Friday, December 18, 2015

Student Spotlight: Megan Richwine, English and Political Science Double Major

Q: You're an English major. What drew you to the subject?

A: Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read. During the summers I read a book a day and I read anything I could get my hands on. It grew into more than just a hobby and soon I started writing short stories. Entering into college, I knew I had to go into the opposite of Math and Science. I had dreams of becoming a newscaster, but quickly realized the shoe didn't fit. I stumbled upon the English major by looking at the courses I would have to take: Studies in Shakespeare, Russian Novel, Victorian Period, etc. They all were classes I would take just for fun and even though I didn't know what I would do with an English major at the time, I didn't want to take any other classes. God pointed me in the right direction and to this day it is one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Q: What have been some of your favorite classes in the major so far and why?

A: Two classes come to mind: Russian Novel and Contemporary American Studies Seminar. I took Russian Novel the spring semester of my sophomore year. We read War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov. I enjoyed both books tremendously. In fact, War and Peace has become one of my favorite books. Contemporary American Studies Seminar was interesting because we read non-fiction such as Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It was a great discussion class and the topic was easy to relate to and talk about.

Q: How does your English major complement your major in Political Science?

A: Political Science and English work well together because they both offer a chance to write. My Political Science major helps me develop my critical thinking as well as my critical writing. Many classes that I have taken for Political Science have been discussion-based classes that encourage, well, discussion among students. Pairing this with English was a great decision because English helps to strengthen my writing (and reading) while Political Science strengthens my reasoning and my critical thinking. Political Science and English complement each another because they challenge me in different areas. This being said, I use my critical thinking that I've gained from Political Science and apply it to some of my English classes. Likewise, I use my "improved" writing in English and apply it for projects or papers that pertain to my Political Science major.

Q: What else do you do on campus and in your spare time?

A: Since I am a commuter, I don't spend as much time as I would like on campus. I am involved with the Ashbrook Scholar Program as well as the Honors Program. I work at the AU Box office selling tickets to performances and I also intern for the MFA Program. I interned with the MFA summer residency this past summer and spent two weeks with graduate students, professors, and authors. I was responsible for runs to the airport to pick up and drop up authors and professors as well as helping to organize daily craft talks. During this semester I have been helping with odds and ends like filing and sending perspective students information about the program. Next semester I will be president of a Turning Point USA chapter which we will be launching come January! This organization encourages college kids to exercise their right to vote and become more educated about the issues facing our country. I was a columnist for this organization and recently went to CPAC this past February to help promote Turning Point USA. I'm very excited about bringing this chapter to campus and spending some more time with fellow students. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family and reading books that are not for school. My "go-to" stress reliever is sitting by the fire eating apples with caramel. I also collect books and my collection has grown close to 700. I like to go antiquing and collect small dishes that I find in antique stores and garage sales.

Q: Could you recommend some books, whether they're old favorites or recent discoveries?

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Host by Stephanie Meyer
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Matched by Ally Condie
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

...And many, many more!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

AU English Department Hosts 30th Annual High School Workshop

On November 2, More than 180 students and teachers from the region enjoyed a day of literature and creative writing-based workshops on AU's campus. Dr. Russell Weaver, longtime organizer of the event, discusses its 30-year history. Read the AU News Room article here:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

AU Bids a Fond Farewell to Dr. Dan Lehman at Retirement Party

On Tuesday, December 8, 2015, Dr. Dan Lehman, Trustees' Professor of English, taught his final class as a full-time professor at Ashland University. His retirement party was held that afternoon in the lobby of the Bixler Center for the Humanities. Friends, colleagues, and students helped celebrate an outstanding career and a remarkable man. 

Barb Schmidt-Rinehart shares the Collegian that announced Dr. Lehman's tenure and promotion
Further perusal of the Collegian
Retirement gift from the university
Opening the English department gift
Missing a comma, but delicious nonetheless.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Shakespeare's King Lear: The Text and Production Raise Endless Questions

By Dr. Naomi Saslaw

When members of the English Department and the History Department and students from several majors went to the Hanna Theater to see King Lear, the first half of the production had some effective moments, but on the whole was disappointing, giving us the opportunity to discuss evaluative questions about the staging of King Lear.  There was effective use of music at the beginning of the production including the use of discordant sound, which foreshadowed the discord in Scene I.  The scenery of the production was used partially to make a thematic point.  The program notes on King Lear explained the director's and stage designer's views of the set:  "Knowing that they wanted to start with an orderly environment that would subsequently collapse, they looked at images of 'Brutalist' architecture, along with public buildings in Fascist Italy and Soviet-Bloc countries."

The first half of the production had problems with various characters.  Although Regan is a deeply flawed daughter, her almost mechanical delivery of her lines was not the most effective way to depict her flaws.  One of the most troublesome parts of the first half of the production was delivery of lines by various characters that elicited laughter from the audience multiple times in lines that were not at all comic relief.  

Another issue the director faces is whether to cut any of the lines.  Whether the viewer is a purist or believes that omissions are permissible, any cuts must be very thoughtfully weighed.  The omission of Cordelia's asides in the first scene was a poor choice, affecting the audience's initial interpretation of her character.

In the first half of the production, we did not see the strength of Edmund's villainy, nor the strength and subtlety of the language, "base" and "legitimate," nor the power of Edmund's "Now gods, stand up for bastards!"

In the first half, there was too much use of obvious gestures and too little power in the delivery of lines by Edmund and Lear.  In the dialogue between King Lear and the Fool in the first half, both visual humor in the Fool's clown nose and linguistic humor was present, again eliciting repeated laughter from the audience, but the Fool's strong ironic and satiric commentary on Lear's folly was often subservient to overt comedy, not revealing the strength of the Fool's satire of Lear's behavior.  Kent was the most effective character in the first half, with more genuine powerful passion and good delivery of the eye imagery.

