Monday, November 30, 2009

Applications for May Graduation Due

Today at Belmont Central. Remember, too, that Priority Registration will be open until December 11.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Grad Students Present in Chattanooga

Story by Mallory Matyk
Photos by Stephen McElroy

On October 16th and 17th, four English graduate students attended the Second Annual Graduate Student Conference on Literature, Rhetoric and Composition at UT-Chattanooga. Kyllikki Persson presented “Defending Rhetoric: Opening Academic Discourse through Classical Thought”; Stephen McElroy presented “The NFL on Regional Radio and National Television: A Comparative Linguistic Analysis”; Molly Barger presented on the Shakespeare panel with “Hal and the Redemption of a Prince”; and Mallory Matyk presented on the contemporary literature panel with “Chick Lit: Highbrow Literature or Perfectly Plucked Eyebrow Literature.”

The Belmont contingent attended various panels and also explored the city of Chattanooga, dining at local eateries and visiting the incomparable Tennessee Aquarium. On Friday evening, the students were treated to an engaging keynote speaker, Dr. Noel Polk of Mississippi State University, who displayed original Faulkner manuscripts of The Sound and the Fury, complete with notes from the author and editors. (With regards to Faulkner’s burgeoning stream-of-consciousness, one editor scribbled, “I don’t get this.” Further down the page, he added, “Same here.”) Overall, the trip was a success. The group is looking forward to submitting abstracts for the spring conference, and they encourage fellow graduate students to do the same. (For submitting abstracts or requesting information, email the conference administrators at

Monday, November 23, 2009

Author Lisa Klein Coming to Belmont

(submitted by Dr. James Wells): Dr. Lisa Klein, author of the young adult novels, Ophelia and Lady Macbeth’s Daughter, will be on campus next week. I encourage you all to attend the three following events associated with her visit. All should be enriching experiences.

Wed. Dec. 2, 10:00, Wheeler 209: The English Club and Sigma Tau Delta will host a discussion of Ophelia led by Dr. Wells in Wheeler 209. All are welcome, but the experience will be more valuable if you’ve read this fine book in advance. Academic Lecture convo.

Thursday, Dec. 3, 5:30, LCVA 117: Lisa Klein will give a professional talk on the field of writing young adult fiction. Q&A session to follow. Personal/Professional Growth convo.

Friday, Dec. 4, 10:00, LCVA 117: Lisa Klein will read from her work. Q&A session will follow. Culture and Arts convo.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Order Your English Club T-Shirt by Friday

(submitted by English Club President Carly Escue): Whether or not you've managed to make an English Club meeting, we'd like for all English majors, minors, and speakers to get in on our "Let's Get Textual" shirt order! The shirt options are a colored T-shirt ($6), colored long sleeve T-shirt ($8), or a colored hooded sweatshirt ($14).

The Writing Center has agreed to serve as a payment depot for us. Here's what you need to do if you want a shirt.

1) Take the appropriate amount of money (cash or check made out to Carly Escue) to the writing center.
2) The wooden box full of empty envelopes is on top of the filing cabinet on the back wall. Put your money in an envelope, along with a piece of paper with the following information:

Your name, phone number, and email address
Type of shirt (t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt, or sweatshirt)
Shirt color (go to the following site for color options:
Image color (white or black depending on the color shirt you pick)
Size (S-XL are the standard sizes; please include one extra dollar for every extra X)

3) Write your name on the outside of the envelope. Seal it. Put it in the box. Exit the writing center.

In order to get the prices I've listed above, our order needs to be in by Friday November 20. I'll be picking up the box at around 3:00pm that day. Oh yeah, also register to graduate by Friday (if that applies to you).

We need to have 24 shirts in order to place an order, so tell your friends! Also, what a great Christmas present for your mother!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Roxanne Mountford Lecture

(from the Campus Calendar) Next Wednesday (November 18) at 10:00 in the Leu Art Gallery (in the Library), Roxanne Mountford, associate professor of English and Writing Program Director at the University of Kentucky, will give a lecture entitled "Rhetorical Performance and Religious Authenticity: The Case of Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944)" Professor Mountford's talk will explore the tensions between rhetorical performance and authenticity in American public life by examining the press accounts of the preaching of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. In the 1920s and 1930s, McPherson was one of the most famous individuals in America. Her sermons are described by observers as "supernatural whoopee," complete with props, costumes, and unparalleled style of delivery. She built a 5,000-seat temple in Los Angeles at a time when women ministers were still exceedingly rare. Religious authorities since St. Augustine have argued that the effectiveness of the sermon trumps all other considerations, including the moral standing of the preacher. But the spectacle McPherson loved raised questions of authenticity with the American press, and journalists ultimately brought down her career by tirelessly investigating her moral standing.

Langston Hughes famously namechecked McPherson in his controversial 1932 poem, "Goodbye Christ" (for which McPherson's followers famously harrassed Hughes during his 1940 tour promoting The Big Sea).

Academic Lecture convo credit will be offered for undergraduates.

English Club Meeting

The English Club met Friday at 10 in Wheeler. Announcements included attending the Sigma Tau Delta Conference (submission deadline: November 20); getting a group together to see The Road; and ordering the new English Club "Let's Get Textual" t-shirts (expect an email from Carly Escue on this great deal).

The meeting wrapped up with the Fall Apples to Apples competition: congratulations to winner Sarah Gaskin, who took home the coveted Trout Apple Trophy.

Spoken Word Poetry Workshop

(from the Campus Calendar): By combining education, arts, and youth leadership, spoken word has become one of the most innovative literacy development tools over the past decade. Teens have been voting for spoken word programs with their feet by showing up to spoken word workshops, opens mics, showcases, and poetry slams around the country. Spoken word poetry is a visceral experience which competes with television, the internet, and video games for teen mind-share. Students participating in spoken word programs report improvement in their reading and writing skills, increased self-confidence, and a new sense of community among their peers and teachers. Educators report a clear rise in interest among students, a more youth-driven learning environment, and evidence of greater social and academic confidence among students. Benjamin Smith, Executive Director of Youth Speaks Nashville, and local youth poets will be at Belmont to conduct a convocation event (from 4-5:30 next Tuesday, November 17, in the Neely Dining Hall)which provides an overview of spoken word youth development programming, features performances by local youth poets, and engages attendees in an introductory spoken word writing workshop.
(PG Convo will be available for undergrads.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Special Halloween Book Review: On Stranger Tides

by Nathan Haney

...And unmoor’d souls may drift on stranger tides
Than those men know of, and be overthrown
By winds that wold not even stir a hair ...
--William Ashbless

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
--Philip K. Dick

Every time I venture into a Tim Powers novel I find myself enthralled, and I cannot say why. Perhaps I find appeal in Powers’ historic breadth and learnedness, or maybe I find Powers’ metaphysical universe intriguing? Either way, Powers never ceases to amaze me. But I emphasize again that I cannot say why he so amazes me. Nor, for that matter, can I place a name on what it is that so draws me to his writings. I typically dislike your everyday, contemporary work of science fiction/ fantasy, and I never found much enjoyment in a thousand pages of historical intrigue, but Powers’ works, contrary to face value, appear different somehow. Indeed, upon closer inspection, they contain a rootedness in reality lost in the works of other contemporary writers in similar genres. Granted, Powers’ works do contain evil clowns, vampires, werewolves, and every other sort of fabulous creature imaginable, but Powers brings a certain symbolic rationality to his works that other writers frankly do not possess.

