Tag Archives: emily rutter

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

BSU Grad School Opportunities

Hayat Bedaiwi received her BA and MA in English Literature from King Saud University in 2007 and 2012, respectively. She is currently a third year PhD #bsuenglish student who aspires to specialize in Ethnic American Literature with a major focus on Arab American Literature. Here’s more info about our graduate programs. 

hayat
When I first started my graduate studies at Ball State University, I took great courses that helped me become the scholar I am today. There are two experiences that come to my mind when I think of the courses that I have taken so far in graduate school. I turned papers I had written for two courses into conference papers. One paper was for a 657-postcolonial studies class, where I was blessed with the help and support of a great professor, Dr. Molly Ferguson. In that course, we read different postcolonial texts in the light of trauma theory. I was anxious when the course first started, but as we read and had different discussions every week, I knew what I wanted to write about for the seminar paper in that class. I wrote about Women at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi concerning the ideas of silence and bearing witness to the many traumas that filled the main character’s life.

Coincidentally, Practical Criticism Midwest was announced to take place in February that year, and I decided to submit my seminar paper for this course. I polished it to become a conference paper by revising it with Dr. Ferguson and making some visits to the Writing Center. My paper was one of the first papers to get accepted, and I had the opportunity of presenting this paper and getting feedback from different academic voices attending the conference.

I’m also presenting another paper at PCM 2017 this year which is a seminar paper for an Ethnic American Literature class entitled “Understanding the ‘Other’ in Naomi Shihab Nye’s You & Yours.” This course has helped me become more confident in my own academic voice. Dr. Emily Rutter’s approach to teaching this class was a very fascinating one. We were introduced to theories, texts and cultural material that helped us understand the texts we were reading for the class. As a class, we couldn’t stop talking about all the texts that we were reading, and all the new things we discovered everyday led us to write some interesting strong papers, which we shared together at the end of the semester. I was very hesitant to write about poetry, but Dr. Rutter helped me improve my writing about poetry and become a more confident scholar in Ethnic Studies.

My other paper was the fruitful product of my ENG 693 “Writing in the Profession” course, where I learned different ways of maintaining and creating my professional identity by revising my CV and exploring different ways of writing cover letters. Dr. Deborah Mix offered many great opportunities and great venues for us to learn the different ways of writing in our profession. We learned how to look for conferences and participate in them, how to find the journal that is of interest, how to become successful in submitting and publishing an article in that journal, and how to apply for a grant, from writing the budget narrative to crafting a proposal in a very professional way that would make us succeed in the application process.

I am the recipient of the 2016 Francis Mayhew Rippy Scholarship. I used the knowledge I learned in class about grant writing and took the opportunity to apply to this grant that was offered by the English Department. I also applied to attend a conference in New York as part of a panel with another colleague, and we both got accepted. Dr. Mix supported us and pushed us to do our best in order to become successful in all our assignments in that course, and we would have never gotten anywhere without her guidance and belief in our success.

My experience in graduate school has been a rewarding one, and as I am currently preparing for my comprehensive exams, I am very confident in my abilities, as my writing and thinking have evolved immensely over the past two and a half years because of the full support and unlimited guidance I get from the phenomenal faculty members at the English department, my colleagues, and my family.

Prof. Scalzo Publishes Book (And other March Good News)!

We’ve got a lot of good news this month, so we’re dividing it into faculty and student/alum accomplishments. Check out all the amazing things your friends and colleagues have done!

Faculty Good News

Prof. Emily Scalzo’s new book The Politics of Division was published on Mar. 27!

The Indiana Writing Project was awarded a $15,000 grant titled “2017-2018 SEED Invitational Leadership Institute to Invest in Developing New Teacher Leaders.” The money from this grant will be used to support summer programming for teachers.

The Indiana Writing Project was also thrilled to send two local teachers to Washington D.C. in March for the National Writing Project’s Spring Meeting. In their time in D.C., teachers Jeri Tarvin and Katrina Gibson met with legislators to increase awareness about the work of NWP/IWP. They shared student writing and examples of professional development happening at our site.

Prof. Carolyn MacKay was awarded an NSF/NEH Documenting Endangered Languages Fellowship for her project:  A Grammar of Pisaflores Tepehua, an endangered language of Mexico.  It is a one year fellowship.

Prof. Susanna Benko and her colleagues Emily Hodge and Serena Salloum have had their work featured in Ed Week on the blog, “Curriculum Matters.”  The blog post highlights major findings from their study that was published in AERA Open.

Prof. Mark Neely has poems out or forthcoming in spring issues of FIELD, Passages North, Birmingham Poetry Review, Southern Indiana Review, and Timber: a Journal of New Writing.

Prof. Mary Lou Vercellotti published “The Development of Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency in Second Language Performance: A Longitudinal Study” in the most recent issue of Applied Linguistics (the flagship journal of her field). It is listed in the top 5 most read articles of the journal. (Also, she will be dancing later this month in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Dance for Kid’s Sake event, so come out and support her!)

