Monthly Archives: October 2014

Big Names Visit A Small State

June 19-21 marked the 8th annual Ocean State Summer Writing Conference. Annually, the University of Rhode Island’s Department of English brings together writers from across the spectrum of place and profession for three electric days of learning, networking and practice. From Harvard to UPenn, from RIC to Brown, from California to Florida, from Providence to Bristol, writers of all walks of life enjoy workshops, craft sessions and readings.

Besides the tremendously popular keynotes at this year’s gathering, from Alison Bechdel, Charles Bernstein and Percival Everett, certain events stood out as participant favorites.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar returned to the conference (after being a keynote speaker at the 2013 conference) and was met with great enthusiasm. One of his events was a conversation with Guggenheim Fellow and Professor Mary Cappello, where they addressed the “turning points” of their careers, their drive and their practice–to a standing room-only group of attendees. Of his former professor from his time as an undergraduate at SUNY/Buffalo, Akhtar has said that Cappello played a key role in shaping him as a writer.

Elaine Sexton and Kristin Prevallet also made a tremendous impact on their attendees. A conversation between the two during the penultimate time slot of the conference addressed a subject on the mind of anyone who has attended a conference before: “What now?” Sexton and Prevallet conversed on subjects like community building, networking, getting published, being employed–important questions, especially to poets. Their insight impacted the group as they both have worked extensively in a variety of fields.

National Book Award nominee and Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, Jody Lisberger had one of the most well-attended events. Her craft session, “Writing or Wanting to Write a Novel or Book-Length Memoir–Strategies for Success” was held in the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium to a group of more than 70.

There were many talented and accomplished writers at the conference in June, and whether they were familiar with the conference from previous years or new to the University of Rhode Island, they contributed to a terrific experience for many of Rhode Island’s writers.

 

The Accomplishment and Benefit of Professor Jones’ Pedagogy

Jennifer Jones

Thirst.  If I were only able to prescribe a single word to reflect upon her being, “thirst”

would extend beyond all others.  Professor Jennifer Jones perspires a thirst to engage the minds of all who stand before her.  With such a profound desire to excite imagination and intellect, it comes as no surprise that Professor Jones was recently honored with the 2014 URI Foundation Teaching Excellence Award.

Whether you’ve had the opportunity to study with her or not, my hope is that through reading the following, readers may collectively engage with and be inspired by Professor Jennifer Jones’ thirst.

 

Q:  What do you believe is foundational to produce and maintain seminars that are beneficial to both student and professor?

JJ: The English graduate seminar is an occasion for the dynamic interplay between research and pedagogy.  This cooperation between professor and students is best supported by a course design that reflects two mutually reinforcing, but nevertheless different, concerns.  As a first priority, I take it as my responsibility to introduce a topic, an archive, and a set of concerns, and then lead students through this course of study.  The second priority is to give students the inspiration and tools to analyze how and why a given course has been put together in a particular way, and to what purpose(s).  By the conclusion of a seminar, students should not only gain a sense of mastery over a particular set of texts and ideas, but also a meta-critical sense of their value within a field, multiple fields, the discipline of English Studies, and other disciplines…To my mind, a seminar reaches an ideal state when a professor can serve as an intellectual guide whose skills as both speaker and listener are equally deft.  It is in this context that professor and students ultimately use a core set of texts and concerns not only to master canonical knowledge, but also to create new knowledge…

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