Welcoming Dr. D.B Emerson to Whitworth

By: Emily Hanson

This past fall, Whitworth welcomed Dr. Bert Emerson to the English Department. For those of you who were fortunate enough to take a class from him — either his Survey of American Literature Before 1865, British Women’s Writers, Novels of the Upper 19th Century , or Hamilton — you know him as an enthusiastic professor with a grudge against the dark and the cold. For those of you who haven’t gotten the chance to interact with him yet, I was able to ask Bert ten questions so that you might get to know him as well.

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Where have you taught before Whitworth?

I have taught at Pomona College and at Cal Poly Pomona.

 What about Whitworth made you want to come teach here?

I was drawn to Whitworth because it is a liberal arts college,that has the small school experience. The community was a big part of it as well. I was really interested in the faith and learning aspect of Whitworth because it was different from the other schools that I have taught at.

What exactly do you specialize in?

19th century American Literature and Political Culture.

What has been your favorite class to teach at Whitworth?

They have all been wonderful. The Survey was a challenge because it covered such a vast time period. The Novels of the Upper 19th Century was amazing because of the depth and trajectory with which we explored the novels with. With British Women Writers, I was able to explore and read books that I haven’t in a long time while thinking about how much the culture of Britain and America were intertwined and affecting each other. With Hamilton, I was able to immerse myself in Jan Term and think about the founding of America and explore the literature there.

What work of literature has influenced you the most?

That’s a really broad question, I don’t know how to answer that, there are so many different possibilities and different literatures that affect the present day — but it has to be provocative and innovative; like a cliché destroying and imaginative work.

Being from Alabama and California, what about Spokane is different, aside from the weather?

The weather is a big part of it, but it is interesting to see that there are good people in different places, along with different attitudes. The local culture is also something that is always different from place to place and something that I want to explore. I want to experience the world, and I believe in the inherent goodness of people and it is amazing to see the different manifestations of that.

What are you looking forward to most at Whitworth? What are your goals?

I’m excited to craft my way of teaching as well as working with the student’s getting to know them, as well as the community. Getting to know Spokane — when it’s warm and in the light. Writing as well, I get to finish my book. My goals are to get to know and work with every student, help them learn culture and knowledge and writing skills. I hope to make sure that everybody improves.

What research are you working on right now?

I am writing an introduction to a book on democracy in America which is also connected to my book project about democratic thinking before the Civil War.

What book do you seem to come back to?

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Fun fact?

No fun facts, I’m a pretty boring person.

As I quickly learned after getting the initial answer to question #10, that it was a lie, he just told me not to write about it in the article. But, as I hope you are all interested in getting to know Bert better, as he is a delightful person and is great at having thoughtful and deep conversations, I hope that you swing by his office, get to know him better, and ask about that fun fact — I promise that it will be worth it.

Dr. Emerson has also recently published an article for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Check it out here.

Emily Hanson is one of our freshman writers and is a lively addition to the team.

 

Alumni Profile: Jennifer Rudsit (’16)

By: Emily Church

While I enjoy talking with anyone that has graduated from Whitworth, as a graduating senior I find it relieving to hear from those who have just graduated within the past year and learn about the exciting opportunities that they have come across and get a peek into what the near future will be like.  Alumna Jennifer Rudsit offers a refreshing look into the year following graduation. She almost makes me forget my anxieties about the approaching future. Almost.

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What have you been up to since graduation?

Since graduation there have been many transitions. I’ve become quite skilled at packing and unpacking a suitcase, so if I succeed at nothing else in life, there’s always that. After I graduated this past May I had the opportunity to attend the University of Denver Publishing Institute, where I received a Certificate of Publishing. The institute was basically a four week crash course on the publishing industry, complete with editing and marketing workshops, resume and interview coaching, lectures and networking opportunities with publishing professionals, free books, and a bunch of introverted book nerds attempting to network. After that I headed home to Gig Harbor, Washington, and enjoyed some free rent (thanks parents), and after a couple stressful months of applying for jobs and shedding many a tear, I started a seasonal retail job. During my four months of retail I also picked up a couple of side jobs doing some social media/author assistant work for a local Gig Harbor writer and helping out as the Assistant Web Editor for Rock & Sling.

My most recent and exciting transition, however, happened this past week when I started an internship with Copper Canyon Press in Port Townsend, Washington. Copper Canyon is a non-profit poetry press that publishes emerging and established poets from around the world. I don’t entirely know what interning at Copper Canyon is going to look like since, you know, it’s only been a week, but based on intern life so far we will be reading manuscripts, completing projects for the staff, working with a one-on-one staff mentor, and basically just working with incredible people doing incredible things.

