Monthly Archives: September 2014

Good News, September 2014

Tuesday = Good News

In the latest installment of the “Good News” series, the Ball State English department highlights the accomplishments of our faculty and students up through the month of September.

That’s right. We have so much good news that we’re sharing it once a month rather than once a semester. In fact, we already have  a bunch of weekly good news queued up for October!

Jill Christman

  • Her essay, “The Avocado,” was featured on The Humble Essayist, a new site that celebrates and critically examines the essay form.
  • Her first e-book, Borrowed Babies, hit virtual shelves on September 4th, 2014.

Continue reading

Question Everything: a new faculty profile of Rory Lee

Rory Lee

Rory Lee

Meet Rory Lee, one of our newest assistant professors of English.

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Rory possess an unhealthy affinity for meat and cheese and spends much of his free time voraciously consuming anything related to the Green Bay Packers.  Much to his friends’ and colleagues’ chagrin (or amusement), he’s also a professional wrestling enthusiast.  Rory has two cats, Burger and Doodle. He can be found on Tumblr.

Rory earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English: Rhetoric and Composition from Florida State University. His dissertation, Now with More Modes?:  The Curricular Design and Implementation of Multimodality in Undergraduate Major Programs in Writing/Rhetoric, explores the curricular and pedagogical presence of multimodality within a select group of undergraduate major programs in writing/rhetoric.

Below, Rory maps his passions.

What are your research interests within Rhetoric and Composition?

Although I’m deeply fascinated by and interested in rhetorical theory and history, composition theory and pedagogy, and multiliteracy centers, my two primary areas of research are:

(1) the undergraduate major in writing and rhetoric

(2) digital rhetorics/new media/multimodality.

I was able to explore the intersection of both, each of which has become a hotbed of scholarly activity over the last decade, in my dissertation, Now with More Modes?:  The Curricular Design and Implementation of Multimodality in Undergraduate Major Programs in Writing/Rhetoric.

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Digest: What’s happening September 29-October 5

Welcome to the English department digest. Published on Fridays, the digest provides a comprehensive list of events for the upcoming week.

If you need to look further ahead, be sure to check out our calendar.

Week of September 29-October 5

Monday, September 29th

Excellence In Leadership presents Sheryl WuDunn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who will speak beginning at 8:00 PM in Pruis Hall.

Wednesday, October 1st

Visiting author Barbara A. Heavilin will deliver a lecture entitled “Guided and Guarded: The Unseen and Unacknowledged Presence in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Rowling’s Harry Potter,” from 4:00 to 5:30 PM in RB 361.

The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company present their production of Macbeth beginning at 7:30 PM in Pruis Hall. 

The Writers’ Community weekly meeting will be held from 8:00 to 9:30 Pm in RB 291.

Friday, October 3rd

The Writing Program Speaker series presents Matt Balk, who will present on the logistics of conducting archival research.

All faculty and students are encouraged to attend events!

Need help using our calendars? Check out this blog post for more information.

 

Want to know what happened this past week? Check out our Storify.

Have a great week!

Stories like my Own: A New Faculty Profile of Lupe Linares

Here’s a small-world story: the first time Professor Cathy Day met new faculty member Dr. Lupe Linares, she asked, “So, where are you from?”

“Oh, this little town near Gettysburg you’ve probably never heard of.”

Prof. Day said, “I lived for a few years in this tiny town called Gardners, Pennsylvania.”

There was a pause. “That’s where I’m from,” Dr. Linares said.

They consulted Google Maps and realized they’d once lived a mile from each other.

Linares received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2013. Her research interests include 20th and 21st century U.S. fiction with a focus in Chicana/o literature.

We asked Linares a few questions about her teaching and her writing projects.

How did you get interested in Chicana/o literature? 

I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing until my second year of graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Though I am Chicana and though I’d read some of the big ones (Cisneros’s House on Mango Street, Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima, and excerpts from Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/ La Frontera) early on, I didn’t realize the breadth of the field until I took a class on Chicana Literature and Theory the spring semester of my second year in graduate school.

