Looking at Faulkner Through Doorways with Amy Foley

Last week, as a part of the URI Department of English Graduate Student Colloquium Series, Amy Foley, a Ph.D. candidate in English, gave a fascinating talk entitled “’That Strange Threshold’: Faulkner’s Doorways to Being.” Her talk focused on the research she has done as part of her fulfillment of the fellowship she received by the Center for the Humanities.

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Amy’s admiring undergraduate and fellow graduate students, proud faculty, and loving family listened in anticipation as Professor Barber, in his usual compassionate manner, introduced his esteemed advisee Amy.

The first time I met Amy she was presenting at the 2014 URI Graduate Student Conference. I thought I could listen to her for days. Seeing her share her insights about Faulkner’s philosophy of built environments at the colloquium, I was again struck by the same welcoming tone, confidence, and melodious voice that makes her presentations enjoyably unique. When it was time to take questions from the audience, even the most mundane questions became compelling with her careful engagement and appreciation

amy 2Her equally accommodating work synthesizes eclectic philosophers, such as Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Gaston Bachelard, into a unifying theme of ontological existence and their relation to the doorways and thresholds within Faulkner’s writings. She questions the fine line between the door as the sanctuary, as well as the ostensibly sharp oppositions between the interior and exterior, culture and nature through the architectural structures.

Overall, Amy’s presentation and her fine work reveals her wisdom: she has the unique ability to listen to others—philosophers, writers, peers, and professors—taking their work and insights and expanding the conversation, applying her own critical view to create something truly captivating. We wish her the best as she continues to work on the rest of her dissertation and look forward to hearing more from her exciting project.

Spring 2016 Welcome Back!

Welcome back! We hope everyone is excited for a new year and a new semester! As always, URI’s English Department has some amazing events, both official and through our amazing student-led groups, that are happening in the next few months. From professionalization meetings to get you ready for your next grant proposal or job interview, to bowling and beer tasting, to the amazing speakers that present their work, here’s just a glimpse of some of the things happening in the first half of 2016. Now let’s just all hope that the weather is a bit more cooperative than last year.

From the Professionalization Committee:

We will be collaborating with Jean Walton’s 511 course on a Job Market Event where a mix of successful alumni, recent hires, and faculty with hiring committee experience will all speak to the various facets of the job market. There will also be a discussion of Job Materials and search strategies. This will be Monday April 11th at 7pm in the Hoffmann Room. In mid-March we will also be holding an interdisciplinary panel on getting funding as a grad student, with a focus on outside funding sources and why that is important. It will be open to all grad-students at URI, though will be humanities-centered. Several experienced grant writers and fellowship winners will be speaking at this workshop.

From the Social Committee:

The social committee has a lot of great events coming up this semester. Our first event will be at Lang’s Bowlarama on February 19th at 5pm for an evening of bowling, craft beers, and catching up after winter break. The rest of the semester you will see a craft brewery tour, a happy hour, and an end of semester nature hike. Details of each event will be finalized approximately two weeks before each event occurs. Keep a look out for informational flyers around Swan Hall and posts on the English Party People Facebook. Our goal is to provide English department graduate students with one event per month this Spring to encourage camaraderie, relaxation, and fun!

Department Events:

February

17th 5:00pm Hoffman Room – Graduate Student Colloquium: Amy Foley

18th 2:00pm Hoffman Room – Rumowicz Lecture Series: “You are Pip” by Wendy S. Walters

24th 5:00pm Hoffman Room –  Guest Speaker: Grant Farred

March

8th 5:00pm Hoffman Room – Read/Write: Talvikki Ansel

18th – Essay in Public Conference, CCE

April

7th 5:00pm Hoffman Room – Graduate Student Colloquium: Brittany Hirth

11th 5:00pm Hoffman Room – Guest Speaker: Marta Werner

20th 5:00pm Hoffman Room – Read/Write: Lynn Emanuel

28th 2:00pm Gender and Sexuality Center – Annual Rumowicz Awards Ceremony

More info about all these events can be found here: http://events.uri.edu/search/events?search=english+department+of

If You Write, You’re a Writer: An Evening of Poetry

In a small library near the Bay Campus, the poets of the URI graduate program shared their work of the last semester on Wednesday, Dec. 9. As I settled in to my child-sized chair, I was just glad that I had gotten a seat, because other attendees were left to find seating between book shelves and mill around counters. The Willet Free library was packed with both books and people and the cozy atmosphere was just right for this reading organized by Alyssa Taft and Laura Marciano, featuring the nine students of Peter Covino’s seminar this fall.

