Sneak Peek! Senior Seminar Conference 2016

Eleven extremely thoughtful English majors will be presenting their research at a department conference on Thursday, 5 May 2016 in the Swartz Center Rooms C & D at Marywood University.

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Front: David, Diane, Marilyn, Elise, Amanda, Jamie; Back: Nicole, Paul, Jessi, Kathleen, Riley

If you’d like a sense of their work, check out their blogs (linked just below). You will find an abstract for each conference presentation, and you can even peruse each student’s blog to discover more about what they’ve been thinking about over the course of the semester.

And if you’re looking for someone to hire, be sure to check out their resumés!

I. Of Demigods, Dystopias, & Dastardly Dames: Stretching Gender Roles in Literature & Film

Nicole Meshko: “‘Are You a Boy? Or Are You a Girl?’: An Analysis of Gender in The Lightning Thief”
Marilyn Anderson: “She’s the Man Coerced into Womanhood and She’s the Girl Transformed by Manhood: The Hunger Games and Divergent
Elise Cargan: “The Not-So Villainous Villainess: How Traditional Gender Roles are Challenged and Combined in Disney’s Maleficent

II. The Maniacs, the Deafies, & the Homies: Representations of Minorities in Popular Culture

Diane Congdon: “This Playbook is a Handbook for Mental Awareness”
Amanda Thornley: “The Silence is Deafinitely Getting Louder: Deafness and Deaf Culture in Switched at Birth
Kathleen Blazosek: “Yo, Son, You Catch Last Night’s Episode? Slang and Stereotypes in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

III. Harry Potter and the Sounds of Silence

Riley Covaleski: “Harry Potter and the Fountain of Youth: Categorizing the Kid Wizard”
Paul Capoccia: “‘They don’t understand, do they?’: Screaming, Sound, and Silence in Our Town and Death of a Salesman

IV. Is What You See What You Get? Social Critique in 19th- and 20th-Century Fiction

Jamie Linde: “‘The Constraint of Day’: Observing the Body in Tess of the d’Urbervilles
David Burns: “Monstrous Behavior: Investigating the Normal in Grendel
Jessi Terry: “A Corrupt Society: Discovering the Effects of Consumerism and Media in White Noise”

We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

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Senior Sem students become music video stars

To truly enjoy the following, you may want to be familiar with the Divinyls and their song, “I Touch Myself.” You can read a bit below about how the video was made. Enjoy!

BEHIND THE SCENES: THE MAKING OF “I TOUCH MY SHELF”
Early in the semester, one of the students in Senior Sem had posted a meme or t-shirt on Facebook that said, “When I think about books, I touch my shelf.” I saw it and decided it would be a fun music parody video to create, so I wrote alternate lyrics to the original Divinyls song, and I pitched the idea first to my WinkyFace Profs partner-in-crime, Lindsey Wotanis. Because neither Lindsey nor I have singing talent, she said it was a project suited for another team. I already knew where I would pitch it.

When I brought the idea to Senior Sem, the students were immediately on board. At one point, we all tried to sing the parody lyrics together in our classroom. It was ridiculous. We laughed and laughed.

The students worked in teams to brainstorm scenes to film for the video, and I filmed them and pulled the initial draft together. We decided do a second date of filming, and we still didn’t have the vocals, but those things came together at the end of our very last class meeting. Megan and Heather practiced vocals while everyone else danced and did a bit of lip syncing. Finally, everyone left except Megan and Heather. They did the vocals in one take. I had three devices recording them, and they sounded great in each one!

I finished editing the vid and showed it to just a couple students to get feedback. They gave the thumbs-up, and we showed the video at the very end of the Senior Seminar conference. There was much laughter. It was great.

I have to say, the student presentations at the conference were smart and sophisticated. Ending the night with the video showed that the students are not only brainy but also fun. That combo is exactly how I would describe the semester with them in Senior Sem.

—by Laurie McMillan, who is sometimes lucky enough to teach ENGL 495 Senior Seminar

Senior Seminar Research Abstracts

Please hear the full version of these projects at the Senior Seminar Mini-Conference, Wednesday, 6 May 2015, 6:00pm in the Swartz Center at Marywood. 