  1. How did you get there?

I ended up at the Denver Publishing Institute mainly because wonderful professors and friends supported me and brought opportunities and connections to my attention throughout my senior year. I first heard about publishing certificate programs during an informational interview I did my sophomore year with the Sales and Marketing Manager at Shelf Awareness in Seattle, and things like taking Literary Editing and Design, joining Rock & Sling, and attending AWP helped me know for sure I wanted to apply, and also helped me get into the program. I knew about Copper Canyon Press before going to Denver, but during the publishing institute looked more seriously into internships and entry-level positions at presses in the Seattle area. I applied in November, and here I am!

  1. How has your English degree served you since graduation?

My English degree has served me in so many ways. I mean, it’s only been eight months, but still. Besides helping me grow as a reader, writer, and human being during my time at Whitworth, it has served me in so many practical and specific ways since graduation. The work we did in Senior Portfolio gave me the skills and confidence I needed to write cover letters and apply for jobs both during and after the Denver Publishing Institute. Learning how to write for a specific audience is necessary for writing readers reports for manuscript submissions, press releases for books, and in daily work interactions. The past few days in my internship I’ve been so grateful for all the poetry classes I took as I’ve started to read manuscripts because they taught me how to read quickly and comprehensively as well as how to analyze and discuss poetry. And I already know that working with Rock & Sling – reading submissions, being pushed to form and share opinions on poems – will be helpful to me as I complete my internship. With everything happening in the world, I am grateful to have a degree that has helped me develop my analytical skills, expand my empathy, and given me tools to examine the world from different lenses. Those skills will always serve me well. Plus, all of the snarky and witty conversation that happened in the English department lounge has made me a better conversationalist.

  1. What’s the best/most fun thing that you’ve done since graduation?

Well, I got a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas, so that was pretty exciting. But besides that, I honestly have to say that this first week of my internship has been the most fun, and definitely the best thing that I’ve done since graduation. It feels so good to be working in a community of people who are engaged with the world, people who value literature and the arts and believe that poetry is vital to language and living. I know I’m exactly where I need to be right now. I have no idea what my life will look like after this internship, and I’m sure I’m going to completely freak out about that at some point, but right now that’s okay. The next transition will come.

Emily Church (’17) is an English Writing and Sociology major at Whitworth University from western Washington and dreams of one day traveling the world. She enjoys writing, reading, painting, collecting journals (not writing in them), fall leaves, summer warmth, and adventure.

The British Isles Study Program 2018: Collect Memories

By: Emily Church

One of the most impactful things  one can do during their time at Whitworth is participate in a study abroad trip or program. While I’ve never been outside of the country with a Whitworth group, I still like to consider the three days that I spent up on Mt. Baker for my Adventure and Travel Writing class with Professor John Pell as my abroad experience. There is something about going somewhere new with perhaps an unfamiliar group of people that takes the act of learning and experiencing to a new level.

With the approach of the study abroad fair and the different informational sessions, there is one study abroad trip that should be brought to the forefront of any humanity studies fan’s mind: The 2018 British Isles Study Program (BISP).

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The upcoming BISP trip will expand from February 14th until May 8th and allows students the opportunity to travel through England, Scotland, Wales, and the Republic of Ireland. The first module of the trip is British Isles Art and Craft led by art Professor Katie Creyts.  Students will see historic and contemporary Ireland through a creative lens by visiting unique architecture like abbeys, castles, forts and cathedrals, listening to folktales and songs voiced by the local Irish, and discussing the powerful visual graffiti in Belfast. The second module of the trip is led by Professor Corliss Slack on the Topics in British History. During this section, monuments will be used to tell the story of Scotland by taking tours to Loch Ness, Roslyn Castle, and the Kingdom of Fife. Then it will be off to Caernarvon, Wales were students will stay overlooking the sea and exploring Edward I’s castles. The third module explores Literary England with Thom Caraway who will take students to where William Wordsworth walked and wrote, and met with Percy and Mary Shelley, and Samuel Coleridge. See where J.R.R Tolkien dreamed of the Shire and the mysterious Moors of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. The fourth and final module will be spent with theater professor Aaron Dyszelski to explore Fine Arts Culture in Britain Theatre by attending a performance at the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company, the Globe, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the Royal Opera House, and the National Theater.

