Department Notepad

Current Students

 Kevin Windhauser (SJU 2014): Just over a year ago I (half) jokingly told Luke Mancuso that I wanted his job, and now have the next best thing: a position as the learning assistant in his First Year Seminar course. A year of FYS from the other side of the desk has provided me with pleasure, frustration (one can only ask an English major to explain the difference between "affect" and "effect" so many times) and above all a greater understanding of just what, exactly, it means to be a college student in the twenty-first century.
I also occasionally get around to doing academic things of my own, growing more entrenched in my love of Early Modern literature with each passing semester. Thanks to both the assistance and encouragement of Ozzie Mayers I was able to present my paper "‘To Hear What I Shall Speak': Syntactic Constructions of Violence in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Coriolanus" at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research this past March, an experience which included both discussions of Tolkien and Mew with my fellow panel presenters as well as an afternoon spent ruining my shoes exploring the Wasatch Mountains of Northern Utah.
In the fall I will serve as Christina Shouse Tourino's research assistant and, with any luck, perhaps manage to be half as indefatigable as she is. In the spring I shall leave CSBSJU for the "fresh woods and pastures new" of Oxford University, where I will spend a semester studying Milton, Shakespeare, and the best methods for covering up my undistinguished Minnesotan accent at the Oxford Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. While there I hope to continue work I have begun under the tutelage of Matt Harkins, analyzing the influence of the doctrine of purgatory on Milton's work. As they say, when at a Catholic school, do as the Catholics do. ATB.

Marrisa Deml (CSB 2015): I'm a first year English Major with thoughts of minoring in History. I'm from Little Falls, MN, and my favorite part of English is writing. I enjoy writing fiction and essays, but will try poetry sometimes, too. So far I've taken The Truth of Fiction and Creative Writing for English classes, and next semester I'm taking Literary Theory, Literature of the English Renaissance, and Writing Well. My favorite parts about CSB are how beautiful the campus is and how willing to help the professors are.

 

Alums

Catherine Jensen, Class of 2011: I graduated from CSB/SJU in 2011. I have spent the last school year in China where I teach English. Besides my love for the local food, I did not only teach but was taught by my students as well. I return in June to an editorial internship with the Onion's A.V. Club and, hopefully, a job with a local non-profit. In the next year I hope to write, read, cook, attend a plethora of concerts and decide whether to become a professor or go abroad again. Anywhere could be my next stop.

Jennifer Spindler-Krage, Class of 1993: I graduated from CSB in 1993 with an English major, and I completed my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction at Winona State University. Since then, I've taught in New York City, the Twin Cities, and Winona. I currently teach writing, conversation, and pronunciation classes in Rochester Public School's Adult Literacy Program. I live in Rochester, MN, with my husband (Michael Krage, SJU 1993) and our three literature-loving children.

Amanda Ramler, Class of 2005: After graduating in December of 2005, I was hired at Blattner Energy, Inc. as their receptionist. Within a few months, I accepted a position in their Legal Department as an Assistant, allowing me to use my English degree a great deal. Building projects nationwide, the company focuses on renewable energy and has awarded me many opportunities to travel.  My husband Wayne and I were married in May of 2006 and have been blessed with three children: Madeline (4), Jakob (18 months) and Anna (2 months). We find ourselves extremely busy but try to make time for our hobbies which include camping and hiking.

Ryan Ruff Smith, Class of 2006: I just wanted to let you know - I've made my decision for the fall 2012. I'm going to be pursuing my MFA at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. I had a chance to visit the program this spring and was very taken with it. I was especially impressed with the faculty, which includes the fiction writers Mary Robison, David Leavitt, and Padgett Powell. In case you're curious, here is the link for the program website: http://www.english.ufl.edu/crw/.

 

Department Faculty

Cindy Malone (Professor of English): As the days lengthen and we look ahead to summer, I'm working with students in FYS, English 311, and English 342/Environmental Studies 300 on final projects.  As always, students are asking unexpected questions that offer startling insights-and new directions for inquiry.

This summer, I'll be participating in the Bluestem Project, a CSB/SJU initiative designed to develop the teaching of sustainability across the disciplines. I'll be focusing on integrating issues of sustainability more deeply into my course on editing and publishing (English 315, coming next spring!). I'll also travel to Vancouver for the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in June.

When I return, I'll work on a small edition of my Tristram Shandy book. I'll be marbling paper, printing, gluing, sewing, and generally making a happy mess.

Mara Faulkner (Associate Professor of English): I hand them out all the time, but it's been a long time since I've had what feels like a writing assignment.  Most of the time I meander towards a subject and an argument, finding them more by chance than by design. That driftiness will have to change this summer.

