Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Prize Two for One

Two more of our esteemed colleagues have good cause to celebrate as of late.  Both Mary Ann Samyn and Mark Brazaitis have won prestigious book prizes.  Read on, and join in the celebration.

Oberlin College Press is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2012 FIELD Poetry Prize is Mary Ann Samyn of Morgantown, West Virginia. In addition to receiving the prize of $1000, her prize-winning manuscript, My Life in Heaven, will be published in the FIELD Poetry Series in the spring of 2013.

The FIELD Prize was judged by the editors of the Press, David Young and David Walker. “We had an exceptionally strong pool of entrants this year, including roughly a dozen books we would have been happy to publish,” says Walker. “But we kept coming back to Mary Ann Samyn’s manuscript, which is striking in its subtlety, complexity, and utterly distinctive voice. Even readers who know Samyn’s earlier books will be dazzled by the wit and incisiveness of My Life in Heaven. We were moved and excited by it, and feel fortunate to be able to add it to our list.”

Mark Brazaitis of Morgantown, West Virginia has won the 8th Annual Gival Press Novel Award for his novel Julia & Rodrigo. Brazaitis will receive $3,000.00 and his novel will be published in 2013. 

Advance Praise:
“This expressive, touching and at times wrenching novel tells the stories of two young people living in Guatemala during that country’s civil war. Teenagers Julia García and Rodrigo Rax meet at a school pageant and find that they are drawn to each other. Julia, the daughter of an engineer, lives in one of the few two-story houses in town. Rodrigo, who comes from less privilege, is a soccer star. But what begins as a love story soon becomes a struggle against circumstance. Julia and Rodrigo rise above old-fashioned customs of marriage and religious worship only to collide with events they cannot control. Ultimately, this finely crafted novel goes a long way toward answering the question of whether human free will can overcome fate, or God’s will.” —Thaddeus Rutkowski, final judge of the contest and author of Haywire, Tetched and Roughhouse

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Once again, the Appalachian Prison Book Project, which provides reading material to incarcerated men and women, has made the news. There's a nice writeup of the project in The Daily Athenaeum featuring interviews with graduate student interns Dominique Bruno and Mike Buso, who seem to have mastered the art of the sound bite.

The Tenants were also pleased to see on APBP's blog that the organization has been awarded 501c3 status as a nonprofit organization.

If you're a student, undergraduate or graduate, and interested in getting involved in APBP, you can attend the first meeting of APBP's "school club" this Friday, Aug 31, at 3 pm in room 130, Colson Hall.

"Listen up, Babies!"

Yep, that's everyone's favorite Rug Rat, Angelica, rounding up her troupe of babies with her trademark call to attention.

We've got our own troupe, it seems, and we're happy to welcome them as new Tenants.

So... drumroll, please... and hi to...

Adalyn Carpenter-Bowen, daughter of Cari Carpenter and Eric Bowen
Stella Sardone-Jones, daughter of Amy Sardone and John Jones
Lyla Corcoran, daughter of Nathalie Singh-Corcoran and Brian Corcoran
Laurel Fallon, daughter of Katie and Jesse Fallon

And, girls, we were wondering if, um, maybe, you might consider earning some money for, you know, us. Times are tough. You're cute and, we're sure, talented too, so...

We're thinking either "Rug Rats--Live!---The Musical!" or, in a few years, an all-girl band, maybe like Goldie and the Gingerbreads.

Either way, we think Pat Conner would make a great manager.

Again: welcome, new Tenants, and congratulations to your parents!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Andi Stout's Newly Published Poem

A new poem came out today by Andi Stout, a third year MFA, in Scissors and Spackle magazine (available both online and in print). The poem's title is "Folding Paper," and it is an excellent example of both Andi's talent and WVU's writing program.