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The 2018 BISP trip has a lot to offer, but as those who have been on previous year’s trips have said, sometimes it’s the moments that happen outside of the major touristy spots that continue to resonate months after the trip is over. One of the students from the 2015 trip, Aly Brooks, now a senior English major, shared her reflective podcast, “Collect Memories Not Things.”

Collect Memories Not Things

By: Aly Brooks

I didn’t want to get stuck in the tourist trap mentality of documenting every second forthe sake of having evidence to show others while forgetting to actually enjoy the experience of living it. Life is so rarely about the things I accumulate around me. I think of rich and varied experiences and the people who lived life to the full and enjoyed telling the tale afterward.

No more than a week into the semester, I considered this mantra once more. I was confronted with the option of using my day off in Dublin to go on a day trip or stay in town and take life at a slower pace. I had an hour to decide. I chose the day trip to the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast. To this day, the Cliffs of Moher are one of my absolute favorite places on the entire trip. I spent the best Valentine’s Day of my life with five friends exploring the Irish west coast, listening to folklore, and trying some of the best brown bread my tongue has ever known. I spent 50 euros on a day trip that I will remember for the rest of my life rather than a fancy trinket that will only take up space on a shelf somewhere. It helped me cultivate a habit that gave me more stories and less regret.

Months later, I spent the last two days of Spring Break on the French Riviera in Nice. Spring Break emphasized this lesson I was learning. I didn’t buy a single souvenir while in Paris, and yet Paris holds some of my most cherished memories from the semester. I remember nights making dinner together in the hostel, sharing a bottle of cheap red wine and dancing in the kitchen. I lost myself in the genius of impressionist paintings in the Musee D’Orsay. I read in the March sunshine at the edge of a fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens. In Nice, I swam in the Mediterranean Sea, and all it cost me was the cash to buy a bikini. I have a priceless memory that had nothing to do with the kinds of funds I had at my disposal.

Memories like this typify the wonderful experiences I took away from this trip. Most souvenirs can only point me to those memories and add to the clutter in my life. Living out of a suitcase for three months taught me how many physical objects I am able to go without. It is easiest to travel light and quick instead of letting myself get bogged down with tea cups or books. Instead, my memories only weigh as much as my moleskin journal can hold in between its pages stacked with ticket stubs, postcards, and words. That lightweight notebook was my constant companion, and now, it’s a better souvenir than anything I could have found in a tourist shop. It’s a time capsule of thoughts and feelings about my experiences. The British Isles Semester Program gave me a new perspective on the things I value. Trips are always more about the adventure than they are about the prize at the end.

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Be on the look out for the information sessions and the application for the upcoming BISP trip!

 

Alumni Search: Coffee with Kris

By: Emily Hanson

My Dad used to be a teacher. In the 10 years he was a teacher, he made many friends and connections. Because of this, my Dad was able to put me in contact with Kris Dinnison: Whitworth alumni, local business woman, former teacher, and published author.

Meeting with Kris was an extremely interesting. The conversation took place in one of her downtown businesses, Atticus Coffee and Gifts. Based off of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, it was an environment begging for literary discussion. The discussion began with talking about her schooling, how she herself was an English Major like myself. During her undergrad, she had a dream of getting her pH. D. That dream however, didn’t work out and it constituted a need for modification; she became a teacher.

Ms. Dinnison’s teaching career was focused on English and the Humanities. This started to create a love of writing that carried over into her authorship. Her book, Me and You and Him is a touching,  Young Adult novel in which two friends squabble over the same guy. When asked about the book, she said that getting it published is an amazing experience, and that being able to reach teens that way makes her feel accomplished, and she is working on more stories. I was able to talk to her more about reading, and what inspired her, and what she is currently into. I was pleased — and more than a little surprised to hear — that she reads YA fiction (Young Adult). As a young reader who is interested in studying YA novels for a pH. D., this was a push in the right direction and highly affirming for my own interests.

Being able to share a coffee with Whitworth Alum Kris Dinnison was an experience to remember. Not only is she a Pirate like the rest of us, but she is also a successful writer who followed her dreams, and as a college student who can’t see past finals, it was a much needed interaction; one that has kept me in touch with my own dreams.

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Emily Hanson is one of our new freshman writers and is a lively addition to the team.

 

Professors in Public: Laurie Lamon at Auntie’s Bookstore

By: Emily Church

As hard as it might be to believe, professors do live in a world outside of Whitworth, especially English professors. Many of them publish research and different forms of writing and some go out and do readings for the general public.

