The Literary Way

a newsletter for Xavier University of Louisiana's English majors, minors, and honors students

December 2014

Warren Dangerfield and Marge Gregory

Warren Dangerfield and Marge Gregory, Scavenger Hunt Winners

Sample questions for the Scavenger Hunt
Can you name the professor?

  1. The diploma of this NCF Excellence in Teaching winner (2010) was soaked in the flood waters of Katrina, but was nailed up on the office wall anyway.

  2. This professor wrote a book called The Myth of New Orleans in Literature: Dialogues of Race and Gender.

  3. He was born in East Africa (Uganda), right on the equator, and has been teaching at Xavier longer than any other professor in his department.

  4. This professor insists (despite much evidence to the contrary and the bemused dismissal of skeptics) that everything "cool" or "interesting" was invented or popularized during the eighteenth century.

  5. In the office of this NCF Excellence in Scholarship Award winner (2014), you'll find a religious painting of two Bulgarian saints, standing side by side.

(answers at the bottom of the page...)

New Home for the Humanities

The English Department moved at the beginning of this fall semester to the third floor of the Administration Building. Now all five humanities departments (English, History, Languages, Philosophy, and Theology) have offices in the "Humanities Wing" of Administration—a physical expression of the heightened spirit of collaboration begun last year with the formation of the new Division of Fine Arts & Humanities, AKA THE LAMP (Theology, History, English, Languages, Art, Music, and Philosophy). To celebrate "The Move," Ms. Katheryn Laborde of the English Department organized an Open House and Scavenger Hunt, which took place on September 12. Students were provided with sheets of clues and instructed to visit all the offices in the Humanities Wing, seeking answers. First and second place went to Marge Gregory and Warren Dangerfield, respectively. Among their many prizes they received kiwi green T-shirts sporting THE LAMP logo designed by Art professor Ron Bechet. After the Hunt, students and faculty gathered in the new divisional Conference Room for cookies and lemonade.

Administration Building

Administration Building

Dr. Freeburg

Dr. Christopher Freeburg, '95 English Graduate

Christopher Freeburg analyzes how Herman Melville grapples with the social realities of racial difference in nineteenth-century America. Where Melville's critics typically read blackness as either a metaphor for the haunting power of slavery or an allegory of moral evil, Freeburg asserts that blackness functions as the site where Melville correlates the sociopolitical challenges of transatlantic slavery and U.S. colonial expansion with philosophical concerns about mastery. By focusing on Melville's iconic interracial encounters, Freeburg reveals the important role blackness plays in Melville's portrayal of characters' arduous attempts to seize their own destiny, amass scientific knowledge, and perfect themselves. A valuable resource for scholars and graduate students in American literature, this text will also appeal to those working in American, African American, and postcolonial studies.

—Amazon.com review

Christopher Freeburg Returns

On November 21, 2014 English graduate of the class of '95, Dr. Christopher Freeburg, gave a lecture on the topic of his book, Melville and the Idea of Blackness: Race and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century (Cambridge University Press, 2012). After completing his BA degree in English at Xavier, Christopher went on to complete his masters degree at Stanford and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He is now an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where he teaches advanced and survey courses in American and African American literature. In addition, he teaches for new students discovery courses that incorporate different forms of media, including newspapers, television shows (cartoons and sketch comedy), and contemporary fiction. Dr. Freeburg demonstrated his broad knowledge of media in the question-and-answer period, drawing parallels between African American characters in fiction and the Japanese manga hero, Afro Samurai.

In his talk to a packed room of students and faculty, Dr. Freeburg emphasized that his undergraduate work at Xavier University thoroughly prepared him to compete in the high-powered graduate programs at Stanford and the University of Chicago. He noted that his instructors at Xavier taught him not only how to absorb information but also to formulate and defend his own opinions about literary texts—good practice for graduate study. Three of those former instructors were in attendance, beaming with pride, as shown in the picture they posed for afterwards, taken by Dr. Jay Todd.

To ensure that present and future Xavier students can benefit from the insights of one of our star graduates, the English Department purchased two copies of Dr. Freeburg's book. One copy, signed by the author, has been donated to the Library Archives; the other, unsigned, will be available in the stacks for all to read and learn.

Dr. Freeburg

After his talk, Christopher poses with his former teachers:
Dr. Thaddeo Babiiha, Dr. Tom Bonner, and Dr. David Lanoue

Dr. Runia and Catherine Fakler

Dr. Robin Runia and Catherine Fakler

Runia and Fakler Visit Emory

Dr. Robin Runia and senior English Education major Catherine Fakler visited Emory University's MARBL (Manuscripts and Rare Books Library) to examine a first edition copy of Maria Edgeworth's Ennui (1809). Ennui is the first volume of Edgeworth's Tales of Fashionable Life. Dr. Runia, with Catherine's valuable assistance, has been preparing a new edition of the novel for publication with Valancourt Press. Catherine, the current President of the English Club and future graduate student, is sure to benefit greatly from this hands-on research experience, mentored by the newest and very talented additon to the English faculty, now in her third year. Dr. Runia's edition annotated edition of Ennui will be published by Valancourt Books.

In addition to her new book, Dr. Runia has published articles in Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, The Explicator, and New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century. She also has written chapters for two upcoming books, After Marriage in the Long Eighteenth Century and The Male Body in Medicine and Literature.

Dr. Runia is continuing the long tradition of faculty in the English Department who include students in research projects that will help them become (like Dr. Christopher Freeburg, featured in the previous article) experienced, confident, and independent scholars when they begin their graduate studies.

