Read the 2011 English@Minnesota as a PDF - Department of ...

Read the 2011 English@Minnesota as a PDF - Department of ...



Department of English

winter 2011


Nabil Matar

from the CHAIR

By Ellen Messer-Davidow

Photo: Kelly O’Brien

As the holiday season approaches and the Twin Cities strings up its lights,

English has plenty of dazzle to contribute to the festivities.

In August, when Governor Mark Dayton announced Minnesota’s second

Poet Laureate, an individual who would succeed the distinguished Robert Bly, we

were thrilled to hear him pronounce a very familiar name: Joyce Sutphen. A poet and

professor at Gustavus Adolphus College, she has three degrees from the Department

of English. After graduating summa cum laude in 1982, she returned to the University

earning an MA in English and Creative Writing (1992) and then a doctorate (1996),

subsequently winning a Minnesota Book Award in Poetry for her third collection,

Naming the Stars (Holy Cow! Press, 2004).

“Joyce Sutphen is a talented writer and teacher,” proclaimed Governor Dayton,

“who will be a great voice for poetry in Minnesota.” Indeed, Sutphen, interviewed

here by one of our MFA students, exemplifies the

qualities of our students, alumni, and faculty who

are award-winning scholars and writers, inventive

thinkers, inspirational teachers, and agents for

change in the world. Want other examples?

Among undergraduate students are these

three: English and Political Science major Eric

Murphy, the Opinions Editor for the Minnesota

Daily, brings readers to voices that need to be

heard; this year he holds the department’s Donald

V. Hawkins Scholarship. Jennifer Snider, the

department’s Jessie M. Comstock Scholarship

winner, is a busy English major with a Social

Justice minor who volunteers in our community

service learning program. Christopher White,

the recipient of an Anna August Von Helmholtz

Phelan Scholarship, has for three years tutored

local elementary school children as part of the University’s America Reads program;

he’s enrolled in the DirecTrack to Teaching Program, which offers guaranteed admission

to the College of Education and Human Development’s initial licensure program.

English alumni are editors, teachers, community activists, lawyers, and business

people. This fall Monica Nassif (English BA 1982) was named the 2011 University

of Minnesota Entrepreneur of the Year by the Carlson School of Management. Nassif

is the founder of Caldrea, a luxury cleaning products line, and its offshoot the Mrs.

Meyers’ Clean Day brand. Before starting Caldrea in 1999, she worked as a brandbuilder

for prominent retailers and consumer product firms and operated her own marketing

communications business. Her business career began with a Dayton-Hudson

internship that English adviser Beverly Atkinson helped her acquire.

Andrew Nath (English BA 1991), Executive Vice President of Premier Bank in

Maplewood, manages a portfolio of $180 million. “English classes teach you to read,

assess, critique, analyze, and report,” he wrote in an email. “The most rewarding part

of my job experience is the interaction with people to determine the issues that need

resolution and working within a creative environment to solve those issues.”

Our faculty also make their marks on the world. Professor Nabil Matar, an

continued page 3

english@minnesota l





















english@minnesota is published for

the alumni, faculty, staff, students, and

friends of the Department of English.

Editing, writing, and design by Terri Sutton

except where noted. Send correspondence

to the address below.


& LITERATURE I 207 Lind Hall, 207

Church St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455

I Ellen Messer-Davidow, chair I Katherine

Scheil, director of graduate studies I

Brian Goldberg, director of undergraduate

studies I Julie Schumacher, director

of creative writing

The University of Minnesota is an equal

opportunity educator and employer.

This publication is available in alternative

formats: http://english.cla.umn.


© 2011 Regents of the University of Minnesota

















l //

internationally known pioneer in the study of early modern

relationships between Europe and the Islamic World, joined

the department in 2007 as a Presidential Professor in the

President’s Interdisciplinary Initiative on Arts and Humanities.

Last February, he coordinated the international conference

“Shared Cultural Spaces: Islam and the West in the Arts and

Sciences,” which explored historical influences between

Muslim and Western literature, science, art, and architecture—

an event funded by a prestigious National Endowment for the

Humanities grant. Receiving a well-deserved Scholar of the

College award from the College of Liberal Arts, Matar has

seven books in print or forthcoming. When his children suggest

he retire, he laughs. He’s on a mission, he says, to change the

way people think about Islamic-Western relations.

This fall, English professor Michael Hancher and Writing

Studies professor Laura Gurak launched an innovative project

called Digital Humanities 2.0 supported by the Institute for

Advanced Study. Their goal is to advance artistic creation and

humanities research by leaping ahead of the ongoing digitization

and envisioning the next versions. In October, Regents Professor

Patricia Hampl co-organized a one-day international conference

on the personal voice in writings on genocide, torture, and

oppression. “My Letter to the World: Narrating Human Rights”

was topped off by New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch who

delivered the Esther Freier Endowed Lecture.

Our faculty do get around! In Berlin last spring, Professor

Timothy Brennan held the prominent Mercator Professorship

This is what English does. We teach our

students to read and analyze literatures; to

write in scholarly, creative, and public ways;

and to put their knowledge and skills to work

for the benefit of many communities.

awarded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the National

Science Foundation of Germany. Also in spring, Professor

Paula Rabinowitz held the Distinguished Fulbright Lectureship

in American Literature in the People’s Republic of China and

taught at East China Normal University in Shanghai. This year,

Professor Dan Philippon splits his time between Italy, where he

is a Fulbright Core Research/Teaching Fellow at the University

of Turin, and Germany, where he is a Senior Fellow at the

Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich.

Just as our faculty travel widely, so too does our reputation.

In September, Poets & Writers ranked our Creative Writing

Program as number 10 in the Top Fifty MFA Programs in the

United States. This national magazine bases its annual rankings

on such measures as selective admissions, student funding,

and student teaching load, as well as a poll of MFA program

applicants. The reputation of Creative Writing will no doubt

be burnished by its new assistant professor. Joining us this

fall was Peter Campion, a nationally distinguished poet who

received a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship to add to an already

impressive list of awards including the Pushcart Prize and the

Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize in Literature from the American

Academy of Arts and Letters.

This year we host three international visitors. Last spring,

Dr. Rosemary Moyana, associate professor of English and

acting dean of Education at the University of Zimbabwe,

shared her expertise in the African novel. We are fortunate to

have arriving this fall Ji-Soo Kang, professor of English and

vice dean of Academic Affairs at Inha University in Incheon,

Korea. She is a medievalist specializing in women writers and

gendered language. We are also hosting Humin Liu, an associate

professor at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in China

and a China-US Education Trust American Studies Fellow. She

is working on a comparative study of war-induced trauma in

British World War I and American Vietnam War fiction.

Our entering graduate students hold the promise of

distinction. Professor Katherine Scheil, director of Graduate

Studies, reports that the literature students come with an

assortment of BA, MA, and law degrees from such institutions

as Barnard, Brigham Young, Chicago, Duke, Harvard,

Michigan, Ohio State, and SUNY Binghamton. Professor Julie

Schumacher, director of Creative Writing, notes that the MFA

class includes a beekeeper, a Fulbright Fellow, a songwriter,

a McKnight Artist Fellow, and a translator of contemporary

Scandinavian poetry; many of these new students have already

been published in literary journals and magazines.

Doctoral candidate Elissa Hansen came to the

department to study medieval contemplative writers

with Professor Rebecca Krug, author of the groundbreaking

Reading Families: Women’s Literate

Practice in Late Medieval England. Now writing a

dissertation titled “Signs of the Time: Temporality

in Fourteenth-Century English Contemplative

Writing,” she holds a Graduate School Dissertation

Fellowship. Next spring, an essay written by Hansen will

be published in Reading Memory and Identity in the Texts

of Medieval European Holy Women (Palgrave-MacMillan),

edited by Margaret Cotter-Lynch and Bradley Herzog.

This is what English does. We teach our students to read

and analyze literatures; to write in scholarly, creative, and

public ways; and to put their knowledge and skills to work

for the benefit of many communities. We provide them with

examples of excellence through our own faculty and visitors

from abroad. We use endowed lectures, in-house presentation

series, and faculty-student research groups to create a yeasty

environment where innovation and enthusiasm can ferment.

I hope you enjoy the stories in this fall’s English@

Minnesota, and I encourage you to continue supporting our

exceptional students and faculty by making a gift at http:// Wishing you a dazzling holiday and

a brilliant 2012! p

Nabil Matar

wants to



english@minnesota l


his October, Professor of English Nabil Matar celebrated the 25th anniversary

of what he terms his “birthday”—the day his life began, again, after exactly

six months in captivity during Lebanon’s civil war. Then an associate

professor at the American University of Beirut, Matar was abducted by

members of an armed militia. Numerous American University faculty were kidnapped

during the war; Matar was one of the lucky few to emerge alive.

The day after his release Matar was back at work, welcomed by the colleagues and

students who together had shut down the University in protest after his kidnapping;

but he would not be staying—the end of the war was not in sight (it would last four

more years). He had been a scholar of seventeenth-century English religious poetry,

trained at Cambridge University, but after his release his research interest would

change dramatically. “I couldn’t relate any longer,” Matar recalls in a Lind Hall

interview this fall, “to the kind of religious imagination that I had really admired in

English poetry and prose. Spiritually, I changed. I could not keep my . . . ” he pauses,

locates the word, “soul in my work.”

l //

His parents had earlier immigrated to Florida, and Matar followed with his

family. He began teaching in the Humanities Department at the Florida Institute

of Technology. He continued to travel to England to do research. One day, another

scholar suggested he visit the National Archives. “So I went, and I had no idea what

to do.” He laughs. “There are these catalogues, but there are no calendars. You just

know that SP 71, Box 1, is about Algiers. And so I requested it. My God! There were

these letters—I mean, just a rich, infinitely rich source. And that was just one box out

of hundreds. These boxes had been sitting there for centuries. Nobody knew what was

in there. It was great fun.”

It was also, Matar rapidly discovered, a mission. His experiences in Beirut and

in the United States had left him intensely interested in cross-cultural relations. He

was fascinated by the spaces where the early modern Christian European and Muslim

worlds came together: “good intersections, bad intersections, trying to interpret how

they understood each other.”

The interactions (then as now) included trade, war, travel, piracy: “One mode of

catharsis is to try to study captivity,” Matar shrewdly observes in a faculty video on the

English website. “I discovered in England in the early modern period a vast amount

of captivity literature of men . . . who were captured by North African corsairs, and

after their release they wrote accounts. So. I turned to that with a vengeance.

“For me,” he states, “to reconstruct that narrative was not going to be literal.”

Eventually Matar discovered

that many British

pirates had been operating

in the Mediterranean, that

there were Arabic accounts

of European captivity.

Indeed, the deeper he went

the more he discovered

that his research was

offering a wildly different

perspective on the

early modern world than

what had been previously

accepted. He published a

book, Islam in Britain,

1558–1685 (Cambridge

University Press, 1998),

examining how the British

viewed the Islamic world

of the Mediterranean, and

he had so much material he

ended up writing a trilogy.

Because of his fluency in

Arabic, he decided to start

a second trilogy from the other direction, uncovering the Islamic view of Europe.

The second book in that series, Europe through Arab Eyes, 1578–1727 (Columbia

University Press, 2009), received a rave review in the Times Higher Education

Supplement, among others. “This book fills a huge gap in our understanding of the

history of that period,” the reviewer wrote. “What is presently available in abundance

in Western libraries, via literature on Islam, Muslims and the Orient in general, is a

resolutely Orientalist depiction of the East. . . . This is a study that breaks new ground

in our understanding of the way Arabs were looking at Euro-Christians, and it is as

ambitious and original as the title suggests.”

continued page 6

“If you’re English in

1600, 1700, 1800,

your country, the

resources are limited.

You have to leave.

You leave into a world

that’s completely

alien to you. This idea

that people go for

adventure. . . . Give me

a break!”

Matar’s passion for this material

has made him a pioneer in the postcolonial

study of early modern texts. In

2007, the University of Minnesota hired

him away from the Florida Institute

of Technology, where he’d served as

English department head for 10 years,

to be a Presidential Professor in the

President’s Interdisciplinary Initiative

on Arts and Humanities. He could

have chosen to be housed in History

or Religious Studies, where he teaches

regularly, but he settled on English. “My

PhD is in English,” he states firmly, “so I

wanted to have my home in the English


It was a good deal for English, as then

chair Paula Rabinowitz noted. Associate

Professor and Graduate Studies Director

Katherine Scheil concurs. “Nabil Matar

has reshaped the way we think about the

geography, politics, and culture of the

early modern period,” she relates. “His

work on early modern travelers, traders,

and captives has opened new avenues of

study, not only because he has provided

the first English translation of several

seventeenth-century Arabic travel narratives,

but also because of his astute

and compelling analysis of the religious,

political, and cultural importance of

these texts. It is no accident that Nabil

Matar is in high demand around the

world as a scholar, and we are lucky to

have him here in Minnesota.”

“If history can be a model, we can look

back and say, ‘You know, there’s a

different way of relating.’ “

Matar has found the University and

the Twin Cities a generative, stimulating

environment. He is very impressed with

the writing abilities of his undergraduates

and the research skills of his graduate

students. Since he’s arrived here, he’s

published two books and has at least

five projects in the works. A casual chat

with colleagues in Anthropology and

Religious Studies led to a conference

proposal that received a $170,000

grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities; last

February, “Shared Cultural Spaces: Islam and the West in the

Arts and Sciences” drew panelists from across the world to

explore how Muslim contributions to literature, science, art,

and architecture influenced and helped build the foundation for

those disciplines in the West. (The best part of the conference,

Matar says, was the reaction of his undergraduates, who were

able to witness the sometimes fiery interactions between

presenters.) Finally, also in February, Matar was awarded

College of Liberal Arts Scholar of the College recognition for


english@minnesota l

His most recent book, published this past summer, represents his first collaborative

work: Britain and the Islamic World: 1558–1713 (Oxford University

Press) was co-authored with Gerald MacLean, from the University

of Exeter. “We agreed that we wanted to do a book together covering

the whole Islamic world,” Matar recalls in his British-accented English. “He’s more

interested in Indian and Persian history, so we said we complement each other. But

you need a thesis. As I was reading the material from India, I realized it’s a very different

history at work, a very different impact in terms of what that history leaves.

And it struck me it would be interesting to see how it played out if you can divide [the

Islamic world] in three parts: the western Mediterranean, the Ottoman Empire, and

the Persian and Indian lands. Each region had a different history [with Britain].”

It may surprise some readers to learn that, at the beginning of the period, England

was the desperate supplicant, applying to the powerful Ottoman Empire for favor in

trade and strategic alliance. The authors stress that British expansion into the world

was economically driven. Only the “needy and greedy,” as Matar terms it, would risk

life and limb as pirate, soldier, trader. “If you’re English in 1600, 1700, 1800, your

country, the resources are limited. You have to leave. You leave into a world that’s

completely alien to you. This idea that people go for adventure—I absolutely hate that,”

he confesses, shaking his head. “Give me a break. These are people living in places

that were quite dangerous. Algiers is an outpost. And here are these English guys,

later they bring their families, but initially on their own with a couple of servants, and

they’re trying to manage really the beginnings of trade. So very heroic in one respect.

