Category Archives: Events

Research, Purdue, and You!

Each year, the English Department participates in the Purdue Undergraduate Research Conference hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR). Its mission is to “promote and expand experiential learning for undergraduate students through research experiences with skilled mentors.” In addition to organizing the conference, OUR offers scholarships, research and travel grants, workshops, online courses, and more. It also sponsors the Undergraduate Research Society, an organization fostering “necessary skills [for students] to be successful in their present and future endeavors.”

English majors participate in the conference via the College of Liberal Arts’ Wilke Undergraduate Research Internship Program. As our website puts it, the program is “intended to nurture a lifelong interest in learning and appreciation of the humanities and other liberal arts disciplines” through participation in faculty research. While assisting faculty, Wilke interns receive a $500 scholarship and enroll in a one-credit seminar on the basics of research. After completing their internship, they present at the conference poster session. Recently, students have aided faulty research on pirates, The Hobbit, digital humanities, Milton in translation, black feminism, bioethics, science fiction, museum archive studies, writing tutoring, and more!

Why does student research matter? As one of eleven “high impact” practices central to undergraduate education, its benefits are wide-ranging. Long-term faculty-student mentoring, like working on a thesis or capstone project, helps post-college success. As Leo Lambert tells us, there is a “strong relationship between key experiences in college and outcomes after graduation, such as engagement at work and personal well-being…. The quality of your collegiate experience will make a meaningful difference in the quality of your life!”

Other studies demonstrate that research encourages critical thinking; fosters independence; promotes the ability to tackle problems with no easy solutions; and provides a sense of accomplishment, positioning students for their next challenge (Selingo 152). Similarly, “students who were academically challenged in college are 2.4 times more likely to say college was worth the cost and 3.6 times more likely to say they were prepared for life outside of college” (Lambert). OUR also claims: “Studies show that students who engage in research are more likely to graduate, more likely to go on to graduate school, and have more successful careers after graduation.”

Finally, research is great career-builder. You can use it in your resume, cover letter, and interviews to market yourself to “companies, graduate programs, and national service organizations” (OUR). Add to this the fact that presenting at a poster session sharpens time management, networking, and public speaking skills, and you can see how undergraduate research is a pretty big deal!

What do Purdue English majors have to say about the Wilke program and the research conference? 

Name: Hollis Druhet, Vitasta Singh, & Grace Morris

Majors: English Literature & Creative Writing

Research Area: Cognitive Literary Studies with Prof. Pacheco

Hollis Druhet, Vitasta Singh, & Grace Morris
Hollis Druhet, Vitasta Singh, & Grace Morris

Tell us about your research project.

We looked at the social, emotional, and psychological benefits of reading literature. Reading isn’t epigenetic; while language is inherited from one generation to the next, reading is not. So, we wanted to understand how modern digital media alters the reading brain. In a digital age, we need to figure out how to train our brains to consciously retain the skills provided by deep reading while interacting with new media.

What was it like presenting a poster at the Undergraduate Research Conference?

It was awesome to be somewhere people were excited about research. We got to see what other students were doing, and to communicate the value of our research to them. It was really cool to have them come up and say, “That looks interesting. Let’s hear more.” The presentation got us thinking about how to communicate information to different demographics. A big part of the experience was…understanding how academic professionals could be better at communicating their ideas to a wider audience.

What did find you find most valuable about the Wilke Research Internship experience?

It was a great experience. We received guidance and support, but were also able to move through the project on our own. We also liked working together as a group. It doesn’t matter what career you pursue; you’re always going to have to learn how to fit your perspective alongside your partners’ or coworkers’. It was challenging…but we enjoyed it. We liked being challenged. That’s what’s great about the Wilke; you’re going to be challenged.

Ally Geoffray
Ally Geoffray

Name: Ally Geoffray

Major: English Literature

Research Area: Digital Humanities with Prof. Felluga

Tell us about your research project.

I worked on website called COVE, The Central Online Victorian Educator, creating a map with pinned geospatial locations of key nineteenth-century places and events. Our goal is to create a comprehensive hyperlinked research database that offers a more centralized platform for building shared knowledge, which we hope will help sustain the humanities in academia.

What was it like presenting a poster at the Undergraduate Research Conference?

