Five Reasons Why I Hate List Blogs (Presented In A Non-List Format)

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By: Jacob Millay

For those of you who use the internet often, which I think is most of the population of the world, you may have noticed some interesting trends that pop-up briefly and then disappear like a supernova burning out.

Some of these trends include incredibly foolish challenges offered by online strangers who enjoy witnessing pain or discomfort. This would include your cinnamon challenge, milk gallon challenge, eating very spicy food challenge, or other similar actions that people take to inflect pain upon themselves for apparent reason.

Other trends include charities where you either dump ice water on your head or donate money to cure ALS, stream videogames where people donate to get games into hospitals, or even attempts to capture a foreign militia leader and war criminal who was apparently rampaging across Uganda in 2012.

These various trends may be good or bad. However, there is one trend that has gotten far more traction than any of these. Each and every one of you is familiar with this trend if you have spent any time on social media in the past five years And that trend is the list blog.

A “list blog,” which is my name for this rage-inducing trend on the internet, is a way to easily collect and spread information in the form of a list. They generally have a click-bait title to draw in potential readers who most likely only see the headline of the article. They could range from “Ten Reasons Why Trump Would Be A Good President” (which, terrifyingly, is a real article) to “16 Unbelievably Rude Texts From Canadian Winter.”

Many of these blogs are shared over social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Tumblr, Reddit, Let, Instagram, Snapchat, Google +, Pinterest, Vine, or maybe even good old electronic mail. Someone finds them interesting or funny, and the next thing you know the article is plastered over everyone’s accounts. And perhaps the biggest purveyor of these lists is the media giant Buzzfeed. If you go on their website at any given time, a list will be there to assault your eye sockets.

Now, you might be thinking: “Hey, I like Buzzfeed! What does this guy have against Buzzfeed? Is he jealous that they get way more views than his blogs could ever get because they use funny relatable gifs and pictures instead of all these dumb words?”

Well, yes, I am a little jealous of how popular these lists have gotten. I don’t, however, think that these lists are making people stupider. The people who read Buzzfeed were not going to go out and pick up a copy of Chaucer if that website didn’t exist. They would just find some other similar, vapid way of spending their time.

However, I do think that Buzzfeed and the hundreds of similar copycat websites are harmful. They have taken one of the most creative spaces in the universe, the internet, and turned it into the same blog over and over. Why would someone work hard to create an original website, blog, or video when creating trivial trash nets them many more views which in turn create cash for their website? It is so incredibly easy to stagnate when this business model of creating click-bait titles with lists is the only thing that gets views.

Another potential problem with many of these lists blogs is that they take things that are definitely rooted in opinion and present them as facts. Some of these are trivial such as “10 Must See Movies from the 80’s.” Well, I think that Predator should be number one, but I understand why they put Indiana Jones at the top of the list. However, some of these lists are presenting some heavy issues by using this guise of a list to protect the author.

Some lists deal with depression, relationships, religion, anxiety, alcoholism, and other similar important issues that plague people’s lives. But instead of actually dealing with any of these issues, the article simply skims the surface by presenting “5 Broad Things Anxious People Experience On A Bi-Weekly Basis.” For some people, they take the statement of this article taken as fact and then turn around and self-diagnose themselves with a disorder that they simply do not have.

At least that is one positive spin to my hatred of these list blogs. If I use that argument, it makes it look like I am humanitarian. It looks like I am standing up for the little man in this situation. I could also complain that these lists make the readers generalize everything into these tiny, easy to understand boxes when in reality, nothing is that simple. And those things are true… Partially.

At the end of the day, I hate lists blogs not for these logical, well-thought out reasons. I hate them for the same reason that I hate Justin Bieber. They are popular and I want them to go away.

Will this blog change anything about those blogs? No, probably not. Oh well. It was worth a shot.

Jacob Millay (’16)  is an English Education major at Whitworth University. He is a master of consuming, whether that is the newest David Fincher film, the newest Death Cab for Cutie album, or his mother’s spaghetti. He wishes he had any plans for after graduation or for next weekend, but, alas, he has none.

