Department of English Newsletter March 2017
Upcoming Department Events
Publications & Acceptances
Grace Bauer's collection of poems, Mean/Time has just been released by the University of New Mexico Press. Grace also had a poem, Revenant, reprinted in the anthology, Maple Leaf Rag IV."
Wheeler Winston Dixon has published an article on the pioneer feminist director Dorothy Arzner's early work at Paramount Studios, "Kicking Over The Traces: Dorothy Arzner's Merrily We Go To Hell," in Senses of Cinema (February 2017)
Wheeler Winston Dixon has published a new article, "'Service Providers': Genre Cinema in the 21st Century," in Quarterly Review of Film and Video (February 15, 2017).
As he writes in the article, "Harrison Ford noted in 2013 that 'I think the success of Comic-Con is based on the partnership between the fans and the service providers, the entities — I won't necessarily call them filmmakers — that supply the film product that supports their particular interest, whether it's vampires or science-fiction fantasies of Transformers or whatever is going on . . .'
"When Harrison Ford made these comments to Adam Sternbergh, a reporter for The New York Times, no particular controversy ensued. Ford was simply stating a fact: Directors today, most of whom work within rigid genre formats, are indeed little more than 'service providers,' who create long, loud, open-ended and ultimately unsatisfying "epic" films for an ever more indiscriminate audience.
"Yet, it's really not the fault of the viewers who flock to see the endless interactions of Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek and other franchise films; they simply don't know any better. There is nothing else on offer at the multiplex, and with everything online — behind a pay wall, usually with a subscription attached — any impulse to be adventurous in one's viewing habits died long ago. It's like McDonald's: It is what it is, nothing more or less, and it's reliably available, and always the same.
"As Derek Thompson wrote in 2014, ‘The reason why Hollywood makes so many boring superhero movies [is because] studios were better at making great movies when they were worse at figuring out what we wanted to see,' adding that ‘Hollywood has become sensational at predicting what its audiences want to see. And, ironically, for that very reason, it's become better at making relentlessly average movies …
"In 1950, movies were the third-largest retail business in America, after grocery stores and cars . . . Watching films approached the ubiquity of a bodily function: Every week, 90 million Americans—60 percent of the country—went to the cinema, creating an audience share that's bigger than today's Super Bowl.
"The six major studios (MGM, Warner Bros., Paramount, Twentieth Century-Fox, and RKO) could basically do whatever they wanted and be sure to make money. Owning their own theater chains (which accounted for half their total revenue), they controlled the means and distribution of a product that was as essential to mid-century life as grilled chicken. Surprise, surprise: Virtually all their films made money.' Not so today."
Gwendolyn Audrey Foster has published a new article, "Pre-Code Women: Dorothy Arzner's Working Girls" in Senses of Cinema (February 2017), in which she notes that "nearly forty years after her death in 1979, Dorothy Arzner remains one of the most fascinating American filmmakers to work within the Hollywood studio system. While a few of her films, such as Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) and Christopher Strong (1933) are finally available on DVD; others, such as Working Girls (1931) survive only in bootlegs and in a few archival 35mm prints. This must change, since Arzner was in the 1930s and 1940s the only woman directing in Hollywood, and her films offer a distinctively lesbian feminist view of American society.
Gwendolyn Audrey Foster and Wheeler Winston Dixon announce the publication of the first two volumes in their new series Quick Takes: Movies and Popular Culture from Rutgers University Press – Disney Culture by John Wills, and Zombie Cinema by Ian Olney.
Disney Culture explores the Walt Disney Company, which has grown into a diversified global media giant. But is it still possible to identify a coherent Disney ethos? Examining everything from theme parks to merchandising to animation to live-action films, Disney Culture proposes that they all follow a core corporate philosophy dating back to the 1920s.
Zombie Cinema notes that the living dead have been lurking in popular culture since the 1930s, but they are now ubiquitous. Presenting a historical overview of zombies in film and on television, Zombie Cinema also explores this globalized phenomenon, examining why the dead have captured the imagination of twenty-first-century audiences worldwide.
Further volumes, including New African Cinema by Valérie K. Orlando, and Digital Music Videos by Steven Shaviro are forthcoming later in the year.
There will be a book signing and poetry reading for Maureen Honey's 2016 monograph on three women poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Aphrodite's Daughters, Wednesday, April 5, 3:30-5:00 at 221 Love Library South (the Peterson Room). Students and faculty will read a selection of poetry from her book by Angelina Grimke, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Mae Cowdery. The Creative Writing Program and Love Library are sponsoring this event as part of National Poetry Month.
