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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:

VICTORIAN HORRORS – Fall 2014
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.

I’m here with another short story review. Last time, I reviewed “Neshoba” by Katherine Conner. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go read it now!

This post, I’ll talk about the story “Cursed Rain” published in Pithead Chapel online journal, a fairly new online literary publication which has been running since August of 2012. T.J. Martinson, author of “Cursed Rain,” is the author of a number of short stories published in online journals.  He studies at Eastern Illinois University in their Creative Writing MFA program.  So, just like Pithead Chapel, his pursuit of the literary life is meeting with success, and (like the journal) he’s also just getting started…

“Cursed Rain” is an interesting piece of short fiction about of couple of workers on a farm. The narrator tells us about his coworker, Shuck, a man who spins stories about a Gypsy woman who put a curse on the rain, damning anything it touches. Shuck appears, in the narrator’s telling, as a broken man, pausing periodically in the midst of his farm labors to massage his bad hands. No one else seems to be concerned with his tales of the Gypsy, except the narrator, who is a new arrival to the farm. Every time the sky gets dark, Shuck frets about the possibility of rain and the Gypsy’s curse on it.  Martinson’s reader wonders how much of his tales are to be believed, but like the story’s narrator, we remain interested in this broken man and his strange stories.

Martinson blends the mythology of the Gypsy woman and the story of these workers into an interesting tale. Shuck’s belief in the Gypsy woman’s magical power is as interesting as the tales themselves. Where did he come up with this story? Why is he so open to telling them to the narrator–a man Shuck barely knows? What happened to his hand, anyway–the routine wear of farm labor, or something worse? The tension between the unknown and known as well as the looming threat of rain make Martinson’s story a captivating and mysterious read. By the end, we come to understand a lot more about the complexities of Shuck, and a little about the narrator as well.

You can read “Cursed Rain” here. If you like it, take a gander at Martinson’s other works like “Fallout” and “The Indian Mosquito”.

Here’s another preview for Fall! This one is Dr. Gerald Majer’s ENG 281 “Anime in Text and Film” course, which has two sections to meet popular demand!  First, let me let his course description do the talking…

Dr. Majer describes the course thus: “Magically fantastical and metamorphic, and sometimes wildly violent and erotic. Playful and naïve and emo. Satirical and comical, serious and philosophical and profound. Anime scholar Thomas La Marre says it best: ‘Anime doesn’t just represent life via animation. Surprising and unsettling, relentlessly creative and ever mobile, Anime has a life all its own.’

“The rich and evolving life of Anime is the focus of this course. We explore a range of series and films including classics such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away and later greats like Ghost in the Shell, Full Metal Alchemist, Neon Evangelion, and Bleach. Along with related Manga texts, we also trace Anime connections in novels by Haruki Murakami and Tatsuhiko Takimoto.  “We aim to understand Anime in its multiply layered historical and cultural contexts – Japanese, Asian, American, and global – while analyzing specific aspects of its aesthetics and major contemporary issues such as nation and globalization, historical trauma, gender identities, technology, biopolitics, and the posthuman.”

That course description, and the topic itself, grabbed my interest, so I followed up with Dr. Majer directly for more information.  Here’s a bit of our exchange:

M: The English Department is pretty known for incorporating pop culture elements into our studies, such as your Zombies course and Dr. Snyder’s class on The Hunger Games. What made you decide to highlight Anime?

Dr Majer: As an outgrowth of work I’ve done on representations of contagions and plagues in literature, I’ve been exploring concepts of life and animation in texts and images ranging from the nineteenth century to the 2000s.

One line of this exploration brought into view the zombie-narrative with its focus on the paradox of the living dead. From White Zombie in the 1930s to The Walking Dead of today, the social and cultural resonances of the zombie figure prove to be remarkably rich and layered. Issues of race, religion, the family, and gender; issues of economics, biopower, and globalization–there’s a lot going on. In a related line of inquiry, I was tracking relations between the emergence of cinema and animation in the 1890s and historical concepts of animism and biological life.

Following that track further led me pretty naturally to Anime where such themes appear in postmodern guise and where the medium itself foregrounds animation. And I found that like the zombie-narrative, Anime clearly engages a rich and complex set of contemporary issues, this time in a Japanese and global context. My interest in the works of postmodern Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, themselves very Anime-like, also played a part. So from Victorian plagues and animations (and horrors), I came to zombies, and just down the road was Anime. An interesting trip, with a nice surprise there.

M: How do you feel these courses that go outside of the literary canon fit into an academic setting? How do you see students learning from these more contemporary studies?
Dr. Majer: In English much of our work focuses on methods and theories of interpretation.   Traditionally, those methods and theories were applied to literary texts in an established canon, the “great works.”  Over time, however, scholars came to see the old-school literary canon in many respects defined by narrow or dated criteria.  Dead white guys, nationalistic myth-making, and so on.
Along with that, there was the sense that culture is itself textual, that is, composed of various constructions,  signs, and languages.  With the shift of frame, popular-culture texts then appear as useful for exploration and analysis as the long-established canonical classics.  And because popular-culture texts may be closer to students in terms of familiarity and context, students often can engage them very readily and can build the powers of analysis and interpretation that will make them strong readers and analysts of any text, including the canonical classics.
M: What are some specific works you plan to highlight and why did you select them?
Dr. Majer: The films Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Akira, and Ghost in the Shell  are defining works of Anime and will be indispensable.  I also want to include later Anime including Evangelion 2.2 among others.  And Haruki Murakami’s novel Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World  not only because it is such an enjoyable read but also because its play with the Noir genre and the Apocalypse motif are very much Anime.  The recent Japanese novel Welcome to the NHK will take us further yet into the world of post-2000s Japan.
I also want to invite interested students to suggest additional Anime and/or Manga or related literary texts we can explore by way of a “top ten” comment in the Our Anime blog created for the course. Tell me what you see as vital, important, and fascinating Anime we might include in the course–or just your individual top ten.  Post in comments here (you’ll need a google account if you don’t have one).
Dr. Majer’s courses are always intriguing, so don’t miss out on this one!

