Dr. Casey Andrews on Paul Schrader’s First Reformed

In his article, “Too Much in the Garden: Paul Schrader’s First Reformed Dr. Andrews explores the theological, environmental and psychological turmoil of 2018 award-winning film First Reformed. A film which Casey considers to be a “crowning achievement” in its director’s decade-spanning career. The cinematic stillness of the film (Casey describes) is an intentional and powerful move towards holiness on its way to the film’s broader concern, transcendentalism. 

More from Dr. Andrews on his piece:

One of my favorite movies of the last year was Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, a crowning achievement in Schrader’s career. This film became a featured text in my Jan Term 2019 course, EL/WGS 222: Gender & Faith in Film & Literature, a course originally created by our friend and colleague Pam Parker. The film’s investigation of spirituality during despair makes it deeply relevant for us today. 

Dr. Casey Andrews

Visit The Cresset for Casey’s full-length commentary and analysis!

Announcing: The 2019 Chapbook Contest Finalists

Hi blog readers!  The English Department is thrilled to announce this year’s Chapbook Contest winner, Bryn Cavin! Bryn is a junior at Whitworth, majoring in English Literature and Writing, with a minor in Editing and Publishing.  She is a big, big fan of dogs, sunsets, and new adventures. Enjoy Bryn’s introductory thoughts on her work and an excerpt from Racing Our Shadows below.

I have been lucky enough to do quite a bit of traveling over the past year, and visit so many museums that I’ve almost lost track. Most of the poems in this collection came from moments in those travels that took my breath away, broke my heart, or have otherwise taken up residence in my mind.  I suppose that these poems are my attempts to put those feelings into some sort of order, to capture them and save them for a time when my memories of these moments have faded somewhat. 

This year’s runner-up is Alexandra Jackson! Alexandra is a senior at Whitworth, majoring in English, Writing track.

Alexandra says that her piece, Eyes That See consists of three interconnected stories that explore the lives of small wooden people, and the Providers who accidentally created them, from multiple points of view. The Providers, for the most part, regard the wooden figures as non-sentient, and have consequently not paid much attention to maintenance, causing the problem present in the excerpt. Enjoy the excerpt of Alexandra’s work below!

I’d found him wandering, and knew it was the end. Months ago, he’d added a scarf to the hat. The crevasse had worked its way down his neck to disappear under his collar. If you touched between his shoulder blades your hand sunk in where he was broken. It must have hurt, but we couldn’t bear to ask. His expression was vague and unrecognizing, with no smile. He looked past me and continued walking. When I grabbed him, he stopped but didn’t so much as glance at me. I talked to him as I guided him back to his house, but he showed no sign of understanding. He was pliant, so I sat him down on his bed and began to unwind the scarf. I set that aside and snatched the hat next, tossing it across the room. I jerked the jacket from his shoulders and threw it away too. His shirt was more difficult to remove. Whenever I raised his arms over his head they would immediately sink back down. I grabbed one wrist at a time, squeezing hard in hopes of some response. Nothing. I kept his left arm suspended with one hand and worked the sleeve off with the other, then repeated the process. When that was done the shirt pooled around his neck in a sad collar, revealing how ravaged he was. Two sharp cuts curled around his side and onto his midsection, nearly meeting in the center. I yanked the shirt over his head, tearing it. The ripping noise was so fitting I wanted to shred it. I tipped him down into the pillow to see the damage. 

“Damn you, damn you!

I didn’t know whether I was cursing him, or The Providers. Either way, I wouldn’t be heard. He followed The Providers as faithfully as anyone, believed in them with every breath, yet he was barely in one piece. A scant centimeter of wood held together below the crack. One shove and he could split in half, but it wouldn’t matter. The crack had finally grown until Finch fell in like a house over a fault line. Whatever he had been was gone. I wanted to shake him, to see if I could rattle any sense back into his placid expression, but doing so would be the end of his body too. If that final break happened, he would’ve splintered into pieces. He deserved better than to disintegrate. 