I was nervous going in, but fellow undergraduate presenters gave me advice [on how to stay focused and exude confidence] and the judges themselves were very kind and interested in my research. They asked questions about my project and provided some feedback about my presentation, and then I was free to walk around and view other students’ work.

What did find you find most valuable about the Wilke Research Internship experience?

The best part of my research internship was working with Dr. Felluga and Amy Elliot, my graduate student supervisor. Working with them to develop my skills—both in researching and in presenting—was a very valuable experience. This project has also cultivated my interest in Victorian studies, and has taught me so much about integral locations from this time period.

Daniel Krause
Daniel Krause

Name: Daniel Krause

Winner, “Poster Presentation Award”

Major: Social Studies Education (and English Minor)

Research Area: Literary Studies with Prof. Powell

Tell us about your research project.

My research is on narratives of the Barbary Coast, including an individual named Ahmed the English. He was an Englishman born in the late 1600s who became a Renegade, a European who converted to Islam. We have no record of his existence before he became a Muslim [and very little after].

What was it like presenting a poster at the Undergraduate Research Conference?

It was my first time doing a presentation, and so I was a little nervous…. In the morning session alone, there were probably 300-500 people, packed in like sardines! So, you have a lot of people moving around, a lot of talking. But it was also fun because I got to hear about other students’ research, and to network with people in the Wilke program.

What did find you find most valuable about the Wilke Research Internship experience?

Being in the military, it was a completely different world coming back to school. I never imagined that I would be doing research. I found out that, not only am I really good at it, but I also enjoy it! I liked having Prof. Powell push me to find new and different information that other people haven’t. It was exciting…to do this research that no one else had done before.

Josh Martin
Josh Martin

Name: Josh Martin

Major: English Literature and Linguistics

Research Area: Linguistics with Prof. Benedicto

Tell us about your research project.

I documented interviews with the original members of Linguists for Nicaragua…a group of U.S.-based students who went to Nicaragua to assist in improving literacy and documenting the indigenous languages following the conclusion of the Nicaraguan revolution. My work involved transcribing these interviews as well as preparing a website detailing the story of Linguistics for Nicaragua.

What was it like presenting your poster at the Undergraduate Research Conference?

It was an interesting experience! Admittedly, I was nervous about presenting my work since I’d never done a poster session before…Nevertheless, I was great to have a chance to showcase my work to others, and to introduce people to something that they might not be knowledgeable of.

What did you find most valuable about your research internship experience?

My internship did give me a lot of experience with working in a research lab, which I found valuable as someone who plans to go to graduate school…I also managed to get experience in using certain programs, such as ELAN, in performing the research that we do. All in all, I feel that it helped provide the exposure to lab work needed to do other projects going forward, which I look forward to!

Sarah Merryman
Sarah Merryman

Name: Sarah Merryman

Major: Professional Writing

Research Area: Writing Lab with Prof. Denny

Tell us about your research project.

I evaluated the OWL’s data tables for accessibility to color blind and motor-impaired users. I conducted usability testing by asking students to go through the tables and complete series of tasks, while recording them to track movements and also to hear their vocal responses. The color blind tests revealed that we should make changes to the site based on user feedback, but the motor-impaired usability was pretty decent.

What was it like presenting a poster at the Undergraduate Research Conference?

Presenting was a super interesting experience! It was fun to share my research with students from different majors. The symposium was much louder than I anticipated, so I recommend students practice projecting before they present. It also wears out your voice, so bringing a throat lozenge.

What did find you find most valuable about the Wilke Research Internship experience?

My mentor taught me how to write abstracts and prepare research presentations for different audiences. What I loved most was discovering that research extends beyond the classroom, and realizing that I could pursue research independently. If you are curious about a topic or want to find answers to a problem, find a research mentor willing to help you and go for it!

Time-lapsed video of the OUR Poster Session: https://twitter.com/PurdueOUR/status/1118506260498984963

Works Cited

Lambert, Leo. “The Importance of Helping Students Find Mentors in College.” Gallop.com. 29 Nov 2018. https://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/245048/importance-helping-students-find-   mentors-college.aspx.

Selingo, Jeffrey. College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students. New Harvest, 2013.

Less

February is almost over, which means our Books and Coffee series is sadly coming to an end. Don’t miss the last meeting! Professor Brian Leung will be speaking on Andrew Sean Greer’s Less on Thursday, February 28 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm in STEW 302/306.


About Less

Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.

