Department of English News

ECU TCR Spring 2012 Articles

Lead Article:

 

Stuart Wright Collection

Byline: Jonathan Dembo

The Special Collections Department has recently completed processing the Stuart Wright Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library’s largest and most significant literary collection. Acquired by the Library from Stuart Wright in 2009, the collection contains a large number of historically valuable published and never-before published works of 22 world-renowned American poets and novelists. Included are portions of the private libraries of Richard G. Eberhart, who taught for many years at Dartmouth College, and of such noted Southern writers as Randall Jarrell, John Crowe Ransom, Peter Hillsman Taylor, and Robert Penn Warren. Also included are the papers of the English poet Donald Davie, who spent most of his working career in the South. The collection contains many significant manuscript items never before available for research, including notebooks, letters, photographs, drafts, and proofs of published works by Madison Smartt Bell, Fred Chappell, John Ciardi, George Core, James Dickey, Andre Dubus, Richard Eberhart, George Garrett, William Goyen, Randall Jarrell, Andrew Lytle, Merrill Moore, Katherine Anne Porter, John Crowe Ransom, William Styron, Allen Tate, Peter Hillsman Taylor, Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, Tom Wolfe. The Wright Collection consists of more than 7,000 manuscript items and 3,000 printed works. The manuscript collection, alone, contains more than 100 containers and more than 40 cubic feet of material.

Among the other writers represented by manuscripts in the collection are such famous internationally known poets, writers, editors, publishers, and teachers as John Berryman, Cleanth Brooks, Malcolm Crowley, Robert Graves, Robert Lowell, Archibald MacLeish, Theodore Roethke, and hundreds of others. The materials in the collection provide valuable and intriguing insights into the lives of these men and women whose works have inspired and educated more than three generations of readers throughout the world. In these collections researchers can trace the evolution of each writers thought processes from notebook entries, to multiple draft versions, edited and re-edited, to publishers proofs, to final published version, to edited and corrected second and third editions. They also open a window into their personal lives and friendships, hopes and ambitions, personal and emotional trials and difficulties.  In this collection, researchers may follow their childhoods, high school triumphs and disasters, loves, marriages, infidelities, and divorces; their struggles to make a living and to deal with success and failure; their health and their struggles with disease both mental and physical; their retirements and final years and deaths. In addition, the researcher may follow the impact of each author in the resumes, reviews, comments, dust jackets, biographical articles, clippings, and obituaries in the collection. The collection includes numerous contracts and business letters documenting the authors’ relationships with editors, publishers, universities, and other professional bodies. No collection can provide a complete description of any man or women but the Stuart Wright comes extraordinarily close to achieving this goal.

The collection includes such a vast array of new material that it would be impossible to give more than a few notable samples. The Richard Eberhart Papers includes his photographs of his dying mother and a file entitled “Robert Frost’s Comments on Poems by Richard Eberhart” (ca. 1958) in which Frost writes in the margin: “Richard, sometimes your rhyming makes me frantic.” The Randall Jarrell Papers includes a photograph of possibly the Gotham Book Mart Party for Dame Edith Sitwell in 1948, possibly the most important birthday party in American literary history. The photograph features many of the most prominent contemporary literary figures including: William Benet, Charles Ford, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell; Stephen Spender, Sir Osbert Sitwell, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop; Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal, Jose Garcia Via, and W. H. Auden. The John Crowe Ransom Papers includes a letter Ransom sent during World War I, when he was a lieutenant in the Field Artillery. He wrote to a fellow officer named “George”, in December 1917, when he feared being court martialed for desertion. The letter begs his friend to write a testimonial on his behalf. The Robert Penn Warren Papers includes a bound copy of the script for All The King’s Men that the Screen Writers Guild presented to Warren when he won the award for best written drama in 1949.

