Miscellany – July 3, 2020

Cyrus Cassells’ poem, “Like Christ Overturning the Moneylenders’ Tables,” in praise of journalists, appeared recently in On The Seawall: http://www.ronslate.com/like-christ-overturning-the-moneylenders-tables/. Cyrus was also awarded the Civitella Ranieri Writing Fellowship, which consists of a residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy during the 2021, 2022, or 2023 season. Cyrus was awarded this residency through a highly competitive jury process that resulted in the selection of just 30 candidates from a pool of over 165. The Fellowship will provide Cyrus with six weeks to concentrate on his work in the company of other Fellows from around the world, and includes round-trip transportation to the Center’s 15th-century castle in Umbria, Italy, as well as a private space for living and working.

Rob Tally’s article “Spatial Literary Studies” appears in Literary Geographies: https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.literarygeographies.net%2Findex.php%2FLitGeogs%2Farticle%2Fview%2F215&data=02%7C01%7Csw13%40txstate.edu%7Cf58f93bca4654225ad1608d81142f62d%7Cb19c134a14c94d4caf65c420f94c8cbb%7C0%7C0%7C637278326575416307&sdata=bEdLizqIi%2F3OmRWe8dqeQwP4KwPTwikN3IsoYj8w1Qc%3D&reserved=0. His essay “Sea Narratives as Nautical Charts: On the Literary Cartography of Oceanic Spaces” appears in the Chinese journal Foreign Literature Studies; it is an extended version of the keynote speech he gave at Ningbo University last November.

Anthony Bradley’s essay “My Mother’s Guide to Video” appears in Gayly Dreadful: https://www.gaylydreadful.com/blog/pride-2020-my-mothers-guide-to-to-video.

An essay by Miriam Williams and Natasha Jones (Michigan State University), “The Just Use of Imagination: A Call to Action,” which is a response to recent events, was published by both the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing https://attw.org/publications/the-just-use-of-imagination-a-call-to-action/  and the Spark: 4C4Equality Journal(https://teacher-scholar-activist.org/) in June.

Two essays by MFA fiction student Nkiacha Atemnkeng have been accepted for publication by the South African literary magazine, The Johannesburg Review of Books.

Chase Vanderslice, an MA Literature student starting Fall 2020, has received a Texas State Graduate Merit Fellowship, a fellowship for incoming students of the highest caliber. Chase graduated from the University of Alabama with a BA in English in December 2019 and is interested in pursuing studies in Medieval literature.

Two poems by Steve Wilson, “What Isn’t There” and “Violently sundered,” will appear in Never Forgotten: 100 Poets Remember 9/11, coming out this fall.

Make Them Cry, the upcoming novel by Jon Marc Smith and his co-writer Smith Henderson, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/smith-henderson/make-them-cry/

Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Steve Wilson have been elected to six-year terms as two of only four At-Large Members of the Board of Directors for the Texas Faculty Association.

MFA poetry graduate A.R. Rogers’ poem “Interior Decorating” was short-listed for the River Heron ReviewPoetry Prize.

 

Sigma Tau Delta Book Donations Support Universities in Togo

David Gilmour, U.S. Ambassador to Togo, presenting literature texts donated by Texas State University to Dr. Prosper Begedou (center) and Dr. Komi Avono (left).

 

At the start of each school year, professors clean their offices in anticipation of the fall semester, filing away old exams, completing reports and syllabuses, and clearing space on their shelves for new books. The used books they clear away are often collected by the English Department’s local chapter of the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, for book sale events that raise funds for chapter activities and service projects. Regular book sales, sometimes themed for particular seasons, and book donations are part of Sigma Tau Delta’s goal of sharing books with everyone they can. According to Texas State’s webpage for the organization, Sigma Tau Delta claims one of its goals is to “exhibit high standards of academic excellence; and serve society by fostering literacy.” One of the specific service projects the Honors organization conducts to accomplish this goal is their book donation drive for the University of Lomé in the West African country of Togo.

