When Golden Gopher football players take the field against Missouri in the Citrus Bowl, three English majors will be among them, reveling in Minnesota's first New Year's Day bowl game in 50 years. Junior defensive back Eric Murray is a starter who made the coaches' All-Big Ten Second Team. Sophomore wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky played in seven games this fall. Senior offensive linebacker Luke McAvoy (right) this year won the Gophers' Tony Dungy Character and Community Service Award and was Academic All-Big Ten. In the midst of finals week, we grabbed McAvoy for a quick download on the life of a football playing English major. Read on.
The largest literary conference in North America lands in the Twin Cities April 8-11, and our Creative Writing Program faculty and alums are all over it. English Chair Ellen Messer-Davidow recommends Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century--and a thriller or two. Plus an annotated list of the latest fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from professors, alums, and students, and information about our unique collaboration with Penumbra Theatre in February. Read the winter 2014 e-Quarterly!
"There continues to be a large segment of the population that believes overcoming addiction is a matter of willpower," says Mark Mishek (summa cum laude BA 1974; JD with honors 1977), CEO and President of the recently merged Hazelden and Betty Ford Foundations. The former, which he's led since 2008, has of course been a pioneer for 65 years in defining addiction not as a crime or character flaw but as a disease. Changing minds is still difficult. "The thing that's helped right now in a sad sort of way," Mishek notes, "is that with the opioid crises affecting young males more than any other population, more parents are realizing that it's not a matter of willpower, it's not a matter of more education, more self-knowledge, and so on. While that stuff's important, it can't get you well in and of itself." How did Mishek come to lead the nation's largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider? Two words: liberal arts. Read more.
PhD candidate Eric Brownell will defend his dissertation "Gothic Heroines and Cultural Trauma in 20th Century Literature and Film," as directed by Dr. Lois Cucullu, at 1 pm Friday December 5 in 207A. All are welcome for the public portion of the defense.
Since September, three English professors have published new works. Professor Paula Rabinowitz's American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street (Princeton University Press) has drawn praise for its passion and acuity. She was invited to write about her favorite post-war pulps in The Wall Street Journal. Fresh from his third appearance in the annual Best American Poetry anthology, Professor Ray Gonzalez published the "vibrant" (according to Booklist) Soul Over Lightning (University of Arizona Press), his 13th poetry collection. Finally, Professor Nabil Matar published his authoritative compendium of research on British Captives from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, 1563-1760 (The Atlantic World, Brill). Congratulations to all!
You may have read Mary Petrie's story in The Star Tribune this summer, or on the Today Parents site. Not long after her oldest child, Stryker, graduated high school last spring, he presented Petrie (PhD 2000) with a wrapped gift. Inside was a book proof of a novel Petrie had written more than a decade ago--a novel a New York agency had shopped unsuccessfully, and Petrie had put aside. Her son had proofed, formatted, and readied the book for self-publishing--to thank the Inver Hills CC professor for raising him and to, as Petrie has said, take "your mother's dreams off the shelf." A story that good needs a follow-up, and we did. Read more.
On the 100th anniversary of his birth, we celebrate influential poet and longtime U professor John Berryman with a free, public conference October 24-26 at Andersen Library. Publisher FSG has just released new versions of Berryman's Sonnets, 77 Dream Songs, and The Dream Songs, along with a New & Selected--and series editor Daniel Swift will give the conference keynote, along with poets April Bernard, Henri Cole, and Michael Hofmann, who introduced the three reprints. Here are 10 reasons to join us for a weekend delving into the words and worlds of the Pulitzer Prize winner.
Her work has been called "spellbinding" (by The New Yorker) and "beautifully written" (by Outside magazine). A big welcome to Kim Todd, a new creative nonfiction addition to the Creative Writing Program faculty roster. Todd has written one book about that vagabond Sparrow, another about a female naturalist who, in 1699, voyaged from Amsterdam to South America to study insect metamorphosis (Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis), and her self-explanatory first, Tinkering with Eden: A Natural History of Exotics in America. It's no surprise she holds masters in both environmental studies and creative writing (from the University of Montana). What led her there? Read on.