But nobody seems to bother with these people. And all that corpus of writing, I think it

might be very important, because it gives a different angle

to the understanding of Anglo-Islamic relations.”

The flipside, of course, is the relative disinterest

within the Ottoman Empire during that period in exploring

Europe. Matar not surprisingly has a different take on that

situation than previous scholars, who often insinuated

some inherent laziness or complacency. “If you’re a

Moroccan in 1600, you could travel and work very easily all the way to Bosnia,

to Iraq, to Surat,” he exclaims. “The whole world is open to you . . . especially if

you’re literate, you’re educated. Most biographies we have—if not all, and they’re

in the thousands—these are educated people. It is incredible the amount of mobility

there was there. Obviously it was not always safe— but essentially you didn’t have

to fight anyone, you didn’t have to eradicate populations, you didn’t have to change

your language, you didn’t have to change your religious habits. And that’s why they

never bothered with Europe. That’s a major difference I see: different momentum for

different reasons.”

Matar and MacLean’s book also throws into high relief societal differences in

religious tolerance. As Matar notes, in this period the largest indigenous Christian

l //

population outside of Western Europe was under the Ottomans. And Judaism, protected

as a monotheistic tradition by Qur’anic law, had active communities in North Africa

and the rest of the Ottoman Empire. Meanwhile, in England, Christians vied against

Christians for supremacy (and took prisoners): Catholic against Protestant, Anglican

against Puritan. Jews were banished from 1290 to 1650. Muslims were mocked and

caricatured. For his third book in his current trilogy, Arabs and Europeans in the

Mediterranean, Matar has immersed himself in the writings of Christian Arabs under

the Ottoman Empire, an enormous amount of material. “Historically,” he says firmly,

there was a major difference in approach to the ‘other.’”

But before he can concentrate on that work, he must finish other projects.

Matar looks at commonalities across religious experience in his next publication,

a collection of essays on travel to the Holy Land in the early

modern period which he is co-editing with University of Tampa Professor

Judy Hayden (Brill, 2012). “Basically I want to examine what the concept of holiness

means,” he says. “We’re looking at it from different angles: French, English,

Christian, Muslim, Jewish.” He has been consumed (“but I’m always consumed!” he

jokes) by another forthcoming title, an edition of Henry Stubbe’s Original & Progress

of Mahometanism, the first European text to acknowledge Muhammad as Islamic

Prophet (rather than “imposter”) and to offer a full account of his life. “The text to me

is perhaps the most important I’ve worked on,” Matar claims.

“It was a text I taught the first year that I was here,” he remembers. “We had an

edition that was produced, literally, a hundred years ago. I realized that this Henry

Stubbe had read Arabic material in Latin, so there’s something for me to explore,

because the English-Arabic-Latin triangle is fascinating. And again nothing has been

done on that. That’s why the introduction keeps growing.” He shakes his head, amused

at where his enthusiasms takes him. “And I haven’t even started on

the notes! Which are all ecclesiastic material—which I love!”

Matar has another edited volume in the works, an edition of three

early modern English plays featuring Muslim women. Finally, he

just submitted another proposal, for a book on captivity in the early

modern period. Matar freely admits that captivity has risen as a theme

in nearly every book he’s written. In his first trilogy he wrote about

the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century campaigns of English wives to

obtain their captive husbands’ release—in part an acknowledgment of

what he calls the “miraculous” effort of his former wife in securing

his freedom. This new work may be

his last word on the subject: It’s a list,

compiled over 10 years of research, of

English captives held in North Africa,

aiming to debunk scholarship claiming

up to a million Christian captives,

scholarship used to demonize Muslims

and Arabs. “Obviously there will always

be names that I don’t have,” Matar says.

“But what I’ve done is write a very

long introduction, basically raising the

issue—how do you evaluate numbers,

what do you do with them?—and

providing the history of captivity from

that perspective. And then really looking

at it in terms of what the English were

doing. These captives were not just

innocent people; some were, of course,

but a lot of them were soldiers, some

were pirates, you know!”

Back and forth he ranges. From

Tangiers to London, from history to

literature, from Christian to Muslim, back

and forth. “It’s the impact of my family

and my home community,” describes the

Palestinian born and raised in Lebanon,

“that I grew up relating to two religions,

very intensely.” In Florida, Matar was

convinced to teach an introduction to

Islam; he also authored the popular

book Islam for Beginners. “I could

speak the two religions, independently

and together,” he observes. “And that’s

what I still do: how can you bring them


“It’s an obsession. My sons always

say, ‘Why do you keep working?’” He

laughs delightedly. “I love the sense of

discovery. Also, I’m a missionary, by

my very nature. I have a mission for

this work: I want to bring awarenesses

together. I don’t think I’m going to

bring people together. But if history

can be a model, we can

look back and say, ‘You

know, there’s a different

way of relating.’

Hopefully.” He pauses.

“I don’t know,” he

says, smiling ruefully,

his eyes suddenly focused

elsewhere. “I

don’t know.” p

whimsy & the VOID

Professor Maria Damon examines the weave of

experimental play and trauma in art-making

Professor of English Maria Damon is a provocateur for

play. For her, playfulness is a way to effect defamiliarization—that

is, seeing the world anew, writing the

world anew. She offers canny insight on the comic Lenny

Bruce, the Marx Brothers, and goofy search engine-derived

poetry, among other nontraditional subjects, in her 2011 book

Postliterary America: From Bagel Shop Jazz to Micropoetries

(University of Iowa Press). And she takes annual enjoyment in

introducing students to the disorienting, frolicsome works of

Gertrude Stein.

“They think, ‘Oh my God, nothing in my past reading has

prepared me to be able to cope with this,’” Damon reports.

“To show them that it’s fun, that’s one of my favorite teaching

moments. . . . It’s like people who are afraid of the water, you

show ‘em how to splash around.

“You do something to the text,” she explains further, “and

it does something back, or it does something to you and you get

to do something back—like being in the ocean. It’s an element

you can enter into and have a relationship with. And like the

water, it’s scary and deep and overpowering—there’s reason to

be scared—but there’s also tremendous delight and sustenance.

You know that line, that Conrad line: ‘to the dangerous ele-

english@minnesota l

ments, submit yourself’? Because he writes so much about

seafaring, I always thought he was talking about water, but he’s

talking about language.”

Damon’s approach is award-winning: in 2007 she received

the highest honor for graduate level teaching at the University,

the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Postbaccalaureate,

Graduate, and Professional Education. One of her former students,

American Studies alumnus and current Smith College

associate professor Steve Waksman, attests to the influence of

what he calls Damon’s “unique insight into the power and the

flexibility of language as an expressive medium.”

He adds: “Maria generated great conversations, not just

among students but between students and the material they read,

and between different kinds of material—poetry conversing

with prose but also with music and other cultural forms, theory

conversing with literature, spoken word conversing with

written word.”

Damon grew up in Boston with a second-generation

Jewish-American anthropologist father and an immigrant

Lutheran Danish mother; she attributes her prankish approach

to the word in part to her father’s love of the pun, the vernacular

joke, and in part to her family’s two spoken languages. As

she says in a faculty video on the English website, “I think

[bilingualism] exposes people to the idea that there’s more than

one way of saying something.”

In Postliterary America, Damon writes with typical

questing curiosity about, on the one side, her father’s cool

embrace of the Gentile mainstream—his children attending

“Mayflower contingent” private schools, Unitarian church

on Sunday—and, on the other, the eruptive pleasure he took

in a Yiddish phrase or pun. The link she makes between his

wordplay and suppressed trauma resonates in her continuing

interest in disruptive outsider writers such as Bruce, African

American beat poet Bob Kaufman, and Jewish Canadian

scholar and poet Adeena Karasick.

“You know that Conrad line: ‘to the

dangerous elements, submit yourself’?

He’s talking about language.”

“I wouldn’t call it a theory,” Damon speculates, “but in my

mind there’s this kind of three-part braid of experimentation,

trauma, play. That interweaving or spectrum or set of relationships

generates a lot of the writing that I’m interested in, and

those are the axes or the vectors along which I think about how

a piece of writing comes into being. What is the writer playing

with? What are the wounds, social or otherwise, from which

this piece of writing comes? What’s this writer doing that’s

new, for the writer, for the reader, for history?”

l //

A revelatory writer for Damon was/is Jean Genet, whose

novels she read for the first time as a 13-year-old on the recommendation

of a “hip Danish cousin.” She tracked down Our

Lady of the Flowers at the Newton Public Library, sampled the

erotic story of a Parisian drag queen and her abusive lovers,

and was powerfully confused. And enthralled: “It seemed to

talk about such difficult and unbearably intimate psychological

wounds in language that was almost religious in its perfection

and in its aspirations. And that was very appealing to me.”

The Beats were another

early interest, as Damon

transitioned to experimental

Hampshire College, in

Amherst. “This was the seventies,”

Damon recalls, “and

if you were a woman, a girl,

who wrote poetry, people

would say, ‘Well, you know

what happened to Anne

Sexton and Sylvia Plath.’

And those were the models.”

At the same time, Damon

was finding her literature

classes electrifying: “It was

Maria Damon’s needlework Terra

sort of the cusp of theory; I

Divisa / Terra Divina (T/E/A/R)

think I got a lot of secondhand

structuralism, because my teachers were from Yale and

Cornell. They didn’t use arcane language, just pitched things

at a very high level, and they really made me excited about

thinking very, very hard about literature.”

Damon considered getting a Master’s in Divinity or

possibly graduate study in medieval literature. Instead, she

was accepted into Stanford University’s Modern Thought and

Literature program. There she was “steeped,” as she puts it, in

cultural studies, the new ethnography of Renato Rosaldo, early

theorists of aesthetics Kant, Hegel, and Schiller, and pioneering

popular culture analysis. Her dissertation in part grew out of a

seminar paper on Bob Kaufman, who as an African American

poet was an outsider among Beat outsiders. Minnesota hired

Damon in 1988, the year she received her PhD. She published

Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry

(University of Minnesota Press) in 1993.

Since then, Damon has published three books of poetry coauthored

with e-poetry pioneer mIEKAL aND, drawn from their

online hypertext collaborations. And she has helped lead the

charge in bringing together poetry and cultural studies—which

is to say the investigation of poetries within (or alongside) their

social and cultural contexts. In 2009, Damon co-edited with Ira

Livingston Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader (University

of Illinois Press), the first book to attempt to forge a discipline

out of the various strands of activity in this area.

As the latest book title suggests, part of this project is to

expand the category of poetics to include both literary poetry

and postliterary or paraliterary poetry, the latter a “loose and

capacious” grouping of micropoetries that might include, as

she writes, “Ephemera, doggerel, fragments, ‘weird English’

[the phrase is Evelyn Ch’ien’s]. . . poetries that fly beneath the

radar of accepted poetic practice, which foregrounds objects

over processes.” In Postliterary America, Damon plumbs the

meaning of elegiac poems by non-poets, spoken word poetry by

beginning poets, deliberately bad poetry by literary poets, and

the poetry of literary poets experiencing mental illness. She’s

less interested in determining the quality of the poems than

in—as she notes above—listening to what the writer is playing

with, what pressure or wound may have instigated the writing,

and how the work in its social context creates an epiphanic

moment—a shattering of the world, and a remaking of it.

As she acknowledges in the book, such a focus could

be seen as condescending: the term “micro” for a start, but

also the danger of reducing a piece of writing to its writer’s

circumstances. Damon responds that aesthetics—the nature

and appreciation of form—has never been separate from

history. Literary classics are not immune from the questions she

asks of a graffiti. Take Jane Eyre, another classroom favorite.

“You can teach it as a moment of emergent bourgeois feminist

individuated consciousness,” she observes. “Here’s someone

leading this quiet existence, and she’s absolutely seething

underneath. There’s that long internal monologue where she

says, ‘Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and

millions are in silent revolt against their lot.’ Then you hear the

[madwoman’s] laughter. And you think of Brontë’s own life.

“A beat writer, Alexander Trocchi, has a title ‘Invisible

Insurrection of a Million Minds’; you don’t think of Alexander

Trocchi and Charlotte Brontë in the same breath, but they both

express that idea of super-charged interiority wanting to burst

through the social fabric and do something new. . . .”

In the past few years, Damon has begun taking that social

fabric more literally: She’s cross-stitching as a literary practice.

She learned needlework and weaving through her Danish

mother and aunt and never stopped. But now she fashions

designs based on, say, old English children’s samplers while

incorporating visual puns, letters, and symbols pertaining to

current interests, such as flamboyant rock singer Iggy Pop.

The cross-stitch Terra Divisa / Terra Divina: (T/E/A/R) was

featured in Professor of English Paula Rabinowitz’s latest

work, Accessorizing the Body: Habits of Being I, edited with

Cristina Giorcelli (University of Minnesota Press, 2011).

“I know enough people who do these crafts that may appear

to be very pretty and decorative and domestic, and there’s a

lot of turbulence and a lot of wildness and a lot of complex

depth under that,” Damon reveals. “Somehow the crafts are

a self-soothing mechanism of sorts.” As for Damon’s own

needlework, it recalls how she once described Lenny Bruce’s

comedy: “a whimsy that’s kind of teetering on the edge of the

void.” p

From its title, doctoral candidate Elissa Hansen’s

dissertation project—“Signs of the Time: Temporality in

Fourteenth-Century English Contemplative Writing”—

doesn’t sound like it will venture into the dangerous waters of

heresy. But complicating orthodoxy is both its subject and its

method: Hansen shows how three contemplatives do an endrun

around Catholic hierarchy by herself dismantling accepted

historical theories about medieval thinking on time.

“There’s a sort of flattening narrative of the Middle Ages,”

says Hansen, interviewed this fall in Lind Hall, “which involves

the pre-Reformation idea: everybody was Catholic, and that’s

just how it was. To borrow from William James, I got interested

in the ‘varieties of religious experience’ in the Middle Ages,

book of HOURS

PhD candidate Elissa Hansen ponders medieval time

seeing what that looked like in

different writers. I’m excited

about heresy, so I started

thinking about what it means

to claim authority in different

ways as someone who is affiliated

with orthodoxy.”

Hansen argues that

medieval contemplative writers—whether

hermits or the

anchorites, mostly women,

who were walled up within a

church—claimed authority by

modeling to lay readers ways to understand and communicate

with God, particularly via ideas about time.

Hansen’s adviser, associate professor Rebecca Krug, calls

the dissertation project “a strikingly original study” which

“demonstrates the ways traditional scholars of mystical devotion

have resisted historicizing the subject of temporality.” Indeed,

the project won a 2011–12 Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship,

which allows Hansen to focus on writing.