Sigma Tau Delta donates yearly shipments to the University of Lomé, located in Togo’s capital city. English major and Sigma Tau Delta’s current Vice President, Caitlyn Wells, described her commitment to the project as well as her passion for sharing books and the joy of reading, stating the core purpose of the project is to “spread the love of books.” Wells explains that, for Sigma Tau Delta, “the main goal was to bring all of these English nerds together,” and that a group of people sharing their love of books with each other makes this particular project special and powerful. Honored to participate in this exchange, Wells notes that the students at the University of Lomé “are striving to get an education and if we could be just a small part of that, it’s cool.”

The donation program began with Dr. Komi Begedou, a faculty member from the University of Lomé who conducted research as a Fulbright Scholar in the English Department at Texas State from 2014 to 2015. Dr. Begedou explains the book drive program began in 2016 through coordination with his Texas State research mentors Dr. Elvin Holt and Professor Steve Wilson, along with the student members of STD, and has continued every year since, allowing University of Lomé’s students to “make good use of [the books] for their Master’s and Ph.D. research works.” Dr. Begedou and Sigma Tau Delta’s faculty advisors, currently Dr. Laura L Ellis-Lai and Mr. Chris Margrave, work together to coordinate the collection, packaging, and shipment of books from Sigma Tau Delta.

When Sigma Tau Delta prepared to ship donated books to Togo this past cycle, they had the opportunity to communicate with the graduate literature students there by exchanging videos through Facebook, insuring they could select books to better meet the Togolese students’ literature needs. The University of Lomé’s students requested texts on topics from civil rights, African studies, literary criticism, and dystopian novels to enhance their American Literature library, which was initiated in 2017 with the large first shipment of books from Texas State and officially opened by the David Gilmour, at the time the US Ambassador to Togo. These videos preceded the current COVID-19 pandemic, which suspended the organization’s operations and preparation of their book shipment. Sigma Tau Delta asks students and faculty who may have slightly used books they wish to donate to set these texts aside until the Fall 2020 semester, when operations will resume.

Dr. Begedou explains that a large donation this year would not only benefit the University of Lomé, but the University of Kara, the only other University in Togo, noting also that he “prays and hopes that this project will continue to the benefit of faculty and students in the English Department at UL.” Anyone who donates a book to STD makes a significant impact in improving the education of a student in the English Department in Togo while helping this wonderful relationship between Texas State and Togo continue for many years to come.

 

Kennedy Farrell, English Major

Miscellany – May 23, 2020

The following faculty were recognized this May for major achievements during the 2019-20 academic year:

Rebecca Bell-Metereau. Transgender Cinema. Rutgers University Press, 2019.

Recipient of Choice magazine’s Outstanding Academic Title award.

Cyrus Cassells. Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas.

Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2019.

Cyrus Cassells. Recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship, awarded April 2019.

Jennifer DuBois. The Spectators. Penguin Random House, 2019.

Logan Fry. Harpo Before the Opus. Omnidawn, 2019. Recipient of Omnidawn’s 1st/2nd Book Prize.

Eric Leake. Recipient of Senior Fulbright Fellowship from the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. 2019.

Susan Signe Morrison. Recipient of two awards from Literary Classics, the Gold Medal in Historical Young Adult and Words on Wings Book Award, in 2019 for

Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America. Chicago Review Press, 2018.

Cecily Parks. Recipient of Poetry Society of America Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, 2019, for the poem, “The Rio Grande.”

Robert T. Tally, Jr. Topophrenia: Place, Narrative, and the Spatial Imagination. Indiana University Press (“Spatial Humanities”) series, 2019.

Julie McCormick Weng. Co-edited with Kathryn Conrad and Cóilín Parsons, Science, Technology, and Irish Modernism, Syracuse University Press, 2019.

Steve Wilson. The Reaches. Finishing Line Press, 2019.

Katie Kapurch’s “‘Photograph’- We Are All Ringo Now” (https://www.culturesonar.com/photograph-we-are-all-ringo-now/), “Astrid Kirchherr: What She Taught the Beatles” (https://www.culturesonar.com/astrid-kirchherr-what-she-taught-the-beatles/) and “Martha Wash’s “Love and Conflict” – The Album for 2020” (https://www.culturesonar.com/martha-washs-love-and-conflict-the-album-for-2020/)were published on CultureSonarrecently. Katie also has a chapter, “A Girls’ Studies Approach to YA Literature,” in Teaching Young Adult Literature, an edited collection published by MLA (2020).

