With the massive AWP literary conference in town April 8-11, and the just slightly smaller Creative Writing Program Celebration at the Weisman Art Museum 7-9 pm April 10, it seemed the right time to interview Madelon Sprengnether. Twenty years ago, the Regents Professor wrote and shepherded the proposal for the MFA in Creative Writing through various levels of University approval so the Program could begin granting the degree in 1996. What about the MFA Program is she most proud of? "The accomplishments of our graduates," she answers quickly. "The proof is in the pudding." The growing number of alumnae/i publications parallels the feverish output of Creative Writing Program faculty: This spring, Professor Sprengnether publishes (and reads from--see listing below) both a memoir, Great River Road (New Rivers), and a prose poetry collection, Near Solstice (Holy Cow!). What does this all have to do with lab research on memory? Read on.
Recently in Graduate News Category
The Department of English welcomes admitted prospective graduate students March 12-13. Events scheduled include a reading by an MFA alumnus, a discussion with current PhD students, class visits, and dinner with graduate students and faculty. We look forward to meeting you!
In the last three years, Associate Professor Dan Philippon has researched and taught in Germany, Italy, and France, buoyed by a Fulbright and a fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich. The travel has widened his thinking about food writing and the sustainable food movement, subject of his current research. "Although my specialty will always be American environmental literature, I can't think in isolation anymore," reports Professor Philippon, who serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies. "Now, when I think of American writers, it is always in a global context. And when I think of global processes, like climate change, I think of their effects on particular places and particular people--like the Italian rice grower I met, whose paddies depend on meltwater from the Alps." How does that book-in-progress involve Alice Waters, Wendell Berry . . . and a certain Italian rice grower? 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Department of English welcomes admitted prospective graduate students March 13-14. Events scheduled include a reading by MFA alum authors, a discussion with current PhD students,class visits, and dinner with graduate students and faculty. We look forward to meeting you!
Third-year Creative Writing Program nonfiction student Scott F. Parker this year won the Monkey Puzzle Press' prose chapbook contest with a slim collection entitled in here--authored, provocatively, by The Synthesis. The book itself declares that its inventive texts may be read as poetry, philosophy, or fiction but seek to be memoir. Chapters include "all criticism is autobiographical," which mashes together quotes from Parker's widely published book reviews, and "unanswered questions?" which features nearly four pages of them (favorite: "Why not . . . accept that it's time that uses you?"). As Patricia Weaver Francisco notes on the back cover, this is an intimate little book that despite (because of) its challenging form effectively communicates aspects of the writer's personality and interests as much if not more than a standard "I was born in XX and did XX" narrative. Parker has also published a runner's memoir (Running After Prefontaine), two musings on musical icons (Revisited: Notes on Bob Dylan and ME | EM: One Listener's Confession), and an edited volume of writings on coffee (Coffee - Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate). Read more.
This fall, doctoral student Jessica Apolloni was chosen to be one of ten participants in an inaugural fellowship from the Academy for Advanced Study in the Renaissance (another doctoral candidate, Caitlin McHugh, also was selected). The fellows will spend five weeks next spring working with a distinguished group of senior Renaissance scholars, first in Oxford, England, then in Rome, and finally Chicago. Each receives a stipend of $10,000 in addition to room, board, and airfare. Apolloni, who received her BA in English at Minnesota, also won a fellowship in her first year of doctoral studies--a Fulbright to spend a semester in Italy. It was then she developed a fascination with early modern stories of criminal activity, which is now the subject of her dissertation. Read on.
In his new memoir, Leaving Rollingstone, Kevin Fenton (MFA 2005) offers a summary of his story of growing up in a village outside Winona: "I liked those humans. I am sad they are gone." But of course the book covers so much more: the impact of pop culture in the 1960s and '70s (he's the little brother of dancing fiends); the unique nurturance of a Catholic education for rural kids not drawn to farming; the richness of families (nuclear and affective); the tricky weight of inheritance; and the discovery of vocation. In Fenton's case, it's clear the latter is writing--which he's committed to as both a creative writer and an advertising creative. He'll be launching the memoir with the help of local literati Sept 12 at Common Good Books; for now he's got answers to our five questions. . . .
Alex Mueller (PhD '07) wants you--specifically you, potential graduate student--to know that he wasn't accepted the first time he applied for English graduate study at Minnesota. Maybe it was because he was a nontraditional candidate, a high school English teacher (in Colorado), or maybe because he got his MA in Classics, focusing on Latin literature. But he persevered. He applied again, got in, and eventually won a Ruth Drake Dissertation Fellowship--which gave him a teaching-free semester to finish and successfully defend his dissertation. When he entered the job market, that dissertation won him a tenure-track position at University of Massachusetts Boston and, six years later, his first book publication. More. . .
This spring Caitlin McHugh won the Graduate School Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, which allows her to take a break from teaching in 2013-14 to focus on finishing her dissertation. "I have two more chapters left to write," she explains. "I also need to travel to the Folger Shakespeare Library [in Washington D.C.] to look at a seventeenth-century prompt book, and the fellowship gives the time and the funds that I need to do so." A "prompt book" is a copy of a play production script that includes cues for speech, sound, and light; stage directions; and drawings of the set, among other essential information. McHugh's dissertation focuses on adaptations of Shakespeare in the Restoration era, which she feels have been unfairly maligned. This July, she'll be presenting her paper "The Linguistic Adaptation of Nahum Tate's King Lear," in Ann Arbor, Michigan, thanks to a travel grant she was awarded through the Association for Documentary Editing. More . . . .
Between March and May, nine PhD candidates successfully defended their dissertations. Congratulations to Tai Coleman, Renee DeLong, Will Kanyusik, Eun Joo Kim, Chris Larkin, Heather McNeff, John Pistelli, Adam Schrag, Maurits van Bever Donker, and Jewon Woo!