Intent on figuring out how to construct solid plots, Professor Julie Schumacher wrote her first book for younger readers in 2004, a decade before young adult fiction became so popular it spawned an abstinence movement. Schumacher's third such effort, The Book of One Hundred Truths (2006), won a Minnesota Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. This summer she shows off her plot chops with the adult comic novel Dear Committee Members, a book consisting only of fictional letters of recommendation--from a single imagined Creative Writing professor--that nevertheless contains classic (and compelling) exposition, conflict, climax, and denouement. Indeed, as an admiring Slate review points out, what finally happens in the tale "turn[s] the book's theme upside down," revealing the moral weight beneath the undeniably funny characterizations. For Schumacher's favorite novel-in-letters and other revelations, read on.
When the New York Times Book Review's thoughtful piece on his book debut described him as "the young author," 37-year-old alumnus Josh Ostergaard (MFA 2011) wasn't about to complain. Just the fact that the august Manhattan newspaper would cover his baseball essay, The Devil's Snake Curve, was thrilling. Especially given that it's a book in which Ostergaard denounces the wealthy, self-confident, and mighty New York Yankees to further, as the reviewer recognized, a larger critique of American hegemony across the globe. The "young" descriptor probably was used to distinguish him from previous baseball writers such as George Will, Ostergaard points out: "Even though I love the game, I'm less reverent." Read on.
As a freshman, Marina Kuperman didn't know that experiential learning in college boosts graduates' job prospects. Nevertheless, she chose an English class featuring community volunteer opportunities--and quickly discovered that she loved helping others develop literacy. Convinced now of both her major and her vocation, she applied as a sophomore to become a peer counselor for English majors, a job in which she excelled through her junior year and will continue this fall. Meanwhile, she enrolled in further experiential learning courses, while completing an independent research project on local education practices. An American Literature survey course left Kuperman a fan of Emerson, and these words of his seem appropriate here: "Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." Why is literacy so important for Kuperman? Read on.
For BA alumna Mary Nyquist, entry level lecture classes at the U were large, yes, but also liberating: This small town native experienced anonymity as a refreshing freedom. But she wasn't anonymous for long. Encouraged by her professors, Nyquist went on to graduate school and ultimately became a literature professor at the University of Toronto. There she made a name for herself as a fearless scholar of Milton. These days she thinking and publishing about tyranny through the lens of literature and philosophy, among other interdisciplinary explorations. Read more.
The Department of English's opportunities to provide hands-on work experience are noted in an article by BA alum Scott Carlson in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Want a College Experience That Matters? Get to Work." Ellen Messer-Davidow, chair of the department, also talks about future plans to expand internships and other ways students can gain workplace experience. Carlson, who wrote articles for The Minnesota Daily as a student, notes that his work experience complemented his literature studies and vice versa--his subsequent career in journalism "wouldn't have been as rich without the literature degree."
Our professors don't just go home and read after class: As our profile details, one competes in high-level competitive ice dancing; another spins African music as a radio deejay. But, yes, they also read: Professor John Watkins describes his latest perusals, including Solzhenitsyn and other Russian novelists. Plus a boatload of great summer books from faculty and alums. Check out the new issue of our alumnae/i newsletter, e-Quarterly.
Distinguished McKnight University Professor of English John Watkins first studied at England's Oxford University when he was a young man out of Arkansas by way of Indiana University. A Marshall Scholarship recipient, he was tasked to do exactly what he loved: "read like crazy," think, and write. Watkins has been back to Oxford many times since, as an Elizabethan scholar, but is looking forward to three months there this coming academic year, his longest visit in more than 15 years. He's been invited to be a senior research visitor at Oxford's Keble College--one of three honors he won this spring, along with Guggenheim and American Council of Learned Societies fellowships. With his parents passed, he says, he doesn't go back to Arkansas; in many ways, Oxford has become his place of origin: "It does feel a lot like home." Read more.