Eight students and three professors spent a good portion of their spring break in Portland for AWP, representing Whitworth’s in-house literary journal, Rock & Sling. AWP is the Association of Writers and writing Programs, and it puts on a humongous literary conference each year. The conference holds hundreds of panels, featuring thousands of writers and editors, contains a book fair with over eight hundred lit mags and presses, and is attended by over 12,000 people.
For an introverted, first-time attendee like myself with no real grasp for what the conference would be like, it was a little overwhelming to say the least.
However, it was overwhelming in a good way. I was surrounded by books, lit mags, fellow writers, coffee, more books and lit mags, and as many presses and journals to talk to as I could ever want. I spent most of my free time wandering around the book fair being handed free lit mags (I know—What?) and collecting buttons (check out my new lit mag button collection on my backpack).
One of the coolest things to experience was meeting many of the writers we’ve published in the pages of Rock & Sling. Recognizing that I had read these poems and prose pieces through the entire length of the editing process, from slush-pile reading to copyediting, and that now I was meeting the people behind these amazing words was fascinating. Also, simply watching the surprised reactions as people walked past the Rock & Slingbooth, its glorious bedsheet art of Jesus Christ fighting a bear on full display, was hilarious and life-giving.
The most amazing panel I attended was a reading by Marilyn Chin, Carmen Giménez Smith, and Maxine Hong Kingston. These three amazing women writers shared the stage and their poems. Maxine Hong Kingston was so excited to announce she is a new grandmother, which made her so happy as well as the crowd. It’s a very unique experience to read someone’s words in a classroom and then to actually hear them read those words in person.
Honestly, it was amazing to be surrounded by so many people all speaking the same language, one of writing, submitting, editing, and publishing.
Despite all of this, my AWP 2019 experience will forever be defined by something completely separate that occurred on the way back. It’s summed up by the title of a collab poem Meghan Foulk, Emily Hanson, and I created during a few extra hours we had: “To the tire that left us.” One of our tires had unexpectedly come off the car an hour and a half away from Spokane. Although we spent some extra time on the side of the highway, every Whitworthian who made the journey to AWP got home safely with a few more stories to tell than we had when we left.
Dr. Casey Andrews is kicking off this year’s summer reading recommendations! Scroll below to hear from Casey about some beach-worthy books!
“I’m ready for the beach! (Despite my sweater…)” Casey Andrews
Some of my summer work/fun reading is related to something I’m writing about British modernist novelists engaging with the problematic combination of Christianity and nationalism. My focus right now is on Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, and Sylvia Townsend Warner.My specific recommendations for your summer reading, though, are novels by Waugh and Warner.
Waugh’sDecline and Fall (1928) is an outrageous picaresque featuring the hapless Paul Pennyfeather unfairly expelled from university and drifting through a terrible teaching assignment at a boys’ school in Wales, then to prison, then back to university. It’s a must-read for all snarky undergrads.
The loose sequel Vile Bodies (1930)takes a similar, hilariously cynical approach to the Bright Young People of London’s wealthy party scene from the 1920s. This novel will make you want to shake cocktails, adopt new slang, and feel bad about yourself in the morning.
Far more earnest and romantic is Waugh’sBrideshead Revisited(1945), a nostalgic look at waning upper-class life drenched in Catholic mysticism.
I also heartily recommend the shamefully under-read Sylvia Townsend Warner, especially her first novel Lolly Willowes; Or, The Loving Hunstman (1926). It starts as an English comedy of manners set in a small village and morphs into a satanic romp through a secret coven of witches. Fun, funny, and completely unpredictable.
Hello English folk! Do you ever wonder what your professors are up outside of the classroom? One answer could be, they’re writing cool things! Dr. Emerson’s engaging and thought provoking piece, “A Terraqueous Counter-Narrative in US History,” is a great example of the many fine pieces of scholarly work that Whitworth’s English professors are producing. Please enjoy Dr. Emerson’s review, below!
In this piece, Emerson reviews Michele Currie’s Navakas’s Liquid Landscape: Geography and Settlement at the Edge of Early America (Penn, 2018). In this meticulously curated monograph ranging from the colonial era through the early 20th century, Navakas demonstrates that Florida has always — and importantly — compromised master narratives of US nationalism. Demonstrating the centrality of Florida in shaking up conventional conceptions and rhetorics that have undergirded property ownership, national expansion, and domestic practices ever since the Enlightenment, Navakas foregrounds a distinctive Florida environment — its marshes, hammocks, reefs, and shoals — as one of the strongest checks on national incorporation and its imperial ambitions. As critics continue to challenge the organizing myths of the US nation and the “roots and routes” of its literary history, Navakas adds an important and impressive new study to the conversation.
Are you interested in film? Do you like movies? Indulge in wonderful films and festivities by attending Whitworth University’s 10th annual Leonard A. Oakland Film Festival!
