The Literary Way

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

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April 2011




English Department Scholarships

The English Department is pleased to announce scholarships for students majoring in English or English Education. These awards will range from $1,000 to $2,000 applied to tuition for 2011-12, aimed at helping three groups: (1) incoming first-year students, (2) current English majors, and (3) next year's rising sophomores.

  • Incoming first-year students can apply by writing a short essay (500-750 words) explaining why they want to study English. E-mail this essay to Dr. David Lanoue, Recruitment Committee Chair, by May 1st: dlanoue@xula.edu. To win this scholarship, you must be admitted to Xavier, you must be a declared English major, and Honors English eligibility is preferred (though not required).

  • Current English majors can apply for the scholarship by writing a letter of application explaining their need for financial support to complete their English degree. This letter must be delivered in hard copy to the Department Chair, Dr. Nicole Greene, by May 1st. If you apply for this award, you might include the following information in your letter (if relevant): (1) employment, (2) dependents, (3) family situation, (4) debt, and (5) anything else that the Selection Committee should know about your situation. To receive the award you must be in good academic standing. A 3.0 or better average in English classes is preferred, though not required.

  • Rising sophomores need not apply for this scholarship. A selection committee of English faculty will determine this award based on grades earned in Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 English classes. To be eligible, students need to have a 3.0 average in English or better and good academic standing.

If you are awarded one of these scholarships, you will be notified via e-mail and a hard copy letter in May. Good luck!




What's Going on in the English Department?

Raphaela Romero
Raphaela Romero, English Club President

Spring 2011 has been a busy and productive semester, with plenty of English-related activities and presentations supported by the department and English Club. The Books into film program has provided a forum for viewing and discussing various film adaptations from literature, with The Time Machine (Jan. 13), Camille (Feb. 10) and The Green Pastures (Mar. 17). If you've been missing the fun, you have one more chance to participate on April 17, 6:30 p.m.: a viewing of Devil in a Blue Dress on the second floor of the University Center. On February 15, the English Club invited Dr. Robert Shenk and Dr. Frederick Barton of the University of New Orleans to come to campus to talk about their graduate programs in English and Creative Writing. This semester we also had the opportunity to view live theatre: Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream presented by the National Players Theatre (Mar. 15). And, as always, Dr. Biljana Obradovic has brought poets to campus for readings: Gina Ferrara (Jan. 27) and Julie Kane (Mar. 24). There will be one more opportunity for poetry lovers this semester: the New Voices student literary magazine kick-off party in April. For the date and time, watch the walls in the English Department for signs! Other upcoming events include the Sigma Tau Delta Induction Ceremony in April, date and time to be announced later. For those of you who don't know, Sigma Tau Delta is the national honors society for students of English. We have an active chapter of Sigma Tau Delta here at XU. Finally, I hope that you join us for our End of Year Celebration, April 25th at 5:00 p.m. in the Student Center. Find out which one of our seniors will be receive the honor of English Graduate of the Year!

Shenk and Barton
Drs. Barton and Shenk talk to XU English majors about graduate programs at U.N.O.

Midsummer night's dream
A scene from the National Players Theatre's updated vision of A Midsummer Night's Dream




A Review of A Midsummer Night's Dream

by Kristine Mbadugha

Kristine Mbadugha

On March 15 2011, The National Players touring company graced the stage of Xavier University's Ballroom with their contemporary production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The National Players touring company is the longest running classical touring company in America and for 62 years has presented some of the greatest works in literature to the stage. A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, centered on the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of actors, known as the "Rude Mechanicals," all of whom are to attend the wedding of the Duke of Athens and Queen of the Amazons, Theseus and Hippolyta. Most of the play takes place in a whimsical forest where fairies live and mischief takes place.

The performance used a contemporary flair to portray the characters and the forest. The simple tale of a lover's web tangled among four lovers, Lysander and Hermia, and Helena and Demetrius, portrayed as school boys and school girls; they were students instead of Athenians to make it relevant and more modern. The "Rude Mechanicals," who were everyday people such as carpenters and weavers, were represented by office employees. The production company used white cut-outs of trees to represent the forest and then used neon and glow-in-the-dark lights to show the contrast when the fairies of the forest were present. Also, the use of modern techno music added to the mystification of the forest instead of the traditional folk songs of the time.