After Peter thanked all the attendees for coming, the reading got started with Alyssa Taft, who gave a short presentation. Rather than sharing poetry, Alyssa, who worked on a seminar paper for the course, introduced us to how poetry and children intersect, and in particular the benefits of poetry in education. Poetry, besides increasing reading fluency and encouraging reluctant readers, creates mindfulness in children. It gives readers silence and space in which to interpret and allows them to read into others and the world, promoting a “wide awake-ness.”

Though Alyssa was talking about the benefits for children, the eight poets who shared their work after her certainly encouraged this feeling of being awake to the world for the audience. The array of poetry was vast, even within one poet’s reading. Julie Hassett started with “Forest,” which was connected to local food banks, and ended with a poem that attempted to capture the feeling of numbness after being told her sister had died, and in between were poems written in response to art, such as “Procrastination Has Already Been Sold.” Elizabeth Folke wanted to focus on the intersection of humanity and technology, how science and invention has changed our lives. Her poems, which sometimes included a bit of a science fiction flair, asked us to probe our own lives. Others, like “Creature” which considered the situation of the burn victim who was recently the first recipient of a full-face transplant, asked us to inhabit others’. We were also asked just to listen. Francesca Borrione read two of her poems in the Italian they were originally written in, sharing the translations of more. In the Italian, I could catch a word here or there, but beautiful in both languages was her line, “I inhabited the cartography of my imagination.”

After a short break, Andrew Merecicky declared that his chapbook was entitled “Pornography of Light and Flood,” and that was “all the explanation I’m doing.” With a forceful reading voice, Andrew let the poetry linger, keeping true to his opening declaration. Susan Munson offered more context, happily as her first poem was about Bob Leuci, who once asked her “Are you a writer?” Susan used her reading style to emphasize the content of another poem “Hypervent” which was about OCD and social anxiety. Alex Trubia’s poetry included sly humor in lines such as “I’ll keep it for the sequel, something holy part II,” along with more haunting lines such as “when the winters at their frigid worst draw moisture from the timber.” Laura Marciano followed with poems that had a bitingly smart feminist viewpoint, asking the important questions like “If I sleep with myself, will I be famous?” The reading ended with Luisa Murillo, who addressed domestic violence in Bolivia in her opening poem “She Never Took Back the Night.” Luisa also included more personal poems, such as about moving to Queens from Bolivia, and poems which mixed myth with reality, putting a finishing touch on the night.

The readers also shared their experiences in the class and preparing for the reading, some at the reading and others with me afterwards. Julie Hassett gave an anecdote during her reading about wanting a heart from Alyssa on her paper during critique, apparently these hearts were a hot commodity. Alyssa saw her presentation as a “mini-conference paper” and later told me that she was glad that the audience connected to her research and understood her ideas. Susan shared that poetry has made her who she is, and that the semester was more about taking herself seriously as a poet. For her, preparing included getting ready for her “Lady Gaga moment,” as Peter calls it, by singing along to the radio on her way to the reading. Elizabeth thought about reading as a different skill than writing, and tried to consider the rhythm and inflection she would use. She shared that the class had given her space to access her creativity. Andrew, of course after the reading, told me that Peter emphasized performative reading this semester and that practice had helped him, as well as a glass of wine and some deep breaths. I think the others would agree with Andrew on this as well, “the fact that a few dozen or so people showed up to listen to poetry is always a special experience,” which this reading definitely was.

Paranoid Reading: Barber’s Exploration of Psyche and Politics in Woolf and Sedgwick

There wasn’t an inch of space left as Associate Professor Stephen Barber walked into the Hoffmann room in Swan Hall Thursday, November 5, 2015. Sharing salutations with old friends, faculty, and students, Barber received spectators with open arms. As part of the English Department’s Faculty Speaker Series, spectators eagerly awaited the talk “Psyche and Politics: Virginia Woolf’s Final Writings.”