I few months ago, a writer named Amy Boesky sent me an e-mail asking me to contribute an essay to an anthology she was envisioning, about genetically transmitted diseases and disabilities.  Amy inherited a gene from her mother that makes breast cancer and sometimes ovarian cancer all but inevitable and has written a memoir called What We Have. She had read my book Going Blind and asked me to write about my experience of inheriting retinitis pigmentosa and probably eventual blindness from my dad and his ancestors, all the way back to Ireland. Nineteen people have agreed to write essays for the book, which Johns Hopkins University Press will publish in 2013. The book will have three sections-Finding Out, Intervention, and Passing Down. My assignment is to write an essay for the Intervention section, which will include the medical, aesthetic, political, and personal things people can do when they find out that they have a genetic condition. I even have a due date-August 1. Wish me luck!

Bev Radaich (English Department Administrative Assistant): There's been no quilting this past semester. I did manage to get one quilt to the machine quilter and it is fabulous. I'll have a picture in my notepad entry next fall once it is bound. I've been reading a lot - too many books to mention but my favorite so far is Vince Flynn's newest, Kill Shot. I've read all the books in his Mitch Rapp series. I also like two other Minnesota writers, John Sanford and William Kent Krueger. Both write about areas where I've lived. I get a special kick when Sanford writes about driving a highway or visits a neighborhood I'm familiar with in Minneapolis/St. Paul and when Krueger writes about areas in Northern Minnesota. Plans for the summer - a four day work week, time at the cabin, time with the grandchildren, some fishing, lots of time on the deck, and puttering in the garden.  Should keep me busy. Until next time . . . . .

Luke Mancuso (Associate Professor of English): In less than a week, I will have my summer page-turner:  Zizek's magnum opus Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Verso, 2012). The thick volume weighs in at 1100 printed pages, and will provide me with loads of unbearable pleasures, as I sit at the black iron patio tables on the Guesthouse terrace this summer, the rippled Sag at my feet, and the slowly wheeling sun at my back. Zizek is the gift that keeps on giving. Here he is in Berlin, forecasting his hefty Hegel book, in a dazzling lecture to a sold-out hall, "Is it still possible to be a Hegelian today?". Zizek has now saturated the web to the point where he has omnibus sites, which gather together his geyser of written texts and captured video lectures.  Here's the Zizek Journal. Here's Zizek video central control. I know...I know: you think I have a one-track mind. But what a hilarious and stimulating track to sprint through life on. As my spiritual director insists, "Everybody chooses one track. Just make sure you can rediscover a passion for your track over and over again." Maybe I was lost before, but now, as the hymnal says, I am found.

Film Heaven Alert (English/Comm 286 and English/Comm 386 Film Studies in celestial Quad 360): We have had quadruple fun this year, since the English department for the first time has fulfilled a secret fantasy of mine: to teach four film classes in one year instead of the usual two. I'm stranded in heaven and can't get out.  We are ending this cyclical communion with the cinema gods in movie heaven this week in film lab, with The Kids Are All Right (the best film of 2010) and The Last Picture Show (1971), my fifth favorite film of all time.  Also, presentations on So much film. So little time. As Zizek says, "Cinema fiction is more real than reality itself."  Repeat after me: Joy and Passion. Can I get an Amen up in here?

I urge you to see Melancholia (2011), the most beautiful home movies that will ever be made about the end of the world, which wowed the film heaven residents in lab for the first time this spring; as well as Bright Star, a perfectly exquisite film about (Lacanian) desire, or the unattainable object that forever eludes our grasp, in the longings of John Keats; and Shame (2011), a cinematic jolt that condenses all of Freud's comments on the death drive (repetitive, excessive, and mortifying) into a stylish and terrifying narrative about addiction. Not for the squeamish. But too fascinating a film to miss for serious film dudes and serious film non-dudes.

In 2011-12, the best favor I have received is the chance to serve as the Guesthouse Porter at the Abbey Guesthouse, welcoming dozens of travel-weary strangers, eager regular visitors, and impressive dignitaries to our local campus, among the 3,400 guests we hosted this year alone: I have met global visitors from Asia, Europe, Central and South America, Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, Australia. And, oh yes, Waite Park, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas. Indeed, the axis of SJU has tilted toward the east of the Abbey Church, as I wander over there under the galactic canopy every night: Hospitality matters: http://www.abbeyguesthouse.org/. The door is open. Come to stay with us.

Continuing to tinker with two cinema essays: an analysis of Gus Van Sant's film Milk, called "Zizek Giving and Receiving: A Gus Van Sant Milk Moustache," based on Zizek's notion of the "universal exception" and the failure of the "Big Other", in order to argue that the film narrates a universal position that all of us are the excluded subject: You and me = Harvey Milk. And an analysis of the best film of 2010, The Kids Are All Right, called "'Show Me': Making Feminine Fantasy Visible in The Kids Are All Right," concerning Jacques Lacan's notorious challenge to Freud, that "there is no such thing as a sexual relationship." There isn't. Analysis is the most satisfying gift of love. Stay tuned.