Time became a fluid concept during the Middle Ages. “In

the fourteenth century,” explains Hansen, “you have 76 public

clocks installed in England. So there’s this huge shift in how

people think about public time.” Historicists have tended to

sum up the shift as a movement from church to mercantile

time. Meanwhile, scholarship on contemplative writing has

aligned contemplation with a linear Christian “end-of-days”

narrative and/or a sort of eternal bliss outside of time. Hansen’s

investigation uncovers more complex and nuanced narratives

which don’t necessarily fall into these binaries.

Focusing on the anchorite Julian of Norwich, the hermit

Richard Rolle, and the anonymous author of The Cloud of

Unknowing, Hansen describes how the works create a “rhetoric

english@minnesota l 10

of time” to give structure to how readers think about temporality.

These writers “mold the abstract idea of time into concrete

tools with which believers can access God and gain knowledge

of their own souls,” Hansen writes, while also illustrating how

contemplative practice can act as a personal path to God.

That Hansen believes these narratives were pitched to

lay audiences as well as the monastic readership is a theory

only recently becoming less heretical. Professor Krug was a

pioneer in this area with her 2002 book Reading Families:

Women’s Literate Practice in Late Medieval England. Hansen’s

professors at the University of Wyoming, where she earned

her MA, introduced her to Krug’s work. “Becky has been an

amazing, supportive adviser,” enthuses Hansen, who is hoping

to graduate next spring, in what will be a quick five years.

Krug has also been an inspiration in terms of teaching

practice, along with another medievalist, Lianna Farber. “They

have really different teaching styles,” Hansen says, “but they

were both informative to my own teaching. Becky runs things

more like a conversation—asking what we’d be interested in and

how it informs our research. Lianna has a really great Socratic

method, where she leads people through very complicated

texts—and that kind of precision was really inspiring.”

Because her project connects intellectual and social history,

Hansen has benefited from the range of University students

involved with the Medieval & Early Modern Research Group

(MEMRG). “It’s been great to run ideas by each other,” she says.

“I feel like I’ve learned so much in the past four years here.”

A good fit goes both ways, and Hansen has played an

integral part in the graduate program at Minnesota. She served

as vice president and president of MEMRG and as president of

the Graduate Student Organization in English. She has presented

several papers locally, including an invited presentation within

the University’s Center for Medieval Studies workshop series, a

rare opportunity for a graduate student. She organized biweekly

reading groups focused on sight-translations of Latin and Old

English texts and Middle English pronunciation.

All this from a student who started out at Cal Poly as an

Economics major. One general survey course on Medieval

Literature, and she was hooked. “Often we get this narrative

about the Middle Ages as kind of backward,” she points out.

“My professor made it much more richly textured. She and the

faculty there modeled excitement about literature and about

teaching. So I got excited about being a professor.”

To that end, Hansen has contributed a chapter to a book

to be published next spring, Reading Memory and Identity

in the Texts of Medieval European Holy Women (Palgrave-

MacMillan), edited by Margaret Cotter-Lynch and Bradley

Herzog. Even while occupied with her dissertation, she has been

generating ideas for scholarship beyond its scope, for example,

modern-day “end of history” narratives. “I feel like it could be

one of those projects that opens doors for more research,” she

says with relish, exhibiting the same (in these times, heretical?)

enthusiasm about literature that led her here. p

For another take on time, see page 19


creative writing creative writing creative writing creative writing creative writing c

writing creative writing creative writing creative writing creative writing creative


winter 2011 newsletter


This fall, the Creative Writing Program welcomed Peter Campion as assistant

professor of poetry. Campion is the author of two collections of poems, Other

People (2005) and The Lions (2009) both from the University of Chicago Press.

He has received a Pushcart Prize, the Larry Levis Reading Prize, the Rome Prize

Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim

Fellowship in Literature. He is interviewed here by MFA candidate Carrie Lorig.

force & FORM

Five questions for new assistant professor of poetry Peter Campion

What should writers consider

when they are looking at MFA


I think an applicant should check

out the work of the faculty in the

various programs and the work

of recent graduates. Then there

are concerns like geography and

duration of the program—different

people have different preferences.

I also think it’s important

never to put yourself in dire financial

straits in order to get the

degree. One of the great things

about Minnesota is that the funding is generous. Another thing I love about our program

is that there’s real exchange across the genres. You all take classes together, and

are very much engaged in ongoing conversations. And this is a great area for literature

and for the arts. It was wonderful to get to meet with all of you in Maria Fitzgerald’s

Reading Across Genres, to discuss Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes, and then

to be able to all go together to see the play itself performed at the Guthrie.

How do you approach teaching the poetry workshop as a graduate instructor?

I like to work from the ground up, to begin by describing the actual tones and structures

of the poem at hand. My hope is not to push any set aesthetic, but to help each

writer find the poem he or she is striving toward. We also do a good deal of reading.

I want students to uncover their own stories about the history of the art.

You’re working on a third book: would you mind discussing your process in terms of

how you put a book together?

I’m much better at helping students and

friends structure their books than I am at doing

it for myself, which feels a little bit like

trying to see the back of my head, and with

no mirrors. But I’m fascinated by the idea of

the poetry collection as a made, shaped thing.

I suspect that each book searches for its own

structure. As Mother Ann Lee, the leader of

the Shakers, once wrote, “Every force evolves

a form.”

I’m interested in your process of reading a

poem in general. What are you looking for?

I pay attention first to the specific feel of the

language—what are the lines and sentences

like? Then I try to understand the shape of

the poem—what action is it performing? And

then I ask if it moves me. I want both my intellect

and emotion to be engaged and taken

on a trip that feels worthwhile. There are so

many ways that a poem can do this.

Any upcoming poetry releases you are really

excited about?

Yes. So many. I’ve just read David Wojahn’s

new poetry collection, World Tree, and I recommend

it. I also admired Laura Kasischke’s

Space, in Chains. Gjertrud Schnackenberg’s

new book is marvelous and moving. I’m also

reading a lot of fiction and history. I’m reading

Teju Cole’s Open City, which is fantastic.

It seems to nod to W.G. Sebald, and yet it’s

entirely original. p

Creative Writing Program

Lind Hall

0 Church Street S.E.

Minneapolis, MN

1 - -

http: //


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Creative Writing Program

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Ask Susan Taylor (MFA 2001) about her favorite teaching

moment, and she’ll tell you she was weeping. A faculty

member in the English department at Saint Paul Community

and Technical College, Taylor had proposed the school’s

first creative writing course and taught it. The students so inspired

her that she organized a public reading. “I had to stand at

the back of the theater,” she recalls in an email, “because I was

crying and didn’t want anyone to see. The students’ work was

good; and there they were, believing in their own writing enough

to read it in front of an audience for the first time.”

Several students from that first class went on to enroll in

the creative writing track at Metropolitan State University, and

some plan to apply for MFA programs. “Before they took Intro

to Creative Writing they didn’t know they were writers,” notes

Taylor, “and now they do.

“I think it’s

essential to offer

creative writing to

community college

students: this is

such a richly diverse

student body

with a world of

stories to tell.

It’s not just that

they need to express


Alum Susan Taylor expands creative writing at the CC

themselves; these are stories that can help explain the world to

itself, which is what Grace Paley once said stories do. These

are new voices that can strengthen the choir.”

Taylor knows herself how much one community college

class can change a life. After growing up in a small town near a

Naval weapons research center by Death Valley, she moved to

San Francisco and worked the graveyard shift at a warehouse.

She began taking classes at City College of San Fancisco. “It

was in Miss Norene Smith’s Composition A course that I read

Louise Erdrich’s story ‘Scales’ and Paley for the first time,”

Taylor remembers. “To hear a blue-collar, young, female

narrator in a story I was assigned in a college class bridged those

worlds for me. I started writing short stories that semester.”

After story had piled upon story, Taylor applied to

Minnesota’s Creative Writing Program. She was living by then

in Los Angeles—and feeling stuck. A phone call informed

her that she had received an Edelstein-Keller Fellowship.

“Suddenly, it seemed possible to go to graduate school. Because

of that vote of confidence from the U of M, I dared.”

She packed what she owned into her Toyota and headed

northeast. After her fellowship semester, she began teaching—

and discovered that she not only enjoyed it but was good at

it. She won a department award, voted on by undergraduates,

for Outstanding Graduate Teacher. She even loved teaching

Composition. “I found that creative writing pedagogy infused

into a composition course results in a much better classroom

experience,” she describes now, “and better student writing.”

Taylor ended up earning a minor degree in Composition,

Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies along with her MFA. Classes

such as Educational Psychology of Adult Learners and Rhetoric

proved invaluable during the job search and after. She was first

hired at Century College, where she helped establish a student

creative writing club and publication. Today she is tenured

at Saint Paul College, a century-old vocational education

college with recent liberal arts accreditation. The fresh start is

exhilarating, she says: “How often do you get a chance to help

build a program from the ground up?”

Besides creative writing, Taylor proposed an Introduction

to Technical Writing course, which she now regularly teaches

along with composition and literature. She’s been instrumental

in getting an anthology of student work published and is coadviser

of the student creative writing association. With other

colleagues, she is working on proposals for an online literary

and arts magazine class and an AFA in creative writing.

Like many community college faculty, she teaches four

classes a semester, as well as summer offerings. One of the

job’s challenges is also one its greatest rewards: getting to work

with, in Taylor’s words, a “wide variety of human being.” She

clarifies: “The diversity of learning style, background, culture,

age, and needs means I am constantly changing what I do in

order to teach more effectively: these are students who can

make you a better teacher every day.”

Taylor says that she has continued to learn from the

teaching models and the “generosity of spirit” of Creative

Writing professors Julie Schumacher, Michael Dennis Brown,

and Maria Damon. “Because I’m currently working on dark

urban YA horror/fantasy,” she observes, “the Young Adult

Narrators course I took with Julie has been coming to mind

lately.” Taylor participated in the Loft Literary Center Mentor

Series in 2003–2004. Her work has appeared in many literary

journals, as well as the anthologies From Inside Grief: Death,

Loss and Bereavement and Blink: Sudden Fiction by Minnesota

Writers. The latter’s sequel, Blink Again (Spout Press), features

Taylor’s flash fiction “Bomb Threat.”

She used to write flash fiction between wash cycles at an

East LA laundromat, she relates: “The compression of the story

was a function of the sense of time and the need to ignore the

drunk guy slumped over in the yellow plastic chair across the

room.” Now she writes at home, while the family sleeps. “I

throw in a load of laundry, write, throw it into the dryer, write

some more, fold while thinking about what I’m writing, then

go back to the computer. The by-product is always having

clean towels.” p

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Aaron Apps will publish a poetry collection

spring 2012 with BlazeVox.

Isaac Butler published “Chronicle

of an Award Ungiven” in American

Theatre magazine. An essay, “Gay Like

Me,” received Honorable Mention in

this year’s AWP Intro Journal Awards in

Nonfiction. He read his memoir piece,

“Night On Bald Mountain,” as part

of the Soundtrack Series at Le Poisson

Rouge in July. His essay, “Here

Come the Planes,” was published in the


Feng Sun (Mary) Chen will publish a

poetry collection, Hunger Transit, with

Black Ocean in 2012. Her chapbook,

Ugly Fish, was published by radioactive

moat. Her work is featured in issue 11

of Kill Author. Her manuscript “Aware of

Emptiness” was a finalist for the National

Poetry Series. She and Lucas de Lima

presented on the No Future panel at San

Diego’s &Now Festival in October.

Lucas de Lima exhibited drawings and

poems in RADIANCE, a group show at

Madame in Minneapolis. He published

eight poems in Action! Yes, four poems

in Spork Press, three in Gobetmag, and

one in Metazen. He and Feng Sun Chen

presented on the No Future panel at the

San Diego &Now Festival in October,

where he also read with Sarah Fox.

Gwyn Fallbrooke received a 2011

Minnesota State Arts Board Grant.

Jennifer Fossenbell published Vietnamese

translations in the Summer

2011 Cerise Press.

Sarah Fox publishes a poetry collection,

Mother Substance, with Coffee

House Press in fall 2012. She received

a 2011 Graduate Research Partnership

Program summer award for the project.

She published eight poems in Action!

Yes. She and Chrissy Friedlander spoke

about love poetry on Radio K’s show,

“Culture Queue,” available on its website.

She and Lucas de Lima read at

Montevidayo Omnibus at the &Now


Sally Franson was awarded Second

Prize in the Excellence in Wisconsin

Journalism Competition for her feature

story entitled, “hello, cancer.”

Christine Friedlander published work

in Gigantic Sequins 3.1

Alex Grant was awarded the program’s

inaugural Michael Dennis Browne

Summer Fellowship in Poetry. He

published the poem “My Dead Sister is

a PVC Pipe” in Forklift, Ohio, and the

poem, “Lurebait,” in the Scrambler. He

has other poems in Sixth Finch, Spork,

and radioactive moat.

Rose Hansen published an article on

sled dog races for Mushing Magazine.

Isabel Harding published a story,

“Zombie Mermaid,” in the anthology

Strangers in Paris: New Writing

Inspired by the City of Light.

Amir Hussain read poems at the June

ASLE 2011 Conference “Species,

Space, and the Imagination of the Global,”

at Indiana University. He presented

the paper, “The Freedom Question in

Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘The Tame Bird

Was in a Cage’” at the University of

St. Thomas May 6 English Graduate

Conference “Reading Across the Fault

Lines: history, politics, literature.”

Kate Johnston received a 2011 Graduate

Research Partnership Program summer

award for the project “Silence(d):

An Inquiry into Meditation and Solitary


C. Joseph Jordan published “The

Quiet” at One Story.

Molly Sutton Keifer published a poem,

“Section,” in Spilt Milk. A personal

essay appeared in First the Egg. She

was named Assistant Poetry Editor at

Midway Journal.

Carrie Lorig had work accepted at

Forklift, Ohio, and radioactive moat.

She was nominated for Sundress Publications’

Best of the Net anthology by

Red Lightbulbs for a series of poems

called “A dream.”

Bridget Mendel was awarded Creative

Writing’s 2011 Book Arts Fellowship.

She will use her award to take courses

in calligraphy, letter press, and lithography.

She will give a public presentation

of the completed graphic lyric nonfiction

project in April 2012.

current student NEWS

Zoe Miller published a short story,

“Moth,” in Front Porch Journal.

Kate Petersen published an interview

with James Salter on the Paris

Review’s blog. Her stories appeared in

the Collagist, the New England Review,

and Keyhole 11. “Ground Rules” was

accepted for publication in the Los

Angeles Review.

Adriane Quinlan won a James Reston

Reporting Fellowship from the New

York Times. She spent the summer reporting

from the paper’s Metro desk.

Claire Stanford was selected as the

summer 2011 Scribe for Human Rights.

She worked closely with the Human

Rights Program during her ten-week

fellowship, centered on developing a

creative writing program with a human

rights emphasis at Gordon Parks High

School in Saint Paul.

