Friday, March 23, 2018

Recent Graduate Describes the Benefits of the AU Writing and Research Community

Sophia (Leddy) Larson, an International Political Science and Spanish major who graduated in December 2017, discussed her involvement in the Ashland University Writing and Research Community, a group that Dr. Sharleen Mondal, Associate Professor of English, founded and directs. Dr. Mondal's interview with Larson, which was conducted at the end of the fall 2017 semester, appears below.

Dr. Sharleen Mondal: Please say a little bit about your participation in the AURWC--how you heard about it, when you initially joined, how long you've done it, and why you chose to participate.

Sophia (Leddy) Larson: I've done the AURWC programs in 3 different semesters because I had longer papers for various classes. My first experience with the program was my sophomore year in Fall 2015 when I decided to write a 20-page paper for a class on NATO, and because of my participation in the program, I chose to present at URCA [the College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium]. I also participated in Spring 2017 and this semester, Fall 2017, for different papers including my senior Ashbrook thesis. I chose to participate because I had never written a longer paper before, and I wanted to know how to do it. Before joining, the thought of a 20-page paper was overwhelming. However, through AURWC, I was easily able to complete it with time to spare. I stayed in the program because I could see the improvement in my approach to writing.

SM: Please share with readers how the AURWC has assisted you with long-term writing projects during your involvement in the program. What were the most useful aspects of the program for you?

SL: Like most people, I need external motivation in order to accomplish the hardest tasks. AURWC provided a platform for me to be accountable to a group of people who would give constructive criticism and encouragement so that I could achieve my goals. In the program, we meet once a week to discuss what went well, what we need help with, and to learn new skills to become more productive that we could apply in our calendars and daily lives. We also record time spent on our projects in a spreadsheet so that we can see our progress and to see what worked and on what days. It is not a program for the faint of heart because during one week we even had to track exactly how we spent our days in 15-minute increments. However, the payoff from this technique and others was well worth the pain in seeing how much time we spent on Facebook. Since the first step to solving a problem is knowing it is there, time-tracking and other techniques were very effective and made everyone in all the groups I was a part of improve.

SM: Please share a bit about your final thesis and defense, as well as your post-graduation plans.

SL: My thesis was titled War is Peace: A Comparison of the War on Drugs and the War on Thoughtcrime. I used 1984 as a basis for what government should not do, and by finding similarities with the War on Drugs in 1984, I was able to point out some of the dangers to liberty. I worked on it every day for an hour and a half with few exceptions, and as a result of this constant work, I was able to complete this project. Following graduation. I have a position with the John Quincy Adams Society in which I hope to expand the organization into more universities. JQAS works to spread the idea of restraint in American foreign policy, and they have chapters around the country in various universities to help spread this message.

Editor's Note: I checked in with Sophia and asked how the habits of AUWRC are guiding her in the post-graduation world. She replied, "At first it doesn't seem that you'll be able to use a writing club in real life, but I've found that skills in prioritizing time and energy have been invaluable in my current position. You also learn to receive and accept feedback in the program, which has proven so useful that I've used it almost daily. What you learn in AURWC are life skills, not simply skills that apply only to writing."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Erika Krouse Visits Ashland University’s Spring Reading Series

By Maggie Andrews, Creative Writing, English, and Public Relations major

Celebrated author, Erika Krouse, visited Ashland University on Monday, February 26th. Krouse is recognized for her short stories collection Come Up and See Me Sometime, as well as for her new novel Contenders. Her short stories collection won the Paterson Fiction Award and her novel was a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Aside from publishing her work in literary giants like The New Yorker, she mentors for the Lighthouse Book Project and works part-time as a private investigator. Krouse holds a B.A. and a M.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing. Hailing all the way from Colorado, she gave students, faculty members, and guests a reading of her short fiction piece “Wounds of the Heart and Great Vessels.”

During her reading, it became clear that Krouse was passionate about her selection. She discussed how a tragedy in her own life had halted her writing process. “Wounds of the Heart and Great Vessels” got her back to writing during that time and became a beautiful product of that tragedy. While listening to Krouse’s reading, I could feel the author pushing and pulling me wherever she wanted me to go. The narrative voice was painfully real and authentic because in just a short number of pages, I was rooting for her and worried about her. On top of that, Krouse managed to explore the human condition. The audience experienced a wide range of emotions as we often felt the need to laugh, but also heard the steady echo of sadness. During my experience with “Wounds of the Heart and Great Vessels,” there were many moments where I found myself slamming back against my chair thinking about how great a line was or how powerfully I felt about a passage before a break. It was a true representation of Krouse’s talent and her influence as a writer.

