Friday, November 17, 2017

PWE Poster Winners Announced!


Yesterday, the Professional Writing and Editing (PWE) program hosted the biannual PWE Poster Exhibit, where PWE capstone students showcase their writing and editing internship work for the university community.

Judges' and attendees' votes have been tallied, and the winners of the top poster awards are:

First Place: Kelsey Young, FiT Publishing
Second Place:  Emma Carte, Friends of Deckers Creek

Congratulations to all of the interns on their accomplishments this term, including:

  • Jarred Bowers, who demonstrated his on-the-job learning at the WVU Office of Accessibility Services.
  • Emma Carte, who wrote several successful grant proposals for Friends of Deckers Creek, winning funds from organizations such as Patagonia to advocate for remediation of Richard Mine.
  • Jessica Hamon, who researched subjects from psychobilly to soundscapes for WVU professor of musicology Travis Stimeling.
  • Alicia Manley, who streamlined parish communications, improved document usability and redesigned documents for Trinity Episcopal Church.
  • Kelsey Young, whose work spanned from proofreading sport science textbooks and journals to promoting those publications via social media for FiT Publications.

Thank you to everyone who supported these talented English majors by attending the poster exhibit and voting for their favorite posters. A special thanks to the events' three judges, as well: Sara Georgi, Cheryl Ball, and Nalalie Sypolt.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Appalachian Prison Book Project Podcast

Listen to the first episode of APBP’s new podcast, “Contact Across the Divide,” featuring stories from APBP and West Virginia Innocence Project volunteers and exploring stories about what facilities, limits, and motivates contact with incarcerated populations.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Curtains Up for WVU’s Football Program Thanks to Melville Davisson Post

by NancyCaronia, Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of English, Mikaela England, and Amelia Jones

Recognize this photo? 
Cast of WVU's English Department 1892 production of Richard III.
Melville Davisson Post, fourth from left.
In 130 Colson Hall hangs a black and white photograph of the cast of an 1891 WVU English Department production of Richard III. Directed by mystery writer Melville Davisson Post, Shakespeare’s history was mounted to raise money for WVU’s first football team. While there are no records of how much money was raised, the West Virginia & Regional History Center (WVRHC) does house the papers and other ephemera of Post, whose detective fiction was respected by authors from Ellery Queen to William Faulkner and whose creation Uncle Abner was touted by the scholar Howard Haycraft as “the greatest American contribution” to detective fiction next to Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin.
Born on April 19, 1869 to the wealthy farmer Ira Carper Post and his wife Florence in Harrison County, West Virginia, the younger Post was raised outside of Clarksburg in a brick mansion colloquially known as “Templemoor.” He attended a local high school before joining WVU’s preparatory program in 1886 where he subsequently enrolled as an English major. After completing his undergraduate degree, Post went on to WVU’s College of Law and it was during this time that he and his classmates organized the performance of Richard III. After completing his law degree in 1892, Post moved to Wheeling, West Virginia. Through the beginning of the twentieth century, Post served as the assistant prosecuting attorney of Ohio County.
Although he spent a considerable amount of time inside the courtroom, Post found time to write and released his first short story collection in 1896. The Strange Schemes of Randolph Mason focused on an unscrupulous New York attorney who showed criminals how to skirt the law legally. In the introduction to these tales, Post rationalized Mason’s amorality as important construct to shake “the common man” who had “a poor guide to the criminal law…. and no guide at all to the civil law.” Post also warned his readers, “lawyers are the most arrogant subset of society.” There is one particularly grim tale where Mason encourages his client to kill a woman and destroy the evidence by dousing her dismembered body with acid! He wrote three collections of Mason tales and in the third, Mason became an avenging crusader, at, perhaps, the behest of his publisher.
Post with his dog. Date unknown.
By the time Post married Ann Bloomfield Gamble Schofield in 1903, he was as well known for his writings, including work in the Saturday Evening Post and other national magazines, as he was for his court decisions. When Post left the legal profession in 1906, he had amassed a fortune, but he and Ann also suffered heartache when their 18-month-old son died. The couple left Wheeling and travelled throughout Europe. They lived in France for some time, but returned to Clarksburg in a home that is referred to as “The Chalet.” Ann died in 1919 from pneumonia, and Post remained a widow until his death in 1930 from injuries sustained from being thrown from a horse.
During his time in Wheeling as the assistant prosecuting attorney, he had become good friends with Louis Schrader, a court reporter. After Post left the law, he and Schrader had a working relationship that lasted 20 years as is documented by the correspondence in the WVRHC archives. Post wrote all of his manuscripts in longhand and sent them to Schrader for “auditing,” “punctuation and typing,” and then, usually, delivery directly to the publisher.
While Post’s name is not highly recognizable today, his output was prolific with more than 230 titles attributed to his pen. He even could be considered West Virginia’s first native writer due to his birth a mere 6 years after the secession of West Virginia from Virginia. After the twisted lawyer Randolph Mason, Post’s most well known character is the backwoods detective Uncle Abner. Situated in Harrison County, Uncle Abner travels through an antebellum western Virginia to assist hard-working mountaineers with any trouble they may have. In “TheDoomdorf Mystery” his nephew views him as “the right hand of the land,” and he tackles mysteries and unrepentant crime with simple logic and verses from the Old Testament.
1893 West Virginia University football team
Lawyer turned writer Melville Davisson Post left his mark not only on the mystery genre but also on West Virginia history as well. Students at WVU can thank, at least in part, the generosity of Post and his classmates for our ability to jingle our keys at kickoff and pack Milan Puskar Stadium six Saturdays every fall. As an alumna of WVU, his upbringing and subsequent settling in Harrison County, his legal career in Wheeling, and his character Uncle Abner, Melville Davisson Post is a true mountaineer through and through.