A couple of weeks ago, Professor and published poet Laurie Lamon did a poetry reading alongside fiction writer Charley Henley. Although the reading was interrupted by the fire alarm going off, Lamon had the right amount of time to woo the crowd with her presence and poetry. After her reading, I asked if she would answer a few questions for me about her reading. I asked, “How do you decide what you want to read and how do you decide the order in which you will read your chosen poems?”

This was how she responded:

“The November 12 reading at Auntie’s fell right after the presidential election, and clearly it was a week of great, complex, and terrible pain. That is an understatement.  I wasn’t in an emotional place to give a reading, to be honest, that Saturday night. But the truth is that we need poetry more than we need the pain of isolation I myself feel, and know y colleagues and our students are feeling as we try to take in this outcome. Because we couldn’t believe it happened, because we believe in diversity, because we don’t feel the privilege of our white skin as we should, because we need art to make us better than we are, I tried to put together a reading that might offer something of a hand to whoever was hardy enough to show up on a cold Saturday night.

I started with two clearly political poems: “It was Hatred,” which I wrote as the U.S. – Iraq war began, and “The Man in the Guerrilla Suit.” I wanted to directly address issues of prejudice, and inhumanity.

At the center of the reading I placed “Thinking of the End of a Poem,” which I include below. I wrote this after the Easter season a few years ago. It was triggered by an occurrence in my neighborhood as I walked past one of the Hospice Houses in my area. I walk past this house many times a week and always look to see if there is anyone sitting on the patio, or if the “therapy dog” is out. Often the dog is there; I’ve never seen anyone on the patio. The poem ends with the crucifixion, and the darkness Christ endured. I wonder at that darkness. I wonder at the miracle of his humanity and suffering. This poem doesn’t then move to the resurrection. It wonders at the darkness.

I closed the reading with 2 poems that hopefully brought us to a place of quietness and ordinariness, which is to say, Joy.  In these dark weeks where we are heading into the season of Christ’s birth and presence on earth, we need to remember that, and let our fearful and aching hearts fill.”

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Laurie doing at poetry reading at Auntie’s Bookstore downtown

Laurie Lamon’s poem, “Thinking of the End of a Poem”

Thinking of the End of a Poem

The dogs pull toward the corner where the therapy dog

is loose, rubbing its face in new grass. The man on the sidewalk

will say yesterday was hard. We lost two last night in

hospice. Here, birdsong will open the trapdoor

of pines where light is always northern and follows the earth

west where I look when I can through the hum of green for more.

The man on the sidewalk finishes closing a car door, and leans toward Claire,

I will learn this is her name, who has a band aid on her forehead

and blood shot eyes. Her sweatpants are gray. The therapy dog’s age

is heart shaped from eyes to muzzle. In a moment

Claire will say she’s from South Carolina, and smoke her cigarette

to the butt and not drop it to the sidewalk.

At the end of the poem it is bedlam, as when there came

sudden darkness—no one prepared, foretold, no shadows telling

time, crossing tables, the beaten ground, no lamps smoking

and everyone still, not knowing this waiting and for what.

The body had been crucified and raised and for three hours

looked into darkness with the rest of us.

Updates from Alumni: Mary Schmick ’14

By: Emily Church

There’s always a good reason to catch up with an alumni of Whitworth University. Not only are they great people, but they help remind students, like me, that there is a life after Whitworth and it can be pretty awesome. I got the chance to ask Mary Schmick, a Whitworth graduate from 2014, about her life beyond the pinecone curtain.

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So, what are you up to these days?

I am now a technical writer/technical editor for Mission Support Alliance, a company that supports the Hanford clean-up project in Richland, WA.  I edit environmental permitting and regulatory documents that will be submitted to the Department of Energy and other government agencies (EPA, Department of Ecology, etc.).  Editing a document involves fixing formatting and copy editing, as well as looking at sentence clarity.

How did you get to where you are now?

I had become interested in editing in college and also began to see technical writing as a possible career path when I spent a summer interning for a geologist at a research laboratory. There I got to help research and write scientific articles on topics like carbon sequestration. I graduated from Whitworth University in 2014 with an English degree on the writing track. After graduating, I moved to the Tri-Cities where there are several companies that need technical writers. I spent ten months working a part-time job and applying and interviewing for technical editing positions before I got my first technical editing job. The job was editing safety procedures on topics such as electrical safety and working with beryllium, which were used by workers for the different companies across the Hanford Site.  I was in this position for a year and a half. During this time, I started editing for a different organization within the company I worked for when their technical editor retired. When the position came open, I applied and got the job, which is the position I currently hold.

