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Stevenson English sponsors the Bee Green Day Writing Contest, inviting students to compose and perform creative writing inspired by their love of nature and rewarding the three best writers with cash prizes!  Two runners-up receive prizes of $50 each, while the best writer wins $100.  This year, Ben Deigert and Peter Hoblitzell were awarded $50 for their submissions, and SU English senior Miles Ripley was awarded the top prize.

Follow the link to watch video of their performance:





Since 1925, The New Yorker magazine has been a popular concoction of news, politics, and literature. Authors like J.D. Salinger, Alice Munro, John Cheever, and several others have stories published in the magazine’s great archive. In 2007, fiction editor Deborah Treisman started a podcast in which authors came to read pieces by other authors and discuss what they see in the stories. There are over eighty episodes available for free on iTunes and The New Yorker webpage. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite ones over the last few weeks.

1. T.C. Boyle Reads Donald Barthelme

Two stories are read in this episode: “Game” and “The School”. Both are very strange narratives. The first is about two men stuck in a bunker during the Cold War, and the second is about a class of young children dealing with a lot of death. The Barthelme stories themselves offer great black comedy, and T.C. Boyle, an interesting writer in his own right, delivers them very well. Both stories are written in the first person, and Boyle sounds as if he actually could be the narrators. And, though the episode includes two full stories, it is still rather short, clocking in at only 37 minutes.

2. Donald Antrim Reads Denis Johnson

“Work” by Denis Johnson is about an aimless, hapless drug addict, a ne’er-do-well who animates Johnson’s legendary collection, Jesus’ Son. “Work” begins with a strung-out scene at a Holiday Inn and follows a strange adventure in “salvaging” copper from wiring from a house.  The story’s prose is both beautiful and elegant, despite the lack of either quality in its low-life narrator. Though Donald Antrim, who reads the story, sounds a lot like Ben Stein, Johnson’s story and prose are more than enough to keep your attention. Antrim makes up for his boring reading style by offering some terrific insights into the story during the discussion.. This episode is even shorter at only 28 minutes.

3. Gary Shteyngart reads Lorrie Moore

I love Lorrie Moore, so I may be biased here. “Paper Losses” tells the story of a woman going through a divorce, but despite this, Moore’s story is very funny. Kit, the story’s protagonist, debates whether or not her soon-to-be ex-husband is a space alien or has a brain tumor. Kit,s phone chat with her friend is particularly rich with the quirky, fun dialogue typical of Moore’s fiction. Her deft sense of humor carries through in the story’s narration of Kit’s Caribbean vacation with her children. Kit’s voice and her story, though overwhelmingly funny at times, also hints at a quiet tragedy. Shteyngart’s reading of it is fantastic, very much in the way T.C. Boyle’s performances can be: he doesn’t just read the words, he performs the character. Time: 36 minutes.

4. David Sedaris reads Miranda July

“Roy Spivey” is about a woman meeting a celebrity on a plane. Their encounter ends with him giving her his phone number, but she never calls it until it’s too late. The story boasts a bunch of quirky moments that will have you laughing, but there’s a real depth in the emotional journey of its narrator. David Sedaris (known for own brand of weird, often dark sense of humor) compares July’s story to Lorrie Moore’s work, which maintains that very blend of comedy and pain. Sedaris’s unique voice also lends flavor to the reading. It’s such an interesting journey to follow for 31 minutes.

5. A.M. Homes reads Shirley Jackson

If you haven’t read “The Lottery,” then stop what you’re doing (unless it’s super-important) and listen to this episode. The story, Jackson’s most famous, was highly controversial at the time of its 1948 publication. Without giving away too much, I’ll simply say that A. M. Homes’ haunting reading of this tale is superb. Shirley Jackson passed in 1965, but a new collection of her works is set to be release next year. Until then, go familiarize yourself with her other work!

Spectrum Release Party

Throughout the semester, we’ve followed all the great work Spectrum has done. On April 25th, Spectrum’s 2014 issue will be released, and you’re invited to attend!

From 4 to 6PM at the Cuvilly Exchange on Greenspring, everyone is welcome to celebrate the editors, designers, and contributors of the magazine. Not only do attendees get a first look at the new issue, they can take a copy home for themselves! Free food and beverages are also provided.

It’s a great way to relax before finals week and to congratulate your peers on all the hard work they’ve done to let the creative voices of Stevenson be heard.