Congratulations Poetry Contest Winners!

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Congratulations to to the winners of this year’s poetry contest, ‘Elegy for Trees’! Meet our winners, read their poems, and get a look into what our guest judge Dr. Megan Hershey had to say about each of the poems.

1st Place: Anneliese Immel

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Bio: Anneliese Immel is a senior at Whitworth University. She will be graduating this year with a double major in Biology and Chemistry. She has also enjoyed taking as many creative writing classes as her schedule would allow!

Fell
 Wild words fall from your mouth into the wind,
incoherent moaning as this forest, this fortress is made
new in the dark of the day, transfigured for
descent into the dust.
 
Sap seethes across each murder hole. Enemies storm
the barky moat and knotted bole,
overcome those organic keepers and press on,
rout and raze the roots
mulching without mercy the monarchies.
 
Pinioned to the earth, the figures pine
in their failed strength and lofty loss.
Not able to withstand an earthbound fate
exudation is their final exaltation,

sealing their sepulcher.

Here’s what our judge, Dr. Megan Hershey had to say:

“Fell” returns the reader to Windstorm 2015 with its first line, observing “wild words fall from your mouth into the wind” and proceeds to quickly draw us into a dark and deadly tale.  The poet thrills and rattles us, juxtaposing the mundane (“sap,” “roots,” and “barky”) with the sinister (“seethes,” “moat,” “raze”), all while pressing us to conside the fallen pines as a metaphor for that which is lofty and strong in our own lives (“Pinioned to the earth, the figures pine – in their failed strength and lofty loss”).  I was left wondering what this poem is really about, which is precisely the point. 

 

Second Place: Nina Westcott

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Bio: Nina is a freshman Biology Major who enjoys embracing the written language. She also loves long walks around the Loop and every form of dance. Loosing the trees felt like loosing a piece of her heart.

An Elegy for Trees

Walking

In

Nothing but

Dull

Sunlight.

The

Offensive

Rays

Mark the ground where the

Pines fell.

In their death, came life for fires.

Nature warring against itself.

Earth conquered by air. Even the crows

Screech

Here’s what our judge, Dr. Megan Hershey had to say:

This sparse poem managed to capture my own feelings about the loss of our Loop canopy in only 39 words.  The poet reminds us what it felt like to walk across campus in late November, calling to mind the “Dull Sunlight” and “Offensive Rays.”  The poem alludes to larger forces and the painful, yet healing process of communal mourning.  Even the formatting recalls the loss – or the recovery?

Writing Tips from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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kurt vonnegut jr. photoBy: DevonClements

 

Due to his inclusion in the canon of modern literature present in academia, author and satirist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is thankfully not an uncommon name among today’s students. However, there is much more to this inspiring mind then his most popular text, the forebodingly satirical Slautherhouse-Five. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922 and spent his childhood excelling academically until his enrollment in the Reserve Officer’s Training Corp. He served in World War two, fighting at the infamous Battle of the Bulge Germany’s final offensive wave of the war, as well as surviving the bombing of Dresden. After returning from the War, his writing career began, eventually ending with the publication of 14 novels, 3 short stories, five plays, and five works of non-fiction over his 50 year writing career. Vonnegut’s work began in the world of Science Fiction and though he did not remain completely in that genre his work is filled with the fantastical, absurd, irrational and the beautiful. Reading any of Vonnegut’s work leads one to perceive the singular chaotic, and awe inspiring way in which he viewed and categorized reality and existence. More so than many other writers, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. illustrates the incessant and at times mad was in which those who write are driven to make sense of their own mind as well as the world around them through language. Listed below are eight tips Vonnegut left for the aspiring writer in hopes they ease your struggle and speed your progress. So it goes.