Maria Edgeworth

Maria Edgeworth, author of Ennui, painted by John Downman (1807)

Jamica Kincaid, Jameshaulyn Fernandez, and Dr. Biljana Obradovic

Jamica Kincaid, Jameshaulyn Fernandez,
and Dr. Biljana Obradovic

Jamaica Kincaid and Traina Hopkins

Jamaica and Traina Hopkins

Jamaica Kincaid Reading

by Jameshaulyn B. Fernandez & Traina Hopkins

Jamaica Kincaid, Antiguan-American novelist, gave a reading at Tulane University this fall semester. Dr. Biljana Obradovic of the English Department brought some of her students to the event. Here are two of their reports.

It was an awesome experience to be able to meet and listen to such an amazing author. While attending Jamaica Kincaidís reading, she states that she never reads her own work unless someone is paying her because she has already written and read her own work; it is not interesting to her. There are people who love to look back over their work, but her reason is understandable because it is about her life. No one wants to tell their life story over and over again.

Jamaica Kincaid starts off by reading her latest piece of writing first and ends with reading her very first piece of writing, which was interesting. Her piece of writing that is more interesting is See Now Then. This piece is about a mother who seems to be too busy to remember to pick up her own children from the school bus stop. The mother's son is very upset that the mother is too busy. He states that mother "is probably in her room at her desk writing." He also states, "It is her stupid writing that was keeping her from being at the bus stop" (See Now Then). The son thinks that the mother has left them at the school bus stop so that someone could murder them and that "she only cares about the world in her head."
—Jameshaulyn B. Fernandez

Jamaica Kincaid writes strictly autobiographical pieces, which makes her stories really interesting to read. Sheís been writing for 40 years, which is a very long time to be writing. I know I could not write that long; I can barely write for a whole month. She fills a blank space with her writing, which she expands with her mind. One of her books is See Now Then; one of her readers on Amazon says, "itís difficult to read." I guess this is because she uses a lot of terminology that only she can understand.

She is a professor in Massachusetts, and she's from New England. Whenever she writes, she doesn't have a reader in mind. She always writes freely; she just picks up a pen and just starts writing. She is a really funny person in person, and she always tells the truth. Normally whenever authors read they are just sometimes boring to me. My impression of Jamaica Kincaid was way different than I expected. I thought she was going to be this short little lady walking on a cane. My thoughts were wrong; she was taller than me and had prettier glasses than me. Her fashion was kind of off, but she looked pretty. I could tell she really did like America because she never went back; she told one of her students, "I don't have a view for success." Which was weird because I would of thought everybody would have a view of their own success. Everybody is not the same.

I had a really nice time visiting Tulane University. They had wonderful service, a lot of food, I even took some home. I hope there will be another author coming to visit some time soon. Out of all of the readings I have been to, this one was my favorite. I even got to take a picture and get my book signed by her.
—Traina Hopkins

Dr. Hennessey

Dr. Oliver Hennessey, Acting English Dept. Head, Spring 2015, at Twelfth Night

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!

Twelfth Night (1.1.1-3)

English Department Scholarships

For the third year in a row the English Department will have scholarship money to help continuing English majors pay their tuition. Next spring semester (2015), while the Department Head Dr. David Lanoue will be on sabbatical, Dr. Oliver Hennessey will fill in as Acting Head of the department. Students should expect an e-mail from Dr. Hennessey in January, outlining the guidelines for applying for this scholarship. If you have questions, ask Dr. Hennessey at ohenness@xula.edu or see him in his office, Administration 320H.

English Majors Attend Twelfth Night

Students of Dr. Hennessey, many of them English majors, were among the twenty students who attended a performance of Twelfth Night at the New Orleans Museum of Art on December 3, 2014. With tickets provided courtesy of the "Read Today, Lead Tomorrow" initiative headed by Dr. Jason Todd of the English Department, Dr. Hennessey and his students enjoyed an imaginative production of Shakespere's comedy, performed by the NOLA Project troupe. As the photo suggests, culture can be fun.

students attending Twelfth Night

Students attending Twelfth Night, including (from left)
English majors Tyler Despenza, Simone Graham, and (far right) Mia Ruffin

Cup-of-Tea performance

Cup-of-Tea Poems: an English/Music Collaboration

On November 25, 2014 faculty, students, and staff were treated to a special interdisciplinary performance. Xavier University's Symphonic Band, under the direction of Department of Music Head, Dr. Tim Turner, gave matinée and evening performances of Cup-of-Tea Poems, a new composition that combines poetry with music. The piece was originally composed by Carl Wiltse in 2009, based on 14 haiku by the Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), translated by English Department Head, Dr. David Lanoue. Wiltse wrote the piece for choral performance, but Dr. Turner masterfully revised it for orchestra. For each of the six movements, Dr. Lanoue recited the haiku that inspired the composer, both in the original Japanese and in English translation. The student musicians did a terrific job of performing this challenging, quite modern piece of music, earning accolades and great applause at both their afternoon and evening performances. As Dr. Lanoue told the audience, Cup-of-Tea Poems is concrete proof that the new Division of Fine Arts & Humanities is promoting a spirit of collaboration among the arts and humanities.

Answers to the sample Scavenger Hunt clues:

(1) Dr. Bonnie Noonan, (2) Dr. Violet Bryan, (3) Dr. Thaddeo Babiiha, (4) Dr. Robin Runia, (5) Dr. David Lanoue

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The Literary Way is edited by Dr. David G. Lanoue of the Xavier University English Department. Contact: dlanoue@xula.edu