Hope to see you there!

Do you love nature?

Are you free April 23rd from 1 to 2?

Stop by for the Bee Green Day Writing Contest! Each year, the English department sponsors a contest in which contestants perform their own work about nature or ecology. The event will be hosted by English Major, Alicia Huenger, who did a lovely job hosting Spectrum’s last Open Mic.

If you need a little incentive, how about this: the first place winner will receive $100! Two runner-ups will also get $50 each! That’s a lot of money!

Bee Green Day has several other events throughout the day, so keep a look out for other great stuff!

Online magazines have become so prominent in the digital age that, in some ways, they have become the best venues for launching your creative work into the world of interested readers. Whether you’re writing poetry or prose, taking pictures or making paintings, there are online publications devoted to your genre and open to your submissions. Here are five you should check out, not only if you want to submit, but also if you want to read up on fresh work.

1. [PANK]

PANK exists both online and in print, which you can purchase in their online store. Their blog features reviews and new work nearly every day, so there is always a reason to revisit the site. The magazine’s sister work, Tiny Hardcore Press, publishes full-length novels, also available for purchase. On its submission page, they insist you become familiar with the magazine before you try to become published in it, and it’s very sound advice. PANK is for experimental poetry and prose. Just glancing at the works in its April 2014 issue, you can see the actual forms of each piece rarely match one another.



2. Narrative

There’s a great line in the magazine’s “about” section that refers to it as “sometimes referred to as the PBS of literature.” Narrative magazine’s only goal is to make literature accessible to everyone. Tons of work can be found on the website from their handpicked story and poem of the week to a very large archive of various material. You can find lists of stories with satire, stories about crime, or stories about nature. The magazine publishes monthly issues as well, and if you want, you can buy some cool stuff from their store or just donate in order to support their work.

3. Paper Darts

Paper Darts is hip and funny. Their “about” section shows how quirky they can be by promising things like, “If babies were puppies and puppies were birthed by Paper Darts, this magazine would be like the awesomest, shiniest, most bitey (in a good way) puppy you ever tried to lure into a windowless white van.” Their magazine has fiction and nonfiction, a genre sometimes overlooked or squished in with a general “prose” title. Peering at some of their material, a lot of it sounds hilarious and fresh. They state in their submission guidelines that shorter works tend to have a better acceptance rate, so you won’t have to commit that much time to checking out some of their work if you’re busy.



4. Blackbird

Blackbird Magazine is run by the Virginia Commonwealth University. I found this magazine when writing my short story review on “Neshoba” by Katherine Conner, who has been published in the magazine before. Their archive goes all the way back to 2002 and it has tons of great stuff. As their editorial policy states, they look for stories that challenge tradition. They publish twice a year, in Spring and Fall. Their current reading period ended April 15th, so a new edition should be out soon! You can currently read through each previous volume.



5. The Believer

The Believer is a little different from the other magazines on this list. It publishes poems, essays, interviews, and reviews. Not all the material is available in its full form online, but it has a lot of interesting stuff. Their podcast called The Organist features people like Lena Dunham, Jesse Eisenberg, and Nick Offerman doing…interesting things. The magazine itself is fascinating and the bits of full text available may be enough to persuade you to buy an issue just to see the rest. The new volume costs $12, older ones $8, and even older ones $6. A nine-issue subscription costs $45. But when essays can introduce themselves saying things like, “What can a fictional donkey with its tail on fire and a nonfictional mound of whale butter from 1922 tell us about cinema’s impossible pursuit of real life?” isn’t it worth it?

As someone who is graduating in less than a month, I’m very much focused on finding a good job to start my career. Many people wrongly assume a degree in English degree leads straight to teaching. My four years of learning at Stevenson have taught me that isn’t true.

The great thing about the English Department at Stevenson is that they don’t just throw you into a bunch of literature courses and hope that you figure out your goals in life alone. In my junior year, I took Design Your Career, the professional development course required for all of Stevenson’s English majors. In that class, we reflected on our goals, discussed and researched career paths that interested us, and developed a more intentional approach about choosing courses and internships that will help us most in attaining our desired career. Dr. Laura Snyder, who teaches Design Your Career, works with each student to form a resumé based on what employers are looking for, to write cover letters geared towards a specific job advertisement, and to practice proper interview etiquette. This ultimately leads to finding an internship, which is also required to graduate.
Last semester, this blog linked to an article about English major’s being in high demand. As it points out, the major provides a lot of great skills for the workplace. Some popular career choices for English graduates are copywriters, technical or grant writers, proofreaders, editors, and so many others.
Stevenson graduates in particular are good about finding work in their field. Just check out these graphs from a recent study of Humanities and Social Studies graduates. Fourty nine percent of Stevenson English Major Alumni have found full time work in jobs directly related to their field.  This is nearly double the percentage of graduates who have found full time work in the other fields of study that make up Stevenson’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.  Go Stevenson English majors!!!