The collection was compiled by Stuart Wright, a noted bibliographer, editor, translator, publisher, and collector of literary manuscripts and books worked closely with many of the literary figures represented in the collection. A native of North Carolina and a graduate of Wake Forest University, Wright currently resides in England. His published bibliographies of American writers A. R. Ammons, James Dickey, Richard Eberhart, George Garrett, William Goyen, Randall Jarrell, Andrew Lytle, Walker Percy, and Reynolds Price have received the most public attention. During the course of his work, Wright developed close relationships with some of the writers represented in the collection.

Appraiser Lynn Roundtree of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, recently described the collection as ― an extraordinary accumulation of rare literary papers of many of the finest American poets, novelists, and short story writers of the twentieth century. The inclusion of materials by five poets laureate makes the collection of great value to students and scholars who will be able to see the creative process on display through the manuscripts and published works of these great poets and writers. Numerous academic researchers who have viewed the collection have agreed on its great value. Prof. Stephen Burt, of the Harvard University English Department, recently wrote that

“the Stuart Wright collection in general . . . will continue to be an extremely important resource for critics, scholars and future literary figures who want to know more about [Randall] Jarrell, about A. R. Ammons, about Robert Penn Warren, and about the other major figures of Southern letters whose papers, books, and other material Wright gathered over several decades of his own research. It is a delight and a triumph to find that material at ECU.”

The staff of the Special Collections Department has completed preliminary inventories of the collection, but additional work must be accomplished before the collection can be made fully accessible. For more information, contact the Special Collections Department at (252) 328-6671.

Article 1:

 

Composing the White House

This article is republished from Stephanie West-Puckett’s Tales from the Nondescript October 9, 2011 blog entry.

A big thank you to our friends at Wellstone Action! for inviting us to the White House to talk about education, literacy innovation, and achievement and a special recognition of the Thomas Hariott College of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University who funded our work.  Dr. Will Banks, Writing Program Director at ECU, and I, along with other representatives from both the Council of Writing Program Administrators and the National Writing Project, met in the East Wing this past Friday, October 7 during the Community Leader’s Briefing Series, listening to the administration’s education priorities and talking about our own work with writing, literacy and professional development in Eastern NC and across the country.

The White House Community Leader’s Briefing Series, an outreach of the Office of Public Engagement, brings local leaders to Washington to learn about the president’s agenda and speak with senior White House staff about how the administration’s initiatives and policies affect our work and our communities, and in this case, our teaching and our schools.  Morning presentations in the Eisnehower Executive Office Building included economic updates, schilling for the American Jobs Act, and an overview of administration initiatives such as Joining Forces, a program that provides additional support to military families and Let’s Move, Mrs. Obama’s campaign to prioritize exercise and provide healthy, fresh food in low-income neighborhoods and communities.  In addition, we were encouraged to review the website and submit profiles of our work to Champions of Change, a campaign that spotlights community leaders and innovative projects that “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

During the afternoon breakout session, our groups met with Department of Education (DOE) policy advisors to discuss the administration’s education policy, specifically the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Assessment, and state waivers which allow for more local control in school transformation and reform, and Sponsoring Effective Educator Development (SEED) grants that congress has set aside out of Title II funds for teacher training and development.

Linder Adler-Kassner, Past President of the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA), applauded the inclusion of writing in the CCSS, considering that the previous administration’s No Child Left Behind focused on reading instruction at the expense of writing instruction.  Linda, however, went on to critique the narrow bands of writing that are prescribed by the CCSS, saying that drilling students for twelve years on the three modes–argument, description, and exposition—does little to prepare them for college and career writing readiness.   Fifty years of writing research, she and WPA Vice-President Rita Malenczyk argued, shows us that good writers are flexible.  They can perform in different writing situations—writing for different audiences and for different purposes—and possess habits of mind that are explicated in the newly released CWPA Framework for Success in Post-Secondary Writing, which we shared with DOE officials.

