Scott Blackwood

Scott Blackwood

MFA Creative Writing in Fiction graduate — Scott Blackwood — has received widespread praise and recognition for his recently published novel, See How Small. The novel is a fictionalized account of the devastating rape and murder of four teenage girls working at a yogurt shop in Austin, Texas, in 1991. The point of view shifts from chapter to chapter as each character tries to cope with the loss, confusion, and fear that came as a result of such a traumatic event. A book review by NPR describes See How Small as, “brutal, necessary, and near perfect”; The New York Times listed it as an “Editors’ Choice”; and Peopleincluded the book in its top choices for 2015. “There’s just been an outpouring of support for it,” Blackwood said. “They’ve singled it out and… that’s really rewarding.”

Blackwood graduated from the MFA Fiction program in 1997. “I started [the program] in 1992 [and] went a year while working fulltime and taking classes,” Blackwood explains. He left the program for about two years before going back. “[My return to the program] was largely due to Professor Debra Monroe,” Blackwood went on. “She’s incredibly positive and encouraging. She champions the people who do good work and also the ones that fall down a little —I was falling down quite a bit.” Blackwood was at the time a new father in the midst of a divorce and working as a fulltime high school teacher; while these factors weighed heavily on his ability to commit to the program, he was able to return and complete his degree with the encouragement and support of his peers and mentors. “There were people there and [Dr. Monroe] gathered them around and made them feel like they were a part of something bigger — you just have to find your people.”

Blackwood noted that his hardships as a student and as a writer have greatly impacted his abilities and his approach as a professor and as an author. “Hopefully I can give [students] some advice from having been a part of that community at Texas State; that was a life-changing thing for me,” Blackwood went on. Blackwood stressed that writing was not a “lone wolf experience.” He said that the “real experience” of writing requires some dependence on other writers and readers, and that this dependence “will go on forever.” In addition to finding that sense of community, Blackwood also believes such time in school is essential to an individual’s development as a writer. He explained that, for students, “[school] is your place to develop a vision for yourself as a writer. This is your time — that doesn’t come again. You’ve got to figure out how to make that [vision] before you leave that rarified world of academia.”

Blackwood currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on fiction at Southern Illinois University. He is in the early stages of developing and writing a book based on the war veteran’s character in See How Small. Blackwood said the book will be “more about mothers and sons… [and] war trauma — all of the mothers who have endured their kids leaving and coming back very changed — it’s an interesting and moving experience [and] I want to [explore] that.”

Dr. Octavio Pimentel

February 2015

After interviewing with other universities across the United States, Dr. Octavio Pimentel accepted an offer from Texas State University. “The obvious change coming to Texas State [from the University of Utah],” Dr. Pimentel explains, “was the cultural thing; I come here and… you have every color; it was nice to see the diversity, not just in ethnicities, but in physical appearance in general.”

Before joining the English Department at Texas State, Dr. Pimentel attended California State University in Chico, where he received his BA in English and Spanish, and an MA in Composition Studies. He continued his career as a doctoral student at the University of Utah, where he received his PHD, studying the social foundation of education, with an emphasis on rhetoric and composition. Since his arrival at Texas State in 2005, he has received numerous awards, most recently the 2014 Texas State Excellence in Diversity Award. Many of the classes Dr. Pimentel instructs are a direct reflection of the diversity this award supports: Language Problems in a Multicultural Environment and Writing for Social Justice, among many others.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Pimentel is a widely published scholar, and just as his courses are a reflection of the Diversity Award, so is his scholarly work. For example, “Shrek 2: An Appraisal of Mainstream Animation’s Influence on Identity,” published in the Journal of Latinos and Education in 2009 discusses the presence of constructs and discourses present in Shrek 2 that perpetuate existing stereotypes, specifically of Latinos and African Americans, in Shrek 2. Two pieces that are currently in progress also maintain this cross-cultural theme. One is a manuscript exploring the variation in definitions of success across cultures. It explores the idea that success is multidimensional and cannot be restricted and defined based on one perspective simply because it is the dominant one. The other piece, which will appear in English in Texas, discusses the need for cross-cultural awareness and inclusiveness in writing centers. Both articles emphasize the importance of recognizing cultural diversity as well as its impact on society and, more specifically, on students.

