Annie Stillar: Superwoman

By: Olivia Shaffer

For a little over a year now, I have had the privilege of working for Annie Stillar at the English Department front desk. She has become a mentor and a friend, and her commitment to our department is ceaseless. (I am often reminded that I am not Annie by faculty in the department, as they frantically look for her to solve their crises while I’m working and she takes lunch).

Ask anybody in the English Department about Annie Stillar and you will hear words like “ebullient” and “magical” to describe her. Annie is the Academic Program Assistant for our, as she puts it, lively department. Aside from assuring that the building does not burn down, she relieves all of the administrative tasks from the faculty in the department so they are less overwhelmed. In all honesty, the title of Academic Program Assistant is much too narrow to describe everything Annie does for our cozy little department. Assisting the English Department, the Honors Program, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as working as managing editor for Rock & Sling is incredible. And she does it all with a smile on her face and a witty attitude that keeps the department alive.

Annie works toward creating communicative and trusting relationships among the students and staff to ensure she can best support and assist us academically and, maybe more so, emotionally. Professors and students alike would agree that Annie is often the rock in our department, keeping us from going completely insane. As she says, “it’s for the greater good that [she] be intuitive, attentive and not burn out” – which makes her job equally rewarding and challenging, having to be our collective backbone even when she may not have it all together all the time.

Outside of work – because yes, she does enjoy doing things that do not involve alleviating us of our own demands – she feels she’s her best self when she does what scares her the most. She spends her time outside: hiking, being adventurous, and jumping from really high places and living to tell about it. Only once did an experience like this completely terrify her: when she scaled a 400-foot mountain without a harness, but made it to the top without turning around or calling in the helicopters (pictured below). In addition to an insanely adventurous life, she’s made an unofficial career out of singing – and is good enough to make her own album, in my opinion.

Annie Stillar

I asked Annie to outline details of her work, and got an answer with an overwhelming list, which I’ll add here because there’s no other way to fully understand her dedication to us:

“On a wider scale, my job entails pulling off an academic year’s worth of events like endowed readings, socials, graduation fun, retreats and informational meetups (and where applicable, playing travel agent to guests, getting them paid, keeping them fed and hydrated and feeling like Whitworth is a delightful place to be), fostering a healthy and communicative relationship with the Business Office, becoming BFF’s with the department chairs and directors housed here (current count: 4), assisting in the execution of course schedules, contracts and office space (or as I like to call it—musical chairs), the acquisition of class/department resources from far and wide, the management and oversight of six program budgets, and the general endearing of myself to all persons regardless of how much they can do for me and how quickly. I’m an equal opportunity provider of fun and snark alike, if anyone asks”.

She is our own personal superwoman. She has worked here for 6 years, and I’m not sure how the department got through every day without her before. She is witty, and joyful, and full of an energetic spirit that executes the ideal of mind and heart. And she (almost) always has chocolate. No matter what happens, no matter what crisis we are in, she’ll tell you that the show must go on. And because of her, it does. Annie Stillar, we thank you.


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.

Whitworth English Prof. Expanding the Discourse on China Missions History

By: Kristin Bertsch

Coming in November of 2015, Whitworth will host the much anticipated “China’s Christianity: an Exhibit and Symposium on China’s Struggle for Christian Identity.” This exhibit and symposium responds to the historical growth of Christianity, the world’s largest religion, in China, the world’s most populated country. The exhibit will display rare documents and objects related to the missionary period of Christian evangelization in China, and the symposium will bring prominent scholars to Whitworth to confront the issue of China’s Christian reality, past and present.

The exhibit highlights the relationship between object artifacts and written letters in constructing a historical narrative. Among scholars contributing to the exhibit is the Whitworth English Department’s own Dr. Pam Corpron Parker, whose collection of artifacts from her own family’s missionary history inspire reexamination of the China missions “canon.”