We asked Karen Cruz and the other DOE representatives why writing teachers, writing scholars, and organizations such as CWPA and NWP were not invited to the table to give input in the drafting CCSS for writing.  She answered by noting that CCSS is a federated approach to curriculum reform and that our groups should move forward by reaching out to the assessment consortia (Smarter Balance and PARCC) as well as state-level education departments to create sustainable partnerships between writing teachers, writing scholars, and those whose work will define the implementation of CCSS.

Obama’s education policy advisors lauded the administration’s investment in the $86 million initiative, College Pathways and Accelerated Learning, that expands Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual/early enrollment programs which drew sharp criticism in the room as Writing Program Administrators including Dr. Kelly Ritter from University of North Carolina at Greensboro pointed out that these programs encourage a hurried approach to reading and writing instruction with the goals of memorization and completion as opposed to engagement and metacognitive reflection on writing and learning.  Advanced Placement course work and assessment, CWPA members argued, does little to develop effective writers as those programs have little basis in research-based practice and little or no input from writing teachers and scholars in the field.  Dr. Will Banks also pointed out that we need to support good reading and writing practices not merely for the “talented 10th” who are served by these programs but for the ever-growing numbers of students from rural, first-generation, and under-represented groups who now, more than ever, need access to higher education.

Leaders at the table discussed the imperative for higher education faculty to get more involved in K-12 education reform and discussed creating spaces and coalitions for articulating a vertical writing curriculum that would foster career and college-ready writing instruction.  Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Programs Director for the National Writing Project, reminded folks that this cross-pollination is already occurring throughout the NWP network as K-16 faculty are engaged in collaborative professional development experiences such as Invitational Summer Institutes and school embedded professional development programs.  She applauded the congressional set-aside of SEED funding that will enable NWP to continue some of this work, despite losing its federal funding when its status as an authorized program was misconstrued as an earmark, and underscored the significance of assessment in these discussions.  Machine-scoring of writing, she noted, is both efficient and cost-effective; however, the value of writing and making meaning with real audiences is undercut when machines focus on surface-level correctness as opposed to knowledge-making, learning, and communicating in authentic contexts.

Our trip was successful in that we were able to share our research, talk about our work, and highlight the role that teacher and research-based networks like the National Writing Project and the Council of Writing Program Administrators can play in reshaping both local and national responses to literacy innovation and achievement.  In addition, we were able to network with other organizations and to brainstorm ways to bring federal dollars to North Carolina to support reading and writing and address the particular concerns of students and teachers in the Tar Heel State.  As our University’s slogan touts, Tomorrow starts here– but it doesn’t start without vision and leadership.  There are many organizations, small and large, that will join this sort of work and we know that with the right leadership we can locate those donors. The same is true for the connections we need to make among our universities, our K-12 schools and our community colleges

Article 2:

 

Sir Salman Rushdie Connects with Class

BYLINE: Jewel Williams and Katie Sinor

Everyone should be aware of East Carolina University’s Voyages to Discovery, a lecture series supported by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, which has been an indispensable academic event for ECU’s students, faculty, and general public for the past four years. In fall of 2011, ECU hosted award-winning novelist, Sir Salman Rushdie, who in turn went above and beyond the normal expectation of giving a simple lecture.

ECU’s English Department created a graduate course devoted solely to Rushdie’s works. This course, led by Dr. Seodial Deena, started with Midnight’s Children, studied the majority of the works written by Sir Rushdie, and ended with Luka and the Fire of Life. The six students enrolled in this course (along with their professor) had the unique opportunity to engage in conversation with Sir Salman Rushdie three times in three months. The class had only covered Midnight’s Children and Imaginary Homelands when they had their first conversation with him over Skype on September 15th. Rushdie answered each question in length, although the meeting lasted only an hour and a half. The students were clearly charmed by his openness and wit toward their discussion. Each student asked one question, varying from the creation of his narrators to his political views of the world, which was kindly met with a thoughtful answer.