It is clear that much of Dr. Pimentel’s writing is inspired by experiences and observations he has had as a professor. Discussing the situation of incoming students, particularly freshmen, Dr. Pimentel parallels their experiences and expectations to those of collegiate athletes. “Imagine a good high school player, getting MVP and everything, but then they go to college; most high school players will do terrible in college [and] it’s kind of interesting what sports teams do: they red-shirt you” — they give new players some time to feel things out before really joining the team. In essence, when good students get to college, they tend to be over-confident, and then, after having a rough time during the first round of exams, they get discouraged. “You come here,” Dr. Pimentel continues, “you’re still a high school student; you’re going to get beat up a little bit, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful.”

Department News: Two Lecturers on Their First Books

Into That Good Night by Levis Keltner

In Keltner’s book, a group of junior-high misfits set out to find a girl who died in the woods, a setting not far from the mysterious forest of Keltner’s own childhood. The kids are united by their fascination with the girl who died and by collectively facing the horror of death. They embark on a coming-of-age journey full of love, murder, and moral dilemmas. Into That Good Night is set for release in early 2018 through Skyhorse Publishing.

Cities of Men by William Jensen

Jensen’s novel, released in May 2017 by Turner Publishing, follows a twelve-year-old boy and his father who find that the boy’s mother has gone missing. Their family dynamic is far from healthy, but together they take a road trip through Southwest America and Mexico to find the woman with whom they both share a connection.

Unlike most careers, writers face rejection regularly. Accepting this reality can lead to vulnerability, frustration, and the temptation to quit, but William Jensen and Levis Keltner—lecturers in the English Department with first books out or forthcoming this year—prove, as Jensen says, that being a writer “really is about patience and hard work.”

Both writers attribute their success to the determination and the discipline required of writers working to bring their first books into the world. William Jensen’s novel, Cities of Men, took five years of waking up in the morning, following the twists and turns of the novel’s plot and focusing on the littlest details. Testing his resolve, Keltner faced a disheartening first year in the MFA program. His big idea for a book was getting negative feedback, and he had reached a point of personal crisis. He spent the following summer writing about anything and everything, trying to break out of his literary rut. The following semester, Keltner became close with Tim O’Brien after taking his fiction workshop. O’Brien liked Keltner’s new work and gave him the encouragement he needed to move forward. “Without taking that class,” Keltner admits, “I don’t know if I would’ve stuck with [writing].” This positive reinforcement helped him finish his first novel, Into That Good Night, set for release in 2018.

While these authors share the same commitment to their work, they took a different path to reach this point in their careers. Before he decided to pursue writing, Jensen worked many odd jobs, including landscaping and dishwashing. Like Keltner, Jensen came to Texas State with a desire to study with Tim O’Brien, the National Book Award winner of The Things They Carried. O’Brien, Jensen says, demonstrated that “showing up is ninety percent of success.” In addition to simply showing up, O’Brien also confirmed that writers already have a wealth of material from their backgrounds to draw on for their stories. Having spent his life between California, Arizona, and Texas, Jensen has an intimate relationship with the Southwest, and he uses this familiarity with the landscape as the backdrop for Cities of Men. “I knew how certain winds would feel, and how certain trees would smell,” Jensen says of his choice for setting. The non-traditional route that Jensen took to arrive at where he is today likely gave him the wisdom and resilience that writers require.

Unlike Jensen, Keltner has always thought of himself as an artist. Before coming to Texas State, he played in a band for many years. “My songs were always very long,” Keltner jokes, admitting that this was his first sign that he was meant to be a novelist. After an onslaught of band drama, Keltner decided his best option was to pursue writing, and the only looking back he does is to gather material. Keltner grew up in a forest preserve on the outskirts of Chicago, and rumors circulated among his peers about the creatures who might live there. This mysterious backdrop eventually became the setting for his novel.