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8.  Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages

Devon Clements. Class of 2018. English Philosophy major. Missouri. Soccer. Coffee. Historical Fiction. Edward Sharpe. Of Human Bondage. Travel. Moleskine. Pens. Vans. United Kingdom. Trees. Gym. Literature. Sour. Northwest. Theatre. Explore. Skateboard. Run. Cats. Blue. Finished.

Congratulations Chapbook Contest Winners!

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Congratulations goes out to the three winners of this year’s Chapbook contest! Here’s a look into the winners and excerpts from their winning work.

1st Place: Molly Rupp

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Bio:  Molly Rupp is a senior English major, with an art minor. She has an alarming affinity for parenthetical asides, strongly advocates for the Oxford Comma, and hopes to one day live in a cabin on the Oregon Coast, surrounded by cats. Notable skills include, but are not limited to: binge watching Netflix, quoting Harry Potter in everyday conversation, embracing awkward social situations, and making killer mac and cheese.

Excerpt from Gloria Patri:

“This time I know I was four because that year we borrowed a shaky video camera from a family friend and have hours of footage. There’s me toddling around with confident steps in a Minnie Mouse costume on a windy day, the river and my dad’s office in the background and the voice of my mother competing with the sound of gusts on microphone. The preschool production of The Three Little Pigs and distracted children forgetting lines and missing notes and me in a puffy white hat and prim and proper dress with apron, showing off my new-found skill of eye-rolling. Christmas Eve and the nativity scene and I’m wrapped in cloth that worked as a makeshift dress, stiff and falling into my eyes. The Virgin Mary always seems to be dressed in blue in nativity scenes although I’ve never particularly understood why, so my cloth was blue and my face was red and I clutched the swaddled doll in a death grip and Mrs. Bradford was telling me from the front of the stage that I could put Jesus in the manger now.

We’d practiced for weeks and all I knew was fear because what if I put the doll in at the wrong time and what if I didn’t look peaceful enough and why was she called the Virgin Mary anyways and what if I dropped the baby Jesus, I couldn’t just drop Jesus in front of everybody and now it was Christmas and everyone knows that that’s like, the moment, and my four year old hands are clutching this doll that the day before I’d been playing school with and telling to eat its vegetables, and I know I need to put it in the manger. It’s Jesus now and that’s where the baby Jesus is supposed to go and everyone is waiting.”

 

 

2nd Place” Molly Daniels

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Bio: Molly Daniels is a senior majoring in English and minoring in Philosophy and Music. Her family resides in Missoula, Mt. She often takes part in Whitworth plays, and she enjoys reading, cooking, and swing dancing. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a career in creative writing and book design.

Excerpt:

sun-scorched

he gives chase          scatters leaves underfoot         appetite to taste the earth teeth

breaking olive skin—

she flees, a race to the riverbed cry father-god

his word                dripping finger            dragged from the deep

proclaims her bark               stretched to the sky         winding grooves and paper flesh

she eludes           and yet        he breaks off branches      he leaves her        bleeding sap

crowns himself with              hair and fingernails

 

 

 

3rd Place: Hannah McCollum

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Bio:Hannah McCollum (’18) is currently studying abroad in Guatemala and Nicaragua. She misses Westminster and mashed potatoes ‘n’ gravy. When she returns to Whitworth she will miss the amazing Guatemalan hot chocolate. Her majors are English/Writing and Spanish.

Excerpt from “My Mom’s Hands:”

In dusty cardboard boxes my parents kept our old finger paint masterpieces and drawings on faded construction paper. When my older brother James was in kindergarten he listed facts about Mom for a Mother’s Day gift. Mommy’s favorite thing in the world to do, according to this record, was laundry. That is actually her least favorite chore. I remember her sitting on the carpet in front of the TV with towers of laundry baskets beside her. Pride and Prejudice would be playing, the long one that spread over six VHS tapes, which my mom had seen approximately one hundred times. She didn’t watch movies, she played movies in the background while she sorted and folded warm smelling clothes.