Prof. Emily Rutter’s article “‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’: A Contrafactual Reading of Percival Everett’s Suder and Bernard Malamud’s The Natural” was published in the recent issue of Aethlon, the journal of the Sports Literature Association. Her monograph Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line is also now under contract with University Press of Mississippi.

Prof. Frank Felsenstein spoke at the annual day conference of the Harry Friedman Society at the Jewish Museum, New York, where the title of his talk was “From Shylock to Fagin: Jewish Caricatures in English Prints.” He also lectured on “What Middletown Read: Rediscovering Late Nineteenth-Century American Reading Habits” at Ball State University.

Prof. Cathy Day was just featured on the CitizenLit podcast, which is produced by Aubrie Cox, who got her MA with #bsuenglish in 2013.

Prof. Jennifer Grouling was awarded as a finalist for the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor Award.

Prof. Megumi Hamada’s paper “L2 Word Recognition: Influence of L1 Orthography on Multi-syllabic Word Recognition,” was accepted to the Journal of Psycholinguistics Research.

Prof. Rani Deighe Crowe’s short film script Heather Has Four Moms is an Official Selection for the Austin Comedy Short Film Festival Spring 2017. She is also directing the short film Welfare Check by screenwriting faculty Kathryn Gardiner this April. The film will star Muncie native and Ball State alumna Cynda Williams and Golden Glove Champion William Lee. The cast includes additional members of the Muncie community, and the crew includes many Ball State TCOM students.

Students and Alumni Good News

Daniel Brount (2016 graduate) was just featured on the Dear English Major blog.

Student Amanda Byk is the new Content Manager at the Facing Project.

#bsuenglish grad Rachel Hartley-Smith published her essay “Dumb Blonde” in feminist journal So to Speak.

Rachael Heffner (2014 graduate) was recently featured in the Daily Mail. Currently she’s working at a marketing firm in Indianapolis, Dominion Dealer Solutions, as their Social Media and Reputation Specialist.

#bsuenglish grad Abby Higgs recently published the final installment of her series “My Life with Annie Lennox” on The Rumpus.

Brittany Means has been accepted in the Nonfiction program at the University of Iowa.

Elyse Lowery had three poems (“Blood and Diamonds,” “Crosshatch,” and “Five Cigars”) published in the 3288 Review this month.

#bsuenglish grad Robert Young had his piece “11 Useless Kitchen Appliances: Crock Pots” published in Midwestern Gothic.

Current #bsuenglish students Kathryn Hampshire and Nikole Darnell, as well as recent graduate Lauren Birkey, all received Academic Honors in Writing.

Hannah Partridge was offered a summer internship in acquisitions from Wiley Publishing.

15 English graduate students were recognized at a graduate student recognition ceremony. (Ceremony attendees pictured from left to right: Nuha Alsalem, Hayat Bedaiwi, Andrew Wurdeman, Matthias Raess, Mary Carter.)

Profs. Scalzo and Manery Publish Poetry Books (And More November Good News)

Prof. Emily Scalzo had four poems accepted to Scarlet Leaf Review, including “To My Father,” “If the Human Race is the Only Race, Why Does this Shit Still Happen,” “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and “The Reason I Blocked You on Facebook.” They are due to be published in December. Also, her poetry chapbook, The Politics of Division, was accepted by Five Oaks Press for publication in 2017.

Prof. Rebecca Manery’s book of poems, View from the Hôtel de l’Étoile, is just out from Finishing Line Press. Individual poems from this collection have been published in Rhino, Bennington Review, and The Body Politic. Becca is a new faculty member at Ball State. Learn more about her here

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Two #bsuenglish Faculty Publish their Books (and More October Good News)

October was filled with spooktacular achievements. Keep reading for some scary good news!
patrick-collierjackie-grutsch-mckinney

Dr. Jackie Grutsch McKinney‘s new book, The Working Lives of of New Writing Center Directors, is officially out.

Professor Patrick Collier had his book Modern Print Artefacts: Textual Materiality and Literary Value, 1890-1930s, published by Edinburgh University Press. A big congrats to you both!

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Meet Your New Faculty Members!

Come fall, there will be new faces in the halls of Robert Bell. Here are three of them!

Poetry: Dr. Katy Didden

DiddenKaty Didden grew up in Washington D.C., and has lived in many cities across the U.S., including Seattle, Chicago, St. Louis, and Eugene.  She holds degrees from Washington University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Missouri, and she has taught courses in creative writing, composition, literature, and film.

Her first book, The Glacier’s Wake, won the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize from Pleiades Press and is available for purchase here or here or here. Her poems and reviews appear in journals such as Ecotone, Bat City ReviewThe Kenyon Review, Image, The Missouri Review, Smartish Pace, Poetry, and the Best New Poets Anthology (2009).  She won the Beulah Rose prize from Smartish Pace, three Dorothy Sargent Awards, and an Academy of American Poets Prize, and her work has been featured on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily.

She has received scholarships and residencies from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, the Hambidge Center, and the MacDowell Colony.

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