At a certain point, the hardworking and determined author must commit to a completely different job—submitting their work. For Jensen and Keltner, this involved draft upon draft of query letters to agents, those gatekeepers of the publishing world who understand not only the artist but the publishing landscape as well. Instead of waking up to work on their books, they were practicing how to sell their ideas.

In spite of their commitment to seeing their work published, these writers are most concerned with the act of writing itself. Both noted the joy felt when the writing was going well. “I couldn’t live without that feeling,” Keltner says. Such moments of creation keep writers from succumbing to the fear of being rejected. While that fear never goes away, the allure of bringing their first books into the world has allowed these writers to push past the hard facts of publishing and to forge ahead with their artistic visions. Only one thing can explain why someone would voluntarily go through all of this, as Keltner remarks of this phenomenon: “You have to be a little bit crazy.”

by Sammi Yarto, English major

Department News: Jim Shepard Interview

Courtesy of Texas State University, August 2017

 

Impossible Facts: How the Holocaust Makes Children of Us All, an Interview with Jim Shepard, winner of the Clark Fiction Prize

Jim Shepard

In the spring of 1940, Aron, the narrator of this year’s inaugural winner of the Clark Fiction Prize, The Book of Aron, watches as a wall rises around the center of Warsaw, around his neighborhood, and around those he loves most. Even though Aron is only nine when the Nazis arrive, through his clear-eyed, succinct story, readers are swept into the undercurrents of ghetto survival: theft, smuggling, and ultimately, informing. Inherent in this quest for survival is the question Aron must face: What is he willing to do to survive?

With so much suffering, it would be easy for a writer to gloss over reality with facts and figures too mind-boggling to fathom, but Jim Shepard depicts both the daily and the historic brutalities with such precision that readers feel, if not complicit, than a part of the brutality humans commit against one another. While the next horror is never farther than a page turn, humor runs throughout the narrative, providing the residents, and readers, a way—the only way it seems—to cope with the darkness. As Janusz Korczak, the historic doctor who in the novel provides refuge for Aron, says, “The Jews manage to adjust to every situation but never know how good they [have] it, like the man who complained he had no golden shoes but didn’t realize that he was soon to lose his legs.” Through Korczak, Aron can see the hope of transformation, for the day when the walls no longer imprison him, but Aron must decide if he is worthy of being saved.

Kindly, Jim Shepard agreed to answer some questions about Aron, the ghetto, and his writing techniques prior to his campus visit.

Texas State: In other interviews, you’ve said part of the inspiration for this book came from hearing the sound of your child’s voice. Could you elaborate on this? What other sources of inspiration helped you work through the challenges of writing this book?

Jim Shepard: I think I’m always channeling children’s voices once I decide to write from the point of view of a child. I’ve always been interested in catastrophe, as well as children, and the issue of ethical passivity, and it occurred to me when reengaging with the story of Janusz Korczak that the Holocaust brings those three subjects together under maximum pressure, in dramatic terms. I’d always resisted writing about Great Men or Women, mostly because I tend towards the worm’s eye view of history, but also because I’m less interested in hagiography and more in those stories that dismantle our sense of ourselves. But it occurred to me, when reconsidering Korczak’s story, that many of the poor children in his orphanage hated being there, even as they recognized that it had saved them, however temporarily. And they must have felt terribly conflicted about that. Imagine being the boy who for whatever reason made a saint’s life harder. (My mother would say: Yes. Imagine that.) That sense of knowing how you should behave and being unable to do it—that sense of feeling that you’re not adequately appreciating what you have been given, and in so doing you’re making it harder for the people you love and admire: that was a conflict I could relate to.

