April 2003

 Listening for the Voice of Vocation
Dr. Angeline Dufner

 

 English Majors Named to DES
Adapted form CSB/SJU News Releases

 

 Students and Teachers and the Benedictine Way
Dr. Hilary Thimmesh, OSB

 

 Second Sister Mariella Gable Prize Awarded
Dr. Cindy Malone

 

 My Introduction to the Intellectual Life: A Memory of Sister Mariella Gable
Dr. Mike Opitz

 

 Cheely Wins Wagner-Berger Prize
Dr. Mara Faulkner, OSB

 

 Growing into a Vocation
B. Daniel Rosch '98

 

 A Career at the Guthrie
Jennifer LeGrand '93

 

 News from the Chair
Dr. Ozzie Mayers

 

 What Can I Do with a Major in English?
Adapted from Career Services

 

 Multiethnic Literature
Dr. Christina Tourino

 

 Book Review
Dr. Sheila Rausch, OSB

 Trying to See from Both Ends of Time, or the Hunt for a Voice
S. Eva Hooker, CSC

 

 


 

Listening for the Voice of Vocation 

Dr. Angeline Dufner

Near the end of 2002, the College of St. Benedict received a grant of 1.4 million dollars from the Lilly Foundation to underwrite a new program that develops a strong sense of vocation in women.  This program will draw upon the rich Benedictine traditions of listening and community.  Its goal is to help students connect their values with their life choices, enabling them to be more effective leaders in their church or in society or both.  The program is designed to use the monastic tradition of companioning, which, according to CSB President Mary Lyons, "recognizes the dynamics of women's vocational formation and development."  This emerging new program will impact the vocational awareness and effectiveness of students, faculty, staff, and alumnae.

The three articles that follow explore several avenues and implications in vocational awareness.  Father Hilary Thimmesh, English faculty member and former president of St. John's University, reflects on a Benedictine context for education.  Mike Opitz, English faculty member and next year's Department Chair, remembers his dawning recognition of the value of an intellectual life.  B. Daniel Rausch, recent English graduate from SJU, draws the connection between his education and his vocational decision to teach.


Students and Teachers and the Benedictine Way 

Dr. Hilary Thimmesh, OSB

 

Sister Emmanuel Renner, Sister Mary Reuter, and Abbot John Klassen have written "Catholic, Benedictine Values in an Educational Environment," a 24-page essay that is being widely discussed on our campuses.  Environment is a key word in their title.  They highlight the moral climate you can expect on a monastic campus: inner awareness of God's presence, respect-even reverence-for one another, a sense of the common good, a shared sense of mission, stability and frugality as key conditions for growth and stewardship. 

That is a sketchy summary of a few main ideas in their paper.  I mention it to recommend it (see http://www.osb.org/acad/benval1.html), but also to note that the monastic tradition yields further values that have a bearing on how and why we learn and teach.

You can, for instance, think of the contemplative dimension of monastic life.  What does contemplation mean for students and teachers?  Thoughtful?  Not superficial?  Focused?  Poets are contemplative.  They see things closely.  "I'll tell you how the Sun rose-" says Emily Dickinson, "A Ribbon at a time-."  People of a contemplative bent sense the weight and texture of things.  "We believe that the Divine presence is everywhere," says Benedict.  "Let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices."   It's a good rule for thinkers, whether lecturing or discussing or writing: to respect the mind-one's own, one's listeners'-and the power to express oneself thoughtfully.  Philosophers, mathematicians, political scientists, every discipline and field of learning can find a home and encouragement in this fundamental monastic quality.

Peace.  Monasteries traditionally foster peace.  Many have the motto "Pax" at the front door.  In the monastic context, peace is not a passive condition.  It doesn't happen because for the moment nobody is angry at anybody.  It doesn't result from the absence of contention.  Rather it is the result of constructive forces in society: people working together, accepting a shared mission, or, more accurately, accepting their individual roles in a cooperative endeavor.  Peace doesn't just happen.  It is built by people taming their impulse to self-aggrandizement with a healthy humility.  Peace is the result of teaching, health care, social work, the administration of justice.  Monasteries model such forces in care for their own elderly and infirm, for visitors, retreat makers, students.

Benedictines traditionally sought to maintain their communities by their own efforts as far as possible.  Doing so manifested a positive attitude toward work.  "When they live by the labor of their hands," says Benedict, "then they are really monks."  In our culture this principle translates into a responsible approach to meeting one's own needs and the needs of others in our care.  It does not disdain doing the ordinary tasks that keep a place in good running order, whether it's making the soup or doing the laundry or scrubbing the bathroom.  It values skill at every level of achievement and takes delight in the accomplishments of others.  It is not competitive; rather, cooperation gets high marks.  So does sufficiency, or rather the ability to recognize when one has enough.

