A Reflection on the Faculty Research Presentations of Fall 2016

By: Emily Church

To start off the academic year, Professor Casey Andrews and Thom Caraway invited faculty, students, and community members to share in their excitement over the current research projects.

Professor Andrews presentation, “Writing Against War: Literature as Peace Activism,” gave us a sneak-peak into his upcoming book (the cover of which his wife painted) about the ways in which British novelists like Virginia Woolf and Aldous Huxley wrote peace activist fiction in the 1930s.”His research dives into the question of “How can art be clearly political and also “artful”?” Virginia Woolf, who is the center piece of the book, criticized all writers who wrote books that were composed of endings that made the reader feel like they had to act by doing a certain service or by writing a check. She instead vouched for the type of writing that had politics in it, since you can’t avoid politics or social issues, but not a clear message. This is what, in Woolf’s opinion allowed it to still function as art. Another one of the points in the presentation looked at literature as “peace witness.” British author Vera Brittan, and her novel Testament of Youth, thought of war literature as a way of preserving the memory of our suffering so that successors may understand it. Andrews expressed a clear excitement over his topic, which was expected as this is within his area of expertise and Virginia Woolf is among his favorite writers.    (Andrew’s book cover can be view here)

Professor Thom Caraway’s presentation and research, titled “Poesis: The Language of Creation” did not emerge from a past interest in the subject. Instead, his path towards the topic began with a simple text message from a college and friend that said, “Theopoetics?” to which Caraway eventually replied back “Yes.” He began his talk with the disclaimer of “I am not a theologian,” in order to make it clear that he is still in the learning process. While most approach the topic of theopoetics with a theological background, Caraway comes from the expertise of poetry, which allowed him to focus on the use of the word “poetics.” The goal of theopoetics is to see both scripture and God with fresh eyes, recontextualize our understanding of faith, and demytholize scripture; all through the use of poetry, which for Caraway is perfect because according to him, “poetry is the purest kind of literary writing.” He connected Theopoetics to specifically poetry of witness, defined as poetry speaking to the truth of experience and the realization of God’s revelation. In both contexts, Caraway made clear, it is the responsibility of the reader to witness to the text and they therefore cannot remain passive. It is only in this way that theopoetics and poetry of witness can be successful.

If you wish to learn more about either of the topics presented during the Faculty Research Presentations, I’m sure they would be happy to share more.

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.

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.

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.

EL Faculty Picks for Summer Reading

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What better way to stockpile for summer than the Westminster Annual Book Sale? Be on the lookout for these reading recommendations tomorrow at the book sale, 11:30-1:00. Due to weather concerns, books will be in Lied Art Center, not the garden. Don’t worry, hot dogs and Laura’s List will still be available.

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Professor Casey Andrews: Not everyone’s idea of a beach read is to cozy up on a blanket with a World War I novel, but even skeptics will be taken with Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of George Sherston. Unlike other classics in the wave of Great War books that emerged in the late 1920s and early 1930s (e.g., Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Barbusse’s Under Fire, or Graves’ Good-bye to All That), Sassoon’s work stands out as a comic masterpiece. His presentation of foolishness in the English upper-crust reads like an even more sardonic E. M. Forster, and his depiction of trench life full of buffoonish officers and absurd situations anticipates the later antics of Thomas Pynchon and Joseph Heller. On top of all this, Sassoon’s book is a wonderful experiment in genre, being an “autobiographical novel,” a “fictional memoir,” or even an “exaggerated history.” That one of the greatest pieces of anti-war writing can be so experimental and witty has been a delightful discovery in my current research.

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Professor Laura Bloxham: Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland. Okay, let’s get the accolades out there: National Book Award Finalist. Shortlisted for the Man Booker 2013 Prize. Oh, and by the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning collection Interpreter of Maladies.   But to my mind it is just plain good reading. Engrossing. An epic story moving back and forth between Calcutta and Rhode Island. Highlighting two brothers and one woman. Their history. Politics and yearning for knowledge, self-fulfillment, but also finding an ethical basis for choices they make. Living with the consequences over a lifetime. I’ve already written “epic.” Epic, indeed.

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Professor Laurie Lamon: For poetry, The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa and The Great Enigma by Tomas Transtromer. For novels, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk and The Gold Finch by Donna Tartt, which just won the Pulizter for fiction. It’s astonishing.

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Professor Nicole Sheets: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters. How can I consider myself a Spokanite if I haven’t read a Jess Walter book? I began with Beautiful Ruins and found myself, against all pedagogical wisdom, staying up too late on a couple of school nights just to finish it. In Beautiful Ruins, it’s hard not to fall for Pasquale, whose capacity to dream far exceeds the economic potential of his remote, bedraggled, seaside hotel. When a beautiful movie actress arrives without warning, her distress sets into motion events that unfold across decades and continents. This novel is many things: a Hollywood romp, a commentary on modern courtship, a testament to the trials of the artistic temperament, a satire of self-help and memoir, and at its core, a love story.

