Category Archives: Regular Features

August Good News

We were really busy over the summer, writing and researching and submitting and job hunting. So we’ve got a lot of good news to share this month!

Faculty News

Prof. Michael Begnal  

  • His article “‘Bullets for Hands’: Witter Bynner, Arthur Davison Ficke, and the Spectra Poems of World War I” was published in Twentieth-Century Literature, vol. 64, no. 2 (June 2018).
  • His article “Modernist Mythologies: The Turquoise Trail Anthology and the Poets of Santa Fe” was published in Western American Literature, vol. 53, no. 2 (Summer 2018).
  • He had five poems (homages to Archie Shepp, Bill Evans, Peggy Pond Church, Leroy Carr, and Richard Realf) published in Penumbra  and another in Smithereens Literary Magazine (Ireland).
  • Additionally, he gave a presentation of poetry at the Sport Literature Association Conference on June 20, 2018, at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, titled “Baseball Poems/Baseball Images,” and was interviewed on Bangor, Maine’s AM620 WZON radio on August 8, 2018, and read some poems on the air

Prof. Brent M. Blackwell attended three conferences this year (The Benjamin v. Cohen Peace Conference at Ball State and the Mid-East Honors Association at Central Michigan), the third of which will be the National Collegiate Honors Council Annual Meeting in Boston, MA in November, where he will chair a roundtable discussion on incorporating STEM issues in honors humanities courses.  

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Allison Tourville: Telling Stories for Vulcan

Allison Tourville. Photo taken from Tourville’s profile on LinkedIn.

Allison Tourville graduated from Ball State with a BS in History and Geography in 2007, and later received her MA in History in 2011.  While Tourville was working on her MA, she worked at the Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville as the Assistant Manager of Athletic Operations. After graduating, she accepted a position as the Resource Development Coordinator of the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue, Washington.  Tourville started her current career in Seattle, Washington at Vulcan Inc. as a writer and editor.  She worked her way up to Senior Digital Media Strategist where she helps develop different kinds of social strategies and digital content campaigns in order to share the compelling story of Vulcan.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

The diversity of work I get to be involved in. We do a wide range of programs, projects and initiatives at Vulcan, [a company owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen] I’ll swing from creating storytelling campaigns around elephant conservation to launching a music festival to live-streaming a sunken ship discovery.

If things develop as you would like, what does the future hold for your career?

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The hits keep coming: English MVPs

Two months of good news means double the accomplishments for our #BSUEnglish faculty, students, and alumni! Please note the actual baseball references below.

Faculty Good News

On April 20, four English faculty were nominated as BSU Softball’s MVPs (Most Valuable Professors): Adrienne Bliss, Kathryn Ludwig, Katherine Greene, and Brianna Mauk.

Prof. Katy Didden won a Junior Faculty Creative Arts Grant to pursue research and develop work for her manuscript in progress, The Lava on Iceland. Three poems from The Lava on Iceland were accepted for publication by Tupelo Quarterly, and two additional poems were accepted by Denver Quarterly. At this year’s Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, Prof. Didden moderated and presented a paper on a panel titled “Writing Assignments for the Anthropocene.” Prof. Didden was also recognized with an Excellence in Education award from the BSU Student Government Association.

Prof. Ben Bascom was awarded an NEH/American Antiquarian Society long-term fellowship, one of the most prestigious awards for literary scholars, to conduct research on his book manuscript “Feeling Singular: Masculinity and Desire in the Early United States.” Prof. Bascom was also awarded an Aspire Junior Faculty Research Award through BSU in addition to a fellowship at Penn State’s Center for American Literary Studies First Book Institute. This past March he presented a portion of his second book project at C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists. Continue reading

Jessica Carducci: Service work, halfway around the world

Jessica Carducci graduated from BSU with a BA in English Studies in 2016. During her time here, she worked on the Broken Plate and the Digital Literature Review, and was the design coordinator for Reacting Out Loud. As an avid hockey fan, Carducci has volunteered as an editor for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She served as a secondary English teacher with Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan in the rural community of Asky rayon, Jalal-Abad Oblast. In this post, she recounts her experience with the Peace Corps and how it has impacted her life.