Powers, born in Buffalo, New York in 1952, grew up in a devout Roman Catholic home. In 1959, Powers and his family moved to California where he later attended The University of Cal State Fullerton. While at Cal, Powers studied English Literature and, in so doing, first met friends and fellow authors James P. Blaylock, K.W. Jeter, and Philip K. Dick. Together these men, along with a few others, began collaborating to write countless books, essays, and poems, continuing to do so up to the present day.

Since the publication of The Drawing of the Dark and The Anubis Gates, Powers has drawn in readers with assurances of terror and a utilization of historic fiction all his own. Readers best recognize Powers by his use of historic oddity, or in other words, his integration of historic fact with fictional obscurity. In addition, Powers brings to his works a fascinating look into the world of the metaphysical, skillfully reshaping the face of history to allow magic a greater role in the enacting of definitive historical events. The result is a memorable and, oftentimes, haunting vision of the world around us.

On Stranger Tides is no exception, with ghosts, incantations, and witch doctors aplenty, lending itself reminiscent of Powers’ earlier works.

Set in the Caribbean region of Haiti during the reign of King George I, On Stranger Tides traces the journey of John Chandagnac, an Englishman and former puppeteer on a quest to avenge his father and reclaim his rightful inheritance. Troubles soon arise, however, when pirates overwhelm his vessel and force John into a crucial predicament: join the crew or die. With his father’s honor ever in mind, John (later dubbed Jack Shandy) chooses life with the crew, not knowing, however, that these pirates sway under the authority of the infamous Blackbeard and not privy to the work that they will soon have in store. What becomes of his decision is a hodgepodge of magic, intrigue, love, and betrayal that is sure to impress most readers. And with appearances by notable historic figures such as Juan Ponce de Leon and the aforementioned Blackbeard, On Stranger Tides is sure to capture the attention of fans from a broad range of literary genres.

Powers’ unique perception of historic fact coupled with his moderate contemporary tone combine to form a grand, somewhat farcical, saga reminiscent of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. But above all, Powers rarely calls the authenticity of the inexplicable into question. As the result, Powers’ works become products of the unknown, eerily realistic and brought to light only by his pronounced theological message.

As a devout Catholic, Powers possesses a chilling appreciation of the reality of good and evil, their struggle, and a beautiful understanding of righteousness under persecution. His works, therefore, commemorate this grand struggle by focusing on a clash between the symbolic powers of East and West as seen through the eyes of some arduous and wayward soul. In each of Powers’ works, redemption and the revelation of Truth are themes dynamic to the development of the central character. Suffering and Christ-like sacrifice also play their parts in the fulfillment of characters’ lives. And of course the realities of sin and judgment remain his foremost theme.

Powers repeatedly makes a point to specify the necessity both of earthly rootedness and Christian self-denial in his books. He fosters in us a healthy reminder of his belief in our need for spiritual awareness while reminding us of our earthly bonds: the Fall, human insufficiency, and our need for a savior. Powers achieves his aim through the lives of his heroes, often placing his protagonists in situations certain to render them harm. Indeed, Powers delights in the humanness of his heroes and takes joy in the reversal of their own self-reliance. He stresses that his heroes are not supermen, possessing deep-seated spiritual gifts, nor are they saints or knights in shining armor, fearless and infallible. Quite to the contrary, Powers’ denotes that his heroes are humans, weak, fallen humans, dependant upon the good graces of a mysterious, but sovereign, higher authority for their provision and made to suffer for their call and greater good.

Powers’ On Stranger Tides borders on the fantastical and perhaps the ridiculous. His attempt at producing historic fiction with twentieth century relevance, while successful, sometimes hinders the clarity of his finer goals and plot points. Nevertheless, Powers’ intriguing storylines, innovative creative methods, and enlightened looks at matters of spirituality and the character and nature of God merit the attention of anyone in search of a fun, exciting, learned, and well-written novel. Trust me, once you start, you won’t want to put it down!

Nathan Haney is a Junior BU English Major.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Movie Review: Bright Star

by Julia Nettles

Ending its run at the Belcourt Theatre this week is Jane Campion's Bright Star, a biopic about John Keats. This film, starring Abbie Cornish and Ben Wishaw, details the affair between Fanny Brawne and Keats through Brawne’s eyes. For those who don’t know the story: Keats and Brawne had a passionate love affair that lasted for two years, until Keats’s unfortunate death at the age of 25. The film details the story through the eyes of Fanny Brawne. Initially the two seem unsuited. Fanny is a much more serious student of fashion, and Keats is rather odd, a silly poet. However, there is an intensity that permeates between them throughout the film; it begins simply with a touch of the hand, and gradually moves to hand holding and then kissing. There is a relative playfulness to Keats and Brawne’s relationship when they are together. One scene in particular that displays this lighthearted affection occurs after the couple’s first kiss. A quite humorous scene that happens while the two are trailing after Fanny’s sister Toots. They sneak kisses and handholding through statue-like stances every time Toots turns around.

It is when the two are apart, however, that their words to each other are poignant and grand, and Cornish’s acting when the two are not with one another is haunting. Fanny Brawne’s soul seems to decay on screen when Keats is not with her. Therefore the ending, which I will not give away with the hope that you will see it, has powerful resonance, and was enough to make everyone in the audience tear up.

The equally intense character Charles Armitage Brown (Paul Schneider) causes what at first looks to be a love triangle. Brown clearly dislikes and feels a rivalry with Brawne from the very beginning, even prior to her relationship with Keats, and uses every opportunity to demonstrate her inferiority. In one scene in particular, Brown tries to prove Fanny a fraud by asking her a trick question about Paradise Lost. At points of the film, it is clear that Brown’s issue with Fanny stems from both her presence in Keats’s life and her possession of Keats’s affections. Brown’s overwhelming regard for John Keats makes him act as a jealous lover at times, and Keats’s relationship with Fanny Brawne was obviously very difficult for him to stomach.

The beautiful Hampstead, London backdrop also has a role in influencing the emotional course of the film, perhaps as much as the characters. The poetry read in the film, for example, is that much more interesting and beautiful because it is read in such a gorgeous place. The trees, the leaves, the grass, the wildflowers all play key roles in this film. Even a butterfly’s cameo adds to the depth of Fanny and John’s romance.

Overall, Bright Star was quite good. Ben Wishaw’s performance as John Keats was seemed natural and authentic, and you won’t soon forget Abbie Cornish’s Fanny Brawne. The film’s narrative generally had a very easy flow, and the score capably mixes serenity and passion in a way that enhances the picture. This is definitely an entertaining “art” film worth seeing at a theatre.

Julia Nettles is a Sophomore BU English Major.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

By Gia Vangieri

What is the first order of business? To quote both the book and the movie, “Let the wild rumpus start!” Director Spike Jonze does just that as we follow Max (played by Max Records) as he plummets into the depths of an uncharted vernal imagination. Max finds his psyche fractioned off and manifested in loveable and dangerous “Wild Things” and becomes their king. It must be noted as word of warning, this PG-rated movie is about a child, but not necessarily for children.

Max runs, tumbles, and sets the screen on fire with a face laden with an inexplicable child instinct—an image caught by verité cinematographer, Lance Acord, whose agile lens chases the young star though the film’s Australian landscape. Breath-taking visuals (only part of which are CGI) are accompanied by the sounds of whirring organs, shouting children, and whimsical percussion, a contribution of stark genius by Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Carter Burwell, film scorer extraordinaire.

