Students at Duke Kunshan University Analyze Thoreau Across Cultures

[Editor’s Note: A version of this post appeared earlier on the blog of Digital Thoreau.]

This spring, about two dozen students in two sections at Duke Kunshan University in Kunshan, China are taking “Walden International: Analyzing Thoreau Across Cultures” from Patrick Morgan, a Ph.D. candidate and Graduate Instructor in English at Duke University and a graduate of SUNY Geneseo (English, Geological Sciences, 2010). Morgan wrote about his experience as an English major at Geneseo for this blog back in December, 2013.

Morgan’s Kunshan students are discussing Walden in the margins of Thoreau’s work at The Readers’ Thoreau, the online community of Digital Thoreau, a collaboration among SUNY Geneseo, The Thoreau Society, and the Walden Woods Project directed by SUNY Geneseo Professor of English Paul Schacht.

Campus of Duke Kunshan University

Duke Kunshan University

The students are also “analyzing [Thoreau’s] writings from an international perspective, focusing primarily on his engagement with Asian thought,” according to Morgan’s syllabus, asking how Thoreau “‘package[s]’ ancient Asian philosophies in order to comment on nineteenth-century American culture” and what “cultural forces and contexts … allow scholars like Lin Yutang to claim Thoreau as ‘the most Chinese of all American authors.’”

In addition to meeting with Morgan for 300 minutes each week in class and exchanging ideas online in the margins of Walden, the Kunshan University students are taking a digital field trip to Walden Pond thanks to a website Morgan has created that links passages of Thoreau’s text to YouTube videos he made in which he reads aloud from Walden while capturing the pond’s sights and sounds.

patrick_morgan

Pat Morgan

Morgan has been active in Thoreau studies since his undergraduate days at Geneseo, where he presented on “Thoreau’s Bedrock: Emerson’s Influence and the Geomorphological Significance of Emerson’s Cliff, Concord, Massachusetts” for Geneseo’s day celebrating undergraduate research, GREAT Day, in 2010. That same year, his article on “Aesthetic Inflections: Thoreau, Gender, and Geology” appeared in the Thoreau Society’s scholarly annual, The Concord Saunterer. In 2015, Morgan participated in an NEH summer institute for college instructors on “Transcendentalism and Reform in the Age of Emerson, Thoreau, and Fuller” conducted in Concord by a roster of scholars that included Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, Phyllis Cole, Jayne Gordon, Robert Gross, John Matteson, Wesley T. Mott, and former Geneseo Harding lecturers Laura Dassow Walls, Megan Marshall, and Joel Myerson.

In addition to his studies and teaching at Duke University, Morgan serves as an editorial assistant at the scholarly journal American Literature, published by Duke University Press.

Geneseo students shine at 2016 Sigma Tau Delta Conference

Seven Geneseo students represented the English department last week at this year’s convention of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society. The students — Noah Chauvin, Ariana Dipreta, Jeremy Jackson, Elizabeth Landrum, Megan Meadows, Zachary Muhlbauer, and Michelle Mundt — were accompanied by Prof. Gillian Paku, faculty advisor to Geneseo’s chapter of the society.

IMG_9212Over the course of three days, the students presented their peer-reviewed work in front of engaged and enthusiastic audiences. Each student participated in a panel with papers on related topics (James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, issues of race or postcolonialism), offering opportunities for members of the audience to pose questions and for presenters to establish running dialogues among themselves. Showing great support for one another, the students attended the panels of their Geneseo peers, along with many other panels of interest, be it one focused on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, on African American literature, or featuring creative nonfiction on addiction and depression.

[See more photos from the convention.]

There were numerous ways to network and meet like-minded peers, domestic and international, as well as chances to explore the cultural backdrop of Minneapolis, from performances at the renowned Guthrie Theatre to wandering the huge Mall of America, plus the occasional gathering at an Irish pub. As has been the case for several years now, the Geneseo group also took home one of the convention prizes for best submissions, with Noah’s creative non-fiction essay, “For Want of Syncope,” winning second place as a response to the convention’s common reader, Charles Baxter’s The Soul Thief (2008).