Next time you see Andi around Colson, congratulate her.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More "Recent Achievements"

Recent Achievements in English (August 2012):

Dennis Allen gave the following conference presentations during the past academic year: “Queer Subjects: Alison Bechdel's Fun Home," Queer Places, Practices, and Lives: A Symposium in Honor of Samuel Steward, May 18-19, Ohio State University; “Horror, Comedy, and Shaun of the Dead," Professors Vs. Zombies: A Symposium, April 14-15, 2012, University of Louisville; "’No Way’: Skepticism and the Possibility of Truth in Internet Commentary,” Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900, Feb. 23-25, 2012, University of Louisville; “Kathy Griffin as Fag Hag,” MMLA, Nov. 4-6, 2011, St. Louis; "The Short Session,” ACL(X), Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2011, Penn State University.

Amanda Cobb’s poems “They Got Themselves Up Killingly,” “The Creature Regarded Her Balefully,” ”She Believes in the Afterlife,” and “Alcohol is In It!” appeared in Verse online 

Lara Farina gave talks this summer at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, MI and the meeting of the New Chaucer Society (in lovely Portland, OR). She recently finished editing a special issue of the journal Postmedieval, one dedicated to "The Intimate Senses" and scheduled to be published this December.  

Ryan Fletcher will be presenting a paper at the Rocky Mountain MLA convention this October in Boulder, CO. The paper is titled, "'Where Our Sins Lie Unatoned:' Violence, Family, and Flannery O'Connor in Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska," and it is part of a special session on the works of Springsteen.  

Catherine Gouge’s essay “Multiple Literacies in the Technical Editing Classroom:  An Approach to Teaching Copyediting” was published in The Journal of Literacy and Technology, 13:2 (June 2012): 55-80. 

Rosemary Hathaway gave a lecture to the University of Missouri-Columbia's English Department at the invitation of their  Student Folklore Society.  The talk was titled "'Re-Mapping' Nella Larsen:  Hybridity,  Liminality, and Transnational Folklore (or, Death By Folklore)."  Her article titled “Reading Art Spiegelman’s _Maus as Postmodern Ethnography” appeared in the Journal of Folklore Research 48.3 (2011).  

Kirk Hazen notes that The West Virginia Dialect Project spent 14 months creating “sound slides” from interviews of the 67 speakers in the West Virginia Corpus of English in Appalachia (WVCEA). Altogether, the process took anywhere between 25-40 hours to align each interview and over 2,000 hours to manually time-align the entire corpus. This work was supported by two National Science Foundation grants, “A Sociolinguistic Baseline for English in Appalachia” (BCS 0743489) and “Phonetic Variation in Appalachia” (BCS-1120156). The primary research assistants on this project were Jaclyn Daugherty, Jacqueline Kinnaman, Lily Holz, Kevin Walden, Jessi Jones, Madeline Vandevender, with assistance from Mandy Clark, Emily Justiss, Shannon Goudy, and Evan Chapman.

Kirk HazenJessica Deshler, and Vicki Sealey, both Assistant Professors of Mathematics, have received funding for an ARTS project (Awards for Research Team Scholarship). The nearly $27,000 award will fund research designed to examine the mathematical language of undergraduate students at WVU. The precision of mathematical language directly contrasts with the imprecise language of normal conversations. This contrast can become the source of difficulties when these students are expected to read, write, understand and graphically interpret mathematical language while moving between these methods of communication freely in an undergraduate mathematics classroom. The project team combines the qualitative methods of mathematics education with the quantitative methods of linguistics to provide a more thorough picture of our students’ difficulties. The research is motivated by the need to develop a greater awareness of our students’ specific understanding of mathematical language.  

Kirk Hazen is also a Sponsor for the Advance program ( for Juliana De la Mora. Professor De la Mora is just starting her second year at the World Languages department. Importantly, she is also a quantitative sociolinguistic variationist.  She was eligible for the WVU ADVANCE Sponsorship program, and she and Kirk together were able to convince the powers-that-be that Kirk could be her Sponsor (the program is set up to have external mentors).  Kirk has met with Juliana frequently to help her develop a research program and an external NSF proposal to the linguistic program. 