Overall, the performance was great and the turnout was spectacular; however, a few details did pose problems to the delivery. One, for example, would be the noise of the stage; with every leap or walk, the stage would creak like a loose wood floorboard. At times the noise from the stage overpowered the voices of the actors and became a bit of a distraction. Despite some sound clarity issues with the staging, the actors overcame the difficulties by using innovative methods of gliding across the stage to reduce the noise.

The character that took the show away was the role of Bottom, an everyday weaver who is later wooed by the Queen of the fairies, Titania. His grand personality and stage presence really commanded the audience, and his scenes became the highlight of the play. The cast, overall, did a great job and we cannot wait for their return to Xavier for another outstanding performance.




Condado

by Bianca Villavaso

Bianca Villavaso

Bianca Villavaso is a student in Mr. Mark Whitaker's
Introduction to Creative Writing class.
No care in the world nor clocks ticking,
just loud silence.
No music nor rhythm of everyday life,
yet the beat from our hearts danced.
No sculptor nor painter in sight to mimic this emotion.
No birds nor butterfly, no dog nor ant
No rose more precious, nor honey more sweet.
No present no future,
no poet nor words to express
when our clocks told no time
and the wind stood still...

just my eyes and your heart,
my heart and your eyes.





English Faculty Retro

Last issue we featured favorite books of English majors and their professors, back "in the day" when the latter were undergraduates. Each professor was matched up with an English major, providing an interesting contrast of then and now. For this issue, so many faculty volunteered to contribute, we continue the series with a faculty-only edition...

Ron

Dr. Ronald Dorris as a young professor at Xavier, age 23.
Jay Todd

Dr. Jason Todd with his boyz: Matt Cody, Dana Snyder and Matt Wallace.
In 1968 Dr. Norman C. Francis became president of Xavier University of Louisiana, and I was one among a number of valedictorians who had been admitted with the incoming first-year class. Understanding our moment to shape and to be shaped by history, we requested at Xavier support to see ourselves reflected, among others, in the history and culture of people of African descent in the United States. Some of the professors at Xavier began to offer courses in what newly was billed as an approach to Black Studies. In my English 1020 class, among other works, I read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The opening sentence of this work moved me. "I am an invisible man... I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." Ellison's statement encouraged me to put much into perspective, given my upbringing under segregation and with being relegated to four of eight streets poised between two corners on 'my side of town.' In the Catholic Church in my little town, my visitation "privilege" was relegated to one of three back benches on the left-hand side of Christ. Could anyone watching over human affairs be invisible, I pondered. I kept reading Invisible Man to go far past the Golden Day Saloon to acquire my initial graduate degree in Afro-American Studies from Boston University. Throughout the years, I have continued to revisit Invisible Man. I draw inspiration from one of the closing lines of the work: "There's a possibility that even an invisibe man has a socially responsible role to play." Ellison's work counsels me to see and to embrace that continually actualizing one's potential checkmates the hand of invisibility projected against individuals or a people by others.



While it's not one of those books I will read again and again, Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year stands out from the crowd of books I read as an undergraduate. Plague Year is a more enjoyable read—less tedious and less repetitive—than the better known Robinson Crusoe but is similar in many ways. With any of Defoe's novels, reading it lets you watch him as he tries to figure out how the thing should work, tries to understand what a novel is supposed to be. Similar to Robinson Crusoe in that it is a fictionalized journal, Plague Year is more grounded in a believable reality. As the title suggests, the novel is an account of the year 1665, when London was overcome by the final outbreak of bubonic plague. Defoe wrote his novel almost sixty years later, probably using the diaries kept by his uncle Henry Foe from that year. It's a fascinating account of a man trying to deal with the devastation wrought by the plague, making it a precursor to the many post-apocalyptic novels and movies we have today. What made Plague Year so memorable for me was the reality Defoe managed to recreate through the narrative. Not only is it an enjoyable story; it's also an impressive piece of journalism, recounting vividly and accurately what it was like to live through the horrors of the Black Death. This was the first time I really came to understand how literature could do more than just tell a good story, and it started me on a path of wondering about the nature of fiction writing. With Defoe, you're never sure where the line between truth and fiction lies; almost three centuries later, we're still trying to understand that. It also helped that I was studying abroad in London when I read the book, so I was able to retrace many of the steps taken by the narrator and see, so many years later, the world Defoe was describing, and to learn how reading can be used as a way to engage with and understand the real world.