*A special thank you to the WVRHC, especially Assistant University Librarian and Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist Lori A. Hostuttler, who gathered the archives of Melville Davisson Post for our ENGL 199 course and subsequent visits in order to satisfy our curiosity and share an important piece of WVU history.

Wheeling, WV native, Amelia Jones is a passionate first-year English major at WVU who lives by the mantra: be helpful, be kind, and be a friend.

A native of Hurricane, West Virginia, Mikaela England is a first-year English major at WVU who spends her time reading and sleeping.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Learning about Loss with Denise Giardina

by Dr. Nancy Caronia, WVU Department of English

L to R: AD of Undergraduate Writing Sarah Morris,
Luis Neer, University of Pittsburgh Professor Lina Insana,
Taylor Miller, and Denise Giardina at the WVRHC.
First-year English majors from ENGL 199 watched as Denise Giardina turned the pages of a spiral-bound notebook that contained the first draft of what would become the author’s novel Storming Heaven. Giardina pitched forward in her chair in the West Virginia & Regional History Center (WVRHC) to get a closer look at what she had written. “There were no computers. And typewriters were a mess to work with. I had no choice,” she said regarding the notebooks filled with her longhand script. Then she smiled: “My handwriting was pretty good back then.”

Melville Davisson Post, hunched over, fourth from left.
Earlier in the semester, ENGL 199 had visited the WVRHC to learn about the center and to look through archives related to both WVU’s campus read Hidden Figures and the Department of English’s history. During that initial trip, students saw W.E.B. DuBois’s signature on the first page of a ledger, learned more about one of the young men, Melville Davisson Post, in the photo of the young Shakespearean players hanging in Colson 130, and read through and handled the notebooks of Giardina. Some pulled out their phones and snapped pictures of a page or two of Giardina’s work while others flipped the pages to examine her writing process.

The students who gathered to meet Giardina on October 12, 2017 knew of her archives, but some had also read her novels in high school. They each had questions about her writing process, but they also wanted to know what it meant to her to grow up in a coal camp and to continue to live in West Virginia in 2017. What they couldn’t have been prepared for was the writer who sat and talked quietly about how long ago it had seemed since she wrote Storming Heaven. With each turn of the page, she remembered more and more of what it was like to create that novel and her other works.

