Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Report from China: Poets in Beijing, Saturday, April 16, 2011

By Stephen Haven, Professor of English

This post originally appeared on Amherst College's blog The Common:

During a spring 2011 guest teaching stint at Chongqing University, in Chongqing, China, near Sichuan Province, I flew to Beijing for a three-day visit. In the 1990s, I spent two Fulbright teaching years at universities in Beijing and still had many friends in the city. At dinner that Saturday night, I met a poet I had never met before: Lan Lan, 42 years old, famous in China, author of 9 books, mother of twins, a boy and a girl. The children joined us at the restaurant, caged songbirds overhead, hanging from the branches of small potted trees. The poet Wang Jiaxin was an old friend. He was there with his wife and his five-year-old son. There was another poet whose name I missed and his seven year old daughter. My old student Liu Ruiying was with us too—in the impossible position of being the only truly bilingual speaker in the room. Possibly Duo Duo was the senior statesman in the group, a poet I had long admired. Duo Duo joked that he would probably only order water. Then he ordered wine. Wine is good for high cholesterol, Duo Duo said. Yes, I said, if you can manage to drink only one glass. Yes, but we are poets: We must drink the whole bottle, Duo Duo said, and grabbed the bottle and laughed. Wang Jiaxin and I clinked glasses and toasted to 20 years. I first met him during my 1990-1991 Fulbright year.
Wang Jiaxin and his family
Lan Lan and Duo Duo
Duo Duo, Steve Haven, and Wang Jiaxin
Then Duo Duo said we have a very rare chance: we have Liu Ruiying here to help us talk to each other. Duo Duo was seated at the head of the table, Lan Lan to his left, Liu Riuying to his right. I sat next to Liu Ruiying, Wang Jiaxin to the right of me. Jiaxin talked mainly to his wife and child, and to the poet I didn’t know. I asked Duo Duo what Chinese poets he admired from the early years of the communist era. “No one.” From the early years of the Chinese Republic? “No one.” He said “I have a Chinese great-grandfather—classic Chinese poetry—but I have no father. The West is my father. There were no Chinese poets like Wallace Stevens in the last century.”

Duo Duo asked me what I thought of the difference between Continental and English poetry. I told him that—generally speaking—English poets give themselves more fully to traditional form, while continental poets are more experimental and cerebral, without making form their main concern. Maybe more like Stevens, though Stevens wrote in form. American poetry is somewhere in between. Duo Duo said, “No, that is not the difference. The difference is something else. British and American poets always have to “tell the story,” and at the end of their poems they sum up the story. In France and Germany poets don’t do that.” Duo Duo said he admired Rilke, Paul Celan, Apollinaire, Rene Char, Andre Breton. He complained that there is not enough translation in America. When he was in America he couldn’t believe that he could find only a slim volume of Rene Char’s poetry translated into English. He told me that he was utterly dependent on the translation of Western poets into Chinese and praised Wang Jiaxin for the gift to Chinese writers of 300 Celan translations. Duo Duo said he doesn’t read in any language other than Mandarin. He said he needed people like Wang Jiaxin.

I said that in good poems the story is not the full or even the real story. The poem is really about something else, as Eliot and other poets have said. The real meaning is always tangential. We talked about what can come through in translation: imagery, surrealistic effects, a poem’s story or argument at its literal level. Not the more subtle effects of form and music, suggested meaning and idiomatic language. Maybe that’s why poems that “tell the story” are not very effective when they are translated into Chinese. Maybe that is why modern, Continental poetry comes through better, because it is more powerfully built on imagery, especially when the imagery is surreal. Maybe Frost’s long narratives are untranslatable, I said, because they are so subtle, because they are that good.

We talked about American and British poets Duo Duo admires. He said he loved Roethke, Charles Wright, R.S. Thomas, Ashbery, Mark Strand, Whitman, James Tate, James Wright, Dickinson. When I brought up Jorie Graham he claimed to admire her too, and Hart Crane was also an important poet for him, many years ago. As Lan Lan speaks no English she said little to me during the course of the meal. She agreed with Duo Duo that she had little pleasure in reading poems that “tell the story.” She said that she loved Bishop and Dickinson. I found myself wondering which Bishop poems had been translated into Chinese, as Bishop often writes narratives.