When Lear asks, "Who is it that can tell me who I am?", there is a search for his identity and a sense of loss in Lear, but none of the depth of feeling or thought was present.  When Lear says, "O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!  I would not be mad.  Keep me in temper. I would not be mad," there should have been a deeper sense of his fight against approaching insanity.  Lear started exhibiting more genuine passion, pathos, and strength in "But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter— Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh."  Again, Lear is more effective in his "I gave you all," in his plea for patience, and in his struggle with aging.  Again, there was strength when Lear said, "No, I'll not weep," and pathos in his sense of approaching insanity is felt in his "O Fool, I shall go mad."

Dr. Weaver stated that one of the most important issues in the play is whether it is bad to be a king if he loses his humanity.  I believe that another aspect of that issue is Lear's journey from king through debatable insanity, to loving father, and human being with more depth of humanity.  Lear gave up his title of king, became homeless, was subject to severe internal and external storms, arguably became insane, and learned what it means to be a loving father, a friend, and an empathetic human being.

As is true of great drama, each of Shakespeare's plays is open to endless diverse interpretations, both as literature and in production.  At their best, King Lear and Kent at times rose to a level of interpretation and power that deeply moved the audience and invited us to profound reflection on the political and human issues that the play raises.  At its most flawed moments, too frequently, the characters' delivery of lines evoked inappropriate laughter from the audience.  At times, the genius of Shakespeare's language, including imagery was captured; at other times, the subtlety and power of the lines was missing.

On our walk to dinner, over our meal, and on the ride home, faculty and students had very stimulating discussions of the varied interpretations of the text and of the staging of the production.  The flaws in the production gave opportunity for an animated discussion of issues related to both literary interpretation and theatrical staging.

The round trip by car and the dinner offered the opportunity for faculty and students to get to know each other better.  The dinner at Cowell and Hubbard offered both delicious food and the chance to further discuss the play and other topics.  The fact that students came from multiple majors, including English, Political Science, and History broadened and deepened our dialogue in many ways.

Each time we go to the Hanna, we have faculty members and students who have seen past productions and look forward to seeing other productions.  We also have students who are seeing Shakespeare on stage for the first time, who realize the importance of not only reading, but also seeing Shakespeare's plays, and who experience the beauty of Shakespeare's language and the magic of the theatrical experience.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Writing With an Open Mind and an Honest Heart

By Garrison Stima, Creative Writing and Religion major

Unfortunately, like most vocational endeavors, writing is not always a straightforward path that makes perfect sense. In fact, an enormous chunk of the writing process is sacrificial in nature and about juggling a wide variety of ideas and goals. However, this isn’t meant to be a depressing excerpt or even a discouraging rant; rather, it’s about being open to exploring unknown routes. To write with an open mind can mean to sweat and labor over a piece, only to realize that the originally intended path might not be correct for the story someone is trying to tell or the message an individual is attempting to send. Sometimes, when anyone writes anything, that person has to be judicious with the words, characters, or emotions being formulated and conjoined in the text. That can mean letting go of a concept or line of dialogue that originally felt perfect or empowering for the writing because of the realization that it no longer fits in place or that it actually harms the story. When an author allows a specific ending or unrealistic character development to dictate the entire writing process, from beginning to end, too often that plot will bend and twist into uncomfortable shapes that eventually tear apart the foundation and point of the plot. Instead, allow the characters to come to life and make their own decisions, even if it starts down a path that was never intended. Those tales make room for truthful revelations about both people and their journeys.

Of course, to be capable of letting characters take the helm of any scenario, the writer must be correspondingly honest. This is invaluable at the level of nonfiction, without a doubt, but it is also vital on every tier of storytelling. In an intriguing way, people who have read enough, and people who haven’t read much, can both recognize and feel the stubborn air of a dishonest writer. When a father charts down a path that doesn’t reflect him or a friend gives up when her will has never wavered, the reader is yanked from the experience and pinned by these stinging lies formulated by the author in some awkward attempt to spice things up or shift gears. An honest heart can expose real emotions and dissect hard truths in a way that false twists or measures never can. This frank notion comes in countless forms, from being forwardly blunt to being pleasantly candid, and it is actualized through a real desire to connect with readers and open minds into a world of authentic imagination. So, if an individual wants to write in a manner that opens doors and faces reality in uniquely human ways, don’t be afraid of honesty or where the tale may go.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dr. Deborah Fleming will give a reading for her new book, Towers of Myth and Stone

Ashland University Professor of English Dr. Deborah Fleming will give a presentation about her new book, titled “Towers of Myth and Stone: Yeats’s Influence on Robinson Jeffers” on Monday, Nov. 9, at 4 p.m. in the Ronk Lecture Hall in the Dwight Schar College of Education on the AU campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Fleming’s book, which was published by the University of South Carolina Press, was released in mid-September.

In this critical study of the influence of W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) on the poetry and drama of Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), Fleming examines similarities in imagery, landscape, belief in eternal recurrence, use of myth, distrust of rationalism and dedication to tradition.

Although Yeats's and Jeffers's styles differ widely, "Towers of Myth and Stone" examines how the two men shared a vision of modernity, rejected contemporary values in favor of traditions (some of their own making), and created poetry that sought to change those values.

“Jeffers's well-known opposition to modernist poetry forced him for decades to the margins of critical appraisal where he was seen as an eccentric without aesthetic content, yet both Yeats and Jeffers formulated social and poetic philosophies that continue to find relevance in critical and cultural theory,” Fleming said. 

