and leaving the Eden of childhood! We will also read the Bible in its historical context, which means learning about the Near Eastern society, culture, and politics that produced it. We will assume that the Torah, or “Five Books of Moses,” has at least four distinct authors whom we call J, E, P, and D, each with his or her own style and socio-religious agenda. We will look at issues of translation (a little Hebrew grammar) and genre, including the appeal of apocalyptic texts (Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation). And yes, there will be some movies, from Samson and Delilah cartoons to clips from A Night With the King to the full film A Serious Man (the Coen brothers' version of the Book of Job translated to Jewish Minnesota, circa 1968).

English 301A: Writers' Workshop, Poetry
Dr. Deborah Fleming

MWF 10:00-10:50
Fulfills requirement in Creative Writing major and minor and ILA major elective
The course objective is to write and critique students' poetry. Students write every week. The class format is seminar-type discussion.

Text: The Norton Anthology of Poetry, any edition

ENG 306A: The Essay
Dr. Maura Grady
T/TH 10:50-12:05
Fulfills Genre Requirement for CREW, ENG

In this class, you will study examples of the Essay form and write your own essays, which will be developed and workshopped throughout the semester.

Probable text: The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present by Phillip Lopate.

ENG 332A: Global Film
Dr. Maura Grady
TTh 9:25-10:40 AM
Core Aesthetics, Core Border Crossings

In this class you will meet the core requirements for Aesthetics and Border Crossings through an in-depth analysis of German films. Our focus this fall will be on German filmic reactions to war (WWI, WWII and the Cold War). The course requires students to learn about film techniques, aesthetic movements, and historical and cultural context.


1. German Culture Through Film by Reimer, Zachau and Sinka. Focus Publishing, 2005
2. A Short Guide to Writing About Film, 8th edition by Timothy Corrigan, Longman, 2011, ISBN-10: 0205236391

English 338A: Themes and Topics in Literature: Dystopian Literature
Dr. Linda Joyce Brown
MWF 2:00-2:50
Core Humanities, Elective for the English major, Elective in the English and Creative Writing minors

What would your ideal world look like? What would make the world unbearable? In this course, we will explore how writers have imagined ideal and far-from-ideal worlds. A premise of this course is that by studying dystopian literature and thinking deeply about the ideas that dystopian texts pose, we can gain new insight about contemporary social problems. Thus, in addition to addressing texts within their specific historical and cultural contexts, we will also connect them to contemporary issues, such as environmental degradation, technological dependence, and debates surrounding sexuality, marriage, and family. We will also consider the recent surge in popularity of dystopian fiction among young adult readers.

Eng 365A: Greek Literature
Dr. Russell Weaver
MWF: 1:00-1:50
Core Humanities; elective for English Major and Minor, elective for Creative Writing minor

In this course we will read some of the great masterpieces of Greek Literature. This particular semester we will be reading Homer’s Iliad along with ten plays by Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus:

Sophocles–Antigone, Oedipus the King, Ajax, The Women of Trachis, and Philoctetes
Euripides–Medea, Hippolytus, Iphigenia at Aulis, and Electra 


There will be two take-homes, one on either Antigone or Medea and one on The Iliad and one presentation on two of the other plays.

ENG410A: The Romantic Era
Dr. Russell Weaver
TTh 1:40-2:55

Elective for English major and minor, Creative Writing major and minor, and Integrated Language Arts major

We will read four poems from Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience; Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and “Intimations Ode”’; Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale”, and “Lamia”; Jane Eyre; Byron’s Manfred and two books of Don Juan; and Frankenstein.

There will be two papers (Blake/Wordsworth and Keats) and two presentations (Coledridge and Bronte/Byron/Frankenstein).

English 417A: English Grammar and Usage

Dr. Deborah Fleming
MWF 1:00-1:50
Required for ILA, English major elective, Middle Grades Generalist Endorsement, English Language Arts Concentration major elective, English Minor elective

This course provides students with knowledge of grammar, syntax, and mechanics and fulfills NCATE requirements for teachers of English and Language Arts. We will also study ways to use the vocabulary of grammar in the teaching of writing.

Text: Koln, Understanding English Grammar, current edition

English 427A: American Literature III: Realism to Modernism
Dr. Linda Joyce Brown
MWF 12:00-12:50

Elective in the English, Creative Writing, and ILA majors, Elective in the English and Creative Writing minors

The course explores the development of American Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism in relation to the tremendous social and economic change of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with emphasis on increasing urbanization, migration and immigration, the influence of two world wars, new ideas about race and gender, the impact of modern technological innovation, and developments in science.