When Giardina suggested her novels weren’t the same, or as important, as history textbooks, associate coordinator of undergraduate writing Sarah Morris discussed how central the author’s novels had been to Morris’s understanding of West Virginia, coal mining, and her family when she was a teenager. Morris stated that Giardina’s novels gave her a visceral experience of coalmines that brought empathy and a sense of belonging, something a textbook couldn’t do. The students nodded their heads in agreement.

Later that evening, Giardina gave a talk--“The Socialist Revolution in West Virginia: What Happened?”--for WVU’s Slavic Studies Series: Revolutionary World, 1917 and Beyond. At this event in the Milano Room of WVU's Downtown Library, Giardina noted, “West Virginia has never been in sync with the times in which it lives.” She suggested that “we are in a unique place,” but that in southern West Virginia, autonomy was compromised through the sale of land. When 80% of the land is owned by corporations or special interests, she suggested, “West Virginians lose a lot.” Earlier in the week, Onondagan Chief Oren Lyons spoke at the Peace Tree Celebration and he suggested the same thing when discussing the game of lacrosse. He stated that the team “loses a lot,” which seemed to allude to other kinds of losses regarding indigenous people. But then he stated: “no matter how much they lose, they are never defeated.” Giardina seemed to echo Lyons’ statement when she said: “I’d rather be a loser in West Virginia and I’m still here and I hope you are still here as well…. It’s not about liberal versus conservative. It’s about progressive views versus corporate views. Massive multinational corporations have no controls on them, but we must not devalue ourselves because we cannot control everything.”

At the WVRHC. L to R, back row: University of Pittsburgh Professor Lina Insana,
AD of Undergraduate Writing Sarah Morris, Luis Peer, Sarah Mitchell, Taylor Miller, Amelia Jones,
Samantha Barney, Marigene Robertson; front row: TAP Nancy Caronia and Denise Giardina.
WVU’s first year English majors have been planting seeds as to  how they will belong and where they will best contribute their voices and actions. I look forward to the day when one or more of these students choose to explore Giardina’s archives for their capstone project.

Special thanks to John Cuthbert and Lori Hostuttler with WVRHC for paving the way to visit Giardina’s archives, Lisa DiBartolomeo and the World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics Department for hosting Giardina's talk, Lina Insana, the chair of the Department of Italian and French at University of Pittsburgh, for coming down to Morgantown to chat with myself and Denise Giardina about Italian Americans in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the ENGL 199 students for their good cheer and curiosity, and Denise Giardina for her generosity of time and spirit.

Friday, September 22, 2017

APBP Archives Project Kicks Off

Today marks the beginning a multi-year effort by the Appalachian Prison Book Project to digitize the thousands of letters they've received over the years. Volunteers have been working hard all day to sort letters from men and women imprisoned in six states in the Appalachia region. Organizers estimate they've received over 20,000 letters!

If you'd like to get involved, APBP offers volunteer training every Saturday between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Learn more at https://aprisonbookproject.wordpress.com/about


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Look at our snazzy new space!


Thanks to Cindy Ulrich, our resident interior designer, we now have a lovely new waiting area for students visiting our advising office. Isn't it sweet? And even if you don't have an advising appointment with Nancy Caronia or Doug Phillips, our pretty famous advisors, but just need a little sit-down, you could probably hang out there until someone notices and scoots you along!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Bit of Housekeeping



We're just doing a bit of housekeeping here on the blog to get it ready for Fall. I've started by updating our list of authors since many of the students have now graduated and moved on to other schools (either as professors or as doctoral students). Some of the faculty have moved on to other schools too since the blog began in 1984, which is a thing that happens in academia, apparently.

If I removed you and you want to be re-added so that you can send us tidings from the larger world, just let me know in the comments.

Next up: an update of our Favorite Blogs section. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fun at the Eclipse


Wow. Not sure I've ever seen this many people seeking discoveries on the steps of Colson Hall. But that's what an eclipse will do for you, I guess. We didn't get total darkness or anything (darn), but it was kinda fun.

(photo credit on that first pic: Gwen Bergner)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Who do we have here?



Why, it's Professor John Lamb looking, well, very professorial! Who else would read King Lear in the sun?