This Week in English | December 6-12, 2021

Celebrate Emily Dickinson Tuesday at 4:30

The fifteenth annual Dickinson Birthday Poetry Reading, organized by Kathleen Ellis, will be held at 4:30 on December 7, 2021. This year’s event is sponsored by the Honors College and will be held on Zoom rather than in person in the University Bookstore as in years past. Ellis invites you to join UMaine faculty, students, staff, poets, and friends reading a Dickinson poem or an original poem in Dickinson’s style. Email her here if you’d like to sign up.

A Glimpse into Medieval British Literature

Students in Sarah Harlan-Haughey’s medieval British literature class (ENG 351) are performing twenty-minute miracle and morality plays throughout the final week of classes, including Seconda Pastorum, Noah, and Mankind. These plays are being performed in Middle English.

Hollie Adams Publishes Article on George Saunders 

Hollie Adams, assistant professor in the Department of English, has an article now available online from the Journal of the Short Story in English. “Dad Must Do What Dad Must Do: White Masculinity and the American Dream in George Saunders’s Short Fiction” explores the understudied prominence of representations of whiteness and masculinity in the fiction of American writer George Saunders, examining their connections to violence, virtue, and the idea of the “American dream.”

Meet McGillicuddy Humanities Center Fellow April Messier 

English major April Messier will be a McGillicuddy Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow in the calendar year 2022. She describes the work she expects to undertake with her faculty mentor Jennifer Moxley this way:

The goal for my project is to research poetry’s roots in religious ritual and magical practice, bringing attention to the way words have power to change our experience of reality. This could be physically in rituals meant to bring rain or cure sickness, or mentally in our perspectives—the stories we tell ourselves that create our identities. I’ll be gaining insight from many disciplines and time periods with the goal to find where things connect. The end product will be a book of poetry and prose that presents the distillation of relations in the long history of humans using words to create and change.

Messier received a Steve Grady Prize for Creative Writing last year as well as the George K. Manlove Scholarship Fund Scholarship.

English Major Hannah Mathieu’s Work with Food Rescue Main 

The Mitchell Center recently published an article about research on reducing food waste in Maine that undergraduate students Hannah Mathieu and Kalina Kinyon are working on. The article, “Raising awareness, inspiring action and developing tools to help reduce food waste in Maine” focuses on Hannah Mathieu and Kalina Kinyon’s work with the Mitchell Center project Food Rescue Maine to help schools, towns and businesses to reduce food waste and address food insecurity. Here is the paragraph highlighting Mathieu’s efforts:

Hannah Mathieu, a UMaine junior majoring in environmental science and English who joined the project midway through the spring 2021 semester, is working on the website this fall. She’s also building on the work done last spring with elementary schools in Winslow, Readfield and Portland, helping them to create and implement strategies for reducing food waste, such as an educational postcard to go home with students in their lunchboxes. School partners are using the materials developed by the team and Mathieu meets with them regularly to learn what’s working and what can be improved.

A Glimpse into the College Composition Program’s Portfolio Review Process 

Wednesday through Friday of this week the College Composition program will be undertaking its semi-annual Portfolio Review in the Buchanan Alumni House. ENG 101 teachers will meet together from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day in order to read and assess Final Portfolios from students currently enrolled in ENG 101. A key component to making this end-of-semester assessment a humane, just, and equitable mechanism is the regular negotiation of the Portfolio Assessment Rubric (PAR) in each College Composition course with the students currently enrolled, as well as the ongoing negotiation of the PAR with the entire College Composition teaching corps through regular calibration sessions. 

To participate in this ethical and humane assessment, students are invited to repurpose the work they have produced throughout the term in order to submit three artifacts: two thoroughly revised academic essays and one critical reflection. Each portfolio is assessed at least twice by readers who are not the student’s own instructor. Each reader situates their assessment within the language of the Portfolio Assessment Rubric and draws on the collective understanding of that document the teaching corps has built through calibration over the course of the semester. In the event that a portfolio is awarded different scores by its first two readers, it is recirculated for a third assessment.

Morgan Talty’s Year in Reading 

The online magazine The Millions published Morgan Talty’s contribution to their A Year in Reading: 2021 feature earlier today. It was a year of mourning and discovery:

Two thousand twenty-one has been full of highs and lows. Of the highs, I have a book coming out in 2022 and my nephew was born, cute as could be (flawless, dashing—what a head of hair!—and otherworldly in the way babies are). Of the lows, my mom is gone. That one alone weighs so, so much. 

My mother’s death really impacted my ability to read. To stay focused. I didn’t read as much as I normally do in a year. But I did read—I did find occasional solace in literature as a means to heal.

Talty, who is wrapping up his first semester of part-time teaching in English at UMaine, has fiction forthcoming in Granta, The Georgia Review, and The Idaho Review. His first novel, Night of the Living Rez, is due out this summer from Tin House.

A Footnote on Northwords 

After reading last week’s bulletin, Mary Bartosenski Bowden wrote in to remind us that she served as editor of Northwords from September 1994-July 1997. As Ryan Dippre wrote last week:

The Maine Council of English Language Arts (MCELA) is our state NCTE affiliate. Their journal, Northwords, has earned the 2021 NCTE Affiliate Journal of Excellence Award (scroll down).

Northwords has an interesting history tied up with our English department (as has MCELA more generally, although that’s a story for another time). The first iteration of the journal was in the 1990s, and our department has a considerable presence throughout the issues I’ve run across, such as Judy Hakola, Virginia Nees-Hatlen, John Wilson, and Bonnie Woellner. Judy Hakola served as editor for most of the issues I’ve found. There are probably even more connections than that, but the author bios are a bit absent in some issues, and my current collection of those older volumes are incomplete.

We expect a few more connections to surface before all is said and done!

This Week in English 116 was sent to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the department on Monday, December 6, 2021. If you would rather not receive these weekly bulletins, please reply with <unsubscribe> in your subject line. Earlier installments are archived on our website. If you’re on Facebook, please consider joining the newly formed English Department Group.

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Today’s installment of This Week in English is dedicated to the memory of Betsy Rose’s beloved dog Tony, who passed away this morning just shy of turning twelve. English majors on their way to seminars in the Hatlen Room often stopped in the NPF office for some Tony time before or between classes. He’ll be sorely missed by us all.