Continue reading

Digest: What’s Happening September 22-28

Welcome to our first-ever installment of the English department digest. Published on Fridays, the digest is a list of what’s happening in Robert Bell in the week ahead.

If you need to look farther ahead, be sure to check out our calendar.

Week of September 22-28

Wednesday, September 24

Author, poet, and publisher Joyelle McSweeney visits, reads, and answers questions at 7:30 PM in Bracken 104. 

The Writers’ Community weekly meeting will be held in RB 291 from 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM.

Friday, September 26 Continue reading

Why don’t more English Majors go to the Job Fair?

 

On Wednesday, September 17, the Ball State Career Center hosted the Cardinal Job Fair at Worthen Arena. 143 employers were on campus.

Did you go? And if not, why is that?

What do employers want?

We spoke with a few English majors who said that, after taking a look at this Employee Guidebook, they decided that the Job Fair was for business and other pre-professional majors.

Notice how many employers list that they are looking for “All Majors.”

  • Ask an English major if they interpret that to mean, “We want English majors!” they’d say, “No.”
  • But ask employers if they mean, “We want English majors!,” they’d say, “Yes.”

Confusing, isn’t it?

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

One recruiter at the job fair said that his company can teach “hard skills” (the kind of thing you learn in a pre-professional major), but what they REALLY need are people with soft skills, such as teamwork, communication, and flexibility–the kind of skills English majors have in abundance.

Here’s a post from a few years back about English majors at the Job Fair.

We want your feedback

  1. Take our poll above.
  2. Take a look at the Employee GuidebookWhat do you think of those jobs? What kind of employers would you like to meet with on campus?
  3. Before the Job Fair, we promoted the event on social media, sending out daily reminders. How else can we get the word out to English majors that the Job Fair is indeed something for them?

 Please, answer these questions by commenting below.

The Visiting Writers Series presents Joyelle McSweeney on Sept. 24

The English Department’s Visiting Writers Series invites you to an evening with poet, playwright, and publisher Joyelle McSweeney on September 24th at 7:30 PM in Bracken Library 104.

Who is Joyelle McSweeney?

Poet, novelist, publisher, and critic Joyelle McSweeney explores the way that writing is impacted by and transcends genre, language, and medium.

What does she write?

While McSweeney may be best known for her award winning poetry, her books span the range of literary genres, including the novel Flet, a work of speculative fiction, which has been compared to iconic novels like 1984 and Brave New World.

McSweeney is also co-founder of Action Yes Online Quarterly, an online journal that includes diverse forms of creative writing and visual art, and Action Books, a press focused on publishing poetry and prose translations.

She is the author of seven books of poetry and prose including, most recently, Salamandrine, 8 Gothics (stories and a play), and Percussion Grenade (poems and a play).

Where does she live and teach?

McSweeney is associate professor of English and the director of creative writing at University of Notre Dame.

Meet Joyelle September 24th at 7:30 PM in Bracken Library 104. All students and faculty are encouraged to attend. 

If you plan to attend, please add the event to your calendar and tell your friends on social media.

Save the Date! Use our calendars!

Fun Fact: the English department at Ball State is as large as small college.

Lots of faculty. Lots of students.

This is great, really, except that it’s hard to know what the heck is going on sometimes.

So, we’ve created new external and internal calendars.

[Bookmark those links!]

  • If you still use a physical, paper-and-pencil calendar, that’s fine. Now, you can take a look at events and decide which ones you want to write down in your personal calendar.
  • If you use a digital calendar, such as Outlook, iCal, or Google calendar, you can manually add any of these events.
  • But if you’d like to hit a button, and boom, have an event be added to your calendar automatically, then you have that option as well.

Here is a screencast that shows you how to add events to your calendar.

Here are some links as well:

How to see your Google Calendar in Outlook

How to sync Outlook and iCal with Google Calendar.

Important: We’d love to see you.

  • If you’re a current student, please use these calendars so we can connect with you.
  • If you’re an alum or former faculty, please use these calendars and come back to an event this year.
  • If you’re a prospective student, please use these calendars to see what kinds of cool things you can attend when you join us in the English department at Ball State.

