Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Dr. Maura Grady Gives AU Book Talk on The Shawshank Experience: Tracking the History of the World's Favorite Movie

Dr. Maura Grady delivered a talk on November 6 on her book, The Shawshank Experience: Tracking the History of the World's Favorite Movie (Palgrave, 2016), which she co-authored with Dr. Tony Magistrale (Professor of English, University of Vermont). As noted in the Ashland University official press release, the book

features an in-depth analysis of the world’s most popular movie, The Shawshank Redemption, delving into issues such as: the significance of race in the film, its cinematic debt to earlier genres, the gothic influences at work in the movie, and the representation of Andy’s poster art as cross-gendered signifiers. In addition to exploring the film and novella from which it was adapted, this book also traces the history of the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, which served as the film’s central location, and its relationship to the movie’s fictional Shawshank Prison. The last chapter examines why this film has remained both a popular and critical success, inspiring diverse fan bases on the Internet and the evolution of the Shawshank Trail, fourteen of the film’s actual site locations that have become a major tourist attraction in central Ohio.
In addition to her published work on the film, Dr. Grady is an innovative teacher who has involved Ashland undergraduates in research on film tourism in the local area. She teaches the popular screenwriting course for the department and has also engaged students deeply regarding issues of prison reform through her use of the Reacting to the Past game in her classes.

Creative Writing Major Jackson Schultz Attends Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Workshop in Utah

Sophomore Creative Writing and Geology dual major Jackson Schultz recently attended a three-day workshop in Bryce Canyon, Utah as part of his role as co-editor of the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (UReCA) journal, a publication associated with the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC). Schultz had this to say about the workshop in Ashland University's official press release about the event:
Our team of 18 editors and three faculty advisers met in Bryce Canyon, Utah, for a three-day workshop, also referred to as the UReCA Bootcamp...The retreat is a valuable part of the UReCA experience, solidifying the team and setting up the success of the next issue. The team tent-camped, hiked and spent long hours reviewing and fine tuning UReCA to maintain momentum and improve systems such as soliciting, marketing, Web site design, selection rubrics and the editorial process.
The students next gathered at the recent national NCHC conference in Boston (November 7-11), celebrating the most recent issue of UReCA, which invites all undergraduates currently enrolled to submit work according to the journal's submission guidelines.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Spring 2019 English Department Course Offerings

English 302:  Writers Workshop:  Prose
Dr. Deborah Fleming
TTh 9:25-10:40 Required for Creative Writing Majors and Minors; ILA Major elective

This is a seminar in the writing of fiction and creative nonfiction.  Professors with extensive publication experience conduct the workshop. Classes will consist of discussion of professional and student work.  Students will complete exercises and write their own fiction and creative nonfiction and demonstrate understanding of narrative technique by discussing their own work and the work of other students in the class.

English 304: Short Story
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman
T Th 12:15-1:30 p.m. 

Core Humanities, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors 

This course will consider the following underlying questions: What is a short Story? Who reads short stories? Why read short stories? From the canonical to the experimental, this course will analyze a wide range of short stories included in Ann Charters’ anthology, The Story and Its Writer, as we debate the purpose, function, and merits of this genre. We will explore the cultural, historical, and political implications and contexts of key stories alongside issues of craft, style, and form. The elements of this short fiction, authorial insights into the creative process, and critical approaches to this literature will broaden, enhance, and complicate our understanding of the short story. This is a reading-intense, writing-intense, and discussion-intense course.
English 309: African American Literature
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 1:00-1:50
Core Humanities, elective for English and ILA majors

This course examines African American poetry, non-fiction, and novels, focusing especially on twentieth and twenty-first century writing.

Likely texts might include:
Nella Larsen’s Passing
Richard Wright’s “Between the World and Me”
Readings from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me
Readings from James Baldwin’s Notes from a Native Son
Richard Wright’s Native Son
Ava DuVernay’s 13TH

Assignments include two long papers, two exams, and shorter response papers, in addition to reading quizzes and regular class discussion.

English 317: Shakespeare 
Dr. Russell Weaver 
Core Humanities, requirement in English and ILA , elective for English and Creative Writing minors

We will be reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Two papers and two presentations.

English 370: Russian Novel 
Dr. Russell Weaver 
Core Humanities, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

We will be reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Two papers and two presentations.