Duo Duo, Wang Jiaxin, Liu Ruiying and I ended up in a beer garden for a night cap. Lan Lan went home in her family car with her children. Wang Jiaxin loves many different kinds of beer, having spent some years in Germany. We ordered mugs of German beer and took some photographs. Then I shared a cab with Liu Ruiying back to the North-Central part of Beijing, near where she lives and where I was staying at Beijing Normal University. A few days later I flew back to Chongqing to continue teaching a course on Dickinson and Frost. That was my third trip to China. Two Fulbright years, then a thirteen year absence, then six more weeks. For the third time in my life, with poets in Beijing, I eavesdropped on a conversation with the West. There is no summing up of that story…

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Recent Graduate Blended Creative Writing Minor with Marketing Major

By Erynn Franks, class of 2014

Erynn Franks in New Zealand, working with the education-focused nonprofit organization Capital E
About half way through my first real semester in college, I was sitting in Dr. Margot’s Introduction to Information Systems classroom when he came up to me and asked, “Erynn, what is your major and minor?” To which I answered, “I’m a marketing major and a creative writing minor.” I could tell he was somewhat surprised by my answer; his original purpose of this question was to convince me to add an information systems minor (which he succeeded in doing), but it turned into a several-minute conversation about how great of a combination marketing and creative writing were and how well they complemented each other.

Four years later, I am taking my last finals of my undergraduate career, remembering that conversation. The combination has helped me create content for many different target markets. One example is this past summer. I interned with Capital E, a non-profit organization in New Zealand who focuses their energy on teaching children through entertainment. It was my job to help promote Capital E and their upcoming events, mainly the Big RevEal, the reveal of their new location, to both parents and teachers. I had the opportunity to write press releases, create a scavenger hunt, communicate with magazines and newspapers, and help with social media. All involved different forms of writing, but with a whimsical spin, as Capital E had built an image of whimsy and fun. The combination of creative writing and marketing helped me maintain that image while reaching target audiences.

As I prepare for life in the real world, I am grateful I chose to pair my marketing major with a creative writing minor. I celebrate the struggle of switching between the two writing techniques, the creative versus analytical and the business perspective versus the English perspective, and remain confident in my ability.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: Kathryn Simmons

By Kathryn Simmons, class of 2012, Integrated Language Arts major

I am a ninth and eleventh grade English teacher at a charter school in Columbus. My class is comprised of students who dropped out and regretted it, had to take maternity leave, were expelled, or moved after open enrollment. Most of my kids are either homeless, in gangs, parents, or a combination of those.

I really love my job, though I never expected to end up here. I had an interview that I thought I had nailed at a public school in my home town; I had prepared for hours for it. When I got the “Thanks, but no thanks” email, I went on an application rampage on the Ohio Department of Education website and filled out applications for every school within a forty five minute drive, including the schools I had no interest in. I am so glad I did. Most of my students come from a world vastly different than my own even though they are a twenty-minute drive away. They are gang members, refugees, homeless, parents, addicts, children of addicts, etc. I get stories from international students who had to flee their country in West Africa in the middle of the night because rebels were opening fire in protest to the government. One of my students told me how excited he was that in America he doesn’t have to pay for elephant insurance since there is no worry about elephants trampling their house, unlike their hut in Nepal. My proudest moment is seeing a male student completely turn his life around. After he spent several months in jail for a drive-by shooting in which he was the shooter, he got shot last Christmas and it was a close call. It scared him and I saw a complete turnaround. For one of his writing assignments, he wrote a twenty-page narrative about a young boy in the gang life that closely followed his own experiences. Their experiences have really opened up
my understanding of what my students need in their education.

To help make the connections between the students and the curriculum, I’ve been pulling up old assignments and notes from my English classes to brush up on books I never thought I would need, like The House on Mango Street. It was the first book I had to teach and one I never expected to see again (Thank you Dr. Waterman!) Sometimes I end up wanting to kick myself for not taking some parts of a lecture more seriously so that when I need to trace back the entire history of the English language I can do so (Thank you Dr. Donatini!).

Another professor I owe a thank-you is Dr. Knickerbocker. I remember so clearly that she would spend the first half of every class period discussing the books she had recently finished. Working in a charter school, our curriculum is preset and the students work at their own pace, which has its advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is the possibility for cheating—when students finish a novel unit, for example, they hand off answers to students approaching the unit. An advantage is the flexibility I have. Since we are a credit recovery school, the students work at their own pace and aren’t typically working on the same novels or assignments at the same time. I can change books for individual students as I see fit, and many of the books I have swapped were books Dr. Knickerbocker told us about. She would only discuss young adult novels. The books were never within the same realm; she covered books that would work for a variety of demographics and helped me to discover a number of books that my students relate to.