When I calmed, I made my way over to the pile of Finch’s clothing and folded it while Finch stared straight ahead. I couldn’t do anything for him. I locked his door behind me and left to go find the town judge, Silas, who would know what to do. We went together to find the architect, Johnson. His understanding of wood was greater than anyone else’s. He wouldn’t be able to fix the crack, but he could fill it, and maybe save Finch. The Providers were the only ones capable of real healing. 

We dressed Finch and led him through town to the architect’s garage. Here Johnson had us undress Finch and guide him up onto a table, lying on his stomach. Harnesses used to secure large projects for cutting were tightened around his shoulders and knees. Johnson came over with a large vessel, filled with heated resin. He looked grim as he climbed up to kneel over Finch. We braced ourselves for the scream we’d heard from those others who had needed this treatment, but Finch stayed silent and still as Johnson poured the liquid into the crevasse. He had to heat more resin to finish. Once that was done, we stood together, waiting while the liquid set. It was an amber color and the light pouring in from the ventilation hole in the ceiling made it shine as we gazed at Finch. He never moved, and when the resin cooled Johnson took up his position once more and began smoothing the surface down with his tools. He was familiar with shaping resin to match bodies, able to follow the curves he was replacing perfectly. When we rolled Finch over the resin had seeped through cracks to leave pools of hardened amber underneath him. Johnson sculpted him back together. 

When he was finished Finch still just stared. He was lying on his back, gaze directed at the hole in the ceiling. It was a familiar posture; his gaze being directed to the sky looking for any glimpse of The Providers and their huge eyes. He’d only seen them once, when he was new. His own eyes had met those huge colorful orbs above us and latched onto them, watching them open and close. I’d thought the regard was mutual, that the eyes had met Finch’s with respect despite the blankness they must have seen in comparison. He’d felt a connection. We must have both been wrong. Finch’s devotion counted for nothing, yet even now he seemed to be staring up at the sky waiting for the gaze to reappear.

Los Angeles Domain of the Arts Jan Term, 2019

By Ethan Paxton

The national enthrallment with the modern entertainment medium may best be displayed in our culture’s fixation on the film and television industry, for the instantaneous accessibility of material goods such as these is a vital part of successful business today. Few cities host this booming industry more prominently than Los Angeles, so naturally an aspiring screenwriter such as myself had his interest peaked when a Jan Term opportunity down there was made known to me. My name is Ethan Paxton and I am a freshman at Whitworth University pursuing an English major with a Film and Visual Narrative minor. My fascination with these areas of study comes as a result of my desire to become a screenwriter, a dream held as a result of a lifelong appreciation of the artistic elements of good film. Unlike many of my peers or even my parents, I never watched a movie solely for the entertainment value it offered me. Rather, I sought to analyze it’s story, major themes, cinematography, dialogue, and all other elements that contribute to why people enjoy watching what they do. However, this trip revealed art to me in a way that surpassed my expectations and displayed how Los Angeles exists as a hub for more than just film and TV, but also all other kinds of art that occur on the west side of the United States.

I began to experience the city as soon as our plane descended far enough for me to see the expansive sprawl of Los Angeles, the buildings stretching deep inland from the ocean, weaving around and over hills, all interconnected by the tangle of highways, freeways, and streets. Though I have been to Southern California before, I had never been to Los Angeles until this trip, and despite my early presumptions, it was entirely unlike any other city I had ever been to. Prior to our arrival, Dr. Emerson had asked us to read part of a book called City of Quartzby Mike Davis, which provided a brief overview of important aspects of the city’s history and creation. One element that had been touched upon pretty heavily by Davis was the importance of the sun in the city’s creation, and for a western Washington native such as myself, feeling those first warm rays of sun beating on my face and heating up my jean-covered legs gave me the feeling that I had been transported to some unique paradise. Though “paradise” is a very naive way to describe Los Angeles, “unique” is remarkably accurate. The cultural melting pot of the city was apparent, and was showcased in the many collections of art we visited such as the Getty, LACMA, the Broad and Norton Simon, all of which housed a fascinating variety of art that allowed for them to all feel different than the one before.