Have you seen Stevenson’s rendition of Sweeney Todd yet? Well, you better act soon because there’s only one weekend left!

Sweeney Todd is a play based on a book by Hugh Wheeler. You may be familiar with the movie version by Tim Burton. If not, here’s a quick summary:

“A barber returns to Fleet Street to seek revenge against the people he believes murdered his wife and kidnapped his daughter. His victims meet an interesting end when he and an old friend, Mrs. Lovett, join forces.”

Stevenson’s version is directed by Theatre Program Coordinator Chris Roberts. Its remaining showings are on the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th at 7PM in the Inscape Theatre. Why don’t you go see it with the English Club this Saturday?

Tickets, as always, are $5 for Stevenson students and $10 for general admission.

Have you written any cool stuff this semester?

Are you dying to share it with an audience?

You can absolutely do that at Spectrum’s upcoming Open Mic! Never been to one before? Well, each semester, sometimes more than once, Stevenson’s own Spectrum Literary Magazine host an Open Mic event. It’s where writers, musicians, or artists can come to present their craft with their peers. Anything can be read: poetry, excerpts from stories, jokes, or scenes from your favorite play. People can also get musical! In the past, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing several acoustic performances from students.

It’s always a great event. Even if you’re not quite comfortable sharing your work yet, you can come to support those presenting and grab a beverage or snack from Jazzman’s ABSOLUTELY FREE.

And if you just can’t get enough of that open mic experience, there’s always more going around elsewhere! Poetry 24/7 is a website that lists tons of events in Baltimore. It includes the name of each event, its location, and the cost of admission (if there is any). The truth is, a lot of the time, the events are absolutely free!

The website also lists events in surrounding areas like D.C. and Philadelphia, so if you’re itching for a road trip to another city, they’ve got information for you too. Open Mics are a great way to have your voice heard and to get your name onto the scene. Maybe you’ll find my friend Alan at one!

Last Thursday, an induction ceremony for the honor society Sigma Tau Delta took place. Inductees and their families joined together with members of the English department in order to celebrate their academic excellence. Dr. Joseph Marshall and Dr. Gerald Van Aken presided over the event. Colleen Harrison was awarded the Jo-Ellen Turner Scholarship, which was last awarded to Michael Stabile.

Sigma Tau Delta is comprised of English majors and minors with GPAs over 3.0 in both English and their general studies. The society has over 800 chapters across the world. Below are Stevenson’s 2014 Inductees and photos from the event:

Alexandra Ellis

Tavish Forsyth

Vinoli Goonetilleke

Colleen Harrison

Lauren Ashley Morgan Lee

Lindsay Anne McCrea

Lillian Morales

Frank Reynolds

Victoria Rudacille

Daniel Scotten

Evan Shisler

Ebi Short

Hillary E. Soper

Michael Stabile

Hugh Taylor

Francesca Ullen

Rachel Wingender

When I reviewed the Cool Courses SU English Dept is offering next semester, I was almost sad that I will be graduating Stevenson next month and missing out on so many great topics classes in Fall 2014. Dr. Gerald Majer’s course “Victorian Horrors” especially appeals to me, since not only am I a huge fan of the horror genre generally, but also because I’ve spoken with Dr. Majer about that genre on many occasions. So, naturally, I wanted to interview him on the subject for the Department’s website.  What follows are portions of our conversation, but first, here’s the course description that caught my attention:

Instructor: Gerald Majer
ENG 340-01 (4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays)

“Accusatory ghosts and seductive vampires. Bloody Sweeney Todd and yours truly, Jack the Ripper. East End London with its labyrinthine alleys, its gaslights and its swirling fogs. From primal ocean depths, the tentacled giant squid; from primal mental depths, the tangled thought-skein named the unconscious. ‘The horror!’ as Conrad’s Kurtz infamously iterated, giving word to a Victorian sense of shock at the spectacle of excessive, unruly forces welling up from old histories, from new outposts of science and Empire, and from hidden recesses of the human psyche itself.