Why did you choose to go into the Peace Corps?

A workday selfie in a traditional Kyrgyz quilted jacket.

It sounded so interesting to me, so at least initially, it was because I’m such a curious person. It seemed like such an offhand discovery originally; I first thought about the Peace Corps because I stumbled across the blog of an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) who had been in the Ukraine. I was only looking for resources about learning and practicing the Russian language, but the more I read, the more I became enamored with the idea of traveling to a far-off country to do service work.

But in speaking with PCV’s and RPCV’s, it became about more than just curiosity and the world-traveler lifestyle. The Peace Corps places a lot of emphasis on both sustainable development and cultural exchange – both in learning about local cultures and in sharing the diversity of American culture. I wanted a place in that; I wanted to really be a part of whatever community I was in, and I wanted to see positive and permanent change happen. Continue reading

Black Panther: Professors’ Cut

Prof. Emily Rutter teaches African American literature and Prof. Pat Collier teaches film studies in the English Department. We brought them together for a conversation about Black Panther, which, just over a month after its debut, is the seventh highest-grossing film in U.S. history.

 

PC: Hi, Emily! Before we talk about the film itself, I’d like to hear your thoughts about the film as a cultural phenomenon. Black Panther is inspiring a lot of optimism from critics and journalists, who are reading its popularity as a sign (or an engine) of racial attitudes changing for the better. Do you share this optimism at all?

ER: Yes, Black Panther has generated an incredible amount of buzz, particularly in terms of the film’s “for us, by us” ethos. You could say that this film and its popularity are part of a black arts renaissance that has ushered in a stunning wave of black-directed films: Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Denzel Washington’s Fences (an adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play), Ava DuVernay’s 13th, and Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight (which won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Picture), and Black Panther Director Ryan Coogler’s own Fruitvale Station and Creed (and this is not an exhaustive list).

Historically, Hollywood is an industry that has not only been dominated by people of European descent, but has also been a key propagator of white-supremacist (and patriarchal, heteronormative, classist, ableist, what have you) ideologies. All of this to say that it’s positive both when white-dominated spaces like Hollywood are made less so, and when people of African descent are able to use the medium of film both to resist whitewashed narratives and to celebrate black pride. Thus, I hope that films like Black Panther, a high-grossing blockbuster which consistently conveys positive images of blackness, will become more common.

Pat, I’m curious as to your thoughts about the choice to represent Wakanda as a monarchy, rather than a democracy. While it was not specified, I also wondered if the implication was that this monarchy was patrilineal. In other words, if this is an Afrocentric film with anti-colonialist commitments, what are your thoughts on representing a king as the hero?

PC: Great question. Overall, I think the movie’s politics are progressive, at times even radical. I love it that racial oppression in the U.S. turns out to be, obliquely, to blame for the challenge to the Wakandan throne that drives the story. The villain Killmonger (played by the awesome Michael B. Jordan) raises the genuinely explosive question of whether it would be right for black people around the world to rise up violently. True, he’s the bad guy, but if his claim had no validity there would be nothing at stake. And the great thing about Black Panther is that, for all the glitzy CGI effects, its engagement in politics is serious. The movie ends (spoiler!) on a much more conciliatory note–Wakanda is now going to become an engine for social change through diplomacy and social programs. (Arch irony in Oakland, California being the beneficiary of foreign aid!)

But I digress. You asked about the creators’ choice to make Wakanda a monarchy, probably a patrilineal one, at that. (Not to take anything away from the female characters played by Lupita N’yongo, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright, who kick much ass.) Maybe this is one place where Black Panther can’t transcend its Superhero source material. Its otherwise sophisticated sense of political conflict and global history resolves through old Superhero tropes, including lineal politics within royal families (Hello: Star Wars!) and hand-to-hand combat between larger-than-life individuals. Individual heroism and redemptive violence still carry the day.