SESSION I

Through the Looking Glass Slipper

1. Emily Dean  “Down The Rabbit Hole: How Alice: Madness Returns Subverts the Inner/Outer Associations of Alice in Wonderland”

Alice in Wonderland has been adapted several times in many different forms of media, each with their own unique spin on the original work, as well as criticism and analysis concerning the text.   Alice: Madness Returns, however, is a new form of adaptation for a well-known text. As a video game, it is a radically different spin on the Alice in Wonderland story through its use of mature subject matter, complex characterization, and immersive settings.  It takes the concept of a internal world/external world dichotomy present in the original text and subverts it by creating a melding of the two through use of psychological elements, and historical criticism.

2. Chelsea Epler “Bippity Boppity Feminism: The Magic of Female Representation in Media”

Many people believe that pop culture is a mind numbing experience with little relevance within the real world. Despite this popular opinion, the representation of a society within a media can offer insight into the social and economic status of its inhabitors. By using the movies Cinderella (1950) and Cinderella (2015) we can observe the alterations made due to the change in priorities and morals. Since the two works span 65 years and were created by the same Disney company, the amount of altering force behind the changes lies only within the time in which they were created.

Labeling the Ladies

1. Heather McDonald Budow  “’Now our bodies are the guilty ones’: The Madonna-Whore in Contemporary American Musical Theatre”

The Madonna-Whore dichotomy is a common archetype followed in many areas of literature and art. Despite the fact that all women carry that dichotomy within themselves, the genre of American Musical Theatre has forced its female characters into fully embracing either the Madonna or Whore. The way this is portrayed is evident in the musicals Wicked and Spring Awakening.

2. Allison Ranieri “Hedwig, An Inch Too Masculine for Feminism? A (Trans) Feminist Examination of Gender”

The film Hedwig and the Angry Inch has created analytical divides amongst critics of Feminist and Transfeminist schools of thought concerning gender-identification. Although some scholars consider the film to be ultimately patriarchal, others argue that it reflects more feminist messages than misogynistic views. Regardless of the divides, most scholars have agreed that Hedwig, a partial male-to-female transsexual German rocker, is not actually a transgender individual despite being socially labeled as one by fans. Within this group of critics, many believe Hedwig’s gender-mislabeling constitutes the rejection of the film from Transfeminist and Feminist narratives. However, these criticisms have ignored the inherent acceptance of gender-ambiguity within the trans-community and consequently have reinforced the rigidness of gender-convention the film combats. Through an examination of the masculine, feminist, and gender-ambiguous features of the film, I will attempt to clarify Hedwig’s gender-identity and secure the film’s position as a text worthy of a Transfeminist and Feminist labeling.

SESSION II

Seeing & Believing

1. Patrick Kernan “’Or, at least, I think that’s what happened’: Authorial Involvement and Factual Accuracy in Journalistic Works”

Criticism of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Lost Vegas, and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild often centers around the problems with the texts, typically regarding the factual veracity of the texts. What has not been done regarding these texts is an examination into whether or not the author’s choices were ethical in a journalistic sense. Also, there has not been a comparison of the three texts, to show a progression from least ethical to most ethical. In addition to this, critics have not given much thought concerning how the ethicality of the texts also affects their entertainment value. In this paper, I argue that Capote’s work is least ethical because he hid his factual failings, Thompson is in the middle because he still failed but acknowledged his failings, while Krakauer is the most ethical because he uses traditional journalistic techniques. This paper examines different ideas of truth, including Capote’s and Thompson’s feeling that emotions were an important part of truth, while Krakauer uses a more objective sense of truth that focuses strictly on facts.

2. Erica Kester “Fact vs Fiction: The Misrepresentation and Glamorization of Terminal Illnesses in The Fault in Our Stars and A Walk To Remember

Young Adult Literature has increased in popularity over the past decade. With its increasing popularity well known authors have immerged. Two of these authors are John Green and Nicholas Sparks. While their works have been well received by both literary critics and their young adult audiences, their novels that focus on cancer (The Fault In Our Stars and A Walk To Remember) have recently received some less than favorable reviews. More and more critics are now asking the question of “How far is too far?” when it comes to discussing such a heavy topic with a YA audience. This paper will explain how the glamorization and misrepresentation of terminal illnesses is affecting its YA audience and the effect it is having on the YA genre as a whole.