Engaging Yeats's work enabled Jeffers to develop a related, though distinct, sense of what themes and subject matter were best suited for poetic endeavor, according to Fleming.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

AU Mourns the Passing of Dr. Gary Levine

Gary Martin Levine
7/3/1966 – 11/1/2015
“Clever, Caring, Iconoclastic” is how friends and colleagues remember Gary Martin Levine upon his passing in Medina, OH after a brief illness. His sharp wit, keen intelligence, and loving heart kept us laughing heartily and thinking creatively, and we are all the richer for it. He is survived by the wife he loved, Floralyn C. Morata, and the children he adored—daughter Sonoma Michelle Levine (16) and son Carlos Michael Levine (12), in addition to his parents and his brother.
Gary was born in Norfolk, VA to parents Ina Rae Sandler Levine and Robert Nathan Levine. His family, including sister Dina Michelle Levine Zauderer (Marvin) and brother Lee Levine (Tracy), moved to Virginia Beach, VA and Tampa, FL before finally settling in Belvedere, CA, a suburb of San Francisco.
Early in life, friends and teachers noted the humor, intelligence, and literary gifts that would become Gary's hallmarks, both personally and professionally. His academic journey took him first to UC Berkeley (B.A. English) then to Washington University in St. Louis (MFA, Creative Writing) and the U. of Iowa (Ph.D. English). Gary and Floralyn met as students at Berkeley, where they later married in 1998.
After a few years in Boston, the Levines relocated to Ohio, where Gary joined the English Department faculty at Ashland University. At once demanding and compassionate, dedicated and questioning, Professor Levine made a lasting impact on students and faculty alike. As Director of the Composition Program, Gary put heart and soul into helping students find their voices and hone their ideas in writing. He taught a wide variety courses ranging from British Literature and American Studies to Literature and Film. And, as one student noted, he could bring humor to anything, even grammar. His Ashland colleagues speak of Gary’s commitment to academic rigor, his creative leadership, and his verbal repartee that livened up every faculty meeting.
Though Gary lived in his head, as they say, he led with his heart. Nowhere is this more apparent than in parenting Carlos and Sonoma.  He championed their unique gifts and encouraged their curiosity in everything from soccer and tennis to science and spelling bees. He taught them to think for themselves and to love deeply. Friends from all stages of his life also remember his love and loyalty, served up, of course, with a side of humor. As a father, friend, spouse and colleague, Gary Martin Levine was one of a kind, and will be forever missed by those he loved.
A memorial service will be held November 14, 2015, at 10 a.m. at the Ashland University Chapel, Upper Chapel, 527 College Avenue, Ashland, Ohio.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Leaving the Comfort Zone: Creative Writing Major Explores the Writing Process

By Maria Cardona, Creative Writing major

As the blank page stares back at me, I once more exit out of the program in frustration. Millions of bits and pieces of ideas float around in my head, but I can’t even pin one down on the page. I struggle to find the right words, to find the right place to start, to paint a picture with my words. Many times writer’s block has gotten to me, and it wasn’t until my sophomore year here at AU that I figured out what my problem was. I was stuck wanting to do the same thing over and over again, and that’s why everything felt so generic. Yet, when I began trying new things, sometimes writing came much easier to me.

My first attempt at breaking away from my usual first person fiction tales came during my Fiction/Nonfiction workshop. I had a story, 52 pages long so far, but I hated it. My characters felt flat and the plot was beyond generic. Two high schoolers, one boy and one girl, best friends since they were little. One of them falls in love but the other doesn’t feel the same way until the end. Possibly one of the least creative things I’ve ever written in my life. Don’t get me wrong—that formula can work great, but if your heart’s not in it, it’ll be a fantastic flop like those 52 pages were.

I ditched the draft and went in a completely different, new and unexpected direction. For starters, I cast my first person safety net aside and went for third person, I know scary! It felt strange to leave I behind, to refer to every characters by their name, to be in multiple minds at once. But then I realized something wonderful! I could be in multiple minds at the same time! This gave my story much more life and different perspectives, and I could do more with my characters because I could leave one of my main characters, go to another, and have a different story line that would soon connect.

Perhaps my favorite discovery while writing in third person was the freedom I had with description. No more was I constricted by the first-person descriptions of setting that always felt vague and superficial. A third-person narrator gave me the freedom to fully paint the landscape—to show the sky, the shops, the streets, the people. To explore with sounds and smell that the I might have never known. Needless to say, I fell in love with writing in third person because the descriptive language gave my story life, a breath of fresh air, and a beauty that I could have never achieved with first person.

However, using third person was not the big adventure. I had gone from a coming of age, slightly romantic novel to a piece of historical fiction. Never had I thought that I’d be writing a piece of historical fiction, but here I was, 45 pages in. While it involved a lot of research and I had to watch my words, scenery, and props for accuracy, living through this historical period along with my characters allowed me to travel back and really understand what happened. However, I did not completely stray from the idea of romance. Yes, there’s a couple who will end up together in the story, but there’s so much more to it. It’s a story about a revolution, about a struggling writer, but more importantly, about the awakening of a strong female lead who goes from a daydreamer to a revolutionary leader.

Needless to say, I fell in love with this story and I would have never met these characters or traveled to this time if I’d played it safe and “stuck with what I knew.” While playing around with point of view and time led me to this story, it was completely switching genres that led me to find my biggest passion in writing.

While I knew that screenwriting was part of creative writing and I thought the craft was incredibly interesting, I would have never thought that it would be what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. However, it wasn’t until I experienced the screenwriting workshop with Dr. Grady that I fell in love with it.