MFA poetry student James Trask finished 1st and received cash prizes in two contests that are part of a series of annual contests administered by the Austin Poetry Society, each with different requirements for poetic form and/or theme.  Both poems will be published in the forthcoming edition (2019-2020) of Best Austin Poetry.  James also placed 2nd in five other contests, winning additional cash prizes.  In an eighth contest, his poem was distinguished with an Honorable Mention.

English Major Courtney Ludwick’s article, “A Dishonest Wardrobe: Fashion and Costume in Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘General Prologue,’” was published in Texas State Undergraduate Researchthis Spring. She was mentored by Susan Morrison.

“Rereading Stephen King on the Eve of My MFA,” an essay by MFA fiction student Steph Grossman, appeared in The Masters Reviewhttps://mastersreview.com/new-voices-rereading-stephen-king-on-the-eve-of-my-mfa-by-steph-grossman/

MA Literature student Luise Noé (Germany) was awarded a P.E.O. International Peace Prize Scholarship. She is one of 15 students on campus, one of 2 from the College of Liberal Arts. The scholarship, established in 1949, provides up to $12,500 of support for women from countries other than the United States and Canada who are pursuing graduate studies in one of those two countries. Luise worked on her application with the External Funding Specialists in the Graduate College.

Cyrus Cassells was interviewed by the Lambda Literary Reviewin support of the April publication of his new chapbook at Nine Mile Press, More Than Watchmen at Daybreak:https://www.lambdaliterary.org/2020/04/cyrus-cassells/. He was also interviewed as feature poet in the latest issue of Borderlands: The Texas Review: https://www.borderlands.org/featuredpoet?fbclid=IwAR09ZxhRb6KCfC26z5F3avVxsgOwGLLN7zi1cn1_-aQDBjN4jFJgSGj3gJw.

Jon Marc Smith was interviewed by Publishers Weeklyas part of a feature on new thrillers coming out in 2020: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/new-titles/adult-announcements/article/82768-border-disorder-mysteries-thrillers-2020.html.

Amanda Scott’s essay, “A Body in Crisis, A Magnificent Rapture,” will appear in Entropy.

Miscellany – April 23, 2020

MATC graduate Meghalee Das was awarded the Outstanding Instructor Award in First-Year Composition in the category of 1st Year Ph.D. Instructor by Texas Tech University’s Department of English. Meghalee is enrolled in the PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric Program at Texas Tech.

Rob Tally’s article “The Aesthetics of Distance: Space, Ideology, and Critique in the Study of World Literature” appears in the Journal of English Language and Literature.

Susan Morrison’s short story “FaceTimes” was published in Tejascovido:https://www.tejascovido.com/blog/facetimes. Susan was interviewed about the history of toilet paper for History.com: https://www.history.com/news/toilet-paper-hygiene-ancient-rome-china

On April 6, Nine Mile Books published Cyrus Cassells’ chapbook, More Than Watchmen at Daybreak. It’s available from Nine Mile Books (http://www.ninemile.org/) and Small Press Distribution (https://www.spdbooks.org/…/more-than-watchmen-at-daybreak.a…). Cyrus also recently published two new politically-inspired: “Quid Pro Quo (Two Baritones on a Phone)”

in The Southampton Review(on pp. 134-135) available to download for free:

https://www.thesouthamptonreview.com/subscribe/sf2020-digital-download; and “The Only Way To Fight The Plague Is Decency” in this On The Seawall: A Community Gathering of Writing and Commentary: www.ronslate.com

Passages Northjust published MFA fiction student Ben McCormick’s  “The Storms I’ve Been Before a Hurricane.”

Lagos Reviewpublished first-year fiction student Nkiacha Atemnkeng’s obituary essay, https://thelagosreview.ng/obituary-adieu-manu-dibango-nkiacha-atemnkeng/ about the death of Africa’s greatest saxophonist, Manu Dibango, the first high-profile musician to die of Covid-19.

Katie Kapurch’s “The Paul McCartney Song We Need Right Now,” which addresses this coronavirus moment, has become “the most popular post ever published” on CultureSonar, according to their statistics. You can read it here: https://www.culturesonar.com/the-paul-mccartney-song-we-need-right-now/?fbclid=IwAR2tMHbKBeyNmfQjEzjWUvm4Gp8PWZSx9UmtaU3ApGqr7WAxonCKtx1QaFY

Caleb Ajinomoh’s story “Rites Evasion Maneuvers” has been shortlisted for the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The story was selected out of 5107 entries from five continents. Caleb is a first year MFA fiction candidate.