English 371.A Literature & Film
Dr. Maura Grady
T/TH 1:40-2:55 p.m.
Requirement for Integrated Language Arts Major, Elective for English and Creative Writing

This course examines the relationship between writing and cinema by focusing on film adaptations of literary genres such as the novel, short story, nonfiction essay, theatrical play and poem. We will consider theories of film adaptation as well as historical and industry-specific issues to address our central question: “How can studying film adaptation allow us to better understand what it is that literature does, and vice versa?” You’ll see that this is a very contentious issue, so expect to read and discuss different points of view about the value of adaptations, to watch film adaptations outside of class, to engage in class discussions, and to examine one adaptation for a final project. There are also a number of shorter written assignments. The course is designed as a discussion-focused seminar with substantial weekly reading, informal and formal writing assignments. In Spring 2018, we will focus on films of the 1990s, arguably a new “golden age” in American cinema as well as a time of technological and industry transition.  

Possible films:
  • The Player (1992), adapted by Michael Tolkin, directed by Robert Altman from Tolkin’s novel
  • Quiz Show (1994), adapted by Paul Attanasio, directed by Robert Redford from the nonfiction historical memoir Remembering America by Richard Goodwin
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994), adapted and directed by Frank Darabont from the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
  • Devil in a Blue Dress (1995),  adapted and directed by Carl Franklin from the novel by Walter Mosley
  • Out of Sight (1998), adapted by Scott Frank, directed by Steven Soderbergh from the novel by Elmore Leonard
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), adapted and directed by Anthony Minghella from the novel by Patricia Highsmith
  • The Insider (1999), adapted by Eric Roth and Michael Mann, directed by Michael Mann from Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair story “The Man Who Knew Too Much”

Required texts for purchase will be confirmed by January 1st but will likely include:
  • John Desmond and Peter Hawkes: Adaptation: Studying Film and Literature (ISBN: 978-1308648538)
  • Walter Mosley: Devil in a Blue Dress (ISBN: 978-0743451796)
  • Elmore Leonard: Out of Sight (ISBN: 978-0062227874)
  • Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley (ISBN: 9780393332148)
  • Michael Tolkin, The Player (ISBN: 978-0802135131)

Additional readings will be on Blackboard

English 405:  Problems in Creative Writing
Dr. Deborah Fleming
TTh 10:50-12:05 Required for Creative Writing Majors

This course is intended to acquaint creative writing majors, minors, and other students interested in literature with some current trends in the state of contemporary American expressive writing (prose and poetry).  It is concerned with the development of individual style and voice in student writing.  Students write and revise their own works and discuss their colleagues’ work in a seminar setting.  The course is conducted by professors with extensive publication experience.  There will be one critical paper.

English 415:  Capstone Course in Creative Writing
Dr. Deborah Fleming
TTh 12:15-1:30 Required for Creative Writing Majors

English 415 is the capstone course of the creative writing program and the major. The work of this class is the completion of a final draft of your thesis. As a prose writer, your thesis should be from 100-150 pages in length and can be a collection of essays, a memoir, a collection of short stories or a short novel.  Poetry writers should present 20-30 poems, or the equivalent of a chapbook-length collection.  The primary work of the class is reading and workshopping the prose and poetry of the students in the class.

ENG 417: English Grammar & Usage
MWF 12:00-12:50

Dr. Donatini
Requirement in the Integrated Language Arts major and Middle Grades Language Arts Minor; elective in English major

Prerequisite: ENG 102

This course will provide students with knowledge of grammar, syntax, and mechanics. It is designed for those preparing to be teachers of English and Language Arts as well as for those who wish to extend their knowledge of the language.

Book: Martha Kolln, Linda Gray, and Joseph Salvatore, Understanding English Grammar, 10th ed. (Pearson)

English 426: American Literature II: 1845-1890
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman
Th 6:00-8:30 p.m. 

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

This course will examine a particularly vibrant mid-nineteenth century literary period. In addition to an examination of a wide range of authors and texts, the course will pay close attention to contexts. In an era marked by significant cultural moments and shaped by influential socio-historical forces, the course will consider a number of key issues that will inform our textual analysis. From the excesses of industrial wealth to abject slum-dwelling poverty or the New England commune to westward expansion, the course will assess the literary impact of various cultural impulses. In addition, discussion will focus on acute textual issues of social justice from slavery and the Abolitionist movement to the Civil War and emancipation, as well as the emerging notions of American womanhood, the woman’s suffrage movement, and the New Woman. Alongside essays, novels, stories, and poems, the course will be attuned to developing genres from nineteenth-century slave narratives, magazines, periodicals and muckraking journalism to innovations in literary forms and literary realism. The course asks what this new American literary landscape articulates and will rely on key literary and cultural criticism to help explore the implications of this question. Readings may be selected from Emerson, Poe, Dickinson, Whitman, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Fuller, Fern, Child, Alcott, Stowe, Jacob, Harding Davis, Douglass, James, and Riis.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Eighteenth-Century Literature Class Reads Through Cato Together

Dr. Hilary Donatini’s Eighteenth-Century English Literature course gathered at the Eagles’ Landing on campus, on Friday, October 12, to transport themselves back to 1713, when Joseph Addison’s Cato was first performed. Students in attendance brought Addison’s language to life, as they each took on roles in a read-through of the entire play. This is only one example of the many creative approaches to understanding literature found in AU’s English Department.

