Meet Jason Owens

This fall, Jason Owens became one of three new faculty members to join the English Department.  We asked him to tell us about himself and what he brings to FMU.

Q. Tell us a little about your research. In what areas do you research? What was your dissertation about? Any future plans?

Jason OwensMy research interests include Black social and political thought, the systemic, institutional, and technological forms of violence against youth in the United States, and the impact/influence of privatization/corporatization on operations, curriculum implementation, and values orientations in public schools. My dissertation focuses on social reconstruction theory in education, particularly the work of Theodore Brameld, and the theory’s radical instructive influence on the values, vision, and mission of public education in the United States. In the future, my research plans are to engage social reconstruction philosophy with different areas of youth culture. I plan to offer social reconstruction theory as a force to defend violent capitalistic onslaughts against the youth, as well as offer awareness to the contemporary crises that endanger this most vulnerable and targeted group.

Q. How might students explain your teaching style or your course? What can students expect of you in the classroom?

Students often explain my teaching style as free-flowing, passionate, and current. One of the chief components in social reconstruction is to facilitate a form or approach of problem-posing. I seek to trouble the waters, to move into, survey, examine, and reflect on uncomfortable spaces, and hopefully to achieve a measure of growth or develop successful solutions to the many critical problems that confront contemporary society. I tend to build on the foundations of critical pedagogy and experiential learning. I feel that these platforms allow a more democratic space and decenter the classroom and overt and implicit functions of hierarchy that can arrest the learning/engagement process.

Most students might say I’m light-hearted and intense, playful and serious, a little neurotic, and very human in the classroom. I expect strong engagement from students in our learning communities. I understand that students are at different places in their academic journeys, but I feel motivation, enthusiasm, and curiosity are vital to their successful and active participation and growth, and these qualities often will compensate for other more measurable shortcomings or issues in process.

Q. What texts have been most influential in your teaching? What are you currently reading?

The authors who have been most influential to my teaching and research have been Theodore Brameld, Henry Giroux, H. Svi Shapiro, Charles W. Mills, Stanley Aronowitz, Howard Zinn, James Baldwin, Peter Berger, Maxine Greene, bell hooks, Zygmunt Bauman, Noam Chomsky, and Cornel West. There are many others, but these scholars have contributed so much to my critical approach and outlook on the power and purpose of education and the value and importance of democracy.  I am currently reading and re-reading several articles by Henry Giroux and a collection of short stories and essays by Charles W. Chesnutt.

Q. What do you do for fun?

I enjoy spending time with family. I love spending time in South Carolina’s low country. I am a casual fan of certain sports, but I am quite passionate when watching basketball. I enjoy all aspects of the science and poetry of the game of basketball, particularly the high school level. I enjoy trying new recipes and experiencing different restaurants. I can be a bit of a homebody. Sometimes there is nothing better than reading a good book and taking a long nap on a Saturday afternoon. I enjoy many different genres of music. I am really into soul and jazz from the 1960s and 1970s. I also tend to enjoy political dramas and documentary films on politics, social issues, and popular culture.

Q. What were you like as a college student?

It’s kind of a blur now. I must be getting old.  I will say that seeing the Francis Marion students does often take me back to those bygone days as an undergraduate. I think this is one of the greatest rewards that comes from working with and sharing space with mostly traditional students primarily from South Carolina. I do recognize so much of my younger days and experiences as a native South Carolinian in the lives and passions of the students at FMU. I feel truly renewed and invigorated from their youth and energy.

Meet Dr. Jason Marley

This fall, Jason Marley became one of three new faculty members to join the English Department.  We asked him to tell us about himself and what he brings to FMU.

Q: Tell us a little about your research. In what areas do you research? What was your dissertation about? Do you have any ongoing projects? Any future plans?

My research focuMarley 1ses mostly on linguistic and narrative experimentation in 20th century global Anglophone fiction. I’m currently working on a project on speech in the postcolonial novel that explores questions of dialect, slang, accents, and vernacular language. Specifically, I focus on writers such as G.V. Desani and Sam Selvon, who experiment with the variability of national and local languages. I’m interested in the ways these texts enact resistance through their experimental—and often extremely antagonistic—representations of speech and language.