After the reading, Krouse signed my newly-purchased Contenders (thanks to Dr. Joe Mackall). She wished me success in my own writing and I felt like fangirling because it was like meeting a celebrity. The senior creative writing majors even got to go to dinner with Krouse, where we picked her mind and tried to learn as much as we could from her wealth of experience and expertise. Her feedback was incredible, and it was truly an honor learning from a writer like Krouse. Plus, we had plenty of laughs and memories to take with us. After going to the reading series and dinner, I am very excited to dive into Krouse’s novel and work hard to one day become a writer like her.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Alumni Update: Seth Snow

Seth Snow
By Dr. Russell Weaver

Seth Snow, an AU Integrated Language Arts alumnus, was hired by Alpha Omega Academy in Huntsville, Texas in the fall of 2016 after having taught for a number of years in Danville, Ohio. Alpha Omega Academy is a private charter school. Snow remembers fondly that one of the first questions they asked him after he was hired was whether he could teach a Jane Austen course. This was music to his ears, and the music has not stopped playing. The headmaster singled out Seth in a faculty meeting as perhaps the best example of classical education in their school, the kind of education for which the school is aiming. He has become an adjunct professor at nearby LeTourneau University. He currently teaches British Literature I and II there as a part of his school's dual-credit program. Snow notes that he teaches exactly how he wants and what he wants. LeTourneau approached him about offering a session at their Excellence in Teaching Conference. He proposed the topic, "The Joy of Interpretation," which they accepted. And by all accounts his talk on the interpretation of poetry was well received. Most recently the Headmaster of his school was conducting a Q and A at an assembly, and he asked what makes their school a good place to learn. One student raised her hand and shouted out, “Mr. Snow,” a comment which almost the whole student body applauded. Congratulations to Seth for making a name for himself in Texas.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Lacy (Romine) Drake

Lacy, Colbie, and Kent Drake
By Lacy (Romine) Drake, class of 2010, Integrated Language Arts major 

Early on in my high school career, I knew for sure that I wanted to be a high school teacher. Growing up in Kettering, Ohio blessed me with so many opportunities and put numerous influential people in my life at all stages of my educational career. Those impactful teachers and coaches are the exact reasons why I am a high school teacher and head coach today.

My passion for reading and writing was always obvious (as was my dislike for math and science), so when I committed to Ashland as a student-athlete, majoring in Integrated Language Arts was a no brainer. I could not imagine teaching anything else, and I hoped to one day share my love for reading and writing with others.

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I realized what a tremendous and special place Ashland was. The countless hours spent in the library and Bixler Hall classrooms, the realization that English classes were no longer memorizing vocabulary words and simply reading popular novels, but rather digging for deeper meanings and going out of my comfort zone to engage in some of the most difficult and demanding material I would ever face. The English Department at AU is special. The professors pushed me, challenged me, and prepared me for life as an English teacher. Believe it or not, I still have my folders full of notes from my college days, which I reference often, sometimes with a chuckle thinking about the stress I put on myself during those classes.

After a very cold and wet graduation day in 2010, I accepted a Graduate Assistant position at The University of Findlay where I would coach basketball and pursue my Master’s Degree in Leadership and Administration. I then moved to the state up north and coached collegiate basketball for a year, followed by a year in Indiana.

In 2013, I got a call from Fairmont High School, my alma mater. They were interviewing for a head coaching position for the girls varsity basketball team and had a position open for an English teacher. Naturally, I jumped on this opportunity, and after a lot of prayers, I was offered the coaching job and a position as a high school English teacher.

The Drake Family
Soon after, I met my husband Kent, who is also a high school teacher and the head baseball coach at Fairmont. We married in 2015 and had our first daughter, Colbie Jane Drake, in June of 2016. We are now expecting our second daughter this June!

I am currently teaching English 9, which is a co-taught block class for freshmen students who need additional support in English. This class also includes 5-10 international students each year, many of them having only been in America for a few months, with little or no English speaking skills whatsoever. I also teach Journalism and I am the adviser for our school newspaper.

My degree and time spent at AU is invaluable. I am forever indebted to Ashland and will continue to be a proud graduate!

“Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Fall 2018 English Course Descriptions

ENG 201: Introduction to Creative Writing
Dr. Deborah Fleming and Dr. Joe Mackall
MWF 10:00-10:50
Requirement for Creative Writing Major & Minor, Requirement for the Integrated Language Arts Major

This course introduces basic techniques and forms of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Regular writing and reading assignments illustrate specific aspects of poetic and prose narrative form.

ENG 203: American Literature
Dr. Russell Weaver
MWF 10:00
Core Humanities

We will be reading Dickinson’s Poetry, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge, Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth.

Two papers and two presentations.