Elizabeth Workman judged Grey

Books Press’ chapbook contest. Her poems

appeared in the New Gnus Literary

Journal and Boog City. Her manuscript


short-listed in two competitions—a

semi-finalist in Alice James Books’

2011 Beatrice Hawley Awards and a

finalist in the Subito Press 2011 Book


eative writing creative writing creative writing creative writing creative writing cr

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Emily August (MFA 2009) published

poems “End of Days” and “The

Gloomy Festival of Punishment” in

Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her poem “The

Oracle” appeared in Callaloo.

Swati Avasthi (MFA 2010) received

recognition for her novel, Split, from

the Young Adult Library Services Association

(Best Fiction for Young Adults

2011), Children and Young Adult Bloggers’

Literary Awards (2011 Award in

Fiction), Cooperative Children’s Book

Center (best-of-the-year Choices List),

and International Reading Association’s

Children’s and Young Adult’s Book

Awards (2011 Award in Young Adult

Fiction). The book was also a finalist

for a Minnesota Book Award for young

people’s literature.

Rosanne Bane (MA 1990) has signed

with Penguin/Tarcher to publish Around

the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science

to Write the Way You Want in 2012.

Marge Barrett (MA 2005) published

the poetry chapbook My Memoir Dress

from Finishing Line Press. She also

published prose and poetry in Plains

Song Review, Talking Stick, Lake Region

Review, and Grey Sparrow.

Emily Bright (MFA 2008) published

two poems in the Broken City Review.

Matt Burgess (MFA 2009) received

recognition for his novel Dogfight from

the American Library Association (2010

Alex Award). The book was also a finalist

for a Minnesota Book Award.

Roma Calatayud-Stocks (MA 1990)

published her debut historical novel A

Song in My Heart, including a CD with

original musical score, with Beaver’s

Pond Press.

Jonah Charney-Sirott (MFA 2011)

was chosen Outstanding Composition

Instructor for fall 2010 by Writing

Studies students at the University of

Minnesota; this is the first time an MFA

has received the award.

John Colburn (MFA 1996) received

a $25,000 2011 Loft-McKnight Artist

Fellowship. He edits Spout Press.

Charlie Conley (MFA 2006) received

a second-year Fiction Fellowship at the

Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center

for 2011–2012.

Amanda Coplin (MFA 2006) signed

with Harper Collins to publish her debut

novel, The Orchardist, in 2013.

mfa alumni NEWS

Colleen Coyne (MFA 2011) was

awarded a two-week artist residency

at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center

for the Arts during August 2011. She

published three poems in Handsome

and one in the 2011 Caesura.

Jennine Capó Crucet (MFA 2006)

was hired as Assistant Professor of

English and Creative Writing at Florida

State University.

Lightsey Darst (MFA 2003) won a

Minnesota Book Award for her debut

collection of poetry, Find the Girl. She

published poems with Diagram, Spork,

and Taiga. Her essay on the demise of

the Southern Theater’s dance scene was

published on

Meryl Depasquale (MFA 2010) is

poetry editor of Midway Journal. Her

review of D. A. Powell and David

Trinidad’s chapbook By Myself: An

Autobiography was published in the

American Poetry Journal (number 10).

Laressa Dickey published “excerpts

from A Pictorial History of Wilderness”

in the summer 2011 Cerise Press.

Ben Doty (MFA 2010) published the

short story “The Girl Who Couldn’t

Talk” in Literary Imagination. A poem,

“Call to Prayer, Mid-day, Istanbul,”

workshopped in Michael Dennis

Browne’s poetry class, appeared in

Mizna. He received an honorable mention

in the 2011 Lorian Hemingway

Short Story Competition for his short

story, “Trains.”

Eric Dregni (MFA 2007) published

Vikings in the Attic: In Search of Nordic

America with the University of Minnesota


Ellen Dworksy (MFA 2004) published

a flash fiction, “Shake and Burn,” in

Blink Again: Sudden Fiction from the

Upper Midwest, published by Spout


Congrats to


Academy of American Poets James

Wright Prize for Poetry

Colleen Coyne ( 010–11)

Book Arts Fellowship

Bridget Mendel ( 011–1 ); Brian Laidlaw

( 010–11)

Gesell Award for Excellence in Fiction

C. Joseph Jordan ( 011–1 ); Edward

McPherson ( 010–11)

Gesell Award for Excellence in Literary


David Malley ( 011–1 ); Gwyn Fallbrooke

and Sally Franson ( 010–11)

Gesell Award for Exellence in Poetry

Jennifer Fossenbell ( 011–1 ); Mary

Feng Chen ( 010–11)

Gesell Summer Writing Fellowship at

the Anderson Center

Sarah Fox and Chris Keimig ( 010–11)

Marcella DeBourg Fellowship

Andrea Uptmor and Wahida Omar

( 010–11)

Michael Dennis Browne Summer Fellowship

Alex Grant ( 011)

Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship

Claire Sanford ( 011)

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Congrats to 2011


Jonah Charney-


Colleen Coyne

Brian Gebhart

Brian Laidlaw

David LeGault

Lianna Liu

Colleen McCarthy

Edward McPherson

Heather McPherson

Josh Morsell

Sheena Fallon (MFA 2010) published

the essay “Growing Up in Long Island”

in Meridian. Her essay, “Hoop Earrings,”

appeared in Midway Journal.

Kevin Fenton (MFA 2005) was named

Board Chair of Rain Taxi Review of

Books. His novel, Merit Badges (AWP

Award for the Novel), is now available

in paperback.

Amanda Fields (MFA 2005) published

essays in Superstition Review and

Cerise Press. Her essay, “Cairo Tunnel,”

was republished in the 9th edition

of Bedford St. Martin’s The Compact

Reader: Short Essays by Method and


Laura Flynn (MFA 2006), Board

Member of the Aristide Foundation for

Democracy, published the article “In

Haiti, Reliving Duvalier, Waiting for

Aristide” in the Huffington Post.

Lauren Fox (MFA 1998) will publish

her second novel, Friends Like Us, in

February 2012 with Knopf.

Julie Gard (MFA 2000) was hired as

Assistant Professor of Writing at the

University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Kathleen Glasgow (MFA 2002) won

the annual fiction award bestowed by

the University of Minnesota’s alumni

magazine Minnesota with her short story,

“Leaving”; the story was published

in the June 2011 issue. Glasgow will be

the featured poet in Orange Quarterly’s

February 2012 issue.

Will Hermes (MA 1995) published

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five

Years in New York that Changed Music

Forever with Faber & Faber.

Kate Hopper (MFA 2005) will publish

her book Use Your Words: A Writing

Guide for Mothers with Viva Editions

in spring 2012.

Patrick Hueller (MFA 2010) published

the young adult novel, Foul, with

One of the premier artist communities in the

Upper Midwest, the Anderson Center in

beautiful Red Wing, Minnesota, has hosted

writers and artists from across the

United States and abroad.

Applications are now being accepted for May – October.

For a residency application and deadlines:

Anderson Center

P.O. Box 406, Red Wing, Minnesota, 55066


Member of Alliance of Artists' Communities

RES ARTIS: International Association of Residential Arts Centres

Lerner Books, under the pen name Paul


Arlene Kim (MFA 2008) published her

debut collection of poetry, What have

you done to our ears to make us hear

echoes? (Milkweed Editions).

Priscilla Kinter (MFA 2010) published

her essay, “The Myth of the Prose

Poem,” in Sentence 8. Midway Journal

published “A Storytelling of Crows”

and “Things to Consider . . . 742.” She

is now nonfiction editor there. Essays

also appeared in Hotel Amerika and

Caketrain. Her essay “Tom” was selected

as one of the winners of the New

Delta Review Contest and published in

the June issue. Her manuscript has been

selected as a finalist in the Zone 3 2011

Nonfiction Book Award, judged by Lia

Purpura. She writes for the Writer’s


Brian Laidlaw (MFA 2011) released

his first album wolf wolf wolf (the audio

counterpart to his poetry thesis). He

is Adjunct Instructor of Songwriting

and Lyric at McNally Smith College

of Music. Five poems were published

in the Iowa Review and five in No Tell

continued page 16

at Tower View

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•••••••••••••••••••••••• ••• •

Motel. He also published poems in New

American Writing, Handsome, Cutbank,

Abjective, 32 Poems, KNOCK,

PANK, and Lungfull! Excerpts from his

sequence “Terratactic” are included in

The Arcadia Project, an anthology from


David LeGault (MFA 2011) published

the essay, “I am a Fan of Charles Martin

Smith,” in Ninth Letter. “Revision

and Collapse” will be published in the

Spring 2012 issue of Fourth Genre.

Katie Leo (MFA 2009) debuted

her solo performance piece, N/A, in

November at Asian Arts Initiative in

Philadelphia. Her essays, “My Life in

Hair” and “Will Smith: An Analysis,”

are published in Kartika Review and

Midway Journal, respectively. Her play,

Four Destinies, was produced at Mixed

Blood Theatre.

Éireann Lorsung (MFA 2006) completed

her PhD at the University of

Nottingham. She reviewed Sharp Stars

by Sharon Bryan in the American Poetry

Journal (number 10). She has three

poems in Konundrum Engine Literary

Review and an essay, “Algarve: an

Abecedarium,” in the September issue

of the Collagist.

Brian Malloy (MFA 2006) received a

2011 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant.

Michelle Matthees (MFA 2001)

received a 2011 Minnesota State Arts

Board Grant. She published poetry in

the summer 2011 Cerise Press.

Colleen McCarthy (MFA 2011) was

a finalist for the 2011 Sawtooth Poetry

Prize for her manuscript Siren. Three

poems appeared in La Petite Zine. Her

poems, “Hide” and “Cellar,” were published

in Midway Journal. Her manuscript,

“LYNX,” was honorably mentioned

in the 2011 Ahsahta chapbook contest.

Allison McGhee (MA 1993) is featured

in Blink Again: Sudden Fiction from the

Upper Midwest from Spout Press.

Edward McPherson (MFA 2011)

received a 2011 Minnesota State Arts

Board Grant.

Heather McPherson (MFA 2011) is a

writer for the Writer’s Almanac.

Jake Mohan (MFA 2008) is now a

Writing Counselor at Macalester College.

mfa alumni NEWS, continued

Rachel Moritz (MFA 2006) has poems

in the Iowa Review and VOLT.

Michael Opperman (MFA 2003) was

a finalist in the Black Lawrence Press

poetry contest for his manuscript,


Kevin O’Rourke (MFA 2010) published

a series of poems, “Sfumato,” in

Seneca Review; he also had new work

in Word For/Word 19.

Laura Owen (MFA 2009) completed

a residency at the Kimmel Harding

Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska.

The Gonzo Theater Group in

St. Paul did a reading of her play The

Most Incredible Thing. She is now a

theater reviewer for the Tucson Weekly

and a contributor to the website Hello


Lucas Pingel (MFA 2009) published

two poems in a recent issue of Midway


Karen Rigby-Huang (MFA 2004) won

the 2011 Sawtooth Poetry Prize for her

collection, Chinoiserie. She received

$1500, and the book will be published

by Ahsahta Press in January 2012.

Suzanne Rivecca (MFA 2005) won

a 2011 Rome Fellowship in Literature

from the American Academy of

Arts and Letters, receiving a one-year

residency at the American Academy in

Rome. In 2010–11, she was a Fellow

at the Radcliffe Institute, working on

a novel about Walt Whitman. Her collection

of short stories, Death Is Not an

Option, was a runner-up for the Story


Ethan Rutherford (MFA 2009) received

a $25,000 Loft-McKnight Artist

Fellowship. He also won a $5000 Minnesota

Emerging Writers’ Grant. His

band Pennyroyal released the album

Sad Face / Glad Face, which the Star

Tribune named one of the best local albums

of the year thus far in June 2011.

Dominic Saucedo (MFA 2002)

received a $25,000 Loft-McKnight

Artist Fellowship. He also was awarded

a 2011 Minnesota State Arts Board

Grant. His short story, “The Train,”

was nominated by Cerise Press for the

South Million Writers Award Notable

Stories of 2010.

Amy Shearn (MFA 2005) will publish

her second novel, tentatively titled

The Double Life of Jenny Lipkin, with

Simon & Schuster imprint Touchstone

in 2013.

Alyson Sinclair (MFA 2007) has been

named the new Publicity Director of


Nate Slawson (MFA 2008) published

his debut collection of poetry, Panic

Attack, this fall with YesYes Press.

Joyce Sutphen (BA summa cum laude,

1982; MA 1993; PhD 1996) is the new

Minnesota Poet Laureate.

Todd Temkin (MA 1992) was nominated

for Chile’s Altazor Prize in

prose writing for his most recent book,

Moriré en Valparaíso, published in

Chile by Mercurio Aguilar. He is the

first non-Chilean to be nominated in

this category. The book, released in October

2010, appeared for several weeks

on the Chilean Bestseller list.

continued page 17

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•• •••••••••••••••••••••••

Joyce Sutphen, a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s BA, MA, and PhD

programs, was recently named the poet laureate of our great flannel state. She

graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us about her writing and what it’s

like to preside over Minnesota’s poetry kingdom. [Interview by MFA candidate Carrie

Lorig for the MFA Program blog at]

How does it feel to receive a title like “poet laureate”?

It feels a bit unreal; I can’t explain how it happened or what I did to deserve the title.

People like to tease me (“Where are your laurels?” “Do I have to address you as Madame

Poet Laureate?”), and I laugh and change the subject.

Is there a difference between a poet laureate’s responsibilities

to the (general) public and his/her

responsibilities to the writing community?

I hope not, because I don’t think in those terms. I

write for passionate intelligent readers, and those

readers are part of the writing community that exists

in every part of the state.

Minnesota is not the only thing you write about, but it’s something that surfaces and

resurfaces throughout your body of work. Is there some aspect or part of Minnesota

you’ve been preoccupied with in your writing lately?

I haven’t finished with writing about my family and the experience of growing up

on a small farm. That’s material that keeps looking different to me, and I continue

to try to get it down, to create something that conveys what’s being lost when those

independent little places disappear. Lately I have been writing poems about the late

sixties, when I was an undergraduate at the University, and the early seventies, when

I was trying to find my way through . . . life.

Which contemporary Minnesota poets are you excited about?

I feel fortunate to have met so many fine Minnesota poets over the years. I especially

admire Connie Wanek (of Duluth), Tim Nolan (Minneapolis), Patricia Kirkpatrick

(St. Paul), and Phil Bryant (St. Peter). These four are excellent poets in very different

ways and make a sort of poetic compass for me. We often send each other new poems

and talk about who we are reading. Lately I have been admiring [BA alumnus] Ed

Bok Lee’s new book, Whorled, [BA alumnus] Jim Moore’s beautiful Invisible Strings,

and [PhD alumnus] Bill Reichard’s Sin Eater. Of course, there are poets I have admired

for years and those I’ve come to read and admire more recently.

