Department Notepad

Patrick Hicks (SJU 1992): is the Writer-in-Residence at Augustana College, as well as the author of five poetry collections, most recently Finding the Gossamer (2008) and This London (2010), both from Ireland*s acclaimed press, Salmon Poetry. He is also the editor of A Harvest of Words (2010), which was partially sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. His work has appeared in such journals as Ploughshares, Indiana Review, Tar River Poetry, Glimmer Train, Virginia Quarterly Review, Natural Bridge, Beloit Fiction Journal, and many others. He has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize, he recently won the *Glimmer Train New Writer*s Fiction Award*, and he is fortunate enough to be a Visiting Fellow at Oxford as well as the recipient of a number of grants, including one from the Bush Artist Foundation. He is currently at work on a new novel entitled, The Missing. If you'd like more information on Patrick please consider visiting www.patrickhicks.info

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Rogers (Class of 2005): has been teaching literature and composition since his graduation. He now works at Saint Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, teaching rhetorical skills and world literature courses. In 2010 he earned his Master's in Catholic Studies from the University of Saint Thomas, and wrote his thesis on the pre-evangelical characteristics of literature. John married in 2007 and celebrated the birth of his first child, Anna Kateri, this past August. He currently lives in Saint Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John McGuire (SJU 1948): After graduation from SJU in 1943, I went on for my master's in English Literature at Notre Dame. I was a professor of English at St. Ambrose University here in Davenport for 40 years, retiring in 1986.  From 1963 to 1994 (part-time and during summers) I also taught a course called Effective Writing for various business firms and for the Department of the Army here in the Quad Cities. Over the years I have authored three books: "Words in Action," a writing textbook; "My Life Story," an autobiography; and "Essays from the Edge," a commentary on life and living it. I remember with gratitude many of my professors at Saint John's, especially Tom Cassidy, Fr. Cosmas Dahlheimer, Fr. Dominic Keller, Fr.Alfred Deutsch, and, of course, Fr. Walter Reger, who was a cohesive force in alumni relations over many years. I am also grateful to St. John's for providing its students a solid grounding in the Benedictine tradition of the liberal arts. I just passed my 90th birthday in March.

 

 

 

 

Jake Vos (SJU 2006): I'm an attorney living in Denver. I work for Taylor & Anderson; we generally work on civil trials scattered around the U.S. After graduating from St. John's I went to law school at the University of Notre Dame. After that, it was off to a clerkship at the Colorado Court of Appeals, followed by a stint at the District Attorney's Office. One of the big changes between the DA's office and my current job is that I get to write again; things usually moved too fast at the DA's office to ever fully research or brief an issue. Outside of work, kayaking season is just getting started out here; when the rivers are flowing I tend to spend my time on class IV-V whitewater. In the off season, it's usually backpacking or snowboarding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current English Department Faculty

 

Betsy Johnson-Miller (Instructor of English and Communication): Once again, this semester reminded me how much I love to teach Reading Fiction and Poetry. The class engaged the texts we studied with gusto, and it delighted me to see them reach new levels of appreciation and understanding. I look forward to teaching creative writing classes in the fall and spring. In terms of my own creativity, an essay of mine on hunting and Facebook will be included in the September, 2011 issue of Gray's Sporting Journal. In June, I will attend a memoir workshop at the University of Iowa, and my second young adult novel, The Fountain, has just been released from North Star Press.

 

 

 

Cindy Malone (Professor of English):  I've just returned from London, where I attended a Digital Books Conference and the London Book Fair to hear about the latest developments in books and digital media.  I found the discussions both heartening and troubling.  While media and format change rapidly, many publishing industries see powerful evidence of deep, vital engagement with varied experiences of reading.  On the other hand, the multitude of devices and platforms (nook, Kindle, iPad, and so on) and the uncertain futures of devices, formats, and digital storage raise vexing questions.  Moreover, the uneven access to digital media across socio-economic groups and geographical regions, along with the almost instant obsolescence of those media, pose serious issues for people committed to wide dissemination and long-term conservation of "books" (widely construed).  While I was in London, I also spent time in the Rare Books room of the British Library, where I read 18th-century works by writers eager to profit from the popularity-or notoriety-of Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.  The range and number of unauthorized "prequels" and sequels, coupled with Sterne's own borrowings (or, more bluntly, plagiarism) from other writers, invite comparison with current discussions about intellectual property in the digital age. 