While the “Wild Things” will be familiar from the imagery presented in the original children’s book by Maurice Sendak, the plot (adapted by Jonze and Dave Eggers) is strikingly more Freudian. In the book, Max is sent to bed without supper where he dreams up the land of the Wild Things to cure his boredom. The movie exposes Max as the attention-seeking son of a single mother and teenage older sister whose friends trample Max’s igloo. When Max’s mom (Catherine Keener) ignores his calls for her because she is entertaining a male guest (Mark Ruffalo), Max throws a tantrum and runs away, through the woods, and sails on an abandoned boat to where the Wild Things are, a precariously violent place of love where Max runs, plays and rules over the Wild Things as they unleash howls redolent of Walt Whitman.

Even in this dream-land where Max can be king, the Wild Things are quick to recognize he is not magical, can’t protect them from sorrow with his “sorrow-blocking shield,” and is insufficient to rule. Each of the large feathered, clawed, furry, and dirty monsters is characterized with aspects of the personalities of Max and his loved ones. Disappearing KW (Lauren Ambrose) represents his sister; his own feelings of rage, abandonment, vulnerability and love appear in Carol (James Gandolfini); the voice of his mom is echoed in Judith (Catherine O'Hara); and Max’s insecurity and loneliness are divided among Ira (Forest Whitaker), Alexander (Paul Dano), and Douglas (Chris Cooper). In a land as unruly as the child dreaming it up, Max learns to embrace even the most turbulent parts of himself, telling the Wild Things “I’m just Max” before sailing home. KW lets him know “I’d eat you up, I love you so,” Carol howls, and with that, he returns home.

The version of the film Jonze screened when it was first shot and edited in 2006 showed Max as bratty and the monsters as terrifying; children in the audience actually started screaming and crying. He made changes for the 2009 wide release which portray Max as being beautiful but troubled and the monsters as out of control but lovable. This 2009 release captures the very essence of what it is to be a child. As the previews promised, and as the movie beats on the heart like a drum: “There is something wild in all of us.”

Gia Vangieri is a Junior BU English Major.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Twilight Convo on Friday

Just in time for Halloween, the English Club and Sigma Tau Delta present the second annual Twilight lecture at 10:00 in LCVA this Friday, October 30. Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, Teacher of the Year at Tennessee State University, will continue her feminist rhetorical & literary analysis of the Twilight Saga by investigating Meyer’s “revision” of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (in New Moon), the birth of the Team Edward & Team Jacob dichotomy (which owes more to the Rowena-Rebecca pairing in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe than it does to the supposed rivalry between Romeo and Paris), and how the first film “sanitized” what little “realism” the original novel gave us in terms of Bella’s socioeconomic realities. Dr. Morgan-Curtis will preview the film New Moon with visuals and images in keeping with the voluptuousness of Meyer’s Twilight Universe. Last year the room was packed, so get there early for a good seat.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Review: American Pastoral by Philip Roth

by Aaron Briggs

American Pastoral, the Pulitzer Prize winning 1997 novel by Philip Roth, is an elegy to Seymour "Swede" Levov -- a former high-school athlete, childhood idol of his classmates, and hero to his community. Roth uses his recurring narrator, author Nathan Zuckerman, to imagine the tragic destruction of The Swede's happy, conventional, American-dream of an upper class life through the social and political turmoil of the 1960s; it's the story of a sudden slip from the "longed-for American pastoral" into "the fury, the violence, and the desperation of the counterpastoral - into the indigenous American berserk."

If you've never read Philip Roth, here's the quick introduction. Roth is known for his complex but readable prose - he writes with a huge vocabulary and an uncanny ability to "turn sentences around" (as he calls it in "The Ghost Writer"). His novel often blur the distinction between reality and fiction, and he frequently provocatively addresses Jewish-American issues and American identity. American Pastoral rightly feels like his masterwork because it does all of these in equal parts. The novel is rife with confrontation; it's written with an underlying tension that continues to the last heartbreaking page. It's a pleasure to read, but more so a joy to dissect.

American Pastoral is rich and dense with thematic undercurrent that gradually reveals itself along the course of its pages. In the hands of a lesser writer, this breadth of thematic territory could be overwhelming and scattershot, but Roth manages it effortlessly. It's his characters that shoulder the weight of the meaning; these are deep, relatable, archetypical characters, each bolstered with supple backstories rife with politics, economics, social implications, generational rebellion, and those quiet formative moments that shape a person for a lifetime. Ultimately, Roth paints a portrait of three generations of an American family, and the rest of the story shakes out like dust from between the pages.

However, it's equally easy to dismiss Roth's characters (especially Swede Levov) as exaggerations -- impossible monuments that, no matter how flawed, simply don't behave as normal people would behave. But that's the point -- it's important to remember the framing of the story: the entire narrative of the Levov family is created in the mind of Zuckerman, based on only three brief conversations. The story is so immersive, in fact, that there are points in the narrative that we're removed from Zuckerman and Nathan's voice becomes Seymour's voice; it becomes his story as much as it is ours. As effective and believable as it is, ultimately, the entire novel is a construction of the writer Zuckerman. (And Zuckerman is a construction of the writer Roth... so go ahead and add another line of thematic density to your list.)

In the end, Roth (and Zuckerman) use duality to illuminate the thin rifts that divide us: how two very different wars created two very different generations, how strikingly thin is the line between order and disorder (in family, country, self, etc), how differently subsequent generations view the American dream. And as I sit on the precipice of fatherhood, I couldn't help but read the novel as a dissection of how little control parents have in controlling the worldview of their children, and how much influence children have in the worldview of their parents.

Aaron Briggs is a 2003 BU English Alum and winner of the 2003 Ruby P. Treadway Award for Creative Writing. He lives in Nashville with his wife, fellow 2003 BU English Alum Ashley Briggs. They're expecting their first child -- Ansel Franklin Briggs -- in February of 2010.

Aaron works as a Strategist for web design firm CentreSource and a current graduate student in the Distance Education program of San Diego State University, where he is working toward a Master's Degree in Educational Technology. Aaron also works odd weekends at Grimey's New and Preloved Music and continues to write as frequently as possible

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nashville Focus: Beth Pattillo Brings Jane Austen to the Southern Festival of Books

Story by Allison Berwald

Nashville writer Beth Pattillo is one of the many successful authors who spoke at the Southern Festival of Books. On a very rainy Friday, an eager group of friends, fans, and fellow writers gathered to hear Beth and two other authors speak and read selections from their works. Beth read from her forthcoming novel Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, which although not a sequel, is linked in some ways to her previous novel Jane Austen Ruined My Life. Each work traces a heroine’s journey in discovering lost Austen documents and dealing with her own related personal issues, including romance, and includes a society called the Formidables dedicated to protecting Jane’s legacy and secrets. Beth has also written eight other novels, including two about the female minister Betsy and two about a ladies’ knitting society.

In the question and answer session following the readings, Beth Pattillo talked about how conferences and critique groups have been very helpful to her in developing her craft. She views feedback as a key part of the writing process, and she often gains significant insight into the threads and themes in her own writing after getting feedback from her editor. Beth also said that she likes to begin with her main character’s life falling apart, because then there is nowhere to go but up.

I am what Dr. Murray calls an “Austenmaniac,” so I very much enjoyed talking with Beth about Austen and England. I studied in London this summer and took a Jane Austen course, and Beth and I were thrilled to discover an amazing coincidence. She also studied in London during college at the same college as I did (when it had a different name) and lived in the dorm room directly across the hall from the dorm room I lived in! Needless to say, we chatted very excitedly about the school and the surrounding area in such detail as to convince ourselves that we truly stayed in the same place.

Beth and I spoke about how she got the ideas for her Austen stories. She said that there is so much that we do not know about the stories of women throughout history, including Jane Austen. Her novels play with the hypothetical situation of finding those lost parts of Jane’s story, specifically the majority of the letters Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra and the original manuscript of First Impressions, which later became Pride and Prejudice. Beth had previously written other historical romances set in the Regency period as well as contemporary stories. Her Austen novels combine the two elements, using a modern setting to explore Regency material and mysteries.