Going into my second year, one of my priorities is my international population. The modifications they need are tricky sometimes, and I wish I had more resources to support me. In particular, I have a small group of students who are from Senegal. They grow up speaking Wolof and Fulani, which are both complex languages. They can barely speak English, but in school, in Senegal, they speak French. So I’ve had to go back to my high school days and try to remember elementary level words to communicate with these students.

Charter schools can be tricky sometimes. The classrooms are not traditional, because these students are unable to function in a traditional setting. They need more individualized attention. I think they can be great stepping stones for beginning a career. My advice with charter schools is to find one that fits. Some charters are focused on specifics skills or subjects: job prep, athletic training, art and design, or, like mine, credit recovery. Each type of school creates a different culture because the goals of the students are different.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

High School Workshop Welcomes Area Students

On Monday, November 3, the Ashland University English Department held its 29th annual High School Workshop. We sent invitations to 250 different schools, and 18 of these responded, six of which had never attended before. We ended up welcoming a total of 155 students and teachers from these institutions, ranging from Willard to Cuyahoga Valley Christian.

The day began with a gathering in the piano lounge of the Hawkins-Conard Student Center where coffee, juice, and pastries were provided. To start the day off, we gathered in the Hawkins-Conard Auditorium for a brief presentation by Kara Metcalf of the Ashland University Admissions Department who described for the attendees the programs AU offers to its students and something of what life is like on campus. Then we sent our visitors on their way to attend three of the six workshops being offered this year.

The sessions included discussions of Frost’s and Roethke’s poetry, a discussion of what film studies is, a discussion of writing very short pieces, a discussion of the value of the first sentence in a work, and a discussion of Elie Wiesel’s Night. After the workshops, the visiting students and teachers were treated to lunch at convo, and then some attended readings by creative writers Jasmine Dansler and Megan Porhts and some went on a campus tour.

We are proud of this event’s longevity, its continuing ability to bring students and teachers to campus as well as providing members of the department the opportunity to engage in serious discussions with many of the brightest high school students in the area.

Monday, November 24, 2014

English Minor Travels the World During Semester at Sea

By Sarah O'Connell, Strategic Communication and Public Relations major, English minor

My view from my bedroom on the lowest level of the ship.  That's right, I woke up to this every morning.  Sometimes I would even see a new country outside.
One of the greatest Christmas presents I've ever received was a giant styrofoam board map of the world. I was able to stick pins into it, to places I've been to and places where I wanted to go, and it was one of my top priorities to bring with me when I went away to college. It was a way to set goals for myself and to imagine what I would and could do in certain places when I would finally be able to travel. During my freshman year, I came across a poster for a study abroad program that would not only accomplish my set goals I had made on my map, but also change my life. 
Standing in front of the Largest Pagoda in Myanmar and surrounded by one of the most colorful of cultures encountered on the voyage.
The Semester at Sea program has been active for over fifty years, sailing around the world and serving as a floating college campus for its students. The program currently takes place aboard a ship called the MV Explorer and provides typical classes that could be found on campuses around the country such as arts, sciences, and even business. Of course we were given more of an opportunity being distracted and let our minds wander at the impressive views of new oceans or countries we could see from our classroom windows.

I had planned most of my college career around this opportunity to travel and study on the ship. When I finally found myself taking my last step off of dry land and walking onto the shifting vessel I would call home for the next four months, I felt a rush of excitement mixed with anticipation. What glorious adventures were waiting for me on that golden blue horizon? Back then I had no idea, but what I know now was something more remarkable than I could ever imagine.

Our itinerary included eleven different countries for us to explore. We ventured across the rough Pacific Ocean and made our way through Asia in; Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, and India. When we sailed down the Indian Ocean we found ourselves in Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, and Morocco. We had accomplished so much before we made our final stop in England. Even now, the memory is still as fresh in my mind as spring. I can recall what it was like scaling the steep stairs of the Great Wall of China, or stalking elephants and giraffes in the wilds of Africa, or looking out on the deck of the MV Explorer and being unable to tell where the sky met the ocean. 

