FMU Writing Center Announces September Events

The FMU Writing Center has several events coming up in September for FMU students, staff, and faculty:

  • Avoiding Plagiarism: 2:30 p.m., Mon., Sept. 8, in CEMC 114 (Workshop)
  • Writing for Sciences – Lab Reports: 3:45 p.m., Thurs., Sept. 11, in CEMC 114 (Workshop)
  • Building Sentences: 2:30 p.m., Mon., Sept. 15, in FH 114B (Workout)
  • Using MLA Format: 2:30 p.m., Wed., Sept. 17, in CEMC 114 (Workshop)
  • Using APA Format: 3:45 p.m., Thurs., Sept. 25, in CEMC 114 (Workshop)

As always, Writing Center staff are available in FH 114-C throughout the semester for one-to-one tutorials. FMU students, staff, and faculty are welcome to book face-to-face and online appointments through the Writing Center’s website. Evening tutorials (no appointment needed) are offered at the FMU Tutoring Center (LSF 107) from 5:00-8:00 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.

More questions? Stop by the Writing Center in FH 114-C.

Dr. Kunka, FMU Writing Center Director, and Dr. Reynolds, FMU Writing Center Assistant Director

Course Spotlight: English 250, Introduction to Literature

In this post, Dr. Jones reflects on teaching English 250: Introduction to Literature. At FMU, Dr. Jones frequently teaches Introduction to Literature as well as English 348: African American Literature and English 200: Writing in the Disciplines.

The Joys of Teaching English 250: Introduction to Literature

A few years ago I read that the average American reads one book a year. Changing that frightening statistic is my motivation for teaching. One of the most challenging courses to teach can be English 250 Introduction to Literature.  The first day of any class can be anxiety producing, but the first day of English 250 seems to  elicit boredom in most students. Ah, those first 15 minutes of “I have to take this course so let’s get on with it so that I can tweet.” English 250 is my favorite course to teach because it gives me an opportunity to pass on a priceless gift: the love of reading. I know that most students don’t read for pleasure but, as President Carter said at graduation a few years ago, we aren’t doing our jobs very well if we don’t create lifelong readers.  Producing not only readers, but informed and passionate readers is my goal for English 250.

I like teaching English 250 because reading together is a great way of forming community. We share our likes, dislikes, hopes, and dealbreakers for relationships. I know that my students are sometimes surprised that they reveal some of their deepest thoughts and desires about life and love as we discuss works such as Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. We form an emotional bond by sharing our reading experiences. I respect the demonstration of faith and trust they create by being engaged in the readings.  With that said, I must admit that many of my students have lost their dating privileges. Perhaps my protective parental instincts took over, but I just had forbid them from dating to protect them from themselves. It all started when an offspring of a faculty member enrolled in my section of Introduction to Literature. Now I’ve known this person grow from a talented artist in high school into an amazing young man. So, when I heard his hopeful yet totally inaccurate description of a character in our novel, I had to immediately rescind the student’s dating privileges for his own benefit. It turned out that the way that he responded to the character reflected his actual romantic history. He wanted to save her when she clearly was incapable of saving herself. What started as a joke became serious when other students, out of concern, agreed with the loss of dating privileges for other students. I would hear “You know, Dr. Jones, Mr. or Ms. really shouldn’t date.” It has been funny and touching to see the protectiveness of the students develop for each other.

I also enjoy helping students, who openly admit to not liking literature, turn into combative sonnet lovers. Seriously, each semester discussions of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed And Where And Why” are downright heated.  I don’t know why Millay provokes such strong responses, but it is beautiful to listen to the differing interpretations of the poem’s speaker. Let’s just say that there aren’t many budding feminists among my students.

After a few weeks of reading works by Edith Wharton, Shakespeare, Lorraine Hansberry, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, these young people form passionate opinions about literature. They begin to welcome the challenge of tackling a new literary work. I am always so proud of all of my students for being emotionally and intellectually present when they read literature. The fiery disagreements also reveal who has not done the reading. That number decreases to about 1 by the third week. If they haven’t read, they can’t participate. I’ve seen students sneakily try to read in class to find out what has everyone so excited.