This dual identity of Beth’s novels allows them to appeal to a wider audience. The “Austenmaniacs” love all things Austen, of course, so a well-written novel in that genre will inevitably have a certain degree of success. Austen’s work seems to bear up even after being taken in many different directions, and Beth is happy to be a part of that. She also describes her books as “semi-Christian fiction.” Her publisher, Guideposts, publishes inspirational and Christian literature, but without strict guidelines such as required faith statements from authors that many publishers have. Her work is written from a Christian perspective but is not evangelical.

Beth Pattillo loves being able to travel around England as research for her books. She has been to many Austen-related sites over the years and found valuable experiences and resources there. In the bookshop at Chawton, the home at which Jane was most productive, she found a chronology of the Austen family members’ lives written by the editor of Jane’s letters that has been profoundly helpful in her writing. She also had to write fictional Austen letters for Jane Austen Ruined My Life, and she listened to audiobooks of Austen novels to get the feel of the rhythm and vocabulary of her writing. Beth continues to follow Jane Austen’s trail by traveling in England, reading her works, and writing about her. Through her novels, she hopes to provide readers with a painless way to read a biography of Austen and to encourage them to read and love Jane’s works.

Allison Berwald is a Senior BU English Major.

English Club Meeting Friday

The English Club will be meeting on Friday, October 23, at 10:00 in WHB 209.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Southern Festival of Books: What’s All the Buzz About?

Story and Images by Cory Pavlinac

During the weekend of October 9-11, Nashville was the southern hub for literature and home to hundreds of loyal devotees to the art of the written word. Set between the columns of the War Memorial Auditorium, booths of publishing companies, libraries, and book sellers lined the plaza, while smoke from the barbecue grills wafted through the crowd, carrying with it an irresistible temptation.

With anywhere from five to ten authors speaking during the same hour, it was difficult to even make a decision as to who to see. Children’s authors included Shellie Braeuner with her book, The Great Dog Wash, as well as John Carter Cash (the son of country/folk legend, Johnny Cash) with his first crack at the genre, Momma Loves Her Little Son. Exuberant readers of all ages shuffled into the War Memorial Auditorium at noon, clutching books like The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Magician’s Elephant, in hopes of leaving with the signature of Kate DiCamillo.

Nonfiction and journalistic writing was represented with award winning authors like David Cullen, who has written extensively on the shootings at Columbine and various societal issues. Writers of scholarly books were present from universities across the nation, giving insight into writing memoir and illustrating the new methods of music journalism. While prose seemed to dominate the scene, poets Diann Blakely and Julie Kane tag teamed in a sultry discourse about jazz and Bourbon Street.

One writer I chose to hear was Joseph Kanon, an author of five novels including his most recent, Stardust, about the Diaspora of a small group of anti-Nazi citizens from the crumbling, post-war Germany to the glimmering paradise of Hollywood in the 1940s. Here was a Hollywood in its prime--“a town of movie stars, palm trees, swimming pools, back patios, and people who didn’t wear neck ties"--the home to an industry that was seeing more consumer activity than at any other time, past or present. During the war, some 85 million people were attending movies on a weekly basis, and Hollywood was becoming the playground for the rich and famous. So it makes sense for a downtrodden, poverty-stricken German escaping the Fascist regime of the Nazis to head to Hollywood. Why live anywhere else? Ironically, as Kanon pointed out, a lot of the German actors in this migration ended up auditioning and taking roles as Nazis in movies. But Kanon’s focus wasn’t so much on the sunny side of Hollywood but on the dark side. Movie executors came under heat for “harboring communists” and were forced into blacklisting the German immigrants in order to save face, their careers, and to keep from being federally persecuted. According to Kanon, “McCarthyism started before McCarthy, in Hollywood.” Stardust is meant to portray this time in Hollywood’s history through a murky lens; much like stardust gets in the way of seeing the cosmos clearly.

The event that created the most “buzz”, without a doubt, was Buzz Aldrin’s lecture at one o’clock on Saturday afternoon. The grandiose War Memorial Auditorium was filled with anticipation and an agitated murmur as elderly men festooned with war medals stretched their necks to catch any signs of life from the back stage door. Then the door opened slowly and before the snowy haired, space veteran could even show his face, the crowd burst into a tumultuous display of admiration. A hero had just entered the room. The highlight of Buzz’s speech was his on-stage exploration of the black hole of his life after returning from his legendary peregrination to the Moon. Much of the same story and sentiment found in his new book, Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon. The title of the book has literal and figurative meanings. It’s “a magnificent testimony to the progress of mankind” and a simultaneous nod to the uninhabitable characteristics of the Moon. The title also describes Buzz’s own magnificent opportunity of the Apollo mission and the desolation of a life steeped in depression and alcohol after returning. The lecture was not without some lighthearted astronaut humor, however, as Buzz joked chauvinistically about the true consistency of the Moon: “the Moon doesn’t have Swiss cheese on it, it has American cheese.”

Cory Pavlinac is a Junior BU English Major.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shakespeare at Staunton

Story and Images by Michael Huff

This past weekend of October 9th-11th eleven brave students--along with Shakespearian scholars Dr. James Wells and Provost Marsha McDonald, and guests Dr. Bryce Sullivan and wife Beth--loaded onto what appeared to be a healthy charter bus bound for Staunton, Virginia. We were a motley crew of varied ages and disciplines – English, Accounting, Biology, and Theatre majors ranging from Freshman to Seniors. But then, some thirty miles from Staunton, our bus gave up the ghost. If only bus-engines responded to recitations, we would have been right on our way. Luckily, one scenic rest stop and a few bizarre taxi drivers later, we overcame the only notable trial of our trip and entered the lovely Staunton, Virginia for a weekend full of theatre and good company.

Staunton (pronounced “Stanton”) is a charming town where New England meets Appalachia. The Shenandoah Valley blushed with fall foliage, the Blue Ridge Mountains hemmed us in, and the light rain only served to cool the air and our humors for the exciting day-full of theatre to come. We were treated to a tour of The Blackfriars Theatre where we learned of its prestigious ancestry. The Staunton theatre is a recreation of one by the same name in Renaissance period London. The King’s Men, including William Shakespeare, used the original Globe theatre for their summer performances and the Blackfriars theatre for their winter performance. The original play-house was built within a former monastery, named Blackfriars for the black habits worn by its monks.

The resident theatre troupe originated as the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express in 1999 before changing their name to American Shakespeare Center in 2005 as their mission broadened. They now maintain one traveling troupe, one resident troupe and work year-round doing performances and workshops at the theatre. Collaborating with Mary Baldwin College in town, the theatre offers enhanced learning for the graduate MLit/MFA students in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature Performance, the only degree of its kind.

Along with its faithfulness to the original architecture, the new theatre is notable for continuing tradition of, as their slogan goes, “doing it with the lights on.” Like the original Blackfriars theatre, the players perform in universal lighting, lights set equally on the audience as on the players. This allows the players to direct their comments directly to audience members, or even to call them to interact. I had never experienced a play in this way, and can say that hearing King Henry IV give his rousing monologue--“So shaken as we are, so wan with care,/Find we a time for frightened peace to pant,/And breathe short-winded accents of new broils/to be commenced in strands afar remote,”--while looking person after person directly in the eye was powerful indeed.

