Giving Thanks — With Thanksgiving just around the corner and the end of my term as chair of our English Department just around the next corner, I decided to devote this Monday Missive to expressing my thanks to all of you.
I thank you for not factionalizing along disciplinary lines. We are a very diverse department, encompassing creative writing, digital studies, film studies, linguistics, literature, pedagogy, technical communication, and several other fields of study. We could have easily broken up into competing factions, but I am grateful that we chose not to go down that road. Instead, we try to support and learn from one another. I think it is significant that Liz Miller (a linguistics professor) recently served as a literary judge for Sanskrit, the students’ literary/arts journal. Such willingness to reach across disciplinary lines is more the norm than the exception in our department. Fulfilling my responsibilities as chair would have been much more difficult if we were a factionalized department.
I thank you for taking such a supportive interest in our colleagues’ work and for wholeheartedly celebrating our colleagues’ successes. Whenever I announce a faculty member’s accomplishment, such as the publication of a book or the awarding of a grant, the whole department chimes in with congratulatory emails. This aspect of the department carries over to our curricular and administrative successes. At last week’s department meeting, we spontaneously applauded the accomplishments of faculty members who have built curricular programs, such as our new dual-degree MA/MFA program in creative writing with Kingston University and our highly successful departmental honors program. Many academic departments are divided by rivalry but not our department. For me, serving as the chair of such a community-oriented department has been a source of pleasure and satisfaction.
I thank you for your ongoing commitment to teaching our students. We have a strong record in research and publishing, but our success in the areas of research and publishing does not lessen our dedication to teaching. One of the highpoints for me during my time as chair came in 2017 when the Department of English received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
I thank our amazing staff for their many contributions to the smooth functioning of our department and for helping me in my role as chair. Throughout my seven and a half years in this role, Angie, Jennie, and Monica have made my job much easier. Because of Angie, I have been able to deal with the department’s budget. Whenever I need information about particular courses, Jennie always has the answer. When I decide to install a new exhibit in the departmental display case, Monica joins forces with me and adds her own creative touches. These are just a few of the many examples of how I have benefitted from the help provided by the legendary terrific trio.
Finally, I thank everyone in the English Department, both past and present, for recognizing the value of children’s literature. One of the reasons our English Department is recognized in the English-speaking world as a major center for the study of children’s literature is because the entire department has given its support to the development of our children’s literature program. In fact, a number of our faculty members who were not originally hired as specialists in children’s literature have taken an interest in children’s literature and have published in the field. Examples of such faculty members include Janaka Lewis, Maya Socolovsky, and Ralf Thiede. This level of support is not the norm in many English departments. I know children’s literature specialists from other English departments who often feel that they have to defend the legitimacy of their courses and their scholarship. I am grateful for the support that you have given me and the other children’s literature faculty members over the years.
I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.
The Birth of a Journal — After noticing that there was not a North Carolina state journal for English teachers, Meghan Barnes worked with colleagues at NC State (Michelle Falter) and UNC Greensboro (Amy Vetter) to develop one. Meghan, Michelle, and Amy successfully proposed the journal to the NCETA board last fall and have just published their first issue as co-editors. The journal is titled Fringes, to represent and celebrate the practices and research that educators are doing that are unconventional and peripheral, or fringe. The journal is peer-reviewed and publishes a combination of empirical research articles, practitioner articles for teachers, and creative pieces. For more information about Fringes, please click on this link: http://www.ncenglishteachersassociation.org/journal/
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Meghan Barnes recently delivered the following two papers at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual conference in Baltimore: “Drafting A Win-Win: Maximizing Learning for Pre-Service Teachers and Students Through Digital Writing Spaces” and” Creating Spaces for Inquiry through Expanded Notions of Communities and Texts.”
Jasmin Gonzalez Caban, a recent graduate of our M.A. program, recently presented a paper titled “A Multiplicity of Monsters: Coping with Death in A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness” at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference held in Atlanta.
Shannon Murphy, one of our graduate students, recently presented a paper titled “Circe as Monster? Redefining the Monster in Madeline Miller’s Circe” at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference held in Atlanta.
Clayton Tarr recently published an article titled “Big Oil: Petroleum Politics in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race” in Symbiosis 19.2 (Fall 2019). He also presented a related paper titled “Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Petroleum Politics: Democracy and Vril in The Coming Race” at the Victorians Institute, Charleston, SC (November 2019).
Upcoming Events and Deadlines — Here is information about upcoming events and deadlines:
December 9 — The English Department holiday party will be held from 11:30-1:30 on Monday, December 9, in the department lounge.
Quirky Quiz Question — There are many traditions associated with Thanksgiving, including a large parade in New York CIty. What is the name of this parade?
Last week’s answer: Look Homeward Angel
Mary Rebecca Denny’s interest in the writings of John Milton overlaps with Paula Eckard’s interest in the writings of Thomas Wolfe. The title of one of Wolfe’s novels is based on a line from Milton’s poem Lycidas. What is the title of this novel by Wolfe?