Two Books in Spring

3 May

Professors Mary Jo Kietzman and Fred Svoboda have new books out this year. They are The Biblical Covenant in Shakespeare (Palgrave Macmillan) and Understanding John Updike (U of South Carolina).

It’s Summer Reading Time! (if summer ever comes)

10 Apr

Once upon a time there was a series of blog posts that demonstrated that English Department faculty did other things besides write syllabi and take too long returning student work.  Now, after far too long a break, Who Are These People, Anyway? returns with shocking revelations about what we plan to read this summer as well as, in some cases, what we hope you’ll peruse.  If this doesn’t slake your thirst for faculty peculiarities, feel free to read back over the entire WATPA? archive – if you dare!

Scott Atkinson
Recommendations
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, by Michael Finkel
A fantastic nonfiction book that follows a man who spoke a total of one syllable over the course of 27 years while he hid in the main woods. In that time he became a living urban legend, a master thief who subsisted on the groceries he stole from local vacation cabins. After being caught, one reporter delved into his story and found that he might have been the most alone human being on the planet. A great read for anyone going camping–it will make them tempted to never come back.

The Heather Blazing, by Colm Toibin
Almost done with this, and I love it. It’s tough to say why. Not much happens. People die. The protagonist, if I heard about him on the news, would be someone I would probably hate. And yet I keep following him around these pages. A quiet, beautiful novel.

Planning to read
King of the World, by David Remnick
Combine my weird passion for combat sports with my huge journalism crush on New Yorker editor David Remnick (his Talk of the Town essays might be the only thing getting me through the Trump era) and I’m looking forward to reading this.

One of Charles Yu’s story collections. I don’t even know what they’re titled, but I’ve been meaning to ever since I read his story “Fable” in the New Yorker, and almost fell out of my chair laughing, then crying.

James Schirmer
For the summer

  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell
  • Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  • Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet
  • Educated by Tara Westover

For students

  • Field Notes From a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  • I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

Kazuko Hiramatsu
This summer, I’m planning to read Amy Tan’s Where the Past Begins and Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.

W. Kamau Bell

For students:
A few books that I’ve read in the past few months that I enjoyed include:
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Endurance by Scott Kelly

D. J. Trela
One of the first stories that made me cry was E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I still admire this book more than fifty years after I first read it. So I’m looking forward to reading the book about the book, Michael Sims’ The Story of Charlotte’s Web. White was fascinated by nature from an early age, lived much of his adult life in the countryside on a working farm, and invested his animals with both natural characteristics and human neuroses.

In preparation for development of an introductory course on science fiction, I also expect to read broadly in this genre, from originating works by Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds, Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, and George Orwell, 1984, as well as more recent authors like Asimov, Foundation, Ursula LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, and Octavia Butler, Kindred.

Stephanie Roach
A good portion of my summer reading happens when I can sit in a beach chair at the ocean.  I take a yearly trip to Maryland with my cousin and our entire agenda is soaking in the restorative salt and sand of the ocean—and racking up as many hours of uninterrupted reading as we can.  Friends and family who know that I tend to read six to eight hours at a time when I’m at the beach, gift me books throughout the year so that I build up quite a stack of options.  They know I’m always on the lookout for smart and witty reads and that I’m a sucker for a debut novel.  That current stack has books like The Dry (Jane Harper), The Gunners (Rebecca Kauffman), and Woman #17 (Edan Lepucki).  I can hardly wait to put my toes in the sand and start poring through the stack.

Dave Larsen
If I get to half of these, I’ll be happy.  I have big hopes. The Tom McGuane thing is just me getting around to an author I’ve been curious about for a while.

Thomas McGuane

Tom McGuane Books (some essays, some short stories, a novel):
Cloudbursts
Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing
Outside Chance
Sporting Club
Crow Fair

John Gierach, A Fly Rod of Your Own

Collections:
Habit of Rivers, edited by Ted Leeson
Astream: American Writers on Fly Fishing, edited by Robert DeMott.

I don’t have a particular reading recommendation for students. I  recommend finding an author and diving in.  See what they’re about. Find someone new to you.  If, after reading some of their work, you don’t like it, move on.