The English Department here is planning some really great courses for the Fall. I decided to ask some professors about ones they’re teaching. Earlier this week, I shared some information about Dr. Nanette Tamer’s “Going Green” class.  Here’s a little more information about Dr. Tamer’s other special topics course next Fall: “Autobiography: From Franklin to Facebook.”

First, an overview of what Dr. Tamer herself has shared in her course description.  Benjamin Franklin, she reminds us, (writing years before the word “autobiography” was even invented) took years to carefully select, shape, and choose the language in which to frame the events and actions for which he wanted to be remembered. Today, Dr. Tamer suggests, we make these choices in minutes for use on social media, yet our linguistic and narratological processes are no less complex. In this class, students will choose autobiographies to read from a range of periods and styles and will investigate current theories of life representation.  The whole idea of “life representation” intrigued me, so I was happy to engage with Dr. Tamer herself a bit further on the subject:

M: How did you make the link from Franklin to Facebook? What makes Facebook an important aspect of the genre worth studying? How important do you think social media is for us today?

Dr. Tamer: Franklin has been called “the first modern man” because of the way that he shaped his public image.  For example, when he first started the printing business that made him a wealthy man, he rushed around the streets of Philadelphia with a wheelbarrow so that prospective clients would think he was busy and hence a good printer. 

Similarly, when he went to France to seek funds for the struggling patriots launching the American Revolution, he did not dress as the urban man that he was, but in homespun suits and fur hats to match the image that the French had of people in the New World. 

In his Autobiography, he set out to give advice to others who desired his success.  I recognized these same motivations and techniques in Facebook postings.  We mediate our representations of ourselves by selecting what we will post, and we pass along advice of all sorts to others.

M: How can students expect to study Facebook?

Dr. Tamer: Using what we have learned from Franklin’s memoirs, more contemporary autobiographies, and current theories about life representation, we will investigate how our own uses of social media conform to, or build on, or depart from writing that has gone before.

——–

Are you on Facebook a lot? Maybe this class will help you reflect on your own experiences of it!  It’s just another example of how Stevenson’s English Department is looking to connect literature to life.  For more information, email Dr. Tamer at NTAMER@stevenson.edu

The time to pick classes for next semester is coming upon us quickly, so I asked some professors about their courses for Fall. First up is Dr. Nanette Tamer with her course ENG 281 “Going Green: People in Nature.”

All around us are messages to “go green,” and we each respond to these messages and to the natural world in our own ways. What about the characters in fiction? How do they perceive and respond to nature? By reading short fiction by several authors, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Barbara Kingsolver, and Richard Brautigan, and ranging from joyful celebrations to cautionary tales, we will experience some of the many meanings of “going green.”

I had an opportunity to ask Dr. Tamer both about her plans for this Fall class and about how she views the relationship between literature and nature more generally.  She sees that connection as diverse and nuanced:

“The relationships between literary works and the natural world are as vastly ranging as the relationships between individual people and the world around them since both authors and their characters are unique individuals.  Just as all of our reading expands our knowledge of ourselves and of the people and world around us and helps us to define our own values, reading about nature increases our perspectives.  In this way, the relationship between literature and nature is always beneficial.”

Even more interesting, Dr. Tamer suggests that students taking the course are likely to spend some time actually getting out of the classroom and engaging with nature themselves.  “In addition to hearing from guest speakers,” she told me, ”our activities will include visits to some natural and not-so-natural sites.”  Sounds intriguing! So, if you want to get an out-of-the-classroom experience and learn something about nature in the process? Definitely check out this course!

Spring Break

At last, the time for midterms has come, but, just next week is Spring Break. Time to celebrate all the hard work you’ve put in this semester and get yourself pumped up for the remaining weeks ahead. If you’re like me, you don’t have any huge getaway plans, so maybe you need something to do. I’ve already given you tips for snow days, which would apply to any break, really. But maybe you’re looking for a specific recommendation. No worries, I absolutely have one.

Watch True Detective. You may have heard of the HBO series starring Woody Harrelson and now Oscar-Winner Matthew McConaughey (let that sink in for a moment). The hour-long drama is part one of an installment of anthologies, meant to cover different detectives and different cases each season. The remarkable thing about the show is that the entire season has one writer and one director, whereas most television shows tend to have several throughout a season. This allows for a great cohesiveness with the show in terms of plot and character development, as well as camera work and imagery.

The first season covers Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Harrelson) through their nearly twenty year journey of uncovering a serial killer in Louisiana. While the plot may sound cliche, and several elements of the show are as well, the shows acting, direction, and writing work together to create some truly amazing television. Episode 4 ends with a six-minute tracking shot, a truly astounding feat for television. Only eight episode, it’s not a huge commitment, which makes it a totally doable watch for Spring Break.

Have you already watched the show? Well, maybe you should delve deeper and check out The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers. The show borrows a lot of symbolism from the book of short stories. It’s even in the public domain, which means you can read it for free!

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