Books, books, everywhere!

By Alicia Hobson

Did you know that picture books are simultaneously the oldest and newest ways to tell stories?

Imagine this: you walk into a bookstore and head straight to your favorite section. There, you find your absolute favorite titles, with other recommendations that fit your mood. The pages are old and yellow and smell like old books smell. Or maybe they are glossy and smooth–a texture that you just can’t seem to get enough of. Maybe you find a scroll filled with the most minute illustrations in the margins–strange creatures and people limned in gold. Maybe you find an interactive fiction or a video game or a podcast that tells a story digitally!

What if we could offer you a class all about books: their history, their materiality, their future? A class designed just for bookworms and bibliophiles! Dr. Katie Peebles is teaching an upcoming class for the Spring 2021 semester, EN 360: Book Histories/Book Futures, which is LT-2 and INQ. That means that it will fulfill your advanced literature core requirement!

We’ll look at new ways of telling stories through digital, multimodal, and non-linear means like computer games. We’ll also experiment with hands-on book technologies and make our own books.  –Dr. Peebles

In this class, you can expect to learn things like the history of books from clay tablets and scrolls to e-books and video games. As Dr. Peebles notes, “We’ll look at new ways of telling stories through digital, multimodal, and non-linear means like computer games. We’ll also experiment with hands-on book technologies and make our own books.” In a world that is rapidly going digital, it is imperative to understand where the first books began, so we can imagine how their stories evolve.

You won’t want to miss out on this opportunity to not only dig deeper into the history of storytelling but to create your own books as well.

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Newly Designed Class- Global Literary Voices II!!

The Literature and Languages department is eagerly waiting for Dr. Sara Hallisey’s course, EN204- Global Literary Voices II, to start in Spring 2021! 

 

This specific course is a one-time design as an introduction to postcolonial literature and film. Students will begin an exploration of the effects of imperialism and colonialism with narrative literary voices–authors may include: Zakes Mda, Joseph Conrad, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Kiran Desai. Films may include: My Beautiful Laundrette, Dirty, Pretty Things, Miss India Georgia, Apocalypse Now, and The Murder of Stephen Lawrence. Dr. Hallisey encourages all students to determine for themselves whether there is, in fact, a “post” in the phrase post-colonialism at all. This course is an excellent opportunity to admire the strategy of resistance to colonialism and the negotiation of national identities at the intersection of the local and global levels. This course asks us many questions: where does authenticity lie in narrative, and does it matter? Additionally, students will find that there are concepts of hybridity and gender rooted in the formation of colonial and postcolonial identities. Human differences in terms of race and gender as they are deployed within colonized cultures, propose the question: why are those factors so crucial to colonies? Yet we know culture will evolve as the voices around the globe speak louder. After completing this course, you will have an idea of how postcoloniality is represented and interrogated in texts. Indeed, you will also be able to recognize postcoloniality within non-traditional literature as well. The only requirement you need to secure a seat in this LT1 is the core course, EN102! 

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New Class! The Experience of Poetry

By Alicia Hobson

EN228 The Experience of Poetry: Poetry and Spirituality

The Literature and Languages Department has been working extra hard to offer their students many new opportunities to tailor their education to individual interests. For the Spring 2021 semester, Dr. Holly Karapetkova, Arlington’s current Poet Laureate has designed a new course, EN228 The Experience of Poetry: Poetry and Spirituality. You may have seen it advertised on our social media pages!  In this course, she will guide her students through an introduction to the formal, stylistic, and thematic elements of poetry. This new year will be incredible for many students, and we are so excited to see everyone returning to classes, however you may choose. The only requirement you’ll need for this LT1 core course is EN102. Register promptly and secure your seat!

For many of us who are new to poetry, its power can seem beyond our reach. At least that’s how I felt until I learned how to navigate the emotion in a poem. See, poetry is not just words structured a certain way on a page. Poetry is a being of sorts, and the words we read become its pulse. It can be happy and make us weep with joy, or it can shatter our minds with pain. Poetry, perhaps, has a bigger job than most literary texts we study because of those reasons. In poetry, we uncover many meanings and face harsh truths about the world it shares with us. Sometimes we even discover new things about ourselves. Learning to experience poetry opens doors into another’s world, and into our own. 