Important: Share events and experiences at #bsuenglish.

We want to know what you think. Use #bsuenglish when you attend an event, and you could win “Tweet of the Week” and a prize!

Important: No more saying, “I didn’t know about that.”

Use the calendars, people.

What it means to be a man: a new faculty profile of Silas Hansen

Silas Hansen

Silas Hansen

To begin the week, Ball State English brings you the first installment in the new faculty profile series. Be sure to check out past profiles, which include but are not limited to Prof. Susanna Benko and Prof. John King.

Meet Silas Hansen, one of our newest assistant professors of English.

Born and raised in western New York, he graduated from SUNY College at Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in English (with minors in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies) and earned his MFA in creative writing from The Ohio State University. His essays have appeared in Slate, Colorado Review, The Normal School, Puerto del Sol, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere.

Below, Silas gives us insight into his creative journey.

How did you get interested in creative nonfiction?

I have always written.

I remember writing my first “personal essay” in the first grade not long after I learned to read. I actually made up about 25-50% of it to make it more interesting. But I didn’t know you could study it, or that it could lead to a job until I was in college.

Until I took my first creative writing class the summer after my sophomore year of college, I never shared my writing with anyone–just a friend or two, and sometimes my high school English teachers if it was for an assignment. At the time I took that class, I was a Political Science major and had signed up to fulfill my fine arts general education requirement. By the end of the class, though, I had changed my major for what was at least the eighth time in two years.

I was hooked.

I enjoyed a lot of the classes I was taking, but I didn’t know I could be that excited to go to class, or to do my homework. I started out writing fiction, but I was a mediocre short story writer at best. I have never been particularly good at inventing characters and plots, so most of my stories were really thinly veiled nonfiction. The characters were always a little flat, and the plots were always a little confusing. I didn’t want my classmates to know they were really about me.

Finally, one of my professors—who knew what the problem was—told me to just try writing nonfiction. I wrote my first real, serious essay for her class—a piece of memoir about working as a dishwasher in a restaurant when I was sixteen, my unlikely friendship with one of the line cooks, and my ambivalence about leaving my small hometown behind—and everything suddenly clicked into place.

It was the first time I felt like I was really good at something, and I knew I needed to stick with it.

How did your creative journey continue into graduate school?

I applied to graduate school right out of undergrad and got into Ohio State’s MFA program.  I got there a few months after I turned twenty-three, thinking I was a big shot, and almost immediately realized just how little I knew about writing.  Thankfully, I had the next three years to study with incredible teachers.

I worked most closely with Michelle Herman—who always read my work and told me where I was holding back and when I needed to just let myself make a mess in my second draft—and Lee Martin, who taught me everything I know about structure and how to make sense of the mess when I was done. I know a lot of people who feel burned out after finishing their MFAs, or who end up realizing that writing isn’t for them.

I was lucky: I still can’t believe that they let me spend three years doing exactly what I love to do, and then gave me a degree at the end of it.

I love nonfiction because…

  1. it’s like putting together a really good but difficult puzzle without knowing what it’s supposed to look like when I’m done.  I have all of the pieces and I can see what each piece looks like on its own, but I can’t see what they look like together until I’ve tried to put it together.
  2. I love the process of trying to make sense of it all, even when I have to throw it out and start over from scratch.

How would you describe yourself as a teacher?

I think it’s important—especially in a workshop environment—for my students to feel comfortable making mistakes, asking difficult questions, and being honest about who they are and what they think.

For that reason, I try to strike a balance between an environment where we get the work done and ask important questions about the things we read and write. I want to create an environment where we can get to know one another and learn to trust each other as writers, as readers, and as people.

I also try to create a classroom environment where students feel comfortable disagreeing—with each other, and with me. My favorite part of teaching is getting to hear my students’ interpretations and opinions of the work we’ve read.  I have read most of the essays I assign numerous times—so many times that I can probably quote long sections of several of them from memory—but I always learn something new from how my students read them for the first time.