Renée Nicholson recently joined the book review staff of Los Angeles Review, where her monthly reviews appear both online and in the print journal. Her interview with Steve Almond is forthcoming in Fiction Writers Review. As well, she was just made a voting member of the Dance Critics Association.  

Courtney Novosat’s essay "Outside Dupin’s Closet of Reason: (Homo)sexual Repression and Racialized Terror in Poe’s 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue'" will be in the journal Poe Studies this academic year.  She is currently co-authoring a revised instructor's manual for the ninth edition of Bedford/St. Martin's Rereading America.  

Christina Seymour's poem "It's Just a Dark Hill" will be published in the upcoming issue of Third Wednesday. 

Ethel Smith was invited to the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen to read from and discuss her recently published book Reflections of the Other:  Being Black in Germany.  She served as a guest professor while in residence at the University. 

Andi Stout has a poem forthcoming in Scissor and Spackle; it will appear online and in print.  Her one-line poem was selected by Nicelle Davis for a poetry in motion project; the poem has been made into a car magnet and is traveling around Southern California this summer. She'll post photos of where it's traveled on the Bees Knees blog in mid-August.  Andi opened for current U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway at the Connotation Press Reading at the AWP Conference in Chicago earlier this year.  Finally, she took second place in the Hungry Poets Contest in April. 

Jeffrey Yeager has two articles forthcoming: "How this World is Given to Lying!: Orson Welles's Deconstruction of Traditional Historiographies in Chimes at Midnight," which will be part of the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference's 2012 proceedings; and "The Social Mind: John Elof Boodin's Influence on John Steinbeck's Phalanx Writings: 1935-42," has been accepted and will appear in the Fall edition of Steinbeck Review.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cheeky Ones

Now that we've got three new colleagues joining us (Piers Brown, Sarah Neville, and Lowell Duckert), it might be time to think about freshening up our faculty photos to keep up with the new lot. And thanks to the latest social science research, we can consider what really matters in these: are you a right cheeker or a left-cheeker?

Says here:

that sciencey types favor the stoic, rational right side while English profs like to show the left.

Looking at our beaming faces, I see that most of us are straightaheaders (hmm), though there are a few lefties (running from Sweet's mild left tilt to Samyn's extreme head-turn) and a few righties (Ballentine, Baldwin), and (oh dear).


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ryan Claycomb's Book Is Now Out

Professor Claycomb and the scholarly artifact
There was a lot of excitement around Colson Hall today when (new) Chair Jim Harms announced that Ryan Claycomb's Lives in Play: Autobiography and Biography on the Feminist Stage is now out from University of Michigan Press.

If you want more details, the book's webpage is here, but we'll give you a peek at the description:

"Lives in Play explores the centrality of life narratives to women's drama and performance from the 1970s to the present moment. In the early days of second-wave feminism, the slogan was 'The personal is the political.' These autobiographical and biographical 'true stories' have the political impact of the real and have also helped a range of feminists tease out the more complicated aspects of gender, sex, and sexuality in a Western culture that now imagines itself to be 'postfeminist.'

The book covers a broad range of texts and performances, from performance artists like Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, and Bobby Baker to playwrights like Suzan-Lori Parks, Maria Irene Fornes, and Sarah Kane. The book examines biography and autobiography together to link their narrative tactics and theatrical approaches and show the persistent and important uses of life writing strategies for theater artists committed to advancing women's rights and remaking women's representations."

If you want even more information, Professor Claycomb will inaugurate the English Graduate Organization's new Current Thoughts lecture series with a talk on the book on Monday, Sept, 17th at 7:30 in Colson Hall. The Tenants haven't specifically asked him, but we suspect he wouldn't mind if you just happen to show up with your copy of the book for him to autograph.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Congratulations to Renée Nicholson

Congratulations to Renée Nicholson, who is now certified in all levels of the American Ballet Theatre's curriculum!