Below are some reactions to the experience:

Participating in the dramatic reading of Cato broadened my understanding of the tragedy. Hearing the words come to life evokes different feelings that reading doesn't provide. As I read Marcia's lines, I found myself connecting to her character, her values, and most importantly, her emotions. The further into the play, the further I fell into the role of Marcia. Being a part of the reading helped me better understand and make a personal connection to the characters that I didn't have from only reading it in class. The reading experience was very useful for making personal connections to the reading material from class, and I am glad that I was a part of it.
--Sarah Norris

Reading my character (Marcus) aloud, as well as hearing the other characters in the play read aloud, gave me a better understanding on the range of emotions and reactions experienced by these characters throughout the text. From Marcus' (almost heated) passions of love, to the scheming of Sempronius -- all this read aloud helped make the play that much more memorable to me.
--Andreas Cook

I found the experience helped me find out more about the values the characters had. This will help me with my paper immensely. I also found it more entertaining, since we had all these people playing the roles instead of just reading it.
--Andrew Potosky

It was easier to tell who was on stage depending on who was reading at that time. Hearing it out loud made the play easier to understand. By this I mean that the characters had more life simply because an individual was speaking as a specific character. It was fun to read it aloud as well.
--Cassie Shaffer

The read-through really helped me get a better grasp of the content of the play. It was so helpful in allowing me to hear the words of each character and really understand their meanings.
--Alyssa Ferrell

I think that the group reading of Cato helped immensely in understanding the text better. First of all, it helped me be able to distinguish between the different characters within the play because different students in the class were reading the different parts. Secondly, it was helpful because I was able to see the exaggeration put into different phrases that the characters were exclaiming as the students in the class were reading through the lines.
--Skylar Roberts

For me, the experience showed how performance can affect meaning, as we recognized how a character’s tone of voice could create an interpretation of the words on the page. This was especially important when we were assessing the nature and extent of Cato’s heroism.
--Hilary Donatini


Monday, October 22, 2018

English and Creative Writing Majors Contribute to 24-Hour Theatre Project

On September 29, English and Creative Writing majors Naomi Sims and Schuyler Kunkel participated in the Ashland University Theatre Department's 24-Hour Theatre Project, which involved the writing, production, and performance of an original script within a 24-hour period. Sims and Kunkel drew heavily on their finely-tuned writing skills to contribute to the project. Kunkel offers the following reflection on her experience, highlighting how her writing skills as an English and Creative Writing major assisted her with the project:
I was on the writing team, costume design team, and lighting team, and I also helped out with other teams, such as scenic design, when they needed extra hands.

I learned so much from this project. Going into it, I was very unsure as to how the script writing was going to work since there were five of us that were going to be trying to write at the same time; however, the writing process was really interesting, and it worked out quite well. We each took a scene to write the original draft of, and then we went through three rounds of edits—during which we traded scenes so that there would be one continuous voice through out as opposed to five distinct voices. In addition to writing, I learned a lot in the other areas that I contributed in as well. I would say that I was definitely most out of my comfort zone when I was helping move the lights for the set because I had to go up in a lift, and I’m a bit afraid of heights. 

The most rewarding thing about this project by far was seeing our idea go from simply a concept to a full production, and it was really amazing being able to be a part of the project in so many different ways. Despite the fact that, by the time I got home, I hadn’t slept in over 40 hours, I was so glad to have been able to contribute throughout the entire process. The production surpassed all my expectations, and I am beyond thankful to have been able to be a part of such an extraordinary opportunity.
 Reflecting further on the overall experience, Sims offers these thoughts:
I was the Producer and Lead Writer for this year's 24 Hour Theatre Project. As Producer I organized all the participants into teams and ensured each department had all of the information and tools that they needed in order to create a show from scratch. We held production meetings with the team leaders every week leading up to the event to check in and plan ahead as much as we could. During the 24 Hours I coordinated the event and made sure we stayed on schedule (as much as we could). It was an exhilarating and intense experience. It was challenging and required a lot of creative problem solving to troubleshoot issues we never saw coming. What I loved most was getting together with an amazing group of people who were committed to getting the job done no matter what. Many of us went without sleep for most if not all of the 24 hours but no one complained and everyone just worked very hard throughout the whole process. It was an amazing experience to see something that I had been planning since before the school year started, and something that I wrote, to come together on stage and make the audience laugh. It was so gratifying and I could not have been happier with the results. It is hard to describe the joy and feeling of accomplishment we felt after the show when all of the hard work, sweat, and tears paid off. It was well worth the lack of sleep and I would definitely do it again! It was an unforgettable experience.
The department congratulates Kunkel, Sims, and Eric Breeden (ILA major who also worked on the 24-hour theatre project) on their valuable contributions to the arts at Ashland University.