One of the most interesting aspects of the city was also how prolific art was, for it was filling up every dull and empty part. Our street art tour of the Arts District taught me about the culture behind street art and how valuable it is to the city’s creative atmosphere. The sense of community that existed because of the common creative energy was very contagious and is showcased in the stylistic overlaps one can see when observing street art. There was also a multitude of architectural designs and sculptures, for even the buildings had an aesthetic that felt individual and creative. Watts Towers is an example of this, for it was this massive concrete sculpture decorated with bits of broken glass and ceramic that had been placed in the middle of a simple neighborhood. Beyond these detailed towers and structures that added vibrance to a basic area, this art further inspired creativity in the neighborhood. Across from the towers, the neighbors had actually decorated their concrete walls and fences with ceramic murals, and though this may seem simple enough, this is a prime example of the power of Los Angeles art. This is a city that brings out the artist in each individual, for all it takes is one piece to pop up, before inspiring others to create in their own way.

Of the multitude of experiences that we all had, my favorite places wer by far the Huntington Library, the art galleries and the Botanical Gardens. Leaving behind the bright lights of Hollywood Boulevard or the chaotic boardwalk along Venice Beach, the Huntington was the 206-acre property that I was wholly infatuated with. Since our guided tour of the grounds only briefly skimmed through the Huntington, I went back on my own about a week later to experience more fully everything that I had been so overwhelmed with. This second run through I had the chance to linger in spots I enjoyed, spend more time in the art galleries, and explore every beautiful part of the property. There was a certain peace present at the Huntington, a kind of peace that felt important and special because it is so rare in a society such as ours that is obsessed with progress and movement. This was a place where the beauty of art could be experienced apart from the rest of the outside world. For me, it was a simple paradise that afforded me a deep breath during the bustle of our travels.

Another powerful experience for me was the behind-the-scenes look at Warner Brothers Studio and The Voice. Though I did not know exactly what to expect going into the tour and viewing, the sensation I felt after experiencing the sets of these shows and movies was interesting and exciting yes, but also a little gross. It left a bad taste in my mouth, synonymous with a child discovering on Christmas Eve that Santa is really just their parents putting presents under the tree. I will never look at TV or movies the same, and though this has taken some getting used to, I don’t feel the magic is entirely gone. In fact, seeing behind-the-scenes gives me an even greater appreciation for the artistic process that producers of this kind of entertainment undergo. It is an artistic process unlike many others but gives me a newfound sensation when I experience a show or movie that affects me deeply.

As a whole, this experience has not only allowed my passion for the film industry to grow but has cultivated a curiosity and appreciation for all artistic forms and mediums, especially mediums that I had not had much chance to explore fully prior to this trip. Being back in Spokane has afforded me a chance to be more cognizant of the art that exists in this city, and to be more encouraging of my own artistic passions. Our trip consisted of a plethora of interesting visits, all of which in conjunction provided us with a positive, collective understanding of the city as a domain of the arts, a location which exists as a hub of people, culture, and ideas, ideas which can be best conveyed through the creative expression of each individual. Returning to school I now feel more educated but find so much more joy in any of my creative experiences because Los Angeles allowed me to appreciate the individuality of art much as I did when I was a younger child. It was a phenomenal experience and offered me teachings and memories that I will always remember.

Make sure you visit the Los Angeles Domain of the Arts’ blog to read more about their time away!