MFA alumni news, continued

Francine Marie Tolf (MFA 2006) has

three poems in the 2011 Dust and Fire

anthology. She published poems in

Water-Stone, Nimrod, Third Wednesday,

Calliope, and Spoon River Poetry

Review. The Talking Stick awarded her

second prize in creative nonfiction for

her essay, “Religion Class.” Her essay,

“A Few Things I Learned at Randall-

Shaw,” was published in the Copperfield

Review and her essay, “All In,”

with FortyOunceBachelors.

gown & CROWN

Holly Vanderhaar (MFA 2010)

received an Honorable Mention in

Nonfiction in the Loft Mentor Series

for 2011–12. She writes for the Writer’s


Michael Walsh (MFA 2006) won

the 2011 Thom Gunn Award in Gay

Poetry for his 2010 collection, The Dirt


Mary Winstead (MFA 2010) published

Can you give us a prompt for a poem?

For me, most poems come in one of two

ways: either I get an idea or some words,

and I obey the direction of that prompting

and start writing, or I start reading

poems (from a volume I’m currently

reading or a book I pull from the shelf)

until something (an idea or a word)

catches my imagination, and I pick up

a pen and write. In the classroom, it’s

Five questions for new Minnesota poet laureate Joyce Sutphen

hard to present students with more than

one poem, but sometimes I like to take

a pair of poems that complement each

other in some way, read the poems out

loud, talk about them a bit, and then give

the class about ten minutes to write. I try

not to suggest a direction in this kind of

exercise, since I want the richness of the

source poems to lead the way. p

the essay, “Clean Break,” in Minnesota.

Ryo Yamaguchi (MFA 2008) is now

Promotions Manager at the University

of Chicago Press, Books Division.

Shana Youngdahl (MFA 2006) published

her debut collection of poems,

History, Advice and Other Half-Truths,

with Stephen F. Austin State University

Press. Her poem, “Of Nets,” was

nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

reative writing creative writing creative writing creative writing creative writing c

Professor Charles Baxter

Gryphon: New and Selected Stories


(See review in CLA’s current Reach by MFA candidate

Sally Franson.)

Adam Barrows (PhD 2006)

The Cosmic Time of Empire: Modern Britain and World Literature

University of California Press


John Colburn (BA 1990, MFA 1996), edited with Michelle

Filkins and Margaret Miles

Blink Again: Sudden Fiction from the Upper Midwest

Spout Press

Professor Maria Damon

Postliterary America: From Bagel Shop Jazz to Micropoetries

University of Iowa Press

See article on page 8.

Eric Dregni (MFA 2007)

Vikings in the Attic: In Search of Nordic America

University of Minnesota Press

Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt (PhD 2002)

The Postcolonial Citizen: Intellectual Migrant

Peter Lang Publishing

Nuruddin Farah, CLA Winton Chair


Riverhead Press

Peter Geye (BA 2000)

Safe from the Sea

Unbridled Books

(See article on page 21.)

Will Hermes (MA 1995)

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New

York that Changed Music Forever

Faber & Faber

Patrick Hueller (MFA 2010) under pen name

Paul Hoblin


Lerner Books

Sam Kean (BA summa cum laude 2002)

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness,

Love, and the History of the Periodic Table

Little Brown & Company

english@minnesota l 1

Arlene Kim (MFA 2008)

What have you done to our ears to make us hear


Milkweed Editions

Kim’s debut poetry collection is a Hansel and Gretel-esque

journey through mythology and tradition.

The echoes are sometimes whispers, as in the

section epigraphs from the 1893 opera Hansel and Gretel; elsewhere

the poems echo other poems and writers, as in the aptly

titled “Echo,” after Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue.” Kim uses the

elements of fairy tales well; the images of spinning and sewing

are particularly compelling, where the machine offers just

the right amount of danger: “Outrun / the seam ripper. Her /

husband the presser foot; her girls, small / bobbins. What was /

left for her / but to be- / come / the /needle.” In other moments,

the danger is in the wandering itself, as in “Tracking” or “Occupation,”

with references to war. The notes in the back of the

book lead to deeper probing and interesting discoveries, such

as Kim’s use of a Markov text synthesizer in “the path come

apart” (one cannot help but Google it). This collection invites

exploration in a world full of beautiful, sharp edges. (Review

by MFA candidate Kristin Fitzsimmons.)

Marcela Kostihova (PhD 2004)

Shakespeare in Transition: Political Appropriations

in the Postcommunist Czech Republic

Palgrave Macmillan

Ed Bok Lee (BA 1994)


Coffee House Press

Professor Nabil Matar, authored with Gerald


Britain and the Islamic World: 1558–1713

Oxford University Press

(See article page 4.)

Jim Moore (BA 1966)

Invisible Strings

Graywolf Press

Susan Niz (BA 1997)

Kara, Lost

North Star Press of St. Cloud

(See article page 22.)

Sheila O’Connor (BA 1982)

Sparrow Road

Putnam Publishing

(See article page 20.)

Carrie Oeding (BA 2000)

Our List of Solutions

42 Miles Press/South Bend Press

continued page 19

1 l //

Anca Parvulescu (PhD 2006)

Laughter: Notes on a Passion

Short Circuit/MIT Press

Professor Paula Rabinowitz, edited with Cristina


Accessorizing the Body: Habits of Being I

University of Minnesota Press

Since 1995, Giorcelli has edited 10 volumes of essays

about the meanings of clothing and accessories

assigned by art and popular culture, especially

in light of social, economic, and semiotic connotations. Now,

with Professor Rabinowitz, Giorcelli has selected 40 of the best

works from the Abito e Identita: Ricerche di storia letteraria

e cultural series for a four-volume publication in English. The

editors are also adding newly commissioned pieces. The book is

framed both by a sleekly designed cover and by Giorcelli’s and

Rabinowitz’s respectively crystalline and pun-knotted introductory

and closing essays. In between, subjects range from Coco

Chanel’s savvy usurping of masculine “sporting clothes” to

Jewish “accessorization” of the mandatory yellow star. As Rabinowitz

writes, “the body is no-body without its dressings.”

William Reichard (PhD 1997), editor

American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for

Social Justice

New Village Press

Associate Professor Katherine Scheil, edited

with Randall Martin

Shakespeare, Adaptation, Modern Drama: Essays

in Honour of Jill Levenson

University of Toronto Press

This 2011 collection includes contributions from

major international scholars in Shakespeare and

modern drama, such as Stanley Wells, Peter Holland, Alan

Ackerman, Brian Parker, and John Astington. The book is a

tribute to the scholar and editor Jill Levenson, the world expert

on Romeo and Juliet, and past president of the Shakespeare

Association of America and the World Shakespeare Congress.

Scheil’s own contribution is entitled “Shakespeare as Memoir,”

focusing on work by Globe Theatre director Dominic Dromgoole

and others who have used Shakespeare as a structuring

device for a memoir.

Ann Schultz (BA 1939)

Message in a Bottle


Nate Slawson (MFA 2008)

Panic Attack

YesYes Press

Shana Youngdahl (MFA 2006)

History, Advice, and Other Half-Truths

Stephen F. Austin State University Press

Last year Adam Barrows (PhD

2006) published The Cosmic

Time of Empire: Modern Britain

and World Literature with the University

of California Press. The book, which

began as his dissertation, investigates

the impact of the 1884 introduction of a

global standardized time on the work of

modernist writers such as James Joyce,

Virginia Woolf, Bram Stoker, and Joseph

Conrad. Barrows is Assistant Professor

of English Language and Literature

at Carleton University in Ontario.

He submitted to our questions.

What was the impact of a global standard time?

It takes (at least theoretically) the “ownership” of time measurement

and management out of the hands of localities and nations.

The public clocks were often objects of local pride, many of

them engraved or decorated with events and figures of purely

local significance. Similarly, pocket watches were popular because

people would often publically and ostentatiously check or

set them against those public clocks. It was a way of carrying

the national time with you and feeling like a participant in the

public act of helping to manage and maintain the proper time.

With Greenwich Mean Time . . . time is now dictated first by the

Observatory at Greenwich and then transmitted to every other

clock, and then later is determined by coordinating observatories

around the globe. Since none of us read the “correct” time

by our own locality’s measurement of the sun’s position, we no

longer think of time as something that is in our hands to maintain

and utilize—it’s dictated to us from authorities.

How did you become interested in the concept of time?

It goes farther back than I am able to trace. I was a big Doctor

Who fan growing up. Reading Proust’s Remembrance of

Things Past at about 22 years old was a huge influence. The

Greenwich idea arose out of a paper I was writing on Dracula

for Lois Cucullu’s graduate class at Minnesota on British masculinity

and grew from there.

How did modernist writers experiment with representing human

time after the establishment of a world clock?

When I talk about experimentation, I mean not necessarily the

avant-garde experimentation with time that you get in Woolf’s

The Waves (which arguably challenges the tenets of standard

time) but also writers experimenting with the notion of standard

time in their fiction in ways that enforce and uphold the

new system. This is where Dracula comes in: I show how that

novel reveals a new sensitivity to the notion of time measurement

as a tool of global management, that clocks help us to

manipulate and neutralize exotic times and spaces—the clock

as a vampire-killing weapon! p

Sheila O’Connor (BA 1982) has

been a teacher almost as long as

she has been a writer. She’s an

assistant professor of Creative Writing

at Hamline University, and for many

years she participated in the COMPASS

program Artists and Writers in the

Schools. But her writing and teaching

lives have perhaps never been more

so entwined than in her third novel

Sparrow Road (Putnam, 2011). Imagine

If You Want to Write re-envisioned as a

story about a crabby 12-year-old girl

stuck in the country with no TV and no

other children.

The girl’s name is Raine, and her

mother has mysteriously taken a summer job as a cook at an

isolated artists’ colony—one with a day-time silence policy.

Raine sulks, but soon a friendly collagist whispers a secret in

the form of a question: “What if?” And her whole world tilts.

That same question, states O’Connor in an email from her

Twin Cities home, “is the beginning of every work of fiction

that I write. What if?

“And it’s the ‘what if’ that keeps me going from one page

to the next,” O’Connor continues, “the mystery of what could

happen. I write to see how the story will unfold.”

What’s enchanting about Sparrow Road is how O’Connor

shows multiple and various ways people might imagine and

then fashion a creative possibility. Yes, Raine begins to write a

story, but she also witnesses what might happen if, say, a bent

spoon is collaged with a battered bottle cap, or a few scraps of

fabric meet up with the history of an old building, or a good

Sheila O’Connor, author of Sparrow Road

english@minnesota l 0

Adventures in FICTION

BA graduates Peter Geye (BA 2000), Sheila O’Connor (BA 1982), and Susan Niz (BA 1997),

novelists at different stages in their careers, reflect on the people and places that led them to their stories

cook is let loose in the kitchen. “[The novel] is a celebration

of the arts across the disciplines,” O’Connor affirms, “and the

power of art-making in our lives regardless of the form.”

In the book’s back pages, the author thanks visual and

musical artists. “I studied visual art at the University of Minnesota,”

she remembers, “and was terrifically inspired by the

painter David Feinberg. In our house it’s common to do all

kinds of art—music, dance, drawing, acting, singing, writing.

We may not be practitioners of every form, but we are definitely

admirers of what others can create.”

And, as Raine learns in Sparrow Road, the coming

together of different disciplines can encourage innovation.

Indeed, it was in the midst of the gathering of writers, scholars,

and artists at the Anderson Center

residency program that O’Connor first

thought: What if a child came to an

artists’ colony?

“Both Clare’s Well [in Little Falls]

and the Anderson Center are slices of

heaven for me,” O’Connor reveals. “I

do my best work at such places—and I

am grateful for all I have accomplished

in their quiet.

“[B]ut more they represent the

transformative power of vision and

generosity. That such places even exist

is evidence of tremendous goodwill in

our world, of how much good people

can accomplish, and I hope Sparrow

Road is a testament to that.”

Raine’s creative investigations lead her to the history of the

colony’s main building, which was once an orphanage. Raine,

like the 12-year-old at the heart of O’Connor’s Minnesota

Book Award-winning novel Where No Gods Came (2003), has

herself suffered a parental abandonment. In writing a story that

is both hers and the building’s, she makes connections past her

immediate community, connections that identify and ease a

hurt that includes but is greater than her own.

“Sparrow Road isn’t a book that desires to take a stand—

it’s a book about wonder,” claims O’Connor. “It asks everyone

to wonder about many things—including me. I wonder about

family, separation, and forgiveness. I wonder what it means to

live without a parent.”

On her website, O’Connor writes about her parents’

divorce, about bouncing around between elementary schools.

She started writing in fourth grade, in part to remember what

was happening to her, to make it solid. What if—after such a

start—you went to the University of Minnesota and a teacher

encouraged you to write?

“I am indebted to Michael Dennis Browne for nudging me

toward graduate school [in poetry],” O’Connor observes, “and

Trish Hampl for telling me she hoped I wouldn’t quit writing

stories, and Alan Burns for seeing whatever raw gifts I had

inside the first time I wrote fiction. All of them expected me to

take my writing seriously, and so I did. I have tried to do them

honor in my own mentorship of students.”

She certainly does them honor in this effervescent and

earthy mentor of a story. p

1 l //

Soon after he graduated from the University of Minnesota

in 2000, Peter Geye began writing a novel. He entered a

low residency MFA program with the University of New

Orleans, working at a bank during the day and writing at night

and on weekends. He knew where the story took place before

he knew the story: the North Shore of Lake Superior, which

he had discovered on family trips as a child. Then came the

characters: an old man, dying; his bitter son, who has joined

him at a cabin near the big lake. And finally the central drama:

the wreck of a great ore ship, like those giants he remembered

parading into the Duluth harbor.

After Geye received his MFA in 2003, he started a PhD at

Western Michigan University, eventually editing the literary

journal Third Coast. The novel stayed in his head, fermenting.

He went back to it and revised. The manuscript got elbowed

aside again. Degree in hand, he returned to it, honing to spare

elegance its tale of a shipwreck survivor’s trauma, which,

long repressed, nearly destroys his family. Three years went

by finding an agent and a publisher and

revising with an editor. “It’s a grueling

process,” Geye describes in an email

from his Minnapolis home. “If I didn’t

have thick skin when I started, I do

now.” Meanwhile, he’d become a father

once, twice, three times.

A decade after its first sentence

was written, Safe from the Sea was

published last October by literary

press Unbridled Books. The response,

from first readers such as library and

publishing trade journal critics, was

immediate and positive: “[In] this deeply

moving, powerfully realized debut

novel, an estranged father and son find

reconciliation in the final week of the

father’s life,” praised Library Journal.

Staff at independent bookstores read

the novel and began hand-selling it to customers. Blogs such

as took up the buzz, and in February Safe from

the Sea won the inaugural Indie Lit Award for literary fiction,

a prize given by literary bloggers. In May the book received a

Northeastern Minnesota Book Award.