I thought Elizabeth Bennet looked a little like my mom did in my parent’s wedding picture: they both wore simple white dresses and proud gazes. Once I wandered into the master bedroom and found my mom sitting on the bed with the picture out of its frame. I sat next to her and watched her use a brown pencil to bring up the corners of her sepia tone lips, trying to soften her expression from fifteen or twenty years ago. Next to the serious bride stood a version of my dad with longer, fuller hair and bigger glasses. He was smiling widely.

On Calling Westminster Home

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By: Olivia Shaffer

Dedicated to the people I’ve sat in class with for four years, to the people who were once strangers and are now close friends, to the class of 2016.

Westminster Hall

When we are freshman, we have what seems like an infinite amount of time at Whitworth in front of us. We sit in freshman seminar, surrounded by people we do not know, and are told by professors that the next four years as an English Major are going to be rigorous, but rewarding. And wow, were they right. Those people we did not know are now some of our closest friends. We have sat in classes with each other for four years, taught by professors who have instilled in us knowledge and wisdom that will never be forgotten – both inside and outside the classroom.

What I have noticed about the English Department is that we seem to be more cohesive than other departments on campus. We are unified by our small and creaky building (which, by senior year, we’ve grown to love and call home). We have study sessions where we recap the dozens of books we’ve read…in one semester. We complain about our papers and say we hate our own writing, but we all secretly love the rigor that goes into reading books for a living. By senior year, we have learned the best ways to research and we spend hours analyzing one page of a book, which produces three pages in a paper. We love our classes, although we may not admit it, and we are thankful for the professors that push us to be better and expand our ideas. If you ask any other major if they are this thankful for their academic time at Whitworth, I guarantee the response will not be as gratuitous.

So what does it mean to be a senior English major? To me it means thinking about graduation, and suddenly growing nostalgic for all of the classes I’ve taken – and all the ones we were unable to take. It means realizing that the professors – who have become mentors, coaches, and sometimes therapists – will not be just down the creaky hallway to talk to about, well, anything. It means recognizing all of the hard work I’ve put in these last four years, and not taking the last semester for granted. It is appreciating that these strangers I sat by three years ago have become family. It is accepting that the laughter, stress, and conversations that resonate in the Westminster lounge are soon going to be just a memory, a wave of nostalgia, and moments in a finished chapter of my life.

So, my fellow seniors, as we go into our last semester together remember this: we are approaching the end of something that will never be relived. As we sit in our last first week of classes, as we take our last midterms, as we read our last books for class, and as we write our final papers, make sure to embrace the little time we have left. We once sat in freshman seminar together, and we just finished sitting in Senior Portfolio. Soon, we will sit together for one last time at graduation, walk across the stage together, and take a few final pictures, then go our separate ways. But for the next four months, all 30 of us will sit in our last semester of classes together. Let’s make it count.

Olivia Shaffer (’16) is an English Literature major and History minor at Whitworth University. Aside from academics she dedicates a large part of her time to the Jubilation Dance program at the university; an extra curricular that allows her to continue to pursue her passion for dance. She has no idea what post-graduation life will look like, but hopes for the best.

Upcoming Event: Greg Wolfe Lecture and Discussion

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Wednesday, Feb. 10 at Whitworth University, Lied Center for the Visual Arts Room 102

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-05-26 16:38:40Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

Greg Wolfe, founder and editor of Image Journal, the big kahuna in the faith/art/literary magazine world, and author of “Beauty WIll Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age,” will being giving a talk on beauty, art, and faith followed by a Q&A with Professor Thom Caraway. He has been called “one of the most incisive and persuasive voices of our generation” (Ron Hansen). He will be available after the discussion for a book signing session.

Make plans to attend!

There and Back Again: Writing Home from Oxford

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By: Kristen Bertsch

I think that stories are the most important things we can collect in our lifetime. The more I explore my life, the more I am convinced that the joy and wisdom of life come through the accumulation of stories. Stories are how we learn about ourselves, others, and the world around us. I’ve said so before. That’s kind of the thesis of my own little blog, which I maintain during my travels . I use this blog to collect my own stories, my own as well as those I pick up in my adventures.

