2016 Summer Reading Recommendations

Alright. Now that we’ve had some time to relax and decompose after finals, it’s time to start reading! Lucky for you, your favorite professors have offered up some good recommendations to keep you busy this summer. Happy reading!

First, suggestions from the wonderful Casey Andrews:

My list includes things I am actually working on this summer rather than books I’ve read fully and wish to recommend. Most of these I’ve started and am eager to get to in their entireties.

1)      Richard Jenkyns, Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond.

Jenkyns is a renowned classics scholar who has written essential studies of Jane Austen and the use of classical writings by Victorian authors. Since 2004, Jenkyns has held a position at Oxford as “public orator,” and the role suits him well, speaking with depth and insight to popular audiences. This latest book is a chronological survey stuffed with sharp readings and occasional jabs, guiding us toward the best works by great classical authors. If you have been unable to take Leonard’s class on The Epic (or simply need a refresher), this is a fantastic book for you. http://smile.amazon.com/Classical-Literature-Journey-Virgil-Beyond/dp/0465097979/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461799878&sr=1-1&keywords=jenkyns+classical+literature

2)      P. N. Furbank, E. M. Forster: A Life.

This biography is typically considered the definitive life of Forster and, like Richard Ellmann’s Joyce  and Carlos Baker’s Hemmingway,  one of the great examples of the genre. I’ve read Forster in scattered ways—a couple of the early books, a few late essays, A Passage to India numerous times—but with Furbank as my guide, I’m looking forward to following Forster’s work in total.  http://smile.amazon.com/E-M-Forster-Life-Harvest/dp/0156286513/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461799467&sr=1-1&keywords=furbank+forster

3)      Vera Brittain, Testament of a Peace Lover.

I’ve dipped into this selection of Brittain’s letters written for a pacifist audience during the Second World War, but this summer I will finally get to read cover to cover. (Alas, I don’t foresee time to go to McMaster University and read the complete collection. Some day…) http://smile.amazon.com/Testament-Peace-Lover-Letters-Brittain/dp/0860688437/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461799733&sr=1-1&keywords=vera+brittain+testament+peace+lover

Now from the fantastic Laura Bloxham:

I have three categories of recommendations for summer reading. First, I’ve been rereading classics this year: late Austen, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion; Wilkie Collins, Woman in White; Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd. Nineteenth century novels are deep luscious places to spend time. If you’ve read Jane Eyre, read Villette; if you’ve read David Copperfield, read Little Dorrit. Spread out the reading over lunch hours.

Second, read beach trash. I read mysteries. Try Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), The Cuckoo’s Calling. And then the next two in the series. Intriguing play on the American mean streets tradition: man wounded in battle comes home, is lonely, opens a detective business, hires a secretary who is not the ditz Sam Spade would have hired. Or pick your own books that do not require you to mark them and do analysis.

Third, read a good piece of non-fiction, a provocative piece of history or biography of something that takes you out of your own preoccupations. Consider Bryan Stephenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. This book is a largely narrative-based account of individuals unjustly imprisoned and the fight to restore their freedom. Stephenson spoke on campus last year.

 

And now…

Vic Bobb’s response to the call for a recommendation for a book worth reading this summer:

So. It’s summer. Time to travel the world…except that you’ve got a job at a fruit stand that’s going to give you a half-day off every Wednesday (until the cherries come in over the Fourth, when all leaves are cancelled)…or at Powell’s (so you don’t want a day off)…or running a grain elevator (which leaves you wishing you could get as much time off as your cousin at that fruit stand)…or selling hot dogs from a pushcart at a beach on Lake Chelan (so you’re too broke to travel even if you did have more than two days off in a row)…

So. You can’t go there? Read your way there. Fly, on the wings of Fiction. Here’s a book suggestion from every continent (with a little cheating on Antarctica). I’m suggesting novels that I don’t think anyone else is going to recommend.

Africa. JM Coetzee, Life and Times of Michael K. (South Africa, 1983) Saying cheerfully that this novel is not as bleak, hopeless, and depressing as Coetzee’s Disgrace is approximately like insisting that it is good news that you have arterial bleeding rather than final-stage bubonic plague. But Michael K is a fine work of art, Coetzee can write, and the book’s final image is actually hopeful and positive. Sort of.

