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.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Reading Slated for Professor Deborah Fleming's Novel

Deborah Fleming, Professor of English, will be reading from her novel Without Leave on Monday, November 17 at 4:00 p.m. in Schar 138. The press release below describes the book. 

Dr. Deborah Fleming, Professor of English at Ashland University, has written a novel that has been named the winner of the 2013 Asheville Award from Black Mountain Press.
The novel, titled Without Leave, places brave people into the hippie experience and turbulent antiwar movement of the 1960s and addresses the existential question of freedom of the will, according to Fleming.
Black Mountain Press of Asheville, N.C., published the book and selected it as the Asheville Award winner from among the 1,000 submissions.
“Published 47 years since the ‘Summer of Love’ and 49 years since the troop surge that ushered in the full-scale American commitment to the Vietnam War, Without Leave chronicles the stories of two alienated young people during 1967-70,” Fleming said.
David Shields goes AWOL from the Navy where he had hoped to find training and focus for his life but instead finds boredom and disillusionment during deployment on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin.
In the Haight-Ashbury region of San Francisco in 1967 he meets and falls in love with an artist, Diane Cavanagh, who drops out of college after a brutal rape and the death of the black man she loved. Through turmoil and separation, they find they cannot escape their past.