These are a few central characteristics of Benedictine life-call them values if you will-that easily translate into values for students and teachers wherever they may be, but that are particularly persuasive in a Benedictine environment.


My Introduction to the Intellectual Life: A Memory of Sister Mariella Gable 

Dr. Mike Opitz

On February 6, 2003, the Sister Mariella Gable Prize was awarded by the Literary Arts Institute of the College of St. Benedict and Graywolf Press.  The publicity for the award announced that it was "named for an outstanding English professor who taught at CSB from 1928 to 1973."  On each annual award day, I make a short statement to my classes, giving them a brief and personal view of the person for whom the award has been named, someone who must seem like only a name to them. 

     

I met Sister Mariella Gable for the first time when I a sophomore in high school.  Perhaps "met" is the wrong word; I'm sure she did not know who I was.  I was one of the many students in a crowd.  Every year, students in my high school attended a week-long retreat.  We maintained silence throughout the day; we read and spent time in thoughtful meditation; we attended morning and afternoon retreat sessions.  Most years the sessions were meaningless to me.  We usually spent hours being lectured at about not smoking, not kissing girls, and as many other "thou shalt nots" as the retreat director could fit into a week of speeches.  But the year that Sister Mariella conducted our retreat was different.  It was a turning point in my life.

I should add that I grew up in a neighborhood where sports were played at almost all times in all seasons.  Each fall, our neighborhood had an all-ages touch football game every Saturday.  In summers we fielded a neighborhood baseball and softball team several nights each week.  Our basketball team regularly won the city championship.  In short, as a young high school student, I was in every sport.  I endured the school day so that after school I could go to practice of whatever sport was in season.  It was a routine I took for granted, for the neighborhood I grew up in was obsessed with athletics.

 

At the first session of our retreat in my sophomore year, I was sitting in my assigned place anticipating another assault of "thou shalt nots" when a small nun walked to the front of the room.  She spoke about evolution; she spoke about human beings evolving into "loving beings"; she made reference to an Omega Point when the grand design of evolution would result in human beings capable of practicing the kind of love Jesus taught.  Her topic for the entire week of retreat was the work of Teilhard de Chardin.  I was enthralled.  I got copies of de Chardin's books and started reading-hoping that each lecture would shed some light on things I was only dimly able to understand.  My understanding grew throughout the week.  Sister Mariella was the inspiration and the intellectual director of my first journey into the world of serious thought.

Sister Mariella Gable

 

When I think of the values Father Hilary has mentioned, I see myself as a young student undergoing a transition.  I spent hours in contemplative reading of de Chardin.  I learned I could be thoughtful.  I learned that I could think in a way which was not superficial and which looked beyond the next athletic contest.  That week changed my life.  The excitement of intellectual work has been central to my life since that time.  Benedictine values, as demonstrated by the enthusiasm and vitality of Sister Mariella Gable's lectures, began to shape an attitude of intellectual inquiry that has been one of the most important forces in my life.


Growing into a Vocation 

B. Daniel Rosch '98 

 

After graduation, I became a teacher because I love working with kids and helping them develop into active members of our global community.  This love and commitment to community began at a YMCA camp when I was a teenager.  My counselor, a Johnnie, led us in daily reflection and discussion about both our tangible, personal experiences and larger, abstract ideals of integrity and global community.  We talked about how each person brings something valuable to share with others and how people can create change by living their values.  Through these dialogues, I learned responsibility to something more than myself, developed a vocation to do good in the community, and learned to listen and see people as individuals longing to be loved and treated with the same respect that I wanted. 


This vocation grew stronger as I attended Saint John's University, where I saw community in action.  Through in-class discussions, social justice activities, and living in residence halls, Saint John's fostered and modeled Benedictine values of community and responsibility.  Each opinion mattered.  Everyone was considered.  As we all lived and worked together, we depended upon each other.  We were regularly encouraged to think on a larger, global level and to move beyond an individual top-down paradigm towards a more level playing field where all are equals. 

I carried this philosophy into my teaching, creating lesson plans that incorporated value-based critical thinking activities with literary analysis and writing.  My students discussed the nature of values such as respect and responsibility through reading books like To Kill a Mockingbird and through writing their own extended definitions of these values.  Our discussions brought these activities together and focused our thoughts on how to live out these ideals.

My mission as a teacher became muddied, however, by intra-district politics.  I was tired of spending many hours beyond the duty day planning activities and lessons, only to hear parent complaints that I wasn't doing enough for their child.  And I was frustrated with the endless sense of entitlement, my students' belief that they were owed everything.  It didn't seem to matter how much they learned or whether I was enriching their lives.  It all came down to the grade and test results.  I burned out.  This was not why I had become a teacher.