TA and third-year MFA fiction student Ryan Lopez has recently had two stories accepted for publication. “Return Flight” will be published in Lunate on May 25 and “The Solving of Climate Change” will be published sometime this fall in Abstract Magazine.

Lecturer Vanessa Couto Johnson has a poem–“mote”–in Across the Social Distances, an online journal for poems addressing the current crisis: https://acrossthesocialdistances.tumblr.com/post/615384149719678976/mote-by-vanessa-couto-johnson She also has another poem, “Self-Portrait of an INTJ reunited with inner-resilient-child in late March 2020,” in TEJASCOVIDOhttps://www.tejascovido.com/blog/self-portrait-of-an-intj-reunited-with-inner-resilient-child-in-late-march-2020?fbclid=IwAR3HbsAZFNibrKJ7qSub5XkyVn3xTS0ANyQIxEHRZRoBG6X40syD8FwM46M

Allison Grace Myers’ essay “These Thin Green Hints,” about waiting to adopt, has been published by Gulf Coast Journal:

https://gulfcoastmag.org/online/winter/spring-2020/these-thin-green-hints-20/

Dodgeball Days,” a poem by MFA poetry student Asa Johnson, appears in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of Light.

Jo McIntosh, who earned her MA Literature degree at Texas State and now teaches at Concordia University (Austin), has been accepted and now funded for five years while she pursues her PhD in English at the University of Houston. To support her studies, Concordia is developinga package to put her on advancement in rank and give her a raise for a second car, gas, and books.

Miscellany – April 2, 2020

Chris Margrave’s short film, The Lesser Known Rules of Werewolves, which he co-wrote and acted in, was selected for screening at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 14th.

Kathleen Peirce’s manuscript, Lion’s Paw, was a finalist for this year’s Dorset Prize with Tupelo Press.

Kitty Ledbetter’s article, “The Women’s Press,” has just been published in Volume 2 of the Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, a three-volume history that offers a definitive account of newspaper and periodical press activity across Britain and Ireland from 1650 to the present day.

Longleaf Review published MFA fiction student Taylor Kirby’s essay, “Relics, Registries, and Other Bastard Things,” in their latest issue.

Make Them Cry, a novel by Jon Marc Smith and his co-author Smith Henderson, will come out this fall from Ecco: https://crimereads.com/excerpt-make-them-cry/

Caleb Ajinomoh’s short story, “Taking Mr. Itopa,” will be published in the New Voices section of The Masters Review. Caleb is a first-year MFA fiction student.

MFA poetry student James Trask placed 2nd and received a cash prize in the Poetry category of the San Antonio Writers’ Guild 28th Annual Writing Contest, an open competition with nationwide entries. This year’s contest was judged by Caitlyn Doyle.  James’ poem, “A Smear of Red” was written for Steve Wilson’s graduate Poetry Workshop last fall.

Susan Morrison recently was interviewed by The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town about toilet paper hoarding: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/what-would-freud-make-of-the-toilet-paper-panic?fbclid=IwAR1615G5QI4DDonXeAcy2GljwI0eFNz67Sm-Ix7z9SbTOGm-DeZLVJsKHtM

On March 18, PoemoftheWeek.com celebrated Cyrus Cassells’ The Gospel According to Wild Indigo, published in 2018 by Southern Illinois University Press.

MFA fiction student Clayton Bradshaw has accepted an offer of admission to the PhD in English program (Creative Writing) in the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Dr. Debra Monroe Awarded at the 2020 Conference of Southern Graduate Schools for her Mentorship of MFA Writers

Texas State’s Professor of Creative Writing, Dr. Debra Monroe, was recently recognized with two awards for her twenty-seven successful years mentoring MFA Creative Writing students: The Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award sponsored by Texas State, and The Conference of Southern Graduate School’s Outstanding Mentor Award.