 

 

 

Christina Shouse Tourino (Associate Professor of English):  With the exception of two lilies, with pads, that have given me fits, I've completed every block for my 5 year old son's twin size quilt.  My plan is to assemble all the flashing and pass the top along to a professional for quilting by early summer, in the hopes of making a Bastille Day deadline.  I've returned to my Race and Ethnicities in US Literatures course after a few years off, and I've really enjoyed it.  I've decided to include an Asian American unit for the course next spring; I hope Louis Chu's Eat a Bowl of Tea will miraculously come back into print.  My short article on Camille Paglia was published in the SAGE Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World edited by Mary Zeiss Stange and Carol K. Oyster in April, 2011.  My summer projects, after stitching, are Program Review, and the brush up and submission of essays on "Jackass" and the cultural function of piano music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk. 

 

 

 

Ozzie Mayers (Professor of English):  In my English 311: Writing Essays class, I have used for years a collection of essays, Modern American Essays (MAP), which is the only collection of essays that I have found to provide 45 essays for each  of the fifteen writers in the collection.  I want such a text since part of the purpose of this course is to help students come to an understanding of style, which becomes evident over the course of several pieces of writing.  However, I am troubled that this collection does not go beyond North American writers.  I have been working on expanding such a text to one that would look essayists from around the world.  I am especially interested in how such writers fall into or challenge the creative non-fiction genre which by and large emerged out of a Western sensibility.  So, this semester I added two additional writers to ones I assign from MAP:  Chinua Achebe (Nigeria) and Arundhati Roy (India).  My practice is to couple writers together for the sake of comparison and contrast.  In this instance, I paired Achebe with James Baldwin to see how race and culture intersect with their personal voice; I paired Roy with Joan Didion, both journalists who bring opposing tones to their essay; while Roy does not hesitate to include her own views in her essays, Didion remains detach.  These additions to the MAP collection suggests to me that there is merit in my project which I hope to continue over the next two years.

 

 

 

Jane Opitz (Director of CSB/SJU Writing Centers):  The Writing Centers are wrapping up another busy year:  The stats aren't compete yet, but it looks like the tutors have conducted over 3500 appointments with 1900 writers, not including the about 50 in-class peer-review group sessions on draft days.  And I am completing the trial run of a new offering in the department's new curriculum:  a 100-level course in Science Fiction.  It's been fun, enlightening, and exhausting.  (I've been especially overwhelmed by the amount of complimentary material available online and in one-or-another video form.)  I'll spend part of the summer revising and sharpening this course for another go next spring semester.  Other summer projects include dabbling in water color painting and indulging in my passions:  reading, writing, and lots of gardening-mostly many flowers (iris are a favorite) and more tomatoes than we can eat.  Sounds delightful.

 

 

 

Steven W. Thomas (Assistant Professor of English): This semester I organized a panel about "Ethiopia, African-American Literature, and Oromo Identity" for the annual Multi-Ethnic Literatures in the United States (MELUS) conference, hosted this year by Florida Atlantic University. The panelists (pictured left) were the Oromo historian Dr. Mohammed Hassen, my student Angela Mathis, the Oromo poet and ethnographer Asafa, and myself. Also in the picture is my grrrlcomrade Maya, who assisted our panel. It was a very positive experience for all of us. Earlier this winter, Maya and I also edited another issue of Ogina: Oromo Arts in Diaspora. For the CSBSJU English department this semester, I taught an intro-to-film studies for the first time and really enjoyed it. I also invented a new course for the English department, "Professional Writing in Business and Civil Society."

 

 

 

Mara Faulkner (Professor of English): I feel like an old dog constantly having to learn new tricks.  Last fall I taught a new version of contemporary literature called "The Past, Present, and Future of the Book."  My students and I learned a lot about comics and mash-ups, nooks, vooks, blooks, and all things digital, as well as hybrids that cross-pollinate past and present, electronic and print, fact and fiction, literature and visual arts.  I thought I would be teaching essentially the same class this fall, only to discover that much of what I had planned to include was now commonplace or obsolete.  For instance, in Fall, 2009, Twitter was news; by Fall, 2010, it wasn't news at all, and when I asked my students to create Twitterature versions of classic texts, they capably tweated the Book of Genesis, Jane Eyre, and Beowulf as if they'd been doing it since first grade.  When I held up a print book and called it a codex, most of them nodded wisely.  While most of my students are codex lovers, many of them got Kindles or iPads for Christmas.  Just today I discovered a new mash-up:  Meowmorphosis, in which Gregor Samsa turns into a fuzzy kitten.