What’s your take on the politics of the story, Emily? Much has been written, for instance, about the image of a powerful, functional African state at the center of the story.

ER: Right, and that symbolism is significant in terms of pressuring supposedly common sense ideas about the world, both past and present. Via Wakanda, Black Panther offers another way to see and know Africa that is not polluted by Western imperialist notions of civilized vs. primitive. Wakanda has preserved its rich resources–namely, vibranium–by operating under the guise of a “third-world” nation, outsmarting the colonizers by using their own prejudices against them. Taken as a whole, the film encourages viewers to question the ways in which nations (and indeed continents) are categorized and understood.

The film also poses several related questions: What is the most appropriate way to heal the African Diasporic wounds of the past by using the technologies of the present? How does a people threatened by exploitation preserve precious resources without denying them to people in need? We could also view these questions through the lens of art. For example, in beginning and ending the film in the director’s hometown of Oakland, Ryan Coogler might have been self-reflexively considering his own role as a now famous filmmaker. In other words, how will he resist becoming a stooge for, in this case, Disney, while also using his talents and platform to empower those caught in the crosshairs of various forms of structural oppression and violence?

Pat, what kinds of questions does the film raise for you regarding the role that these blockbuster films funded by corporate giants like Disney might play in resisting neo-colonial ways of knowing? Or, if that is too leading (ha ha), what are the other aspects of this film that intrigue you?

PC: Well, your question brings me back to the limits of the genre. I already mentioned that the superhero genre more or less stipulates that the conflict will be resolved by a strong individual through an act of redemptive violence. This is a very capitalist, western, individualist trope: it’s Shane taking down the cattle barons and Gary Cooper cleaning up Hadleyville. It’s also impossible for a film like Black Panther not to be a bit semi-colonial in its own right–serving up exoticized images of distant lands which the viewer gets to enjoy from the safe, commanding view of a (reclining!) theater seat. The power of Hollywood and of Disney to bring you these images is a powerful undercurrent that goes more or less unchallenged, don’t you think?

ER: Yes, that’s true. And, let me also say that for all my of my skepticism about Hollywood and Disney I recognize the importance of fantasies, especially in the form of utopic visions of Africa. In my African American literature class, we are gearing up for a unit about literary representations of Africa, so I’m excited to see the ways in which Black Panther informs our discussions. What about you, Pat? Do you plan to teach this film, or reference it in your film studies courses?

PC: You’re so right about fantasies. Film class for me is about recognizing what kinds of fantasies we’re being offered and how they work. And, sometimes, simply recognizing that they are fantasies. (I’m thinking about rom-coms and how they re-enforce middle-class and heteronormative values, and re-iterate the cultural narrative that pairing off solves all your problems). But, yes, I do think Black Panther would be a great film to teach, precisely because I want students to discern when film fantasies are potentially transformative, or liberating, or productively critical, and when they are re-enforcing harmful beliefs or simply promoting disengagement.

Any final thoughts, Emily?

ER: #wakandaforever

February Good News: Publications and Jobs and Plays, Oh My!

Not only was February a month full of love; it was also a month full of awesome accomplishments for our #BSUEnglish faculty, students, and alumni!

Faculty News

Professor Guilherme D. Garcia’s paper “Can you get stress without feet?” (joint work with Heather Goad) was accepted for presentation at the 36th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL), held at UCLA this April.

Prof. Kathryn S. Gardiner’s feature-length screenplay “The Regiment” won an Award of Excellence in the 2018 Broadcast Education Association’s Faculty Screenwriting Competition.

Prof. Andrea Wolfe’s round table presentation,“Storytelling across the Domestic Student/International Student Divide” (with Lizz Alezetes and Deborah McMillan), will be conducted at Indiana Campus Compact Service Engagement Summit, in Indianapolis on February 27.

Prof. Peter Davis’s poem “Touching Stuff” was recently published in The Believer. His fourth book of poems, Band Names and Other Poems, is now available from Bloof Books.  He also released a new Short Hand record from his music project. This one happens to be a rap record! Prof. Davis is also judging the 2018 Lucy Munro Brooker Prize for the University of Indianapolis undergraduate poetry prize.