The players preserve other traditions too. Before the play begins a couple of players perform a humorous pre-show. During the interludes the players stand in the balcony near the Lords’ chairs and perform contemporary folk and pop tunes, just as players did in the original Blackfriars theatre. I had never matched Jeff Tweedy’s verse with Shakespeare’s, but the players’ performance of the Wilco song “I’m Always in Love” in the interlude of Much Ado About Nothing proved a fun and appropriate match for the comedy.

The first night we were treated to a rarely performed piece of Restoration drama, George Villiers’s The Rehearsal. The play satirizes drama conventions of the time, featuring a harebrained playwright and his troupe rehearsing his newest work based on all the “new rules of writing” he has discovered, such as: one should begin and end the action of a play without ever revealing a plot, and most combustive, that there should be a dance at the end of each act. This meta-theatrical circus was rambunctious and hilarious, and as Drs. Wells and McDonald remarked, prefigured absurdist theatre some time before such notable absurdist playwrights as Samuel Beckett. The satirical criticisms made by the play were all the more relevant for the troupe’s inclusion of twenty-first century clownery, like a slow-motion battle sequence and a performance of Michael Jackson’s "Thriller."

We returned Saturday afternoon to see The First Part of King Henry IV, the second part of Shakespeare’s History tetralogy. Rarely performed, it was a pleasure to see, and upon polling the students was the overwhelming favorite. This may have been in part because many of us seized the opportunity to view this play from on-stage, making the action and drama especially palpable. The royal battles of wits were sharpened and sword-fights intensified when occurring just before our faces. “I had never seen a fight sequence quite like that on stage before,” said Crystal Gimesh, senior English Education major. ”All of the scenes that I was wondering how they would act out completely met my expectations and were even funnier at times,” said Michael Bailey, senior French Major, “One of my favorite scenes was when Prince Henry was messing with Francis the drawer who was torn between his duties - and any time Falstaff woke up with a hangover,” which was quite often.

Michael was not alone in his enjoyment of Falstaff. We were all seriously wooed by the all too lovable, doomed, and rotund clown played by the excellent James Keegan. Callie Compton gushed, “when he made his entrance, he touched my face!” And when Falstaff approached me with his giant belly during a battle sequence and requested my seat-cushion I was happy to provide it. The unique interaction the Blackfriar troupe has with its audience makes the experience especially memorable, which was only enhanced by sitting on stage for this performance.

Finally we ended with the comedic Much Ado About Nothing. The troupe’s production of the play was lighthearted and even slapstick at times. One difficulty with the text and production, as Dr. Wells proposed, is that the comedy is tripped by some near-tragic events in the play’s middle. After Hero’s apparent (but faked) death, it was only Christopher Seiler playing a bumbling and excited Dogberry that kept the play from sinking into complete tragedy before the conflicts’ resolution. The buffoonery made it more immediate, but at the sacrifice of some of the play’s ambiguity. Crystal offered her take: “I like Much Ado, but I thought of Benedick and Beatrice may have relied to much on physical comedy and made them less serious.”

Between plays we did have time to descend on the town. Some of us discovered the Darjeeling Tea Room, unique shops like the Once Upon a Time Clock Work, the Trinity Episcopal Church, and no shortage of relaxing coffee shops on the corners. Dinner together at Emilio's Saturday night offered some rousing conversation and one last hurrah before packing up to head home. I think I can speak for the group when I say it was an enjoyable and educational trip. I had never seen Shakespeare produced in the spirit of Blackfriar’s troupe, and I will certainly not soon forget how John Falstaff, the blimp, stole my seat cushion to fake his death upon.

Writing this from the bus ride home, saying goodbye to Virginia’s fall foliage and trusting that this new bus will be a more formidable vehicle than our first, we reflected on our experience together: “It was actually like a miniature vacation, getting to go see these plays and be charmed by the town” said Melanie Bond, freshman English major, and to any considering the trip next year, Callie said, "Certainly do it, it’s definitely worth the price and you’ll be in good company, both an educational and entertaining experience. You don’t have to be a Shakespeare connoisseur, or even to have been to many plays before to enjoy the experience.” So there you have it: plays, a lovely town, some stops at McDonalds to stay college kosher, and to top it off you get to meet Sir Falstaff.

Many thanks to Dr. Wells, Dr. Sullivan, Dr. McDonald, and all who made this trip possible.

Michael Huff is a Senior BU English Major.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dr. Wells' Shakespeare Edition Published

Dr. James Wells' New Kittredge edition of The Second Part of King Henry IV by William Shakespeare has been published by Focus Publishing. One review of the book says the book "is an exciting new edition, with a clear and lively introduction that succinctly captures the play's complexity and challenges," and that Dr. Wells' "discussion of the play's relationship with Henry IV, Part One is especially thoughtful, and his attention to performance and film history is extremely valuable." Congratulations, Dr. Wells!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Update: BU English Alum Nate Horst

After graduating from Belmont in May 2003, I accepted an invitation to serve in Mali with the Peace Corps. I spent two years in a small village of 500 learning languages, building relationships, and attempting development projects for which I had little qualification to undertake. With the help and support of a very organized and motivated village, I managed to build a school, install a potable water pump, erect an agricultural storage facility, conduct maternity and infant health classes, and start a small tree nursery business.

One sentence makes it sound so smooth. It wasn’t. I stumbled and blundered my way to results that, in my opinion, were mostly positive. Development work is a complicated matter. There are consequences to consider, incentives to interpret, and politics to circumvent. But from the dizzying complexity comes a fundamental picture of heartbreaking absurdity and a profound sense that things do not have to be this way. For me, that sense became a motivating mantra. Things must not be this way.

After working for two years in the non-profit sector, I applied to graduate school to study international economics, finance and development. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Johns Hopkins University School Advanced of International Studies in Washington, D.C. My focus has turned towards the potential of micro finance schemes to increase the access of the poor to basic financial services, a lack of which has proven to be a major obstacle to economic development.

I consider myself fortunate to have lived in a place like Mali, and to have experienced what life can feel like without the white noise of advertisements and instant information. But I also consider myself fortunate to have profited from so many advantages, a Belmont education being paramount. My training as an English major prepared me well for my coming career by teaching me how to communicate clearly, think creatively, and consider every possibility when searching for answers to complicated problems. I continue to take the lessons of those four years with me, in work and in life.

(a version of this story first appeared in the English Department Newsletter )

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

English Club Meeting on Friday

This Friday at 10 in WHB 209. Lots of announcements and organizational issues to resolve (including figuring out when Bright Star is going to make it to Nashville so we can organize a field trip).

Monday, September 21, 2009

BU English Majors Launch Literary Journal

This past summer, BU English major Logan Franks, along with Will Hoekenga and the recently graduated Jason Hardy, launched an online literary journal called Trapeze. We asked Logan to fill us in on the details.

So tell us how and when the idea for Trapeze originated.

At the end of a semester, mixed-feelings develop. There’s the sense of moving forward in life, but we also have the feeling of leaving behind a comfortable atmosphere. In writing classes, we can share our writings with a small group of people and become comfortable in the skin of a writer. The semester ends and we’re left with that feeling of, “What now? What do I do with my work? Do I keep writing?”

At the end of this past spring semester, we felt like there needed to be a place for people to continue to share their writing. The want to form a community-like atmosphere that extends beyond the classroom is what shaped the idea for Trapeze. We thought having a place to submit pieces and then also be able to read local writers’ works would encompass that feeling of community. We don’t want people to have to wonder, “What now?” We wanted to create a place that supports that feeling of living comfortably in the skin of a writer. Trapeze is a place that won’t disappear with the change of seasons, a place in which writers can feel comfortable and be among other writers.

Why an online journal, and what were your inspirations?