I decided to leave teaching and try my hand in corporate life, managing a sales department for Marshall Field's.  The work provided an income, but it was unfulfilling.  And then I ran into Xander.  He had been my student for several years, always showing up in my class and homeroom, and he missed me.  Over a cup of coffee, he told me he was studying I Ching philosophy and working with the local YMCA Leaders Club because I had inspired him to make the world better.  It was a simple, clichéd comment; but it made me realize that teaching and shaping youth is what I am called to do, that every day I am given a chance to engage students and give them a taste of the Benedictine values of community and respect for life and individual worth.

I went back to teaching soon after that cup of coffee.  As I had once inspired Xander, he inspired me to listen again and challenge students to contribute to, rather than take from, the world.  And it has made all the difference.


News from the Chair

Dr. Ozzie Mayers

The first news from this Chair is the last news from this Chair.  After six years of chairing the English Department, I will be retiring from this position.  Dr. Michael Opitz will begin leading us on July 1.  The English Department continues to be a group of enterprising, intellectually vital, wonderfully insightful, and generous faculty.  Although we have faced challenges among ourselves and within the institution, I am grateful to have chaired a department whose members continue to lead the way with curricular foresight, innovative pedagogy, and rich and stimulating scholarship.  The next few years will undoubtedly bring its own set of challenges, but I am confident that, as we have in the past, the English Department will respond with grace, wit, and intellectual fortitude.

    

Next year Dr. Chris Freeman will be gone a full year.  In the fall, he will direct the Australian Study Abroad program.  In spring he will be on sabbatical.  During that time, he expects to update English 387, Introduction to Linguistics, and to create a new senior seminar course.  He will also devote considerable time to advancing his work on the critical biography of Paul Monette and on editing Monette's journals. 

Dr. Cynthia Malone will also be on sabbatical next spring to focus on print-on-demand technologies in academic and independent literary publishing.  For those of you unfamiliar with this form of publication, print-on-demand, according to Dr. Malone, "uses digital format to produce books less expensively than traditional printing and binding."  She also intends to further her pregnancy-related research and to continue developing her skills in book arts.  As a preliminary, she has organized a three-day workshop in book arts this summer for ten faculty from the Art and English Departments. 

Sister Mary Jane Berger is directing the South African Study Abroad program this semester.  She says that she and her students are doing quite well.  Should you want to get in touch with her, she can be reached at Langerry Holiday Flats, 31 Beach Road, Humewood, Port Elizabeth, 6001, South Africa.

Just before she left, Sister Mary Jane received word that a former student from her class called "Writing Lives: Partnering with the Community" is willing to fund the Writing Lives project for the course.  The project is a published collection of essays written by students in this course about people living in Country Manor in Sartell.  The project is the culminating work for students, each of whom partners with one of the persons in the Manor for the duration of a semester.

Finally, we are looking forward to our annual Recognition Banquet on April 13.  This year the speaker is Dan Simmons, who graduated with an English major in May of 1999.   He is currently editing the newsletter at Mayo Clinic and is freelancing in Rochester, MN. 


Multiethnic Literature

Dr. Christina Tourino

"Multiethnic literature," as we refer to it in our CSB/SJU curriculum, began taking serious shape as a field during the sixties and seventies.  Taking their cue from grass roots movements, proponents of Multicultural literature brought the literatures of minorities and immigrants into the university classroom alongside mainstream American literature.  Ethnic literatures are generally thought to include those written by and about members of disenfranchised groups, a definition that shifts, depending upon the historical moment it describes.  These groups include white immigrants as well as those from Asia and the Caribbean, Blacks, Chicanos (Mexican Americans), Native peoples, and other peoples of color. 

Ethnic literature as an area continues to explode in complexity and interest, and universities build it into their curriculum depending upon their resources.  Often professors and courses in ethnic literature are housed in various area studies programs as well as in English Departments.  Some universities have Ethnic Studies Programs, while others are large enough to house separately particular ethnic groups by creating programs such as Latino/a Studies or African American Studies.  Women and/or gay and lesbian writers from any ethnic group often share thematic concerns that place them in Gender and Women's Studies. 

As literary critics pay more attention to globalization, even these categories rattle apart.  To cite only one example, critics have often understood ethnicity in terms of assimilation, a conflict between the "ethnic" and the mainstream "American" that is sometimes resolved by the rebirth of the "ethnic" as an "American."  More recently, we have begun to think about ethnicity in terms of the flow of bodies and capital across international borders. Junot Díaz, the recent Dominican American author of Drown, writes not only about his struggles and pleasures in becoming "American" but also about the involvement of the United States in Dominican politics that caused his parents to immigrate in the first place. 

The ethnic writer's position with respect to mainstream American society becomes exponentially more complex when considered alongside the network of effects due to laws and foreign policy in the United States.  Because I also teach and write about the literatures of Latin America, I try to put Latino/a literatures into this larger political and artistic context of Spanish or English writers all over the Americas.  I have used this kind of exploration in courses I have taught in Ethnic literature, Latin American literature, and Comparative Literature of the Americas-courses that can now serve as electives for the Latino/Latin American Studies minor that CSB/SJU approved earlier this spring.