To complete the eight levels of training, Renée attended three separate training sessions at ABT in New York City. Each session consumed eight hours a day over the course of a week to ten days."I took written and oral exams, and each level was cumulative, meaning I had to know all the material from the past levels and also the material for new levels," Renée said. "The exams have written and oral components, and the oral component includes both demonstration as well as using the curriculum to correct students.

"My classmates included ABT company members, both past and present, former Kirov dancers, former New York City Ballet Dancers, as well as former dancers and teachers from most of the major schools around the U.S. and several other countries, including The Netherlands, Austria, and Italy."

As part of her exam, Renée had to write about dance and the teaching of dance. Like the editors of the numerous literary journals where her fiction, creative nonfiction, and poems have appeared, the ABT judges were impressed.

"My final oral exam was an hour long and exceptionally comprehensive in terms of technique," Renée reported. "At one point, I had to demonstrate the differences in the carriage of the upper body in the French, Italian (Cecchetti), and Russian (Vaganova) schools. We also covered the Balanchine style and Bournonville (Royal Danish) styles.

"The imperfect analogy I make about what you have to know to pass these exams is this: Imagine looking at a paragraph from a major author—like Chekhov or Faulkner—and then analyzing that paragraph, illustrating how it came to be in existence from the time the writer learned to write, through all his schooling, through the drafts, to the published piece, with a healthy dose of discussion of style and influences."

In addition to her great work for the West Virginia Writers' Workshop and the Department of English, Renée is a part-time lecturer in dance in WVU's School of Theatre and Dance.

About her recent experience at ABT, Renée said, "Now I suppose I can get to work writing an essay about it, right?"


Congratulations, Renée!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What the WVDP did all summer (and last year)

The West Virginia Dialect Project spent 14 months creating “sound slides” from interviews of the 67 speakers in the West Virginia Corpus of English in Appalachia (WVCEA). These sound slides are typed transcripts of audio recordings that are manually time-aligned to flow along with the audio files as they play. These transcripts are stored in Praat TextGrids with boundaries marked between utterances. Utterances are defined as sections of speech surrounded by silences of 0.06 seconds or larger. Manual time-alignment was a pain-staking process that involved careful attention to details such as appropriate spacing, correct spelling, background noise, and precise boundaries. These sound slides are stored in a searchable database, which will be the basis for many future research projects.

The process was time consuming. It took approximately an hour to manually time-align two and a half minutes of audio in Praat. Most of the interviews in the WVCEA consist of one or two speakers and last about an hour. Of course, there are exceptions. A few of the interviews have up to seven speakers and can last more than two hours, greatly increasing the amount of work required to manually time-align those interviews. Because of the need for accuracy, after the initial time-aligning of an interview, a second research assistant reviewed the TextGrids for errors. Altogether, the process took anywhere between 25-40 hours to align each interview and over 2,000 hours to manually time-align the entire corpus. This work was supported by two National Science Foundation grants, “A Sociolinguistic Baseline for English in Appalachia” (BCS 0743489) and “Phonetic Variation in Appalachia” (BCS-1120156).

A Sample of TextGrids
# of Speakers (including interviewer)
# of Utterances
Length of Audio (Hours)
Gbr 3
Barb 1
Mon 7/ Mon 8
Boon 3/ Boon 4
Log 2/ Log 3/ Log 4

"That's what grad school does to you:

it burns your insides." So said Rebecca Thomas at the conclusion of the lyric poetry class.

Not that she was blaming the lyric, of course.

As everybody knows, poetry is where we take our burned out insides.

Language is, we learned, not gonna really do anything to satisfy desire, but, hey, what can you do?

As Jeremiah Shelor said, "Let's settle down... even if we don't have language, we're still going to die."

So, on that note, which is, I think, actually meant to be cheerful, consider these lines from Jorie Graham. We think she's got some talent.