Friday, October 19, 2018

English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta: New Leaders Plan for the Year

Sigma Tau Delta recently elected sophomore Creative Writing and English major Rachel Barkley to serve as Co-President alongside junior English and Creative Writing major Sara Ludwig. Both leaders were asked to share Sigma Tau Delta's upcoming activities, as well as plans for the year.

Sigma Tau Delta has a lot of plans which we are both very excited about! This fall, in addition to monthly open mic nights, we also plan to do a number of different activities. Sigma Tau Delta will be hosting a writing workshop for local Girl Scouts. This is a great opportunity to connect to the surrounding community and help share our passion for writing with others. We also plan to have a booth on October 22nd celebrating National Writing Day. This will allow fellow students to share with the campus why they love to write. Sigma Tau Delta is also working on expanding the Ashland English Department’s social media presence!

In the spring there will be a lot of exciting opportunities which are still being planned. Sigma Tau Delta plans to renovate the Bixler study lounge as soon as possible in order to create a fresh environment for students. We are also considering fundraisers and other events to bring everyone together.

Additionally, the organization is planning a department outing to the Ashland University Theatre Department's performance of BASKERVILLE: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery in early April. The department is grateful to Barkley and Ludwig for their leadership.

Rachel Barkley

Sara Ludwig

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Hilary Donatini

Q: How many years have you taught at Ashland?

A: This is my twelfth academic year here.

Q: What are some of the courses that you teach?

A: Eighteenth-Century English literature, Seventeenth-Century English literature, Themes and Topics in Literature (Satire), Studies in Shakespeare, The Poem, A History of the English Language, British Literature, and Composition I and II

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a professor?

A: I love to witness the process by which students move from confusion to comprehension and even enjoyment--the essence of intellectual growth. I teach many older works, and it’s often a struggle to understand what is happening on the page, let alone build an interpretation. Seeing students put effort into this process is infinitely satisfying, and it never gets old for me. Working  together on challenging texts allows us to explore the beauties of language and the deep questions of our existence through literature. We are often reaching across centuries to encounter worlds that are both familiar and strange, and it’s a delightful way to spend our time.

No matter the subject, one of the most important aspects of my job is to identify and help bring out students’ intellectual potential. I like to tell students that their ideas matter, and that I’m genuinely interested in what they have to say, because it’s the truth. Interacting with students never fails to make me consider ideas and issues through fresh sets of eyes. I can’t count the number of times a student has, for example, brought my attention to a new detail, or offered an innovative interpretation, of a text I’ve read dozens of times. It’s a testament to the richness of language and the human mind that this can happen with such frequency, and I’m so grateful that I have the privilege of learning from my students every day.

Q: What made you decide to become a professor?

A: I’ve always been an extremely curious person, and from an early age I was a voracious reader. I simply wanted to learn about anything and everything, and so I read not only literary works, but any printed matter that happened to be sitting around my relatives’ houses--The Farmer’s Almanac, Popular Mechanics, newspapers, encyclopedias, etc. My parents got me a library card in kindergarten and let me loose there, too, where I would wander through the stacks and set my mind free. Exploring imaginary worlds was a central part of my childhood experience, especially because I come from a small town—a place where it was necessary to make our own fun and be inventive about entertaining ourselves. Eventually I understood that I could make a career out of reading, writing, and talking about books. A teaching career always appealed to me, but I also realized that I had the patience and drive to do research as well.

Q: What scholarly (or creative) projects are you working on?

A: As I think about my early love of imaginary worlds, researching eighteenth-century literature allows me to immerse myself in both the real and imaginary worlds of the past. My current large-scale project is a book on the representation of the justices of the peace in eighteenth-century British literature. I’ve already written a chapter on Tobias Smollett’s depictions of these legal figures, and now I’m drafting one on Joseph Addison’s periodical The Spectator and presenting parts of it at academic conferences. The book project involves interpretation of literary techniques as well as research into law and various branches of history.

Q: What else would you like to share with the readers of this blog?

A: This is my sixth year as chair of the English Department, and although this administrative position takes me out of the classroom for a significant portion of my work week, I get to interact with students regularly and in a variety of settings and, most importantly, help solve problems. I do a great deal of work behind the scenes to keep the department running smoothly and ensure that students can move through their programs with as few obstacles as possible.

I’ll end by letting students know that I’m accessible, ready to listen, and willing to help with any question or concern relating to the English Department!