Bear in mind that I had never written or read a film script before this class, I was coming in as an innocent sophomore, completely oblivious to the world of screenwriting. A few days of class had gone by before we had to choose a genre for our script. That’s when I originally came up with my historical fiction idea that ended up being my fiction/nonfiction piece. After careful consideration and immense stress over the fact that I had no clue what to write about I chose to go with a horror screenplay.

While I love anything related to horror, be it books, movies, etc. I had never thought about writing horror. Writing this screenplay was a challenge, I had to tap into a very dark side of myself while still having some normalcy in the scenes and trying to make it believable. At the same time, I was learning about screenwriting and playing around with the genre. I learned rather quickly how much I liked this form of storytelling and the almost-finished product gave me chills. I literally had to stop writing one day and walk away from my piece because it got a little too creepy for me and I was not ready to explore such places in my mind.

Playing around with genres, points of view, time and other things may seem terrifying at first. I get it, change is difficult and it’s much easier to stay in our comfort zone, but the truth is that if we always do the same thing we’ll get stuck, we’ll get monotonous and one day we’ll be sick of our own work because it will all seem the same. Dare to try new things; you just might find your newest story where you least expect it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Find Yourself in Writing: Writing Assistant and English Major on Discovering One's Passions

By Bethany Meadows, English major
Bethany Meadows at the Coliseum in Rome
Everyone strives to find his or her passions in life, and sometimes discovering these passions appear out of no where. During my first two months at the Writing Studio, I have discovered more about myself than I could have ever imagined through my first experience being a Writing Assistant. My job is to collaborate with students and provide a voice of experience to assist them with their papers.

I use the word “job” loosely because it does not feel like work to me. Every appointment and assignment is different for each student, and there are many tasks Writing Assistants perform. We help students with thesis development, paper structure and organization, engaging with their readings, MLA and APA style, and much more. We do not proofread or edit, but we collaborate with students to make sure their paper is the best it can be. I love this aspect of “work” because every appointment is unique in its own way. These experiences lead me not only to be the best peer consultant I can be, but also to be the best writer I can be.

Throughout my first two months at the Writing Studio, I found myself. The moment came to me like the cliché, lightning bolt of discovery. I had the moment of enlightenment where I suddenly knew that I wanted to work in English-related environments for the rest of my life. I love coming into “work” every day to help others become what I know they are all capable of.

Therefore, the next day, I changed my major to English. I knew that I could not trudge through the rest of my life being unhappy in careers related to my former major. English lights a fire within me that cannot be extinguished. I never knew that kind of fervor existed until I found my calling in helping others with their writing.

The Writing Studio has become my passion, and I have learned many lessons about life by “working” here. Firstly, I learned how to help others become better writers through insight on my own strengths and weaknesses as a writer. It is reiterated to me daily that no work is ever perfect, and everything can be constantly improved and cultivated. Secondly, I knew that I had found my path in life, which is arguably one of the best experiences in the world. Finally, I learned that sometimes the most incredible experiences happen for a reason in people’s lives. I never imagined that such a seemingly simple concept could lead me to find such complex ideas of love, passion, and determination. I could not be happier for the experience the Writing Studio provides me in my writing, in my life, and in my future goals. However, the help that this experience provides for me is nothing in comparison to the benefits for other students.

If you are interested in visiting the Writing Studio, come visit Room 104 in Bixler any time Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also, to learn more, check out the website for the Writing Studio here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Writing Studio Writing Assistant Wins Best Undergraduate Paper Award

Charlie Michel, a mathematics major and Writing Studio writing assistant, won the Pat Browne Undergraduate Paper Award at the Midwest Popular Culture Association meeting in Cincinnati in early October. Michel's presentation on the film adaptation of David Mamet's Glengarry Glenn Ross had its genesis in Dr. Maura Grady's 2014 English 102 course.

Read the AU press release here:
Pat Browne Undergraduate Paper Award by the Midwest Popular Culture Association. - See more at:
Pat Browne Undergraduate Paper Award by the Midwest Popular Culture Association. - See more at:
Pat Browne Undergraduate Paper Award by the Midwest Popular Culture Association. - See more at:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Two English Department Majors Chosen as ACN Peace Scholars

Freshman English major Ryann Crockett and junior creative writing, psychology, and religion major Emily Wirtz were among four students chosen to receive Ashland Center for Nonviolence Peace Scholarships. Read all about it in this AU press release:

Friday, October 9, 2015

Integrated Language Arts Major Discusses Involvement in AU's Theatre Program

Ariel McCleary, a junior Integrated Language Arts major, is gearing up for the AU Theatre Department's production of Quilters, a musical that opens tonight in Hugo Young Theatre:

Ariel answers questions about her role(s) in the musical, other theatrical experiences, and how theater complements her ILA major.

Q: What is your role in Quilters and how did you get involved in the production?

A: I play about 16 different characters. The show incorporates the lives of 60 characters total, all representing the situations and hardships of women from the pioneer life of western America. My characters vary in age and personality. I play everything from a pesky little schoolboy, Cyrus, to a preacher, to a young girl whose 7th birthday was spent stuck in a dugout in a 30-below blizzard. Other roles feature main narrator Sarah's daughter Jenny, as well as her mother, Florence. I also play a sassy sister who, at her brother's 21st birthday, swears she "ain't never gettin' married."

Q: Is this your first production at AU? If not, what else have you appeared in?

A: I have been in many other productions at AU. My freshman year I was Talita in Night Train to Bolina, my sophomore year I played Kate in the debut of the new play In The Event of My Death written by Lindsay Joy, and last year I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I also played Betty in a short play called "Sure Thing" for the One Acts my sophomore year. I have also been on sound board, paint crew, and was props master for other shows here.

Q: How does your involvement in the Theatre department complement your Integrated Language Arts major?

A: It has influenced my ILA major GREATLY. I have been involved with theater since high school, but college theater is so different. It is more professional, and you dig so much deeper into the lives of the characters and the art of a production. I love it. It has helped me in some obvious ways, like influencing how I analyze a text--especially plays-- in my courses, as well as giving me more fruitful ideas as to how I would teach certain texts to my students. Since I've been part of the theater world, I definitely enjoy more hands-on activity based lessons. I want to incorporate skits and character portrayals and pantomimes in my classroom. I think most high-schoolers and middle-schoolers benefit from activities where they can move and act out scenes. It boosts their confidence and lets their own personalities shine. This is really important for adolescent years, when their identity is the most malleable. 

Performing has helped my own confidence too! Which translates to my confidence with teaching in the classroom for my field experience. Teaching is a lot like acting, I've found. A good teacher knows how to be enthusiastic and warm, even if they are not feeling it some days. Being in a play also teaches you vulnerability, which is something most education majors do not know they need. I think admitting you do not know something is a key element of being a great teacher.

Q: What else would you like the readers of the blog to know?

A: I think every ILA or English major should give theater a try at least once in their life. Just because you are not a theater major or minor does not mean you shouldn't audition or work on crew. I am not a major or minor, and I have been on Theater Scholarship here and have gotten big roles! The department welcomes all kinds of fields of study. Do not be afraid!

College is a really great time to try new things, and the experiences I have had with the AU Theater Department have made me grow as a person, a teacher, and an appreciator of the arts. The department is doing Midsummer Night's Dream in the Spring. Auditions are Tuesday Nov. 10 starting at 6 p.m., so anyone who has an appreciation for Shakespeare should give it a shot!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Spring 2016 English Department Course Offerings

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

ENG 308 OLA: The Poem 

Dr. Stephen Haven
8-week online course
Core Humanities, elective in the Creative Writing, English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

English 308 will develop students’ understanding of the interaction of form and content in poetry. Using examples from the work of important late 20th century and early 21st century writers, and focusing on four “case study” poets (Bishop, Wright, Trethewey and Levis), the course will explore how poets use such aesthetic effects as rhyme, meter, word play, repetition, associational meaning, humor, imagery, and other devices to achieve in their poems a “totality of effect.” We will explore the ways the “totality of effect” of accomplished poems can sometimes suggest layers of literal and implied meanings that compete with one another, even contradict one another, while maintaining nevertheless a sense of aesthetic unity. The course will also provide students with an understanding of the similarities and differences between lyric and narrative poetry, particularly with regard to the way differing uses of time and space create different aesthetic possibilities in the development of individual poems. With regard to Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard and Larry Levis's Winter Stars, we will also explore the way poets can develop ideas and aesthetic strategies that characterize entire volumes of poetry.

We will read the following texts:

Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983)
James Wright, Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2005)
Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard (Mariner Books, 2007)
Larry Levis, Winter Stars (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985)

ENG 314 A: Literature and Gender
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 10:00-10:50 AM
Core Humanities, elective in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors,
elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

Our course theme for spring 2016 will be "Narratives of Cross-Cultural Encounter" The central question of our course will be: how do gender, race, class, and other such factors shape how literature is produced, reviewed by contemporary readers, and discussed in our current culture? Our readings, selected to appeal specifically to students from a diverse range of majors, will include essays, poetry, a short story, a novella, and two novels. Students will write several short literary analysis papers and two longer literary arguments. Readings are likely to be chosen from the following:

Short Essays:
John Ruskin, "Of Queens' Gardens"

John Stuart Mill, "Statement Repudiating the Rights of Husbands"
Virginia Woolf, "Professions for Women"

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point"

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Locksley Hall"
Phillis Wheatley, Collected Works

Short Story:
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper"


Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, The Perils of Certain English Prisoners


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
Tahmima Anam, A Golden Age

ENG 317 A: Studies in Shakespeare
Dr. Russell Weaver
TTh 1:40-2:55
Core Humanities, requirement in the Integrated Language Arts and English 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 324 A: The Modern Novel 

Dr. Linda Joyce Brown 
MWF 2:00-2:50 PM 
Core Humanities, elective in the the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

Our focus in this course will be on novels published between the mid-twentieth century and the present. We will read four or five novels, which will likely include some of the following:
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex; Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; Ron Hansen, Mariette in Ecstasy; Gayl Jones, Corregidora; Chang-Rae Lee, A Gesture Life; Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being; Ann Patchett, Bel Canto; Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

ENG 371 REHON: Literature and Film (honors)
Dr. Maura Grady
TTh 12:15-1:30
Core Aesthetics, elective in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors,
elective in the the English and Creative Writing majors and minors
The course focuses on both classic and contemporary motion pictures, with particular attention to shot composition, editing techniques, lighting, and sound. Students will consider how these elements of film direction create a visual narrative that can be studied as aesthetic and cultural expression as they study questions of adaptation.

Possible text/film pairings: The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, M*A*S*H.

ENG 401 X: The Literature of Early England
Dr. Naomi Saslaw
Wednesday 06:30PM - 09:10 p.m.
Elective in the English, Creative Writing, and ILA majors, Elective in the English and Creative Writing minors 
This course is a high-level study of the literature of England from the Anglo-Saxon period through the time of Chaucer with particular emphasis on the rhetorical features of Old and Middle English. The students will focus on a close reading of The Canterbury Tales and will also read other works, including Beowulf.