Developing the history of Barber’s pedagogy and interpersonal relationships with students and individuals in general, Ph.D candidate Amy Foley informed the crowd that “no one knows Virginia Woolf like Stephen.” Influenced by the work of Woolf,  Gayatri Spivak, Eve Sedgwick, and Michel Foucault among others, Barber has inspired scholars for over twenty years, writing on these authors with a particular interest in their later works.

Barber revealed that he lived under the same roof as Sedgwick as she composed some of her critical works.  Her essay, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, Or, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” he reveals, was dedicated to colleagues of Sedgwick, including himself. In the tradition of genuine scholarship, Barber noted the challenge of reading Sedwick’s late works, in comparison to Woolf’s own struggle reading Freud. Woolf, according to Barber, did not claim to start reading Freud until 1939. Although she “never becomes a Freudian” for Barber, Woolf began to “forge a radical psychology, and gives herself fully to thinking about political agency.”

Political agency was an issue of concern for both Woolf and Sedgwick according to his work; however, Sedgwick’s interest in political agency revolved around paranoia. For Sedgwick, according to Barber, paranoia involves bad news that is always already known. Sedgwick’s notion of paranoia also included the mantra, “anything that you can do to me, I can do worse.”

The paranoid reading became more intense in the late 60s as particular American events such as the Watergate scandal prompted the agenda of conspiracy theories. Barber suggests that when Sedwick encountered D.A. Miller’s “The Novel and The Police” (1989) she had trouble finding connections with the novel through the paranoid mode of reading. The barrier that arose in the encounter with Miller’s work inspired Sedgwick to revisit the hermeneutics of suspicion— the mode of theory that had been dominant prior to her propositions for paranoid and reparative readings.

Cheered by the presence of students, cherished colleagues, and visitors, Barber concludes with the notion that criticism for Sedgwick is still an invasive form of social interpretation. Opening the conversation to a friendly question and answer session, Barber reveals, “Nothing about the book (he is currently completing) is autobiographical.” His interest in Sedgwick, Foucault, and Spivak contributes to his reading of the final work of Woolf, Between the Acts (1941) a text which he believes Woolf uses as a medium to theorize her own reading of Freud. Woolf would not necessarily follow Freud, especially in the boiling down of individual’s affective states (love and hate according to Freud) but this tour de force work established the last prodigious testimony of the author’s philosophical and psychological explorations.

Feature: Literary Treasure Waiting To Be Discovered

Graduate students long to find a treasure of original writings that may inspire a topic for a research paper, a thesis or a publication.  I was recently blessed to experience three treasures just miles away from the University of Rhode Island: the North Kingstown Free Library, Susan Aylward, and the David Plante Collection.

The North Kingstown Free Library (NKFL) is nestled just miles away from URI and kingstown libraryprovides a beautiful, scenic location for students to study and utilize numerous resources including the David Plante Collection.  A student may easily obtain a library card and have access to the incredible collection by making an appointment with the library by calling 401-294-3306 For more information about the library, please visit their web site at http://www.nklibrary.org/

Susan Aylward is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island where she completed her Ph.D. in English and wrote her doctoral dissertation on David Plante.  Susan retired after 35 years of devoted service as a Librarian and Administrator at the North Kingstown Free Library.  Due to her friendship with David Plante, he donated a collection of his aylwardwritings and books to the library.  Susan believes that this important collection “would be of interest to scholars and students focusing their research on Rhode Island Fiction Writers, French Canadian Writers, Writers with an artistic influence, LGBT Writers and Library Science.”  She is willing to share her expertise with students interested in conducting research about this important writer.  She may be reached by email at slaylward@cox.net

Susan Aylward provided personal and professional insight about David Plante’s life and writings.  She believes that David Plante, “is one of our most important contemporary American writers and has not had the critical attention he deserves.  He deals with darkness in his writings but there is hope.  His work is complicated but it deals with humanity.”  Susan shared that, “David Plante was born in Providence, Rhode Islaplantend and his writings are informed by his French-Canadian, Catholic upbringing in the working class landscape of Providence.  Seven of his fifteen novels are semi-autobiographical in nature and are largely set in and around the Providence parish where he was raised.  His writings include novels, short stories, essays, biographical profiles, memoirs, poetry, and plays.  The themes of his writings are the power of love, death, grief, longing, despair, faith, and imagination.  His life partner was Nikos Stangos, a Greek writer who influenced the artistic side of Plante’s writings.  They were known for their achievements but also for their commitment to each other as partners.”