The Book of Aron

TS: Many of your short stories and novels, including The Book of Aron, are told in first-person point-of-view. What did you find most challenging in writing from Aron’s point-of-view?

JS: Well, getting his voice right, of course. I started researching by reading first-person accounts of Polish childhoods in the 1920s and 30s—and there were lots of those—with a special attentiveness to the voices. I’m sure the project felt like such an act of hubris that I’d already decided to use the first person in order to go at the problem of authority head-on, as it were, and I told myself that if I couldn’t begin to master my protagonist’s voice to my own satisfaction, then I couldn’t adequately imagine his inner life, either, in which case I should just drop the whole thing. I also wanted to, by limiting myself to a single first-person sensibility, evoke the way in which the dread of what’s coming is always there in the reader’s mind but is opaque to those in the historical moment. One of the pleasures that fiction can deliver is, of course, the god-like ability to flit from sensibility to sensibility—to penetrate everyone’s consciousness, and to know with certainty what everyone is thinking: a mobility and omniscience that we never in our regular lives get to experience. Anotherpleasure that fiction can offer, though, is the opportunity to inhabit a single, other sensibility, as limited (or perhaps even more limited) than our own, as fully as possible. Both pleasures are exercises in the empathetic imagination, but for me the latter option nearly always seems, when done well, more bracingly revelatory as a crash course in empathy. And I tend to believe that most of us need as bracingly revelatory a crash course in empathy as we can get.

TS: There are many gruesome events that happen in this novel, yet it never feels like a simple catalogue of suffering, primarily because of Aron’s idiosyncrasies in telling his story. Can you discuss how you were able to achieve this balance of conveying the horrors, yet still making them human?

JS: There’s always the tightrope walk when writing about suffering—and especially extreme and/or mass suffering—between sanitizing events and sensationalizing them. Usually it’s a matter of recognizing how much agony does need to be conveyed, and at the same time recognizing when any more seems gratuitous. Which is of course easier said than done. But there’s also the importance of the understanding that for those living through such times, the suffering becomes quotidian – and as such, the quotidian can compete with it. So that someone’s soup becomes as notable an event as a beating.

TS: In other interviews, you’ve spoken about your obsession with the issue of agency in fiction: “with that portion of responsibility that we have for what happens to us.” Could you discuss how responsibility and agency work in the novel?

JS: Aristotle’s notion of literature involved flaws of character that produced behavior for which the character then had to take some sort of responsibility, and I believe that literary conflict is about agency; it’s about those decisions we make once we’re faced with whatever the world has unleashed upon us. So that: the Germans invading your country is hugely dramatic, but not in itself a conflict, in that sense. What you do about that invasion is.

TS: One of the major conflicts of the book seems to be this question: What are we willing to do to survive (The Jewish Police, Aron and his band of smugglers, Korzac’s unwillingness at the end)? As Lejkin, a member of the Judenrat, tells Aron, “If the [Germans] have enough time, they’ll kill us all. If not, some can be saved;” of course, being saved here means turning on your neighbors. Can you discuss this aspect of the book?

JS: See my previous answer. One of the reasons we’re drawn to such stories, despite their unpleasantness, is our fascination with how human beings operate when faced with such impossible choices. If it meant saving your brother, would you answer an interrogator honestly about your neighbor? And at what point would you cease cooperating with an oppressive regime?

TS: In the opening lines of the book, Aron says his father wanted to name him, “What Have You Done,” because Aron is a troublemaker who “only looks out for himself”; yet Aron’s mother sees him as the readers see him, as conflicted, as someone who’s maybe 51 percent good and 49 percent bad. But even still, Aron’s mother implores him to “remain a decent human being.” In the face of so much atrocity, is decency merely an illusion?

JS: No, decency is most certainly not just an illusion. In the face of the most extreme circumstances, it just rarely survives as an untainted category.