All I was to invent in this life is there in the wicker basket among the lemons
having come from below the horizon where the sound of the market rises

I think that was the moment of my being given my name,
where I first heard the voices carrying the prices
as her face broke and its smile appeared bending down towards me
saying there you are, there you are.

—"Cagnes Sur Mer 1950" from P L A C E (Ecco, 2012)

Monday, August 6, 2012

CFP: VariAbilit(ies), July 2013

A conference on the history and representation of the body in its diversity

Emory University, 4-7 July 2013

It is no longer useful to distinguish people by the binary opposition able-bodied/disabled. We now recognize people on a continuum of ability on which no-one is entirely able-bodied or entirely disabled. But was it always true? And if it is true now, does this require that we reconsider the use of binary oppositions when understanding people and their capabilities? VariAbilit(ies) is an interdisciplinary conference which will explore these questions. It will focus on the body and how it was treated and represented throughout history. Subject areas will include:

Literary representations
The Asylum
The History of Poor Relief
Gender/ Sexuality
Disability and Aesthetics
Disability and Race
And anything else you are interested in

Please send abstracts (300 Words by 30 October 2012) to:

Chris Mounsey
University of Winchester

Paul Kelleher
Emory University

You can find the call on our Facebook page ( and follow us on Twitter (

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Alumni News--Update 73

It's gotten to the point where it's embarrassing, but we're still going through all the mail we got at the start of the summer. We thought we were done, but we picked up a package that Mary Ann had ordered from Etsy, which contained some switchplate covers for the light switches made out of repurposed clamshells and these crocheted dishtowels with lines from Emily Dickinson appliqued on them, I mean, you couldn't really actually use them or anything but they're really cute and Mark suggested that you might even want to frame them and hang them in the kitchen as a conversation piece although Mary Ann wasn't quite sure she had a good wall space for that since they're pretty big and all, even folded, and you don't really need a conversation piece in the kitchen anyway because people usually have plenty of things to talk about there like "Maybe just a bit more asiago in the sauce..." and "Is there another bottle of wine?" but..... uh, anyway, we picked up the package, and under it there was a postcard from Dr. Lumi Dragulescu with her latest publication and article acceptances on it, which we thought we would share:

“Race Trauma at the End of the Millennium: (Narrative) Passing in Philip Roth’s The Human Stain.” Philip Roth Studies. Purdue University Press and Philip Roth Society (forthcoming). 

“Sacred Ontology and Desacralized World: Race Trauma in J. E. Wideman’s The Cattle Killing.” Literature and Theology. Oxford University Press (forthcoming) 

Bearing Witness?: The Problem with the White Cross-Racial (Mis)Portrayals of History.” Still Maids? Still Toms?: Perspectives on The Help and Other White-Authored Narratives of Black Life in the “Post-Racial” Era. Eds. Claire Garcia and Vershawn Young. The University of Illinois Press (forthcoming in 2013). 

 “Drawing the Trauma of Race: Choices and Crises of Representation in Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Crossing Boundaries in Graphic Narrative: Essays on Forms, Series and Genres. Eds. Jake Jakaitis and James F. Wurtz. McFarland Press, 2012: 138-151.   

The Tenants congratulate Lumi on her continuing research success and suggest that she might watch the mail for a gift from Colson Hall that will really liven up the switchplates in her new place in Richmond.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Look how studious!

In case you were wondering if any real work happens in summer grad classes, I can assure you the answer is yes.

And here's photographic proof from yesterday's ENGL 693Y class.

That's Lyric Poetry, in case you were wondering, and, yes, we now know the differences among pastorals, idylls, bucolics, eclogues, and georgics. Just ask us.

(In the background: Jeremiah Shelor, Ashleigh Petts, Amanda Bailey; in the foreground: Christina Seymour---mostly hidden!---, Rebecca Thomas, Connie Pan)

Also, though they look very serious here---and of course that's a good thing---they were laughing just a moment before I took this photo. Lyric poetry is fun! Despite all the death and despair and stuff.