Henna artists at work during a home visit in India.
Every day that passes pushes me to try to remember every specific detail and commit it to my memory. I look at my map now, decorated with colored pins of the locations I have visited and dream about going back someday, but for now I am so thankful I was given this wonderful opportunity in the first place. And it all started with me having a goal on what I could accomplish with my small map of a very large world. 

My blog:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recent Graduate Thrives in Higher Education Master's Program

By Erika Gallion, class of 2013

As an undergraduate English and Creative Writing major at Ashland, I knew I was going to have to think
eventually about graduate school. Majoring in what I loved as an undergraduate is a decision I did not regret and still do not regret at all. Getting to do what I loved the most for four years with professors and peers who also held similar passions was a privilege I will remember and treasure forever.

Working within the Admissions office at Ashland for four years introduced me to a career I never before knew existed: Student Affairs. I loved my on-campus job; it gave me crucial leadership and interpersonal communication skills. What I enjoyed the most, however, was actively helping someone make an important life decision. Hearing that I had impacted a potential student’s college decision gave me satisfaction, and when I realized I could do this as a career (mostly by inquiring as to what my supervisors held degrees in), I began looking for programs.

From my experience thus far as a first year master’s student within Kent State University’s Higher Education Administration & Student Personnel program, my past as an English major has been essential to my success within graduate level work. Graduate school expects students to know how to write well, a skill that is (sadly) very scarce amongst college graduates. Classmates within my master’s program seem intimidated and insecure about paper assignments whereas I feel confident and even excited to utilize my skills. I also feel some hesitation when class involves open discussion—coming from an English background, however, I am used to and happy to engage in discussion. My experience as an English major has given me academic skills needed to succeed in any graduate program, especially one such as mine that includes interpersonal skills, confidence in participating within class and/or group settings, and strong writing capabilities.

I have decided to specialize in Internationalization within Higher Education for my Master’s degree, a decision also rooted in my love of literature. With this focus, I will hopefully one day have a career as an Education Abroad advisor or a director of International Student Services at a university. Confronting social justice issues such as racism and immigration is something I began to do in my English classes. It’s amazing how much a book can truly change and inspire you. Travel and culture have become fundamental to my identity, and I can say with complete truthfulness that this transformation began in English classes at Ashland. I miss my English classes daily and often long to read Invisible Man again and discuss it for class, but I am confident that this path I am now on will be rewarding and fulfilling. I encourage anyone to major in English if he or she loves the subject. It will not only captivate your interest but will also revolutionize the way you think and potentially shift the very core beliefs within you. Thank you to the entire English department at Ashland—you have truly changed my life. Best of luck to all!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: LeeAnn Larson

By LeeAnn Larson, class of 2002, Integrated Language Arts major 

My current position is Professional Academic Advisor, working with students in the College of Education, Department of Psychology and any freshman who is undeclared. But, this isn’t where I began.

I taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts for three years, post-graduation, in Medina City Schools. Following that position I found myself working for The Office of Admission at Ashland University. I had the opportunity to travel around to high schools in Ohio and basically brag about how wonderful Ashland University is and how much I loved my experience as a student. I worked in Admissions from 2006 until 2011.

I then moved on to Coordinator of Retention because I longed to have meaningful relationships with students that were built on more than recruitment—relationships that gave me the opportunity to make a difference. I held that position for two years.

In May 2013 I moved into the Professional Advising position and it is my favorite position thus far.

I received both my undergraduate (Integrated Language Arts) and my graduate (M.Ed. Curriculum Instruction with a focus in literacy) education degrees from Ashland so I am very familiar with the program(s) and their requirements. I am also very familiar with the professors and the expectations they have for their students.

In my current role I have the opportunity to work with students, helping them navigate the transition from high school to college. I get to interact with those who are unsure about what they want to do with their lives, and also those students who’ve wanted to teach since they entered kindergarten. I learned in my education classes the value of building rapport with students early and it is something that I seem to do well.

My student years at Ashland University really helped to prepare me for life. Majoring in Integrated Language Arts taught me more than how to be an English teacher. It taught me how to read, write, and communicate effectively. These skills are necessary in any career, and I value the degree to which they were developed during my time. I also learned the importance of being a lifelong learner and this is something I strongly encourage with each of my advisees.