TS: One of the elements that I found so striking about this novel was its depiction of the daily horrors of living in the ghetto (the constant battle against lice, the waves of typhus, the number of people living in one small apartment, etc.) Why did you chose to incorporate these details, while many other writers have foregone these details in the face of the larger, more terrifying horrors of this period of history?

JS: I was struck during my engagement with all those journals and diaries by how much, again, the quotidian dominated the thinking of those trapped in the Ghetto, as in: let’s just get through today, and let tomorrow worry about itself. That mindset meant that there was less thinking about the Big Picture and more about the smaller and more concrete aspects of experience.

TS: Throughout much of the book, adults are peripheral—their overheard conversations, the brothers and the father; not quite as much the mother, but even with her, there is some psychological distance—so why do you think Aron becomes so close to Dr. Korczak? Put another way, what is so attracting about a figure like Korczak?

JS: Korczak’s legendary capacity to hang on to so much of his decency, and his kindness, and his selflessness, made him a magnet for all of those children like my narrator who were pained at what they’d already done to survive, and who longed to imagine that they could still renovate themselves for the better.

TS: In many places, there are threads of dark humor, especially from Korczak. Did you worry about trying to accomplish this in a book about the Holocaust? How were you able to incorporate this into the novel?

JS: I didn’t worry about the appropriateness of the relationship between dark humor and the Holocaust, since I wasn’t adding the dark humor, as if in a recipe; I was coming across it again and again in the primary documents. It’s clear from the historical record that those who didn’t give up or become entirely unfeeling had to employ humor in some way to cope with what they understood to be the grotesque absurdity of their situation.

TS: Some might argue that stories about the Holocaust are unethical because they involve an appropriation of others’ suffering. Did you feel concern about this while you were writing, and, if so, how were you able to overcome this?

JS: Of course that was a huge concern of mine, when approaching a subject like this. And it’s been a commonplace claim about the relationship between the Holocaust and the arts that the enormity of the suffering and horror defeats any attempt at adequate representation. But books like Jona Oberski’s Childhood reminded me that by making a child our guide to such infernal regions, a work could enact any number of ways in which the impossible facts of the Holocaust make children of us all. And maybe such a work could also then evoke both the necessity and the inherent impossibility of our hope of adequately testifying about anyone else’s pain.

TS: Lastly, could you share some thoughts on what it means to win the inaugural Clark Fiction prize?

JS: I’m one of those people who believes that the proper response to winning any award is humility, given how much good fortune has to come together to make that happen. And humility seems to be even more in order when the subject of your project involves extremities of suffering, and on top of that, extremities of suffering that have taken place at an enormous remove from your own experience. So: it’s a great honor, and one for which I’m hugely grateful.

Featured Alumni: 2013-2014

October 2014

Michelle Detorie“I think I always loved the way you can make patterns with words,” Michelle Detorie explains. “I enjoyed nursery rhymes and songs, and I loved reading and being in my imagination, and language was a way to create and structure and sustain those engagements.”

This love of language and poetry certainly shines through in her first published poetry collection, After-Cave, recently released by Ahsahnta Press. A collection of abstract pieces, After-Cave explores feminine and feral nature through poems featuring a possibly human and possibly alive narrator. As Michelle explains, After-Cave offers an experimental narrative perspective: “My own adolescence and coming-of-age in South Carolina is also there. The main speaker in the book is a 15 year old girl who doesn’t know if she is human.”

While earning her MFA at Texas State University in 2004, Michelle focused on themes of gender, intersectionality, and animals. She also devoted time to researching ancient and medieval forms of divination, which she experimented with as a way to make poems. This inspired her thesis, titled “Myomancy,” which refers to a type of divination done by observing mice. These themes persist in After-Cave, which she describes as being inspired by “a decades-long engagement with feminism and feminist poetics, and a life-long fascination with animals and the natural world.”