I also do some work on Modernism. My two most recent publications are on Jean Rhys and Felipe Alfau—writers who, I would argue, seldom get enough critical attention.

Q: What texts have been most influential in your teaching?

More so than that of anyone else, the work of Jean Rhys has been enormously important to me—particularly Good Morning, Midnight and Voyage in the Dark. Rhys’s early work is often read solely in the context of British Modernism, but themes of racial oppression and the trauma of dislocation lurk below the surface of the text. Her work opened a lot of avenues of exploration for me; I started to explore more Caribbean literature as a result.

Rhys is also incredibly fun to teach. Students don’t often find her protagonists very sympathetic because they are, in most cases, bitter, depressed, and frequently drunk. I think that this initial frustration and annoyance is fascinating to talk about, especially since her protagonists’ anger hides a very long history of abuse and oppression.

Q: What are you currently reading?

At some point over the next few semesters, I plan on teaching a Caribbean literature course, so I’ve recently been rereading C.L.R. James’s Minty Alley, which focuses on a middle class suburbanite who essentially goes “slumming” in an impoverished neighborhood in Trinidad. What I find intriguing about James’s novel is its use of limited perspective. As readers, we see the slum solely through the narrator’s eyes; there are no flashbacks, no cutaways—and the only thing we really know about the alley is the stories the inhabitants tell him which, of course, may or may not be true. Essentially, without explicitly stating it, James suggests the narrator can never truly immerse himself in the world of Minty Alley; he is an observer, but can never grasp the tragedy of poverty that surrounds him.

Q: In additional to World Literature courses, what are some other courses you’d like to teach at FMU?

I’m very interested in narrative structure and, at some point, I’d like to teach an interdisciplinary literature course analyzing narrative in video games. There’s been a lot written on electronic and hypertextual literature, but very little actual critical analysis of video games. For example, I haven’t heard nearly enough discussion about the recent focus on minimalism in console games. If you look at something like Journey, a game that lacks dialogue and is meant to be played in one sitting, there’s a level of immersion there that, to me, is fascinating, given how short the game actually is. Similarly, FROM software’s recent titles (Dark Souls, Bloodborne, etc) provide almost no narrative exposition whatsoever. It’s a phenomenon far different than the recent trend in television dramas like Orange is the New Black or The Walking Dead that build their narrative arc on backstory. I think it’s a mistake to view video games in a vacuum apart from other forms of art and entertainment, so it’d be refreshing to turn a critical eye to the genre in the context of broader culture.

Elementary Ed. Major Discusses Her Minor in English

FMU student Grace L. shares why minoring in English would help her as an Elementary Education major. She wrote this post as part of her work in English 411: The Rhetoric of New Media and under the guidance of Dr. Amy Rubens.

Before arriving here at FMU, I always thought of writing as my best ability. It was my hobby as a kid, and it followed me throughout my life. When I attended orientation, my name tag had Political Science on it, but I knew it just wasn’t for me.

After researching our English department’s website, I came across the Professional Writing track that I could take as an English major. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect when I chose it. I assumed it would consist of me studying to write novels and things of that nature. But in reality, it was the total opposite, and I have looked at the world of writing differently ever since.

In my opinion, the day I began my English 318 course was the day I realized that I would love what I do. My professor was Dr. Hanson, a great teacher and mentor who still teaches me today. Dr. Hanson’s stories about different jobs and projects she completed as a professional writer was intriguing. But her words were influential upon me because the world of professional writing was foreign to me.

While in English 318, we worked on a number of individual technical documents, such as a set of instructions that helped the reader to complete a task. However, the most challenging yet most rewarding document I helped to create was the manual for “The Wristblower 5000.”

The creation of this document taught me how to:

  • act as a leader
  • perform as a professional
  • play the role of a team player
  • work well under pressure
  • communicate with others.