The second meeting was quite significant. On October 5th, Salman Rushdie came to campus in order to give his public lecture, “Public Events, Private Lives: Literature and Politics in the Modern World.” Before the lecture, set for 7pm in the Wright Auditorium, Rushdie met first with the class that he skyped with one month prior, and then with interested faculty from various fields of study. The students were both nervous and excited to finally meet with him face-to-face. Having read The Satanic Verses and The Moor’s Last Sigh, they were even more confident in the questions that they asked. “Is the narrator in The Satanic Verses Satan or God?” asked PhD student, Randy Marfield in conjunction with Masters student, Jewel Williams. Rushdie quickly replied with, “Well, I’m much more interested in your opinion on who you think the narrator is,” which began a whole discussion on the various theories concerning the narrator that would never be solved. The students quickly learned that Rushdie, although always genuine, would not always be so direct in his answers.

After the personal meetings, students and faculty joined the general public in Wright auditorium to listen to Rushdie’s lecture, which focused on the various reactions to his ‘controversial’ novel The Satanic Verses, but whose main highlight was the amusingly shocking statement, “There is no God.” By the third meeting, another Skype call held on November 3rd, the students added The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury and East, West to their working bibliography of Rushdie novels. Since they only had 45 minutes dedicated to this conversation, they quickly asked their questions and still received genuine answers from the novelist. They ended with expressing their gratitude for Rushdie’s openness to student discussions and their hope that he would visit them again.

Article 3:

 

National Day on Writing

Byline: Christina Bethel

In Fall 2011, the Tar River Writing Project, the University Writing Program, and the English department at ECU joined with colleges, universities, schools, and communities all over the country in celebrating the third annual National Day on Writing (NDOW). Through the efforts of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), October 20 became a federally recognized day for celebrating writing in all its forms. While members of English departments everywhere already understand the value and joys that composing brings, we often struggle to kindle the desire in our students’ hearts. Stephanie West-Puckett, Will Banks, and Michelle Eble recognized ECU’s need to spread the joy in a new way. They challenged two graduate students, Matthew Herrmann and me, to take charge of planning a campus celebration. With only a month to plan, we collaborated to create a celebration in which nearly 200 local school children and teachers joined us on campus for an exploration of the various pleasures writing has to offer.

Two Pitt County Schools accepted our invitation to celebrate the National Day on Writing at ECU. Jennifer Anderson brought seventy-two fourth grade students and three teachers from W. H. Robinson Elementary to campus that Thursday morning, and Rob Puckett of J. H. Rose High brought over 90 high school students and 6 teachers that afternoon. Matthew, graduate volunteer James Cardin, and I shuffled students among the three stations where activities were planned, meeting at the cupola between each session for a quick reflection.

Stephanie West-Puckett transformed the First-Year Writing Studio into a one-day Digital Studio to offer our visitors a place to explore four online writing tools:  Storify, Xtranormal, VoiceThread, and Wordle. English graduate assistants, who normally help our first-year students negotiate the complexities of the writing process, demonstrated their flexibility by helping students negotiate these new technologies. The Digital Studio provided a space for elementary and high school students to compose fun and original works, engage in thoughtful discussion about copyright, and celebrate their creativity.

Thanks to Dean of Academic Library and Learning Resources Larry Boyer and Assistant Director of Public Services Mark Sanders, we were able to host multiple events in Joyner Library. In the morning, volunteers Samantha Settimio and Jewell Williams introduced young writers to Beedle the Bard, as Will Banks performed a selection from J. K. Rowling’s Tales of Beedle the Bard for several groups. Following the reading, students participated in a writing marathon during which they wrote their own tales. Each time I popped in to observe, I saw young writers engrossed in their creative processes, writing thoughtfully and furiously. When it came time to share, the fourth graders were eager for their stories to be heard.