Reviews

Less is the funniest, smartest and most humane novel I’ve read since Tom Rachman’s 2010 debut, The Imperfectionists….Greer writes sentences of arresting lyricism and beauty. His metaphors come at you like fireflies….Like Arthur, Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is excellent company. It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.” ―New York Times Book Review

“Greer is an exceptionally lovely writer, capable of mingling humor with sharp poignancy…. Brilliantly funny…. Greer’s narration, so elegantly laced with wit, cradles the story of a man who loses everything: his lover, his suitcase, his beard, his dignity.”―Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Greer’s novel is philosophical, poignant, funny and wise, filled with unexpected turns….Although Greer is gifted and subtle in comic moments, he’s just as adept at ruminating on the deeper stuff. His protagonist grapples with aging, loneliness, creativity, grief, self-pity and more.”―San Francisco Chronicle

“I recommend it with my whole heart.” ―Ann Patchett

“A piquantly funny fifth novel.” ―Entertainment Weekly

“Greer, the author of wonderful, heartfelt novels including The Confessions of Max TivoliThe Impossible Lives of Greta Wells and The Story of a Marriage, shows he has another powerful weapon in his arsenal: comedy. And who doesn’t need a laugh right about now?”―Miami Herald

“Greer elevates Less’ picaresque journey into a wise and witty novel. This is no Eat, Pray Love story of touristic uplift, but rather a grand travelogue of foibles, humiliations and self-deprecation, ending in joy, and a dollop of self-knowledge.”―National Book Review

Educated: A Memoir

End your day with some caffeine and a good book. Come out and hear Professor Janet Alsup speak on Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir on Thursday, February 21, from 4:00 – 5:00 pm in STEW 302/306.


About Educated:  A Memoir

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University.

Reviews

“Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.”The New York Times Book Review

“A heartbreaking, heartwarming, best-in-years memoir about striding beyond the limitations of birth and environment into a better life.”USA Today

“A coming-of-age memoir reminiscent of The Glass Castle.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“Heart-wrenching . . . a beautiful testament to the power of education to open eyes and change lives.”—Amy Chua, The New York Times Book Review

Homegoing

You won’t want to miss it! Professor Sam Blackmon will speak on Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing at our second Books and Coffee event on Thursday, February 14 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm in STEW 302/306.


About Homegoing

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.
            
Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Reviews

“Homegoing is an inspiration.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Spectacular.” —Zadie Smith
“Powerful. . . . Compelling. . . . Illuminating.” —The Boston Globe
“A blazing success.” —Los Angeles Times
“I could not put this book down.” —Roxane Gay
“Devastating. . . . Luminous.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A beautiful story.” —Trevor Noah, The Daily Show
“Spellbinding.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Dazzling. . . . Devastating. . . . Truly captivating.” —The Washington Post
“Brims with compassion. . . . Yaa Gyasi has given rare and heroic voice to the missing and suppressed.” —NPR 
“Tremendous . . . Spectacular. . . . Essential reading.” —San Francisco Chronicle 
“Magical. . . . Hypnotic. . . . Yaa Gyasi [is] a stirringly gifted writer.” —The New York Times Book Review

Have dog will travel

Join us for the first books and coffee session of 2019! Professor Maren Linett will speak on Stephen Kuusisto’s Have Dog Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey on Thursday, February 7, 2019.
4:00- 5:00 pm in STEW 302/306.

About Have Dog, Will Travel

In a lyrical love letter to guide dogs everywhere, a blind poet shares his delightful story of how a guide dog changed his life and helped him discover a newfound appreciation for travel and independence.

Stephen Kuusisto was born legally blind—but he was also raised in the 1950s and taught to deny his blindness in order to “pass” as sighted. Stephen attended public school, rode a bike, and read books pressed right up against his nose. As an adult, he coped with his limited vision by becoming a professor in a small college town, memorizing routes for all of the places he needed to be. Then, at the age of 38, he was laid off. With no other job opportunities in his vicinity, he would have to travel to find work.

This is how he found himself at Guiding Eyes paired with a Labrador named Corky. In this vivid and lyrical memoir, Stephen Kuusisto recounts how an incredible partnership with a guide dog changed his life and the heart-stopping, wondrous adventure that began for him in midlife. Profound and deeply moving, this is a spiritual journey, the story of discovering that life with a guide dog is both a method and a state of mind.