The professors at this institution are top-notch and every professor I learned from I enjoyed. However, when students ask me about my favorite professors I reply Dr. Weaver, from the English department, and Dr. Knickerbocker, from the College of Education. Students will ask if they were my favorites because, ‘they were easy.’ No. No, they were not easy, and that is part of the reason why they were my favorites. Both of these professors challenged me to dig deeper, to work past the superficial, and to find the potential that cannot be found in gliding through an easy class.

When I graduated from AU in 2002 I was certain I’d be a classroom teacher until retirement. Twelve years later, I still consider myself a teacher, just not in the traditional sense. I get the opportunity every single day to teach, guide, encourage, support and challenge students. To me, those are the best parts of being a teacher, and these tasks can be done in and outside of the classroom.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Evelyn Palik: Lifelong Learning and a Passion for Life

By Naomi Saslaw

What is the role of learning in the life of an individual?  For Evelyn Palik, reading and lifelong learning are a significant part of her identity.

Evelyn and her husband, Emil, chose to retire to Ashland, because Ashland College could satisfy their passion for lifelong learning and growth.  They soon became deeply involved in courses in Philosophy, such as Doug Chismar's class in Empathy and his Oriental Philosophy.  Evelyn was challenged by Russell Weaver's course on the Russian novel and very deeply involved in the discussions in Naomi Saslaw's Readings in Jewish Literature.  Each course they audited provided seeds for further exploration.

Evelyn became fascinated by philosophical and theological questions about Judaism.  She became particularly interested in Rabbi Harold Kushner's books, starting with When Bad Things Happen to Good People and his many other books including When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough:  The Search for a Life That Matters.  Rabbi Kushner taught Evelyn how to deal with suffering in her life, including the death of her first baby.  Evelyn met Rabbi Kushner at Fairmount Temple in Cleveland when he was struggling with his own pain after the death of his son.  Evelyn learned that if she shares her pain with another person, she can more easily deal with her problems, rather than keeping the pain locked inside.  At the age of 85, Evelyn now has no fear because of what she has learned from Rabbi Kushner.  Although Rabbi Kushner is Jewish, Evelyn believes that her understanding of Christianity has also deepened because of her reading Kushner's books.

Evelyn reads daily.  When I asked her why she loves to read, she first quoted from a Korean film: "Reading is an heirloom that waves to all mankind."  Reading also allows her to keep researching new ideas.  She also believes that reading "takes her into a bit of heaven," that "reading is as much a part of me as breathing," and that reading has helped her to become a more understanding person.   She then added that she is reading because "I am preserving my brain to go to medical school." Evelyn has donated her body to Case Western Reserve University Medical School, and her husband, Emil, has already completed the same donation.

Recently Evelyn has become immensely interested in Korean films.  She is fascinated by the art of Korean film and by studying the different culture of Korea.  One film that combines her love of classical music and Korean film depicts the conductor of a Korean orchestra.  The actor who played the conductor totally immersed himself in the art of conducting and gives an incredible performance.

When I asked Evelyn what advice she would give to college students, she stated that they should find their passion, to see what makes them alive and speaks to their heart and then they should learn about that field.  She also advises young people to be a keen observer of and listener to other people.

Evelyn also believes that "if there is no laughter in Heaven, I don't want to go there."  She lives her life continuously learning and growing, avidly reading, with a love for people, with a passion for classical music, and with healthy, renewing laughter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Technology and the Humanities

I'm teaching Michael Herr's Dispatches in my ENG102 (English Composition II) class right now, and reading it reminds me of why I do what I do, or rather, why what I do is important.  The analogies between the Vietnam War and our ongoing conflict in the Middle East are of course limited by culture and geography, but I think most people would agree that we've expended a lot in terms of treasure, if not blood, with very little to show for it. One theme in Herr's book is the massive technological advantage of the American forces and how little that mattered, in the end:

At the end of my first week in country I met an information officer who showed me on his map and then on his chopper what they'd done to the Ho Bo Woods, the vanished Ho Bo Woods, taken off by giant Rome plows and chemicals and long, slow fire, wasting hundred of acres of cultivated plantation and wild forest alike, "denying the enemy valuable resources and cover."