3. Megan McDonnell “Angels and Demons: A Cultural Comparison of Magical Realism in the Americas”

Magical realism is a genre that has been studied extensively in Latin America for its ability to blur the lines between reality and conjecture. In this way, magical realism seeks to confront perceptions of reality, an aim easily documented by research and criticism in the genre. However, there is not much research dealing with magical realism across cultures, especially as it pertains to the United States. Offering a cultural comparison of how magical realism manifests in both Latin American and American cultures provides a lens through which we can examine commonly held beliefs and views not otherwise apparent. Through a close comparison of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Un senor muy viejo con unas alas enormes” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat,” the stark contrast between the author’s respective cultures comes into sharper relief.

Novel American Morality

1. Sr. Maria Imbori “The Power of Moral Convictions: One’s Convictions Depict Who One Is and What One Stands for”

Scholars and critics have different interpretations when discussing literary works. The novels O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (1993) and Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina (1987) have been discussed in terms of environmental concerns. O Pioneers! is also focused on a gender role and religious references. Some scholars consider Cather’s O Pioneers! as a reflection of her own life because she put her own career ahead of her personal life as Alexandra did. Storming Heaven, meanwhile, has ideas about a community working together and the struggle for social justice. In both novels the main characters have demonstrated strong commitment.  Discussing these two books together helps us to see how individual characters have demonstrated their strong conviction in dealing with difficulties. As a matter of fact, our world today desperately needs models of conviction. The characters in both books provide such models. Looking at these books together helps us to understand and appreciate the work of literature.

2. Briana Galea “What Does it Mean and Why Does it Matter?: Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle as a reply to Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger

Previously, critics have compared Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut’s use of satire. In this paper, I intend to highlight the ways in which Cat’s Cradleseems to be responding to The Mysterious Stranger. In order to do this, I discuss the ways in which Cat’s Cradle and The Mysterious Stranger argue that the meaning of life is in the perpetuation of the human race. This paper offers an analysis of the intangible qualities that appear in Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger and Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle that characterize both novels as satire. While the ideas that appear in both novels are abstract, their foundations can be found in the very real ways people interact with each other and the ways societies conduct themselves.

Dr. Bill Conlogue celebrated: 20 years serving Marywood’s English Department

On March 22, I read the following citation for Dr. Bill Conlogue at a dinner held to honor those faculty who have served Marywood for 20 years. My words don’t do him justice, of course, but I share them anyhow, as a small tribute to a person who has shared his gifts so widely and generously.   –Dr. Laurie McMillan 

P.S. The beginning & ending are required at the ceremony…they are not how I normally write!

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The Board of Trustees
The President and Faculty of Marywood University
To all who shall view these documents
Greetings
Bountiful blessings in the Lord through the heart of Mary.

William Conlogue, Ph.D.

Those of us who know Bill Conlogue well are likely to note his thoughtfulness, his integrity, his wry sense of humor. Those who know Bill slightly less well are likely to see him as reserved and quiet. In a sense, all of these descriptors are true. As a matter of fact, being the center of attention right now is probably torture for Bill. But the rest of us can enjoy it!

As for the “quiet” part, well, I’d like to qualify that. Bill might also be described as “very loud”—loud in the sense that actions speak louder than words.

***

Just before I started at Marywood, Dr. Barbara Sadowski told me if I wanted to be successful, I should model my behavior on Bill’s.

I tried to follow Barb’s advice by wearing khakis and glasses and rooting for the Red Sox and going ballroom dancing with Bill’s wife, Bridget. But Bridget didn’t want me for a partner, and their dog Louie thought it was weird when I tried to walk him, so I gave up.

But I did recognize what Barb meant. Bill models how to care about your work; your colleagues; your students; your scholarship; and how to care about Marywood. And he translates that care into action. Action carried out with thoughtfulness and integrity.

I was in touch with a couple of Bill’s former classmates, and they gave a similar picture of Bill from the past. His high school friend, Ellen Foster, said Bill was “a quiet, thoughtful guy” who was always a writer. His University of Maryland grad school friend, Emily Orlando, said that even though Bill was known as “one of the stars of the grad program,” he was generous and kind as he encouraged her and other junior scholars.