Lastly, my goal in English 250 is to introduce the students to works of literature that every college graduate should know. Because I want to inspire confidence in their abilities to understand canonical literature, my students come to class without knowing the text of that day’s class.  Everyone encounters the work at the same time. Being able to understand a sonnet by William Shakespeare makes my students feel confident in themselves. They start to banish that voice in their heads that has labeled them as bad English students . Sometimes they even read works that I haven’t assigned.

My ultimate goal is to help them to make more informed life choices. At least I feel certain that my students will forever remember at least one lesson from William Shakespeare’s sonnet 116 “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments”.  Students have come back to tell me that they  keep a copy of the sonnet with them to remind them of their own romantic goals while others keep the sonnet with them as a talisman.  They tell me that they can still hear me saying over and over “Love’s not Time’s Fool” and now understand the motivation behind my constant refrain. Then my work is done. The class is over. Let the dating begin.

FMU Patriots Attend Dickens Universe

In this joint-authored post, Dr. Catherine England and English majors Thomas Wampler and Meagan Hooks recount their trip to Dickens Universe, an annual event in Santa Cruz, California. 

There’s a foggy, seaside town in California where scholars, students, and enthusiasts gather to discuss, analyze, and enjoy Charles Dickens’s works every August for a week. It’s called the Dickens Universe, and it has been hosted by the University of California, Santa Cruz for thirty-four successful years. I was lucky enough to take Thomas Wampler and Meagan Hooks, two FMU English majors, to this event last summer because of the generous support of FMU’s REAL Grant program. We attended lectures, seminars, and workshops to enrich our knowledge of Dickens, Victorian culture, and the field of English Studies more broadly. I am excited for Thomas and Meagan to tell you more about the Universe and their wonderful experiences in their own words!

Thomas, Meagan, and Dr. England at Dickens Universe

Thomas, Meagan, and Dr. England at Dickens Universe

What is the Dickens Universe?

One of the organizers of the Dickens Universe calls it a combination of a “scholarly conference, festival, book club, and summer camp,” and it lives up to that billing. Each year the Universe focuses its lectures, seminars, and other events on one novel by Charles Dickens. In 2014, the Universe focused on Dickens’s final, completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, a dark work that takes its readers from scenes of dead bodies floating in the Thames to massive heaps of “dust” (something like a Victorian landfill) as it explores the relationships between life and death as well as money and filth.

At the Universe, top scholars powerfully deliver lectures once or twice each day, and between these lectures, participants attend seminars and workshops lead by English faculty and graduate students from all over the world. It is an opportunity to listen and learn from others while formulating and expressing your own ideas about literature. As an added bonus, you get to stay in beautiful Santa Cruz with access to unbelievable views of the mountains, the Redwoods, and the Pacific Ocean. This unique event concludes its scholarly conversation by embracing whimsical fun with a Victorian ball on the final night, during which you can, despite your jeans and T-shirts, learn and practice nineteenth-century dances. The Dickens Universe provides daily intellectual stimuli, a very busy schedule, and the opportunity to learn all about Charles Dickens, the Victoria era, and contemporary scholarship.

Reading under the Redwoods at Dickens Universe

Reading under the Redwoods at Dickens Universe

Thomas’s Experience

One of the most exciting things that happened to me while attending the 34th Annual Dickens Universe was the opportunity to interact with Professor Jessica Kuskey. Dr. England, as part of our summer preparation before attending the conference, had us read “Our Mutual Engine: The Economics of Victorian Thermodynamics” by Kuskey. We were required to summarize the article and also prepare a basic response in support or disagreement with Kuskey’s work. I found out the first day we arrived at Dickens Universe that I was going to be in Kuskey’s seminar. I had the opportunity to discuss her paper in class and later one-on-one. She answered my questions and proved as kind as she was smart. She took the time to tell me her thought process in writing the paper and how she eventually “stumbled” upon the subject of thermodynamics, which was not originally her topic.