ENG 301: Writer's Workshop: Poetry
Dr. Deborah Fleming
MWF 1:00-1:50
Requirement for Creative Writing Major & Minor, Elective in the Integrated Language Arts Major

Students will write and discuss their own poetry, study poetic form, keep journals of reading, and write one paper on a book of contemporary poetry.

ENG 306: The Essay
Dr. Joe Mackall
MWF 11:00-11:50
Requirement for Creative Writing Major & Minor

This course is an analysis of the essay as both literary genre and source of ideas. Student writing may include essay composition.

ENG 314: Literature and Gender
Online 16-week format
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
Core Humanities, elective in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

This course focuses on literature that centrally engages issues of gender, including but not limited to masculinity, femininity, patriarchy, biological vs. socially constructed notions of sex and gender, and intersections between gender and other factors--including race, class, religion, and sexuality--in shaping human experience

ENG 316: Postcolonial Literature
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 11:00-11:50
Core Humanities, elective in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

This course focuses on literatures shaped by colonialism and imperialism. The course emphasizes in-depth study of colonial and postcolonial literature supported by an understanding of the historical, social, cultural, and political contexts of that literature.

ENG 317: Studies in Shakespeare
Dr. Naomi Saslaw
T Th 10:50-12:05
Core Humanities, requirement in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

Students will read examples of Shakespearean histories, comedies, romances, and tragedies, exploring language and dramatic technique to develop an understanding of the structure and themes.

ENG 319: Modern Drama
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman
T Th 12:15-1:30
Core Humanities, elective in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

This course will begin with the close reading analysis of some powerful one-act plays from the late nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. We will also consider a range of full plays from, for example, Ibsen’s realism to Quiara Alegría Hudes’ triumph in trauma. All of the course texts will help the class explore key issues, ideas, texts, and contexts of European and American modern drama. The main focus of the course will be to examine plays from different periods and styles. Attention will also be paid to the cultural, historical, political, sociological, and dramaturgical aspects that surround and inform the works. Themes of gender and race, the tension of illusion and reality, and the crisis of the individual and the family will also be of significance as we explore modern dramatic sensibilities and discourse. In addition to the texts, the course will, where relevant, consider the adaptations and interpretations of the plays in performance and film.

Assignments: Two essays, a presentation, in class projects and participation.

ENG 338: Themes and Topics in Literature
W 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Naomi Saslaw
Core Humanities; Elective in the English major, English minor, and Creative Writing minor

This course explores a major idea or theme through a wide range of literary and related texts. Typically, the seminar will focus on a particular historical, social, or artistic idea

ENG 351: Advanced Composition
MWF 2:00
Dr. Linda Joyce Brown
Requirement in the English and ILA majors

This advanced course is designed to give you extensive practice writing, revising, and editing nonfiction prose, with an emphasis on revising for rhetorical and stylistic effectiveness.  Our goal will be to write prose that is not only clear and efficient but powerful enough that a reader will feel compelled to keep reading. The skills you develop in this course should help you beyond college, no matter your career path.

ENG 372: Nietzsche and the Problem of Values
Dr. Russell Weaver
T Th 9:25
Core Humanities, elective in the the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

We will be reading Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Conrad’s Lord Jim, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Dostoevksy’s Crime and Punishment, and Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons.

Two papers and two presentations.

ENG 408: Eighteenth-Century English Literature
Dr. Hilary Donatini
T Th 12:15-1:30
Elective in the English, Creative Writing, and ILA majors, Elective in the English and Creative Writing minors

The eighteenth century is often referred to as the “Age of Reason” or “Age of Enlightenment”—a time when philosophical inquiry and scientific discovery blossomed. English 408 will examine poems, novels, and plays that both reflect and resist the rational and empirical—often in the same work. The great eighteenth-century works are endowed with intellectual seriousness yet bursting with vitality and joie de vivre. Our attention will be constantly trained on genre, as we explore poetic, novelistic, and dramatic form. Throughout the semester we will appreciate what is often called the golden age of satire, a mode that cuts across all genres, skewering its targets and setting forth a moral vision. Because the literature of the period was so grounded in its world, we will pay attention to relevant historical contexts as well.

Selected Texts (subject to change):
John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel
Henry Fielding, Tom Jones
Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer  

Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock
Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels
poems by Anne Finch and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

ENG 425: American Literature I
Dr. Linda Joyce Brown
MWF 12:00
Elective in the English, Creative Writing, and ILA majors, Elective in the English and Creative Writing minors

Our course will begin with precolonial oral narrative, move to colonial-era texts, and conclude with literature from the early republic. The course will provide an introduction to the origins of American literature and an opportunity to closely study significant works.

