Fall 2012 English Department Newsletter
Oxford Summer Program Experience
Aidan Stone (May ’12)
I over-packed for Oxford. Two suitcases (one full of books) in tow, the heavy brown garment bag my father calls “The Hartmann” kept slipping off my shoulder as I looked at a traveler’s map trying to find Trinity College. The weather was gold and warm, not the England I had dressed for. Cars and buses passed, music played somewhere a street over. I dripped with sweat, envying the cool cherubs in the architecture, and asked an Italian couple for directions - sorry, they didn’t know, but would I take a picture of them in front of the church?
Read the full Oxford Odyssey article.
What We're Reading!
If you’ve ever fantasized about going back to college, know that you are not alone. Faculty members, too, dream about sitting in on one another’s classes. I fantasized about doing exactly this last summer, as I sat on my porch with my colleague Suzanne Daly and spent the better part of two hours discussing the “Prison Literature” course she was scheduled to teach this fall. Less than 24 hours later I had ordered Malcolm Braly’s On the Yard, perhaps the ultimate prison novel. Suzanne had already filled me in on the author’s backstory. Abandoned by his parents and raised in orphanages, Braly eventually turned to crime. He spent roughly seventeen years in prison, putting in hard time at notorious places like San Quentin and Folsom State. But his biography didn’t fully prepare me for the slowly unfolding drama of the intersecting lives behind bars. The book opens with our incarceration as we, like the prisoners we meet, enter into a system with rules, systems, and customs violently different from our own. Parts of the book unfold like long shots, slowly taking us room by room to meet the main characters. There’s Manning, a first-time offender turned in by his wife for an affair with his underage stepdaughter; Lorin, the prison’s brainy and psychotic poet; and Gasolino, whose name alone captures the potential for unhinged (and drug induced) rage. In between the long shots are the short takes that propel the narrative. At the story’s heart is the friction between Chilly Willy, the prison’s racketeer-in-chief, and Juleson, a brainy and taciturn man whose crime (killing his wife in a moment of rage) we are ready to forgive the moment we learn of it. Meanwhile, Society Red lurks around the margins, a compulsive recidivist and silent observer for whom the prison becomes a home. Like Red, we find ourselves in prison willingly, drawn in by its social web and unsure of what to do once we get out.
MFA Program for Poets and Writers
he MFA Program for Poets and Writers continues to be a hub of dynamic literary activity and a home for poets and writers creating important new work. Faculty and alumni are publishing, earning honors, and contributing to the field at unparalleled rates. Here’s a sampling of our recent news and activity.
Read the MFA Program update.
Western Massachusetts Writing Project Celebrates its 20th Anniversary
This year, WMWP celebrates its 20th Anniversary as a National Writing Project site. The site grew out of a professional development program begun forty years ago in 1983 by English Department faculty (Charlie Moran, Jim Leheny, C.K. Smith, and Joe Skerrett) and initially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. This pre–Writing Project program included faculty members working with teachers from Springfield, our largest urban school district, on developing writing programs consistent with emerging writing process theory and research. We grew into an informal regional network, hosted as one of the Five College Partnership programs until becoming an NWP site. Now, as the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, we are one of over 200 sites of the National Writing Project, with the Department of English and College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst as our home base. We appreciate the generous support we have received over the years from both UMass and NWP.
Read the WMWP update.
Professional Writing and Technical Communications Update
In September 2008, Christian Pulver became our program’s first teaching assistant. For three academic years he taught English 379 and 391c, making valuable innovations to both courses. Students spoke often of his tireless dedication, his contagious enthusiasm, and his genuine concern for their intellectual and academic well-being. Alas, Christian departs us to complete his Ph.D work and move to greener pastures. Much as we regret his leaving, we know that we are fortunate to have had him onboard for the short time we did. We thank him for his many lasting contributions to the program, and we wish him the best in all his future pursuits.
Read PWTC update.
Read more: faculty pulbications, student awards and donor information.
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