Author Archives: mattschmalzer

Bethany Stayer Recommends "Supernatural"

In this post, English MA student Bethany Stayer recommends something a little off the beaten path as far as “reads” go. She recommends spending cold winter nights watching the television series, Supernatural.

Why should we watch this, Bethany?

If you haven’t already delved into the cultural phenomenon that is Supernatural, the seemingly endless summer hours offer you the perfect chance. Supernatural follows the adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who travel the country hunting demons, spooks, and anything that goes “bump” in the night (or any other time of day really). A perfect mix of horror, humor, supernatural-season-and intertextual elements that draw on myths, folktales, and superstitions from around the world, Supernatural will have you hitting “Keep Watching” again and again. There really is something for everyone here.

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Billi MacTighe Recommends "Bad Feminist" By Roxane Gay

English MA student Billi MacTighe recommends Roxane Gay’s nonfiction collection, Bad Feminist.

Why should we read this, Billi?

“I resisted feminism in my late teens and my twenties because I worried that feminism wouldn’t allow me to be the mess of a woman I knew myself to be” Roxane Gay, “Introduction; Feminism (n.): Plural”.

Roxane Gay’s recent book, Bad Feminist—a collection of essayscontains a sassy vigor reminiscent of grade-school war-stories told in ten-year retrospect; just enough time has passed to make the nostalgia wane into humor, but all of the details are still there, still potent. But the book is more than recollections and reflections, it’s a commentary on Feminism and Feminists, and, as Gay so eloquently puts it, the idea of an “Essential Feminismone true feminism to dominate all of womankind” (and the lack of existence of such an all-encompassing feminist community). Gay gives an insider’s view of what it means to be an outsider. As we follow the catalog of her experiences- tackling being an upper-middle class black woman in academia- we take a journey through cultural shifts and pop culture highlights (or low-lights, depending on where you think Chris Brown and Robin Thicke fall on the musical spectrum).

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Jeremy M. Carnes

Jeremy M. Carnes is a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Ball State. He will be starting his dissertation in the fall, where he plans to research early 20th Century American imperialism in print culture artifacts, including modernist little magazines and periodicals as well as early comic strips and comic books.

Jeremy Carnes (GSC)

I remember the precise moment that I decided I wanted to go to graduate school. I was a junior at Ball State. I had decided that I wanted to learn more about American Modernism, so I had periodic meetings with Dr. Deborah Mix where we discussed some novels and poems one-on-one. During one meeting, we were discussing Willa Cather’s novel, A Lost Lady, and some of the defining features of American Modernism and modernity when I realized that I could have talked with Dr. Mix about this era of American history and literature for hours (in fact, over the years, we did talk about this stuff over many hours). As I finished my undergraduate degree at Ball State, I saw the time and care offered to me by Dr. Mix and, slightly later, Dr. Patrick Collier. These two professors especially showed me what it means to pour time and effort into students and research. The time Drs. Mix and Collier spent with me and my work over the years spurred me into graduate school all the more.

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Robert Young Recommends "Timequake" and "Hocus Pocus" by Kurt Vonnegut

Welcome to Summer Reads!

In this segment Ball State English brings you a selection of recommended reads to get you through the long Summer Break.

In this post, English MA student Robert Young recomends two lesser known books, Timequake and Hocus Pocus, by fellow Hoosier Kurt Vonnegut

Why should we read these, Robert?

A younger version of me fell in love with Vonnegut shortly after reading Slaughterhouse Five in high school. That younger version of me proceeded to completely devour as many of his books as possible. I read The Sirens of Titan, Mother Night, Cat’s Cradle, and even Slapstick (which is not a very good book, by the way). It was a furious summer of reading. Two of the books I devoured that summer that I’d like to highlight here were Hocus Pocus and Timequake. They’re the last two novels he ever wrote, and they might be two of my favorites, and yet I rarely hear people talk about them.