As part of the interview with Susan Aylward, I had the honor to see the entire David Plante Collection and was completely in awe of its size and beauty.  The Collection is comprised of Part One which is housed in the South County Room at the NKFL and consisfamily plantets of his manuscripts and papers which are meticulously organized into 70 boxes containing 389 folders.  Part two is housed in the library’s Conference Room and consists of 146 books that include 21 books by David Plante, 2 books about Plante, 7 books written/edited by Nikos Stangos, 100 books from Plante’s personal library and numerous other books that influenced his writings.  Susan Aylward’s organization of this collection is literally a treasure for scholars and students.  She expressed that it is a unique opportunity for graduate students to review published materials, unpublished materials, original manuscripts,  revisions, artistic images and signed book dedications.  She passionately states, “it is an amazing and varied collection of manuscripts, notes, some correspondence and books from the shelves in his New York apartment when he was teaching in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts at Columbia.  Some of the books he wrote, some he used to research his novels, many are signed editions from friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.  As a whole, the collection represents the life of the mind of this particular writer. In parts, it is a scholar’s treasure trove.”

Sexual Agent or Victim: URI PhD candidate Michele Meek Discusses Conflicting Narratives Centered around Amy Fisher

 

As the latest installment of the URI Department of English’s Graduate Student Colloquium Series, on Thursday, October 1st, 2015, URI PhD candidate Michele Meek presented a riveting talk to an attentive audience titled “A Dangerous Girl or a Girl in Danger?: Shifting Sexual Agency in Narratives about the ‘Long Island Lolita.'”

Additional chairs were ushered in minutes before the talk to accommodate the eager crowd, and Professor Naomi Mandel’s introduction served to prepare the audience with descriptors of Meek’s work as “edgy” as it focuses on topics such as rape, pornography, and sexuality. Drawing on her keen interest in film and images, Meek opened her presentation with a series of images from the television movie, The Amy Fisher Story (1993), starring Drew Barrymore. After walking the disquieted audience through the narrative of events between Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco, Meek proceeded to present a counter narrative as seen in an alternate television movie, Amy Fisher: My Story (1992). Rounding out the possibilities of their affair, Meek then presented a third possible narrative as she showed her audience images from Casualties of Love: The “Long Island Lolita” Story (1993).

Meek then revealed her main point of interest surrounding the Amy Fisher narrative, as it relates to her dissertation, in which she examines specific narrative moments that depict “consent puzzles,” or ethically and aesthetically ambiguous depictions of sexual situations, where as readers or watchers, we may feel a sense of discomfort, and as scholars, we find no simple answers.

Further investigating the media frenzy surrounding the trial of Amy Fisher, Meek examined how the tabloid media shaped not only the general public’s opinion of the affair, but the extent to which the prosecuting and defense attorneys involved in the case were influenced by and responding to sharply drawn victim/perpetrator portrayals with Buttafuoco and Fisher exchanging roles at various points in order to further either the prosecution’s or defense’s agenda.

Drawing on her research conducted at the Library of Congress media archives, Meek analyzed the role of multiple Hard Copy and A Current Affair exposés, as well as the three made-for-television movies mentioned above and the true crime novels written from various perspectives.

Meek focused on specifics such as how the emergence of Fisher’s work as an escort, her sexual abuse as a child, her rape as a twelve-year-old by a workman at the house were used as effective rhetorical strategies for either Fisher’s defense or prosecution.

Drawing on the work of gender theorist, Judith Butler, Meek problematized the victim/perpetrator dichotomy rife throughout the media spectacle surrounding Fisher’s trial, in order to suggest that to access a girl’s sexual agency, we might need to allow for some more ambiguity by allowing the ‘consent puzzle’ to exist.

Meek then fielded a wide range of questions from the diverse audience. Within this dialogue, Meek and the audience addressed the Anita Hill case, revictimization within the field of psychology, and concerns about Long Island ethnic identity further expanding and demonstrating the importance of Meek’s work.