While writers of different marginal groups share an experience of politically urgent writing in a hostile environment, their vastly differing histories and material circumstances require many frameworks for analysis.  White immigrants came to America voluntarily.  Blacks were kidnapped and enslaved.  Many Mexicans became "Americans" because the United States moved their northern border through war.  For some "ethnics," the anguished choice of assimilation is available to them because they can "pass" as "American;" many others of color cannot.  Some face the challenge of learning to read and write in English.  The literacy of black slaves, for instance, was prohibited by law. 

Courses in ethnic literature, then, often focus on one ethnic group (Black literature, or the literatures of immigration), or on a single thematic concern (for example, miscegenation).  At CSB/SJU, our "Multicultural Literatures of the US" provides a survey of artists and issues across several ethnic groups.  In my version of the course, I begin with early white ethnic literature and proceed chronologically through the eighties, choosing those texts that I think are the most important in an evolving ethnic canon.  One of my purposes in making these choices is to prepare students for continued reading of contemporary ethnic literature on their own if they wish.


Trying to See from Both Ends of Time, or the Hunt for a Voice 

S. Eva Hooker, CSC

 

As many of you know, I took a leave of absence last year to write.  I spent the year in New  England, returning to the place where I spent my last sabbatical, Mount Holyoke College.   I arrived there fresh from a month of a self-appointed sabbath task: writing a poem a day for thirty days.  Having done that (no one more amazed than I), I was in "writing mode" when September began.  I had thirty brand new poems in my writing pocket.  I had a small pile of new books to read.  On September 11, I packed in early morning to go to Eastern Point, a retreat house just north of Boston.  I drove to Boston right after the World Trade Center collapsed.  Continuing on to the Jesuit retreat house in Gloucester, I watched the sky.  It was utterly quiet.  No jet streams.  At Eastern Point, the shore guard searched the coves.  The lobster men watched.  Everything on the water seemed to be in slow motion.  I wrote in a kind of imaginative dusk.  The headlines from The New York Times and The Boston Globe felt like bulletins from some other world.

With a year to write before me and contemporary events casting a very large shadow, my task was simple: stay in writing mode, find the sixteenth- or seventeenth-century voice I had imagined would be a kind of animateur for my own voice, and see if I could make a sensible and provocative sequence of poems.  I called the project Tell Clock and thought of the poems as recollection signals, a form of meditation on time and interior seasons.

From day one of October, I was on a hunt.  A hunt for a woman's voice that would fit my purposes.  To make matters more difficult, I knew only intuitively what those purposes were.  I read Elizabeth Hastings, Elizabeth Jocelin, Dorothy Leigh, and many others.  I exhausted the library.  I nagged all my friends in sixteenth and seventeenth century studies.  I made a new list.

In October, I went to Washington to the Folger Shakespeare Library for a conference on the history of the book and for a week of digging in the library there.  The serendipitous happened,  the happy accident that sends poem seeds flying.  It was there in the first talk of the day that I found her.  Jonathan Goldberg spoke about Margaret Cavendish as a "scribe to the desire of self and other."  He mentioned twenty-one letters she wrote to her husband-to-be, William Cavendish.  I still remember his very beautiful voice reading, "I am sorry you have metamorphosis."  I sat in my chair in a fit of intuitive leaps.  The rest is now lyric-twenty-one poems written between November and Easter and about twelve others written in that peculiar cloud of knowing and not-knowing that September 11 had cast over me.  The subject of the latter: history and memory.

I had found the voice; now I had to get to her original, the hand, the vellum, the velvet box; I had to do the scholarly tracking, the hands-on work that yields the lyric.  Margaret's original letters are in the British Library in London.  Faculty Development grants made my trip there possible.  The British Library is a gorgeous new building near St. Pancras Station and King's Cross.  Karen Erickson (MCL) and I went together to apply for admission.  We were welcomed warmly.  The young man who took my credentials said, "We have missed you.  You Americans.  Thank you for coming.  Your countrymen gave so generously to this place.  We like you to be here."  The generous courtesy was moving.

In the manuscript room upstairs, I was presented with a giant velvet-lined box that contained MS Additional 70499, a two-foot long leather-bound volume containing some of William Cavenish's letters, including the twenty-one Margaret wrote to him.  Each of her letters was in an envelope of vellum, the red seal she had attached still hanging from the edge.  The letters were in her own hand, a wild, blotted, variously spelled, very messy piece of work.  Margaret wrote in the margins, around the edges, and she scratched out words with energy and something akin to violence.  I turned the pages with a kind of breathless edginess.  I could hardly get myself to take up my stubby pencil.  (NO PENS ALLOWED.)   At the pace of two or three letters a day, I took notes on the differences between the letters in the "flesh" and the typed version of them I had first read in the Cavendish biography by Anna Battigelli.  For ten days or so, I lived with the letters.  I held them.  I noted their line breaks.  I dreamed them at night. 