Betsy Johnson-Miller (Instructor in English and Communication): This spring, I taught Creative Investigations for the first time, and it has quickly become one of my favorite classes ever. The purpose of the class is to marry research and writing, and my students have produced works on everything from solipsism to genital mutilation, from 17th century Flanders to the Hmong culture. In terms of my own writing, Kathleen Norris chose one of my essays for inclusion in St. Katherine's Review, and I had work published in the Cortland Review and in Portland magazine. In addition, I received a generous grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to write essays where I weave my own faith journey into the spiritual and physical landscape of Minnesota. I will begin work on that project in June.

Jane Opitz (Director of Writing Centers): The spring has been busy with normal activities: consulting with individual writers (especially those having special difficulties and those writing Personal Statements for graduate school), hiring new Writing Center staff, advising English secondary education majors, writing recommendations, and teaching a Science Fiction course. In that course, the last days of the term are my favorites because students present the projects they have been working on all semester-extra readings, drawings, short stories, research-and they come in costume. This semester brought an important change to the CSB Writing Center: color! After all these years, finally we got to paint the walls, resulting in a warmer, more inviting environment. I've also been working with several librarians to revise the materials that faculty use to teach the research process in spring term First Year Seminar. A draft is now online for trial, with more to come this summer. In late April, I attended the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English. It was a solid local conference where CSB/SJU was well-represented. In addition to those of us in the audience, several faculty gave session presentations, as did two of our current senior student teachers, Amy Vander Heiden and Nick Mayhew. My summer work includes cleaning up after this year and preparing for 2012-13 at the Writing Centers and revising (again!) the sf course. On the home front, I intend to grow tons of tomatoes, lots of iris and other flowers, and redesign the landscape in front of the house.

Matt Callahan (Instructor in English): As the end of spring semester approaches, I prepare to say farewell to my two terrific sections of Honors FYS. It has been a thrill watching them go from eager, wide-eyed first years to the cynical, savvy near-sophomores they have become today. Seriously, all kidding aside, it has been a genuine honor and privilege riding that first-year-away-from-home train with such an extraordinary group of young, bright minds. I look for great things to come from them in the years ahead. On the 313 front, we are wrapping up our final fiction pieces. Highlights of the spring semester include our Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day reading (a rousing success), a class visit by the profoundly wise and enormously talented Scott Russell Sanders and, for me anyway, a couple hours in Brother Willie's with most of them one Friday after class. Oh, and they have written a number of fine stories this semester too.

Personally, I was struck dumb by the experience of reading Tea Obreht's first novel The Tiger's Wife in January. Set in the post-war Balkans, it is a story of myth and medicine, destruction and resurrection, and, ultimately, life and death. Or, death and life. You will have to decide on your own. I found myself constantly flipping back and forth from the page I was reading to the photograph of Ms. Obrehton the book jacket, never quite able to reconcile the childlike, angelic face of this young writer with the astonishing and ancient insight conveyed by her words.

Looking forward to summer, I will help facilitate a history writing workshop in June and conduct a class on Minnesota writers for a group of Chilean students in July. I will also participate in the FYS writing assessment for the fourth year in a row. The rest of my time will be dedicated to my own writing,  as well as spending time with the younger of my two daughters who will be home from college for the summer. My older daughter will be in Delhi, India on a three month internship, sweating profusely (I am told) and expanding her sense of life in the twenty-first century. I also plan to ride my bike at least once each day.

Ozzie Mayers (Professor of English): I have begun formulating plans for a Capstone course I will be teaching next spring; and, at this point, I am hoping to pursue a question that lovers of literature must from time to time ask themselves: In what ways do works of art-in this case of this course fiction, poetry, essays, film-improve my relationship to the world? My working title for the course is "Reading Matters," whereby "Matters" is both a verb and a noun. I am hoping that students and I can explore ways by which art makes a difference in our lives and perhaps for the lives with which our interpretations of these works of art interact. For example, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor recently posted a sample Civics course in which she lists reading assignments, one of which would be Willa Cather's My Antonia. I am intrigued by why this novel? In what ways does it provide a means by which to understand ourselves as citizens. I am also thinking that it might be helpful to have students read Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Lifeby Martha Craven Nussbaum (1995) to see how one critic uses literature to understand our roles in the public sphere, not only in the aesthetic or highly personal ones. I am eager to hear from others how works of fiction, poetry, essays, film changed their lives, so send your thoughts to me over the next few months as I begin to choose texts for this course.

I was just awarded the Clemens Library Information Literacy Award!

Matt Harkins (Associate Professor of English): This year I have two short pieces forthcoming: a review of the Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell in Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700; and a piece in Notes and Queries titled "A Clock and a Companion Poem to Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress.'"I am looking forward to building some momentum this summer on my sabbatical project for next spring: an inquiry into the connection between youth and pastoral in Shakespeare's As You Like It. Other plans include wrestling the lawn into submission and learning how to become the perfect human jungle gym.

