January 2007 Archives

MFA Candidate Scores Film Fest Award

MFA candidate Josh Wallaert and his co-director Grant Aaker received the "People's Choice" award for their documentary Arid Lands at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, CA. The film looks at people who live near the Hanford nuclear site in southeastern Washington and follows the changes to the desert landscape brought about by nuclear industry, housing development, and irrigated agriculture. The documentary, which premiered at Wild and Scenic, has been invited to the Eckerd College Environmental Film Festival in St. Petersburg, FL, in February, and will be screening in April in the Bell Auditorium's "Science on Screen" series.

MFA Alum to Publish Memoir

Laura Flynn (MFA '06) will publish her memoir Swallow the Ocean with Counterpoint Books in early 2008. Flynn was featured in the summer 2006 issue of English at Minnesota as the first Scribe for Human Rights. While she held the Scribe Fellowship, Flynn worked with the Human Rights Program at the U to research and write a story about immigrants detained in Midwest jails on immigration charges. Her memoir, based on her MFA thesis, focuses on Flynn's experience growing up in San Francisco with a mother suffering mental illness.

Archibald Leyasmeyer and August Wilson

English Emeritus professor Archibald Leyasmeyer serves as a primary source for a new Minnesota History article about the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson (Fences, The Piano Lesson) and his relationship with the Minneapolis Playwrights' Center. Leyasmeyer was board president when Wilson, who had moved to St. Paul from Pittsburgh, received a Jerome fellowship at the Playwrights' Center for 1980-81; in the article, Leyasmeyer recalls this choice as "one of the greatest decisions of my life." That year, Wilson wrote Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Professor Hosts Kenneth Anger

On January 26, English professor Siobhan Craig will moderate as pioneering American avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger introduces and discusses his original films Fireworks, Rabbit’s Moon, Scorpio Rising, and Kustom Kar Kommandos. These are new 35mm blow-up restorations recently released by the UCLA Film and Television Archives. Professor Craig is currently teaching Anger in her undergraduate class The Split and Sutured Self, which focuses on subjectivity in literary, cinematic and theoretical texts from the 20th and 21st centuries. She and Anger will speak 7:30 pm at the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis.

MFA Student Goes North

Erin Altemus, MFA '07, traveled to Northern Ontario last summer to meet members of First Nation communities and record their stories. As she writes in M, Altemus canoed the lakes and rivers of the boreal forest, visiting communities along the way. Her trip was made possible by a Judd Fellowship.

Tillie Olsen Remembered

Fiction writer, critic, and social activist Tillie Olsen died January 1, 2007. Olsen visited the Department of English to read from her short story collection Tell Me a Riddle. Another visit came in 1986 on the 100th anniversary of Emily Dickinson's death. Invited by Professor Toni McNaron, Olsen spoke to undergraduates at length about Dickinson. "She was fascinating because she had read the poems so carefully and knew them so intimately," remembers McNaron. "She also talked about the value and distinct privilege of having solitude, since matters of class were always front and center with Olsen." Olsen's 95th birthday would have been January 14th. Her family has requested that everyone touched by her work "gather with friends in their homes or libraries or bookstores and read her work aloud."

Egypt!

Cairo is wonderfully aggravating, with daily protests against the regime’s constitutional amendments, snarling traffic, frequent elevator malfunctions, vernal blossoms on the trees in Zamalek (the rest of the city doesn’t have trees), days both miraculously clear of pollution and others choked with it, Cairoians still wrapped in scarves and sweaters against the chimerical chill in the air, endlessly bemusing cab stories (our driver today had an air freshener advertising Viagra), afternoons lolling in the courtyard at American University–Cairo drinking in the sunlight as if we had just survived a Minnesota winter. On Thursday, I awaited the end of classes with more eagerness than usual, as a friend and I planned on riding horses at the pyramids to catch the sunset. . . . Laura S.

Hello From England!

I have met some amazing people overseas and have been presented with travel opportunities I only dreamed of. I spent the Christmas season in Scandinavia with a friend I had met in England, allowing me to spend time in Copenhagen and Stockholm. I have also learned to travel alone, having been to Barcelona, Edinburgh and Glasgow within the past two months. I have scheduled trips to Berlin, Krakow, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Dublin. I still want to visit the Netherlands and Italy if time and money allow. Suffice to say, travel is one of my passions along with writing. Studying abroad is the best thing I ever did for myself. Rachel K.

South Africa!

Studying in Durban, South Africa, I cherished the many opportunities to challenge myself as a student, a woman, a member of a family, a traveler, a friend and a world citizen. I was able to really integrate into the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College Campus, and made many friends. During an independent study period, I researched the reading patterns of people in two communities in Durban. I surprised myself with the length and depth of my final project. Learning to research and use unfamiliar resources has been such an asset to my education, and I feel more and more confident in my abilities as a member of the greater academic community. I still struggle to realize that I am back in Minnesota permanently as I feel, strangely, that I am home for a visit and will return to Durban sometime soon. Anna K.

Italy!

All is well in Italy. Italian classes are going well, and I’m finding time to employ the language skills I am learning by cooking in a restaurant at night. Being surrounded by—and being a part of—a culture and community as unique as this one, as well as taking the time to reflect on my own culture in America, has taught me more than I could’ve imagined. More than anything, I’ve learned to appreciate the people: the butcher who I talk to in the market or the old women who sit in the park each afternoon. I am confident that upon my return to the United States, I will appreciate the people of my own community so much more. Mark A.

Spain!

Hola a todos! Spain is so amazing! It has been wonderful to learn more about the vibrant culture and people here, and I finally feel like my Spanish is sufficient! The family I live with has gone above-and-beyond to make me feel comfortable, and I can't imagine my time here without them. Teaching English at the elementary school has also been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I feel so fortunate to get to explore such an amazing place, and I am thrilled that I now have friends here to come back and visit! Dana B.

Argentina!

Argentina is a fabulous country full of rich culture and diversity unknown to me before my arrival. In Buenos Aires, there is tango dancing in the streets and a leather shop around every corner, not to mention the mouth-watering smell of empanadas! Joya W.

Writing France!

In Montpellier, France, our class visited the Cafe Riche where Joseph Conrad stayed and wrote Mirror of the Sea, one of the novels we read in class. We also read Louis Stevenson's Travels in the Cevannes with a Donkey and got to visit the Cevannes and were accompanied by donkeys! This hands-on experience of the landscapes not only brought the texts alive, but inspired the class to write, realizing what wonderful texts have come due to the inspiration of southwest France. Abbey K.

Down Under!

Living in Australia for five months was amazing. The university system was relaxed, but I had to make sure I worked hard, too. Traveling around the country and to New Zealand was amazing, and there is nothing I would change about my experiences abroad. April T.

Hallo From Holland!

Today a friend and I went for a bicycle ride in true Dutch fashion. I even had a chance to ring my bell at people walking in the bike lane! The city of Amsterdam overflows with bicycles. There is a three-story parking garage devoted strictly to bikes and literally no parking garages for cars! My friend even reported being in a bicycle traffic jam. During my bike ride, I really felt like I was participating in Dutch culture. It’s one of the best things I’ve done since arriving here. Bri B.

Graduate Students Win CLA Grants

The following students won CLA grants to support the research and professionalization of graduate students in English: Mitchell Odgen, Becky Petersen, Liz Hutter, Elizabeth Weixel, Sara Berrey, Stoyan Vassilev Tchaprazov, Karen Steigman, Nicholas Hengen, and Adam Schrag.

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