Submit to the English Department Writing Awards

As we get into the stride of spring semester, the English Department encourages you all to take some time to do some spring cleaning – in the depths of the file folders where your brilliant writing has been gathering digital dust.

Find (or create!) your best work, give it a sparkling shine with some revising/tweaking and submit it for one of the English Department’s writing awards for a chance to win both prestige and prize money!

Yes, it’s true—you can win awards worth up to $200 for proving how excellent you are as an expository writer, poet, fiction or non-fiction writer, playwright or screenwriter. If chosen, you will be personally informed of your achievement, then honored as part of the Literary Pub Fest on TUESDAY March 27th – a lively celebration of the talent and accomplishments of the entire department. In addition to the presentation of awards and bestowing of accolades there will be much revelry (including free pizza!) to enjoy. Everyone who comes to the Pub Fest will feel like a winner, one way or another (and English majors can earn a colloquium credit, too!). So mark your calendars, and start preparing your submissions for the Writing Awards—they’ll need to be turned in to me by the Friday before you leave for spring break—by 4:00pm on Friday, March 2nd!

AND HURRY—The first member of each graduating class to turn in a Literary Award submission gets an English Department major mug just for submitting!

For details on the awards and what you need to do to get one, go to our website: http://www.wittenberg.edu/academics/english/writing-awards.

Submission Requirements for Writing Awards

1. Prepare clean, ANONYMOUS, typed copy of professional caliber. Entries must be titled, typed double-spaced and paper clipped. Poetry and dramatic dialogue should be single-spaced.

2. Submit in an UNMARKED, UNSEALED, 10″ x 13″ manila envelope, to Christina Reynolds, the English Department Administrative Assistant, in Hollenbeck 102, no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 2nd (the Friday before Spring Break).

3. Christina will take your contact information and submission category for her records. She will give your entry a unique code to maintain its anonymity throughout the judging process.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Students are not allowed to win the same category twice.  For example, if you win the sophomore expository writing award, you can’t win the junior or senior expository writing award.

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This Wednesday: Read-A-Thon Featuring Love-Related Literature to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

This Wednesday, stop by the Hollenbeck Atrium to hear fellow English majors and minors read some of the English Department’s favorite works of love-related literature!

English majors still have time to sign up to read at the event, and can do so by either following the link below, or stopping by the English Department office.

Don’t miss out on this incredible Valentine’s Day experience!

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Getting Caught Up On Events from Late Last Semester

On the last day of class, members of Dr. Robin Inboden’s Victorian Arts & Society class got to take a trip into downtown Springfield to visit the Mast Mansion (Castle Knoll) to view Victorian architecture and to have a celebratory tea party for the end of the semester.

Local architect Lon Krider designed the mansion for Phineas and Anna Mast in 1882. Taking approximately three years to construct, the mansion has become a center for Victorian architecture in Springfield.

Students can find the Castle Knoll at 901 West High Street, right above the railroad tracks. Tours can be scheduled through Turner Foundation historian Kevin Rose. The mansion, however, is in deep construction to restore it to its grandeur from its days as a nursing home.

There is no set completion date as the Turner Foundation is also restoring other historic buildings in Springfield while working on the Mast Mansion.

Students in Inboden’s 354 got to sample a variety of teas as well as quaint sandwiches, scones, and hobnobs, all while wearing paper crowns, courtesy of Christmas crackers.

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“I want to be valued, not valuable.”

Sponsored by the English Department, the Women’s Studies Program, and the Womyn’s Center, students and faculty gathered for a media discussion to talk about the popular book and Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale, late last semester.

Students and faculty discussed differences between the series and the book, the premise of The Handmaid’s Tale and its purpose in today’s society, prevalent sexism and the forms it may come in, critical remarks, analysis of important characters, societal parallels, and how current issues may connect to the tale.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Susan Denaker, is a dystopian tale of a woman, Offred, who is forced to become a handmaid, also known as a sexual slave that is required to bear children for those who are infertile. The woman in this world, specifically the handmaids, are incredibly oppressed and suffer various tortures, such as the gouging of eyes, mutilation, and rape. This a world in which women have been stripped of all rights and are no longer valued as respectable human beings.