At Texas State, Dr. Monroe was selected unanimously over other nominated mentors for her work with graduate fiction writers. She received a plaque, an honorarium, and a nomination from Dean of the Graduate College Dr. Andrea Golato for the Conference of Southern Graduate School’s Outstanding Mentor Award. In this nationwide competition between other universities’ most successful mentors, Dr. Monroe rose above other nominees to win the conference award for 2019-2020, which celebrates best practices in graduate studies. The Conference of Southern Graduate Schools reports that this award recognizes an advisor who has maintained successful mentorship of graduate students by “facilitating student learning by making complex ideas understandable and meaningful,” the “establishment and maintenance of high academic standards,” and “consistent and ongoing guidance of students regarding resources within and outside the university, conflict resolution, and advocacy for completion of the program of study in a timely manner.” On each of these standards, and many others, Dr. Monroe exceeds expectations for winning this regional award.

Dr. Golato was introduced to Dr. Monroe through the impressive record of her work and the many successes of her writing students after she was nominated for Texas State’s Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award. “This woman never sleeps,” Dr. Golato states as she passionately relates the extensive list of Dr. Monroe’s accomplishments and contributions, which include 32 student publications of work by former students over just the past two years, and a total of 27 book publications by her graduate mentees over her tenure at Texas State. Today, many of her students attribute the success of their own writing to the mentorship and critical guidance they received from Dr. Monroe, who found success in publishing her own work after completing her Ph.D. at the University of Utah.

Dr. Monroe’s dissertation became her first fiction publication, The Source of Trouble, which was awarded The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction in 1990. Not only does Dr. Monroe support young fiction writers as a mentor and Professor of Creative Writing, but her accomplishments as a writer allow her to bring her own notable successes and experiences with writing and publishing to the advice she offers her students. Other successful works include her nationally acclaimed memoir On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain (2015), which details her experience as the mother in a mixed-race, single-parent family in the American South.

Admiring Dr. Monroe’s work with students beyond her work as a professor, Dr. Golato explains what is “truly special about [Dr. Monroe’s] mentorship is that she has helped students find daycare for their children … find family resources…. [She] encourage[s] students to go on when life gets tough” and return to their work if they have had to leave the program. Dr. Golato’s endorsement of Dr. Monroe continues as she describes her enduring and special impact as an advisor in the humanities. “In the sciences students publish in a team of other students, postdocs, and their professor. Student research interests are often the same as the professor’s because of this.” She explains that, since students in the humanities generally work on isolated projects with their professor’s guidance, they generally graduate with fewer publications than students in the sciences. However, Dr. Monroe’s achievement is that this general trend is not true for her students, and that “this is where Dr. Monroe breaks the mold.”

Dr. Monroe comes to know and value her students as people as well as young writers. It is this mentorship that many students cite as crucial to their successful writing careers, which contain such a long list of student publications that her nomination for the Conference of Southern Graduate School’s Outstanding Mentor Award could include only the most recent two years of student achievements. Serving as much more than a writing coach, Dr. Monroe contributes to the lives and work of her graduate students while maintaining a successful writing career herself.

– Kennedy Farrell, English Major

2019 Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement Awarded to Naomi Shihab Nye

The 2019 Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement has been awarded to Texas State Professor of Creative Writing, Naomi Shihab Nye. This prestigious honor is awarded each year by the National Book Critics’ Circle (NBCC) and is named after the NBCC’s first president. Nye joins the ranks of previous winners such as Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and PEN America. Nye will receive the award at a ceremony in New York on March 12, 2020.

Nye’s expansive body of work comprises over thirty-five projects and spans a variety of literary modes, including poetry, young-adult fiction, essays, and novels. Many of Nye’s works reflect her upbringing as a Palestine-American splitting time between Jerusalem and the American South, allowing her to explore themes of heritage and culture in her work. A student studying fiction in the MFA Creative Writing program at Texas State, Caleb Ajinomoho, says that Nye’s poetry “workshops are ritualistic,” and feature Nye’s “genuine, warm, and accessible” presence. Although he writes fiction, Ajinomoho returns to Nye’s workshops regularly, seeking inspiration and “[encouragement] to tap deeper into what’s happening around [him],” and to achieve the same awareness and presence featured in Nye’s celebrated publications. Among these publications are her first collection of poems, titled Different Ways to Pray (1980), which describes the experience of and tensions between cultures in the American South and Mexico; and a children’s book titled Habibi (1997), for which she won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award (1998).

