Sunday, September 26, 2010

Studying Non-Western Literature: "Boo!" or "Woo-hoo!"?

This Wednesday, September 28, 2010, Dr. Grasso and I will be guest speakers in Dr. Hada’s Non-Western Literature class. Dr. Hada has asked us to stage a discussion/debate about the value of studying Non-Western literature. I have been assigned the task of arguing that studying Non-Western literature is not something we should highly value.

In anticipation of our discussion, I suggested to Dr. Grasso that he and I do a little “prep” work in advance. At first, I thought we could do this via e-mail, but later it occurred to me that it would be better to do it in this public space so that other people could listen in or weigh in, either before or after Wednesday’s event. Drs. Grasso and Hada have agreed and so I am going to post some of the ideas I have already thrown out there to my distinguished colleagues via e-mail with the expectation that Dr. Grasso will cut and paste some of his responses into the comment sections of this post. And we'll go from there.  (There's more on the other side of the photo below.)

Click here to learn more about this strange advertisement.
At first glance, it seems to me that there are two major directions I could take my argument:

1) Reading Non-Western literature should not be a big priority for Westerners—especially, novice undergraduates—because as Westerners, we should first (and mainly) focus on a subject that is closer to our experience before we try to learn about something that is completely alien to us; and

2) Literature should be judged on its own merits, not because it is “Western” or “non-Western.” To require a class in “Non-Western” literature is to try enact some kind of Affirmative Action policy for literature that would not otherwise find its way into the syllabus. Such a policy is patronizing. Literature should be valued for its sophistication or its impact, not its country of origin (or the racial identity of its author).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Share Your Research

This just in from Vivian W. Whitney:

"Cameron University  will host Oklahoma Research Day on November 12.  The deadline to register and submit an abstract is October 4th. . . . We need your help to ensure that ECU research efforts are well represented at this statewide event. If you have conducted research, please submit an abstract of your work.

"ECU faculty and student  involvement in research increases each year.  Let’s make sure that these efforts are displayed on Oklahoma Research Day. 

"So, please register to attend Oklahoma Research Day and/or to submit an abstract online at the following link:

"Please contact Nancy Thomason for additional information @ x259  and Norma Stettler @ x667  to sign up to ride the bus to Lawton."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 7th Annual R. Darryl Fisher Creative Writing

East Central University 
                                                                             Ada, Oklahoma

Presents the 7th Annual R. Darryl Fisher Creative Writing Contest
Oklahoma’s Most Prestigious High School Writing Competition

Prizes awarded at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, March 31 - April 2, 2011

     Fiction:      1st Place $250                            Poetry:       1st Place $250
                        2nd Place $150                                              2nd Place $150
                        3rd Place $100                                              3rd Place $100
                                       20 Honorable Mention Awards of $25 each

* All Oklahoma high school students (9th - 12th grade) are eligible.
* Poetry (up to 100 lines) or Short Fiction (up to 6,000 words) is acceptable.
* Limit 5 poems and 1 short fiction piece per student.
* All entries must be the original work of the student.
* All entries must be neatly typed; please double-space fiction entries.
* Entries will not be returned, so keep your originals.
* No identifying marks should be on the manuscript itself, except for the title.
* Provide cover page with contact information: 1) Student’s name; 2) Teacher’s name 3) School 4) Classification 5) Phone number, Email and mailing address.
* Work may be submitted through conventional mail or email.

DEADLINE: Conventional mail must be postmarked on or before February 4, 2011.  Email entries must be sent by 11:59 p.m. on February 4, 2011.  There will be no exceptions.
* Winners will be notified by March 1, 2011.  Winners will be presented with awards at the Scissortail Writing Festival held on the East Central University campus.   List of winners and winning entries will be posted online at  Winning entries from 2010 are available on this website.      
Poetry Submissions: send work electronically as attached files to or mail to Dr. Joshua Grasso, East Central University, Dept. of English & Languages, 1100 E. 14th St., Ada, OK 74820
Fiction Submissions: send work electronically as attached files to or mail to Dr. Mark Walling, East Central University, Dept. of English and Languages, 1100 E. 14th St., Ada, OK 74820
Contest Information: Dr. Joshua Grasso (580-559-5430); Dr. Mark Walling (580-559-5440).  Scissortail Creative Writing Festival Information: Dr. Ken Hada (580-559-5557)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

10 Tips on How to Write Less Badly

The article excerpted below is by Michael C. Munger, professor at Duke University, was published in the September 6, 2010, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Thanks to Dr. Rothrock for giving us the heads up.  (Click here to read the whole article.)

September 6, 2010
By Michael C. Munger [ed. that's Munger at right, when he ran for as the Libertarian candidate for governor of North Carolina in 2008]

Most academics, including administrators, spend much of our time writing. But we aren't as good at it as we should be. I have never understood why our trade values, but rarely teaches, nonfiction writing.
In my nearly 30 years at universities, I have seen a lot of very talented people fail because they couldn't, or didn't, write. And some much less talented people (I see one in the mirror every morning) have done OK because they learned how to write.
It starts in graduate school. There is a real transformation, approaching an inversion, as people switch from taking courses to writing. Many of the graduate students who were stars in the classroom during the first two years—the people everyone admired and looked up to—suddenly aren't so stellar anymore. And a few of the marginal students—the ones who didn't care that much about pleasing the professors by reading every page of every assignment—are suddenly sending their own papers off to journals, getting published, and transforming themselves into professional scholars.
The difference is not complicated. It's writing.
Rachel Toor and other writers on these pages have talked about how hard it is to write well, and of course that's true. Fortunately, the standards of writing in most disciplines are so low that you don't need to write well. What I have tried to produce below are 10 tips on scholarly nonfiction writing that might help people write less badly.
1. Writing is an exercise. You get better and faster with practice. If you were going to run a marathon a year from now, would you wait for months and then run 26 miles cold? No, you would build up slowly, running most days. You might start on the flats and work up to more demanding and difficult terrain. To become a writer, write. Don't wait for that book manuscript or that monster external-review report to work on your writing.


Dr. Kevin Davis writes:

"The religious search engine Seekfind, for example, responds to a search for 'democratic party' with sites on Marxism, and a search for 'Barack Obama' returns with 'Is Barack Obama the antichrist' as the #1 source."

Thanks for the heads up, Dr. Davis!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dear Ishmael

Dr. McMahon just called our attention to this invitation:

"The innovative blog LETTERS WITH CHARACTER (the blog name is a link) asks visitors to submit the letters in which they write directly to a character from their favorite piece of fiction. As the site says, the letters can be sad, digressive, trenchant, or trivial; the only rule is that the letters must be written by a real person to an unreal one.

"With contributors writing to famous literary characters ranging from Margaret of Judy Blume's Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret to Moby Dick's Ishmael, the blog demonstrates a wide variety of literary experiences in an inspiring way."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Copenhagen in Norman

Rilla Askew writes:

Hi friends. 

I wanted to let you know that my husband Paul Austin is here in Oklahoma acting in a play at OU that opens later this week.  Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen is a fascinating play based on a meeting that took place between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg at