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.

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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.