I see my role as one where I teach my students what I know—what the experts have said, what others have done, what has and hasn’t worked so far—and then ask them to think critically about whether or not that rings true for them and their work.

What are you most proud of as a teacher?

A few years ago, I went to a panel on innovative teaching practices for the creative writing workshop at the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Michael Martone, who teaches at the University of Alabama, talked about his idea of “success” for a creative writing program: whether or not students are still writing after the class is over—a year later, or maybe twenty years later.

I think there are a lot of measures of success for creative writing programs, and creative writing teachers, but that is definitely the one that means the most to me.  I love it when my students graduate, get jobs, and still write.

That makes me feel like I’ve done something right.

What are you working on right now?

I have been working on a collection of personal essays for the past few years. It started as my MFA thesis, but I cut about 70% from that draft about a year ago. Quite a bit of the manuscript is complete. I resist the temptation to call these essays done just yet, as I’m keeping an open mind about what the finished manuscript might look like. Right now, I am writing a few new essays and revising a couple of older ones.

Once I’ve finished those, I’ll go back and revise the entire manuscript to work more cohesively and to bring some of the older essays up to date.

I write primarily about questions of masculinity: what it means to be a man (particularly a white man) in different places and in different situations—my rural western New York hometown, the Midwestern city where I spent a good chunk of my young adulthood, the classrooms where I teach, the communities in which I claim citizenship—and the ways that my concept of what it means to be a man has been shaped.

Right now I am revising an essay about learning to bake bread, and I’m jotting down notes toward an essay that looks like it might be about participating in a fantasy football league for the first time, my obsession with TV shows and movies about football teams, and my passion for the Buffalo Bills—all of which is complicated by the fact that I know very little (and care even less [except for the above list]) about football.

Welcome to the English Department, Silas!

“What do you write about?”: Brian Morrison on the origin of Take 3

The faculty in the English Department belong to one of five subareas:

  1. Literature
  2. Creative Writing
  3. Rhetoric and Composition
  4. Linguistics
  5. English Education

What’s the difference between all those areas? Do you sometimes wonder what your professors are working on when they aren’t teaching?

If so, you might be interested in the Take 3 Faculty Lecture Series, a brand new lecture series directed by Brian Morrison, Assistant Professor of English.

Below, Brian answers the question, “Where did the idea for Take 3 come from?”

The Inspiration

My first day at Ball State, I must have been asked fifty times, “What do you write about?”

The fact that I felt awkward answering the question was (and is) always surprising. Primarily because it’s not a simple answer. It rarely is. Within each of the subareas of the English department, we’re forced to wonder about what others are doing. We have no access–both because we do our research primarily in private and because we lack the training to understand each other’s discipline.

As long as I’ve been employed as a teacher who writes, my work and my personal interests have been kept separate, though, of course, they’re intrinsically linked. One isn’t possible—practically—without the other. Holding academic positions requires publication. But at work–and I’m speaking to the routine of earning a paycheck–the intellectual interests of the individual are often forced to the private realm.

A gap in the intellectual process develops. I write at home. I teach (happily) at work.

Bridging The Gap

I’m trying to bridge the gap by allowing the personal to intersect with the professional. Teaching is rewarding, but so is the research and writing we do.

I’m trying to develop a means by which faculty can bring their research and writing to the forefront of their life at work.

I want conversations about our writing and research to come up as naturally as about our teaching practices.

I’m interested in what others are researching and writing. I’m curious. And that’s the thrust. That’s why I created this lecture series, which will bring together three faculty members from different areas of the department to talk about their research and writing.

I think all faculty can benefit from a public venue to share our otherwise private work, a way to have an easier answer when someone asks what we write about.

We benefit from interdisciplinary events that bring faculty from varying subareas together.

The Event

The first installment of the Take 3 Faculty Lecture Series will take place September 19th, 2014, in Robert Bell 361, from 4:30-6:00 PM.

Our faculty lecturers are:

  1. Adrienne Bliss
  2. Mary Lou Vercellotti
  3. Emily Jo Scalzo

Both faculty and students are encouraged to attend.

We hope to see you there!