All students who are members of Sigma Tau Delta are eligible to submit to the convention, a competitive process. Next year’s convention will be held March 29 – April 1 in Louisville, KY, where one of the featured speakers will be Marlon James, recent winner of the Man Booker Prize.

Submissions are usually due at the end of October, and the Sigma Tau Delta student e-board is always happy to help with the process and keep our excellent tradition of participation strong.

English major Meghan Barrett wins Phi Beta Kappa writing internship

This news is so fresh that the press release below isn’t yet live on the Phi Beta Kappa website (though by the time you click that link, maybe they’ll have posted it).

English major (creative writing) Meghan Barrett has won a prestigious Phi Beta Kappa writing internship. Here’s the release:

MEGHAN BARRETT SELECTED FOR PHI BETA KAPPA WRITING INTERNSHIP

WASHINGTON, DC – The Phi Beta Kappa Society is pleased to announce that Meghan Barrett of the State University of New York at Geneseo has been selected for a 2016 Phi Beta Kappa Writing Internship.

The Phi Beta Kappa chapter at SUNY Geneseo recommended Meghan to work with the Society’s national office in Washington, DC. The internship begins this month and continues through May 2016.

A native of Penfield, New York, and a graduate of Our Lady of Mercy High School, Meghan is a senior with a double major in Biology and Creative Writing. She is also part of the college’s Edgar Fellows Honors Program and was inducted into the Alpha Delta of New York chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 2015.

Meghan is also serving as a website management intern for the Geneseo Office of Sustainability and is a writer of book four of Liber Primus Games’s Narborion Saga. She is the President of Alpha Delta Epsilon regional sorority and was named Geneseo’s 2015 Outstanding Sorority Woman. Meghan plans to earn a PhD in Biology after completing her bachelor’s this spring—while continuing to write poetry, plays, and novels in her spare time.

Phi Beta Kappa’s writing internships are for juniors and seniors majoring in the liberal arts or sciences who attend institutions where our chapters are located. Interns must make a five-month commitment to the program and prepare a minimum of six publishable articles for the Society’s publication for news and alumni relations, The Key Reporter.

The program has two deadlines annually, for internships in the fall or spring of each academic year.

No more than 15 students are selected from a national pool in each round.

New edition of works by Elizabeth Oakes Smith, edited by Caroline Woidat, out from Broadview Press

cover of Woidat edition of works by Oakes SmithProfessor Caroline Woidat’s edition of works by nineteenth-century American author Elizabeth Oakes Smith, The Western Captive and Other Indian Stories, has just been published by Broadview Press.

From the Broadview website:

This edition recovers Elizabeth Oakes Smith’s successful 1842 novel The Western Captive; or, The Times of Tecumseh and includes many of Oakes Smith’s other writings about Native Americans, including short stories, legends, and autobiographical and biographical sketches. The Western Captive portrays the Shawnee leader as an American hero and the white heroine’s spiritual soulmate; in contrast to the later popular legend of Tecumseh’s rejected marriage proposal to a white woman, Margaret, the “captive” of the title, returns Tecumseh’s love and embraces life apart from white society.

These texts are accompanied by selections from Oakes Smith’s Woman and Her Needs and her unpublished autobiography, from contemporary captivity narratives and biographies of William Henry Harrison depicting the Shawnee, and from writings by her colleagues Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and Henry Rowe Schoolcraft.

Actors from Ireland’s Curlew Theatre Company to perform J. M. Synge adaptation on April 10

Aran PosterTegolin Knowland and Sean Coyne of the Curlew Theatre, Tullycross, Ireland will perform Eamon Grennan’s adaptation of John Millinton Synge’s The Aran Islands: A Dramatic Recital for Two Voices on Friday, April 10, 2015 at 7 p.m. in the Geneseo Riviera theater. The event, which is free and open to the pubic, is sponsored by the departments of English and History at SUNY Geneseo.