At tea time in the morning and evening, I simply rejoiced at being where I was by drinking tea "to the wall."   What is the "wall"?  It is a marvelous container for The King's Library, a collection of 65,000 books and 400 manuscripts presented by King George IV to the nation.  The glass wall rises up from the first floor to the top of the building.  The wall is both beautiful and useful.  As you drink tea, you can see the "book-pullers" on ladders, retrieving books for users in the reading rooms.  As you move from level to level of the library, you can look at the beauty and color of the leather bindings and enjoy the collection as living sculpture.  Every day it changes; the ladders and the "book-pullers" move along the shelves.  I always tried to choose a tea table as close to the wall as I could get.  I felt as if I could lean on history there.  Rest in it as the poems made themselves inside my head.

Downstairs in a gallery, you can see selected manuscripts.  They are called "treasures" and the word is apt: you wander from a First Folio of Shakespeare to a Gutenberg Bible to manuscript revisions by Seamus Heaney and Virginia Woolf, among others.  You can also hear old music, jazz, Winston Churchill speaking, poets reading a poem.  As you walk around, looking and looking, you see small signs that make you aware that you are walking around in a virtual roadmap of books, maps, stamps, patents, sound recordings, and printed music.  One sign modestly says, "the most important research collection in the world."  The magnificent treasures of writing, reading, and various other art forms are kept for public use by the English government.

Who works there?  Students, journalists, writers, scholars.  We check in downstairs, lock our possessions in small lockers, and pick up a clear plastic tote bag for our notebooks, laptop, pencils, and private gear.  The less you have the better.  Part of the joy of being there is the shared purpose, the habit of being, the company of scholarly purpose, the joy of the finished day.  The happy tiredness.

In the shadow of early evening, I turn in my plastic tote bag, pick up my coat, and head out into the daily downpour of January rain towards the tube and the theatre.

Margaret's handwriting in my head.  The rhythm of her words beginning to move from her page to mine.  The new manuscript is called Portion. 

I hope to return to the British Library this summer to look for theological tie-notes, little prayers, tiny shifts in point of view that will help the reader with the twenty-one poems, turn the reader from the letters back to the inner world of the twentieth century, back to dusk.  Towards a seeing of both ends of time.


English Majors Named to DES 

Adapted from CSB/SJU News Releases 

The highest honor that the College of St. Benedict can award an undergraduate is membership in Delta Epsilon Sigma, a national Catholic honor society for women.  The purpose of DES is to recognize outstanding academic accomplishment, dedication to intellectual activity, and service to others.  Women are eligible to apply if they have completed at least fifty percent of the credit requirements for their baccalaureate degrees while maintaining a 3.9 grade point average or higher on a 4.0 scale.  This year four of those inducted into DES are women majoring in English.

Jennifer Wacek, a senior English major from Owatonna, MN, is striving to complete an English major with a double minor in French and secondary education.  She enjoys intellectual stimulation and welcomes challenges in her life.  Wacek has excelled in several honors courses, despite the fact that her rigorous class schedule will not allow her to complete an honors thesis at the end of her senior year.  Father Luke Mancuso, associate professor of English, describes Wacek's intelligence and critical thinking skills: "The quality of mind, the quickness of critical insight, the diligence of inquiry-each of these innate gifts add lively nuances to complex issues under scrutiny."

Wacek's commitment to academia, to volunteering, and to overall enrichment are especially apparent in her decision to spend a semester in her junior year studying abroad in southern France.  She chose this program because it allowed her to continue growing academically while being immersed in the culture and community of another nation and because the program mandated a service learning project. 

  

Wacek continues to serve others through both work and volunteering.  She serves as a tutor in the CSB/SJU Writing Centers, has participated in CSB/SJU's alternative spring break service trips, and is active in VISTO.   This spring she will lead a group of students to Washington, D.C.  She has also set up an adult literacy program through VISTO.

After graduation, Wacek expects to volunteer abroad before returning home to further her education and to teach.

Kelly Crow from Northfield, MN, is a junior with a double major in English and theology.  Although maintaining a high GPA while double-majoring keeps Crow busy, she continues to volunteer her time to help others.  Crow has participated in CSB's Joint Events Council (JEC) for three years, serving as an executive board member during her sophomore year.  During the summer of 2002, she interned at Boston's Institute of Community Inclusion, a non-profit research and training center advocating for the rights and equal treatment of people with disabilities.  Crow has been active in chamber choir for four years.  She has also participated in youth ministry and Social Justice and Service Learning Community, where she helped plan group service trips and projects.  In her senior year, she expects to write an honors thesis on the New Testament as a text for inter-religious dialogue.