Ted Kooser has poems in the current issues of Rattle and Atlanta Review and a lengthy critical essay on Ted's first book, Official Entry Blank (1969), by Jeffrey Holz, appears in MidAmerica XLIII: The Yearbook of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.
Patrick T. Randolph (of PIESL) published a recent article in the CATESOL News called "Applying Elements of Embodied Cognition to ELL Poetry Read-a-Thons." This piece examines what embodied cognition is and how is can be used to help English Language Learners (ELLs) better acquire an understanding of reading material as well as the vocabulary in the readings. Randolph goes on the show how he uses aspects of embodied cognition in his poetry read-a-thons. Since employing this method, his learners have shown higher retention of the reading, a better grasp of the vocabulary, and ability to "feel" the language at a deeper level of understanding.
Patrick T. Randolph also published Elevating the Image of ESL by Enhancing Faculty Bios on Program Websites in TESOL's PAIS Newsletter. This is the first part in a three-part series that looks at how ESL departments across the country can "find a home" in their respective universities by breaking the unwanted stepchild curse. This first installment focuses on improving ESL department websites and how to better highlight the accomplishments of ESL professionals."
Rebecca Macijeski has poems in the current issues of Puerto del Sol, Barrow Street, and Poetry City, USA. Two more poems are forthcoming in The Journal and five poems from a recent project are scheduled to appear in the summer issue of The Missouri Review.
Katie Schmid Henson has three poems, "Writing to my Father in Prison," "Turning 32" and "Zombie Father," forthcoming in the Southern Indiana Review. Her poem, "Portrait of Womb, Mixed Media" was chosen for the tenth anniversary anthology of Booth, Booth X, out now.
Conferences, Readings, Workshops & Presentations
The Cather Project is pleased to announce the world premiere of an original composition, ‘Prairie Songs: Remembering Ántonia.' Brent Edstrom (Washington State Music Teachers Composer of the Year, composer and pianist) and University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumnus Scott Miller (tenor) will perform this song cycle, a one-hour work based on Willa Cather's beloved 1918 novel of frontier life, My Ántonia.
The Cather Project recently received a substantial bequest from Charles Cather, Willa Cather's nephew. We are using some of this endowment money for creative adaptations of her novels – works that will re-imagine and re-create these classic American narratives for a new twenty-first century audience. This will be the first in a series of powerful re-imaginings of Cather's life and fiction.
By turns elegiac and lyrical, euphoric, haunting and uplifting, Brent Edstrom's ten songs interpret My Ántonia in musical settings that draw on a variety of American forms.
"Prairie Songs" will debut at the Johnny Carson Theater on March 28th, 2017, with performances to follow in Midland University, Fremont on March 30th, and at KANEKO in Omaha on April 1st. Artists talks begins at 6:45 followed by the performance. Free.
Aimee Allard recently returned from the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, where she presented her paper "From the Soil(ed) to the Sacred: Dust in Jack Kerouac's On the Road." Allard previously had this paper accepted as part of the Beat Studies panel at last year's ALA Conference in San Francisco, but she was unable to present it due to an unforeseen family emergency. She is thankful to the Beat Studies Association for their assistance in allowing her to present her work as part of their society's panel at LCLC's 45th annual conference.
Activities, Accolades, & Grants
Steve Buhler shared some Shakespeare with the 2nd Graders of Cathedral of the Risen Christ School in Lincoln. He read from Aliki's charming picture-book William Shakespeare and the Globe, sang Sonnet 18, and had a great time talking with them about theater and music and reading. He is grateful to Erin Halligan Trummer (UNL B.A., 2000), whose son Ronan is in the 2nd grade, for the invitation.
Gabriel Houck was honored with a Certificate of Recognition for Contributions to Students by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Parents Association.
Patrick T. Randolph picked up three more academic citations on Google Scholar for his work with Paul McPherron on idioms and their work in using ethnomethodology projects in the English Language classroom.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes. To recognize the occasion, Love Library asked Kevin McMullen (English Ph.D. candidate) and Liz Lorang (UNL Libraries) to curate a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning books that will be displayed in the Adele Hall Learning Commons. The collection was just unveiled this past week in the Quiet Reading Room of the Commons (in the southwest corner of Love North, first floor), and will be on display through the end of the Spring semester. In addition to a selection of poetry, drama, journalism, and photography, the collection features nearly all of the Pulitzer-winning fiction works from the award's inception to the present. Kevin and Liz encourage you to stop by the Learning Commons and check it out!
Katie Schmid Henson's book manuscript, Fanatic Animal was named a finalist for Autumn House Press's Rising Writer Contest.