Along with the experience of reading poetry, Dr. Karapetkova will help students understand the connection between poetry, reflection, and spirituality. Students will learn how to define poetry, discover new aspects of spirituality, and investigate why poetry and spirituality have been such natural partners across diverse time periods, locations, and faith traditions. We are so proud to have Dr. Karapetkova teaching this class and sharing her specialty with our students! 

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Fall Visiting Poet: Tony Medina

In October, Marymount Literature & Languages welcomed Tony Medina–poet and Howard University professor–to campus as our Fall Visiting Poet. We were very excited to welcome him to a virtual event open to everyone. Medina talked about poetry as a means of empowerment and a tool to combat racism. His reading and the Q&A with MU students is hosted on our YouTube channel for the next three months only!

Recently interviewed for the brown bookshelf, Medina has written and edited seventeen books, including books for young readers. He is an advisory editor for Hip Hop Speaks to Children, edited by Nikki Giovanni. Read more about his work online!

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Spring Celebration of Graduating Students, 2020

Welcome to our annual Spring Celebration! I’m Dr. Howe, chair of the Department of Literature & Languages, and I’m really proud to be hosting this unconventional celebration of you, your accomplishments, and your bright futures. In normal years—whatever that means… we’re currently recognizing the contingency of “normal”—we do this in person, and we have food, free books, flowers, awards, personalized gifts, and lots of great conversation, including the opportunity to grill an alum who has returned from the field filled with experience and advice. This year, we’re going online (and we’re supporting the US Postal System while we do—so expect happy things in the mail, chosen especially for each of you by your faculty)!

I know this isn’t a great substitute for walking across the stage in your cap and gown, but I hope you find it meaningful. When I put out the call for celebratory videos to our alumni, I was deeply moved to see the results. It reminds me that we are a community, even in—maybe especially in—times of crisis. Several of your faculty have put together congratulatory videos for you, too, and our featured alumni speaker, Ashley Tucker (class of 2016) is here in electronic form to share her wisdom about life after graduation.

It feels like you’re alone on this journey now, but you really do have a network of support in us. I hope you’ll follow the department on social media, where you can find images and snippets from other alums and grads, and generally keep in touch with us.

It has been an interesting year, to say the least. In the fall, we couldn’t have imagined what was in store for us this term. We welcomed spoken word artist and public storyteller Regie Cabico to campus as our Bisson Lecturer in the Humanities; faculty took students to a number of plays and other events; we had two students—including one of our 2020 grads!—attend the inaugural Women’s Leadership Summit in Richmond; former creative writing faculty Katherine Zlabek returned for a reading from her new book of short stories; and so much more. Dr. K live recorded a talk on poetry of witness for the DelMarVa Public Radio; Dr. Rippy was honored with a research stipend for her work on Orson Welles; and Caren Colley-Trowbridge, who teaches French for us, earned an excellence in teaching award from the School of Design, Arts, and Humanities.

Since the COVID-19 lockdown, we’ve all learned a ton about time management, digital literacy, remote teamwork, and those key skills and attitudes about grit and persistence. We’ve also learned so much about the value of creativity and communication—in isolation, we come face to face with the work that art does. I hope you all continue to read, write, and explore, this summer and beyond. This is a challenging time to graduate, and it’s not what you expected; our economy today makes the prospect of entering the workforce even more daunting.

But, you have everything you need to flourish in the new world we’re entering. You’re curious, and you don’t take the party line at face value. You can write, you can research and distinguish good information from bad, you see the need we have for thoughtful, empathetic communication, you’re flexible and critical, and you can look at the world in creative, unconventional ways.

I won’t go into that all, though, because I really can’t do it any better than the alumni you’ll see tonight. So instead, I’ll get our unconventional Spring Celebration started with a poem, an example of the value of looking closely and finding just the right words to untangle the complexities of human experience.

This is a poem by Mary Oliver, an American poet who died in January of 2019, called “Starlings in Winter.” I chose it because it speaks to our reality now. We are individuals on our own, but also essential parts of a larger whole—the poem has a message of deep hope and resilience and taking inspiration from dark things into an unknown future.

Starlings in Winter

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Congratulations, Class of 2020. May you be improbable, beautiful, and afraid of nothing—may you go forth and think of dangerous and noble things.

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