John Merkle, professor of theology, is impressed with Crow's work inside and outside the classroom. "She admirably combines deep-seated convictions with a genuine openness to new ideas, has theological sensibility and wisdom beyond her years, and manifests exemplary integration of mind and heart in her living of the Christian life," says Merkle.

After graduation, Crow plans to enroll in a doctoral program of theology, where she will continue her academic and service activities.  "I have a strong interest in promoting religious understanding and peace, both on domestic and international levels,  "she says.  "Therefore, I hope to direct my service endeavors towards educating others on difference, tolerance, and compassion."

 

Roxanne Tchida is a junior from nearby St. Cloud.  Service is a small word to describe the footprints of Tchida's involvement in campus organizations and academia.  She works daily as a tutor for the CSB/SJU Writing Center, providing her the opportunity to see a variety of writing styles and gain more experience with her own writing.  She is a member of the Global Initiative Group, an intentional living community dedicated to social justice and global solidarity; and she participates in the Student Coalition for Global Solidarity.  Tchida's involvement with the CSB/SJU SOA Watch has allowed her to dedicate her time to working toward closing of the School of the Americas and to promoting more beneficial relations between Latin America and the United States.

Tchida traveled to Atlanta, GA, on an alternative spring break service trip for a housing restoration project for the elderly.  She helped plant trees by volunteering through Saint John's Arboretum, and she has helped coordinate several open mic nights and a poetry slam at CSB/SJU.

These feats are scarcely small ones for an English major with a double minor in Spanish and environmental studies.  Sister Mara Faulkner and Michael Opitz, associate professors of English, are full of praise for Tchida.  Faulkner describes Tchida as "an accomplished writer; but unlike many students who write with ease and fluency, she will not sign her name to anything she doesn't believe in."  Opitz commends her poise and sophisticated leadership in class discussions.  "It is a delightful experience to sit down and talk with Roxi; she is always intensely engaged and her insights are often surprisingly original."

Alyssa Malecek is a junior English major from Redwood Falls, MN.  Manju Parikh, associate professor of political science, describes Malecek as having diverse qualities: "Alyssa is a unique person, in my opinion, because she has an impressive combination of qualities-namely, superb intellectual abilities, an ethic of hard work, strong commitment for social justice, and a deep interest in service."  Malecek exemplifies these qualities as she volunteers for VISTO, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Project Friends, and Relay for Life, a cancer research fundraising project.  Each summer she also volunteers as a vacation bible school teacher.  Malecek says that she can scarcely remember when service was not a part of her life. 

Malecek has demonstrated her compassion for others not only through her service and her future aspirations but also as an avid and experienced researcher.  She has presented several in-depth projects dealing with human rights and service, including research on international trafficking of women.  According to Sister Mara Faulkner, associate professor of English, "For Alyssa, research and learning in general are not mere academic exercises; they are an impetus to action." 

Malecek hopes to continue her dedication to service by attending law school and by working on public policy relating to women's rights and domestic violence.


Second Sister Mariella Gable Prize Awarded 

Dr. Cindy Malone

The House on Eccles Road, a novel by Judith Kitchen, won the second Sister Mariella Gable prize for fiction.  The prize commemorates the work of Dante scholar, poet, editor, writer, and champion of new fiction, the late Sister Mariella Gable, an outstanding English professor who taught at the College of Saint Benedict from 1928-1973.  The celebration for this year's award took place on February 6 at the Haehn Campus Center. 

In The House on Eccles Road, Judith Kitchen tells a story of a marriage between Molly and Leo Bluhm.  The story takes place in a single day, June 16, 1999, in Dublin, Ohio.  Kitchen has taken the names of her characters and the date of her story-Bloomsday-from James Joyce's Ulysses, but she has put Molly at center stage. 

Reviews have been enthusiastic.  In a starred review, Library Journal observed, "Her prose is poetic and breathtakingly beautiful.  As the story unfolds, readers witness the intersection of past and present, learning ways that relationships are distorted by history and tainted by memory.  What's more, by focusing on a single day (much like Ulysses, which it hints at), the novel captures both the nuances of routine and the serendipity of chance." 

Students, faculty, and local book-club members had an opportunity to hear Kitchen read from The House on Eccles Road and to take a broadside printed at the CSB Book Arts Studio by Don Bruno.  Next year's celebration is already in the planning stages.  At it, Joe Coomer will read from his One Vacant Chairthe third winner of the Sister Mariella Gable prize.


Cheely Wins Wagner-Berger Prize  

Dr. Mara Faulkner, OSB

Since 1987 the Wagner-Berger Prize for Fiction has encouraged creative writing at the College of St. Benedict.  Patricia and Leonard Porcello endowed this prize to honor Patricia's parents, Louis and Mary Wagner Berger, and to support college women who are interested in writing short stories and novels.  Since then, Patricia Porcello has died; but thanks to a generous gift from her and her husband, seventeen aspiring writers have received this prize.