Dr. Jake Andrews, New Staff Member Overview

Giving a warm, Whitworth welcome to one of the newest additions to the Whitworth English department:


Dr. Jake Andrews,
Starting out at Troy State (now called Troy) because he received a scholarship from opportunity, and like many other cases, because parents want us to go to certain colleges for any number of reasons. Dr. Andrews had an idea of what he wanted to do, and he wanted to major in English. He’s a lover of books and stories, the characters, and the act of reading; getting lost in other worlds and escaping reality. Because of his love for books, the lack of an English degree at Troy, and because he didn’t want to be a Journalist, Dr. Andrews transferred to the University of Alabama some time into his sophomore year. From then, he was working full time in the day as he was a full-time student at night, returning to the day-student schedule at Alabama. He was actively paving his own way for his future through the hard work and dedication, which earned him his undergraduate degree in English and a minor in creative writing starting him on the adventures and journey of his life.
From University of Alabama, he took the opportunity to attend seminary in Birmingham, Alabama, because, as he said, he was a “pony-tail having, goatee having, Birkenstock wearing” youth intern in college. He led worship and was a worship singer for the campus ministry, becoming the youth director for 9 months of seminary. While Dr. Andrews was in seminary, he was given the opportunity to go to the UK for four weeks studying the English Reformation, when his wife and he decided they wanted to live in Britain. Someone had given Dr. Andrews the advice to apply for grad school in Scotland, and to major in theology and interpretation instead of majoring in the New Testament, which at the time he wasn’t finding very interesting as a path of study. He published his dissertation, Hermeneutics and the Church, and spent four years teaching and researching theology at the Universities of St. Andrews and Cambridge.
Dr. Andrews became an English professor because creative writing and literature gave him the opportunity to explore his faith through writing. He has always been a writer, and he can continue this theological pursuit through fiction. The draft of one of his fiction pieces got him into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Leaving England, he began his next chapter of life in Iowa, where he finished a novel and received an honorable mention award and began teaching English and creative writing as a lecturer for Iowa State.

So why did Dr. Andrews transition from Theology into English?
He is still very wise in the Theological aspect of his education, an ordained deacon in the Episcopal church. Dr. Andrews loves reading and writing. He didn’t just pick one, he brought the two together! Theology and English are two parts to the same identity, blending them together and boosting more interest, exploration of one by using the other. Any student interested in this different way of viewing faith, or that wants to try this way of approaching faith and discovery, should feel free and confident to reach out to Dr. Andrews. He is always willing and ready to have a conversation about either topic of fiction writing, or about Theological texts and understanding. He really is a Jack of Many Trades, a very wise and well-educated individual that the Whitworth English department is proud to welcome!

New Faculty Overview

Give a warm Whitworth welcome to a new faculty member:
Dr. Courtney C. Barajas!
After high school Dr. Barajas left her family and home in Texas to study at University of Arizona because she received a wonderful scholarship opportunity. At U of A, she earned her B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Dr. Barajas entered the Old English literature program of the University of Arizona, thinking that the Old English was Shakespearian literature, and because of this, she decided to pursue the Medieval English as her chosen major. The Old English course that she was enrolled in for her first Medieval class was the hardest class she says she has ever taken, and she loved it! Crazy, the class around her was about 30 students and within a few weeks there were only about 6 students left! She already knew that she wanted to be an English teacher, she wanted to teach at the college level, and this class made her realize that she wanted to continue pursuing this program and teach the aspects of Medieval literature that are both challenging and thought provoking.
Once she finished her undergrad degree, (which she completed a year early), she went straight into graduate school; the University of Texas. A familiar place where her family was educated, a nice return home! After five years she earned her Ph.D. and an M.A. in English at University of Texas at Austin. Six years later, taking an extra year at University of Texas she was given the opportunity to be a professor as a “postdoctoral lecturer” for the English department there! And, now she has received the opportunity to be employed at Whitworth University in the English department, where she once again, left her family to pursue her dreams and reach her goals in educating young minds about the importance and impact of Medieval literatures and worldviews.
Dr. Barajas is a very charismatic, intelligent, and connecting person, looking only to share the wonders of Medieval literature that she found so compelling herself. She is very interested in the world today, the current events, and what other people see and think. Using her degree to not only teach curious students about the past values, but using those values to look at the world from a different angle, and learn about the world today, how we handle the current events, and our responses to concepts that challenge us as a community. Students more interested in this perspective should feel free to reach out to Dr. Barajas because she fits right in with the kindness and courtesy of the Whitworth English department, and their goal to assist students with any pressing questions or uncertainties!
• Fun Fact about Dr. Barajas: she loves cacti! She has 10 cacti total, her favorite being named Frida, after Frida Kahlo. She packed all her lovely plants from Texas in a milk crate in the back of her car. (She was happy to drive them up because the moving truck wouldn’t haul live plants, and she couldn’t figure out how to sneak them onboard).
• Fun Fact: The professor that educated Dr. Barajas on Medieval literature was a student of, none other than, Tolkien himself!