Join the English Department and Whitworth community during the weekend of March 2-4, in supporting filmmakers, alumni, and current Whitworth students. Some festival favorites will include: an Award-winning Foreign Language Film, “an American comedy-drama listed in the National Film Registry, a documentary created by a Whitworth graduate,” and current student-made film screenings. We’ll see you there!
Friday, March 2: 7pm in the Robinson Teaching Theatre, a showing of The Salesman (2016).
Saturday, March 3: 7pm in the Robinson Teaching Theatre, a showing of Detroit Under S.T.R.E.S.S. (2017).
Sunday, March 4: 3pm in the Robinson Teaching Theatre, a showing of Do the Right Thing (1989).
Do you need a study break? Are you looking for fresh new music? Whitworth’s very own English department has what you need to make it through the semester. In the midst of this finals season, explore a great new playlist inspired and compiled by Dr. Fred Johnson!
Dr. Nixon in the church where two characters from Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure get married.
Dr. Nixon in her ancestral homestead town of Stanghelle in Norway.
Out of all the possible music genres one would anticipate Whitworth’s Victorianist Dr. Kari Nixon to enjoy, least expected is rap. However, her stunning interests in academia align with this same concept: mixing (as one would in a rap album) old ideas and aesthetics with what humanity has learned in the 21st century.
Nixon connected her interests in music with her passions regarding the Victorian Era and research in medical humanities. I asked why she pursued both English and medical studies and she replied, “Well, the Victorian era kind of lends itself to that… Those very basic foundations of science were all developed in the Victorian era.”
When she was an undergraduate student, Dr. Nixon tended to have an idealistic view of how sciences and statistics can affect the world. She passionately believed that, somewhere out there, there was a formula that could “solve the world.” While in graduate school, she learned about how fallible statistics and math could be; how the tools humanity uses are only as good as the humans who use them. It was at this point in her life that Nixon found a personal connection to those in the Victorian era. The 19th century scientists discovered some of the most foundational aspects of how the medical world functions. They discovered the law of entropy, the theory of evolution, the infinite expansion of the universe and germ theory. Nixon notes how anxiety-provoking these discoveries and ideas were in the time they were made. “The world is full of a lot of flawed and fallible systems… but we really want that ‘meaning framework’… I was seeing them go through the same kind of struggle that I did and that got me thinking about what some of the lesser-known discoveries were.”
Branching off of interests in English and medical humanities, Dr. Nixon shared of her passion for research. She states, “Research, for me, feels like my creative art. And I feel most in my creative prime just when I’m researching and buried in an archive.” One of her works on research is the book Endemic: Essays in Contagion Theory where she and Lorenzo Servitje explore the idea that knowledge of germs’ ability to spread can impact foreign aid and stigmas revolving around illnesses. Her interest in this research was largely driven by how monumental contagion theory was in the Victorian era.
Her passion for Victorian ideas and how they interact with modern times extends to her workspace. Her office shelves are full of old books that she has collected over the years while on her wall she posts some of her research about pregnancy tests and social media. On her door, she has magnets in Norwegian (a language she teaches at the high school level) beside a vintage poster warning about a household under quarantine. “I love the contradiction of like really old Victorian aesthetics and like techno-culture look… Because for me, the Victorians are both like kind of beautiful and stately, and kind of creepy.”
Dr. Nixon is excited to help students open their minds to the breadth of literature in her classes such as Victorian Literature and Modern Global literature. The idea that texts are far more than dusty old books is exciting to her. As a professor, Dr. Nixon appreciates both that research makes her courses more interesting, and that her students can help to open her mind to new ideas in literary studies. At the same time, Nixon is indeed a Victorianist and loves sharing those same dusty old books with students. To study a specialized field such as this means you must learn the language of that field. Nixon describes this technical jargon as “codes”
These codes and secrets are part of what attracts her to rap music. Nixon enjoys listening to music that involves what is called “sampling” (the technique of using a track from another song) and a large amount of allusion to other songs. Those techniques and references create an environment where “unless you know the other music you can’t really understand what’s going on in a given song.” This same concept is what drove Dr. Nixon into researching pregnancy tests and teaching students about the intricacies of Victorian literature.
While many tend to avoid the strange, creepy, and unknown, Dr. Kari Nixon is drawn to it. She is glad to join the Whitworth community here and to experience that passion that those in the English department share.
Early in September, Whitworth English Professor Dr. Casey Andrews made a visit to the Waterville Library in Wenatchee Washington to give his presentation called “Great Writers and the Great War: Literature as Peace Activism” which mirrors his latest book, Writing Against War.
Casey’s lecture and insights on peace movements within literature between World War I and II greatly impacted this quaint library community. Click on the link to a piece written by the Empire Press for more information and a sweet look into the influence that English professors are having on eager leaners and communities beyond Whitworth.
Pat Thomsen speaks with Humanities Washington presenter Charles Andrews following Andrews’ Sept. 6 presentation at Waterville Library. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)”