All full-time students from the College of St. Benedict, regardless of major, are eligible to enter a short story or the chapter of a novel.  Members of the English Department and the editors of Studio One read the entries anonymously and pick the winner, who receives $1000 and the honor of having her story published in Studio One, along with an announcement of the prize.

This year's winner of the Wagner-Berger Prize for fiction is Kelly Cheely, a junior English major from Cold Spring, MN.  Look for her story, "Fingers Like Her Mother's," in the 2003 issue of Studio One, which will be published in April. 

Those readers of The English Web who are CSB students might want to start working on their entries for next year's contest.


A Career at the Guthrie

Jennifer LeGrand  '93

Sometimes accidents happen.  In a lot of ways my life in the theater is a happy accident.   Since I was about five years old I knew three things: I loved to read, to write, and to create my own plays.  And one day I wanted to do all three. 

During my time as an English major at St. Ben's, I was able to spend plenty of time reading and writing, but I had no time to create my own plays.  Indirectly, though, I stayed connected to the performing arts because I worked at the Benedicta Arts Center. 

Melville, Hawthorne, Shakespeare, Dante, and all the other literary greats fueled my mind and vocabulary.   Research papers, creative writing, and presentations helped my communication skills.  I graduated from my four challenging and inspiring years at St. Ben's with strong critical thinking and writing skills. 

Yet I still had no idea what I wanted to be "when I grew up."   I didn't know of any jobs that paid people to read and write.   So I took my skills and went searching for a workplace in corporate America.   I tried a television station and a heath care company, only to find both experiences unsatisfying. 

Then I accidentally became reacquainted with an old friend from high school who was working in England and who invited me to visit.   I fell in love with England, especially London.   While on the tube during my visit, I found an old program for the Royal Court's Young Playwrights' showcase and an announcement that this group was accepting applications for its next playwriting session.  

I applied and was accepted, much to my delight and to my parent's horror.  Parents are sometimes afraid to find their children walking on the road less traveled.  So I returned to the States, sold all my worldly goods (furniture, car, and clothes I didn't need), and moved to London for over two years to submerge myself in theater.  

At the end my time in London, I returned stateside, uncertain of what life would send my way next.   Then I happened to meet someone who was trying to fill a position at the Guthrie Theater.  With thoughts of reading, writing, and plays in my head I applied and was hired by the Guthrie.  It's a position I have now held for almost five years.   I spend my days reading plays to determine which ones would be most suitable for our undergraduate acting program productions as well as writing articles for the theater newsletter and proposals for various projects to further the development of young actors.  Each summer I get to produce-more accurately, create-a short play festival with MFA acting students interning with the Guthrie.  My specific daily duties include preparing and monitoring our departmental budget, writing contracts for guest artists, and counseling students on the adventures of life in the world of theater.  

Through a series of accidents and good luck, I have scored my personal creative hat trick.  I also find myself blessed enough to use lessons learned from my days as an English major each and every day in my job.  Knowledge of British and American literature serves me very well in the world of theater.   

My experience has been that if you find yourself at a fork in the road and unsure of which way to go, close your eyes, take a little time to reflect on what you loved to do as a child or on your very favorite thing about studies in your St. Ben's English major; then take a deep breath and move forward.   You will probably get to where you need to go no matter what road you travel.  But you will have a lighter step and happier heart if you stay connected to where you came from and if you keep your eyes and mind alert to the surprises and accidents that occur along way.


What Can I Do with a Major in English?

Adapted from Career Services

Last fall CSB/SJU Career Services sponsored a career night for English majors.  The event was intended to help students realize the breadth of positions open to English majors.  In the preceding article, Jennifer LeGrand talks about her creative combination of personal interests and her degree in English.  The CSB/SJU Career Network also turned up the following careers that our English major graduates are currently engaged in:

  • Account executive
  • Advertising copywriter
  • Attorney
  • Bank officer
  • Book seller
  • Broker
  • City planner
  • College professor
  • Creative writer
  • Counselor
  • Editor: news
  • Editor: publications
  • Foreign intelligence officer
  • Stockbroker
  • Fundraiser
  • Human resource specialist
  • Insurance agent
  • Internet specialist
  • Investment manager
  • Journalist
  • Lawyer
  • Legal assistant
  • Librarian
  • Magazine writer
  • Media center director
  • Payroll tax supervisor
  • Public administrator
  • Public relations
  • Publishing
  • Assistant realtor
  • Priest
  • Retail sales
  • Underwriter
  • Sports writer
  • Teacher
  • Teacher of ESL
  • Technical writer

The careers listed above hardly make up a complete list of fields in which our English majors work.  But it shows that the careers our graduates have are considerably more varied than many people might expect.  It also suggests that a wide range of organizations look for graduates with strong analytic and communication skills-exactly those that the student who majors in English  learns.