Another aspect of the Universe that struck me was how international its make-up was. In my morning seminar, there was a student from Japan. In my mid-morning session, there was a participant from Australia, and the session was led by a graduate student originally from India. In all my classes we had a variety of people from all over the United States: Colorado, Washington State, Washington, D.C., Maine, New York, Iowa, Hawaii, to name just a few. The fact that I was exposed to so many different people with different backgrounds only enhanced the educational and cultural experience.

reading thomas and meagan

Meagan’s Experience

I really enjoyed my graduate-student led discussion group at the Dickens Universe. This open forum was great for allowing participants to delve deeply into Our Mutual Friend and analyze critically through close reading and class discussion. In these forums, I was able to learn a lot from the grad students along with my fellow classmates, who all brought unique perspectives. I feel confident I will be able to apply what I learned from my experience in my own English studies, and hope to be able to apply teaching strategies in the future when I may have students of my own.

There was much more to Dickens Universe than just the classroom, however. One of my favorite activities was the Grand Ball on the last night of the conference, during which we were taught traditional Victorian dances. The dance was a great way to have fun and socialize with other participants, as well as get a taste for Victorian culture. Overall, Dickens Universe was a truly unique academic experience unlike anything else.

Welcome, Dr. Spear!

Earlier in the semester, the Department of English announced the appointment of several new faculty members. In this post, we get to know Dr. Spear as part of an ongoing “Q and A” series with our recent faculty additions. 

Q: What can you share about your research area and your current projects?

A: My research deals with writing as a form of healing, for self and for others, and pulls from expressive therapy theories as well as autobiographical and trauma studies.  I focus primarily on contemporary nonfiction texts by women authors who write about their traumatic experiences, including, but not limited to, illness and rape.  One of my current projects examines a specific rape narrative, where the author blurs her personal story with a cultural call for change.  Arguing that society’s dominant narrative silences rape stories and weaving her different storylines together, the author constructs a clever text, filled with stylistic choices aimed towards restoring her own agency as well as invoking a shift in how others perceive and discuss rape.

Q: What text has been most influential in your teaching?

A: While a number of texts come immediately to mind, I can, without a doubt, say that two have and will continue to have huge impacts on my teaching: Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress.  Also, I should note that Henri J. M. Nouwen’s The Wounded Healer offered a framework for how I think about teaching and its purposes, being instrumental in my conception of a “wounded healer pedagogy,” a pedagogy that I outline to focus on healing and compassion through the use of personal stories.

Q: How might students explain your teaching style or your course?

A: I cannot speak for my students, and they would be better at answering this particular question.  However, I can share that students’ comments have been positive and often highlight the challenge as well as the gain.  To explain, I do hold students to high standards, and they constantly impress me.  Also, I encourage them to be active participants in the course as well as their learning process, and together, every student assists in creating our classroom dynamic.  In addition, I know I carefully construct courses to cover the material while working with informal and formal writing assignments, layering a number of objectives, and encouraging personal investment.

Q: What are you currently reading?

A: I spent my summer reading a number of books by some talented writers.  A couple included Jemyn Ward’s Men We Reaped, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen.  I had such an ambitious list.  Sadly, I have not had the chance to finish everything on that list, but currently, I am enjoying Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir and Andrew Malan Milward’s The Agriculture Hall of Fame.

Q: What is one of your talents or an interesting fact about you that tends to surprise your students or colleagues?

A: I like to think that I am full of hidden talents and random facts, but perhaps an easy answer to this question is that once upon a time, I played basketball.  I also danced, so I had the most graceful layups on the court.

 

Fall 2014 English Film Series

The Fall Film Series has a wonderful line-up this semester. Take a look at the schedule below. Faculty and students with questions about the film series should contact organizer Dr. Smolen-Morten

From the 1941 trailer for _The Maltese Falcon_ showing Humphrey Bogart. Image in the public domain.