Between May 1898 and October 1901, John Millington Synge, a Dubliner, spent just under four months (accumulated over four separate visits) on Inishmaan, the middle island of the three Aran Islands lying off the West Coast of Ireland. From the diary and notebooks he kept while there, he composed his travel book, The Aran Islands. Eamon Grennan (well known Irish poet) has taken a number of fairly representative moments from The Aran Islands and turned them into a kind of collage to represent as much as possible what the book is like and something of its flavor. It is partly a romantic lyrical evocation of this wild place, partly a series of anecdotes, partly an almost anthropological study of the people’s lives, their habits, their folk-tales and so on. First performed at the Clifden Arts Festival in Western Ireland, this dramatic recital offers American audiences a rare opportunity to experience the fine work of Ireland’s Curlew Theatre Company.

Geneseo Sigma Tau Delta students take top honors at annual conference

Seventeen members of Geneseo’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, attended this year’s conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, accompanied by Prof. Caroline Woidat and adviser Prof. Gillian Paku. They were Amy Bishop, Liam Cody, Jennie Conway, Sean Fischer, Meghan Kearns, Erin Koehler, Lucia Lotempio, Ellie MacWilliam, Rebecca Miller, Christina Mortellaro, Michelle Mundt, Sean Neill, John Panus, Katie Silvestri, Ben Wach, Katie Waring, and Jo-Ann Wong.

std15-3For many of the students who attended this year’s convention, titled “Borderlands and Enchantments,” it was their first time participating in a conference where they were allowed to interact with critical and creative writing from college students around the world. The experience allowed students “to gain valuable connections throughout the conference, [and become involved in] discussion with other panelists, who brought new ideas and theories to our conversations,” said Senior Ellie MacWilliam. Students attended a variety of panels and roundtables on topics such as post-colonial literatures, Modernism, Transgender and Bisexuality in Young Adult Literature, critical theory in film and television, and XML text encoding in music and literature. std15-5For junior Michelle Mundt, being involved in panels surrounded by her college peers gave her the opportunity to learn “a lot on how to present a paper and question my motives in writing. I also enjoyed being able to listen to other students’ presentations and gleaning from their knowledge on different subjects.” Attendees also listened to presentations from acclaimed authors such as Simon Ortiz and Leslie Marmon Silko. Senior Rebecca Miller found Silko’s reading “the most memorable part about the conference. . . . The conference was educational and expansive, and overall a great way to spend spring break.”

std15-6The Geneseo students were awarded two first place honors, along with the Best Convention Paper. Senior Ben Wach won the Critical Essays in Theory category and Katie Waring won the Creative Non-Fiction category, with Katie’s essay, “Transdifferentiating Cells,” ultimately named top piece at the convention. Throughout the conference, the students supported each other at the panel presentations. Senior Lucia LoTempio said, “It was definitely enlightening to make new connections with my peers and to experience the fruits of their work at Geneseo. I was consistently (though not unexpectedly) impressed with the insightfulness and intellectual difficulty of each Geneseo student’s work, whether it was critical or creative. It made me especially proud to call myself a member of the Geneseo community!” Students in the Creative Writing and Literature tracks were able to come together: “It was an honor to be able to have presented both a critical paper and a collection of poetry at the conference an experience that I was extremely lucky to have had,” said Senior Erin Koehler.

The Geneseo English attendees at this year’s convention unanimously agreed on the value of taking advantage of the opportunity that Sigma Tau Delta offers students. This convention allows students to expand their knowledge of other work happening in both critical and creative fields across the world. As Senior Sean Fischer noted, “Hopefully more students can see how successful the group that attended this year’s conference was and begin working on their own research projects or creative writing collections to submit for next year’s conference!”

See more photos from the conference.