Both of these novels bear the trademark Vonnegut style of frenetic, non-chronological storytelling. I’ve always enjoyed how Vonnegut will spell out the endings of his books early on, and yet still find ways to keep you interested (“It ends like this: ‘Poo-tee-weet?’”). Hocus Pocus and Timequake are no different.Kurt_Vonnegut_1972

Vonnegut has his satire sights set firmly upon the Vietnam War in Hocus Pocus, but the book also has things to say about the majority of American life. Calling it a novel might be a bit of a stretch, as the book is built entirely out of short, mostly paragraph or shorter chunks of text. This is due to the fact that Vonnegut wrote the entire book on a series of scraps of paper (letters, paper bags, etc.), and the novel is presented in this way. This gives the novel a kind of quickness to it. It’s a fast read, and it seems all over the place, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. The structure is about the madness of thought, and it’s something that Vonnegut manages to control.

Vonnegut’s always danced on that line between science fiction and traditional literary fiction. Hocus Pocus, however, has little to no sci-fi elements, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of satire here. In fact, this is the one I remember when I think of his most biting satire. He’s got things to say about everything from the military and war to class, being a teacher, and just America in general. Due to the structure of the book being quite disparate, it’s hard to latch onto a concrete plot, but the novel succeeds in filling in the gaps with Vonnegut’s humor and strong voice, which adds to the character.

There’s always an ever present element of autobiography in Vonnegut’s work. It doesn’t take much to notice, but none of his books have more of this aspect than his final novel Timequake. Marketed as a novel, this book really can’t be called that. Or can it? The book goes back and forth between nostalgically reminiscing about various events in Vonnegut’s life and ruminating on a novel he struggled to write called Timequake, wherein the whole world of 2001 is sent back in time to 1991 to relive the entire decade. People are forced to make the exact same choices that they did previously, relive the entire stretch of time, aware, and unable to change. People are forced to relive miserable car crashes and watch their loved ones die all over again. The book digs deep into themes of sadness, depression, and how people cope and move on. It’s not exactly a happy read by the way, but there’s a bittersweet quality to it.

As stated previously, Timequake waxes back and forth between this other novel and what essentially amounts to creative non-fiction—Vonnegut writing of his own life, inserting himself into the novel. The book is split into chapters, but the chapters themselves are very arbitrary, as a chapter break will rarely end a train of thought or mark the end of a scene. Vonnegut’s trademark cynicism is present, but Timequake always struck me as being deep down actually quite sincere. There’s a lot of emotion in the book, especially in the sections where he talks about his sister and brother, and this one more than any of his other books really stuck with me as being quite emotional.

If you’re someone who was a fan of Vonnegut in the past but never tried out his later novels, give them a read; both of these novels feel profoundly different from his earlier work. Alternatively, if you’re someone looking for a few additions to your summer reading list, give them a read! They won’t disappoint. Or maybe they will. Nobody’s perfect.

Emily Jo Scalzo Recommends "Transmetropolitan" by Warren Ellis

In this segment Ball State English brings you a selection of “Recommended Reads” to get you through the long Summer Break.

In this post, assistant professor Emily Jo Scalzo recommends a wild and insanely fun ride perfect for the summer, the graphic novel series Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis.

Why should we read this, Emily?

Some years ago, a graphic novel series, Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis, was recommended to me by transmetroan online friend from the Bahamas (who likes to cosplay the main character). The ten volume series made it into my collection, and has been toted thousands of miles through my last five or so moves. I reread it about once a year and continually find new aspects to appreciate. References to the Vietnam era, major works of literature and film, religion, politics, and our culture as a whole can be seen throughout. Straddling the genres of sci-fi, political thriller, and dystopia, this series toys with our hopes, dreams, fears, and nightmares, proposing a future both fantastic and terrible.

Transmetropolitan revolves around the antics of a very angry journalist named Spider Jerusalem, who would much prefer to be holed up in a mountain cabin with a stock of ammo. The fine print in a book deal, however, has brought him back to what passes for civilization. In Spider’s futuristic world, the City spans much of the East Coast. Humanity has developed fantastic and wonderful advances, as well as, of course, the horrible ones. The humans of Spider’s future have brought back extinct species. They can clone and mold the mind of humans. People who were cryogenically frozen at death with hopes of being reanimated in the future have found their dreams realized. With a protein, the problem of hunger has been solved. Humans can take animal form for a day, and can even permanently alter their genetic code to match an alien species.