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Professor Leonard Oakland: A wise person said, “When a new book comes out, read an old one.”

Read one of the Big Books:
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov
James Joyce’s Ulysses
George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Newer Books:
Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland
Penelope Lively’s The Photograph
P.D. James’s Devices and Desires

Not so New:
Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth
William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom 
J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey
Rainer Rilke’s poetry

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Professor Doug Sugano: I like post-apocalyptic fiction as a genre, and my latest favorite trilogy is Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam group.  But that’s not my recommendation, although I do recommend reading Atwood’s.  Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea is a novel that fits into that post-apocalyptic genre, but not necessarily for the reasons that you’d think.  Yes, it’s in the future, but that future U.S. (Is it the U.S.?  In what way is it the U.S.?  Who is running the country?  What is there of the country beyond the planned communities?  Is this a post-racial U.S.?)  isn’t what most of us have imagined.  Rather, what appears to be the U.S. is a rigidly stratified, loose castellation of “cities” that are defined only by economic status and productivity—i.e., cities are known largely by what they produce.  And this future U.S. seems to be populated by newer Chinese immigrants.  Hence, the protagonist, Fan, is a resident of B-Mor (Baltimore), is known for her diving exploits (since B-Mor produces mostly seafood for the rest of the country).  The plot meanders about Fan and her quest to find her missing boyfriend, who has mysteriously disappeared out in the “counties,” where there is no government, no services, and few vestiges of civilization.  On her odyssey, Fan dives through many layers of the country’s social strata laid bare.  In a sense, she discovers the perverse social products of each stratum.  It seems that Lee is depicting what happens (or will happen) to all of us when corporations run everything—as if we are that far from that point, even now.

Proof that Our Department has Talent

Check out these photos, courtesy of Josie Camarillo (’14), of the Pinecone Cabaret, the annual English Fun(d)raising Talent Show. If you missed it, here is your chance to check out the raw talent of our department, and if you were there, here is the chance you have been waiting for to relive the night.

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Professor Nicole Sheets was the MC for the night.

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Luke Eldredge (’16) instructed and performed how to ride a unicycle.

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Meredith Friesen (’14) shared her musical skills on the piano.

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Dana Stull (’16) performed her bird whistle and taught us all how to construct the ultimate paper airplane.

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Professor Nicole Sheets and her husband Charlie had the world premiere of their band Makkaroon.

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Rosie McFarland (’14) provided us with a taste of her YouTube channel Lostbetweenthepages

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Jan Shannon talked about SpokaneFAVS (for which we ended up raising $58) and its mission.

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Professor Casey Andrews sang the melancholy tunes of Brit Pop.

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Ana Quiring (’14) read a comic compilation of her thoughts on being an English major (and explaining why), and her love of Virginia Woolf.

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Hannah Brenneman (’14) also shared her musical skills and played the oboe.

Also, though there is a lack of photographic material (since she was the event photographer), Josie Camarillo regailed us of her experiences at Rodeo Bible Camp.

 

Festivity-Packed Friday

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Don’t miss This Whitworth Life put on by our very own Nicole Sheets and her EL 347 Creative Nonfiction Writing! This storytelling event will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, in the HUB’s Multipurpose Room. 

Nine members from various facets of the Whitworth community, including the legendary Leonard Oakland, will read five to eight minute stories about a defining moment in their lives. Following each story, a panel of faculty members will provide commentary.

“My hope is that this storytelling event will add to Whitworth’s already robust sense of community,” Nicole Sheets says. “All of the storytellers have some connection to Whitworth; our cast represents students, faculty, facilities services, campus security, program assistants, administrators, coaches and trustees.”

Story readers will include:

  • Casey Armstrong, Whitworth custodian
  • Joel Diaz, senior sociology major and Whitworth security officer
  • Austin Foglesong, freshman English major
  • Mackenna Kuehl, senior English major
  • Leonard Oakland, Whitworth professor of English
  • Ken Roberts, member of the Whitworth Board of Trustees
  • Toby Schwarz, Whitworth professor of kinesiology and athletic coach
  • Annie Stillar, program assistant for Whitworth English department
  • Kathy Storm, associate provost for Whitworth faculty development

“Stories remind us that everyone’s a complex person, that we’re all storehouses of experience,” Nicole says. “Plus, stories are fun.”

The faculty panel will be comprised of Casey Andrews, Whitworth associate professor of English; Suzette McGonigal, Whitworth counselor; and Raja S. Tanas, Whitworth professor of sociology.

Then, head over to Westminster Round’s Christmas Party at 7 p.m., 10713 N. Nelson for food, conversation, holiday story-time, and a photo booth. Carpooling will be available in the HUB around 6:45, after This Whitworth Life. 