 How has your English degree from Whitworth served you since graduation?

My English degree has been so valuable to me since graduation from Whitworth. In terms of a career, strong writing skills have been very helpful. So many different types of work involve writing, which makes strong English skills indispensable. As an English major, writing was something I sometimes took for granted, but in the workforce it is viewed as being an area of expertise. Apart from my career, my English degree has also shaped my critical thinking and communication skills. Also, the things I have learned from reading and analyzing literature has had an impact on how I look at situations in life and has given me a better understanding of viewpoints different than my own.


Emily Church (’17) is an English Writing and Sociology major at Whitworth University from western Washington and dreams of one day traveling the world. She enjoys writing, reading, painting, collecting journals (not writing in them), fall leaves, summer warmth., and adventure.

Mindful of the Change

By: Devon Clements

Exploring the traverses of the internal,

Like some long forgotten picaroon.

Delving into the abstractions,

Contrasting like the bloody snow.

One sunset is another, and who am I to stay between?

 

I thought one day perhaps I’d find it.

The search as fickle as our hearts.

Lost in the endless sea of time

Each day we yearn to break our backs,

For the sake of the forgotten dream.

 

As drink is to the alley dweller,

So too does it quench my thirst.

It leaves me yearning ever-after,

I’ve been stumbling since my birth.

 

I didn’t ask for what I’m given,

Never sure of what I’ve got.

The song, methinks is ending,

I only have one more shot.

 

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.

The Harvest Party: Following Rule #4 of Being an English Major

By: Jordin Connall fall-dog

I know, I know, you’re all wondering “but I don’t like going places” and I understand that really I do, but the things is, you will one hundred percent not remember that night you stayed home and got an early start on your weekend homework. Take, for example, the recent harvest party put on by Westminster Round. There was poetry and games and tons of random food stuffs to nibble on (and/or feed to the tiny wizard your have hidden in your hoodie pocket). Was it awkward at first, of course it was.

We’re English majors for crying out loud, we were born awkward and uncomfortable. But we do not stay that way, once we get enough sugar in us and someone breaks out spooky Halloween poetry, everyone loosens up and really interesting academic and non-college-student-fallacademic conversations occur. It’s very easy not to go anywhere on your friday night, but as I’ve said before you definitely did not stay up with your roommate talking about Advanced Calculus (or whatever horrid torture device you prefer).

English parties are relaxed and fun and give you the opportunity to meet new people with whom you will be sharing classes for the next four or so years. They are havens to develop and find your very own discourse communities of like-minded individuals. Even if you’re not an English major, and I pity those of you that aren’t, you can come and talk about books, or movies, or your secret desire to learn unicorn husbandry (see John Pell for more information). All I’m suggesting is that you try it a few times, you might like it.

Who knows, you could end up accidentally forming an English karaoke band an hour and a half after the party was supposed to be over.

Jordin Connall is a Senior English Major. Her hobbies include: long walks on the beach, making baked goods, taking long walks on the beach with baked goods, and interpretive macaroni art.

A Lesson in the Ambiguous

A short story by: Devon Clements

The sun had set long ago and the city now stirred as a dark and bleary shadow of its former self. The roads were empty, save for the occasional passing car, on some journey of their own and the two men glided through the intersections, guided by the green lights and a mixture equal parts fear and adrenaline. Inside the cab of the 98’ Ford F-150 the tinkling sounds of broken glass rattling against a metallic baseball bat emanated from the floorboard, filling the air with the auditory notion of violence. The driver was focused but looked shaken, his eyes pointed straight ahead never once leaving the road, but perspiration stood out on his forehead magnifying each passing street light. His hands gripped the steering wheel causing his knuckles to stand out, white as marble in the dark space of the truck. Between him and the passenger sat a faded and worn green Jansport backpack, its irregular bumps and angles suggesting its contents had been haphazardly shoved inside. The two didn’t talk, nothing could be heard except the steady and repeated rhythm of tire on wet pavement, the gentle whish whish creating a soundtrack to each of their racing thoughts.