While dystopian literature can be an entertaining work of fiction, it can be easy for the material to hit close to home. Some readers even avoid dystopian literature because the content feels too real to them, almost like a cautionary tale of what is to come. Many feel it is better to avoid the genre until society itself feels safer. However, it is important to note that while creating the tale, the producers did not want to include anything that was not already happening to women elsewhere. This means that while some are avoiding the genre for being “too real,” for others this is their reality, a reality they do not have the luxury of avoiding.

The book and the series seem to be telling the same story, but with a different purpose. While they both are created in an era of uncertainty, the Hulu series can be described as more of an inspirational tale, as the female characters are more empowered early on.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a true push between religion and science, where one may question what happens when science fails us and we turn back to religion. In a world where the reasoning behind infertility is blurred, religion becomes an anchor with an extremist mentality. It is a religion of subjugating women based on biblical text, as they are expendable and not meant to be valued – emphasizing Offred’s quote of, “I want to valued, not valuable.”

With parallels between pro-life and the Net Neutrality act – a form of controlling the media and who may have access to it – some may wonder if a tale like this is truly dystopian, if it is truly an impossibility, and if we doing this to ourselves already?

-Written by Nikki Howard, ’20

Weightlifting: A Reflection on Dr. Cynthia Richards’ Sabbatical

When I first was asked to reflect on my sabbatical, I decided on what I thought was the perfect metaphor for my reflection—weightlifting. I had just started weightlifting with my 16 year-old-son. He is an advocate of the practice, and quick to point out that it has benefits for everyone. Not long after, I heard about how both Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Hillary Clinton have personal trainers who insist on strength exercises, including pushups and curls. I set as my goal a chin-up by Christmas and imagined concluding this reflection by noting that I had met my goal. But about three weeks in, I suffered a painful groin injury and found myself completely incapacitated. (I will never read Uncle Toby from Tristram Shandy quite the same again.) So, I begin my essay with this acknowledgement of failure rather than an uplifting story of my success.

Still, weightlifting works as a metaphor for my sabbatical, and perhaps even more so now that my endeavor has only proven partially successful. It still helped me connect to my son, for example, and understand the allure of this practice. It also remains an apt metaphor for what sabbaticals are for: lifting some of the weight of the work, strengthening scholarly muscles, or just finding another way of staying energized and connected to the world. Sabbaticals are a way of coming back to the work one loves stronger and fitter, but also humbled by a new project. It also makes me feel reconnected to my students and how a liberal arts education requires us to learn new skills and master new disciplines. I become a student again. Taking on a task as totally alien as weightlifting was a good reminder of how strange writing an academic essay can feel to a first-year student or how daunting completing a 25-page-thesis can be for a senior.

This sabbatical, I was a student of early modern trauma. For anyone studying with me over the last few years, you will know that this not a new subject for me. It was first fueled by an interest in war in the eighteenth century, and then more specifically the Restoration poet John Wilmot’s combat experience in the Second Anglo Dutch War, and how he never really recovered from the loss he experienced there. Trauma theory had helped me reimagine his seemingly nihilistic satires as witty attempts to work through his grief after witnessing two of his comrades die by one cannonball at the age of 19.

This sabbatical, however, that focus became more disciplined. In August, an UK historian and I secured a book contract with the University of Nebraska Press for an edited collection of essays on how modern trauma theory applies to the early modern period. What felt most exciting to me about this project was how it could defamiliarize historical suffering, reframe it as sudden and unexpected and difficult to assimilate rather than the way we typically view historical loss as normative and constant.

My own essay in the volume focuses on the representation of female trauma during the late seventeenth century. If we imagine suffering as normative during the early modern period, female suffering was even more so, so unremarkable as to become aestheticized. In fact, nearly every critical study I read on early modern trauma focused on the image of Lavinia in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and how her mutilated body functions as an emblem of loss itself. No one had yet to explore what her suffering meant to “her” rather than what it meant to writers, such as Shakespeare, who use her image to explore the complex nature of the male psyche.

