Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kathy Fagan Poetry Reading at Ashland University March 17, 2014

By Deborah Fleming

Kathy Fagan is the author of four collections of poems, most recently Lip (2009).  Work from her new manuscript, Sycamore, appears in publications such as FIELD, Poetry, Ninth Letter, and The Awl, among others.  She is the recipient of grants from the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council.  Fagan teaches in the MFA program at Ohio State University where she also serves as series editor of the OSU press/The Journal Wheeler Poetry Prize.  Find her on the web at http://www.kathyfagan.net.

Monday, February 24, 2014

English as Preparation for Legal Studies

By Deborah Fleming, Professor of English

A major in English or Creative Writing is excellent preparation for a prospective law student or lawyer because language is the chief tool of the lawyer. A lawyer must have a masterful vocabulary, appropriate diction, and impeccable command of English grammar and usage and must be articulate and persuasive in all the forms of discourse: description, narration, exposition, and argumentation. A lawyer must be imaginative and understand stories because litigation between a plaintiff and a defendant is a conflict between two different stories. Lawyers and judges must interpret the language of statutes, constitutions, contracts, agreements, and case law decisions, sometimes deciding or arguing a case based on the interpretation of a single word. Lawyers must be able to translate English into legal language when addressing judges and other attorneys and to translate legal language back into standard English when addressing juries and clients. The grounding that an English major provides in language study, rhetoric, critical analysis, and the imaginative arts is excellent for students who wish to pursue a legal career.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Titko

Rachel Titko, Integrated Language Arts Major
When Rachel Titko was in high school, she decided to become a teacher. “My junior English teacher inspired me.” Upon entering AU in 2007, she declared her major in the English Department’s Integrated Language Arts program.

Four year later, after being on the Dean’s list every semester, she graduated. Immediately, she found a job doing what she loves best: teaching English. Rachel is now a twelfth grade English and speech teacher at Clear Fork High School (Bellville, Ohio).

Teaching British literature is one of Rachel’s favorite parts of her job, especially introducing students to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; reading these spirited tales, however, is only the beginning of her Chaucer studies. Students then write and then perform their own tales. Each student dresses up in costume—one recent student was a fully-regaled pirate, complete with eye-patch—and performs the character. Students watch the performances and choose winners.

Rachel’s dynamic teaching is no accident. It was inspired by a number of dedicated AU English faculty members. Dr. Deborah Fleming’s guidance on Romantic poetry helped shape the way she teaches Blake, Shelley, Coleridge, and other Romantic poets in her classes today. Dr. Jayne Waterman taught her how to lead an interactive classroom. Just as she saw modeled in her classes with Dr. Waterman, Rachel asks students lots of questions and seeks to have a student-centered, discussion-based class sessions.

Perhaps the most informative part of Rachel’s education came from studies both in Ashland and abroad, learning under the tutelage of Dr. Hilary Donatini. In-class, Rachel learned about Shakespeare and other great British writers, and on a University trip to London, England, with Dr. Donatini, she saw the culture and history from a whole new dimension. Rachel’s trip to England empowered her then to help make literature now “come alive” for her students. She feels her first-hand experiences lets her students—through Rachel’s eyes—be able “to see where the literature took place.”

Besides teaching literature, Rachel also teaches speech, a requirement for graduation from Clear Fork High School. Some semesters she has as many as three speech classes. She also advises the speech team, which has placed first in their yearly competition the last two years. In fact, in 2013 the Ohio House of Representatives officially recognized her champion speech team.

While Rachel attended AU, she was the vice president of Sigma Tau Delta (English honorary) and of Kappa Delta Pi (Education honorary). She attended The Well worship services on Thursday nights, and she graduated in four years. Right out of college she interviewed with and was hired by Clear Fork High School.

Rachel recommends that students wishing to become future English teachers should pay close attention to writing. In college, future teachers should “concentrate on their writing and be able to edit and help others with their writing.” She also reminds future English teachers that not everyone loves English, so you have to have a sense of humor. Based on Rachel’s successes at Clear Fork, it’s clear she knows when to be serious and when to have fun!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Weaver's Book on Billy Budd is Published

By Hilary Donatini
Dr. Russell Weaver

Professor Russell Weaver's book The Moral World of Billy Budd has been published by Peter Lang. Read an interview with him about it below. He will give a presentation on the book on Tuesday, February 25, at 3:00 in Schar 138.

HD: Could you give me an abstract of the book's argument in about 100 words?

RWThe Moral World of Billy Budd sees the novel not as inviting us to choose between two views of the main character, Captain Vere, but rather to challenge us to experience the difficulty of making decisions in the world. I show how the text almost programmatically complicates each judgment of the characters. The dichotomies that present Vere’s character I argue are used not to invite our choosing between their poles but to invite reflection on the nature of moral judgment itself. However, the text also assumes that the reader must decide between the alternatives even though any decision will be shadowed by the larger dilemma of operating in a theater beyond our grasp.

HD: Why were you drawn to this particular text?

RW: I worked on Billy Budd sort of by accident. Bill Vaughan [Professor of Philosophy] suggested I write a book on ethics and literature using an essay by his teacher, Peter Winch, as my starting point. This essay used Billy Budd to illustrate his philosophical concepts. I had to come to terms with the novel in order to deal with Winch's essay. I decided not to focus either on ethics and literature or on Winch (although there is a substantial discussion of Winch's essay in my book). What I was left with was Billy Budd which I found to be a great example of how texts resist reduction to theses. 

HD: How would you characterize your method?

RW: I look at everything I work on, be it a critical essay or a primary text, as closely as I can, trying never to assume what anything mean but laying out the argument or the meaning of these texts as fully as I can. My goal is, as far as is practical, not to use anything outside the texts as determining their meaning. When dealing with literary texts, I want to understand what the character is feeling consciously and subconsciously as thoroughly as I can. This, of course, means that I will be speculating to a certain degree, but in my view, since the meaning of texts is not empirically specifiable nor provable, it is not a drawback to propose meanings by simply describing what is going on in these rather than arguing for this meaning in the traditional way. However, once I have laid out the meaning, I will argue regarding the relations between the meaning as it exists in the literary texts and the way this meaning is presented in the critical texts. Finally, I use what I call the text's view as the final hypothesis regarding the text. The text's view is a hypothetical account of the primary values in a text. I always try to ask what are the relations between the values presented in a given passage and the overall values the text seems to be sponsoring. fundamentally, in Billy Budd, I ask whether Vere's hanging Billy is good or bad. This seems as though I am violating the way I am propose to view the text's dichotomies, but it is precisely through asking this question that one comes to understand the way in which the text complicates the argument.

HD: What's next on your scholarly agenda?

RW: I have been working on an analysis of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises for about six months. My basic approach is the same as it was with Billy Budd except that are many more questions raised by this text than by Melville's novel. the most fundamental question I am addressing is whether the text's primary meaning resides in the text's surface or in various analogues to history, other works of literature, Hemingway's biography, and so on. I find that critics have in general paid insufficient attention to the text's surface as well as falling into the trap of trying to make a divergent argument: i.e., that it means this rather than that. I believe that, like Billy Budd, the text is presenting a world in which almost every judgment in challenged in some way. I am in fact thinking of calling it The Moral Worlds of The Sun Also Rises, but that has not yet been finally decided on.