Trapeze is online simply because it’s easier to access and can encompass a wider audience. Online journals are also easier to manage than printed material because honestly, we’re college students and don’t have the funds or means to launch a printed journal.

We were somewhat inspired by the idea that we had never seen a student-run journal in this format before. We also were inspired by the idea that, in Nashville, songwriters have an endless amount of opportunities and places where they can join together. We wanted to create a similar support system for prose and poetry writers. We want Trapeze to be that support system, that community to give a reason to keep writing. Knowing other writers helps writers continue to write.

What, ideally, will result from publishing this journal?

Well, the website is set up to give writers in and around Nashville a means of sharing their work with each other and any other interested party that happens to be roaming around in cyberspace. It is also intended to help foster community among writers in the area. In the future, once the online community has been formed, we plan to organize and facilitate events among writers in Nashville (readings, discussions, etc.).

Why "Trapeze"?

The name Trapeze came from Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "A Coney Island of the Mind No. 15", which shows the poet as an acrobat who is "constantly risking absurdity and death," as well as Bob Dylan's claim in the '60s that he was not a poet, but a trapeze artist. Basically, we see this website as a place where writers can take risks and put their work out for all to see. We like to think the name encompasses both the danger and the beauty of doing so.

What kind(s) of submissions are you looking for, and how should people submit their work?

The types of works we are looking for are Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction, and Essays/Criticisms. We didn’t want to only accept “creative” pieces like poetry and stories so we wanted to add in the latter category. We want people to see their work published and we didn’t want to narrow their options if they feel more comfortable with academic writing. To submit pieces, we have a link on our website, to the Submissions page with the email address to use.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Last Two Events in the Symposium

Sunday afternoon, BU English alum Ken Roberts will host a viewing and discussion of Sean Penn's 2007 film Into the Wild, the Christopher McCandless story, from 2:30 to 5 in LCVA 117.

Monday at 10:00 in MBC 100, Symposium organizers Dr. Annette Sisson and Dr. Andrea Stover will lead a panel discussion of what we learned at this year's very successful event!

Intern at Southern Inspired!

(submitted by Professor Sue Trout) Tomorrow at 3 pm in room 107 of the Wheeler building, representatives from Southern Inspired magazine will be interviewing our English majors for internship opportunities. If you are attending, please bring your resume and a couple of writing samples. Needless to say, this is a great opportunity--we've never had a publisher come looking exclusively for our interns. Please don't let this opportunity pass you by. If you have not and are interested in coming by, please email by first thing in the morning--she has to give them an estimate of people coming.

If you are planning to come, take a few minutes to check out their website so that you will know what they are about.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday's Humanities Symposium Lineup

Today the Humanities Symposium features a talk by Dr. Abigail Jahiel of Illinois Wesleyan University at 8:30; a panel discussion at 10:00 in the Troutt Theater featuring Mary Oliver, Janisse Ray, John Tallmadge, and Helen Atwan; a talk by Dr. Helen Shapiro of American University at 1:00; and two documentary films tonight at 7:30 in the Multi-Media Hall of the Bunch Library. For a full listing of events, click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jam-packed Thursday at the Humanities Symposium

Today's highlights include a nature walk this afternoon with Dr. John Tallmadge (3:30 at the Bell Tower); Janisse Ray on "Nature, Community, and the Life We Dream" (5:00, Bunch Library Multi-Media Hall); and a poetry reading by Mary Oliver (7:00, Belmont Heights Baptist Church). Find the complete schedule here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Today at the Humanities Symposium

Wednesday's events at the 8th Annual Humanities Symposium include a movement class run by Adrienne Young (11:00 at the Black Box Theater); “Seeds: A Story of Self-Cultivation” by BU English Alum Micah Stover (3:00 at the Leu Art Gallery in the Bunch Library); a talk by Dr. John Tallmadg, “Invisible Landscapes: Learning from Nature in the City” from 4:30-5:30 pm at the Bunch Library Multi-Media Hall follwed by refreshments in the Leu Art Gallery from 5:30-6:15; and “Religion, Politics, and Public Good: A Buddhist Perspective,” a talk by Dr. Peter Hershock of the East-West Center.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Today at the Humanities Symposium

Tuesday's schedule at the Humanities Symposium includes lectures by BU English professors Dr. Doug Murray ("Landscape and National Identities") and Dr. Annette Sisson ("Nature and Conscience and Consciousness: The Pastoral Hero and the Sympathetic Imagination"). For a full schedule of Symposium events, click here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Humanities Symposium Kickoff Lecture Named for Monteverde

The School of Humanities has named the inaugural Humanities Symposium lecture for Dr. Maggie Monteverde, BU English professor and outgoing Associate Dean. Dr. Monteverde was presented a plaque commemorating the designation by this year's Symposium organizers, Professors Annette Sisson and Andrea Stover, on Monday morning in the Massey Board Room.

Dr. Monteverde then kicked off the Symposium with her lecture, "Reverdie: The Eternal Rebirth of the Human Spirit in Nature." It's been a big year for Dr. Monteverde, who was recently named Assistant Provost for International Education. Earlier in 2009, Dr. Monteverde was named Executive Director of the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad (which is moving its offices to Belmont's campus) and won the Presidential Faculty Achievement Award. Congrats, Dr. Monteverde!

Today at the Humanities Symposium

Monday's Humanities Symposium Events include the kickoff lecture by Dr. Maggie Monteverde ("Reverdie: the eternal rebirth of the human spirit in nature") at 10:00 in the Massey Board Room. Other BU English speakers today include Dr. Robbie Pinter (noon in the Massey Board Room), Dr. Danielle Alexander (4:00 LCVA 117) and a panel featuring Dr. Bonnie Smith (2:00 Massey Board Room). Come out and enjoy the "local" flavor of today's speakers!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jordan Christy Packs 'em In

Jordan Christy, BU English alum and author of How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World (purchase here), packed Beaman A&B on Friday. Jordan read from her book, talked about how it came about, and answered questions from the audience.

Friday afternoon, she met with several English majors and faculty to talk about the nuts and bolts of publishing the book, including developing a readership and hiring agents and publicists, among other things.

Jordan emphasized 'starting small,' which I'll use to remind you that BU English is looking for people to write up Symposium events, Southern Festival of Books events, etc. It's a great place to get your 'clip' portfolio started!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Deadline Extended for Blackfriars Trip

Dr. Wells is still looking for a few people to round out the bus going to Staunton, Virginia, on October 9-11. Participants will get to see Henry IV (Part one), Much Ado about Nothing and George Villiers’ The Rehearsal using practices approximating those original to Shakespeare’s theatre. The theatrical space itself is an attempt to recreate Blackfriars, Shakespeare’s private, indoor theatre (with some welcome modern allowances, such as seat cushions) where his company began performing plays in 1608. This is high quality theatre in a beautiful historical setting.

Price: $180 (CHEAP!) includes bus transportation, a double room (shared with one other person), reserved seat tickets for all three plays, a tour of the facilities. Meals are not included, but food is reasonable in town (a list and map will be included)

Make checks to Belmont University and turn them in to Dr. James Wells, Wheeler 200i, along with the application.

See the following URL for more details on Blackfriars and the plays:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jordan Christy Convo, English Club Event This Friday

This Friday, September 11, at 10:00 in Beaman A&B, recent Belmont graduate Jordan Christy reads from and discusses her new book, How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, published in August by Hatchette Press. (There is PG Convo credit for this event!) At 2:00 on Friday in Wheeler 101, Jordan will talk to English Clubbers and other interested folks about how she took this idea from Dr. Hutchins' class to a published book with a tour and Today Show appearance!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Handbook Makes Debut at English Major Meeting

On Friday, August 28, over 100 English majors packed LCVA 117 and heard about the following upcoming opportunities:

Carly Escue spoke about English Club/Sigma Tau Delta events and sponsored speakers for the fall, including Jordan Christy (Friday, Sept. 11) and Samantha Morgan-Curtis (October 30 in the second installment of what is now the Twilight Lecture Series!). The English Club will be discussing Toni Morrison's a mercy and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. Chris Pliny previewed Family Literacy Day for next Spring, which has taken on some exciting songwriting-inflected twists.