In the afternoon, high school students were captivated by Rick Taylor’s readings of an excerpt from The Princess Bride. They were so inspired that one group requested more time to write at the cupola before moving into the Digital Studio. English faculty member Randall Martoccia contributed Halloween-themed prompts designed for students in both age groups. In another session, we introduced the high school students to two professional writers, who are also graduate students in the English department. Brandon Sneed, a sports writer, and Amber Carpenter, a political poet, volunteered their afternoon to engage in a fruitful dialogue with our visitors about what it means to be a professional writer.

We also established two student writing exhibits in Joyner:  a gallery sampling in the study area beside the circulation desk and a full gallery in one of the library conference rooms. Assistant Director of the University Writing Program Kerri Flinchbaugh curated the National Day on Writing Gallery with help from volunteers Jenn Sisk and undergraduate student Jaden Little. Works on display included several issues of The Rebel and Expressions, two of ECU’s publications that showcase student writing, as well as academic, professional, and personal writing samples from the graduate students working in the First-Year Writing Studio. Joanne Dunn brought her first-year composition students to view the gallery, and they enjoyed reading student work and contributing short videos to the National Writing Project’s “Why I Write” campaign.

While students enjoyed all of these activities, the favorite activity of the morning was the graffiti wall they built at the station led by Cyndi Gibbs, an art instructor from Coastal Carolina Community College and former ECU art professor, in the Mendenhall Social Room. Three graduate students – Therese Pennell, Michael Brantley, and James Cardin – volunteered more than half of their work day to make this potentially messy station a success. Students enjoyed learning about using symbolism to express themselves, collaborating to create a unified collaborative work of art through writing, and playing.

As we do in academia, we requested feedback from our participants, and they had wonderful comments about the activities as well as some great advice for future celebrations. The two most common requests were to add spray paint to the graffiti wall supplies and for more time to write! In light of the successes and suggestions, we’re starting early with grand plans for next year. We would like to expand the celebration to include lunch for students so that we can bring them to campus for the entire day, which will provide more time for them at each station and a greater variety of writing activities to engage in. We also want to spread the celebration campus wide and include more events for our on-campus and distance education students. Events already under consideration include an on-campus and virtual open mic night, a virtual gallery, a more elaborate graffiti wall, and a writing flash mob.

Please help us celebrate by donating time, resources, or some of your own writing to make ECU’s Second Annual NDOW celebration a success!

Article 4:

 

Peter Makuck Visit

Byline: Meghan Palko

Learning can be a solitary practice. Academic growth often means spending a lot of time alone, studying and reading books and writing papers to be graded. But sometimes, learning is a communal activity, something that comes from interacting with one another.

Because learning can (and should) involve much more than reading books and writing papers, East Carolina University’s English Department strives to make each student’s academic experience as interactive as possible by bringing successful locally- and nationally-renown authors to campus for readings, interviews, and personal classroom sessions.

Fall 2011 brought an influx of such activities to the department. One author who came to visit ECU was Peter Makuck, who visited in November for a reading and a classroom discussion. Makuck spent 30 years teaching and championing poetry at ECU. In 1978 he founded Tar River Poetry, a renowned poetry journal dedicated to publishing beautifully written narrative verse. He was the English Department’s first Distinguished Professor, and he has five poetry books, four chapbooks, and two collections of short stories to his name. His work has also appeared in a number of journals and magazines, including Poetry, The Hudson Review, and The Georgia Review.

Makuck took one chilly November evening to stop by Alex Albright’s Nature Writing class to read a couple of his own poems and to entertain student questions regarding his own writing process. He spoke about the technical aspects of poetry in a non-technical way and addressed everything from inspiration to drafting to revision.

“Why not write about something that happened to you, something you’re passionate about?” he said after reading a snippet of his work and discussing his own experience and relationship with writing. He spoke casually but passionately about poetry. In doing so, he made an often-overlooked art form seem much more accessible and, yes, even enjoyable.