My own chapter then focused on a poem by Aphra Behn called “The Disappointment,” and then brought me back to a work that has long occupied my thinking, her final novella and early slave narrative, Oroonoko; or the Royal Slave. In both these works, Behn found ways to name suffering precisely where our western canon wanted to deny it existed: in female sexuality and in the use of black male and female bodies to promote white projects of advancement. Trauma theory allowed me to “remember” that long after Behn learned of Oroonoko’s execution by dismemberment her own memories would be triggered by accounts of physical vulnerability and loss. That she would seek to “work through” this grief and hence would have delayed writing down his story, and that when she encountered stark images of male vulnerability and loss in a genre otherwise known for its bravado and word play—the male-authored imperfect enjoyment poem—she would find unexpected pathos there. Trauma theory also allowed me to read her entry into that genre—”The Disappointment”—as an expose of how female trauma is never recognized because female pleasure is never acknowledged. Her poem, then, ends abruptly and atypically, without physical recovery for the male, and her female figure flees while her female narrator tells us that she can imagine the woman’s pain, and challenges us to do the same.

Behn’s challenge to her readers unexpectedly resonated with the #metoo movement that also emerged during my sabbatical and which my sabbatical gave me time to reflect on. In this movement, “readers” are also asked to imagine pain—that of harassment in the workplace, for example—which was once viewed as normative and instead recognize it as loss—the loss of bodily autonomy, of dignity, and even of one’s career ambitions. This movement represents just the type of belated naming that trauma theory has taught us to recognize as powerful and imperfect, but necessary to healing and to lifting the weight of our histories and of history itself.

So, weightlifting did indeed prove the right metaphor for my sabbatical, although I doubt I will ever manage a chin up. It has helped me understand the world around me a little better, given me new tools for reading the literature I teach, and a renewed appreciation for what matters in my work and for how necessary sabbaticals are for naming that.

D’Arcy Fallon Reads Excerpt of Novel-in-Progress “The Yum Yum Bus”

While on sabbatical, D’Arcy Fallon retreated to a cabin in Nova Scotia, where she escaped from modern-day distractions to focus on her novel, “The Yum Yum Bus.”

The first colloquium of the 2018 spring semester began with our very own D’Arcy Fallon  debuting her current novel in the works, “The Yum Yum Bus.” On Wednesday, January 1st, students and faculty joined together in Ness Auditorium for a reading of the work, a telling-of-age story about a woman, Rory McAllister, who struggles with the demands of teaching and the battle of accepting an ordinary life.

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Fallon began by reading the first scene of her manuscript, where audience members learned of Rory’s inhibitions and the emotional roller coaster she encounters while lurking through the shopping aisles.

Through use of humor and sensory details, Fallon has created a space into which the reader can be fully immersed. Fallon provided an engaging performance of her reading that allowed the audience to truly melt themselves into the pages of her manuscript. Using various accents, anecdotes, facial expressions, and emphasis on certain phrases, Fallon not only had the audience chuckling amongst the humor, but also eager to hear more of the tale.

Fallon revealed that she hopes to finish “The Yum Yum Bus,” her first work of fiction, by the end of the year and we could not be more excited to read the final product!

About “The Yum Yum Bus”:

If you had told Rory McAllister in her arrogant, kiss-my-ass 20’s that she would be living in the Midwest, teaching writing at the local college, she would’ve blown a few raspberries. The Midwest? Seriously? Fast-forward a decade. Now, in her 30’s, she’s living in the land of funnel cakes, corn mazes, and plastic lawn statuary. Rory is back home in Evening, Ohio, the place she calls “the parking lot of life,” feeding the meter one quarter at a time. As a former journalist, Rory used to think she knew a thing or two about truth with a capital “T,” but now, trying to impart wisdom about ethics, truth-telling, and creativity, she’s not so sure. Her students, sometimes crazy, sometimes brilliant, and more than a little sensitive, challenge her assumptions about veracity. Even so, she never had thought she’d have to deal with students who fought or cried, made up stories about dead grandmothers so they could get out of class. Who will teach the teacher (if she can only get over herself)? Enter The Yum Yum Bus, a 1968 Leyland Atlantean Double-Decker food truck that glides through the streets of Evening like a humpback whale. From behind the wheel, Maida Barnes dispenses banana bread, dangerously strong coffee, and lessons in how to get behind the wheel and steer your own life.