Revisiting NecronomiCon Providence

In August, The Lovecraft conference returned to Providence, RI in honor of H.P. Lovecraft’s 125th birthday.  Sponsored by the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and the city of Providence, this year’s event was an exciting exploration of this author’s life and works.  In addition to the symposium on new academic research, there were panels discussing literary analysis of weird fiction as well as its influence on popular culture, vendors with all manner of books and artwork, and exhibitions of Lovecraft-inspired art, theater, and film.  I was first introduced to this wonderful conference two years ago.

In 2013 I presented an academic paper at the Howard Phillips Lovecraft academic conference and convention in Providence, Rhode Island.  Having recently graduated with my Master’s degree, I was simultaneously filled with unbridled ambition and crippling anxiety; riding on the high of producing a Master’s thesis while unnerved at the prospect of being thrust out into the real world to mingle with accomplished scholars.  The experience was invaluable in providing that first foray into the wide world of conferencing while helping me surmount my fear of venturing into the daunting unknown that is Academia.

For the uninitiated, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) was born in Providence, Rhode Island.  He spent most of his life in the College Hill district of the city where he wrote for pulp magazines including Weird Tales.  His body of work is widely regarded as the pinnacle of weird fiction: a convergence of science fiction, horror, and fantasy.

In 2013, one of the largest Lovecraft conventions was held at the Providence Biltmore, which Lovecraft called “the sumptuous Biltmore Hotel, which is 18th century in every essential outline and decoration.”  Affectionately termed NecronomiCon after a plot device used in Lovecraft’s tales of cosmic horror, the gathering was equal parts academic conference and outlet for weird fiction fandom.  There were numerous panels featuring preeminent Lovecraft scholars including S.T. Joshi and Robert M. Price, as well as talks regarding Lovecraft’s lasting impact on film and television that featured renowned director Stuart Gordon.

Despite the celebrities of Lovecraft studies, my personal highlight was the Emerging Scholarship Symposium.  This series of academic presentations was dedicated to various topics of Lovecraft scholarship.  I presented a paper culled from my Master’s thesis research titled “Poe, Lovecraft, and ‘The Uncanny’:  The Horror of the Self.”  This essay posited a psychoanalytic interpretation of Lovecraft’s speculative fiction as a progression from that of Edgar Allan Poe where the narrative “self” becomes the locus of fractured and displaced identity.  As the subconscious mind exists as alien or “other” to the conscious mind, characters (and particularly the narrators) of Poe and Lovecraft are external representations of internal dissonance.  The self is its own primal source of terror, which inevitably evolves into self-loathing.

The Emerging Scholarship Symposium was an audacious forum for professional and amateur academics to present their research regarding the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  There was some backlash regarding the designation of the event as one for “Emerging Scholarship” as several presenters were experienced academics with a wide array of published works on various topics not limited to weird fiction.  This moment brought some humor and much needed humanity to the esoteric affair as the stuffy aura that sometimes plagues Academia was interrupted by the vaunted pride of the experienced scholars and the reckless abandon of the uninitiated, eager to have something (or anything) published.  The panel has since been rechristened the Dr. Henry Armitage Memorial Scholarship Symposium, which is another whimsical reference to Lovecraft’s elaborate mythos of interconnecting characters and settings.

Student Accomplishments

Greetings students, faculty, and visitors! As everyone is gearing up for the 2015-2016 academic year, we thought we’d start off by reviewing some of the accomplishments of our graduate students from last year. What better way to inspire us all to submit that article, chair that panel, give that talk, or take on that new project than by celebrating what our peers have already accomplished. We congratulate everyone on their success and look forward to an even more productive year! (If you have been left off of this list, please contact us so we can get you added and celebrate your success!)

Laura Marie Marciano, a first year PhD student, will publish her first full length book of poetry, Mall Brat, with Civil Coping Mechanism Press in 2016. She also continues to work in the online publication of female-identified and queer poets, through her collective Gemstone Readings. www.gemstonereadings.net.

