Jambalaya and Literature

trent-1.jpgOn October 4 this year, Dr. Trent Watts was a featured author at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, an all-day event in and around the outstanding 34-story Art Deco state capitol, where Huey Long was assassinated in 1935. The organizers of the festival invited Dr. Watts and a number of other authors, including novelists, poets, and non-fiction writers, to present panels at which they discussed their books before interested and enthusiastic public audiences. About 20,000 people came to hear the authors, watch cooking exhibitions, and listen to music ranging from zydeco and traditional fiddling to the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.

The event was very family-friendly, with lots of children’s authors reading their books. The organizers of the festival also brought three contributors to White Masculinity in the Recent South, a collection of essays edited by Dr. Watts and published by Louisiana State University Press. These authors appeared on the panel with Dr. Watts. These contributors are Ted Ownby, Susan Donaldson, and Chip Arnold, outstanding scholars and writers. After their discussion and questions from the audience, Dr. Watts and his colleagues signed books.
The Louisiana Book Festival is only six years old, but it’s already grown into one of the best events of its kind in the country. Everything about it was first-rate. The authors were picked up at the Baton Rouge airport in a limousine, which was a treat. The night before the event, the Louisiana Book Festival threw a party for the authors at the Louisiana State Library. A jazz ensemble played while they ate jambalaya, gumbo, shrimp, catfish, and lots of other good southern food.

On Saturday night Dr. Watts and his wife, Jennifer, skipped another author event to go out to dinner at a great Baton Rouge restaurant. Their driver (the event organizers thought of everything) was an LSU student. When Jennifer said that it was a shame they weren’t going to be able to see the LSU campus, the driver insisted on giving us a nighttime tour. The campus is gorgeous, with magnificent old oaks everywhere. When Dr. Watts wanted to see Tiger Stadium, where LSU plays football the driver insisted that they stop to meet Mike the Tiger, the school mascot. He’s a Bengal/Siberian mix who’s well on his way to the 700 pounds he’ll weigh when he’s fully grown. Mike lives next to the stadium in a 15,000 (yes, 15,000) square foot enclosure, complete with a stream, a waterfall, and an Italianate tower.
Trent says, “I wish Missouri had an event like this one. It’s a great opportunity to present one’s work to the public. It’s also a good place to meet other scholars. A fellow I met at the Friday night party has agreed to work with me on my next book project.”

Creative Nonfiction Workshop


On October 17, Dr. Stacy Tintocalis gave a presentation on creative nonfiction to a group of students, townspeople, and faculty. Next semester (spring 2009), Dr. Tintocalis will teach an evening workshop in writing creative nonfiction. Her course will meet on Tuesday evenings from 6:00-9:00.

Dr. Tintocalis has an MFA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from the University of Missouri – Columbia. She has published both fiction and creative nonfiction.

So what is creative nonfiction? Here, in brief, is a definition based on my understanding of her talk yesterday. Creative nonfiction begins with the writer’s experiences, but as opposed to a memoir, a diary, or a journal, seeks to find universal themes in the experience. In exploring a topic, the writer of creative nonfiction will do research  of various kinds, from traditional library research to Web searches to talking with people. Creative nonfiction uses techniques such as dramatization and several points of view, but is neither fiction nor journalism.

If you are interested in enrolling in the course or simply want information about it, you may begin by contacting the department or me.

The Middle Ages Return to S&T!

This fall, Dr. Eric Bryan joined the faculty of The Department of English & Technical Communication. Dr. Bryan’s scholarly field is medieval literature. He received his PhD from St Louis University in 2007. This fall, Dr. Bryan is teaching our upper-level course in Chaucer, a welcome return of a significant course. In the spring 2009 semester, Dr. Bryan will be offering Fantasy Literature, a course that discusses a number of fantasy authors, including J. R. R. Tolkien.

Thumbnail image for DSC01321.JPG

In response to my asking what about Tolkien’s work attracts him, Eric answered with three points:

1) “When you read Tolkien, you can’t help but think, “now here’s a guy who was fascinated by absolutely everything.” ??Languages, obviously. ??Literature, of course. ??But beyond that, Tolkien was curious about everything from the environment to food preparation, from sociology to military tactics. ??All of those fascinations come out in all of his writing, whether it be LOTR or “Leaf by Niggle” (another great word that Tolkien makes good use of, “to niggle”).”

2) “What I mentioned earlier about mythology. ??When I’m working on Norse or Celtic mythology and folklore, I’m constantly faced with the realization that I’m trying to solve a problem that has no solution. ??We can’t be sure whether the accounts we have are accurate or contaminated by the obviously Christian scribes who wrote them down. ??We know so little about it not so much because there’s not enough evidence, but moreso because we just don’t know how to interpret what we do have. ??It’s a wonderful challenge, but it’s also exhausting. ??With LOTR and, of course, the Silmarillion, I can just enjoy the stories. ??It’s NOT a mythology, as much as Tolkien makes it look like one. ??We don’t have to be skeptical.”

3) “Finally, I enjoy watching Tolkien pull from the very same literatures and mythologies that I study, myself. ??It’s just wonderful to see him revive Anglo-Saxon culture in the people of Rohan, to see him bring to life the mythology of the Norse Eddas, and to see him create a world that supports those vague and ancient stories of heroes and dragons.”

The department and Missouri S&T are fortunate to have a scholar and teacher of Dr. Bryan’s promise with us.