Professors Sisson and Stover previewed the upcoming Humanities Symposium September 13-21), and Professor Sisson read Mary Oliver's lovely poem "The Summer Day."

Several "road trips" were mentioned, including Professor Hutchins' study abroad trip to England over winter break, "Dickens and the Idea of Christmas"; Professor Wells' closer-to-home Blackfriars Theatre Trip, October 9-11; and also the Stratford Ontario trip in May (more details to come).

Professor Danielle Alexander, the new faculty sponsor for the Belmont Literary Journal sent out a call for editors and contributors.

Finally, Professor Curtis closed the meeting by handing out the first edition of the BU English Major Handbook (or "the Green book" as it quickly came to be called). A more detailed online version of the Handbook will be available soon, but the Green book has contact information and a who's who of who can help you in the English Department.

Have a great semester, English majors!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

40/40 a Trip for BU English Major

Cory Carter, an English major with a Writing emphasis, was quoted recently in a Chronicle of Higher Education story about his participation in the "40 States in 40 Days" program. You can read Cory's blog about his experiences re-discovering America here.

Happy New (Academic) Year!

The faculty and staff of the BU English Department wishes our majors a wonderful Fall Semester!

Remember that there will be a meeting of all majors and minors on Friday, August 28, in LCVA 117 (the Auditorium in the Art Building).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Job, Internship Opportunities

First,, sponsors of the Tomato Arts Festival Haiku Contest, wants you to know that they are hiring. See the details of this position at

And Claire Ploegman wants everyone to know that there are internship opportunities at _Southern Inspired_ magazine for staff writers. Contact Dr. Cox (the department Internship Coordinator) or Dr. Curtis for details.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Inspired" Update : BU English Alum Claire Ploegman

Claire Ploegman won the Virginia M. Chaney Award as the outstanding English major in 2008. She was recently named Managing Editor of Southern Inspired Magazine.

Tell us a little about the magazine.

Southern Inspired Magazine: The magazine has been repeatedly described as a cross between Southern Living and Real Simple with a local twist. Besides the fact that the word "twist" irks me, I am happy being a part of this Southern Living/ Real Simple hybrid even when the articles are not my dream topics, because the vision is to build community, especially in the face of economic re-evaluation. The magazine is to cater to a span of incomes, glorifying thrift shops and the satisfaction that comes with DIY projects since hiring out has become expensive even for those who are still comfortable. Reinvention, recycling, making do, paying attention --- these are all quietly present in the magazine (I try to find any resonance I can will Bill McKibben's Deep Economy). So Read LOCAL. Those are the words I prefer to describe it. The magazine is also supposed to appeal to women, ages 25-75, and building an intergenerational community is important to me. I don't mind starting with their hobbies (even if gender expectations are used to determine said hobbies - I still stand by SAGE).

What do you do as the managing editor?

Managing Editor has been an interesting title for what I have been doing so far. Let me emphasize that this is a start up magazine.... which means any one job title is problematic. Honestly I have been flying in so many different directions -- ad sales, social representing/ hobnobbing, setting up interviews, photoshoots, finding distribution sites and delivering boxes of magazines, covering local events, interviewing freelancers of all kinds, and going absolutely broke. (But everyone is broke right now. It's a good time to be broke.) For this first issue, the title of managing editor came late in the game. It came because I am the senior member, nascent as the magazine is. It came as a pay voucher. It came out of proven ability, too, though there really was no hierarchy of copy-editors this time. I suppose I did manage the other editors and try to install method to the madness of figuring out drafting schedules and editing cycles.

What do you like most about your job?

I am never doing the same thing two days in a row. (Although sometimes I wish I had more writerly haven days...) Also, it's a small shop, and I have a surprising amount of say in article topics and presentation, so I can make sure I evolve an assignment to a place where I will enjoy writing it.

Were there experiences during your time at Belmont that helped you prepare for what you're doing now, or is this pretty much a whole new world?

Well, I hate Associated Press style. Being an MLA literature major prepped me for that feeling. A lot of experiences at Belmont have been invaluable. I was a design communications minor, so that trained my eye and opinions when I function as a layout/ design editor. But that minor came directly out of Book Editing with Dr. Alexander. Book Editing helped me realize I could swirl all my interests into one career, and helped me realize I need the swirl -- I don't think I could take a job that was all copy editing.

I almost wish I'd done some pre-press, dead end ad sales while I was still in college, though. I used to get really wigged out about class presentations, and I think those initial ad sales helped me get over it --- especially because when it comes to literature presentations, I at least had something I wanted to say (not, "Can I have your money? NO? Really? Okay.").

Also, creative writing workshops really helped me learn how to work in groups of very different writers. Editing can turn so invasive, insultingly invasive. You can tell when people have not refined editing rapport, let alone realized they need to consider its existence. Write your own article; edit the others.

Anything else you'd like faculty, alums, or current students to know about you and what you're doing?

I have plans to move into an efficiency apartment in September.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Program Reminder: Jordan Christy on The Today Show

Remember to tune in Thursday, August 13 during the Kathie Lee & Hoda hour, as Jordan will be promoting her book, How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class & Grace. Jordan will also be having a signing/release party at Davis-Kidd (Green Hills location) on August 27. And of course she'll be here for a couple of sessions on September 11. Set your DVRs!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What Drives Authors? You Do!

(submitted by Honors Director Devon Boan): As you've probably noticed, the Southern Festival of Books is just around the corner again and so I'm beginning to organize volunteers again who might be willing to provide rides to and from the airport for authors. This seems like a great opportunity for our English majors who might want to spend 30-45 minutes with an author picking his or her brain about writing and publishing (not to mention the chance to network a little with someone already established).

I had a great time last year talking with Billie Letts about Tracy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play and the challenges of being a writer from Oklahoma, as well as with David Wroblewski and his interesting story about getting Edgar Sawtelle published, his MFA experience, and the Oprah conversations.

The festival is scheduled this year for the weekend of Oct. 9-11, and authors might start coming in as early as a day or two before that. I imagine they'll be staying at the Sheraton again this year, so it’s quite easy to drop them off or pick them up. If you would be willing to help, email me your available days and times and I'll put you with an author or two for the weekend. If you have any questions, call me at 460-6397 or email me at

Poetry Stand at the Tomato Arts Festival

Please plan to come visit the Poetry Stand, which will be set up near the Art and Invention Gallery in East Nashville's Five Points district from 10 to 4 on Saturday, August 8, as part of the Nashville Tomato Art Festival! The festival itself promises to be just as much fun as always, with food, contests, music, art, and more. With all this plus the poetry stand, how can you resist?

Special note: **Volunteers** are also needed for the Poetry Stand on Saturday. If you can come provide your poetic talent for a 30-minute or 1-hour slot, please let Dr. Danielle Alexander know ( Otherwise, drop by, say hi, and get a special souvenir tomato-festival poem!

Special special note: Be sure to be at the main stage at Five Points at 2:00 when the winners of the Haiku Contest will be announced by Eileen Fickes!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Humanities Symposium Program Finalized

Thanks to the hard work of Professors Annette Sisson and Andrea Stover, the finalized program for the 8th Annual Humanities Symposium is available here. Participants include Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver and memoirist and environmental activist Janisse Ray. Set aside the dates now!