Bonnie Noonan

Dr. Bonnie Noonan a while ago.
Tom Bonner

Dr. Tom Bonner as he looked as a Tulane University graduate student in 1970.
I was a real folk music lover: Peter, Paul & Mary; Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and a little known duo named Richard & Mimi Farina. Here is a link to a YouTube clip of one of their songs: easy chords. I used to sing it on stage. Check it out! I was also a voracious reader. When I discovered Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Farina in the LSU Bookstore in Fall 1967, I had to have it. Wow. It was chock full of sex, drugs, rock and roll, adventure, political commitment, revolution and rebellion, and everything else that was so important to us back in the Summer of Love! So much for folk music. Wikipedia describes the novel as the "comic picaresque story" of its ur-hippy anti-hero Gnossos Pappadopoulis. Yes, he was sexist, narcissistic, irresponsible—everything I am not (now), of course, but what a thrill it was to read this book back then...




In the early 1960s, the wasteland motif of the 1920s writers intersected with the fears of nuclear war expressed by Beat poets like Gregory Corso. Undergrads carried books in their pockets and bags. I carried and read a small edition of T.S. Eliot's poems (including "The Wasteland") and Gregory Corso's The Happy Birthday of Death with the centerfold title poem shaped in the image of a bomb (in part a parody of the magazine Playboy). The book that really touched me, however, was F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. I admired his balanced and eloquent prose, his outsider-protagonist Nick Caraway, and the contrasting images, values, and visions. Subsequently, I read all of Fitzgerald's novels and stories, one night spent completely reading his novel The Beautiful and Damned—not for a course. When dawn started to emerge, it was so disappointing to have finished it. I was also struck by his first novel This Side of Paradise, involving a student at Princeton and the trips by car to New York; years later at Princeton I walked accidentally into a memorial service for two Princeton students—the boy had rented a plane to take his girl on a date to New York, and it had crashed, killing both. I had just been elated seeing the writer's initials in a booth at a bar there when the sadness of this event intervened. Indeed, art had become life.



Meliki Addison
Meliki Addison
English major Meliki Addison has had her essay, "Portrayals of Poverty in Twentieth-Century Irish Drama," accepted for publication by XULAneXUS, Xavier University's undergraduate research journal. This paper was written under the guidance of Dr. Nicole Green for her Irish Literature Seminar. Also, we have recently learned that Meliki has been accepted to Columbia University Teacher's College in New York City. Congratulations, Meliki!



Colors: after Winslow Homer's The Blue Boat

by Frances Germany

Frances Germany

Frances Germany is a student in Dr. Biljana Obradovic's Creative Writing class.
The crystal waters and the clear sky
with clouds scattered here and there
like pillows full of downy feathers.
They're as white as the freshly fallen snow
that descends down onto the mountain tops.
The crystal water gives a reflection that extends
for miles and miles. With trees so green and
a sunset so intriguing resembling brush strokes of
paint flowing through the sky. Nature, this beautiful
creation I perceive around me is like a living painting.
The human race together as the artist along with the
watercolors of life must decide if it will forever
flourish in beauty, or be discarded like many various
artworks before it. From the soil comes brown, so deep
and so rich. It can only be displayed by nature on Earth:
blues, whites, browns, greens, and so many more.
Colors create the world of nature surrounding me.
They're so beautiful, yet so intriguing. Wanting to
know more about them I have to preserve this painting.
I have to explore.

Blue Boat

The Blue Boat by Winslow Homer.

[This ekphrastic poem is a part of a larger research project that Dr. Bijlana Obradovic (English) and Dr. MaPo Kinnord Payton (Art) are working on with Winston Boyd and Jameel Paulin as part of their Center for Undergraduate Research Grant. This poem and painting will be presented at two conferences later this month: the North and South Conference on Literature, Language and Culture in Lafayette, Louisiana; and the Gulf Coast Creative Writing Teachers' Conference in Fairhope, Alabama.]



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