ENG 428 X: American Literature IV: World War II to Present
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman

Tu 6:00-8:30 p.m. (Hybrid)
Elective in the English, Creative Writing, and ILA majors, Elective in the English and Creative Writing minors

In a year that marks the 70th anniversary of American’s atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this course will examine the “explosive issues” that mark a wide range of literary narratives from the mid-twentieth century nuclear age to our own twenty-first century age of terror. By mapping the notions of “detonation” and “fallout,” this course will consider the disruptions of form, style, and content in local, national, and global contexts. From war and peace, the personal and the environmental, to the modern and the postmodern, a diverse range of material will be analyzed to highlight the significance of key textual, cultural and critical moments in the wake of “The Bomb.” How is the rhetoric of power represented? What are the possibilities and limitations of gender politics? Where are the diverse voices of race and class, conformity and agitation represented? Why are the constructions of self and nation reconfigured? These and many other questions will be explored in a selection of literary works from multiple genres that will be read alongside literary and cultural criticism. This is a reading-intense, writing-intense, and discussion-intense course. Assignments will likely consist of two extensive papers, short literary analysis papers, presentations, and a range of assessed in-class and online participation (short assignments, research projects, rigorous debate, discussion board posts, journal entries, a class blog, and so on).

Monday, September 28, 2015

Professor Deborah Fleming Publishes Book

From the AU News Center:

Ashland University Professor of English Dr. Deborah Fleming has a new book, titled Towers of Myth and Stone: Yeats’s Influence on Robinson Jeffers, that will be published by the University of South Carolina Press. The book will be released Sept. 15.

In this critical study of the influence of W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) on the poetry and drama of Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), Fleming examines similarities in imagery, landscape, belief in eternal recurrence, use of myth, distrust of rationalism and dedication to tradition.

Although Yeats's and Jeffers's styles differ widely, Towers of Myth and Stone examines how the two men shared a vision of modernity, rejected contemporary values in favor of traditions (some of their own making), and created poetry that sought to change those values.

“Jeffers's well-known opposition to modernist poetry forced him for decades to the margins of critical appraisal where he was seen as an eccentric without aesthetic content, yet both Yeats and Jeffers formulated social and poetic philosophies that continue to find relevance in critical and cultural theory,” Fleming said.

Engaging Yeats's work enabled Jeffers to develop a related, though distinct, sense of what themes and subject matter were best suited for poetic endeavor, according to Fleming.

“His connection to Yeats helps to explain the nature of Jeffers's poetry even as it helps to clarify Yeats's influence on those who followed him; moreover, Jeffers's interest in Yeats suggests that critics misunderstand Jeffers if they take his rejection of modernism as exemplified by William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound as rejection of contemporary poetry or the process by which modern poetry came into being,” she said.

- See more at:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Integrated Language Arts Major Discovers Italy on Honors Program Trip

By Marissa Willman, Integrated Language Arts major

I remember seeing a picture of Italy for the first time on a calendar in third grade. It portrayed a beautiful river flowing between buildings, carrying a long canoe with two lovebirds and a standing striped man with a stick. Growing up in a rural farm town, tractors were the closest thing I knew to a slow, romantic ride anywhere; surely this magical place must be made-up! I was in disbelief when I learned that such romantic streets of water actually exist, but I never thought I would be so lucky as to fulfill my dream of experiencing them firsthand.

This past May, I did. As I clambered into a an old gondola and plopped myself down on a tattered velvet stool, I couldn’t help but laugh at my own striped gondolier, who didn’t sound Italian at all, while he belted passionate songs of spaghetti and tortellini. He kicked off the wall and steered a small group of my friends and me through Venice, Italy, playing bumper-boats along the way. Apparently, the pictures I had seen in my childhood had been an overly romanticized version of such an experience, although I’m sure it was once a delightfully peaceful part of everyday life in Venice. I don’t mean to imply that my own experience wasn’t absolutely beautiful, but what the pictures don’t portray is waiting in line, paying 20 Euros, and being caught in nautical traffic jams in tight canals flooded with tourists.

Venice was the first place Ashland University’s Honors Program traveled on our Italy: The Grand Tour study away trip from May 29-June 11, 2015. Our group of about 20 then ventured to Florence, where we were able to see the Duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and Michelangelo’s sculpture of David from the Bible. Taking an art class prior to our trip (where I sadly realized I could barely even draw a believable human) really made me appreciate true artwork when I was finally able to stand next them in person.

During one of our days in Florence, our tour bus hauled our Ashland group to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower and the surrounding Baptistery and Cathedral. One cannot simply visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa without posing like a tourist, so of course I had to.

I was so glad to have packed comfortable walking shoes, especially because my feet were unfamiliar with unending cobblestone roads (sidewalks, for the most part, were nonexistent). We walked around the city of Assisi and through the Cathedrals of St. Francis and St. Clare. It seemed like everything was scaled at least twice as large as any building I was used to seeing in Ohio. Different parts of each city we visited held beautiful historical significance that was so interesting to learn about.

After getting used to being in crowded cities with restaurants, bistros, and shops every few steps, we visited the ancient city of Pompeii (cue song by Bastille). We walked past the ruins of drive-up bakeries, amphitheaters, and even brothels with stone beds (ouch!). On top of that, these ancient peoples had built gyms, locker rooms, public baths, and working saunas. I couldn’t believe how advanced this civilization had been way back in 79 AD. The uncovered remains of the city just opened up a whole world of seemingly promising history that ended in unimaginable tragedy caused by Mount Vesuvius.