Steve Bernstein
Two years ago I got rid of hundreds of books, but in the time since I’ve amassed a small pile of (mercifully) short new ones to taunt me.  These are gifts or recommendations, though I couldn’t necessarily tell you who or what pointed me toward each one.  I hope I get through the whole stack:

Novels
Tarjei Vesaas – The Birds
Lisa Halliday – Asymmetry
Ian McEwan – On Chesil Beach
Natasha Pulley – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Claire-Louise Bennett – pond
Mathias Énard – Compass
Rachel Cusk – Kudos  (not in my stack, but out June 5; the conclusion of the fascinating Outline trilogy)

Short Stories
Peter Orner – Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge
Stephanie Carpenter – Missing Persons

Poetry
Jana Prikryl – The After Party
Mai Der Vang – Afterland

Non-fiction
James Elkins – What Heaven Looks Like
Kassia St. Clair – The Secret Lives of Color
Alexander Nehamas – Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art

 

And recommended:
Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Vol. 1
The most amazing graphic novel in years.  Hurry up, because the concluding second volume is coming this October.

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo
A beautiful, funny, and moving novel about grief.  What’s not to like?

Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City: Poems
Graber is a conversational poet whose poems thrive on juxtaposition and connection.  Here’s one of them.  This is a stellar collection – just read her!

Mary Jo Kietzman
Summer reading (for fun):
George Eliot, Adam Bede
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (again)
Orhan Pamuk, A Strangeness in My Mind
Owen Lattimore, The Desert Road to TurkestanTerence
O’Donnell, Garden of the Brave in War:  Recollections of Iran

Recommendations for students:
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and one book of poetry … Elizabeth Bishop’s Geography III or James Fenton’s Out of Danger

On behalf of the UM-Flint English Department,
Happy Reading, and Have a Great Summer!

A Different Kind of Book-Burning

16 Nov

Chair’s note: The following is a guest post by Brian Gebhart, one of our majors. I think he makes a strong case for taking English Studies seriously. It is my hope that you, dear reader, will agree. 

flame

When I applied to college, I had to write a number of essays. It comes with the territory, I suppose: the nature of applying to university in our present day requires students to pen some sort of “statement,” often in response a question of some sort. “What does education mean to you?”“What do plan to achieve at such-and-such university?” ”How will such-and-such degree help you attain this goal?”“How have you been influenced by this factor or thing?” “Name a world problem and how you plan to solve it.”And these are all fine and dandy, one could argue: at best, what they’re trying to do is prompt some sort of response out of their would-be responders, and, sometimes, they are the only real window into the character of the soul behind the GPA and the letters of recommendation. It’s one thing to have others vouch for you; it’s quite another to vouch for yourself.

At any rate, my application essay burned a hole in my computer. I jest, of course, but the idiom is appropriate because of its underlying metaphor: fire. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher that spent a few weeks in my junior year going over the application essay, and what to expect; and I was even more fortunate that she had just spent the past half-year going over American literature. For me, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and J. D. Salinger were hot off the presses – what is more, I loved those writers. I tried aping their style in my own writing; I would make notes and mark up words and lines and phrases that captured my interest, and then try to incorporate those same phrases into my own writing (often about those same writers, no less, and with varying success). Regardless, my teacher had revealed to me the benefits of extended metaphors (among other rhetorical tricks and tools) – of taking an idea or image and stretching it throughout a piece of writing, so as to uses its powers for a new purpose. In any case, I knew enough about writing by that point to know that metaphors, when used consistently and repeatedly, make for easily remembered writing, and extended metaphors can help to make up for writing that is otherwise quite bland or boring. (And what is the college application essay, if not a boring topic, made to dress up like an interesting one?)

And so I played with fire. In my application essay, I spoke of a flame that had begun somewhere in my education, probably in middle school – a spark that flickered and ignited out of my own teachers’ passion for literature. This is significant if only because I used to despise English – in elementary school, I thought reading and writing were wastes of time. Even though I loved stories, I saw reading and writing as burdens to bear, as these ugly little beasts that needed to be slain and burnt to a crisp, immediately.