Readings will include travel journals, captivity narratives, essays, poetry, and fiction. Texts will likely be chosen from the writing of the following authors:  Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Mary Rowlandson, Jonathan Edwards, Anne Bradstreet, Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Brockden Brown, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, Edgar Allan Poe, William Grimes, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Spring Reading Series Begins on February 26

The English Department will bring three writers to campus as part of the annual Spring Reading Series. All readings are in Schar 138 starting at 4:00 p.m.

Erika Krouse - February 26

Leila Philip - April 9

Daneen Wardrop - April 23

Dr. Joe Mackall provides an overview of the prose writers in the series.

Erika Krouse
I’m really excited about the prose writers featured in this year’s Reading Series. Erika Krouse and Leila Philip are two extraordinary writers and teachers. The New York Times Book Review called Erika’s debut collection of stories, Come Up and See Me Sometime, “potent” and “original.” The Times also wrote “Krouse leaves us with a feeling of unbounded, exhilarating possibility.” Erika is also the author of the novel Contenders. Erika’s fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including the New Yorker, the Atlantic and the Kenyon Review. Of course we could court many fiction writers who have great publications, but that’s never enough for us. We need people who are student-centered teachers. Erika Krouse is a caring teacher and a terrific person. She’s already agreed to attend my English 102 class and to talk to creative writing students as well. Erika has a great sense of humor and a quirky personality.

Another great person and student-centered teacher is our nonfiction writer Leila Philip. Leila writes poetry and nonfiction.
Leila Philip

Along with her memoir, A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Leila has also written a collaborative work with her husband painter Garth Evans. The collaboration, Water Rising, includes Leila’s poems on nature, beauty and loss with Garth’s abstract water colors. Leila is also a columnist for the Boston Globe. She’s currently writing a book about fur trappers, for which she has spent hours with trappers in New England, even going so far as acquiring a trapper’s license.

Dr. Deborah Fleming offers some background on the poet in the series.
Daneen Wardrop
Winner of the 2015 Richard Snyder Publication Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, Daneen Wardrop's Life As It, chosen by David St. John, is a collection of prose and free verse poems that brings together images from centuries ago as well as today and makes us aware of the transfiguration of the commonplace. Laura Kasischke called it "poetry of both narrative and musical accomplishments." Daneen Wardrop has published two previous collections of poetry as well as several books of literary history. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the Poetry Society of America Robert H. Winner Award. She teaches American literature at Western Michigan University.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Dr. Joe Mackall Wins Sixth Mentor Award

On January 26, 2018, Joe Mackall, Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing, won his sixth Academic Mentor Award at Ashland University. Given that many professors on campus have never won one of these awards, to win six is extraordinary, and the English Department is honored to have this committed educator among its ranks.

Maggie Andrews and Dr. Joe Mackall

Maggie Andrews, a senior Creative Writing major from Mansfield, Ohio, nominated Mackall for the award. An excerpt from Andrews's nomination letter details Mackall's role in her academic growth:

Joe has a wealth of knowledge and experience that he shares with his students. He is a published writer, but I have never met someone so well-versed in what it takes to become a writer. He guides us as an equal, like we all share common frustrations. I have looked at my creative works from the start of my college journey to now and I can’t believe the difference. One hundred pages no longer scares me. I have fought through bad habits as he has mentioned them.

Dr. Joe Mackall was the reason I came to Ashland University, the reason I stayed at Ashland University, and the reason why I am prepared to graduate from Ashland University. I have grown as a student and as a person under his mentorship. His office door is always open. I am constantly bugging him and he never complains. He provides valuable criticism and feedback that has molded my abilities. He has given me confidence in writing. Joe is not the average professor. He goes above and beyond to take care of his students. When I walk into one of his classes, I feel like a weight has lifted off of my chest. I am comfortable in there and it never feels like class. It feels like a fun exercise that I’m discussing with peers. 

The day I achieve my dreams, dreams that I have had since being a little girl, I will remember Joe Mackall. I will remember his kindness, his humor, his knowledge, and his ambition. I will remember him and I will thank him. I will thank him for everything he has done for me and my writing. I will thank him for a great college experience. I will thank him for helping me become the person I am today. I will thank him for helping me to achieve my dreams, a debt I will never be able to repay.

Mackall's response to winning the award reflects his rapport with his students:

There's nothing better than being a mentor, especially when it comes to working with other writers. If I were really doing my job right, I'd be a mentor to every one of my creative writing students. I have to say that having a student like Maggie Andrews gives me an unfair advantage in the mentoring game. Maggie is a first-rate writer. She's talented, intelligent, open to and eager for criticism. She's also an amazingly good human being. With Maggie Andrews as a student, I should receive the luckiest professor alive award. 

Congratulations, Dr. Mackall!