A writer since her early childhood, Nye continued practicing her craft while she attended Trinity University in San Antonio, where in 1974 she earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and World Religions. Her long experience with writing and studying her craft informs the calm leadership described by current MFA poetry student Katie Kistler, who notes that Nye’s workshops “cultivate an intensely helpful workshopping group each semester.” Kistler describes Nye as the type of mentor and leader that will remind young poets to note all criticisms, including both positive and negative comments made about their work. Kistler continues, “[Nye] has taken her lifetime of writing and revising and turned around to be a mentor for us MFA students — not comparing us to writers who have practiced for decades, but showcasing the practiced empathy of someone who cares deeply about the success of her peers and poetic successors.”

Nye’s work is featured in major online and print poetry anthologies, from ThePoetryFoundation.org to Poets.org. Of her work, the Poetry Foundation states that “Nye is a fluid poet, and her poems are also full of the urgency of spoken language.” In many of Nye’s poems, she offers her observations on humanity gained during her world travels. Of her Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature (2013), World Literature Today describes how “[Nye’s] incandescent humanity and voice can change the world, or someone’s world, by taking a position not one word less beautiful than an exquisite poem.”

Named a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award for her exploration of Middle Eastern culture and heritage in 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, Nye has two new books set for publication this year: Cast Away: Poems for Our Time (February 2020) and Everything Comes Next: New and Collected Poems (September 2020). Last year she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. A world-renowned poet and teacher, Nye uses her rich personal history and experiences to compose the perceptive and engaging works that earn her so much acclaim, and to mentor young writers at Texas State with compassion and profound insight.

 

– Kennedy Farrell, English Major

Film Concentration for English Majors Explores Visual Texts

“I think I had [an interest in film] from the very beginning,” Texas State English professor Dr. Suparno Banerjee explains. “I started my scholarly writing with film.” Dr. Banerjee works to deepen his students’ understanding of course material by incorporating film into his classes and analyzing the themes within specific genres such as science fiction, which he often teaches. He welcomes exploring a text alongside its filmic adaptation, stating that “one major way of representing is in film” and comparisons of text and adaptation can reveal more about the issues presented in class.

To supplement the discussions of colonialism Dr. Banerjee held in several of his courses last Fall, he hosted a showing of Two Flags followed by a talk with its director, Pankaj Rishi Kumar. The documentary pertained directly to his course material in its exploration of the politics of the post-colonial town Pondicherry, India and allowed students to explore the representation of these issues on screen, as well as discuss them with the director in a Q&A session. Being able to discuss the work with other attendees, professors, and sometimes filmmakers or directors offered a unique experience for students to engage in a discussion of the issues that surface in their course texts.

Dr. Banerjee’s perspective on the value of teaching film as text and its important role in the English Studies is supported by the Film Studies emphasis offered to English majors. Requiring a subset of three Advanced English film elective courses distinguishes this degree path from the traditional English major. These classes cover such topics as Theory and Criticism in Film (ENG 3320), Writing for Film (ENG 3306), The Southwest in Film (ENG 3309), allowing students to personalize their academic investigations.  Whether students are interested in filmmaking, understanding various texts, or analyzing film alongside literature, the Film Studies emphasis prepares undergraduates to think critically about film. Integral to the development of the emphasis is Dr. Rebecca Bell-Metereau, its Coordinator, who explains that the program allows students to evaluate “film adaptation, try their hand at video editing, or explore such topics as gender, monster theory, politics, or conspiracy films.”

Senior Lecturer Jon Marc Smith recalls his own interest in film, which led him to pursue screenwriting after he completed his MFA in Fiction at Texas State. Smith explored the screenplay as a genre by reviewing academic film criticism and the history of film. This passion rewarded him, when in 2010 he co-wrote a screenplay that was made into a film, Dance with the One, featured at Austin’s SXSW Festival. That same year Smith created the Writing for Film (ENG 3306) class at Texas State, which is now one of the Advanced English electives approved for the emphasis. Smith also now teaches Writing for Film and An Introduction to the Study of Film (ENG 3307), allowing him to work with students developing the same interests he had. He believes the study of film helps students understand that “visual texts [that] are a part of modern life,” and that “learning to do filmic criticism or create visual media is directly relevant to most students,” regardless of their particular academic goals or interests.

