Reflections on the Eclipse — In a very literal way, the hullabaloo surrounding the start of the fall 2017 semester is being eclipsed by an eclipse. On August 21, during our New Student Convocation, we will experience a solar eclipse. Well, what’s an English professor to do when faced with such a celestial phenomenon? For me, at least, the upcoming solar eclipse has prompted me to retrieve my copy of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and reread the passage that deals with the solar eclipse that took place in the year 528.
In Twain’s remarkable time-travel story, the central character, Hank Morgan, is a nineteenth-century engineer and gunsmith who is magically transported back in time to the age of King Arthur. He arrives in Camelot just before the solar eclipse will take place. Being something of a history buff, Hank knows when the eclipse will happen. He uses this knowledge to convince the inhabitants of Camelot that he has the power to extinguish the sun. Awed by Hank’s apparent power, the King names Hank his “perpetual minister and executive.” This development launches Hank’s meteoric rise to become the most powerful person in King Arthur’s court.
As Twain demonstrates in this novel, knowledge is empowering. Because of Hank’s knowledge of history and technology, he is able to bring about change and sway the views of the people he encounters in Camelot. Although I would be surprised if any of our students find themselves transported back in time to the age of King Arthur, I have no doubt that the knowledge that they acquire during their years at UNC Charlotte will empower them to bring change to our world.
Meghan Barnes and All Things Pedagogical — Meghan Barnes, our new assistant professor in English Education, has already settled into her new office and has started work on two research projects. For one of these projects, she is surveying a group of pre-service undergraduate English Education students as they complete a university-based methods course. Meghan is researching how this coursework relates to the students’ responses to the edTPA Standards for initial teacher licensure. For her other project, she is examining how the reading and analysis of young adult literature influences students’ responses to polemical topics such as race, gender, and sexuality.
When Meghan and I talked about her research projects last week, she indicated to me how pleased she is to be in an English Department where pedagogical research is valued. After she left my office, I started thinking about how many faculty members in our department have published scholarship in this area. JuliAnna Ávila immediately comes to mind with her multiple publications on digital literacy and storytelling, including her award-winning volume titled Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis: Intersections and Challenges. However, we have other faculty members outside the field of English Education who have also conducted research related to pedagogy. Liz Miller has conducted research on the role that emotion plays in the interactions between students and teachers in the context of second-language acquisition. She has published some of her findings in her book The Language of Adult Immigrants: Agency in the Making. Beth Gargano has studied the history of British schools and published her findings in Reading Victorian Schoolrooms: Childhood and Education in Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Paula Connolly has studied the racism reflected in Confederate-era textbooks and published her findings in Slavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790-2010. These are just a few of the examples I could mention, but they demonstrate that Meghan’s research projects align perfectly with the English Department’s long and impressive pedigree in area of pedagogical-related research.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of our department. Here is the latest news:
Chris Arvidson, who just joined our English Department as a part-time faculty member, recently published a co-edited book titled The Love of Baseball: Essays by Lifelong Fans. The volume includes essays by several people who have connections to our English Department, including Henry Doss, Nancy Gutierrez, Julie Townsend, and Sam Watson.
Boyd Davis recently published a co-authored article titled “Care across Languages” in The Linguist. The article will be available online to non-members at http://thelinguist.uberflip.com/h/ in another couple of weeks.
Paula Eckard was a featured speaker at the “Writers at Wolfe” event sponsored by the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville this past weekend. She talked about and read from her book Thomas Wolfe and Lost Children in Southern Literature.
Matthew Rowney recently presented “Preserver and Destroyer: Salt in The History of Mary Prince” at the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) conference in Ottawa, Canada.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines—Here is a list of upcoming meetings and events that will take place this month:
Thursday, August 17 8:30am coffee, 9:30-11 Convocation in McKnight Hall
–Classes Begin Monday, August 21 at 5:00 p.m.
-CLAS All Faculty Mtg
Friday, August 25 8:00-10:30am in Fretwell 100
–English Department Mtg
Friday, August 25 11-12:15pm in Fretwell 290B (English Department Seminar Room)
Quirky Quiz Question — A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is not the only novel that Mark Twain set in pre-industrial England. He also used this setting in a novel dealing with switched identities. Does anybody know the title of this novel?
Last week’s answer: Rutgers
Since arriving at UNC Charlotte in 2014, Katie Hogan has played a major role in introducing the field of girlhood studies to the English Department. Does anybody know the name of the university from which Katie received her PhD? Here’s a hint: Think Garden State.