Jack Morgan in St. Louis

Most Americans have only vague knowledge of our Civil War. That knowledge focuses on the best-known battles, places, and people east of the Mississippi. However, St. Louis, the Ozarks, and Missouri were important in that conflict. Research Professor Jack Morgan‘s recent book, Through Irish and American Wars: The Life and Times of General Thomas W. Sweeney 1820-1892, fills in an significant part of that history. Published by the Irish Academic Press in 2006, this book is essential reading for the history of the American Civil War.

On September 18, Professor Morgan lectured on General Sweeney at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. His lecture, part of the Smurfit-Stone Endowed Professorship in Irish Studies, was titled “General Sweeney in St. Louis and Missouri.” This invited lecture shows the recognition that Professor Morgan’s research is achieving.

I highly recommend Through Irish and American Wars as a well-written and informative history. General Sweeney and his life are presented vividly.

What Happens after Graduation? Ask Amy Edwards . . .

An English student
with minors in business and marketing, Amy Edwards, English 2007, stayed active at
the Missouri University of Science and Technology through KMNR, Blue Key,
International Friends and Southwinds Literary Journal. In addition, she served
as a writer at the Missouri S&T Department of Public Relations and
Communications, where she reported to Mary Helen Stoltz, English 1990. “Mary Helen
was an excellent mentor,” Amy said, adding that this writing and new media
experience paved the way for later positions.


Currently a graduate student at
Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Amy spent the last year serving as a
new media specialist and marketing intern for Chicago-based companies Aptium
Global and Azul Partners. She remains a regular contributor to company blogs
MetalMiner (http://www.agmetalminer.com) and Spend
Matters (http://www.spendmatters.com). “We cover a
range of topics,” Amy explained to me. “I’ve written about everything from the
price of steel and the metals technology behind samurai swords to the metal
content in Olympic medals. I try to find topics that are fresh and
exciting, with a focus on the role of metals in global


Amy has firsthand experience with
“global society.” Taking advantage of Missouri S&T’s study abroad programs,
Amy’s semester in Lund, Sweden, spurred a life-long interest in comparative
literature. With
research interests that include postmodernism and feminist rhetorical theories,
Amy cites professors Anne Cotterill and Irina Ivliyeva as major influencers and
role models during her academic career at Missouri S&T.
Now that Amy
has completed the coursework for her master’s degree, she moved to Wisconsin
this fall, where she continues to work on her thesis. She serves as adjunct
faculty in writing and communications at Moraine Park Technical College.

A Promotion

Dr. Kate Drowne successfully went through the promotion and tenure process in the 2007/2008 academic year. As a result, she has been granted tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. This is good news for the department and the campus as well as for Dr. Drowne. She is an excellent teacher, an accomplished scholar, and an energetic member of the campus community.
Dr. Drowne’s current research project, on the flapper in American culture and literature, promises to be a strong follow up to her book on Prohibition literature, Spirits of Defiance. I recommend Spirits of Defiance: whatever context you bring to the book, you will find it rewarding, written with clarity and grace that not all scholarly writing possesses.
Please join me in congratulating Dr. Drowne in this major step in her career,

Recognizing Effective Teaching

Two faculty members in English & Technical Communication have been recognized by freshman engineering students as with the WE LOVE YOUR CLASS AWARD. Students in the Freshman Engineering program had the opportunity to vote for the their favorite teacher. Dr. Kristine Swenson and Dr. Daniel Reardon were among the top vote-getters,
Dr. Swenson is an Associate Professo in English & Technical Communicationr; Dr. Reardon is a lecturer in the same department.
Congratulations to each of these fine faculty members!

Nearly a month later . . .

I hadn’t realized how much time had passed since the last entry here. Here’s a brief entry:
Dr. Ed Malone, assistant professor of English and Technical Communication, and Director of Technical Communication, has begun writing a quarterly column on the history of technical communication. His column appears in the IEEE Professional Communication Newsletter. The latest column is about Dorothy Dahle, a pioneering woman in the field. The column touches on the difficulties a woman faced entering the field in the 1950s. It’s well worth reading.
The next entry will show up here much sooner than the four weeks between this one and the previous.

Education in Winter

We’re experiencing our third winter storm of the year — with sleet mostly, but also a little snow. The sleet verges on freezing rain. What happens at Missouri University of Science & Technology when we have icy, slushy streets and sidewalks, with more sleet falling as I type?
Many faculty and some students live where it’s dangerous or impossible to drive to campus. Walking, too, is hazardous when everything is coated with ice. It’s fairly quiet in the department this morning, although I’ve seen four faculty members, and talked with three or four students. The department’s administrative assistant, Linda Sands, lives several miles out in the country amid hills that, when the roady is iced over, make driving very hazardous. She’s not here today.
The quiet and relatively few people are somewhat disconcerting. It’s almost lonely.
I drove to campus, as I usually do, although I live within a 15 minute walk. I have walked to campus in worse weather than this, but . . . perhaps I have more (or less) sense.

[Read more…]

Who Wrote the First Computer User Manual?

To learn who wrote the first user manual for computers, go to Ed Malone’s column in the IEEE/PCS online newsletter.
Dr. Malone has agreed to write a quarterly column for the newsletter of the IEEE Professional Communication Society. As this first column shows, Ed has been doing extensive research in the history of technical communication and is able to present the results effectively.