Yet we might argue, as Michel Foucault did in his account of modern sexuality, that the Victorians were not so much afraid of horrors as dedicated to their cultivation and production. Readings include texts by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Vernon Lee, Arthur Machen, and H.G. Wells, as well as Victorian horrors living on in 2000s Steampunk and Neo-Victorian fictions (From Hell; The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). This course asks why, in an age that so greatly prided itself on reason and progress, there was at the same time a cultural obsession with spectacles of the shocking, the ghostly, and the ghastly.”

How cool does that sound? I had to ask him a few additional questions about the course:

M: Horror tends to be an overlooked genre in academia. What do you see as its merits?

Dr. Majer: Well, I like to remember that horror extends across genres, appearing at those points in any text where feelings of abhorrence and revulsion are uppermost.  In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, say, the horrors of slavery.  Or from another direction, the horrors of crime and violence depicted in a Dickens novel or a postmodern fiction like Roberto Bolano’s 2666.

Horror involves a supercharging of affect, feeling running high.  And so horror marks very fundamental cultural investments, or shifts in such investments.  What’s sacred in a given culture is being affirmed, being challenged, or both.  This is one way horror emerges from the Gothic genre, which is often about questioning traditional privilege and hierarchies via highly-charged scenarios of imprisonment and violence.  So a primary interest with horror is the way horror exposes the seams, the points of pressure, in a given historical-cultural context.

When we move to horror itself as genre or sub-genre things get especially interesting since the text is from the start pitched to such fundamental issues even though it may appear as purely thrills and entertainment.  I find it interesting that horror as a distinct literary genre does not exist until around 1800, that is, the start of the Modern age, which is an age of criticism and of questioning tradition.  Is horror a peculiarly modern device, so to speak, for testing, probing, and critiquing social values?  A tool for investigating what we consider sacred?

M: What in particular is interesting about Victorian horror? In comparison with more contemporary tales of horror, how does it hold up?

After the Romantics, it is the Victorians who create horror as we know it today.   It’s a rich history of Gothic-genre mixing and remixing.  We tend to associate the Victorians with prissy primness, but Victorian horrors trended to the bloody and violent and the graphic.  A huge phenom was the Penny Dreadful, cheap-paper books with stories about heinous crimes.  Another bestseller was ghost stories, often involving dreadful violence and murder.  London itself was imagined as a city of horror, rife with street mobs and late-night stalkers, criminal cults and Satanic dabblers in blood and magic.

One great thing about Victorian horror is the clarity of the historical-cultural issues.  The Victorians were in all kinds of turmoil about politics and government, economic justice and injustice, women’s rights and feminism, and hugely uneasy and unsettled given the accelerated rate of social and technological change they were living through.   Like us after the millennium, they were in many ways freaked out, horror an unspoken keyword for how they often felt. Looking back, we can see pretty clearly the historical-cultural factors that made for that sense of horror, granting of course that clarity doesn’t mean oversimplification.  Maybe the looking back can allow us to see our own situation more clearly too.

M: Discuss one take in particular that you think will intrigue readers most.
Dr. Majer: Well, an embarrassment of riches, because the literary production of the period was tremendous.  Ghost stories are a literary form cultivated to a fine art in the Victorian age, especially by woman writers from Mary Gaskell to Vernon Lee.  And I especially like the proto-Lovecraft stories of the remarkable Arthur Machen that appeared in the 1890s and are true modern-horror classics.  Madness as a scary means of dis-empowering women in Collins’s Woman in White, bioscientific meddling with the human itself in H.G. Wells’s Dr. Moreau— great stuff, so it’s tough to narrow down to one.   But I’ll say of them all the Ripper is a case that inevitably fascinates because of the range of issues it engages and its enduring popularity and cultural resonance, as evidenced in recent graphic novels/films like From Hell and postmodern fiction like Iain Sinclair’s White Chapell, Scarlet Tracings.  Social violence, especially in terms of gender, and attendant issues of social class, ethnicity, and biopolitics.  And a defining case for the psychology and meanings of the modern serial killer.  There’s a lot there, all of it interesting, disturbing, and provocative because it so obviously connects to where we are today, a century and some years later, looking at similar issues.   

Have you looked into this course for your schedule? It’s sure to be killer.

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