It had part of his job for nearly a year now to tell people about that operation; correspondents, touring congressmen, movie stars, corporation presidents, staff officers from half the armies in the world, and he still couldn't get over it.  It seemed to be keeping him young, his enthusiasm made you feel that even the letters he wrote home to his wife were full of it, it really showed what you could do if you had the know-how and the hardware.   And if in the months following that operation incidences of enemy activity in the larger area of War Zone C had increased "significantly," and American losses had doubled and then doubled again, none of it was happening in any damn Ho Bo Woods, you'd better believe it...

Certainly technology is the biggest factor in increased productivity, and higher education has been slow to adapt to new technology.  I read Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen's book The Innovative University last summer.  Christensen argues that many schools have gotten themselves into trouble by trying to be like Harvard, with a focus on narrowly-defined research, and that colleges like Ashland should primarily teach "knowledge the world can use," practical stuff like business, science, and education, and leave the metaphysical navel-gazing to the prestigious liberal arts schools that can afford it.   He writes glowingly of the possibility of "disruptive technologies" like online courses, which he believes are becoming equivalent in quality to traditional face-to-face courses.

I think he's right, to a degree.  I went to a large state university, U.C. Berkeley, for my undergraduate degree.  Many of my courses were large lectures, and if we'd had the Internet then, I could have watched them online.   Yes, many classes had "discussion sections" with teaching assistants, but the bulk of the material was covered in lecture.  Actually, a lot of the material was covered in the textbooks, a very old technology.  And in those courses, I learned a lot about what people already knew.

But because I came to Cal already pretty good at English, I was able to get into the "by permission of the instructor only" creative writing courses and honors seminars.  And in those courses, I learned a lot about myself.   I still have my first paper from Stephen Booth's Shakespeare seminar, a reader-response analysis of the St. Crispin's day speech from Henry V.   My seven-page paper came back covered in four colors of ink, with ten single-spaced typewritten pages of comments.   In my other courses, I'd be lucky if I got more than a sentence from a teaching assistant.  The comments themselves were both brilliant and humbling, and I suddenly realized I wasn't as smart as I'd always thought I was:  "Don't let your reader hear you sweat trying to be winsome," Booth wrote at one point.   "You have the confidence that allows you to go off half-cocked," he commented on another passage.  "Confidence is a good thing.  Going off half-cocked is not."

The next semester I tried to take another course with Booth, a large lecture on comedy.   The rumor was that Booth wouldn't let you take more than one course with him-- "If I have anything to teach you, you'll learn it in one semester," he told us-- but I decided to put it to the test.   Midway through the first lecture, in an auditorium with about a hundred students, he saw me, stopped suddenly, and said, "You don't belong here," and then went back to the lecture.  I dropped the course that afternoon.    He had taught me what he had to teach. 

When I see footage of a new, $400-million-a-pop F-22 fighter blasting an ISIS command-and-control center, I think of Dispatches.   And when I hear business gurus like Christensen talking about teaching only "knowledge the world can use" and the "disruptive technology" of on-line learning, I think about the value of real human interaction in the classroom-- and the value of the humanities.    Adam Gopnik, a staff writer for the New Yorker, said it well in his blog post from last year, "Why Teach English?"

No sane person proposes or has ever proposed an entirely utilitarian, production-oriented view of human purpose. We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence. That’s why we pass out tax breaks to churches, zoning remissions to parks, subsidize new ballparks and point to the density of theatres and galleries as signs of urban life, to be encouraged if at all possible. When a man makes a few billion dollars, he still starts looking around for a museum to build a gallery for or a newspaper to buy. No civilization we think worth studying, or whose relics we think worth visiting, existed without what amounts to an English department—texts that mattered, people who argued about them as if they mattered, and a sense of shame among the wealthy if they couldn’t talk about them, at least a little, too. It’s what we call civilization.

Or, as Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, "The civilized man is a wiser and more experienced savage."  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spring 2015 English Department Course Offerings

ENG102: Writing on Film and Literature
Dr. Maura Grady
TTh 12:15-1:30, TTh 1:40-2:55, TTh 3:05-4:20
Composition II Core Requirement

In this class you will meet the ENG 102 course objectives as you learn the basics of film language, read engaging and challenging texts on film and study 3 literature-to-film adaptations in depth, with the goal of producing several inquiry-driven research projects. 
 Our primary films will be The Shawshank Redemption, It Happened One Night, and The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

Most readings will be available on Angel for download, but you are required to purchase the following texts:

1. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.  Penguin Classics, 1994.  ISBN-10: 0140187286  (make sure you purchase this specific translation)

2. A Short Guide to Writing About Film, 8th edition by Timothy Corrigan, Longman, 2011, ISBN-10: 0205236391

ENG217A:  (Postmodern) British Literature 
Dr. Gary Levine
MWF 11:00-11:50
Core Humanities

Likely Texts: 
Martin Amis, Money: A Suicide Note. Viking.
Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine. Theatre Communications Group Press.
Peter Fallon, ed. Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry. Penguin USA.
Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting. W.W. Norton.
Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Grove Press.