This time my adventures are taking me through Oxford. I’ll be here for three months, studying writing and linguistics (anticipate a future post about language and the formation of meaning). My last adventure took me through six countries in three months, and I spent no more than four days at a time in one place. This adventure is very different. I’ll be existing here for a little while. And that means it’s time to start writing home.Oxford Phtoo Kristen

I mean many things when I say “writing home.” First off, I mean that I will be writing letters to those I left behind in the States–my loved ones who together create “home” for me. As privileged and honored as I am to be taking this opportunity, it comes at the price of a temporary loss of home. To alleviate that loss, I spend my days writing. I write here, in my journal, in my letters, professionally, and academically. It’s what I do and I love to do it. It keeps me connected to my home, reminds me of what I will return to in three months time.

But the writing I do also serves the secondary but equally important purpose of creating a new sense of home where I am now. This is where I talk about storytelling. Narratives are the stories we tell to inform ourselves and others about the reality. The words I write are my narratives, and they inform the reality I am fashioning for myself here. To call Oxford “home,” I have to be a part of Oxford. I have to have stories that put me here and make this place and these people important. I am writing myself a role in the story of this new world with all the people I meet, the places I go, and all the beautiful things I see. Then I will be part of their story, and they will be part of mine. When I write home, I am writing myself “into home.”

This first week has been a gracious adjustment period. Despite having assimilated once before, I am still surprised by my own quickness to goof up here. Last year, in my first week of travel, I severely burned myself cooking, resulting in a trip to the local hospital (the scars are quite charming). This week I have only shattered a glass diffuser, committed two traffic violations, and insulted the tea staff by taking a cup too early. I do think I’m writing myself as a bit of a nuisance. But every home has one. I hope that by the end of the week I will have written myself into waterproof shoes.

To all of those who receive my letters and who read my blog, you are playing a vital role in the confirmation of my home here. Thank you for reading, and please write back.

 

Kristin Bertsch (’17) is a junior English/Writing major at Whitworth, pursuing a future in graduate school and a career in travel writing. Kristin studied abroad last year in Britain and Ireland and will study English at Oxford University during spring of 2016. In addition to her studies and contributions to the English Department blog, Kristin works as research assistant to English Professor Dr. Pam Parker and as archiving assistant to Library Director and Art Professor Dr. Amanda Clark. Kristin is an active supporter of local art and theater and a frequenter of Spokane Poetry Slam.

When Technology Meets the Self-Centered Artist

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By: Jacob Millay

I am a young person. As such, I am supposed to be up to date with all the interesting innovations and cultural movements that are occurring around us.

Honestly, that is a lot of work for me. However, I have kept up with one particular important phenomenon that has come about in the last ten years. The rise of streaming music has exploded recently.

Music on the internet is not necessarily a new thing, but as internet speeds and storage capabilities have increased in recent years, listening to music has gotten easier and easier. Now anyone with a smartphone has the majority of recorded music available to them in an instant. It only takes a few clicks, and then the free music starts pouring out. There was an additional Christmas gift for some as well this year, as The Beatles entire anthology of music was made available for streaming.

While I do not have any strong opinions on The Beatles, other musical artists have taken the opposite path of them recently. Taylor Swift, Adele, Prince, Radiohead, Coldplay, and The Black Keys have all withheld records from being streamed on various services, with the most popular one being Spotify. The main claim is that music streaming has reduced record sales and has hurt the artist where it hurts most: the pocketbook.

While Spotify is not clear on how much it pays artists for each play, it is clear that artists are not going to be raking in cash unless they are supremely popular. Artists who get hundreds of millions of listens will get a hefty paycheck from Spotify, while smaller artists will probably not get much.