Michelle, who notably held the Rose Fellowship while attending Texas State University, currently lives and teaches in Santa Barbara, California, at Santa Barbara City College. In addition to writing frequently, Michelle has also created a public art project called The Poetry Booth. Michelle describes The Poetry Booth as a “free, and mobile site-specific installation that works as both a display and workspace for experiencing and creating poems with the guidance of practiced poets and educators.” The booth, which provides a physical space with tables, chairs, and supplies, has traveled to several locations in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

July 2014

Clare Barker is an Assistant Professor at Colorado Technical University Online. She is working on her PhD at the University of New Mexico under Dr. Anita Obermeier and Dr. Helen Damico. This upcoming fall, she will transfer to the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. Her dissertation will focus on mental health and stability in medieval mystics, saints, and visionaries.

June 2014

Evangelina YanezFor the past year, English graduate Evangelina Yanez has been working as an Academic Support Intern at Wayfinder Schools Camden (Maine) campus through a program supervised by AmeriCorps of Northern New England. The program is based on a nine-month accelerated graduation plan, with the potential to graduate eight students a year. During the day Evangelina assisted in classes including American Sign Language, reading, writing, radio, as well as a block called Real Life Skills. Monday through Wednesdays after academics, she and a residential overnight counselor would eat dinner with the students and oversee daily chores. They would then facilitate homework hour and use free time to connect with students on a more personal level. Evangelina was also in charge of heading service learning projects in the community, such as coordinating visits to the elder care home up the road and working at the community garden.

May 2014

Dr. Joddy MurrayDr. Joddy Murray has been invited to become an ACE Fellow by the American Council on Education. Dr. Murray received a master’s degree from Texas State University. .[Link archived]

 

April 2014

Amanda MixonAmanda Mixon, MA in Literature graduate, has been accepted into the Comparative Literature PhD Program at UC-Irvine, and was awarded two of the university’s most prestigious fellowships: the Dean’s Fellowship and the Provost ‘s Fellowship, which will fund her first year, dissertation year, and summers in the program; along with the Diversity Recruitment Fellowship, which will fund her move to California. The years in between will be funded by Teaching Assistantships in the Department of English and the Department of Gender & Sexuality Studies.

March 2014

Rosetta Ballew-Jennings Is the Room, the debut poetry collection from MFA poetry graduate Rosetta Ballew-Jennings, has just been published by Jaded Ibis Productions.

 

 

February 2013

Elliot BrandsmaElliott Brandsma was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and is now study

ing Icelandic language and literature at the University of Iceland.  [Link archived]

January 2013

Dr. Pamela Buchanan MillerDr. Pamela Buchanan Miller is a native of El Paso, Texas. After graduating from Southwest Texas State University with her M.A. in English in 1992, she moved to Mobile where she joined the University of Mobile’s Center for Adult Programs. She has served as Dean of the Center since 2008. Over the past 20 years, she has had the pleasure of working with more than a thousand adult students. She earned her Ph.D. in Instructional Development and Design from the University of Southern Alabama in 2009, where her research focused on characteristics of adult learners.

Featured Faculty: Dr. Aimee Roundtree (December 2014)

Dr. Aimee RoundtreeDr. Aimee Roundtree

Associate Professor Aimee Roundtree, who joined the English Department faculty this year, says she has always been fascinated with moments of translation and interpretation using technical information. As someone who specializes in technical communication, she describes what she does as “focusing on discourse in scientific practice and the public understanding of science.” Dr. Roundtree often works with communications regarding natural sciences and the medical field. “My work takes a rhetorical lens and applies it to technologies that scientists use to construct and disseminate scientific knowledge”

Dr. Roundtree first became interested in technical communication when she worked in public relations for the military and various hospital organizations after earning her bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy. Additionally, she reported the health beat for a women’s magazine in New York City. There, she wrote health articles that translated medical information for a general audience.

Coming into technical communication from a philosophy background, she often finds ways that philosophy, rhetoric, and technical communication overlapped in her work: “We think science is about facts, but how we get to the facts has a lot to do with how we argue for them, and what to do about them.”