Rock Operatically!

Jennifer Harwell, BU M.A. alum and Artistic Director of Nashville In Motion in collaboration with the Peter Moon Band, invites you to an ENCORE performance of FIX/what's your monkey at the Belcourt Theater August 15th, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. This performance is brought back by audience demand to see a longer, extended version of the rock opera.

Jennifer choreographed this event as well as co-developed the story, and hopes the attention the rock opera is getting will enable them to take it on the road. Get your tickets early!

Haiku Contest Deadline Fast Approaching!

The Haiku Contest
Deadline approaches quickly;
Submit ripe verse now!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BU English Call for Writers

BU English is seeking writers for articles to be posted on the blog (like this one). If you are an alum, write up what you're doing and send it to me at If you are a current grad or undergrad and would like to add to your published writing portfolio, there are several events about which we'll need write-ups, from visiting speakers to the Humanities Symposium and the Southern Festival of Books and more. Or if you're doing something for your internship that you'd like to write about or promote, we can do that, too. Email me, call me at 460-6307, or come by my office (Wheeler 200-E) to talk to me in person.

English Majors Meeting August 28

On Friday, August 28, there will be a mandatory meeting of all undergraduate English majors at 10:00 in LCVA 117. Please put this event on your calendars for the Fall!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Program Note: English Major on Today Show

Here's an early program note: Jordan Christy will be on the Today show - the Kathie Lee & Hoda hour - on August 13, promoting her book, How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class & Grace. Jordan will also be having a signing/release party at Davis-Kidd (Green Hills location) on August 27. And of course she'll be here for a couple of sessions on September 11. Set your DVRs!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hot Tomato Haiku Contest

English major Eileen Fickes, who is interning at this summer, wanted everyone to know about the Hot Tomato Haiku Contest, going on from now until July 31. You may submit up to 10 tomato-related Haikus in several different categories. Winners will be invited to read their poems onstage during the Tomato Art Fest Award Ceremony in East Nashville on August 8. For details, click here.

If you want to try a few out, use the comments section below!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


(submitted by Dr. Danielle Alexander)

Hope your summers are going well and that you're surviving the heat.

The Nashville Poethon is a fundraiser for a spoken-word group in Nashville (Youth Speaks) who's trying to get to Chicago later in the summer for a large spoken-word poetry festival. Some Belmont students have already been working with these folks and it seems to be a great group. I have signed up to lead a half-hour of the Poethon (I'll be reading Oulipean poets and leading some interactive Oulipean word-games). It's going to be a lot of fun, and the Poetry Stand will be in evidence.

Let me know if I can answer any questions about this event. Meanwhile, enjoy the long sunny days!

New English Majors, Vol. 7

All of our new English majors not introduced in Volumes 1-6 will be coming at you in a special August edition!

Friday, June 26, 2009

New English Majors, Vol. 6

Three new English majors joined the ranks on Friday. Introducing....

Logan Halsey is from Hermitage and attended McGavock High School in Nashville. Logan is a good sport and was willing to change his name to Melanie for the purposes of Towering Traditions advising, in order to avoid any confusion.

Melanie Bond

Melanie "B," from Bowling Green, Kentucky, participated in The Academy Tutorial in Nashville. She's an English major because English (and especially Literature) relates to all fields of learning and engages all areas of life. Literature can be "expressive and beautiful as well as useful and timeless." Melanie likes reading almonst everything by C. S. Lewis and Charles Dickens. As you can see from her photo, Melanie B is blessed with a head full of curls, which she loves!

Melanie Meriney

Melanie "M" attended Mt. Lebanon High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In elementary school, she "was the kid who sat in the corner of the playground reading during recess." Melanie has always loved to read and write, and realized in high school that "teaching it could be pretty cool, too." Her favorite book of all time is The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson. And while she didn't enjoy being force-fed Milton's Paradise Lost in high school, she has come to a grudging admiration of his poetry. Melanie is also a singer/songwriter, plays guitar, and hopes to sing professionally. (Welcome to Nash Vegas!) She loves sports and loves to play both ice hockey and field hockey.

And in response to this session's poll question, "Who is your favorite Romantic poet?", Melanie M chose Walt Whitman, while Melanie B went for John Keats.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New English Majors, Vol. 5

Three new English majors signed up for classes on Wednesday:

Betsy Coughlin
Betsy hails from Jackson, Tennessee, where she attended Trinity Christian Academy. She plans on pursuing the writing emphasis in the English major to explore the richness of the written word as an expression of her faith. Her favorite reading material includes novels by Francine Rivers, Jane Austen, and C.S. Lewis. Also a figure skater, Betsy's secret ambition is to audition for "Disney on Ice" upon graduation!

Steve Gallo
Steve attended James Caldwell High School in West Caldwell, New Jersey. He is comfortable with words, and loves the flexibility and power of language--especially its capacity to change people for the better. Steve enjoys fiction and poetry and writes poetry, song lyrics, and fiction. He also plays guitar and sings--welcome to Nash Vegas, Steve!

Caitlin Kelley
Caitlin is a proud member of the second graduating class of Ensworth High School here in Nashville. She has always loved reading and writing, and counts among her favorites Malcolm Gladwell, Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Rohr, Tom Wolfe, Ayn Rand, David Foster Wallace, and Ernest Hemingway. Caitlin always makes an effort to grow intellectually in all directions, so the flexibility of the English major should fit her perfectly.

To our poll question, "Who is your favorite Shakespeare character?" , Betsy answered "Hamlet," while Steve chose Iago from Othello. While Caitlin professed herself "not to be" a huge fan of the bard, she does like the Fool from King Lear.

Monday, June 22, 2009

New English Majors, Vol. 4

Monday two new Enlish majors joined us, viz:

Jennifer Beckwith

Jennifer, originally from Keokuk, Iowa, comes to us from Nashville State, where she discovered a love for the written word (encouraged by some incredible teachers). She likes reading a writing poetry and loves reading a good story, especially works by Gregory Maguire, Jane Austen, the Brontes, and Charles Dickens. Jennifer also likes "non-fiction that challenges and strengthens my faith like the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis, and Anne Lamott." Jennifer is possessed of a dark sense of humor and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music history (so when she writes, there's always good music going).

Rachel Chaney

Rachel, a native of Lebanon, Ohio, joins us from Miami University. She loves the written word's capacity to enable self-expression, creativity, and critical thinking. She likes reading poetry and romance novels.

In response to this week's poll question, "Who is your favorite Shakespeare character?", Jennifer cited Katherina from The Taming of the Shrew, while Rachel chose Ophelia from Hamlet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

New English Majors, Vol. 3

Friday brought us another pair of new English majors:

Cassie Hawkins

Cassie comes to Belmont from Mayodan, North Carolina, which she will tell you is north of Greensboro--but growing up she spent much of her time in Eden (North Carolina, that is). Cassie has always loved language, and wanted to be an English major because "there is so much power in well chosen words." She's a fan of British literature (particularly fiction).

Aaron Searcy

Aaron Searcy attended Jefferson County High School in Dandridge, Tennessee. He's an English major because he finds it the most interesting and engaging of the disciplines. Aaron is contemplating a double-major in Philosophy and is also interested in journalism. His favorite reading material has been Ayn Rand, Cormac McCarthy, and his childhood favorite, Roald Dahl.

This week's poll question, "Who is your favorite Shakespeare character?", drew these responses: Aaron likes the "tag team" of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, while Cassie prefers the sonnets to any of the plays!