Prof. Angela Jackson-Brown‘s musical Dear Bobby, with music written by Prof. Davis, will have six performances at the Basile IndyFringe Theatre beginning on March 22.

Prof. Emily Rutter’s book Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line (University of Mississippi Press, May 15, 2018) is now available for pre-order.

Prof. Cathy Day will be teaching this summer at the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, NY. For one week, she’ll lead a series of master classes on the changing business of writing.

Prof. Jennifer Grouling published “Teaching Writing Teachers: An Assignment in Mapping Writing Program Values” in Prompt: A Journal of Academic Writing Assignments.

Prof. Rory Lee published “Surveying the Available Modes of Persuasion” in Designing and Implementing Multimodal Curricula and Programs.

On February 22, 2018, Prof. Victoria Barrett published an op-ed with the Washington Post entitled, “Why I will never carry a gun in my classroom”.

Prof. Michael Begnal presented a paper at The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900 on the contemporary Irish poet Maurice Scully, titled “Immanence and Ecopoetics in the Poetry of Maurice Scully.”

Retired Prof. Bob Habich contributed an invited post about Ralph Waldo Emerson to OUPblog, conducted by Oxford University Press: “Emerson’s Canonization and the Perils of Sainthood“appeared on May 25, Emerson’s birthday. In October he led a discussion of Henry David Thoreau for the Association of Lifelong Learners.  And in January, Broadview Press published Bob’s edition of the Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Prof. Lynne Stallings was awarded a VBC Fellowship for Fall, 2018, for a project titled Promoting Assessment Literacy. This project was inspired by one of the recommendations by the 2016 Indiana ISTEP panel, and the subsequent legislation (House Education Act 1003) that was passed in 2017, calling for state funds to create assessment literacy programs that promote “a better understanding of the meaning behind assessment results.” Students from a wide range of disciplines will be recruited  to determine the message and language that would most effectively  ensure that Hoosiers fully understand assessment practices and their implications for Indiana students, schools, and communities.

Prof. Stallings also recently received the Mayor James P. Carey Community Service Award in recognition of distinction in community leadership. The award was presented by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dream Team. Her co-honorees were her husband, Daniel Stallings, Yvonne Thompson, and Susan Fisher.

Student News

Cecelia Westbrook‘s non-fiction essay, “All Babies Are Ugly, Except for Me (Just Ask My Uncle)”, has been accepted for publication by the journal Tributaries.

Alumni News

Brandon Buechley, a 2015 Creative Writing graduate, accepted a job at DK Publishing in Indianapolis. He serves as an editorial assistant for Alpha Books.

Daniel Brount (BA English 2016) recently secured a position in publishing. He’ll be a Production/Editorial Assistant at Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.

Nikole Darnell, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in Creative Writing, had her short story “When Tomorrow Comes” published in Potluck Magazine. The story was originally written for her Honors Thesis at BSU, directed by Joyce Huff.

Welcome Prof. Garcia

Guilherme D. Garcia began teaching linguistics at BSU in January. A native of Brazil, Prof. Garcia has a PhD from McGill University in Montreal. He specializes in Phonology and Phonetics, both of which focus on the speech sounds that make up languages. Among other things, his research focuses on how speakers learn pronunciation patterns and how meter–the sequences of weak and strong syllables–contrast in different languages. Beyond linguistics and teaching, Prof. Garcia is passionate about guitars and photography. In this interview, he talks about his current research, about avoiding biases, and about his role models.

How would you describe your teaching perspective?

I think that the most important skill a student can acquire these days is critical thinking, and that’s the underlying objective of my classes. Once you learn how to filter all the information available, you can be sufficiently autonomous to build your own path in a particular field of study. Since I teach theoretical and experimental linguistics, I often emphasize that our conclusions about a particular theoretical framework should be guided by the data available—and not by our subjective biases towards a particular theory. One important question to ask when we examine linguistic data is whether a different explanation could also account for the patterns we observe. Naturally, that question should be considered outside the classroom as well.