Corpron Family [424229]

Corpron Family, ca 1930s, Hofei China

Institutional newsletters, correspondences, and reports of official missionary activity constitute what has been the established literary canon informing the historical narratives of 20th century China missions. To better understand the reality of the missions experience in China, the conversation is opening up to include an often overshadowed social history, which was recorded in the “unofficial” literature coming out of China in the 20th century. This unofficial literature consists of the letters, photos, and other intimate communications between the missionaries stationed in China and the people they left behind. For those who made the journey to the Middle Kingdom, “writing home” was more than a method of connecting with loved ones; writing home was also a way of creating a new sense of “home” in a foreign environment and an identity as a servant of God.

In her own scholarly work with the collection, Dr. Parker wants to reintroduce those voices largely lost from the missionary literature canon:

“This unofficial literature represents centuries of unrecognized stories of private loss and pragmatism. There is a history here of sacrifices compounded by silences in the traditional Evangelical narrative. These stories of grief for the “accidental missionaries”—those children and innocents overtaken by disease, violence, and general hardship—raise important questions about our narratives of acceptable and unacceptable loss and sacrifice in the missionary tradition…”

Dr. Parker’s grandparents, Douglas and Grace Corpron of Yakima, Washington, sailed for China in 1924, where Douglas began work as a medical missionary and established the first Christian hospital in Hofei. The Corprons’ presence in Hofei was well-received, as they provided much-needed medical care and public services to the soldiers and families of an increasingly war-torn territory. Serving in China during the escalating Sino-Japanese conflict was a test of both spirit and constitution for the Corprons, who chose to remain with the Christian mission until the late 1940s despite having to endure a series of private tragedies while in service. The unofficial literature of the Corpron family mission in China details the homesickness, the disease, the fixed threat of violence, and the unrelenting specter of death that took from them their two small children, Phyllis Anne and “Billie” Corpron, in 1927. With the generation of a “second family”—children Douglas, Ruth, and Mary—the Corprons experienced China as a place of both destruction and recreation.

To view Dr. Parker’s contributions and the full collection of artifacts from the China Mission, come visit the exhibition on 1st floor of the Harriet Cheney Cowles Library.

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.

2015 Faculty Summer Reading Lists

Have you recovered from finals yet? Need some new reading material? Here are a few suggestions from our lovely English department faculty. Happy reading!



Laura Bloxham: I’m not just recommending these two books.  I’m telling you these books are stunning.  Your life will be better for having read them.  Both books are by authors currently living in the northwest, Anthony Doerr in Boise and Daniel James Brown just outside Seattle.

4A93A6BE-8DFD-4C84-983C-BBAD3A1A379DDoerr’s book, All the Light We Cannot See, recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is set primarily in occupied France during World War II.  But this book is not a book about war.  It is a book about resiliency.  Two inordinately strong children tell their stories, Marie-Laure, a blind French girl living in Paris, and Werner, an orphan in Germany who earns his way into the Hitler Youth.  There is a third narrator who enters the story later and gives urgency to the plot, as well as presenting a mystery of sorts. The highlight of the book is the people we love and the details of their lives.  All that is presented in short narratives and gorgeous prose.  The novel grows from pieces into one story.
D1DBAD68-DB46-4657-B1FA-052E571B4018Daniel Brown’s The Boys in the Boat is non-fiction, narrative history.  It is similar to
Doerr’s novel in that it is a person’s story primarily, one of the boys in the boat at the University of Washington who wins a spot rowing at Hitler’s 1936 Olympics.  The central figure lives in Spokane and in Sequim, before moving to Seattle.  It is his early life, his struggles with abandonment and poverty, that makes him our cherished center of the story.  All of the boys in the boat have circumstances that provide back stories and qualities necessary for great collective achievement.
But you just have to trust me.  These books belong on the top of your reading list this summer.



poetry_rankine_citizen_fThom Caraway:Citizen: an American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf, 2014). This book won the 2014 National Book Critic’s Circle awards for both poetry and criticism. One book has never been nominated in both categories, much less won, so I am very interested in reading it. In a long series of prose poems, cultural critiques, and artworks, the book explores issues of racial identity in America.