And yet, humanity has failed to combat poverty and the foibles of human nature. Slums still exist, ravaged by terrible diseases that are entirely treatable. Reservations have been formed to recreate doomed societies for the viewing pleasure of the populace. The cryo-resurrected Revivals are ridiculed and persecuted for their culture shock. Those adopting alien DNA are dubbed “Transients,” subject to segregation and prejudice. Even though this future society has an abundance of wealth, has solved the energy problem, and has a host of technological and biological wonders, humanity cannot escape itself, especially when it comes to the political landscape.

This is where the Ahabesque anger of Spider comes into play: just as he is forced out of his hermit lifestyle, his America is gearing up for a Presidential election between the incumbent Beast and the challenging Smiler, which promises to sink to depravities difficult to imagine. Or perhaps not so difficult—it is, after all, an election year. Despite his best efforts, Spider is drawn into the election personally, in part due to his previous journalistic endeavors against the Beast, but also because of his investigative findings of this election, leaving him angry, disillusioned, and not afraid to use his stomping boots to make an impression. Or his favorite weapon, the illegal Bowel Disruptor set on prolapse.

As we get closer to November and become more and more fatigued by the election, many of us can perhaps find solace in the shenanigans of Spider Jerusalem. I know I will. I have my own copies at home, but Bracken library also has Transmetropolitan, so feel free to head on over there and check it out, along with the rest of the graphic novel section.

Tiffany Sedberry Reiger

Tiffany graduated from Ball State with a degree in secondary education in 2008, from Purdue with a M.S.Ed. in 2013, and with a PhD from Purdue in 2016. She is currently focusing on writing and raising her newborn, Ezra.

For some people, college is the end of their academic career. For me, finishing my undergraduate degree at Ball State was the first of three degrees I would need to pursue my dream of becoming a professor of education. I enrolled in a master’s program in Literacy and Language Education at Purdue University in fall 2011 and in their doctoral program in fall 2013. I just graduated with my PhD this month, May 2016. While I have since decided not to pursue a job as a professor (mainly due to personal conflicts with my husband’s job and now having a newborn at home), I believe my time as a graduate student taught me very valuable things regarding higher education. A few things for people who are considering it:Sedberyy-Reiger

  • Graduate school will (and I believe should) consume you. Give it your all! Throw yourself in and experience all you can. But experience things that you enjoy or you will be miserable. I taught undergrad courses, researched for professors and collected data, supervised student teachers, made connections with local administrators and teachers, and presented at national conferences. Luckily for me, the majority of my experiences were rewarding.
  • Read and write all that you can. You have ample time to just focus! It’s a great gift. Read and write what you need to, sure. But also, read and write what you enjoy. A lot of people talk about how draining and terrible the dissertation process is. I loved it! I was passionate about my dissertation and loved reading and writing for it.
  • It is not an exaggeration to say that a mentor can make or break you. If any networking was important to success in graduate school, it was relationships cultivated with faculty. If the advisor assigned to you isn’t a good fit, branch out! Meet other professors and work with them or cultivate a mentor/mentee relationship over coffee. You need people in your corner who understand what you’re going through and understand the system.
  • The hardest thing about recommending graduate school is that most programs are preparing you to go back into academia as a professor. If you want to do that, great! But understand that some disciplines have a failing job market and there just are not enough jobs out there. If your program isn’t prepared or doesn’t prioritize preparing you for a job outside the academy, be proactive about it. During my PhD program, when I knew I wasn’t going on the job market, I made sure to acquire job experience that would translate elsewhere. I pursued jobs outside of my discipline and now have skills and experience that I would not have had otherwise. The opportunities exist!

Don’t go to graduate school just for the sake of going to graduate school. Be sure to have a specific goal in mind and a back up, just in case the first doesn’t work out. Also, I believe graduate school should be beneficial in several ways. I mentioned the academic and employment aspects earlier, but graduate school was also financially worthwhile for me. I didn’t pay for my master’s program or my doctoral program. I was paid to work for the university and received tuition remission. Several semesters I actually made what I was making teaching middle school.  Even though my goal changed, graduate school was a rewarding and profitable overall experience for me.

Consider carefully. Be passionate. Surround yourself with good people. Think long-term.