Working as a medical writer and communication specialist, she began seeing interesting patterns in how science and medical information was used; she made this topic her focus when she pursued post-graduate work at the University of Texas-Austin. She found that “rhetoric informs argumentation, which informs dialectic, which informs how scientists make and report scientific data.”

Her current scholarly work includes looking at the rhetoric of supernovas and climate change. Her hobbies include running and playing electric guitar in her spare time.

Featured Faculty: Dr. Cecily Parks (October 2014)

San Marcos, TX – Dr. Cecily Parks, a new assistant professorDr. Cecily Parks in the English Department at Texas State University, cites environmental literature and women writers as her major influences and research interests. Inspired by her own experience in the outdoors, Dr. Parks believed early in her life that there were interesting things happening in the dialogue between literature and the environment. These themes permeate her works; Dr. Parks’s poetry collections Field Folly Snow and O’Nights are both centered on the natural world. O’Nights Is scheduled to come out in April of 2015.

Dr. Parks earned her PhD in English and American Literature at City University of New York, and her MFA in Poetry at Columbia University. Her passion for poetry began when she took a creative writing class during her senior year of college in order to fulfil a credit, and it quickly became a favorite outlet. “I liked that I could write, but it didn’t feel autobiographical,” she states. “It led me to write about things outside myself. Poetry helps me think about the world.”

Although Dr. Parks is new to Texas State University, she has over ten years of experience teaching and has been widely published in poetry anthologies, prestigious literary journals, and essay collections. Her publications this year include Birdlands, which is a poetry and print collaboration with visual artist Ken Buhler; a poem entitled “Plastic Flower” in the anthology The Petroleum Manga; “Conversation Between Fox and Field” in Another Chicago Magazine; and a scholarly publication entitled “The Secret Swamps of Susan Howe in Secret History of the Dividing Line, Thorow, and Personal Narrative,” which appears in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment.

In her spare time, Dr. Parks enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and cross-country skiing. She is especially excited about reading Marilynne Robinson’s latest work, Lila, which was released this month.

Featured Faculty – Leah Schwebel (September 2014)

San Marcos, TX – This year, the Department of Dr. Leah Schwebel, assistant professor at Texas State University English has celebrated the arrival of many talented new faculty members. Among the new professors and lecturers, Texas State University is excited to welcome Chaucer scholar Dr. Leah Schwebel as an assistant professor.

Dr. Schwebel received her MA from McGill University in Montreal, Canada; and her PhD in Medieval literature from the University of Connecticut, focusing on Chaucer and the Italian Renaissance.  However, her interests in medieval literature were not limited to her academic career: “I’ve been a Chaucerian since I was fifteen!” Dr. Schwebel proudly admits with a smile.

Dr. Schwebel’s interest in Chaucer began when she was young and was fed by her fascination with medieval studies and her love of classical myth. She explained that she became intrigued by the ways medieval studies retold classical myths. These interests are especially reflected in her PhD dissertation, “Re-telling Old Stories: Chaucer and an Italian Poetics of Intertextual Commentary.”

She has been published in several medieval literature and Chaucer journals, including Studies in the Age of Chaucer, Chaucer Review, and Dante Studies.  Among her current projects, Dr. Schwebel is co-editing a collection of essays on Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women that should be in print by April, 2017. She also is planning to present at four conferences this year, and will be chairing a session of the Northeastern MLA conference in Toronto with Dr. Kara Gaston.

Explaining her excitement about in her new position, Dr. Schwebel expressed her interest in participating in the Department’s Medieval and Renaissance Society. She stated that she is looking forward to meeting the people in the organization, and taking a leadership role in the Society.

Outside the classroom, Dr. Schwebel enjoys swimming, biking, and running. Last summer, she completed her first full-distance triathlon, the Ironman Lake Placid. Dr. Schwebel, who was always athletic, took up cycling while in Connecticut. She hopes to continue these pursuits while in Texas and plans on participating in Ironman Texas, held in The Woodlands.