Later that evening, Makuck gave a reading on campus. Students and faculty shuffled into the intimate auditorium in the Science and Technology Building to hear his work. He began by reading a quoting a few different news and literary sources before delving into his own work. He read mostly from Long Lens, his latest collection of new and selected poems.

Many of his poems were clearly grounded in eastern North Carolina’s landscape, and he detailed everything from his daily commute from Bogue Banks to Greenville to his more whimsical wanderings through the lesser-known parts of the state. His familiar setting, as well as his mention of the Neuse River, cotton harvesters, brown fields, pine trees, and hot “blowtorch days in July,” made his narratives seem natural and easily relatable.

Though Makuck is not a North Carolina native, he epitomized the atmosphere of the coast in his writing. He has, however, spent a large part of his life here, and his time at ECU has made him a literary staple.

Article 5:

 

Andrea Kitta’s Book

Tenure-track faculty member, Andrea Kitta, has recently been published by Routledge Press. Her book, Vaccinations and Public Concern in History: Legend, Rumor, and Risk Perception, investigates vernacular beliefs and practices that surround decisions concerning vaccination. The research on which the book draws was designed to understand not only patients’ fears, understandings of risk, concerns, and doubts, but also explore the reason why people choose to vaccinate and understand why vaccination is so important to medical culture.

Andrea Kitta used a variety of techniques to explore the discourse of vaccination. First, using a similar model to that of John Dorst in The Written Suburb, she considered the texts that the medical field provides for itself, mainly found in medical journals. In this literature, the concept of “compliance” is crucial. Although medical journals are not necessarily demonstrative of the beliefs of the entire group, they are important to consider because they set the standards for what the group should believe. Second, she examined the media. The lay public typically uses the media, such as newspapers, television news shows, and radio news shows, as important sources of health information. Oftentimes, especially in the case of vaccines, the information from these sources is frightening (although the lay public does not accept everything it reads and sees as being true). Additionally, Internet sources were considered. Recent research has found that anywhere between 40–80% of adults with Internet access use the Internet to find health information. Medical professionals identified in this research estimate that at least 60% of their patients make decisions based on health information found on the Internet. Therefore, it is important to consider Internet sources and explore the quality and content of information found in those texts. The Internet, however, is not a single entity, but rather consists of various communication methods within the same medium. Finally, this work draws on ethnographic research conducted through surveys and personal interviews. Overall, she collected 637 survey responses, conducted sixty-seven interviews, and investigated over 500 websites, online forums, and message boards, and watched hundreds of hours of videos on both anti- and pro-vaccination topics.

Exploring contemporary (urban) legends, rumor, gossip, and conspiracy thinking was an important aspect of this research which helped her to understand the nature of inoculation distrust and miscommunication. Without a careful understanding of local concerns, cultural memory, and folklore, it is easy to see how risk communication strategies can fail. Kitta’s work hopes to help others understand the complications of the issue, avoid stereotypes concerning both patients and physicians, and engage in better communication practices.

Events:

 

9th Annual TALGS Conference

The 9th Annual TALGS (TESOL/Applied Linguistics Graduate Students) Conference will be held on Saturday, February 18, 2012. We are very pleased to announce that the 2012 TALGS will be hosted by the Graduate TESOL program at Western Carolina University in Asheville, North Carolina. Our new partnership will continue into the future with the conference venue rotating between WCU and ECU on alternating years.

The conference provides a stimulating forum for graduate students and professionals working in a variety of applied linguistic fields to present their work, receive feedback, and network. We welcome cross-disciplinary proposals with relevance to language use, language learning and/or teaching from a variety of fields, including, for example, English studies, education, discourse studies, foreign languages, anthropology, communications, sociolinguistics, psychology, and sociology. Proposals reporting on action research (inside and outside the classroom), works in progress, submissions based on successful term projects, pilot research, as well as proposals for discussion sessions, workshops, and posters are welcomed. For more information and to submit your proposal, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-cas/engl/talgs/proposals.cfm. Proposal submission deadline is December 1, 2011.