It’s safe to say Geye’s publisher wants the next novel

before a decade is up. And Geye is working on it. But: “I’m a

stay-at-home father of three young kids,” he notes, “so my day

starts with dirty diapers at seven o’clock and ends after baths at

nine. I write on Mondays and Fridays for five hours at a spell,

on the weekends, and whenever I can squeeze in the odd hour

of work. It’s not ideal, but staying at home with the kids is a

different kind of reward.”

Geye has revealed that one of the subplots of Safe from

the Sea, infertility, arose from his wife and his struggle to have

children. It’s a surprising and provocative thread in a novel

with a compacted style and man vs. nature conflict recalling

Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy, whom Geye mentions as

favorites. But he’s also a fan of Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing, a

feminist reading of madness as a response to social oppression.

Indeed Safe from the Sea can be seen as a subtle meditation on

changing gender roles, especially in terms of occupation: the

son with his job as a purveyor of expensive antique maps, his

wife a successful professional; the father a veteran of decades

of ship labor. The son drinks in his father’s work tales with

wonder. “Noah has the same boyish enthusiasm for the boats

that I myself do,” admits Geye. “And though I wouldn’t say that

I mythologize the trade in the way that Noah does, I understand

that myth as an English major.”

He also understands that myth as a son: “My father

is retired now, but he was up and out the door at five in the

morning when I was a kid,” relates Geye. “He worked as a

building superintendent for the YMCA, so his days were spent

fixing boilers and patching leaky roofs. And though I’ve had

my share of jobs that made me sweat,

mostly I’ve lived a charmed life. To sit

at a desk and do what I love best seems

in a way like cheating. I think Noah

feels the same way about the life that

he’s fallen into, which is supremely

upper middle-class. And just as surely,

Olaf is suspicious of his son’s life.”

As Olaf slowly narrates to Noah the

tale of the shipwreck and its aftermath,

the reader discovers with Noah the

emotional burden this tough man has

never before admitted carrying. Yet the

story of the sinking is still a thriller. “I

love great adventure writing,” Geye

declares. “It’s my opinion that literary

writing and adventure writing are not

Peter Geye, author of Safe from the Sea mutually exclusive. My favorite books

are adventure books. [McCarthy’s]

Blood Meridian, Moby Dick, [Bruce Machart’s] The Wake of

Forgiveness, Hemingway’s stories, they’re all driven as much

by action as language.”

Geye has said elsewhere, “Stories are the great heroes,

not individuals”—spoken like an English major. But he still

appreciates the encouragement and guidance he received at the

University of Minnesota. “[Regents Professor] Patricia Hampl

was very kind to me, and her wisdom is beyond measure.”

He also cites the influence of Scandinavian Professor Goran

Stockenstrom. “But the truth is,” he states, “I never had a class

or professor—in the English department or anywhere else—

that didn’t exceed my expectations. By the time I got around to

finishing college I was a very eager learner. That helps.”

He’s still a motivated learner—and writer: At press time,

he emailed to say that his second novel will be published in fall

2012. The setting came first: the North Shore . . . . p

Adventures, continued page 22

The vibrancy of a literary community depends in part on

how well it encourages and nurtures beginning writers.

One sign that the Twin Cities is in the midst of a literary

heyday lies in the rapidly expanding group of novelists writing

for middle-graders to young adults, whose pioneers—including

Alison McGhee (MA 1992) and Julie Schumacher (Professor

and Director of the Creative Writing Program)—are active

participants in seeding and watering their “field.” Case in point:

Schumacher’s and McGhee’s praise on the back of Susan Niz’s

debut novel for young adults, Kara, Lost (North Star Press of

St. Cloud, 2011).

Niz (BA 1997) didn’t meet Schumacher

or McGhee at the University. “I

knew I wanted to be a writer back when

I was an undergraduate,” confesses Niz

in an email, “in fact, long before that.

[But] at the time, I wasn’t ready to

tell the stories that I was meant to tell,

and I wasn’t prepared for critique and

revision—essential elements of fiction


She did take a class with poet and

professor Michael Dennis Browne. And,

like all English majors, she learned to

write better by exploring the reading lists

of every required literature course. In a

few years she was ready to tell a gritty

story about a runaway who struggles

to find a secure place for herself in the

rapidly changing landscape of early

nineties Minneapolis. “I didn’t set out to

write a young adult novel,” Niz relates,

“but I knew very clearly that the voice of my protagonist was

a 16-year-old.”

She met local mystery novelist David Housewright when

he taught a novel-writing class at the Loft. After the course,

he gave her a positive

“I feel affinity to

people who feel

misplaced and who

search for home

and identity.”

Susan Niz

manuscript critique. Niz

worked six years on Kara,

Lost, drafting and revising,

letting it sit, revising and

editing. “I did not give up,”

she describes, “because I

knew that my story was

worthwhile, because David

Housewright had told me it

was good. I would tell new

writers to find a published

writer who believes in your work.”

In a way, Kara, Lost itself is about finding help—and

figuring out who you can trust. Niz’s protagonist, having

followed her sister in fleeing their suburban parents, is left

homeless when her sister’s roommate and lover refuses shelter.

english@minnesota l

Kara falls in with outliers of the fabled mid-eighties to early

nineties Minneapolis music scene, including punks hanging

out at the Uptown McDonald’s, but they’re either equally

desperate or threatening. Instead, she finds both employment

and assistance via a Vietnamese immigrant couple running a

restaurant on Lake Street. “I actually did work at a Vietnamese

restaurant,” Niz reveals, “which created specific memories that

I wanted to incorporate into my book.

“Immigrants have been an important part of my life,”

she explains. “I suppose that I feel affinity to people who feel

misplaced and who search for home and

identity. Kara is in a position where she

is humbled by her circumstances. Tam

and Binh, as owners of a restaurant, are

able to provide her stability and financial

means by employing her. In addition,

they are caring, good people who want

the best for her, even when they are just

getting by.”

The life Kara makes for herself in

her cheap South Minneapolis apartment

may be rickety (and does eventually

fall apart), but it’s also hard-won,

commendable, and described with great

texture and weight. Niz was inspired by

detail-oriented writers such as Wally

Lamb and Frank McCourt: “I enjoy

minute detail when I am reading and

really wanted to bring the readers that

close to Kara’s experience,” she notes.

Susan Niz (BA 1997), author of Kara, Lost “Kara is isolated, and her existence is

meager, yet she is able to earn an income

that allows her to pay her rent and acquire her dollar store

plastic tumblers for powdered lemonade and cheap saucepan

for cooking ramen noodles. This is quite an accomplishment for

a 16-year-old runaway. I lived in apartments like this! Where

you just say to yourself, How am I going to make this work?”

For all its realism, Kara, Lost may be read too as a grim

fairy tale, complete with a homicidal goat under a bridge. The

protagonist must brave the dangers

(and emotional costs) of establishing

her independence and become the hero

of her own life, along the way finding

like-minded traveling companions.

Niz plans to continue writing

for young adults, although she may

bring her next protagonist into the

present time. “I am definitely drawn

to exploring the emotional world of

teenagers,” the author allows, “especially

those struggling with chaos,

trauma, or instability. I am able to

access that voice.” p

l //

Stacey Amo (BA 2008) received her

MA in Literature from Minnesota State

University in May 2011. She entered

Louisiana State University for a PhD.

Mark Bly (BA 1973) is senior

dramaturg and director of new play

development at the Alley Theatre in

Houston, Texas. He teaches playwriting

and dramaturgy at the School of Theatre

and Dance, University of Houston,

and is Distinguished Professor of

Playwriting in the theater department

of Hunter College, Manhattan. He has

dramaturged more than 200 productions.

Molly Boggs (BA summa cum laude

2009) is pursuing a PhD in English

at Indiana University Bloomington,

specializing in Victorian literature.

Séamas Cain (BA 1973) published a

novel, The Dangerous Islands (Red

Jasper, 2011). He was commissioned to

provide two presentations for IMRAM,

a national literary festival in Dublin,

Ireland. The presentations will be

repeated at an IMRAM festival in New

York City next year. While in Dublin,

he presented the John Devitt Memorial

Poetry Lecture at the Mater Dei

Institute, speaking on Allen Ginsberg.

Peter Geye (BA 2000) won the

inaugural Independent Literary Award

for fiction, given by literary bloggers,

for his novel, Safe from the Sea.

Ashley Ellen Goetz (BA 2009) entered

the University of Massachusetts,

Amherst’s MFA Program for fiction this

fall; she is teaching in the University of

Massachusetts Writing Program.

Clay S. Jenkinson (BA 1977)

published The Character of Meriwether

Lewis Explorer in the Wilderness with

the Dakota Institute Press.

Kevin Karch (BA 2011) entered

Hamline University’s MFA creative

writing program this fall, as well as

UCLA’s professional screenwriting


Sam Kean (BA summa cum laude

2002) published The Disappearing

Spoon: And Other True Tales of

Madness, Love, and the History of

the Periodic Table with Little Brown;

the book reached the New York Times

Bestseller List.

Ed Bok Lee (BA 1994) published the

poetry collection Whorled with Coffee

House Press.

BA alumni NEWS CLA

J. Elaine McCracken (BA 1984) is

the Serials & Electronic Resources

Librarian at the University of California

in Santa Barbara. She earned her MLS

from UCLA (1993) and has worked

in various University of California

Libraries since 1989. She is currently

writing her thesis on the themes of

escape and transformation, based

partially on the novel The Amazing

Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, for

a Masters in Counseling Psychology

from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Jim Moore (BA 1966) published the

poetry collection Invisible Strings with

Graywolf Press

Catherine Nordstrom (BA 2010)

entered Boston University’s English

MA/PhD program this fall.

Carrie Oeding (BA 2000) published

her first collection of poems, Our List

of Solutions, with 42 Miles Press from

Indiana University South Bend Press.

The book won the Lester M. Wolfson

Prize. After studying creative writing

as an undergraduate, she received an

MFA in creative writing from Eastern

Washington University and a PhD in

creative writing from Ohio University.

She currently teaches at Marshall

University in Huntington, WV.

Send us your news!

Ava Rostampour (BA 2010) works

as an English teacher with the French

Ministry of Education in Bourges,


Lucy Saliger (BA summa cum laude

2010) entered the Master’s program in

English at the University of St. Thomas

this fall.

Ann Schultz (BA 1939), at 93 years

old, published Message in a Bottle, a

collection of poems that was nominated

for a Minnesota Book Award.

Scholarship AWARDS

Selmer Birkelo Scholarship

Carrie Krueger

Captain DeWitt Jennings Payne


Melissa Simmons

Donald V. Hawkins Scholarship

Amy Durmaskin, Naomi Ko, and Eric


Anna Augusta von Helmholtz

Phelan Scholarship

Christopher White

Jessie M. Comstock Scholarship

Jennifer Snider

Moses Marston Scholarship

Echo Martin, Emma Nelson, Josie

Strom, and Maureen Vance

Martin B. Ruud Scholarship

Cecilia Klueh and Kevin Supple

Sharon Borine Scholarship

Jared Anderson, Etta Berkland, and

Kelsey Rademacher

Beverly Atkinson Scholarship for

Non-Traditional English Majors

Alysha Bohanon

Paul & Lucienne Taylor Internship


Nina Bartlett and Etta Berkland

The English group Fellowship of

Undergraduate Students in English

(FUSE) won a Tony Diggs Excellence

Award for Rookie Student Group

from Student Unions & Activities.

2011 ArtWords Contest Winners

(judged by Garrison Keillor)

Christopher White, Jennifer Snider,

and Madeline Summers

2011 Academy of American Poets

James Wright Prize in Poetry

(judged by Garrison Keillor)

Maureen Vance, Emily Walz, Mary


2011 Imagine Fund awards went

to Timothy Brennan, Maria Damon,

Qadri Ismail, Paula Rabinowitz, Jani

Scandura, Omise’eke Tinsley, and John

Wright. The $5000 arts and humanities

awards, an initiative of the Senior Vice

President for Academic Affairs and Provost,

may be used for research needs,

teaching materials, books, materials for

creative work, or travel.

Charles Baxter published a review of

Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 in the December

8, 2011 New York Review of

Books. His collection Gryphon: New

faculty NEWS

and Selected Stories (Pantheon) was

named one of the 100 Notable Books

of 2011 by the New York Times. He

published two poems in the December

2010 issue of Poetry. A new edition

of his novel First Light will appear in

January 2012.

Timothy Brennan held the Mercator

Professorship from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

(National Science

Foundation) of Germany, in Berlin, during

spring 2011. He received a fall 2010

Grant-in-Aid of Artistry, Research or

Scholarship from the Graduate School,

for “Poets of Commodities: The Humanist

Challenge to Economics.”

Tony C. Brown was promoted with

tenure to Associate Professor in recognition

of his outstanding research,

teaching, and service. His book The

Primitive, the Aesthetic, and the Savage:

An Enlightenment Problematic is


Michael Dennis Browne (Emeritus)

was the keynote speaker at the CLA

Commencement ceremonies May 2011.

Peter Campion was awarded a 2011

Guggenheim Fellowship. His poem

“Car Radio Near Cleveland Near

Dawn” was published in the Threepenny

Review, and his poem “1986:The

Court” in the summer–fall 2011 issue

of the Harvard Review. His review

of Robert Duncan’s The H.D. Book,

which appeared in the September 2011

Poetry, was awarded the 2011 Poetry

Magazine Editors Prize for Reviewing.

His review-essay “Beyond Disbelief”

appeared in the Los Angeles Review of

Books. His review of Norman Dubie’s

The Volcano appeared in the Believer.

Campion will be the first judge of

Milkweed Editions’ major new prize for

poetry, the $10,000 Lindquist & Vennum


Siobhan Craig was promoted with

tenure to Associate Professor in recognition

of her outstanding research,

teaching, and service. Professor Craig

last year published Cinema After Fascism:

The Shattered Screen (Palgrave


Lois Cucullu received two summer

2011 awards: the Mayers Fellowship,

Huntington Library for work on Christopher

Isherwood; and the Williams

Andrews Clark Library Fellowship at

UCLA for work on Oscar Wilde.

Maria Damon published Postliterary

America: From Bagel Shop Jazz

to Micropoetries (University of Iowa

Press, 2011). She also has a new blog

concerning the project “Text, Textile,

Exile,” begun when she was an Institute

for Advanced Study Fellow:

Nuruddin Farah, CLA Winton Chair

housed in English, published Crossbones,

the last novel in his “Past Imperfect”

trilogy. Excerpts were published

in the New Yorker and Granta. He was

the keynote speaker at the December

2010 CLA Commencement ceremonies.

Maria Fitzgerald received a Grant-in-

Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship

award for 2011–2013 from the Of-

english@minnesota l

fice of the Vice President for Research

for her novel project “Elizabeth F.”

Ray Gonzalez published a chapbook of

poetry, The Mud Angels, with Longhouse

Publishers in Vermont. He served

as a final judge for the 2011 Whiting

Young Writers Awards in New York.