MEMS Minor!

Mission statement: The Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) minor provides students with an intellectual platform for articulating complex connections among the histories, literatures, and cultures of a crucial era in global history. Courses in the minor explore cultural change in the medieval and early modern worlds (from the fall of Rome in 450 CE to about 1800), tracing the influences of various disciplines on past and current methods of inquiry. A Central goal of the minor is to acknowledge differences and continuities between the medieval and modern worlds and civilizations.

Mems poster

Dr. Barajas is in charge of the MEMS Minor starting this year. For her, the MEMS Minor is more than just looking into the past. Learning about Medieval and early Modern cultures and the way we use culture today make for interesting and important understandings. The Medieval era isn’t so different from today, analyzing conflict then will aid us to understand conflict now, through their use of literature and history. Any problem that can be viewed today, any concern, global or other, has more than likely happened before and the MEMS minor will bring some of those concerns to the table; e.g. Global warming, gender (trans, roles, values), government, etc. Looking at “how they handled/addressed the issue” in the past can help model the conversation for “How could we? What could we do?” Dr. Barajas calls it “Looking to the past to find answers for the present”, looking at the continuity rather than just the differences. Forget everything you thought you know about the Medieval era, whether that be Game of Thrones, Eragon, Lord of the Rings, plague, death, “end of the world” type of stuff, the Medieval era and its history can be whatever you want it to be; women, ethics, myths, love, art, and more!

(For more information about the MEMS minor and its requirements, contact Dr. Courtney Barajas in the English department or Dr. Corliss Slack in the history department!)

NW Undergrad Conference in Humanities by Dr. Bert Emerson

English and History students at The Northwest Undergraduate Conference in the Humanities

On Saturday, 3 November 2018, seven English majors and four History majors presented papers at the Northwest Undergraduate Conference in the Humanities, hosted by North Idaho College in Couer d’Alene, ID. All eleven Whitworth students did an outstanding job and represented Whitworth extremely well. Two senior English majors, Katie Lacayo and Sarah Haman, who submitted collections of poetry, were among 18 nominees for Awards. Adi McNally, a sophomore English major, won the award for Best Overall Conference Paper.

A complete list of Whitworth students presenting creative and/or critical work at the conference:


English Majors
Sarah Haman, “Poems of Confession”
Katie Lacayo, “Missing Home”
Gabriel Meek, Poems on Family”

short stories and creative non-fiction
Chloe Taton, “Raving”
Melissa Voss, “I Am Breathing”

critical essays
Emily Hanson, “Irrational versus Rational Fear: IT through the Dramatist Pentad”
Adi McNally, ““Gender-Neutral Language in Christian Universities”

History Majors
Alex Fergus, “Indian Trade Gun: The Most Significant Firearm of Early 19th-Century America:
Rachel Murray, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Transition from Silence to Outcry
Khristian Paul, “The Disunited Front”
Pedro Tomazzelli, “The Forgotten Leader of the Civil Rights Movement”