This document was created along with three other staff members: Nkili, Wade and Andrea. Although the project wasn’t for a real company, we performed that way. In the process, I developed good relationships with good people. Not only did I get to do what I love, but I also got to meet remarkable colleagues who will forever be a part of my network.

Even though I am past my English 318 days, I am sure there will be someone else who will enter FMU and experience what I did. They will be unsure of what they want their career to be. If they so happen to choose professional writing, I don’t think they will be disappointed.

FMU, in my opinion, has the best person for the job when it comes to directing how the program is run. Dr. Hanson’s hands on approach in English 318 was what helped me see what a day in the life of a professional writer could be like. Honestly, I love it!

In my career, I will:

  • meet new people
  • work with a diverse staff
  • communicate with people near and far.

So yes. I chose my career in my sophomore year of college, and I’m sticking with it. My advice to anyone on the fence about choosing their career would be to pay attention to what interests you the most when you are in class.

–FMU student and English minor Grace L.

Pastries with the Profs Event Mar. 23

It’s back! Our biannual “Pastries with the Professors” event.

Are you an English major or minor? Are you considering a major or minor in English?

Nosh on pastries and juice.  Meet the Professors. Get information on classes offered by the English Department next semester. Learn about  the programs of study you can pursue: Liberal Arts, English Education, and Professional Writing.

Monday, March 23, 2015
9:00 am – 11:00 am
Founders Hall 105 (Faculty Lounge)

FMU to Host a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

FMU will host a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on March 11 from 12-5 PM in the Rogers Library. The event is part of FMU’s “G-Week” or “Gender Week,” which is aimed at getting the campus thinking (and talking) productively about gender and sexuality–in all their expressions.

Wikipedia Logo

The goal of the edit-a-thon is to increase the presence and participation of women and GLBTQ on Wikipedia, one of the world’s most visited websites.

Attendees will write, edit, index, and/or add references to Wikipedia articles about issues associated with women and GLBTQ, especially those related to South Carolina and racial and ethnic minorities.

The edit-a-thon is open the FMU community; no prior Wikipedia writing or editing experience is necessary to participate. However, attendees must register for the event and get a Wikipedia account in advance.

Wikipedia’s lack of diversity is well-documented. Women make up only 8-16% of Wikipedia contributors to the site according to various estimates. Some have argued that this gender gap creates a coverage gap on the site: entries tend to focus on men or stereotypically masculine topics. Wikipedia’s race- and sexuality-gaps are even more pronounced than its gender gap.

Wikipedia’s gender gap is improving. A recent study has shown that the English-language Wikipedia has roughly the same number of entries about women as it does about men. The entries about women, though, tend to focus more on their family, children (or lack thereof), and relationship status.

The FMU edit-a-thon is part of a larger, international effort that Wikipedia itself supports. Subjects on the site should be represented accurately, objectively, and evenly. As professors Sarah Adams (Yale) and Hannah Brückner (NYU of Abu Dhabi) explain, given the sheer volume of traffic to the site, Wikipedia is perhaps the “most important reference tool and information clearinghouse” in the world. Moreover, Adams and Brückner point out that “[Wikipedia] is widely used in American and other countries’ secondary schools and universities. It is an important go-to site for many students who are trying to learn about topics that are new to them.”

FMU English Studies professors are well aware that students of all ages consult Wikipedia when completing research projects. Composition classes like English 200 often ask students to compose a research-based, argumentative essay. During these assignments, professors help students evaluate the objectivity and credibility of sources. Wikipedia often does not qualify as an appropriate source for many types of college-level academic writing, including English 200 essays. However, many professors teaching college composition endorse consulting Wikipedia during the initial research stage. During this part of the process, the researcher seeks a broad overview of his subject as well as keywords that relate to it. She then uses this information to conduct more targeted, informed research using library-based resources, such as peer-reviewed journal articles and books.

Ultimately, increasing the presence and participation of women and GLBTQ on Wikipedia will create a more objective, complete resource that is popular the world over. Adams and Brückner say it best: “Knowledge is power, as the adage has it, and a well-informed citizenry is the basis of a vibrant economy and strong democracy.”