30ywarMy Thirty-Year’s War, by Margaret Anderson (Knopf, 1930). Anderson was the founder and editor of The Little Review, one of the most influential and important little magazines of the Modernist period. Anderson published, in serial format, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and was tried for obscenity as a result. The magazine was always on the brink of financial collapse, but she published everyone we still consider important (including Mina Loy, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and many others). With Harriet Monroe, Anderson is one of the most important poetry editors of the 20th century. This is her autobiography.41MBJ0BJq+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The Blue Buick: New and Selected Poems, by B.H. Fairchild (Norton, 2014). I’ll read anything written by Fairchild. He’s one of the best living American poets, and will be visiting Whitworth in the fall of 2015.

Well, that’s a start!




Amowi Phillips: 

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson




Casey Andrews: I’ve been spending a year reading about peace and war, which I realize is not everyone’s ideal for the beach, but here are a few suggestions regardless.

Parade's EndFord Madox Ford’s Parade’s End tetralogy. One of the great modernist monster-pieces, but with an engaging plot and characters to pull you through the dense, impressionistic passages.

And, if you don’t feel like hundreds of pages worth of Ford’s prose, there is the excellent mini-series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard. According to Stoppard, this film—more than any he has worked on—feels like one of his own original plays.


Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness. A young girl named Barbary returns to London in 1946 after serving the French Resistance. She wanders the rubble, living in the bombsites and trying to make sense of a war that was supposed to bring peace but instead leaves devastation. Macaulay was a supremely popular comic novelist, but this is my pick for her finest work of serious fiction.

the-love-charm-of-bombsLara Feigel, The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War. This “group biography” traces in marvelous detail and great storytelling a set of five writers as they experienced the London Blitz and its aftermath—among them Rose Macaulay, Graham Greene, and Rebecca West.

1303921Helen Zenna Smith, Not So Quiet… The romance novelist Evadne Price got a contract to capitalize on the success of Erich Maria Remarque’s antiwar novel All Quiet on the Western Front. Writing as Helen Smith and basing her novel on true stories, she chose to write a book even more brutal than Remarque’s about the realities of war from the perspective of volunteer ambulance drivers and nurses. There are plot twists and turns and enough hard-edged, tough talking female characters to make Orange is the New Black jealous.



downloadDoug Sugano:

The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa.




41FD2KGPX9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Laurie Lamon:

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (Just won the Pulitzer….it’s gorgeous!), and  The Collected Poems of Czeslaw Milosz !


Vic Bobb: Reading in the Summer.  It’s the thing we’re born for.  Reading is what Summer is for.  Summer is the definition of Readingin the Unfallen State.  This is a delicious subject.  (Especially if you eat bacon while you’re Reading in the Summer.)

BB0493_3I’m going to open the summer with the bizarre magnificence of Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy.  The Hamlet.  The Town.  The Mansion.  This triplet work (published in 1940, 1957, 1959) has some slack moments, but is immense and wonderful (and very funny) and faulknerian…and its capacity to immerse the reader in the character of Mink is astonishing and implausible (and, to some writer / readers, awe-inspiring).  I commend my beginning-of-summer choice to your attention.