Editorial Reviews

“Kuusisto…give[s] readers and animal lovers terrific insight into not only his experience with blindness, but also the unshakable bond between a guide dog and its owner.”—Publishers Weekly

“Never before has the subtle relationship of a blind person to a guide dog been clarified in such an entertaining way. That Stephen Kuusisto enables us to see the world through his blind eyes as well as through the ‘seeing eyes’ of his dog is this book’s amazing, paradoxical achievement.”—Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003)

“A perceptive and beautifully crafted memoir of personal growth, and a fascinating example of what can happen when a person and a dog learn to partner with one another.”—Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

“Have Dog, Will Travel is both an intimate memoir of one man’s particular experience of blindness and a beautiful tribute to the devotional, unconditional love of a dog. Funny, moving, and joyful.”—Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others

 “I fell in love with Corky, of course, with her goofiness and boundless affection and heart-stopping wisdom. Truth be told, I fell in love with Steve too for how he dove into his new, broken open, adventurous life with her, and the way he processed his experiences through the lens of his reading life, and his compassion for others and for his own late-blooming self.”—Ona Gritz, author of On The Whole: A Story Of Mothering And Disability 


Books & Coffee 2019

Everybody knows a great book from the past, whether it’s Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.  But what are the great books of the present?  That’s the question the English Department’s Books and Coffee series has explored since 1951.  Every Thursday in February, a faculty member discusses a recent book that’s made some waves, something you may have heard of but haven’t gotten around to reading.  This is your opportunity to hear expert commentary on a new book that is a vital part of contemporary print culture.  Talks are in STEW 302/306 at 4:30 pm, but stop by as early as 4 pm for free coffee and pastries, as well as a chance to socialize with other book lovers. The talks last no more than 25 minutes.  Afterward, there’s a raffle with a chance to win some fun prizes.  And if you like, there’s an opportunity to meet the presenter and share your ideas about the book.

Speakers for 2019 will be:  Professor Maren Linett (Week 1);  Professor Sam Blackmon (Week 2); Professor Janet Alsup (Week 3); and Professor Brian Leung (Week 4).

MFA reading

The Creative Writing Program’s first MFA reading of the Spring 2019 semester is scheduled for Thursday, January 24th at 8:00 pm at the Knickerbocker Saloon in downtown Lafayette. This is a 21+ event. Come here some great readings from our awesome students!!!

2019 Literary Awards

The fun and festivities of the holidays are over and there isn’t anything to look forward to between now and summer vacation. Or is there?  Indeed there is, because the 2019 Literary Awards celebration is right around the corner!

In a few short weeks, Boilermakers will have the pleasure of hearing from Colson Whitehead, award-winning author of The Underground Railroad (which just so happens to be the “Big Read” pick for this year). Mr. Whitehead will be the guest speaking for the Literary Awards Banquet on April 11th at 5:30pm in the North Ballroom of PMU. The banquet will be followed by a reading and book signing by Mr. Whitehead at 8:00pm in Fowler Hall.

Does April still feel like a long ways away? Use the time between now and then to prepare your literary award contest submissions. Genres range from poems and short stories to screenplays and nonfiction essay, with different contests for grad, undergrad, and highschool students. Oh, and did we mention there are cash prizes for the winners?

The submission deadline is noon on Monday, February 25, 2019. See the submission requirements for more details. And for those who haven’t read the book, there’s still time to grab a copy and get reading!

gabrielle Calvoressi

Our first visiting writer, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, will be reading from her work on Thursday, January 31st. There will be a Q&A at 4:30 in WTHR Room 320, and her reading will be held at 7:30 in the Robert E. Heine Pharmacy Building, room 172.

Gabrielle is the author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia EarhartApocalyptic Swing (a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize), and Rocket Fantastic, winner of the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lectureship from Stanford University; a Rona Jaffe Woman Writer’s Award; a Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa, TX; the Bernard F. Conners Prize from The Paris Review; and a residency from the Civitella di Ranieri Foundation, among others. Calvocoressi is an Editor at Large at Los Angeles Review of Books, and Poetry Editor at Southern Cultures. Works in progress include a non-fiction book entitled, The Year I Didn’t Kill Myself and a novel, The Alderman of the Graveyard. Calvocoressi teaches at UNC Chapel Hill and lives in Carrboro, NC, where joy, compassion, and social justice are at the center of their personal and poetic practice.