Bill hasn’t changed. He has strengthened the English Department in countless ways, and, honestly, I wouldn’t be here if not for Bill’s hard work. As the legend goes, he sent a memo requesting a faculty line to Sr. Patricia Ann Matthews IHM, then Vice President for Academic Affairs. She said no. His next request was double in length, with twice the amount of data. And so it went, memo after memo, doubling in length each time, with more and more data, until Sr. Patricia decided it would be cheaper to hire another faculty person than to have Bill continue to print memos. So if I’ve irritated you in any way, you can go ahead and blame Bill.

Bill’s work has had positive effects on many of us in the room. He has probably appeared at the office or classroom doors of many of you sitting here tonight because he prioritizes face-to-face communication even when it means going out of his way on a cross-campus trek. I like to call this “appropriate stalking.”

Bill similarly goes out of his way when it comes to students. One former student, Ann Brennan, told me, “He inspires his students, pushes them to do things they never thought they could, and guides them in discovering not only literature, but also themselves.” She then told me that on one occasion when she was nervous, Bill reassured her by saying, “They’re all sizzle, but you’re the steak.” Ann said that phrase is one that fits Bill himself.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of working closely with Bill, or even if you have, you can know him better when you read his most recent book, Here and There: Reading Pennsylvania’s Working Landscapes. For Bill puts himself there, on every page, blending research with personal stories from different parts of his life, including growing up on the family farm in Forest City and teaching students here at Marywood. You will find, as one Amazon commenter puts it, that reading the book is “a journey.”

What, then, has characterized the 20 years that Bill has journeyed on Marywood’s campus? Well, you may have spotted Bill literally running in the local neighborhoods. And that is apt, because his time at Marywood has been a time of action and movement. And if Bill’s spoken words are usually not loud, well, both his written words and his actions certainly are.

For twenty years, Bill has spoken loudly by showing care with his actions, his teaching, his writing. We thank him and welcome him into THE ORDER: COR MARIAE—PRO FIDE ET CULTURA on this twenty-second day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen.

Career Night 2015

Six recent alumni came back to Marywood to tell current students about their career paths. Common themes? Most or all the students had internships while in school, had been involved in extra-curricular activities, and had minors or a second major (in addition to the English major). Three students had pursued graduate study (one MFA in creative nonfiction, one MSW, and one student is currently studying school counseling).

Most students used writing and communication skills they associated with the English major, with many writing specifically for social media.

And most of the students had experienced some uncertainty or decided to change the direction of their professional pursuits at some point. So don’t worry if you do not know exactly what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life!

Check out the video to find out more highlights from the visit!

Story Slam!

Marywood’s Story Slam rocked this week. The theme was Road Trips, and the storytellers were right there with Jack Kerouac, sharing unique experiences, fun, and insights. (In case you’re wondering, the storytellers bore little to no resemblance to Cormac McCarthy; no post-apocalyptic tales were told, thank goodness.)

Some stories worked because they were gripping while others worked because they were hilarious.  Dr. Erin Sadlack shared a story about her crazy bonding cross-country road trip with her sister and two greyhounds. Ms. Annette Fisher, a Marywood librarian, told of a family trip that was most memorable when plans went awry.

Dr. Erin Sadlack

Dr. Erin Sadlack

Six student storytellers were the main event. The crowd heard about a road trip to the beach on a rainy day, a road trip that led to a new life, and a couple road trips to New York City filled with bonding moments. The winning story focused on the road trip that brought Amanda Duncklee to Marywood’s campus with her best friend, Sampson, because she could not bear to leave Sampson at home.

Ms. Amanda Duncklee

Ms. Amanda Duncklee

Sampson, by the way, is a fish. Amanda said she’ll put her winning trophy right next to Sampson’s bowl. It’s perfect because green is Sampson’s favorite color.

Ms. Amanda Duncklee, Story Slam Champion

Ms. Amanda Duncklee, Story Slam Champion

—Laurie McMillan, faculty

Laurie McMillan was one of four judges at the Story Slam. It was a difficult competition to judge because every story was a winner!