Who are your biggest role models?

My parents taught me all those things you don’t learn at school. Most of everything else I learned from amazing professors and my wife. My PhD supervisor is certainly my academic role model.

Tell us a little about your current projects.

Right now I’m working on a couple of things. I have a paper under revision on whether or not we can generalize patterns in our language which may be inconsistent with what’s observed cross-linguistically (I’ll present this paper at the 41st annual GLOW conference, held in Budapest this year). I have another paper under way (joint work) that compares English and Portuguese, and argues that even though these languages look very similar in terms of their metrical structure, they are actually fundamentally different. I’m also working on an upcoming presentation in Chicago  where I show that a Bayesian approach to data analysis can be particularly useful in the study of Second Language Acquisition. Finally, I’m working with some researchers at McGill University on two projects: one that investigates how prosodic factors can affect how we interpret pronouns in Italian, and one that examines how patterns of vowel deletion in Quebec French can help us better understand the underlying metrical pattern(s) in the language. This project was recently presented at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, held in Salt Lake City this past January.

How did you decide on the work you are focusing on now?

I’m curious to see how we can acquire and generalize subtle aspects of our native (or second) language. By “subtle,” I mean facts about language that we don’t really know exist in speakers’ grammars, but which emerge in carefully designed experiments. This can help us better understand how powerful our language acquisition mechanism is at learning and generalizing linguistic patterns. In the context of second language acquisition, this can help us identify with precision underlying differences between native speakers and second language learners. I also really enjoy analyzing language data and assessing how accurate standard assumptions are given what we actually observe. So my research connects these two worlds: data analysis and linguistics (phonology).

New professor Elisabeth Buck on making the most of PhD studies

Elisabeth Buck received her PhD in Rhetoric and Writing from BSU in 2016. During her time here, Elisabeth worked as a graduate teaching assistant and as the Graduate Assistant Director of the Writing Program and Writing Center. She is now Assistant Professor of English and Faculty Director of the Writing & Reading Center at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. 

In this installment of Grad School Confidential, Elisabeth talks about how her experiences at Ball State readied her for the academic job market.

One of the best aspects of my job is the opportunity to mentor and advise students. Just the other day, one of my students asked me, “So… how do I go about getting a job like yours?”

Receiving a tenure-track job offer is like finding a unicorn, or catching a foul ball, or *insert other appropriate metaphor about luck/scarcity here.* There are so many super-smart, hard-working, enthusiastic people who, for a variety of reasons, may spend years applying for and never receiving such a job offer. The reality is that working full-time in academia is an increasingly tenuous pursuit, and I remind myself constantly how lucky I am to be here. If you decide then to attend graduate school, I believe strongly that you should be open to many post-grad paths: a graduate degree in English can be versatile and marketable. That said, the specific opportunities and training offered to me at Ball State absolutely prepared me to take on my role at U Mass Dartmouth, for three primary reasons:

Fantastic Faculty Mentors

If you have—or are considering—moving to attend grad school, the community you’re able to build is critically important. Graduate school can be tough on mental health. Seriously tough. It’s important that anyone considering this path do their research about this topic, and know what resources exist on campus. Even if you’re commuting locally, I cannot emphasize enough that to be successful in graduate school, you must have support.

On this note, I met Dr. Jennifer Grouling on my first day at Ball State. During my time there, she epitomized supportive—from her first role as my teaching mentor, through her supervision as my dissertation/exam chair, and, more recently, as my co-teacher and co-author. Dr. Jackie Grutsch McKinney too is one of the most well-known and well- respected scholars in writing center studies. (She’s a three-time winner of the International Writing Center Association’s Outstanding Book Award!) Both Jennifer and Jackie are incredibly encouraging mentors, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from them. Dr. Rory Lee and Dr. Mike Donnelly also helped me engage critically and meaningfully throughout my exam and dissertation process. Even English faculty outside of my area stepped in to help prepare me for the job market—from offering workshops on personal statements and CV design, to attending mock job talks and research presentations.