My students created beautiful art books, whose meaning depends upon texture, shape, size, the heft of the book in the hand, and even the faint scent of the grasses embedded in the paper.  They also created hypertext fiction and poetry, whose constantly shifting meaning depends upon the whim of the reader.  One student even wrote a disappearing book about bodies-on his body.  I don't know what all of this means, not just for an old dog like me, but for all writers, readers, publishers, students and teachers of writing and literature.  As always, I depend upon my students to teach me, as they have been doing all along. 

 

 

 

Luke Mancuso, OSB (Associate Professor of English):  The Zizek effect is now welded to my world. Look: here's Zizek in full throttle, speaking on "Our Situation is Catastrophic but not Serious" at CUNY in New York in April 2011:  http://fora.tv/2011/04/04/Slavoj_Zizek_Catastrophic_But_Not_Serious#fullprogram .  Reading only Zizek for over a year and a half has been an unbearable pleasure:  currently dipping into The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Center of Political Ontology, since I have read most of these Zizek delicacies already:  http://www.versobooks.com/authors/2-slavoj-zizek .  I dreamed last night that the English Department let me teach an upper-division course called "Zizek:  The Plague of Fantasies,"  in which mesmerized students were reciting,  line-by-line,  Zizek's recurring reading of Hitchcock's Vertigo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Uq-kaUFylk . There's a rumor that Zizek has finally finished his magnum opus, an 800-page book on Hegel, called Less Than Zero, so my dexterity in page-turning skills will be sorely tested this fall.  In the meantime, I will be working through In Defense of Lost Causes and The Parallax View this summer, two big fat volumes, sitting on the Abbey Guesthouse terrace, with the sun shifting over my head.

Continuing to tinker with two cinema essays:  an analysis of Gus Van Sant's film Milk, based on Zizek's notion of the "universal exception" and the failure of the "Big Other" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp0uYT0zDbA ); and an analysis of the film The Kids Are All Right,  called "Show Me":  Making Feminine Fantasy Visible in The Kids Are All Right (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgwjTy_cohg ), concerning Jacques Lacan's notorious challenge to Freud,  that "there is no such thing as a sexual relationship."

As of 1 May 2011, I have accepted the office of Abbey Porter, as a part-time member of the Abbey Guesthouse staff, in order to enhance the Benedictine mission we have to extend hospitality to diverse guests on our campus.  Here's the mission statement, available on the Abbey Guesthouse website: http://www.abbeyguesthouse.org/home/mission/ .  In any case, this opportunity for offering hospitality to guests was quite tangibly appealing, as an immediate need to fill for enhanced community service. Hospitality matters: http://www.abbeyguesthouse.org/ . The door is open.  Come to stay with us.

 

 

 

Mike Opitz (Professor of English): I am happy to announce my new website. 

This website is an attempt to facilitate a conversation about songwriting-with special attention to the process of writing songs that are musical, poetic and theoretically inflected.  I am posting works that I have composed and performed with The Karma Refugees over the last three summers.  I am also linking to the works of  other academic musicians as well as the works of past and present students.  The website is small now but I expect this page to grow rapidly over the summer.  The Karma Refugees will be recording again this summer and we will also be filming podcasts for the page.  I'd like to invite any readers of this newsletter who write and perform songs to also post original songs.  Please contact me if you would like to be added to the growing conversation on this webpage.

 

 

 

Bev Radaich (English Department Administrative Assistant):  The lack of time in the sewing room continues but will hopefully change once the semester is over.  We'll see.  I have been reading more  -- I'm on a mystery kick (Robert B. Parker & Janet Evanovich) and watching more movies.  Sunday evening we watched "The World's Fastest Indian."  Good film, not what I expected at all.  I do have a quilt in progress  for our newest grandchild that will be born within the next couple of days.  Over Thanksgiving last year, my husband, Emil, and I spend 10 days in Europe - Budapest, Vienna & Prague - a fabulous trip and just long enough.  We're already planning our next adventure - Croatia.  Have a wonderful summer!