EL Faculty Picks for Summer Reading

Looking for some good reads this summer? Feeling adrift without a syllabus? The Whitworth English department is here to help. Read on for some choice recommendations.

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Dr. Casey Andrews: My pick for some delightful, provocative, and delicious summer reading is Robert Farrar Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb which is equal parts autobiography, theological exploration, and cookbook. Originally published in 1967, it bears all the hallmarks of a foodie (before the term was en vogue) decrying the wasteland of American cuisine that had turned to “tin fiddles” like electric knives and Velveeta cheese. (There are some jabs at so-called “cocktail parties” where people stand about eating peanuts and sipping vodka—a dismal portrait of the Mad Men era in its heyday.) What Capon argues in his rich style—by turns witty, beautiful, and risky—is that God made people who thrive when they make food together by hand, share lengthy meals, and savor the heady delicacy of wine in all possible varietals. Permit me one quote among the dozens I return to in this book. Capon is describing his love of fine drink and offers the following:

“Admittedly, there are spirits so pronounced that they are unrepentant. Chief among them is marc, or grappa—brandy distilled from the leavings of the vintage. As it happens, though, I have no desire to cover it with anything. I find it delectable—full of nostalgia and the remembrance of the first afternoon on which I drank it. It is redolent of earth and stems and the resurrected soul of the grape, all combined with an overpowering suggestion of freshly painted radiators in a shoe store—which, you will concede, must be the very essence of unforgettability.”

Capon’s book, like the grappa he describes, is delectable and unforgettable. Relish it.

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Dr. Laura Bloxham recommends Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, which deals with gender, race, and religion is set in 17th century Massachusetts. 

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When you finish this good book, read Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie, written in 17th century Massachusetts and also dealing with gender, race, and religion.  Both books are astoundingly eye-opening in their treatment of Native Americans.  The women are bold, but not unrealistic for their times.  The religious struggles are not reduced to stereotypes, but open up understanding.

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Dr. Pamela Corpron Parker: I’m midway through The Orchardist by a young Pacific Northwest author, Amanda Coplin. Coplin grew up in Wenatchee, so her settings will be familiar to many readers. Her distinct and sympathetic characters stand in sharp relief to the vast landscape of early 20th-century Central Washington. I loved the main character, Talmudge, whose quiet life as an apple farmer is changed irrevocably when he takes in two pregnant runaway girls. I also found her Native American and female characters distinctly Western and recognizable without being cliché. The plot surprises and engages the reader, but it’s the characters who have held my attention and make me admire this novel.  Coplin’s prose is spare, revelatory, and reminiscent of Marilynne Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping, and her debut novels holds as much promise.

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Dr. Nicole Sheets: Like a younger, female David Sedaris, Sloane Crosley makes me laugh so hard, even my muffintop hurts. In this essay collection, Crosley examines important topics such as the late 80s/early 90s Oregon Trail computer game, which she describes as “ripe for the misuse. Like a precursor to The Sims, you were allowed to name your wagoneers and manipulate their destinies. It didn’t take me long to employ my powers for evil.” Crosley endures the slings and arrows as an intern for a publishing company, a bridesmaid, a lapsed vegan, a Jewish girl at a Christian summer camp (“On Sunday nights we had vespers, where we lit candles and sang folk songs with titles like ‘The Lord Loves A Strong Swimmer’ and ‘All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir.’”) Crosley’s gift for the anecdote will make you care; her string of one-liners will crack you up.

EL Faculty Rack Up Awards

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It’s a season of congratulations here in the ol’ house of English. In addition to sending our warmest wishes to the class of 2013, we’re celebrating recent awards to EL faculty.

Laura Bloxham and Vic Bobb were recognized for their work as co-chairs of the English department!

Casey Andrews won the Innovative Teaching Award!

Please high-five these folks next time you see them. And cue the cartwheels!

EL Department Will Represent at SIRC on 4/27

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Whitworth hosts the annual Spokane Intercollegiate Research Conference this year on Saturday, April 27. Several EL profs and students will present papers and essays. Check the online program available on the SIRC web site for up-to-date info about session times and locations.

Please support your classmates and colleagues as they share their work.

EL panels include:

Dr. Casey Andrews moderating “Imagining England in Modern British Fiction” (morning session)

Dr. Laura Bloxham moderating “Jane Austen Adaptations” (early afternoon)

Dr. Bloxham moderating “Jane Austen: Gender and Money” (late afternoon)

Dr. Nicole Sheets moderating “Explorations in Creative Nonfiction (late afternoon)

and Dr. Pamela Corpron Parker moderating “Victorian Literature and Social Critique” (late afternoon)

Diana Cater (’13) is part of another EL early afternoon panel. Sarah Jaymes Kenney (’14) is also part of a history panel in the early afternoon.

Go, team!