One of my favorite places we got to explore was the island of Capri. This would be a perfect place for a relaxing (expensive) vacation on the water. The views from our boat tour and from the top of the Island were absolutely breathtaking. I’ll let my pictures do the talking…

We spent the last four days of our whirlwind trip in the city of Rome. What surprised me was how sharp of a contrast there was between modern-day Rome and the ancient buildings. We were driving through crazy traffic on a regular highway between modern-day buildings when I looked out the window and suddenly saw the Colosseum! We toured the inside, took pictures, and then walked a little farther into the remains of the Roman Forum – the main political and social center of Ancient Rome. There were rivets from chariots in the cobblestone under my very feet, and I stood on the spot where Julius was killed in that once-thriving square.

While in Rome, our group also saw the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and underground catacombs. We spent an entire day in the Vatican City, which included St. Peter’s Basilica and more of Michelangelo’s famous paintings in the Sistine Chapel.

Bustling through the crowded streets of Italy as a foreigner was such a far leap from walking the sidewalks of Ashland. Sure, not everything turned out to be exactly as I had imagined, but my 12-day journey through Italy was both educationally fascinating and deeply humbling. Studying pictures from a calendar or textbook just doesn’t quite have the same eye-opening effect as touching the walls of the Colosseum, and for that experience, I will forever be grateful.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Student Spotlight: Garrison Stima, Creative Writing Major

Q. You're a Creative Writing major. What drew you to the subject?

A. Creative Writing, as a major, stimulates my imagination immensely and draws me into a realm that can be whatever I want it to be. In my eyes, that is an amazing ability and allows me to express my own thoughts, ideas, and questions in a way that readers can respond to and talk about in whatever way they desire. On a more personal level, I feel called to use the gifts I've received to make the world a better place in a way that is unique to me and my experiences. If I learn over the years that even a single person has been moved or affected in a positive manner by something I've written, then I will feel that I succeeded with that piece. 

Q. What have been some of your favorite classes in the major so far and why?

A. Both of my favorite classes in this major, so far, have been taught by Joe Mackall and they have been wonderful. The first is Problems in Creative Writing, which was great for examining various aspects of writing and talking about future things, such as publishing and publishers. My other favorite class was Writer's Workshop: Fiction and Nonfiction. This class helped me explore my strengths and weaknesses in a healthy manner that was extremely constructive on multiple levels and helped me learn how to become a much better writer and critic. 

Q. What else do you do on campus and in your spare time? 

A. When I'm not studying or working on my stories, regardless of whether I'm on campus or not, I can be found hanging out with my friends, playing video games, watching various movies, or reading books. While on campus, I usually end up swimming at the Rec Center, spending Thursday evenings at The Well, and keeping up on my classes as much as possible, as I can sometimes be a fabulous procrastinator. 

Q. How did you spend your summer?  

A. My 2015 summer was mainly spent working here in Ashland at a box-making factory called PCA to have money for college. That grindstone ate up most of my summer, working regular 10-12 hour days for usually six days a week. However, when I wasn't stacking up corrugated cardboard, I'd usually be jotting down as many ideas and lines, that could later be infused into my books, as I could manage before crashing into bed. Other times, I'd be going to the Mansfield Renaissance to visit members of the theater, see friends perform, or bounce concepts and ideas off of the ones who were willing to listen to my spiels. 

Q. Can you recommend some books, whether they're old favorites or recent discoveries?  

A. I most certainly can. Firstly, is The Belgariad by David Eddings, which is a series of five phenomenal books that any lover of fantasy adventures simply has to read. The characters are rich with complexity and change, the world is fascinating to explore, and the story is about as compelling as they come. Anyone can read them, but I'd recommend it to older teens and adults. Another two series worth checking out is much more popular, but still a favorite of mine, called, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. They are meant for teens, but I found them both extremely intense, funny, and character-driven, especially The Infernal Devices. However, if you end up grabbing them, you need to watch which order you read them in—that's the only slightly confusing part.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015 Graduates Start Jobs and Degree Programs

We are pleased to announce that the following spring 2015 English department graduates are working full-time jobs and beginning graduate degrees:

Megan Scarberry is teaching English at West Holmes High School in Millersburg, OH.

These students are pursuing degrees:
Courtney Conley,  Ball State University, M.F.A. in Creative Writing
Christa Kettlewell, Clemson University, M.A. in Professional Communication
Courtney Young, Tiffin University, M.A. in English

We wish them well!

Attention All Alumni
Please send job and graduate school news to—we love to hear from you.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Professor Deborah Fleming Discusses Research and Creative Activity

By Hilary Donatini
Professor Deborah Fleming agreed to answer some questions about her active program of research and creative activity here at AU.

Q: In addition to teaching and service, you maintain an active writing and research program. Could you discuss some of your recent presentations and publications?
A: Recent presentations include "W. B. Yeats and Ecocriticism" at two conferences and fiction readings in Columbus and Mansfield.

Q: Describe your works in progress. 
A: My current work in progress is my third poetry collection.  My first collection, "Morning, Winter Solstice," was influenced by James Wright and focused on nature poetry of two local bioregions; my second, primarily influenced by W. B. Yeats, treats the themes of love, art, death, and war and uses many landscapes.  About half the poems are formalist.  

The third, influenced by Robinson Jeffers, uses landscapes as far apart as Alaska and Nepal and explores the issue of how the greatest ecological disaster in history--climate change--is related to our myth-making.  I am also working on my third novel about three rural women from different generations.

Q: What do you value most about writing?
A: What I most value about writing is the chance to use language to and metaphor to explore ideas.  

Q: How does your research and creative activity complement your work in the classroom?
A: Research and creative activity are not separate from the classroom because I teach works by the writers who are the subjects of my research; when I teach creative writing I can draw on my own experience to help students with the challenges of writing and revision.