And it might have stayed like this – with me preferring to doodle mindlessly in my spare time than to read. But something changed. Somewhere over the years I began to see literature not as a useless chore, but as a powerful means of escape. I’m not quite sure exactly when and where that change took place, but it did. And, beyond that, I started to see that reading didn’t just have to be an escape, either – it could also be a means of learning, and growing, and expanding the mind. It took me some time to realize, but I owe that first change to my parents; I owe the second change to my teachers. Especially my middle and high school teachers. These strange people had a love for reading and writing (and a knack for teaching) that, to me, was infectious. As I put it in my application essay, “they had a spark, a zest for the written word.” How could I resist these teachers who could recite poems and lines from memory, and speak to the power of stories by telling those stories and asking us (their students) about them? As I wrote elsewhere in my (brief) application essay, “With that flame, they [my English teachers] taught me how to understand the themes in storytelling, to glean the morals and the lessons, to illuminate the dark caverns of character and make it better, bit by bit.” Somewhere along the line of my own education, I saw books for what they were: portals into other worlds, harboring a host of contradicting worldviews, out of which I would have to assemble and develop my own. To keep the metaphor going, I learned how to take some of the fire of others (both my teachers and the writers they taught) and start my own with it.

And while my time here is not yet quite over, I think it is safe to say that, at the University of Michigan-Flint, that fire has only grown larger and burned brighter. I remember my most influential teachers from school not just by their personality, but by what they taught – I can tell you whom I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Things They Carried with, or who introduced me to Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 and A Clockwork Orange, or who assigned Night and A Brave New World and All Quiet on the Western Front as summer reading.

I could say the same of UM-Flint. While here, I’ve had the opportunity to read no less than Yeats, Byron, Eco, Ibsen, Garcia Marquez, Homer, Frost, Soseki, Heaney, Gaines, Milton, Mishima, Borges, Eliots T. S. and George, both Shelleys, both Rossettis, and more Shakespeare than I can shake a stick at (to say nothing of scholarly work and articles). Not a bad bunch, if I do say so myself. And there are many others, to be sure – I mention only the ones that jump to my mind immediately. But the point is this: I have a name I could attach each of these writers to. And I have my English professors at UM-Flint to thank for that. I’m not going to say that I never would have read any of these writers without my professors (who can know when he or she may end up reading a particular author at a certain point in life?), but, because I did read these writers with certain people, my perceptions of their (the writers’) works will be forever colored by their (my teachers’) presence.

And that, I think, is the inevitable byproduct of the profession of the English teacher – whatever books he or she teaches you will invariably become linked with them in your mind. Or, at least, I think so. It’s something I try to be aware of in my own path toward becoming an English teacher, in any case. I know that one day I will be teaching my own class of students, and I may just introduce to them an author whose name means nothing to them – an author whom, by association, I will bond with in their heads (along with all the other attachments I may give them, from test to essays to homework to presentations: the real package deal).

Even so, my real hope is that I can keep that flame going, and – if possible – pass the torch along to my own students. I hope that I can show my students that reading is a lifelong joy as well as a constant source of paradox, worldview, and knowledge. I hope that I can show my students how their thinking will only improve through and with reading. My favorite part of school has been, and always will be, reading. Discovering new writers, rereading and relearning old ones – I just love to read. If nothing else, I want my kids to see that a love of reading can spark fires and enlarge the mind – that knowledge can warm as easily as it can burn, and can provide both a certain kind of defense and light in their lives. I am fortunate in that my English professors at UM-Flint have only reinforced my understanding of literature, even as they have challenged and expanded it. What else can I say? I’ve had some great classes here.

In short, in my original application essay to this college, I spoke of a flame that had been sparked by good teaching and great reading. I like to think that flame has only been fanned here at UM-Flint.  My only hope is that I can one day help others see that playing with that fire – the fire of literature, that blaze of knowledge, those embers of other worlds – is worth the effort.

 

New Scholarship by Prof. Feuerherm!

21 Apr

Loring & Ramanathan Discount Flyer

New: Earn a TESOL Certificate!

10 Mar

This fall the Linguistics Program will begin offering a new 15-hour certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  Now you can earn this valuable and highly portable credential right here at UM-Flint, and in only four classes!

TESOL Certificate purple handout

 

Professor Emily Feuerherm has co-edited a new book!