A light ahead caused the driver to start and he motioned to the passenger with a quick nod as he flicked on the turn signal and began to decrease in speed. The gas station and liquor mart parking lot was empty except for a single beat-up Dodge Neon and this satisfied the anxiety of the men as they slid into a parking spot and cut the engine. The break in constant movement gave them a reassuring and removed sensation which neither could pinpoint. The passenger opened the truck door and nimbly hopped out, turning around to make eye contact with the driver before firmly closing it behind him. The driver saw him disappear into the sickeningly illuminated store and then lost sight of him amidst racks of cheap packaged food and oil cans.

He now sat alone in the cab, his hands still unconsciously on the wheel and absently staring at the reflection of bottles caught in the large plexi-glass windows in front of him. After a few minutes the passenger reemerged from inside and jumped back in the cab, a single plastic bag clutched in his left hand. He pulled out a bottle and handed it to the driver as he took one for himself. The iconic gold and maroon lettering sent a wave of nostalgic energy through them both, as they twisted the lids off the triangular glass cylinders of Olde English. The driver took a large swig, the tang of malt liquor coating his mouth, as he started the engine and pulled back onto the street. He glanced to the passenger and breaking their long held silence asked, “Are we gonna make it?” The passenger’s lips curled into a sardonic smile as he turned, a glint of some forgotten youth in his eye, and he answered, “Does anyone?” The road stretched out wide and free before them and the night promised shelter, at least for a few more hours.

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.

Pursuing Interest: A Conversation with Dr. Solveig Robinson

By Kristin Bertsch

I hoped that the large cup of coffee in front of me on the lounge table would be a casual excuse for my jitters. I waited for Dr. Robinson to come from her hotel to our little interview room, and every minute past 10:45 was a reassurance that maybe I wouldn’t embarrass myself in this interview. Maybe a department professor had detained her, or maybe she was caught up in preparing for one of her presentations on campus. After two minutes, Dr. Robinson came in, and after introductions shuffled her backpack onto the floor across from mine, and sat tall on the couch opposite me. She cupped her hands in her lap and leaned forward, and we both shifted a little in our seats. Then she gave me earnest eyes and said:

“I’m really glad there aren’t lights and cameras in here. I was so scared. This was the most intimidating thing on my schedule today.”

I was both relieved and amused to know that I was not alone in my anxious anticipation of our conversation. Dr. Robinson had come to Whitworth to give a lecture on her work in publishing and Victorian women’s literature, which culminated most recently in her project on “Victorian Women’s (Publishing) House work: Gender and Cultural Authority in Nineteenth Century Britain.” She had been visiting classes and giving presentation about her areas of expertise. She is an expert in her field, and a highlight of her department at PLU. But sitting across from me talking about the process of research and writing, she was speaking as a student immersed in the thrills and anxieties of a new intellectual pursuit.

“Research is always overwhelming, until something clicks. I try to show my students by example how to channel their own curiosity and interest into materials and topics. It may not be apparent that things connect or even really matter until you approach a topic as a matter of your own interest.”

And Dr. Robinson knows how to explore and make things connect. Her two areas of expertise, the history of the book and Victorian literature, seem to be placed along parallel but separate tracks of English. But during her 36 years in academia, she found a way to intertwine and give direction to both of her academic interests.

“I’m interested in the way books work as a way of giving voices, and how the publishing and print culture works as a way of mediating and curating those voices.”

That sort of intersectionality of interests in something Whitworth English majors recognize and aspire to. Choosing a track and curating a class schedule inevitably means that certain classes are left out, certain projects left undone, certain interests negotiated out of the plan to make room for others. Saying yes to one direction often means saying no to valuable others. And this is something Dr. Robinson sees as a problem for young scholars.

“Among my students, I see this paralyzing fear of specialization. They worry that by choosing to pursue one interest or project, they are forced to give up their curiosity and interest in other things. And that is really counterintuitive to what a liberal arts education is meant to be.”

I asked Dr. Robinson what she saw as being the most valuable asset of a liberal arts education from a university like Whitworth or PLU.

“I knew I wanted to work at a small liberal arts institution because that would be a place where I could explore. The faculty and the students embrace intersecting interests and interaction among projects, and I knew I wanted that freedom.”

Dr. Robinson’s advice for students is to feed as many interests as they can, and to let their interests feed each other.

 

Kristin Bertsch (’17) is a Senior English major at Whitworth. Kristin has studied English abroad in Britain and Ireland, most recently for a semester at Oxford University in spring of 2016. In addition to her studies and contributions to the English Department blog, Kristin works as research assistant to English faculty, as a conference assistant to Communications faculty, 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.