111201However, if you’ve never managed to click with Faulkner, you can skip the Snopeses and go directly to some contemporary English writers: sample one each from Penelope Lively [The Photograph, or City of the Mind, or Moon Tiger…virtually any Lively novel, in fact, except Heat Wave, which I insist is a forgery, with a lame ending that could not have come from so wonderful a writer as P. Lively]; and Pat Barker [Double Vision, Ghost Road, or Union Street]; and Graham Swift [Last Orders or The Sweet-Shop Owner]; and Penelope Fitzgerald [The Book Shop or Offshore]; and John Berger [To the Wedding]; and Joanne Harris [Five Quarters of the Orange]; and Julian Barnes [Metroland or Staring at the Sun]; and Ian McEwan [assuming you’ve already read Atonement and Saturday, try On Chesil Beach or Amsterdam]; and Anita Brookner [Hotel du Lac or A Friend From England]; and Nick Hornby [How to Be Good, A Long Way Down; or the stunning creative nonfiction / memoir Fever Pitch {don’t worry: you Shakespeare_Wrote_for_Money_loresdon’t have to know or care a thing about soccer for this book’s writing to blow you away}; or the offbeat goofiness of The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs the Dirt, Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and More Baths Less Talking]; and Barbara Pym [An Unsuitable Attachment]; and Kazuo Ishiguro [The Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go]; and PD James [The Black Tower, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, or The Children of Men]; and Martin Amis [Koba the Dread, or Night Train; plus any of his books of essays].  Yes, there are some good and celebrated writers missing from that list, but by now you’ve gotten to July, and it’s time to widen your scope, and take in some literature in translation.

But that’s a list for another time….

Casey Andrews expands the definition of film noir

Inherent_Vice_film_posterCharles Andrews (known as Casey) teaches courses in modern British, Irish, and postcolonial literatures as well as film studies. He is a regular contributor to The Cresset, writing film reviews. His upcoming Fall 2015 film course is EL 204: Film Noir and Hardboiled Lit, and this most recent article on Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice draws on several of the course themes and readings. Dr. Andrews’ in depth study of this genre can be seen in his recent review “Purple Haze: Paul Thomas Anderson Takes On Inherent Vice” published by The Cresset.

You can read the review here.

This Whitworth Life 2014 Podcast Is Now Available

This Whitworth Life 2014

If you missed our This Whitworth Life reading last fall and you’ve been plagued with regret ever since, now your prayers have been answered. If you attended last November’s storytelling extravaganza and have wanted to relive the magic, those prayers have been answered, too.

A podcast of the event is now available here.

The event was a project of EL 347: Creative Nonfiction Workshop. Eight members of our campus community wrote and read stories about significant moments in their lives.
Topics include but are not limited to: jigsaw puzzles, introversion, campus tours, grits, comical-only-in-hindsight interactions with law enforcement, martyrs, PTSD, forgiveness.
Enjoy these stories by our 2014 cast: Katie Ferris (’15), Amanda Clark, Alan Jacob, Tim Grayson, Henry Stelter (’16), Amy Hendricks (’09), Laura Bloxham, and Helen Higgs.
Thanks also to our faculty panelists, Fred Johnson and Karin Heller, to Annie Stillar, and to the Fall 2014 students of EL 347.



Casey Andrews’ adventures in sabbatical scholarship

The Provost’s Faculty Scholarship Award is given to a senior faculty member in order to recognize and encourage scholarly activity. I am pleased to announce that Casey Andrews is the recipient of this year’s award.  Casey will use the award to complete the book manuscript he began working on during his sabbatical this year.  His book analyzes literary figures who were active in the 1930s peace movement, including Aldous Huxley and Virginia Woolf:

My book in progress is called Writing Against War: Literature, Activism, and the British Peace Movement. In the project I analyze five British writers whose fiction contributed to their peace activism in the 1930s. The central writers are Aldous Huxley, Storm Jameson, Siegfried Sassoon, Rose Macaulay, and Virginia Woolf—all of whom had links to the largest pacifist organization the Peace Pledge Union. As part of my research, I have gone to archives in London (the British Library and the archives of the Peace Pledge Union), Hamilton, ON (the William Ready Research Division at Macmaster University), and Swarthmore, PA (the Swarthmore College Peace Collection). The book draws on the resources of peace studies and literary criticism to provide a fresh understanding of politically committed fiction during a moment of deep crisis in Europe. I am currently in conversation with a press about publication, but nothing will be definite about that for some time. I’ll be sure to tell all if/when a contract becomes official. The Provost’s Award for Scholarship is a great honor and will help me complete the project not just through its financial assistance but also because it is a  very encouraging sign from the university regarding my sabbatical work.