From the 1941 trailer for _The Maltese Falcon_ showing Humphrey Bogart. Image in the public domain.

September 23, 2014.  John Huston, The Maltese Falcon (1941) 100 mins.

Hard-noised private detective Sam Spade unravels the tangled plots of an unsavory lot chasing a jewel encrusted statue. Quintessential film noir: dark alleys, a femme fatale, justified paranoia, and an American culture bereft of a moral compass. Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet.

3:35 & 7:30 pm, Lowrimore Auditorium, Cauthen Educational Media Center.

October 21, 2014.  Jean-Marc Vallée, Dallas Buyers Club (2013) 117mins.*

With 67 awards, including Oscars for best actor and supporting actor, this biopic entertains and challenges audiences. Suffering from AIDS, Ron Woodroof brings unapproved and illegal drugs into Texas, where he sells them to other AIDS victims and learns compassion for people he had rejected.

3:35 & 7:30 pm, Lowrimore Auditorium, Cauthen Educational Media Center.

On the set of _The Seventh Seal_ in 1957. Photo in the public domain.

On the set of _The Seventh Seal_ in 1957. Photograph in the public domain.

November 18, 2014. Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal (1957) 96 mins.

A cult classic, The Seventh Seal made Bergman an international star and the darling of the European avant-garde. A medieval knight returns to his native Sweden, where he grapples with existential questions, like the existence and nature of God, and plays chess with Death. A must see for film buffs.

3:35 & 7:30 pm, Lowrimore Auditorium, Cauthen Educational Media Center.

*Dallas Buyer’s Club will be presented with help from FMU Gender Studies.

Conference Opportunity for FMU English Majors (Deadline Passed)

The deadline for this opportunity has passed, but you can read more about the fully-funded trip Dr. English and two FMU English majors took to Dickens Universe.

Calling All English Majors!

Apply for a full-funded trip to the Dickens Universe Conference at the University of California, Santa Cruz from August 2-9, 2014. 

Email letters of interest to Dr. England by April 24th, 2014. More information on the application process and the Dickens Universe can be found below and on this flyer.

dickens

The Dickens Universe

The Dickens Universe is a unique week-long conference that focuses on one work by the Victorian writer Charles Dickens each year. This format allows its participants to fully prepare for an in-depth, scholarly experience that will include lectures by outstanding professionals in the field, discussions groups, and even Victorian-themed activities (yes, there will be lots of tea and even a ball).

For FMU English majors interested in increasing their knowledge of English Studies and who have experience reading nineteenth-century literature, this is an incomparable opportunity to learn from leading scholars while also experiencing the Pacific Ocean views, redwood forests, and California culture of Santa Cruz.

For more information, visit the Dickens Universe website or watch “The Dickens Project Mini Documentary” on YouTube.

Dr. England, Trip Coordinator

Dr. England (a three-time veteran of the Universe) will be accompanying selected students and preparing them for this year’s conference on Our Mutual Friend through reading and writing activities.

Application Process

To apply, send a short email to c e n g l a n d [at] f m a r i o n [dot] e d u by April 24th. Your email should briefly describe your career goals and past experience with British nineteenth-century literature. Strong candidates will be asked for an interview. All majors (including graduating seniors) are strongly encouraged to apply. 

Apply today! The application deadline is April 24th.

Students Learn About Upcoming Courses During Biannual “Pastries With the Professors”

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Every semester before registration, the English and Modern Languages faculty host “Pastries With the Professors.” The event offers English majors and minors and prospective majors and minors the opportunity to speak with their professors, look into future course offerings, and partake in delicious breakfast treats.

During this semester’s “Pastries With the Professors,” organized by Dr. Nancy Zaice and other faculty members, thirty-six students rubbed elbows with thirty-four faculty, chowed down on an assortment of doughnuts, doughnut holes, and pastries, and sipped on coffee, juice, milk, or chocolate milk.

As you can tell from the pictures, everyone had a great time. Hope to see you there next semester!

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–Post and photographs courtesy of English Department Instructor Ms. Margaret McGill Floyd