17 Dec

Feuerherm BookCongratulations to our colleague on an important publication!  This volume brings together scholars from various disciplines to discuss how language is used by, for and about refugees in the United States in order to deepen our understanding of what ‘refugee’ and ‘resettlement’ mean. The book will be of interest to researchers of applied linguistics and sociolinguistics, anthropology and cultural studies.

“In an era of unprecedented forced migration, this book provides valuable and timely insights into how refugees in the US are impacted by the discourses, policy and education practices they encounter. The research-based chapters offer ways to rethink assumptions and ideologies surrounding refugees, so often positioned as victims and a burden on institutions. A readable and important book.” – Jenny Miller, Monash University, Australia

For a limited time you may order this title at a discount – using the form you can download here.

Call for Papers: Clement S. Stacy Undergraduate Research Conference

7 Dec

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences of Purdue University Calumet is pleased to announce the 24th Annual Clement S. Stacy Memorial Undergraduate Research Conference, which will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 15-16, 2016 at Courtyard Marriott Hotel, near the campus in Hammond Indiana.

The conference’s goal is to provide a forum for undergraduate Humanities and Social Sciences scholars from across the upper Midwest to present their projects and discuss the results of their research with fellow students and faculty mentors.  Information about the abstract submission guidelines, deadline, and conference details can be found at our Clement S. Stacy Memorial Undergraduate Research Conference web page. UM-Flint English majors are likely writing and preparing course-related projects this month which would be excellent material to submit for inclusion in this spring’s conference.

Enter the Mochila Review’s MoRe Prize Writing Contest

12 Nov

The Mochila Review, a national undergraduate literary journal published by Missouri Western State University, is hosting its annual writers’ contest for undergraduate students, called the Undergraduate MoRe Prize.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES
This year, the contest will be open to short fiction (up to 3,000 words) submissions only. Contest submissions will be accepted through the journal’s website (www.mochilareview.com) from October 1 to December 1. The winning writer, selected by guest judge, author Ellen Hopkins, will be announced January 1. He/she will receive a $50 prize and publication in the journal’s 2016 issue. The Undergraduate MoRe Prize is separate from the journal’s regular submissions and there is an entry fee of $5.

Undergraduate Gender Studies Conference – Call for Papers

14 Oct

Midwest Undergraduate Conference in Gender Studies – call for papers

The University of Notre Dame will host an undergraduate conference for Gender Studies on February 12 & 13, 2016 on Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend, Indiana. The conference will be co-sponsored by the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at Saint Mary’s College and the Women’s Studies Program at Indiana University South Bend. We invite submissions focusing on any area of original research-based scholarship in gender studies (including, but not limited to, work in literary criticism, sociology, theology, anthropology, economics, psychology, biology) from colleges and universities in the Midwest. Presentations should take the form of 15-minute presentations (with or without visual support, like PPTs and posters). We welcome scholarship that deals with the significance of gender—and the cognate subjects of sex, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and nationality—in all areas of human life, especially in the social formation of human identities, practices, and institutions.

  • Students will need a faculty mentor from their field of research to offer guidance as the student develops and carries out the research project. Faculty mentors do not need to attend the conference (though they are welcome).
  • This conference will consist of a series of individual panels of 3-4 papers. A faculty panel will select papers from among the proposals received and constitute the panels.
  • Lunch (both days) and snacks will be provided. There will be no registration fee for participants selected to present work. It is expected that all participants will attend the entire conference.
  • Proposals (200 word max) should be submitted on the appropriate submission form to: apalko@nd.edu, subject line “Undergraduate conference abstract submission.”
  • Questions can be submitted to: Abigail Palko (apalko@nd.edu)

Deadline for submissions: December 16, 2015 (notification of acceptances to be sent in early January 2016)

English Majors: The Albion Review wants to see your writing

30 Sep

The Albion Review, a national literary journal based at Albion College, seeks work for its 11th annual journal.  Contributors must currently be enrolled as undergraduate students at any college or university.

Submit your short fiction, poetry, essays, or visual art by November 1st – you could win a $200 prize.

Written submissions (include SASE): The Albion Review, 4942 Kellogg Center, Albion College, Albion, MI 49224.

Online submissions: albionreview.submittable.com

For more information and submission guidelines, visit them on facebook.