Teaching/Administrative Opportunities

One thing that I believe made me successful in my job search is the variety of teaching and administrative positions I was able to hold at Ball State. I served as  the Graduate Assistant Director of both the Writing Program and the Writing Center. In these roles, I explored strategies for programmatic evaluation, supervision, publicity, and assessment—all key to developing a comprehensive administrative philosophy.

Ball State also afforded me the opportunity to teach a variety of classes, including first-year English courses, a Digital Literacies class, and, as co-teacher with Dr. Grouling, a graduate level course, Teaching in English Studies. These pedagogical experiences supplemented my administrative roles, especially with regard to the opportunity to work closely with and mentor fellow graduate students.

Rigorous Research Preparation

When I was a student in Dr. Grouling’s Teaching in English Studies class, I began a research project that eventually became my first peer-reviewed publication. Have I mentioned that Jennifer is supportive? Well, she was there during every stage of this process.

I think that most current academics will tell you that it is always advantageous to emerge from grad school with at least one refereed publication, if a job in academe is the end goal. Navigating the publishing process can be hugely scary, but my coursework at Ball State—especially the Writing in the Professions course—helped me take important steps that would make my work legible within disciplinary contexts.

It was also this advanced preparation that helped me navigate how to pitch and revise my dissertation into a book, Open-Access, Multimodality, and Writing Center Studies.

In short, I am enormously thankful for my time at Ball State. The combination of highly engaged faculty, unique teaching and administrative opportunities, and an encouraging and thorough research program undoubtedly helped me make it to this point.

Editor’s Note: Elisabeth indicates that she would be happy to hear from students considering graduate school at Ball State. You can reach her at ebuck@umassd.edu.

Jolene McConnell: “Do things you’re afraid of doing.”

Jolene McConnell graduated from BSU in 2006 with her MA in TESOL and Linguistics. She is now an English Language Fellow in Albania with the US Department of State. Jolene has taught at a private language school for adults in Poland, at public schools in Korea, and on cruise ships teaching ESL. Upon her return to the US, Jolene worked for ELS Language Centers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Kansas State University before taking a leave of absence to do her fellowship.  

In her current role in Albania, Jolene is conducting workshops for English teachers throughout the country.  She conducts the Regional English Language Office Belgrade Facebook page and works with a division of the Ministry of Education in Albania.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

I am on sabbatical from my job as an ESL instructor at Kansas State University and I currently do teacher training for English teachers in Albania.  I majored in English, not only because I love how language works, but specifically because I wanted to learn more about the world.  Having a degree in English has opened so many doors for me and I have had opportunities to travel that I would never have had otherwise. English didn´t just help me with my job; it is my job.  

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Michael Prosser: A Teacher’s Odyssey

Michael H. Prosser received his BA in English with minors in Latin and speech in 1958, and his MA in English with a minor in Latin at BSU in 1959. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in Communications with a minor in English in 1964. He has taught at Ball State, the University of Virginia, and the University of Swaziland, and other schools across the world. Prosser is also a founder of the academic field of intercultural communication, and has written or edited books on topics ranging from classical and medieval rhetoric to international public discourse.

You are among Ball State’s most esteemed alumni. What are a few memories that stand out to you from your time here?

I was an undergraduate debater at BSU and president of the campus Newman Club. In 1978, BSU gave me an Outstanding Alumnus award. Several of my books are in the BSU library, as well as my MA thesis ‘’Solitude in the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne,” (under the leadership of Alfred Harding Marks), and my Ph.D. thesis “A Rhetorical Analysis of the Speeches of Adlai Stevenson in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly.”

When I was a teaching assistant at Ball State in 1958-59, I taught one quarter of American Literature and two quarters of public speaking (which included lots of vets who had fought in Korea). My supervisor was Lucille Clifton, and I had classes on Milton with Jon Loury as well as courses with Paul Royalty, Alfred Harding Marks, Joseph Sattler, and Edward Strother. The most interesting three quarter course that I took in the English Department was Shakespeare: in fall, histories; winter, the comedies; spring, the tragedies. Continue reading