Batman-Bono-Colbert: Serious Scholarship About Popular Culture

What style of printing makes those little dots on classic comic books? How is U2 still a band? What exactly is the appeal of Stephen Colbert? Colbert

If you’ve ever thought about these questions, then we’ve got an event for you. Professors Fred Johnson and John Pell will be discussing their scholarship on pop culture during a forum next Tuesday (Oct. 14) at the Lied Center for the Visual Arts (Room 102). The event is free, meaning that you can bring as many people as you want. Also, it starts at seven. 

For more information, email Annie Stillar (

Dr. Laura Bloxham’s Tales of Summer 2014 Reading

Those of you who know me know that I recommend reading a fair amount of beach trash during the summer.  I’ve been doing that, mostly in the mystery category.

blue castle

This summer I’ve also read two books worthy of writing about.  Both have kick-ass female characters.  The first is by L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books.  I didn’t read these books until I was an adult.  This summer I ran across a reference to some of her other books, the Emily series.  And then a friend recommended The Blue Castle, supposedly the only Montgomery book written for an adult audience.  The main character is a woman a bit like Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  She is past her prime for the marriage market.  She has family members who dominate and take advantage of her.  She is useful in a mousy sort of way.  There’s a huge turn of events that lead to a spunky character who takes charge of her own life.  The ending is less than satisfying, but all in all, a good summer read.


The second book, Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wondersis set in 17th century England during a plague year.  While the plague itself is horrifying, the fascinating parts of the book are the religious struggles of the community and the emergence of two female characters.  The religious struggles made me note the book of Job in the margins quite often.  The two women remind me of the Bechdel test for feminist movies, which has two women characters who talk about something other than a man. These two women talk about herbs, healing, their friendship, and even work a lead mine, which belongs to a young orphan girl.  That scene alone is about as kick-ass as it gets.  If you read this one, you’ll also want to read Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing, set in 17th century New England, and also featuring a kick-ass woman.

Laura Bloxham was born in Seattle and raised in the Seattle Public Library.  She loves baseball and reading mysteries.  She will be teaching Holocaust Literature this fall.

EL Faculty Summer Reading Picks, Part II


As summer inches closer, here are Professor Vic Bobb’s  and Professor LuElla D’Amico’s summer reading recommendations. Enjoy!

Professor Vic Bobb: Lazy Days…and Energetic Page Turning

So what are you going to read this summer?  There are a lot of books out there.  Not all of them feature characters with skin that sparkles in the sunlight.  In fact, most of them don’t.  And all of the best and most worthy among them…um…don’t.

Reading during the summer being a sacramental act, I’m suggesting books in accord with the sacrament of marriage.  What to read?  Here are Vic’s suggestions for the Marriage of True Minds:

Something Old:  I know, I know; some of you think that “Old” would refer to some character’s third year at Hogwarts.  I’m thinking of an older old.  Howsabout Tristram Shandy, published in chunks during the 1760s and, as far as I know, taught not even once at Whitworth in the past 28 years.  A person who wanted to proclaim Tristram Shandy the funniest book ever published was in a defensible position for more than a century and a half…but with the publication of Right-ho, Jeeves, in 1934, the question of the most truly pantswettingly funny book of all time was abruptly and finally settled, and partisans of the Reverend Mister Laurence Sterne were pleased to acknowledge that, because of P.G. Wodehouse, their idol was forever to be known as the second funniest writer in the history of the English language.  (Peace, Terry Pratchett fans…)

Your alternative (or additional) “something old” for this or any other summer: something by Dickens that you haven’t read recently.  And if you don’t have any Dickens in your past, go ahead and dive right in to Bleak House, simply one of the greatest novels ever written.  Read some Dickens; you’ll be glad you did.