Christina Shouse Tourino (Associate Professor of English): Corey and I presented a paper about the Colombian novella Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso at the National Conference of the Popular Culture Association in Boston this April while a heroic ex-student and her husband cared for our two young children for two days. My Modern World Literatures course this semester has been the highlight of my year and I'm sad to see it come to an end. Summer is the only possible consolation. I gave my very first two amateur dance performances this semester-one tango and one ballet (the long worked-for successful single pirouette)-and I hope to be able to cross the stage unassisted en pointe by next year. My family and I will spend 5 weeks in Spain during the early summer on a study abroad program. And then it is home to finish the 6-year quilt project for my son.

Mike Opitz (Professor of English): I have had the good fortune to be on sabbatical for Spring Term. This has allowed me to continue to expand my song writing project. I am currently writing and recording songs that combine theoretical currents of thought with rhythm, melody, metaphor and other elements of the song.  Each summer, a loosely organized group of collaborators (The Karma Refugees) gathers at my home studio (The Malt Shoppe) to record new songs. We have all been working toward our July sessions and hope to have a new group of songs posted on a newly reconstructed website by the end of the summer. The newly revised website will also include personal essays exploring elements of song writing and the song as a way of developing theoretical material. For example, last summer saw the writing and recording of "Suitcases: For Walter Benjamin." The sabbatical has allowed me to develop an essay that follows the logic of Benjamin's essay, "Author as Producer," and includes personal examples of playing music and also songs we have written and recorded. The goal is to create a mixed-media context for thoughtful and creative content. My Thursday Forum presentation, available in last semester's English Web, outlines this project and also shows how I integrate music with theory. While I will contribute to the material on the website, it will also provide a place for others--including my song writing students--to post and discuss their work. I had envisioned work like this on my last sabbatical, but it was not technically possible--at least for me. Now it is possible. I hope to continue to contribute to a conversation that explores the burgeoning virtual world and the emerging forms of expression that shape these times.

Madhu Mitra (Professor of English): This semester, I continued my lessons in chairing the English department. I should stop right there; everything else is a blur. It's hard work--learning to do something one has no talent for. And time consuming. Not that it has all been bad:  I've become re-acquainted with many of my limitations, discovered a few strengths, and realized that I really do prefer reading a book to attending three meetings in one day. I taught a new course, Fictions of Empire (221D), which enabled me to evade the pressing exigencies of chairship for seventy minutes every other day, and lose myself in the jungles of Congo, or the Highlands of Kenya, or the sugar plantations of Jamaica. The students were great, and together we debunked the romance of Empire and tore apart that most insidious of imperial ideologies: the civilizing mission of the British Empire. Apart from teaching, what brought pleasure in a semester that is rapidly retreating into a blur of unanswered emails and override requests was my ongoing research on eighteenth-century women who went to India (from England) to find husbands. I gave a presentation of my work for the Collegial Conversations series and called it "Fair Cargo: The East India Company and the Eighteenth-Century Marriage Market." I can't wait to get back to it.

 

 Steven W. Thomas (Assistant Professor of English): During this spring 2012 semester at CSB/SJU, one significant event for me was the organization of the Global Ethiopia Conference on March 17. I talk at length about why and how I organized this conference in an interview with Professor Madhu Mitra for the English Web, and you can read or listen to more about that by clicking here. I have been researching and presenting on this subject for a long time and wrote about it for the English Web previously in 2008. You may click here to read it. As for my new scholarly work, my review of the of the state of the field of early American literature at the annual American Literature Association conference in 2011 was published in the journal Early American Literature, vol. 47, no. 1. If you have access to the Project Muse database, you can read that by clicking here. Another essay that I finished writing a few years ago entitled "Taxing Tobacco and the Metonymies of Virtue" about the poetry and narratives of James Thomson, Isaac Browne, William Byrd II, and Ebenezer Cooke will finally see the light of day in a book entitled Global Economies, Cultural Currencies of the Eighteenth Century. Please look out for the book's publication this summer or fall. In addition to all this scholarly work, I very much enjoyed being a substitute poet alongside our students at the annual poetry slam organized by Pseudonym on April 12 at CSB.

But the biggest of all the big news is that this is my last semester at CSB/SJU. I decided to take a position at Wagner College in New York City and will be moving there in July. Wagner is geographically near to my wife's family as well as near to many of our oldest friends, and it is also a lot closer to the many archives and institutions that I rely upon for my scholarly work. It is with great sadness that I leave CSB/SJU where I have had many great experiences and wonderful students, but it is with a lot of hope and excitement that I look forward to my new position, to some new scholarly and teaching opportunities, and to the rest of my life with my family.