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. 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, a senior, for a quick download on the life of a football-playing English major. Read on.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Minnesota Teacher of the Year Tom Rademacher teaches high school English at the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resources (FAIR) School in downtown Minneapolis. "[H]e teaches us that our thoughts matter," wrote a student who nominated him, "and that we are capable of anything we want to do with our lives." Rachemacher wins a $6,000 prize and will serve as a teacher ambassador in the state for the next year. On his home page on the FAIR website, he notes, "I know I'm doing my job right when a student says I don't act like a teacher." So what's his classroom like? "On bad days, it's a mess," he admits. "On good days, it's a mess with great questions. I have a rule that I will not try to teach my students anything they could look up on the internet, which means we're often pushing each other towards pretty challenging work and conversations." Read more.
What is our new Assistant Professor Amit Yahav reading (besides the 18th century)? What new books are out from faculty, students, and alums? How is English participating in Northrop Auditorium's Grand Reopening? Find out in the new issue of our alumnae/i newsletter, e-Quarterly.
Nadia B. Hasan (BA 2002; JD 2006) braved her father's disappointment when she chose to major in English; he preferred pre-med or engineering. But her degree prepared her for the reading and analytic rigor of the University of Minnesota Law School and nine years thus far of law practice, first with Johnson & Condon, then Hinshaw & Culbertson, and since last summer in the Minneapolis office of Cozen O'Connor. These days, she notes with amusement, her dad claims he was the one who suggested English. Read more.
How many first-time screen actors get to go to Sundance Film Festival with one of the buzziest films in competition? Naomi Ko (BA 2011) was busy January in Park City, Utah, with press interviews, brunches, luncheons, and parties around the acclaimed feature Dear White People (which was filmed on the U campus). Since graduating, Ko has acted and written for such local theaters as Mixed Blood, Theatre in the Round, Mu Performing Arts, and Bedlam. Last August, Ko heard from a theater producer she'd worked with, Jamil Jude, about movie auditions taking place the next day. Ko went, and she was the only cast member to win a principal role without an agent. The film follows four African American students at an East Coast private college. According to its director, Justin Simien, the film is "about the difference between how the mass culture responds to a person because of their race and who they understand themselves to truly be." Though the Asian American experience has been well-represented in theater, says Ko, there's as yet no Asian American film equivalent to DWP. "I'm working on one," she promises. Read more.
When Shae Moloney (BA) graduated in 2012, she was aiming for a career as an editor and writer, but she hadn't explored where she might find such work. Within three months she had secured a job that included editing and writing. The field was unexpected: human resources. She admits to nervously anticipating beastly labor-management brawls. But these days you can find her waxing cheerfully (and knowledgeably) about Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy, surrounded by snarling and growling beasts of the actual, not figurative sort. Read more.
This past spring, Regents Professor of English Patricia Hampl was honored with the Dr. Matthew Stark Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Faculty Award from the College of Liberal Arts. The award recognizes Professor Hampl's distinguished writing, teaching, and service in this area, including her work with the University's Human Rights Program establishing the Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship. In 2011, Hampl co-organized an international conference devoted to the relationship between the personal narrative voice and human rights, "My Letter to the World: Narrating Human Rights." Hampl, of course, is the author of six celebrated memoirs, and she's working on a seventh. What's it about? Read on. . . .
This fall, the Department of English welcomes Dr. Elaine Auyoung as a new assistant professor here at Minnesota. Professor Auyoung received her BA from Stanford in 2005, followed by a PhD in English from Harvard in 2011. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Associate 2011-13 at Rutgers University, where she taught Victorian literature and modern fiction. Auyoung is working on a book about, as she describes, "the surprising way in which nineteenth-century novels cue readers to feel as if vibrant, expansive fictional worlds exist beyond the printed page." At the same time, she notes, readers know that "nothing in the novel exists at all"--resulting in a cognitive dissonance that writers such as Dickens acknowledge and even encourage. More. . .