Topics and themes explored in recent Film Studies courses include English Department Chair Dr. Victoria Smith’s Fall 2019 course Advanced Topics in Film: Mainstream Queer Cinema (ENG 3308), which evaluated Queer films as modes of representation and how they interact with their audiences, considering such elements as “filmic aspects – the mise-en-scene, cinematography, and editing.” In The Southwest in Film (ENG 3309), offered by Dr. McClancy this Spring 2020 semester, students evaluate Western film, investigating the filmic and cultural aspects of Westerns that “work to create place, ideology, and nation.”

From exploring colonialism, to queer theory, to nationhood, Film Studies courses reflect the diverse content offered in the English Department curriculum. Dr. Banerjee and Mr. Smith, like their colleagues teaching in the emphasis, see films as “visual texts,” providing an opportunity to apply the critical skills all Texas State English majors gain through their studies. Students interested in learning more about the Film Studies emphasis, its requirements, or the electives offered should visit the course catalog, speak with their academic advisor, or email Dr. Bell-Metereau (rb12@txstate.edu) directly.

 

Kennedy Farrell, English Major

News – Special Topics 

From exploring texts about Chicana/o border ballads to evaluating the Blues as an influence on African-American literature, each semester professors in the Texas State English Department teach a broad range of Special Topics Advanced English courses that inspire student curiosity and excitement. These courses reflect the diversity of student interests at Texas State, as well as the talents and scholarly interests of the faculty who create them. Many of these courses are offered only once, providing students unique experiences to examine timely, intriguing topics as part of their college educations. Among the many Special Topics courses on offer for the upcoming Spring 2020 semester are Dr. Eric Leake’s course on “The Rhetoric of the Emotions” (ENG 3318, Group D), Dr. Elvin Holt’s single-author course on African-American writer August Wilson (ENG 3341, Group B), Dr. Sara Ramirez’s “Chicana/o Myth” course (ENG 3329, Group B), and Mr. Steve Wilson’s course on “The Literature of Resistance” (ENG 3340, Group B).

Students taking Dr. Leake’s course, “The Rhetoric of the Emotions,” will investigate representations of emotion in writing from “rhetorical, cultural, social, and embodied perspectives.” Their multidisciplinary study of the “theories of emotion and how emotions function rhetorically in everyday texts, experiences, and relations” will culminate in a personal journaling project, in which students will write about events from their own lives. In another project, students will select an emotion and research “the rhetorical significance of that particular emotion” in literature, scholarship, and their lives. Together, these projects will allow students to share and evaluate their own experiences with emotion, promising an exciting intersection between literary scholarship and personal experience.

Dr. Holt’s “August Wilson” course will consider Wilson’s undeniable influence on African-American literature, as well as the social impact of Wilson’s work and his treatment of race and history. According to Dr. Holt, students will discuss the “four B’s’ … Romare Bearden (collages), Amiri Baraka (black nationalism), Jorge Luis Borges (magical realism), and the blues (creative aesthetic),” each offering a lens through which to examine Wilson’s plays and highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the course. Not only will students enrolled in this course study Wilson’s creative and cultural influence, but they also will perform a scene from one of the playwright’s works as part of their course project – encouraging them to become both young literary scholars and artists themselves.

Dr. Ramirez’s course on Chicana/o myth will investigate important elements of Chicana/o mythological narratives, beginning with “Aztlán, the mythical homeland, and its characterization in various cultural productions.” Students also will consider several deities from the Nahua and Mayan mythological pantheons that offer a framework for discussing Feminist Chicana mythology. Transported to mythologized border spaces, students will focus on assigned texts – Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, Virginia Grise’s blu, and Cherríe Moraga’s The Hungry Woman – that will instruct their study of border ballads as they relate to Feminist Chicana myth. Dr. Ramirez notes that the course is interdisciplinary in its examination of mythological adaptation, addressing, in particular, “the three mothers known in Chicana/o mythology: la Llorona, la Malinche, and Guadalupe.”

