English Department Faculty News

Eight English Faculty Awarded NEH  Challenge  Grants for 2013

 Dr. Kathleen Cassity received a grant to fund  her  attendance at the annual conference of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning (AEPL) in Estes Park, Colorado, from June 26-30, 2013.  AEPL is an official assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English.   The theme of its 2013 conference, “The Untutored Tongue: Re-imagining Speaking and Writing,” focuses on “the power of embodied speech to transform our relationship to writing.”

This theme, as well as the focus of the AEPL, connects well with Cassity’s current work-in-progress.  I am currently preparing three peer-reviewed journal articles regarding how, in light of recent findings in cognitive research, we can teach writing more effectively.  The first,  accepted by the  Journal of Teaching Writing in November 2012, discusses the importance of unstructured practice in developing written fluency.  The second, which  has been  submitted to the Journal of Expanded Perspectives on Learning concerns the connections between transformative learning theory, comic theory, and cognitive psychology (particularly, the role of positive emotions in learning).  The third article, commissioned by Writing on the Edge addresses the limitations of quantitative assessment models when it comes to assessing writing in the humanities.    All three pieces are part of a book project.

Ms. Angela Gili received a grant to  support her development of a book-length research project with a working title of The Emergence of Post-Apartheid South African Crime Fiction, which historicizes and contextualizes the genre of crime fiction in its early formation in post-apartheid South Africa.   She will use the funding to attend the 39th African Literature Association’s Conference at which a number of notable South African writers, postcolonial critics, and law professionals will gather to engage in the conference’s theme of “Literature, Liberation, and the Law.” The conference raises central questions on “how the legal, the political, and the literary are intertwined” and on the degree to which writing can effect liberation.  These more broadly evoke a parallel question she raises in her project: whether South African crime fictions’ representations of criminality and justice, of social disorder and restorations of order, function to reassert a status quo that perpetuates inequalities of power present during apartheid or to initiate forms of socio-political critique. At the conference she plans to interview key South African authors and critics, including Njabulo Ndebele, a South African fiction writer and critic who has argued for politically committed South African fiction that resists pervasive spectacles of violence and binary representations of good and evil,  Justice Albie Sachs, former ANC activist and Constitutional Judge of South Africa who has contributed to discussions on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as well as University of Charleston professor and conference organizer Simon Lewis, who has published on white South African writers’ representations of Africans. 

Dr. Laurie Leach  received a grant  for her project  “Heroes and Villains in John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt.”  She is working on a full length article about the character of Sister Aloysius in the play and film and arguing that she should be seen as the protagonist rather than as the villain.  The grant will fund attendance at the 14th Global Conference on Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness in Lisbon, Portugal in March 2013, where she will present a shorter version of the paper .

Mr. Tyler McMahon received a grant to fund attendance at the Annual Conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in Boston, MA March 6-9, 2013. Tyler will facilitate two pedagogy panels at the conference: Novel Approaches: Book-length fiction in the classroom” and  “Teaching Creative Writing Behind Bars (and Beyond).”  

 Dr. Andrew Opitz  received a grant to support archival research with the Mark Twain Project at UC Berkeley--the largest archive of Twain writings in the world.  His project is entitled “American Literature as World Literature: Remapping Mark Twain's Anti-colonial Satire.”   His research will examine Twain's informal writings from two periods of his life: (1) his visit to Hawai'i at a young man in the 1860s and (2) his world lecture tour in the mid 1890s -- a journey that took him to Hawai'i, Fiji, Australia, Sri Lanka, India and South Africa. The goal of this research is not just to unpack the mind of a single author, Twain, but to understand how satirical writings from this time period both expressed and shaped a growing anti-colonial political consciousness that emerged in the late nineteenth century and flourished in the mid twentieth century.

 Dr. Micheline Soong received a grant for her project "Contextualizing the Examination of the Zen Buddhist Poetry of Gary Snyder, W. S. Merwin and Robert Aitken"

Dr. Soong proposes to examine the extent to which American Zen Buddhist practitioners, Gary Snyder, W. S. Merwin and Robert Aitken, have continued the Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen tradition of poetic composition training through their collective creative literary output.  This NEH grant will support foundational initial research at the libraries at UC Berkeley housing the Religious Studies,  Asian Studies, and Asian American Studies collections and the San Francisco Zen Center’s monastery Tassajara Zen Mountain Center Temple Library in Carmel Valley, California, enabling Dr. Soong to trace the historical record of how Japanese Zen Buddhism was transmitted to America, and the subsequent transmission and development of different poetic training techniques in the Soto, Rinzai and Sambokyodan lineages or schools that were established in the United States.

Dr. Mark Tjarks  received a grant to cover attendance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland Oregon  June 25-30, 2013 where he will also attend a program called Shakespeare in the Classroom.  

Dr. Houston Wood received funding to support research for a new book project with the working title Contemporary Visions of Peace.  Dr. Wood plans to interview six national leaders in peace studies.   Interviewees will be asked to share their views on the need for a single guiding perspective for peace studies, what criteria or benchmarks such a perspective should meet and, most importantly, in what ways their own theories and visions provide a unifying perspective for the field.