Something New: How new is “new”?  Howsabout “this century”?  Penelope Lively’s The Photograph (2003) is a very fine (and sad) novel (and if it’s your introduction to Lively, next you can read all her novels except Heat Wave, which is thoroughly unworthy of her enormous talents); Ian McEwan started the century [2001-2007] with a pretty swell triad (Atonement, Saturday, On Chesil Beach); Pat Barker’s Another World is cheating because it’s 1998, but she’s worth reading in whatever century; Never Let Me Go continues the excellence that Kazuo Ishiguro began back in the 20th; and from this side of the Atlantic—not for the fainthearted—is Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, about which I said in my reading journal, “Wow.  For action-suspense, McCarthy can make Mickey Spillane look like Jane Austen, and The Terminator look like a Teletubbies episode.  And Bell’s reflections on the state of our culture…gulp.”  Be warned.

Something Borrowed:  (These books needed an intermediary, someone to borrow the original language and transform it into eloquent English.)

Michel Quint, In Our Strange Gardens  (France, French, translated by Barbara Bray)

Cristina Peri Rossi, The Museum of Useless Efforts  (Uruguay / Spain, Spanish, translated by Tobias Hecht)

Slavenka Drakulić, The Balkan Express (Croatia, language-is-part-of-the-question, translated by Maja Soljan)

Victor Pelevin, The Yellow Arrow  (Russia, Russian, translated by Andrew Bromfield)

Pär Lagerkvist, Barabbas  (Sweden, Swedish, translated by Alan Blair)

Something Blue  Not blue as in the sitcom star’s stand-up routine that you’re really sorry you took your grandmother to for her birthday; not blue as in blue states, blue laws, blue-sky regulations, or blueberry pie, but blue as in These Are The Books Vic Listed Under “Blue” in order to round out the rather pointless and clunky theme of this list….

Florence King, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady  (Actually, this one is pretty blue as to language; herewith a Serious Vulgarity Alert.  But a very funny, and touching, memoir.)

Fanny Flagg, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man  A sheerly delightful book.

Ron Hansen, Atticus  The final sentence.  Now you have to read the whole book again.

Bob Dylan, Chronicles (Volume One)  Only for people who are already favorably inclined toward Bob Dylan.  For those folks…a) you’ve never read anything like this in your life; b) maybe this is something like what it’s like to be inside Bob Dylan’s head; c) you won’t put it down, and you’ll wish it were twice as long as it is.

Philip Larkin, Selected Letters 1941-1985.  Hilarious, heartbreaking, insightful, utterly fascinating.  The correspondence with Kingsley Amis is, itself, worth whatever the book costs.  In fact, once you’re a quarter of the way into this collection, get to send you the immense volume of Amis’s correspondence: that book is also an enormous pleasure to read.

Don’t forget sunblock.

I now pronounce you Reader and Book.

Professor LuElla D’Amico: First, of course I have to suggest one of my favorite nineteenth-century women writers, E.D.E.N. Southworth.  If you haven’t read the “gothic comedy,” The Hidden Hand, you should–and do so as soon as possible.  Bandits, thieves, madwomen, and lots of cross-dressing…what could be more fun?  And if you find you like Southworth, you should also check out Love’s Labour Lost, the book by her that I most recently read.  In fact, Love’s Labour Won, the sequel, is already on my personal summer reading list.  Warning:  Southworth like most nineteenth-century authors specializes in long, long books, but they’re quick and juicy reads, perfect for rainy Spokane summer days especially.

In terms of newer fiction, which I suppose you must delve into every once in a while, I suggest Paulo Coehlo’s Veronika Decides to Die.  It’s one of those books that made me remember why I love what I love (and perhaps will remind you why you love what you love as well).  Quite simply, Coehlo helps readers appreciate what I like to think of as the ever present, but often obscured, music of life.  And speaking of the music of life and remembering how to enjoy summer days fully, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being is another perfect summer reading pick.  This book is especially good if you’re planning on traveling and need a good read for the plane or long car ride.  I promise it’ll make your trip all the better.  Happy break!

Image from here.