His poems and essays have recently

appeared in the following anthologies:

American Tensions: Literature

of Identity and the Search for Social

Justice (New Village Press), Aspects

of Robinson: Homage to Weldon Kees

(The Backwaters Press), Blink Again:

Sudden Fiction from the Upper Midwest

(Spout Press), Colors of Nature:

Culture, Identity, and the Natural World

(Milkweed Editions), New Border Writing

(Texas A&M University Press) and

Robert Bly: In This World (University

of Minnesota Press). Poems and essays

have recently appeared in Lapham’s

Quarterly, the Bitter Oleander, the Laurel

Review, and other journals.

Edward Griffin (Emeritus) gave the

keynote talk at a day-long Continuing

Education symposium on Mark Twain’s

autobiography, published in November

2010. He also presented at the opening

event of an OLLI “Bookends” program

regarding the University Opera’s

mounting of the 2007 opera based on

Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry. Last

spring, he led a six-week course for

OLLI called “Reading Emily Dickinson.”

Patricia Hampl was awarded a sabbatical

with supplement for 2011–12.

She will be Visiting Writer at the

Vermont School of the Arts (January

2012). She is teaching at Breadloaf in

August 2012. Her poem, “The White,”

was on Writer’s Almanac Nov 12, 2011.

She’s guest-editing an all-essay issue of

Ploughshares magazine for fall 2012.

Michael Hancher co-chairs with

Laura Gurak the Institute for Advanced

Study’s Digital Humanities 2.0 collaborative,

envisioning the next generation

of digital humanities tools, techniques,

and approaches. Join the listserv: http://

continued page 25

l // He published “Learning

from Librivox” in Audiobooks,

Literature, and Sound Studies, edited

by Matthew Rubery (Routledge, 2011).

Josephine Lee finishes up her tenure

as the President of the Association of

Asian American Studies next spring.

Her book, The Japan of Pure Invention,

was a runner up for the 2010 Barnard

Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research

in Theatre History.

Nabil Matar won a CLA Scholar of

the College award for 2011–2014.

He published Britian and the Islamic

World, 1558–1713 with co-author

Gerald MacLean (Oxford University

Press, 2011). He was the principle investigator

of “Shared Cultural Spaces:

Islam and the West in the Arts and

Sciences,” NEH Conference, University

of Minnesota, February 24–26. His

invited presentations include: “New

Scholarship on Science, Ideas and

Philosophy” and “Beyond Golden Age

and Decline,” George Mason U, NEH

Conference, March 14; “Henry Stubbe

and the First Use of Christian Arabic

Sources About Muhammad,” University

of Chicago, April 12; “‘Ridda’ and

Empire: Muslim Conversion to Christianity

in the Early Modern Period” and

“Conversion Narratives in the Early

Modern World,” University of York,

June 10; “In Their Own Words: Eastern

Christians of the Ottoman Empire” and

“The Dialectics of Orientalism in Early

Modern Europe” (keynote), University

of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign,

October 8; “The Arab World at the Eve

of the Napoleonic Invasion” (De Lamar

Jensen Lecture), October 20; “Mediterranean

Piracy in the Early Modern

Period: Through North African Eyes,”

University of Michigan, November 18.

He also presented “Christian Arabic

Views of the Ottomans in the Sixteenth

and Seventeenth Centuries” at RSA,

Montreal, March 24–26. His article,

“Elizabeth through Moroccan Eyes,”

was reprinted in The Foreign Relations

of Elizabeth I, edited by Charles Beem

(2011). His essay, “Protestant Restorationism

and the Ortelian Mapping of

Palestine (with an afterword on Islam),”

was included in The Calling of the

Nations, edited by Mark Vessey et al.

(University of Toronto Press, 2011). He

participated in the BBC program, “How

God made the English,” London, July

6. He served as Co-Executive Editor of

The Journal of Early Modern History.

Dan Philippon is serving as a Senior

Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for

Environment and Society in Munich,

Germany, September 2011 to February

2012, after which he will be a Fulbright

Scholar at the University of Turin and

the University of Gastronomic Sciences

in Italy, from March through June 2012.

Paula Rabinowitz was elected to

the University of Minnesota Senate.

She published Accessorizing the

Body: Habits of Being 1, co-edited

with Cristina Giorcelli (University of

Minnesota Press, 2011). She held the

Distinguished Fulbright Lectureship in

American Literature in the People’s Republic

of China for spring 2011 at East

China Normal University in Shanghai.

She co-curated the fourth annual film

series collaboration between the Walker

Art Center and the University: “And

Yet She Moves: Reviewing Feminist

Cinema,” 15 films screening at the

Walker November 4–20, included films

by Chantal Akerman, Bette Gordon,

and Trinh T. Minh-ha. Rabinowitz

also co-organized the November

24–25 symposium at Australia National

University, Canberra, “Red Love and

Proletarian Femmes Fatales.”

Marty Roth (Emeritus) will publish

Cultures of Memory, a cultural history

of memory, with Academica Press.

Katherine Scheil published Shakespeare,

Adaptation, Modern Drama:

Essays in Honour of Jill Levenson, coedited

with Randall Martin (University

of Toronto Press, 2011). She presented

part of her new book on the afterlife

of Anne Hathaway Shakespeare at the

World Shakespeare Congress in Prague,

Czech Republic, in July 2011. She is

editing a special issue of the journal

Critical Survey, which will include

essays on the topic of “Stratford.” Her

book She Hath Been Reading: Women

and Shakespeare Clubs in America will

be published by Cornell University

Press in 2012. She has been invited to

join a team of international scholars

(from Cambridge, The Shakespeare

Institute in Stratford, the Netherlands,

Spain, and the UK) on a research

project entitled “Shakespeare and Commemoration,”

funded by the Spanish


Julie Schumacher will publish the

young adult novel The Unbearable

Book Club for Unsinkable Girls with

Delacorte in May 2012.

Madelon Sprengnether published

“When Other Worlds Invite Us,” a

chapter from her memoir-in-progress

“Great River Road,” in the Laurel

Review (fall 2010). Her prose poem

“Anniversary 2” was reprinted in The

Wind Blows, The Ice Breaks: Poems of

Loss and Renewal (Nodin Press, 2010).

Her essay “Psychoanalysis and Literature”

is forthcoming in The American

Publishing Textbook of Psychoanalysis.

Graywolf Press has recently reprinted

her memoir Crying at the Movies.

Save the DATE

Novelist Denis Johnson will

give the Esther Freier Endowed

Lecture in Literature at 7:30

pm, Wednesday, April 11, 2012,

at Coffman Union Theater.

Johnson is the author of Tree

of Smoke, the National Book

Award-winning novel about

the Vietnam War. He wrote

Jesus’ Son, which was made into

the 1999 movie starring Billy

Crudup, as well as several other

novels. He is also a playwright

and a poet.

Lamya Almas (PhD 2009) is Assistant

Professor of English in the English/Humanities

Department at Alabama State

University in Montgomery.

Adam Barrows (PhD 2006) published

The Cosmic Time of Empire: Modern

Britain and World Literature (University

of California Press). His essay,

“The Shortcomings of Timetables:

Greenwich, Modernism, and the Limits

of Modernity,” published in the journal

PhD alumni

Modern Fiction Studies (56: 2) has

been awarded the Margaret Church Memorial

Award for best essay of 2010.

Terry Castle (PhD 1980) is Walter

A. Haas Professor in the Humanities

and Professor of English at Stanford,

not Professor Emerita, as described in

the Winter 2010 english@minnesota.

She was a finalist for the 2011 National

Book Critics Circle for Criticism for

her book The Professor.

Michael Dickel (PhD 1999) is the

editor of Voices Israel, the annual

anthology of English-language poetry

from around the world, which publishes

Volume 37 in fall 2011.

Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt (PhD 2002)

published The Postcolonial Citizen: Intellectual

Migrant (Peter Lang Publishing)

in 2010. She is associate professor

at Linfield College, Portland, Oregon.

Nicholas Hengen (PhD 2011) accepted

a tenure-track instructor position at

Portland Community College in Oregon.

He published “Silver Linings?”

in Inside Higher Ed in November.

Elizabeth Bourque Johnson (PhD

1998) is the co-editor of the anthology,

The Wind Blows, The Ice Breaks: Poems

of Loss and Renewal by Minnesota

Poets (Nodin Press, 2010).

Mary Johnston (PhD 1984) continues

to teach at Minnesota State University,

Mankato. She is in her 23rd year as a

professor in the English Department.

She was awarded a Teaching Scholar

Fellowship this summer, for the project

“Contemporary Indian Women Writers.”

She still keeps in touch with her

“wonderful mentor,” Professor Emeritus

Norman Fruman.

Chang-Hee Kim (PhD 2009) accepted

a tenure-track position at Ulsan Nation-


al Institute of Science and Engineering

in South Korea.

Mary E. Knatterud (PhD 1997, MA

1979) received this year’s Golden

Apple award from the national American

Medical Writers Association. The

award, given for “consistently outstanding

workshop leadership” over the past

20 years, was formally presented at the

national conference on November 12,

2010, in Milwaukee, WI. Knatterud is

a research associate professor in the

Department of Surgery at the University

of Arizona in Tucson (telecommuting

from her home in St. Paul). She did

similar manuscript editing work for 21

years for the University of Minnesota’s

Department of Surgery in Minneapolis.

Marcela Kostihova (PhD 2004)

published Shakespeare in Transition:

Political Appropriations in the Postcommunist

Czech Republic (Palgrave

Macmillan, 2010). She is Assistant Professor

of English at Hamline University.

Anca Parvulescu (PhD 2006) published

Laughter: Notes on a Passion

(Short Circuit/MIT Press, 2010). She is

Assistant Professor of English at Washington

University in St. Louis.

William Reichard (PhD 1997) was a

finalist for a Minnesota Book Award for

his poetry collection Sin Eater. He edited

the anthology American Tensions:

Literature of Identity and the Search for

english@minnesota l

Social Justice (New Village Press).

Kevin Riordan (PhD 2011) presented

“Performing Ghost Translations” at the

MLA convention in Los Angeles, January


Nick Robinette (PhD 2010) accepted a

tenure-track position at James Madison

University in Virginia. He previously

was Visiting Assistant Professor at

Oberlin College.

Sharin Schroeder (PhD 2011) accepted

a tenure-track Assistant Professor

position at National Taipei University

of Technology, Taiwan. She published

“‘It’s Alive!’: Tolkien’s Monster on the

Screen” in Picturing Tolkien: Essays on

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings

Film Trilogy, edited by Janice Bogstad

(McFarland). She presented “‘[T]here

needs no ghost come from the grave to

tell us this’: The Search for Spiritual

Authority in Margaret Oliphant’s Life

of Edward Irving” at the British Women

Writers Conference in Columbus, Ohio,

March–April, 2011.

Karen Steigman (PhD 2007) received

the 2010 New Teacher of the Year

award at Otterbein University. Steigman

is assistant professor of English and

faculty advisor of the student humanities

journal, Aegis.

In Memoriam:

Reuben Chirambo (PhD 2005) died

of cancer October 6, 2011. He was 48.

He served as a senior lecturer in the

Department of English Language &

Literature in the Faculty of Humanities

at the University of Cape Town. “He is

remembered not only for his academic

zeal,” wrote University of Cape Town

Vice Chancellor Max Price, “but also

for his enormous integrity, his keen

sense of humour and his unfailing kindness

and respect in his dealings with

colleagues and students.” Chirambo’s

manuscript on Malawian literature had

just been accepted for publication. “His

dissertation was a wonderful analysis of

how Malawian dictator Hastings Banda

Send us your news!

l //

used music and other forms of popular

culture to sustain his political control

over the country,” noted Professor

Charles Sugnet, who advised Chirambo

with Professor Timothy Brennan.

“When I visited him and sat in on his

class at the University of Cape Town

in 2009, it was clear that he had found

an ideal job and was enjoying both his

teaching and his research.”

Frederick C. Mish (PhD 1973) died

September 27, 2010. He was the former

editor-in-chief of Merriam-Webster,

and edited three successive editions of

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

the 9th (1983), the 10th (1993)

and the 11th (2003). As the New York

Times Magazine noted, “Mish is fondly

remembered in M-W’s Springfield,

Mass., offices for both his erudition

and humility.” His wife, Judith Solberg

Mish, received her BA and MA in English

at the University of Minnesota.

and Tobacco in the Sensation Decade”

at the Nineteenth Century Studies Association

conference in Albuquerque,

March 2011.

L. Lelaine Bonine received a fellowship

from the Japanese government to

present “Master of (Global) Suspense:

Digital Hitchcock and Cinephilia Gone

Global,” at the Nagoya American Studies

Summer Seminar, Nanzan University,

Japan, summer 2011. She presented

“For the Love of Film: In Search of the

Referent on the Cinephilic Pilgrimage”

at the Film & History Conference in

Milwaukee, November 2010.

Eric Brownell received the Samuel

Holt Monk Memorial Prize for Published

Scholarship, for “Our Lady

of the Telegraph: Mina as Medieval

Cyborg in Bram Stoker’s Dracula,”

Journal of Dracula Studies (December

2010). He also was awarded Graduate

Research Partnership Program

PhD student NEWS

Sunyoung Ahn presented “Human

Clones in Everyday Life: The Uncanny

Familiarity of the Alternate World

in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me

Go (2005)” at the Midwest Modern

Language Association conference in

Chicago, November 2010.

Emily Anderson received the Garner-

McNaron-Sprengnether Fellowship for

summer research, summer 2011, for her

project “Marrying Monsters, Becoming

Bridezillas: The Reimagining of the

Gothic in Twenty-first Century Narratives

of Marriage.”

Patricia Baehler received the Thomas

F. Wallace Fellowship for 2010–11, for

her dissertation “‘Convey’d to Your

Hand’: The Delivery and Circulation of

Letters in Eighteenth-Century Fiction,


Jennifer Baltzer-Lovato presented

“Walls of Smoke: Gender, Exchange,

(GRPP) support, summer 2011, for his

project “The Winking Portrait: Joseph

L. Mankiewicz’s The Ghost and Mrs.

Muir as Postwar Pastiche.”

W. H. Burdine presented “Material

Apocalypse: American Utopianism

Through Anti-Materialism” at the

Society for Utopian Studies conference

in Milwaukee, October 2010. He presented

“Lawrence, Marx, and the Narrative

Structure of Apocalypse” at “The

End?” Graduate Student Conference at

Indiana University, March 1010.

Erik Carlson was awarded a Graduate

School Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

2011–12, for his dissertation

project “The Old English Language

of Fear.” He will publish “The Gothic

Vocabulary of Fear” in the Journal

of English and Germanic Philology.

He presented “Translating Fear in the

Prose Lives of St. Guthlac” at the Medieval

Academy of America meeting in

Scottsdale, Arizona, April 2011.