Course preview:  This course will focus on more contemporary British and Irish literature, a period that has sometimes been described using the term "postmodernism."  Postmodernism by its very nature has multiple definitions, but perhaps the best way to think about it for our purposes is as the literary response to the conditions of late-modern capitalism.  Postmodern literature does not always obey the conventions of traditional and modern literature, which means it can be both exciting and frustrating.  This course satisfies the Tier II Humanities requirement for the Core.  Just be warned that this is literature for grownups and has mature themes- the film version of Trainspotting is "rated R for graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence."

ENG 303A: Writers’ Workshop in Screenwriting
Dr. Maura Grady
TTh 9:25-10:40 a.m.
Required for Creative Writing majors, elective credit for English and Integrated Language Arts majors

Have you ever wanted to write your own movie or television show?  Well, now you can do it and earn college credit at the same time!

In this course, you will develop and write your own original screenplay and workshop it over the semester with others in this intimate and supportive workshop setting (enrollment is capped at 14). 
You will learn about formatting, structure, character, and dialogue. 
Required text:
Duncan, Genre Screenwriting: How to Write Popular Screenplays that Sell

English 304X: Short Story
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman
Tu 6:00-8:30 p.m. (Hybrid)
Core Humanities, Elective for the English and Creative Writing majors

Who reads short stories and why? From the canonical to the experimental, this course will analyze a wide-range of short stories included in Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn’s comprehensive anthology, The Art of the Short Story, 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.  Assignments will likely consist of two extensive papers, short literary analysis papers, class presentations, and lots of assessed, active in-class and online participation (short assignments, research projects, rigorous discussion and debate, and so on)

ENG 314A: Literature and Gender
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 1:00-1:50
Core Humanities, Elective for English and Integrated Language Arts majors

Global Narratives of Gender

Recently a debate has raged, in social media and in our broader popular discourse, around gender issues (see, for instance, #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen, as well as #WhyINeedFeminism and #WhyIDontNeedFeminism).  Young people in particular are locked in a passionate debate about the need for and direction of gender-focused social justice movements.  At the same time, we have witnessed #BringBackOurGirls, a campaign addressing the kidnapping of female students from their school by religious extremists in Nigeria, and #IAmMalala, developed to show support for the Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban while on her way to school.  This course seeks to explore the deeper, more nuanced stories behind the 140-character tweets and television sound bites that often occupy our attention, and through careful analysis of literary texts—supported by their social, historical, cultural, and religious context—we will come to a better understanding of gender-based struggles around the globe.  Likely texts and contexts include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (Nigeria), Adichie’s now viral speech on “Why We Need Feminism,” Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala (Pakistan), Helen Benedict’s Sand Queen (U.S./Iraq), Shaila Abdullah’s Saffron Dreams (U.S. and Pakistan), and Jackson Katz’s documentary Tough Guise (U.S.).  In addition to active and consistent participation in class discussion, class presentations on historical and social context, and several short close reading exams and response papers, students will be required to produce one long (8-10 page) literary analysis paper. 

English 317A: Studies in Shakespeare
Dr. Hilary Donatini
Requirement for the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing minors

We will immerse ourselves not only in Shakespeare’s language but also in historical and intellectual contexts for the plays. Performing scenes and studying film adaptations of the plays will bring the Bard to life. Two essays, two exams, and additional smaller assignments will make up the writing component of the course. Be ready for frequent and extensive class discussion.

Required Texts:
We will read one each of Shakespeare’s comedies, histories, tragedies, and romances, spending significant time comparing two film versions of Henry V: the 1944 version directed by and starring Laurence Olivier, and the 1989 version directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. One of the writing assignments will concern these adaptations. 