Students enrolling in Mr. Wilson’s course on “The Literature of Resistance” may find themselves similarly transported as they evaluate “the complicated relationship between aesthetics and politics” in texts portraying resistance by and reactions to oppressed groups. The required texts address such topics as gender, sexuality, race, and class-based oppression – from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, set in a dystopian future; to Helena Viramontes’ Under the Feet of Jesus, set in California and exploring the lives of Latin-American migrant workers. Discussing methods of resistance and the characterization of this resistance in literature will allow students to draw conclusions about the social impact of politicized texts that influence a variety of audiences and strive for social reform.

The courses highlighted above are only a few of the Special Topics courses available during the Spring 2020 semester. The full list of Spring 2020 Special Topics courses, as well as course descriptions for all Spring 2020 Advanced English classes, are available at the English Department website. These documents provide course codes, CRN, descriptions, names of faculty, and the degree requirement each course satisfies. Registration begins October 22, 2019.

-Kennedy Farrell, English major

Dr. Victoria Smith – English Department Chair 

Sept. 23rd, 2019

A portrait of Dr. Victoria Smith in a blue jacket

Dr. Victoria Smith, who became Chair of the English Department this Fall, has always loved traveling and exploring new places. During the senior year of her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Greece, and this passion for immersing herself in another culture only grew. Each morning she woke up in her apartment on Democritus Street, the smell of warm bread filling the air as it wafted up from the bakery below. On Thursdays, beginning in the early hours of the morning, this aroma scented the bustle of vendors setting up their stalls for the weekly street market. Excitement on the street grew equally with anticipation for the market and the desire to socialize, which is characteristic of the very expressive Greek people. Dr. Smith reflects on this formative experience by noting that “being immersed in that culture and being able to travel and learn about it was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Dr. Smith describes herself as an “army brat.” Traveling from France, to Italy, to Washington DC, to New Orleans, she had no choice but to adapt to the different places and cultures she encountered. Exploring the world during her adolescence taught her an invaluable lesson that shaped both her current outlook on the people around her and her career path. Still a lover of exploring, Dr. Smith finds joy in traveling because “it reminds [her] that people are different.”

She carried this important lesson forward as she pursued her college education, realizing that cultural differences don’t make one group better or worse than another. Dr. Smith earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from Pomona College; a Master’s degree in English from the University of Texas-Austin, with a minor in Radio-Television-Film; and a Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness from the University of California-Santa Cruz. While pursuing her Ph.D., she explored how Modernist female authors write about loss. She investigated the social traditions that instruct this demographic’s characterization of loss as a consciousness represented in their writing, aiming to prove that women writers internalize society’s limitations of their gender and write about loss in a melancholic way.

Dr. Smith’s respect for cultural differences also informs her current scholarship and teaching. In “The Heterotopias of Todd Haynes: Creating Space for Same Sex Desire in Carol,” she analyzes the film employing Foucault’s concept of “other space,” exploring how a queer counterspace is created through the film’s “framings, textures, color, and spatial relations.” In another project, “Highways of Desolation: The Road and Trash in Boys Don’t Cry and Monster,” she considers how familiar tropes and genres such as melodrama and the road movie make characters accessible to an audience. Dr. Smith explains that this project evaluated how speaking to an audience’s understanding of social class and norms allows the characters’ transgressions to “draw attention to the larger hierarchical structures of power in American society.” Scholarly projects in Film Studies and Gender Studies that examine portrayals of sexuality and race suggest Dr. Smith’s varied interests, which she also incorporates into her English classes such as her Fall 2019 course on Mainstream Queer Film.

Dr. Smith laments that she will miss teaching as often as she’d like now that she has taken on the administrative responsibilities of Department Chair. “I love teaching, so [becoming Chair] was never a goal of mine,” Dr. Smith explains, reflecting on her new position. Even so, she hopes her new role will allow her to continue promoting diversity; over the next two years, she plans to work with her colleagues in the English Department to revise the English major curriculum – “to improve the curriculum, change it, make it more reflective of what student needs are and how students have changed.” Dr. Smith explains the English major “hasn’t been changed in twenty-one years,” and she hopes a new curriculum will formalize the offering of classes that promote diversity – classes often taught in the English Department but under the current curriculum only scheduled as “topics courses.” Such courses reflect the rich complexity of the English Department and Texas State University as a whole, diversity of the University, and the varied interests of its students and faculty.

Kennedy Farrell, English major