Some artists took a different approach to the streaming “problem.” The Jay-Z headed streaming service, Tidal ,had the focus of providing adequate compensation for the artists who chose to use their service. However, with a large price tag for the premium service, Tidal has little impact on the streaming game at this time. People have stuck with the giant Spotify so far.

From my perspective, this whole streaming issue is, frankly, laughable. Some of the largest and most popular musical artists in the world, who sell out stadiums wherever they go, who sell t-shirts to every concert goer, who get radio play for every single that they release, and who sign huge record contracts with the largest record labels, are taking a stand for the integrity of the artists. Seems a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?

Probably the biggest proponent of moving away from streaming is the pop superstar Taylor Swift, who currently makes $80 million dollars a year, is complaining about Spotify. She said “On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.” ( http://www.businessinsider.com/taylor-swift-explains-why-she-left-spotify-2014-11)

While placing value on art is an important goal, Swift seems unaware of the potential consequences of her actions. Rather than people going out and purchasing her album if it is unavailable on the convenient service that they already use, people are just as likely to find a shadier way to get the music. Additionally, Swift made this decision basically to push album sales. She was hoping that people would go out and buy her album since they cannot stream it. That is a pretty poor reason to make the decision to withhold music from people.

Let’s take a step away from the millionaires complaining about not being paid. Spotify has more benefits than just to make money for the artists. It provides a outlet for people to share music. I personally share playlists that I make on Spotify pretty frequently. It also provides for music discovery. If you like this artist, then you should try this one too. This means that more music is being discovered and listened to. Spotify has been incredibly instrumental in my own discovery of different music that I enjoy. And beyond just listening to the music, it also has also incited action on my part to go out and see those bands live, purchases merchandise, or buy the album themselves, all of which never would have happened if I had not first listened to their music on Spotify.

For the 1% of the music community to look at Spotify and say that it is “bad for music” is a ridiculous attempt at a cash-grab by those who already making more money than anyone else.

How, though, does this connect with English? Are you just rambling about music, Jacob? Well, yes. But it also connects with English. Think about the proliferation of E-Books that now exist. Kindle and Nooks and BOOX are now just as popular as other forms of reading. Just as in the music industry, some authors have railed against the proliferation of this technology. Ray Bradbury, Maurice Sendak, Jonathan Franzen, and Ursula K. Le Guin all have railed against E-books. Similarly to music, they say that it reduces the importance of what is read, it promotes piracy, and it will cause authors to make less off of their books.

These may be important points, but again it seems like people are afraid and unaware of how technology can be helpful. Environmentally, E-books are far less wasteful than normal books. The convenience factor outweighs the woes. And finally, power is returned to the people. Before, to get a book published an author had to go to one of the major publishing houses and hope for a deal, but now the author can connect with an audience just that much easier through an online marketplace. One more middle man has been removed. E-books just might be helping the industry as a whole.

And E-books have been around for almost a decade now and the printing industry continues onward. It did not have apocalyptic consequences like some imagined. Instead there are separate markets for different people to use and appreciate.

Perhaps we are all just scared of new technology and the impact that it might have on the status quo. But as we move forward, I think the negative consequences will fall to the wayside while the good rises to the top. So don’t be afraid. Buy all the new gadgets that you want.

(It should be noted that I was listening to music streamed on Spotify the whole time that I wrote this)

Jacob Millay (’16)  is an English Education major at Whitworth University. He is a master of consuming, whether that is the newest David Fincher film, the newest Death Cab for Cutie album, or his mother’s spaghetti. He wishes he had any plans for after graduation or for next weekend, but, alas, he has none.

Recently Published in the The Cresset: A review of literature, the arts, and public affairs

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The most recent issue of The Cresset featured two Whitworth names.

Associate Professor of English, Charles Andrews published a review of the recent movie version of Vera Brittain’s memoir Testament of Youth titled “Learning to Live with Ghosts” as part of his research of the British peace movement.

Testament-of-Youth

Also appearing in the same issue is a poem, titled “Losing His Religion” written by Whitworth alumnus Michael Schmidt (’13)
 
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