As You Like It (Signet, Newly Revised) ISBN: 9780451526786
Henry V (Signet, Newly Revised) ISBN: 9780451526908
King Lear (Signet, Newly Revised) ISBN: 9780451526939
The Tempest (Signet, Newly Revised) ISBN: 9780451527127

English 324A: Modern Novel
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman
TTh 1:40-2:55
Core Humanities, Elective for the English and Creative Writing majors

This course will explore the idea of the very modern novel by examining the texts and contexts of key American novels published in the last five years (2010-2014). Framed by the notions of selfhood and nationhood, we will ask how the modern novel reflects, shapes, and contradicts the concepts and constructions of identity. We will also interrogate the tensions of historical narratives and postmodern discourse, self and society, and the individual and family. Close analytical attention will be given to issues of gender, class, race, sexuality, justice, language, and form. Approximately four to five novels will be selected from the following: Jeannette Walls’ Half-Broke Horses, Amy Waldman’s The Submission, Teju Cole’s Open City, Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon A River, Toni Morrison’s Home, Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. This is a reading-intense, writing-intense, and discussion-intense course.  Assignments will likely consist of two extensive papers, short literary analysis papers, class presentations, and lots of assessed, active class participation (short assignments, in-class projects, rigorous discussion and debate, and so on)

Eng 325A: Major Writers Seminar: Hemingway
Dr. Weaver
MWF: 1:00-1:50
Requirement for the English major and English minor; elective for the Creative Writing minor

In this first–time offering, we will read Hemingway’s greatest novel and his four greatest short stories: The Sun Also Rises and “Soldier’s Home,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” All these works show how Hemingway is able to present the moral complexity of life in his deceptively simple prose. Two papers and one presentation.

ENG 330A: African Literature
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 2:00-2:50
Core Humanities, Core GPS, elective for English and Integrated Language Arts majors

Nigerian Literature

Nigeria recently gained notoriety with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, an online movement to address the kidnapping of female students from their school by religious extremists in the town of Chibok in April 2014.  The campaign gave rise to a series of debates regarding the efficacy of so-called hashtag activism, and more interestingly, what it means to respond intensely to a singular event in another part of the world, and then, when the frenzy of tweets has passed, to forget promptly about what is happening there.  In this course, we will discuss the recent hashtag activism, but we will also engage in its opposite: a sustained, serious study of Nigerian literature with thoughtful consideration of the social, historical, religious, and cultural contexts that shaped colonial Nigeria and that continue to shape it today.  Likely texts include Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God, Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.  In addition to active and consistent participation in class discussion, class presentations on historical and social context, and several short close reading exams and response papers, students will be required to produce one long (8-10 page) literary analysis paper

Eng 370A: Russian Novel
Dr. Russell Weaver
MWF: 2:00-3:00
Core Humanities; elective for English Major and Minor, elective for Creative Writing minor

This course allows the student to read the two of the greatest novels ever written: Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. They present not only psychological analyses of unparalleled depth but also discussions of history, theology, and philosophy that serve to deepen the portraits of the men and women inhabiting their pages. The grades will be based on two papers and two presentations.

ENG413A: Twentieth-Century Anglophone Literature
Dr. Deborah Fleming
TTh 1:40-2:55
Elective for English major and minor, Creative Writing major and minor, and Integrated Language Arts major

Readings may include
Yeats, W. B. Selected Poems and Four Plays.
Synge, J. M.  The Playboy of the Western World; O’ Casey, Juno and the Paycock; or Shaw, Saint Joan
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway
Joyce, James. Ulysses, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or Dubliners
Upadhyay, Samrat.  The Guru of Love or Arresting God in Kathmandu
Wolcott, Derek.  Poems.

Instructional Format
Regular class format will be seminar-type discussion.

Course Objectives
The course objective is to give students knowledge of English and Anglophone literature of the Twentieth Century through reading, writing, and discussing.

Assignments and Grades
–Two literary-critical papers on our readings for this semester, 10-12 pages each
–Final examination given at our scheduled final exam time
–Quizzes, position papers, or journal entries on our readings
–Class participation

English 426A: American Literature II: 1830-1870
Dr. Stephen Haven
TTh 12:15-1:30
Elective for English major and minor, Creative Writing major and minor, and Integrated Language Arts major

This is a course on the nineteenth century flowering in American literature called the American Renaissance.  We will read a selection of such American Renaissance authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson, Whitman, and Poe.