Karen Shea presented “‘I Never Did This in My Country’: Easing Post-Secondary ESL Writers out of Their Comfort Zones by Introducing Them to Rhetorical Reading and Prezi” as part of a larger panel presentation entitled “‘But I Don’t Have Time to Teach Reading’: Using Multimodal Approaches to Teach Rhetorical Reading in the Composition Classroom” at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in March. She also presented “Not Only in Words: Multimodality and Prezi in Postsecondary ESL” at the Massachusetts Association of Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL) Conference in May.

Eileen James, a Ph.D. student specializing in Rhet./Comp, published her poetry “Gardens Grow” in Contraposition Magazine and “Nightmares” in Monsters and the Monstrous: Global Interdisciplinary Research Studies. She also published “Encouraging Connections to Support a Positive Culture of Writing Assessment: Adjunct Composition Instructors, Students, and Campus Resources” in CCCC Forum. She presented her paper “Incomplete Soul: Problematic Portrayals of the Black Nerd Character in Contemporary American Media” at the National Association of African American Studies Joint Conference, as well as gave a poetry reading titled “One Normal Body: Black Mother, Black Girl, Human Being” at the English Graduate Organization Conference, UMASS Amherst. She was also a conference panel presenter at CCCC with fellow URI students Ashton Foley, Bridget Fullerton, and Jenna Morton-Aiken. Their panel was titled “Crafting a University-Wide General Education Writing Rubric: Taking on Thorny Public Practices in the Rose Garden.” Her paper was titled “Participant Recruitment and Rubric Development.”

Sara E. Murphy organized a discussion panel titled “Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society 25 Years Later: Meditations on Melodrama, Trauma, Solidarity, and Suicide” for the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association Conference in Baltimore in November, in which she presented her work, “Dead Poets Society and the American Culture of Suicide,” alongside that of department student and alumnae Brittany Hirth, Gavin Hurley, and Don Rodrigues. In March, she was the invited speaker at a university-wide talk for the annual awareness week of the URI chapter of the National Nursing Fraternity, Alpha Tau Delta, giving a presentation titled “Breaking Silence: Perspectives on Contemporary Suicide.” Also in March, she presented her paper, “Suffering in Silence: The Stigma of Superheroism in Suicidality for the End-of-Life Population” at the American Comparative Literature Association Conference in Seattle. In April, she defended successfully her PhD dissertation, “Toward a Psychosocial Understanding of Suicide in American Literature and Culture of the 1990’s,” directed by Professor Martha Elena Rojas. Most recently, Dr. Murphy was elected to the Credentialing Council of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Following commencement, she will continue her work as an instructor in the Honors Program and the Thanatology Program while conducting grief and suicide education seminars and intervention programs in the private and public sectors.

Barbara Farnsworth has a book chapter coming out in June 2015. The title of her chapter is “The Self-Analysis of Christopher Tietjens” and the book is: War and the Mind: Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End: Modernism, and Psychology (ed. Ashley Chantler and Rob Hawkes, Edinburgh University Press). Along with fellow URI students Ashton Foley and Beth Leonardo, she proposed and presented a panel at the Northeast Conference on British Studies at Bates College, ME. Carolyn Betensky was kind enough to join them on their road trip and moderate their panel. The panel’s name was “Exploring Perceptions of Women in Nineteenth-Century England.” Barbara’s paper was “Surplus Spinsters in He Knew He Was Right.” Along with six other students (Ashton Foley, Molly Hall, Beth Leonardo, Danielle Sanfillipo, and Kara Watts) from Travis Williams’ Fall 2014 Hamlet class, Barbara participated in a Round Table on April 18 at the URI Graduate Conference. The roundtable was titled: Possibilities in Discourses of Hamlet: A Roundtable.

Sarah Kingston has a chapter in a book coming out in June. The chapter is called “The Work of Sleep: Insomnia and Discipline in Ford and Sassoon.” The book is called War and the Mind: Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End, Modernism, and Psychology (editors are Ashley Chantler and Rob Hawkes, Edinburgh UP).