Book Review

Dr. Sheila Rausch, OSB

The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality.  Ronald Rolheiser.  Doubleday.  1999.

Although some years have passed since its publication, The Holy Longing remains a classic among contemporary readers who take seriously God and the spiritual life.  The title and subtitle say it all.  This book is indeed for those who realize they don't have it all together but earnestly desire to gather their scattered energies for a frontal attack on mediocrity.  The treatment is comprehensive; the style is readable; the tone is hopeful.  In his Preface, Rolheiser puts it this way: "This book [tries] to be a guide-book of sorts for those who have not been exposed to Christian spirituality in a way that makes it palatable" (ix).

   

The guidebook approach is evident in Rolheiser's sensible, straightforward outline of the contents:

Part One: The Situation

Part Two: The Essential Outline for a Christian Spirituality

Part Three: The Incarnation as the Basis for a Christian Spirituality

Part Four: Some Key Spiritualities Within a Spirituality (including spiritualities of ecclesiology, of the Paschal Mystery, of justice and peacemaking, of sexuality, and of sustaining ourselves in the spiritual life)

This listing conveys the usual sense that the author knows what he is about.  Moreover, because I was looking for just such information, it beckoned me into the reading and never let me down.

Rolheiser begins Part I, "The Situation," by defining spirituality: "[T]here is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. . . .  Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire" (3, 5).  To illustrate, he compares three women-Mother Teresa, Janis Joplin, and Princess Diana-in terms of how each handled that fire within her.  The functions of the soul are treated as "the principle of energy" and "the adhesive that holds us together" (12, 13).  The soul, says the author, is something we are rather than something we have.

Chapter 2 of Part I, "The Current Struggle with Christian Spirituality," is equally concrete: "No matter what we do, some questions will always haunt us. . . .  The struggles in spirituality that are more unique to our age might be named as follows: Naivete about the nature of spiritual energy; pathological busyness, distraction, and restlessness; and a critical problem with balance, leading to a bevy of divorces" (21, 22).  These divorces oppose religion to eros, spirituality to ecclesiology, private morality to social justice, the gifted child to the giving adult, and contemporary culture to its "Paternalistic, Christian Heritage" (33, 34, 36, 38).

Part II names "The Nonnegotiable Essentials" (what we've all be waiting for someone to tell us): private prayer and private morality; social justice; "mellowness of heart and spirit"; and "community as a constitutive element of true worship" (53).  Since the third of these, mellowness of heart, was new to me as an essential element of Christian discipleship, I read with keen interest Rolheiser's clarification of it as a quality opposed to the spirit of the Prodigal Son's older brother.

The impact of Part III-"The Incarnation as the Basis for a Christian Spirituality"-is most difficult for me to describe briefly.  We all know that the Incarnation is the central mystery of Christianity.  Why do we need this matter clarified so badly, and why did it hit me like nothing else in the book?  Rolheiser explains, "Unfortunately, it is also the mystery that is the most misunderstood, or more accurately. . . under-understood. . . . we grasp only the smallest tip of a great iceberg" (75).  Chapters 4 and 5 of this part, "Christ as the Basis for Christian Spirituality" and "Consequences of the Incarnation," spell out why this book can or will have the effect in one's life that I have generalized about in the preceding sentences.  Two compelling points: the shocking character of incarnation (as we analyze Jesus' word for "flesh") and the on-going, near omnipresence of the Incarnation.  If you skim everything else in the book-a foolish decision-scrutinize these chapters with energetic devotion.

In outlining the contents of the work above, I have listed what in Part IV Rolheiser terms the "Key Spiritualities Within a Spirituality."  In Chapter 10: "Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Life," Rolheiser is nothing if not down-to-earth.  I appreciated his naming of practices at the core of a healthy spirituality: regular prayer; the practice of charity and self-sacrifice; some concrete involvement with the poor; involvement within a church community, and "a willingness to be vulnerable for love" (215).  But equally compelling is his description of "antifaith" forces:

that myriad of innocent things within our ordinary, normal lives which precisely make our lives comfortable: our laziness, our self-indulgence, our ambition, our restlessness, our envy, our refusal to live in tension, our consumerism, our greed for things and experience, our need to have a certain lifestyle, our busyness and overextension, our perpetual tiredness, our obsession with celebrities, and our perpetual distraction with sports, sit-coms, and talk shows.  (217)

Surely we can all find something here to work on!

To say that The Holy Longing says everything you need to know about the Christian life may be overpraising an excellent book.  After all, there is Scripture.  And there are many other spiritual classics.  Besides, to sum up my response as "all you need to know" may sound like the arrogant shrug of a word-spent reviewer.  Yet, considering the times we live in and the past of Christian civilization, I can't think of a better recommendation.