If you’re in the FMU community and have questions about the event, email co-organizers Dr. Mica Hilson and Dr. Amy Rubens of FMU English Studies or public services librarian Ms. Tammy Ivins, MSLS.

Note: The organizers are indebted to the pioneering work of scholar and prolific Wikipedian Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz. Dr. Wadewitz passed away following a rock climbing accident last year. Learn more about Dr. Wadewtiz and her work with Wikipedia, especially on college campuses.


Career Information Session for Majors, Minors, and Collaterals

“So what are you going to do with that?”

You might hear that question from family and friends quite often if you are pursuing some type of certification in English studies.

Actually, career options are boundless for students who are earning a major, minor, or collateral in one of the department’s programs, including Liberal Arts, Professional Writing, Secondary English Education, Creative Writing, and Writing and Language. 

Learn more at an upcoming career information session on February 26, 2015 from 3:30-4:30 PM in Founders Hall 111-A.

Pastries with the Profs Recap

This post was written by Dr. Veenstra, Assistant Director of Composition.

On Monday, October 20, the English Department hosted Pastries with Professors, a regular event that brings together students and professors with the lure of delicious goodies and information about English courses offered next semester.

Dr. Kellye Corcoran shows off the course schedule she handed out to students throughout the morning.

Dr. Kellye Corcoran shows off the course schedule she handed out to students throughout the morning while English Major Monica Gibbs (background) grabs some juice and handouts. 

This semester’s gathering had a strong turnout, with over 35 faculty and 50 students in attendance.  Among the students were those with majors or minors in English, Education, and Professional Writing.  These students met professors who will teach specific classes in the spring. For example, Dr. Kellye Corcoran explained to students her ENG 328 class, which promises a “sassy” take on Neoclassical British Literature and will include film clips that paint vivid portraits of life in the 18th century.  Other students got guidance about how to structure the courses they’ll need to take over the next few years.  There were also several non-English majors who stopped by to get a copy of the Schedule of Courses for Spring 2015 while snacking on some sweetness.  A few professors encouraged their whole classes to visit, and many of the students in Dr. Linda Jacobs’ Shakespeare class did so. 

Dr. Lynn Hanson, Director of the Professional Writing Program, chats with Nkili Gause, while Dr. Linda Jacobs shares a laugh with students.

Dr. Lynn Hanson, Director of the Professional Writing Program, chats with Nkili Gause, while Dr. Linda Jacobs shares a laugh with students.

Niki Gause, a sociology major with collaterals in professional writing and psychology, talked with several professors about courses and bragged about her successes with the professional writing program.  As a student employee who works with both the Orientation Office and Campus Police, she has learned that, in her words, “communication is key” to success in the working world.  People don’t realize how important good speaking and writing are, she says, and she explained how she has benefitted from her training in professional writing.  By crafting an informative and purpose-driven memo about a discrepancy in her paycheck (she had worked 12 hours but only got paid for four), she got to the root of the problem: one of her timecards had been lost.  She was pleased to be able to tell this success story of how her writing helped solve a problem and gave her a clear reward: more money.  In contrast, she has noticed how unprofessional communication can be confusing and frustrating.  Since she frequently interacts with prospective and new students as well as their parents, she has seen badly worded emails that read more like texting shorthand than formal messages.    

Another attendee was Nisheeka Simmons, a Writing Center tutor who brought an ENG 111 student she is working with in the Write on Target program.  Although he is a business major, Julian grabbed a donut and a schedule, taking some time to plan out his Spring semester, along with a few of his teammates from the soccer team. 

Elementary Education major Rachel Keefe grabs some juice while English Education majors Jennifer Coker and Chandler Bundy dig into some pastries.

Elementary Education major Rachel Keefe grabs some juice while English Education majors Jennifer Coker and Chandler Bundy dig into some pastries.

Maybe it was all the sugar and coffee, or maybe the combination of so many great personalities, but the room was full of energy and smiles.  For both professors and students, it was a great opportunity to connect with each other outside the classroom.