Asia. Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country. (Japan, 1948) You’ll still be noticing fresh delicacies and details in this narrative the sixth time you read it. Shimamura loves and is committed to the purity and beauty of art as intensely as is Bohumil Hrabal’s Hanta in Too Loud a Solitude…but Shimamura could never be mistaken for the little man in a Prague cellar compacting wastepaper bales….

Australia. Nevil Shute: choose one from among In the Wet; On the Beach; Beyond the Black Stump; The Far Country; or No Highway, and you’ll probably want to read the rest (and more). Shute is Australian by adoption; among the books I’ve suggested only No Highway dates from before his 1950 emigration from Blighty to Oz. Not a deep artist, but a wonderful storyteller—with a full two dozen worthy books to choose from.

Europe. Michel Quint, In Our Strange Gardens (France, 2000) A very fine novella based on the experiences of Quint’s father in occupied France, and afterward. You will be horrified to discover that you have burst into spontaneous cheers for…an act of utilitarian ethical decisionmaking in a book about Duty and Doing the Right Thing Because It Is Right.

North America. Douglas Coupland, Microserfs (Canada, 1995) Once you’ve been delighted by this romp among Silicon Valley / Redmond types, you’ll want to back up to Generation X (1992) and Shampoo Planet (1993 and set in the Tri Cities, though not officially), and then to leap ahead to jPod (2006). Other Coupland novels tend to step on their own shoelaces late in each book. That’s a shame, because at his best, he’s good. (If you like these Coupland novels, give Englishman Nick Hornby a try. And if you like Hornby’s High Fidelity, About a Boy, How to Be Good, or A Long Way Down, take a look at Coupland.)

South America. Humberto Costantini, The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis (Argentina, 1984) An insidiously draw-you-in novel so interior as to make Proust & Woolf look like action-thrillers. It gets better and better and suddenly it is best. A very [very] fine—and disturbing—novel, indeed. [Those unfamiliar with the Dirty War need to learn a little bit about Argentina in the late 1970s before reading this book.] Do not glance at the last pages of this novel before you arrive there legitimately. This is a gut-punch-ending story, and even a hint of what’s coming would do incalculable damage to your experience of the book.

Antarctica. Cheating. Read Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, the 1838 The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym

Bonus Continents. If you’re not already familiar with the novels of Penelope Lively and Pat Barker (England) and Anne Tyler (USA), make http://www.betterworldbooks.com your next stop. For Lively, start with City of the Mind, The Photograph, and Moon Tiger; then read everything except Heat Wave. In Barker’s case, read Union Street, The Ghost Road, and Double Vision; then go to town on her remaining novels. For Tyler, start anywhere and keep going.

Happy Summer, regardless of where you are.

A Message from Whitworth Alum Rachel Means (2014)

While the phrase “an education of mind and heart” is sometimes a little overused at Whitworth, I love the mission behind it. Whitworth’s interest in touching both the mind and heart of the students made a huge difference to me when I was a student here. The teachers care about the students and helped me grow both as a student and as a person. Now I want to take what I learned at Whitworth and pass it on. I will be serving as a missionary for the next two years, teaching music at a Christian international boarding school in Germany: Black Forest Academy (BFA). BFA has a similar style and many of the same goals as Whitworth, but it is a middle school and high school rather than a university and it is intended for missionary children. Missionaries often have to send their children to boarding schools because it isn’t safe in the mission field or there aren’t adequate education opportunities, but this leads to the children often feeling neglected or abandoned, and they turn away from God. BFA strives to help these students build relationships with God and gain a solid education. I will be teaching violin, orchestra, and general music, so I will have the opportunity to work with the students one on one as well as in larger groups.

Because the teachers at BFA are acting as missionaries to these students, and because BFA wants to serve the missionary parents of the students by keeping tuition low, the teachers are required to raise their own support. I am hoping to leave for Germany in August, but I need to raise my entire monthly support first.

Please consider supporting me, and if you would like to know more, you can contact me at rmeans14@my.whitworth.edu, or at (360) 672-4033.

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

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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.

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