Lindsay Craig presented “Just Friends

and Friendly Wars: Malory’s Morte

D’Arthur as Foundation of Humanitarian

Law” at the International Congress

on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo,

Michigan, May 2011.

Renee DeLong accepted a tenure-track

position at Minneapolis Community

and Technical College. She presented

“Re-viewing Azalea: A Magazine for

Third World Lesbians 1977-1983” at

the “In Amerika They Call us Dykes:

Lesbian Lives in the 1970s” Conference

at CUNY, October 2010.

Elissa Hansen was awarded a Graduate

School Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

2011–12, for her dissertation

project “Signs of the Time: Temporality

in Fourteenth-Century English Contemplative

Writing.” She will publish

“Making a Place: Imitatio Mariae in

Julian of Norwich’s Self-Construction,

in Reading Memory and Identity in

the Texts of Medieval European Holy

Women, edited by Bradley Herzog and

Margaret Corter-Lynch (Palgrave Macmillan,


Hyeryung Hwang presented “‘I would

prefer not to’: Embodied Subjectivity

as the Site of Resistance” at the Marxist

Literary Group: Institute on Culture and

Society (MLG-ICS) in Chicago, June


Jennifer Kang presented “The Rhetorics

of Enlightenment: Horkheimer/

Adorno’s Theory of Enlightenment and

Use of Personification” at the English

Graduate Conference, University of St.

Thomas, May 2011.

William Kanyusik received Graduate

Research Partnership Program (GRPP)

support, summer 2011, for his project

“The Problem of Recognition: The

Disabled Male Veteran and Masculinity

as Spectacle.”

Eun Joo Kim received the Audrey

Christensen Library Acquisition Prize.

continued page 28

She also was awarded travel funding

from the Asian American Studies

Program (UMN), the Community of

Scholars Program (UMN), the Graduate

and Professional Student Assembly

(UMN), and the Committee on Institutional

Cooperation (CIC) through the

Big Ten. She presented “Articulating

the Korean Diaspora Through Displaced

and Deferred Language in Ronyoung

Kim’s Clay Walls” at the MLA convention

in Los Angeles, January 2011;

“Emoticons as Cultural Performance” at

the “Technologies of Asian Migration:

Media, Mobility, and Virtuality” conference

in Urbana–Champaign, April 2011;

“Permeable Borders and Inflexible

Citizenships” at the Cultural Studies and

Comparative Literature Conference in

Minneapolis, October 2010; “Reading

Across Subtitles in West 32nd” at the

Association of Asian American Studies

conference in New Orleans, May

2011; and “Subtitles and Intersections

of Il/legibility in the Television Series

Lost” at the Midwest Popular Culture

Association/American Culture Association

in Minneapolis, October 2010.

NaRae Kim presented “Significantly

Insignificant: Making ‘Asian America’

in Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker” at

the American Comparative Literature

Association conference in Vancouver,

March–April 2011.

Jessica Knight will publish “Graphic

Multiculturalism: Teaching Mine

Okubo’s Citizen 13660 in the Literature

Classroom” in Critical Approaches to

Teaching Graphic Narratives, edited by

Lan Dong (McFarland, forthcoming).

Annemarie Lawless presented “Ciaran

Carson: Flash-backs, Flash-forwards,

In-between” at the Midwest Modern

Language Association conference in

Chicago, November 2010.

Adam Lindberg presented “Play-

ing Badly: Subversive Fun and Moral

Agency in the Zombie Apocalypse”

at the Comparative Literature Intrastudent

Faculty Forum (CLIFF) in

Ann Arbor, March 2011, and “Who is

the Hero of This Story: Interactivity,

Agency, and Narrative” at the University

of Ottawa.

Josh Mabie was named a Consortium

Student Scholar by the University’s

Consortium on Law and Values in

PhD student NEWS, continued

Health, Environment, and the Life

Sciences and awarded a grant for his

project “The Ecological Roots of a

Religious Crisis: Holy Land Ecology,

Religious Belief, and Environmental

Policy.” His essay, “‘He was lost and

now is Found’: Segmented Conversion

and Prodigal Return in Two Turkish

Plays,” was accepted at Renascence.

His review of ‘Anglo-Catholic in

Religion’: T.S. Eliot and Christianity

by Barry Spurr is published in Christianity

and Literature. He presented

“Dust Jacket Camouflage and Sanctioned

Scandal in The French Convert”

at the Society of Early Americanists

Biennial Conference in Philadelphia,

March 2011; “The Ecological Roots of

a Nineteenth-Century Spiritual Crisis:

Melville, General Gordon, and the

Land of Milk and Honey” at the Association

for the Study of Literature and

the Environment Biennial Conference

in Bloomington, Indiana, June 2011;

and “Melville, Twain, and the Garden

Tomb, Jerusalem” at the Interdisciplinary

Nineteenth Century Studies

Conference in Claremont, California,

March–April 2011.

Andrew Marzoni presented “Media,

Drugs, and Pynchon on Film: Inherent

Vice and Altman’s The Long Goodbye”

at the Popular Culture Association/

American Culture Association (PCA/

ACA) National Conference in San

Antonio, April 2011.

english@minnesota l

Caitlin McHugh will publish “Deproblematizing

Shakespeare: Late

Seventeenth-Century Alterations to

Measure for Measure” in Restoration.

She presented “The Unnamed Island:

Prospero, Caliban, and Possession in

The Tempest” at the South-Central

Renaissance conference in St. Louis,

March 2011, and “Wacky Witches: the

Guthrie Theater’s 1981 Macbeth” at

the Archival Research Symposium at

the University of Minnesota, March

2011. She was chair of the panel

“(Ex)changing Time” at the Skeiron

Synod, University of Minnesota, April

2011, and chair of the panel “Literature

and the Middle East” at the South-Central

Renaissance Conference, March


Heather McNeff presented “Certainty

and the Specter in Byron’s ‘Siege of

Corinth’” at the SAMLA conference in

Atlanta, November, 2010.

Keith Mikos received a National American

Philosophical Society fellowship

for summer research in Philadelphia, on

his project, “Magnification: Meaning,

Metaphysics and the Microscope.”

David Moberly presented “Mediterranean

Piracy and the Female Captivity

Experience in Early Modern Literature”

at “Dialectics of Orientalism in Early

Modern Europe, 1492–1700,” at the

University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign,

October, 2011.

Jessica Orton was awarded a Fulbright

Grant to conduct research and teach in

Rome, Italy, for spring semester 2011.

Lucia Pawlowski presented “Queer

Theory and Academic Discourse” at the

MLA convention in Los Angeles, January


John Pistelli presented “The Descent of

the Novel: Aestheticism and the Feminine

in The Picture of Dorian Gray”

at the Midwest Modern Language

Association conference in Chicago,

November 2010.

continued page 29

l //

Katie Robison presented “Inception in

Piers Plowman: Planting the Idea of the

Pardon in Langland’s Dream (within

a Dream(within a Dream))” at the NE

Medieval Studies Graduate Student

conference in Providence, Rhode Island,

March 2011; “Subversive Strategies

in the Guthrie Theater’s 1971 Taming

of the Shrew” at the Archival Research

Symposium at the University of Minnesota,

March 2011; and “‘Taste this,

and be henceforth . . . a Goddess’: The

Deifying Dreams of Britomart and Eve”

at the Skeiron Synod at the University

of Minnesota, April 2011.

Anne Roth-Reinhardt presented “It’s

Complicated: Reading The Coquette in

the age of Facebook” at the American

Literature Association Annual Conference

in Boston, May 2011, and “John

Paul Jones and the French and American

Imagination” at the Society of Early

Americanists Biennial Conference in

Philadelphia, March 2011. She was also

panel co-chair of “Unraveling the Contrast”

at the Society of Early Americanists


Michael Rowe received Graduate

Research Partnership Program (GRPP)

support, summer 2011, for his project

“Affect, Ethic, and Intention in the Archive:

The ‘Project’ of Djuna Barnes’s


Dana Schumacher-Schmidt presented

“Don’t Mourn—Memorialize: Defining

Widow’s Work in Memoirs of the Life of

Colonel Hutchinson” at the Shakespeare

Association of America conference in

Bellevue, Washington, April 2011.

Davu Seru received a Phillips Fellowship

from the Archie Givens Sr. Collection

of African-American Literature and

Life, for 2010–11. He presented “Modernity

and the Phallic Cure: a Study of D.

H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover

and Hal Bennett’s A Wilderness of Vines”

at “Gesture and Jesters: Irony at a Crossroads”

in New York, February 2011.

Katie Sisneros received Graduate

Research Partnership Program (GRPP)

support, summer 2011, for her project

“Representations of the Ottoman Empire

in English Ballads: The Caroline

Period and the Battle of Vienna.”

Robb St. Lawrence presented “Everything

was the Same Color: Surfaces

of the Mine in Crisis” at the Popular

Culture Association/American Culture

Association (PCA/ACA) in San Antonio,

Texas, April 2011.

Amanda Taylor published the article

“‘Mutual Comfort’: Courtly Love and

Companionate Marriage in the Poetry

of Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund

Spenser” in the 2011 edition of Quidditas,

the annual journal of the Rocky

Mountain Medieval and Renaissance


Benjamin Utter presented “Changing

for the Better: Transfiguration and

Sanctification in Guthlac A” at the

International Congress in Medieval

Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May

2011; “‘Tell no one what you’ve seen!’:

Vanity and Secrecy in the Prose Lives

of Cuthbert” at the Newberry Library

Center for Renaissance Studies: 2011

Multidisciplinary Graduate Student

Conference in Chicago, January 2011;

and “‘Though he bere hem no breed’:

Allegory, Altruism, and the Problem

of Poverty in Langland’s England” at

the Tenth Annual Vagantes Medieval

Graduate Student Conference at the

University of Pittsburgh, March 2011.

Maurits Van Bever Donker was

awarded a South African National

Research Foundation Prestigious Doctoral

Fellowship for 2011–12. He also

received an Interdisciplinary Center

for the Study of Global Change/Mellon

Foundation Doctoral Research Fellowship

for 2010–11. His article “Welcome

to Our Hillbrow: Learning to learn

to live in the wake of apartheid” was

invited and is under review at Dissidences.

He presented “The Humanities

in the Wake of Man” at the Futures of

the Humanities Colloquium with the

Institute for Humanities Research at

UC Irvine and the Center for Humani-

ties Research at the University of the

Western Cape in Cape Town, February

2011, and “Vehi-Ciosane: ‘a touch of

the open’” at the “Love and Revolution”

Conference in Cape Town, South

Africa, November 2010.

Candice Wuehle presented “Dangerous

Travel: Liberty and the Pursuit of

Education in Frances Burney’s Evelina”

at the British Women Writers Conference

in Columbus, Ohio, March–April


dissertations completed


Sara Cohen, “Medical Screening: Medical

Imag(in)ing, the Body, and the Self.” (Advisers:

Rabinowitz and Craig)

Ryan Cox, “Premonition of a future line we

will be writing: Politics, Language and Identity in

Experimental English Canadian Poetry.” (Adviser:


Nicholas Hengen, “Texts as Tactics: How

People Practice Politics with Books.” (Adviser:


Christopher Kamerbeek, “The Ghost and

the Corpse: Figuring the Mind/Brain Complex

at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.” (Adviser:


Jessica Knight, “Autobiography and the

Making of Modernist Multiculturalism.” (Advisor:


Kevin Riordan, “The Time Machine and the

Ghost: Attending to Life-and-Death in Literature,

Cinema, and Theater.” (Adviser: Mowitt)

Sharin Schroeder, “Non-Consensus

Realities: Fantasy and the Child in Victorian

Religious Debates.” (Adviser: Goldberg)

Rebecca Weaver, “The Urgency of

Community: The Suturing of Poetic Ideology

During the Early Years of the Loft and the

Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.”

(Adviser: Damon)

Laura Zebuhr, “The New Work of

Friendship: Antebellum American Literature,

Democracy, Impossibility.” (Adviser: Ismail)


Department of English Language & Literature

University of Minnesota

207 Lind Hall

207 Church Street S.E.

Minneapolis, MN 55455-0134

For ongoing news, announcements, and stories

about faculty, students, and alumni, visit the

Department of English website at http://english.

english@minnesota is interested in what you are doing.

Let us hear from you! Contact us at

or at 207 Lind Hall, 207 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN


Beowulf & graduate scholarship at MINNESOTA

Readers of this newsletter are probably

familiar with the famous Old

English poem Beowulf. But you

may not know how readers of that poem

continue to support graduate students in

the Department of English. Here’s the

story: Frederick Klaeber, an esteemed

faculty member in English, retired from

the University of Minnesota to his native

Germany in 1931, having completed his

first three editions of the poem Beowulf.

Klaeber was at work on various supplements

to his edition when his house in

Berlin was destroyed by an American

bomb in 1944. Klaeber was injured, and

his library was destroyed—all of his

books, journals, notes and references

lost. “The Klaebers are in bad shape—in

fact, starving,” read a letter from Germany

sent to Joseph W. Beach, then Chair

of English at Minnesota: “I doubt if they

will be able to live through another winter

without help.” Beach and other Minnesota

colleagues came to the rescue,

sending food, clothing, and materials on

Old English scholarship so that Klaeber

could continue his work on Beowulf; the

contributions continued until Klaeber’s

death in 1954. Meanwhile, Klaeber’s

assets had been frozen in the U.S., and

he was unable to collect the royalties for what had become

the standard scholarly edition of Beowulf. In 1951, Klaeber

wrote to the University of Minnesota, donating his U.S. assets

and the royalties from his edition to establish a scholarship in

English. Today, the Klaeber scholarship helps to support one

graduate student each year by releasing the student from teaching

and allowing him/her to concentrate on scholarship.

You may know that our graduate students receive a mix

of fellowships and teaching assistant assignments, but, to date,

no single fund can cover the annual costs of even one graduate

student on fellowship. Yet it is crucial for our students to have

dedicated time to do their research. “I feel so grateful—to the

department in general and my donor in particular—to have Katherine Scheil

been welcomed into the English department with an offer Director of Graduate Studies

of a fellowship,” says current student Laura Brennan. “The

difference between being on fellowship and being a teaching assistant . . . means the

ability to take a few more classes, explore a few more ideas, engage in a few more

conversations, and feel that you’ve taken just a few more steps toward completing

your PhD.”

As state support continues to shrink, and competition among universities for

the best students intensifies, private support can help the department ensure that we

have fellowships to attract and support outstanding graduate students. “It’s great

that Minnesota gives us the opportunity to teach and that makes us so much more

marketable,” affirms graduate student Elissa Hansen. However, she notes, students

also profit, at the beginning and the end of graduate study in particular, from the deep

focus on learning, research, and writing that a fellowship allows.

We plan to profile more of our historic donors to the Department of English in

a future newsletter—stay tuned. In the meantime, we would be grateful if you could

help contribute to our graduate fellowships—no amount is too small—at http://english. Feel free to email me at p

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