Q: You have taught at Ashland for over twenty years. How has your research and creative activity developed over the course of your career? 
A: I had one scholarly book in press when I came here and have finished the second as well as scholarly essays and two edited collections.  I still have one article on Yeats that I want to finish.  My primary interest was always Yeats.  

I always wrote poetry but in the last twenty years I have written more of it and begun to write fiction and nonfiction seriously.  Recently I also wrote a screenplay.  Scholarly work inspires and enhances the creative work and is by far the most difficult type of writing I do because of the time research requires and the tremendous amount of organization.  

Among the creative genre, fiction is the hardest because of the difficulty of avoiding sentimentality and cliche. Although no writing is easy, I find poetry presents fewer challenges because I have been writing poetry so many more years.  Not every writer would have the same experience.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Student Intern Shares Experience at MFA Residency

By Andrew Clough, Creative Writing and English major

Ashland University offers a pretty hefty list of
undergraduate majors and minors. This list extends even further when you take into consideration the masters programs that are offered as well. One of these programs is the Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. This  is a very fun and interesting program for which I had the pleasure to be an intern. As an intern I got to drive students, faculty, and visiting writers to and from the airport, as well as shuttle them around the town. This left plenty of time for some great conversation. Anything from writing techniques and stylistic choices to the joys of everyday life as a muse, and even a certain love of cheesy poofs, was discussed in the many trips. This alone was an incredible experience. On top of the personal conversations with published writers and faculty alike, there was also the experience of sitting in on seminars for writing improvement, visiting writer and faculty readings, and thesis defenses of graduating students.

It was a refreshing experience to be surrounded by a group of writers with a passion for the creative aspects of English. As an undergrad life can get pretty busy and certain activities like pleasure reading and writing can get pushed aside in order to accommodate the vast amounts of homework and activities that go on during the school year and during the summer. Forty-hour work weeks take time and energy away from these creative endeavors, but the creativity and passion surrounding the MFA students and faculty was a great variation to the typical routines of the summer. Meal time conversations with everyone in the program revealed that they too were looking for a change of pace and to pursue the passion of writing. While the seminars and conversations were a great experience and the visiting readers were spectacular, I particularly enjoyed the faculty readings. I loved hearing them read their own personal writings and getting to see a different side to the professors that I usually only see in a classroom environment. It was great fun and I recommend to all people interested in English and Creative Writing looking into applying as an intern or eventually enrolling personally into the MFA program, it was great fun and helped to improve my own thought process and writing technique.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Student Spotlight: Danielle Wright, Integrated Language Arts Major

Q: You're an Integrated Language Arts major. What drew you to ILA?

A: My junior year of high school, we were reading The Scarlet Letter. We were only a little bit through the book and I was doing the readings but I wasn't truly getting the deeper meaning. Then my teacher explained how all the things actually represented something else.
I had missed all the allusions, metaphors, and symbolism. I had never known a book could hold that much depth and craftsmanship. It was an "ah-ha" moment and all of literature sort of opened up to me and I said to myself, "If I could give that moment to even one kid, how amazing would that be?" To be the person who takes the words on the page and decodes them for others became my passion and purpose in life.

Q: What have been some of your favorite classes in the major so far and why?

A: My favorite class is easily the Shakespeare class with Dr. Weaver. There are really two reasons why this class stands apart from all the rest for me. First, before that class, my entire experience with Shakespeare consisted of flying through Hamlet my senior year of high school. I felt like an embarrassment to English nerds everywhere for not having read more of his works so getting to read half a dozen of his plays and have them explaimed at a college level was like a rite of passage for me. The second reason is because Dr. Weaver is an even bigger book nerd than I am and I love it. You get used to the funny looks people give you when you start crying or laughing or ranting because of a book. Most people don't invest themselves that fully into what they read. Dr. Weaver does and it was refreshing in a semester of mostly core courses to get that passion for the material that I strive for.

Q: What else do you do on campus and in your spare time?

A: I am an Ashbrook Scholar and I work around eight hours a week in the Center as an intern. I never meant to enjoy political science courses but the philosophy side of it is extremely interesting to me. I have also been on Student Senate for three years now and am about to start my year as the Senior Class President. I like feeling like I am making a difference on our campus and helping my fellow students. Any spare time I get between all of this and mountains of English homework is spent with my friends or watching outrageous amounts of Netflix.

Q: How are you spending your summer?

A: This summer, I got a great experience to work with a local company called Abilities in Action. Their purpose is all about helping to place people with special needs into a job that is right for them and allow people who would normally be over looked to earn a living on their own. Over the summer they have a youth program where kids 16-18 get placed in a job for one month. My role as a job coach is to transport the kids to the job site and basically make sure they are doing what they should and help explain things to them if there is a task they don't understand. I am currently with a boy and a girl doing all the weeding at a KOA campsite and it has been a real eye-opening experience. Im hoping I can use what I learn at this job and apply it in my teaching career.

Q: Can you recommend some books, whether they're old favorites or recent discoveries?

A: When people ask me what my favorite book is, I tell them to think of all the boring books they read in high school and my favorite is probably in there. I love the classics like Pride and Prejudice, The Giver, and Fahrenheit 451. My favorite is definitely Wuthering Heights. It's a tragic love story that's so twisted and dark that I couldn't put it down. As for modern books, my taste is very sporadic. I really love John Green. Even though he writes for tweens, his characters are what really draw you in to the piece. I also enjoy Stephen King novels for the same reason. His story lines are dark and exaggerated and even grotesque at times but he makes me fall in love with his characters until I have to know what happens to them.