Ashton Foley participated in the self-proposed roundtable “Possibilities in Discourses of Hamlet: A Roundtable” at the URI Graduate Conference on April 18. Her paper was “From Geruth to Gertrude: Depictions of Motherhood in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Its Sources.” Fellow URI students Beth Leonardo, Barbara Farnworth, Kara Watts, Danielle Sanfilippo also participated in the panel. It was moderated by Prof. Travis Williams. She presented her paper “Crafting a University-Wide General Education Writing Rubric: Taking on Thorny Public Practices in the Rose Garden” (with Bridget Fullerton, Eileen James, and Jenna Morton-Aiken), at the Conference on College Composition and Communication Annual Convention, in Tampa, FL. She also presented “Recasting Fortune: Absence as Catalyst for Sentimental Education in Susan Warner’s The Wide, Wide World,” at Boston College’s Biennial English Graduate Conference in Chestnut Hill, MA. Finally, she presented “The Victorian Woman as Prescribed by Medical Science (Revised),” as part of self-proposed panel titled “Surplus, Succubus, or Slut? Exploring the Perceptions of Women of the 19th Century England” at the Northeast Conference on British Studies Annual Meeting in Lewiston, ME. She presented with fellow URI students Beth Leonardo and Barbara Farnworth, with Prof. Carolyn Betensky acting as respondent and moderator

Jillian Belanger received the URI Digital Literacy Summer Scholar Grant. She presented her paper “Summer Institute in Digital Literacy” at RIDE Innovation Powered by Technology Conference. She also presented “How Many Discourses Does It Take to Screw in a Humor Symposium?: Theorizing the Pedagogical Possibilities of Humorous Media” at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference. At the International Society of Humor Studies Conference she presented “Rhetors and Jesters: Rereading the Stand-up Comedians as Sophists” and at the URI Digital Literacy Institute she presented “Tools and Technology in the ELL Classroom.” The Journal of Media Literacy Education accepted her book review of A Pedagogy of Powerful Communication: Youth Radio and Radio Arts in the Multilingual Classroom by Dana Walker, publication forthcoming.

Anthony Conrad Chieffalo presented a paper at the Dr. Henry Armitage Memorial Symposium during NecronomiCon Providence 2015, a biennial conference featuring numerous academic panels relating to native Rhode Island author H.P. Lovecraft. Titled “From Crawling Chaos to Elder Things: Mythic Evolution in Weird Fiction,” this marks his second contribution to the symposium. His paper from the 2013 conference titled “Poe, Lovecraft, and ‘The Uncanny’: The Horror of the Self” was recently published in Lovecraftian Proceedings No. 1 (editors are John Michel Sefel, Niels-Viggo S. Hobbs, and Robyn Hill, Hippocampus Press.)

The Unexpectedness of Beauty

In this fascinating and wonderfully candid audio discussion, URI Professors Mary Cappello and Peter Covino discuss the complex, philosophical notion of “beauty” from a variety of intermingled perspectives: the artistic, the pedagogical and the personal. Cappello, a well-known writer of literary nonfiction, and Covino, an accomplished poet, describe ways in which “unexpected beauty” surfaces in and informs their own creative projects. Sometimes in life this “unexpectedness” presents as a form of, what Peter Covino calls, “dark energy”: things like trauma, abuse, violence. Yet this “dark energy” can provide the opportunity for a cathartic form of beauty to surface. Professor Covino goes on to describe writing poetry as a challenge toward self-recognition and “self-soothing” — what he describes in a one of his poems as the “soothe-less tangle” of language. He views language as offering a medium of solace: “you’re not sure how terrible your pain is, you’re not sure how difficult your challenges are, until you start to write them down, until you start to share your stories.” This translation of struggle, the articulation and expression of it, can be beautiful.

Mary Cappello describes her aesthetic at one point as a form of “disruptive beauty.” She is interested in “jaggedness” and “interruptive beauty”: an idea she defines as emerging “out of confrontation, over and against a determination to aestheticize experience.” Further, Professor Cappello offers a very interesting way of thinking about “ugliness” less binaristically with respect to beauty; she invites us to think of it as a differential, the space between the lyrical and the jagged: “I was thinking of a beauty not opposed to ugliness…can we talk about anti-beauty, unbeauty, or create a new term altogether?” She encourages the artist to be alive to the “availability of beauty,” and to be on the lookout for “beauty in unexpected places.”

Throughout this rich and in-depth conversation on beauty, both Cappello and Covino share interesting details of their lives, their creative process, as well as read from each other’s (and their students’) work. The full audio conversation can be found here. Some shorter snippets of their conversation are also available from the links below.

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.