Poet visits campus

On Tuesday, 11 November 2014, poet Sally Rosen Kindred visited Marywood for a poetry writing workshop and a public reading.

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During the workshop, Sally had us write persona poems; specifically, she asked us to write from the point of view of a fairy tale character. But drafting a poem is hard and scary, so Sally said we weren’t really going to write; no! we were just going to jot down some answers to questions about the fairy tale character we had chosen.

Where is this character—in what place, and at what part of the story? What place did the character dream about last night? If this character were to say a curse word, what curse word would it be?

You get the idea. Lots of thinking and imagination happened, but it happened without the pressure of hopping right into an actual poem.

But participants did end up writing poem drafts based on these initial jottings. And Sally shared a persona poem of her own, inspired by the reading of Peter Pan (the original by J. M. Barrie in 1904; that is, the book was written in 1904…but Sally read it much more recently than that…).

Tinkerbell called Peter Pan a “silly ass,” and Sally knew Tinkerbell had more personality where that line came from, so she was inspired to give voice to it. That poem was just part of a chapbook Sally published called Darling Hands, Darling Tongue, based on the characters in Peter Pan who didn’t get to say enough in the original novel.

***

After having dinner on campus with several students and a couple faculty, Sally gave a public reading, drawing on poetry not only from Darling Hands, Darling Tongue, but also from her most recent book of poetry, Book of Asters. Although many of the poems included dark elements, Sally provided context and insights to frame each. Her engaging voice and enthusiasm kept all depression at bay throughout the night!

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The night closed with questions from the audience and a book signing filled with informal banter. When asked if she felt connected to her characters, Sally told of her crush Charles Dickens (who appears in her recent poetry) and her feeling of melancholy when she knew she was finished with her Peter Pan poems. She shared the daily routines that help her write even when inspiration is not close at hand; one of these is to rewrite a poem, because in the process of rewriting, revision just seems to happen, sneaking in instead of being forced and planned. And Sally shared her publishing journey—a helpful and practical model focused on finding a press that fits the kind of work you’re writing.

The day was rather grey, but Sally’s poetry seemed to brighten things up, even when it zoned in on troubling themes of loss and death.

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—by Laurie McMillan, faculty

Laurie McMillan first met Sally Rosen Kindred in graduate school. She heard Sally read poetry just as Sally was first experimenting with persona poems, and Laurie was immediately impressed with Sally’s gift with words and images.

 

Bangs: Book release & poetry reading

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Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the release of Bangs, a book of poetry inspired by the hair bands of the ’80s, written by part-time faculty person Amye Archer.

First, a word about Amye:
Amazing.
And not like “Amazing Amy” of Gone Girl fame. More like a real-life, down-to-earth, bubbling-over-with-fun-and-energy-and-passion-and-pain kind of amazing. Amye’s students love her and learn from her. We’ve been lucky to have her share her gifts at Marywood.

Last night, Amye’s amazing-ness manifested itself in a range of poems. The title poem focuses on hair itself,
bedazzled by the dried
     drops of crystallized
     Aqua Net.

The wry humor in such passages was counterbalanced by moments of raw vulnerability as Amye read poems about teen emotions, sexual encounters, an ongoing longing for California, and motherhood.

Before Amye shared her own poetry, she invited two Marywood alumni and a current student to share poems they had composed in classes with her.

Marnie Azzarelli, ’14, was up first. She used some swears in her poetry and worried that her parents would be shocked.

Bailey Bloyd, ’14, followed. Bailey credited Amye with helping her find her current work with Breaking Ground Poets.

Finally, Allison Ranieri, ’15, shared her work after a warming up the crowd with a laugh or two.

Amye also had three of her friends read rock songs from the ’80s. These readings were quite funny. Amye herself finished her reading with Whitesnake’s “Is This Love?“, which she dedicated to her husband.

I can answer Whitesnake’s question: Yes, Amye, this is love. Love for the readers and writers of this energetic night, and love for the words they were willing to share with us.

–Laurie McMillan, faculty

Laurie McMillan was so eager to attend this book release that she got her dates mixed up and first tried to attend a whole week early. When the night finally arrived, she was happy to see others from the English Department there, as well as a good crowd from the local community. The arts are alive and well in Scranton!