Written by Nikki Howard, ’20

Need A New Book to Read Over Winter Break? Here’s Some Faculty-Recommended Books

The English Department’s professors all have one thing in common: their love of books.

As winter break approaches, some of the English Department’s professors have provided a list of their current favorite books, or ones they think students should read over break.

Lori Askeland:

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

I would suggest the book I am currently reading, Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which is an extraordinary study. It’s making me re-think how I will teach The Scarlet Letter this spring.

The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

I just finished reading Louise Erdrich’s most recent novel, The Future Home of the Living God, which is a very intriguing Native American, dystopian novel that involves adoption, which is a key area of interest for me.

Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers

I also think everyone should read Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

His Dark Materials novels by Phillip Pullman

And I have a rather new guilty pleasure in young adult/fantasy novels, in these uncertain times — I re-read all of the Harry Potter books which I hadn’t read since my kids were young, but I also just completed the Phillip Pullman His Dark Materials books, including the just released prequel The Book of Dust, which I quite liked.

Sha’Dawn Battle:

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I am planning to finally dive into Colson Whitehead’s new novel, The Underground Railroad. Its title is somewhat telling: it’s a novel that illuminates, I’ll bet in true Whitehead fashion, a haunting blemish on the American historical record.

Sarah Bay:

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

It’s a graphic novel memoir of a girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

 

Robin Inboden:

Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt

It’s a kind of literary mystery, with a group of modern scholars hot on the trail of a previously unknown relationship between two major Victorian poets. There’s third-person narration, a diary, a set of correspondence, some faux-Victorian poems, and more. It’s brain-candy of the highest order.

Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron

For sheer escapist fun, Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries are a hoot. They purport to be the discovered secret journals of Jane’s own life as an amateur sleuth. Fair warning: it’s hard to read just one. Start with The Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery.

Rick Incorvati:

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwalds

With the events in Ferguson, Missouri, with all the stories of police excesses that followed, and with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the phrase “implicit bias” has made its way into our headlines. This book by a couple of the leading researchers on the topic offers an interesting and readable account of the ways our minds rush to judgments — often to the detriment of people who don’t look like us, talk like us, love like us, and/or worship like us.

Between the World and Me by Ta’Nehisi Coates

I imagine this book is on other folks’ lists (Dr. Askeland has been an avid reader of Coates for a while). This open letter from a black father to his teenage son is a powerful essay on the experience of race in our day. Toni Morrison says, “This is a required reading.”

Mike Mattison:

Feed by M.T. Anderson

I’ve been using it in English 101 for a couple of years, and though it’s a young adult novel, it’s a good, provocative read (and can be done in a day or so). How much does technology affect our lives, and how much could it? If you’re someone who is attached to their cell phone, this book asks how far you might take that attachment. Would you choose to be permanently hooked up to the internet?

Michael McClelland:

Love is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski

This book showed me that poetry can be relevant, moving, outrageous and fun. Bukowski is cynical and wise, wild as a three-day party, down-to-earth as the ground beneath your feet. He writes about the great joys, pains and mysteries of life, all couched in narrative poems about drinking, sex, classical music and good times at the race track. Get the book, read a few each day, and watch you preconceptions about poetry toddle off into Bukowski’s smoke-filled night.

Kate Polak:

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers’ The Circle will make you rethink using social media.

Costume Highlight Reel from Literary Halloween Party

This past Tuesday, the English Department, along with members of SAGE, hosted the annual Literary Halloween Party. Students and faculty had the option to dress as a literary character or author for colloquium credit; or, they could simply dress up just to dress up.

Here are some of this year’s costume highlights:

 

Clockwise, from left to right: Town Mouse and Country Mouse from Aesop’s Fables (Emma Stogsdill and Sierra Sanchez), Frankenstein Creation (Ashlee Eckenroe), Literary Mash-Up (Dr. Lori Askeland), Woman in Black from Susan Hill’s Woman in Black (Stephanie McGregor), Jonny Cade from The Outsiders and Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Katie Hodson), Giraffe from Giraffe (Nikki Howard), Alice from Alice in Wonderland (Emma Kilpatrick), Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games (Megan Winters), Inigo Montaya from The Princess Bride (Drew Pool), and Nancy Drew(s) from Nancy Drew (Kailey Mau and Samantha Reynolds).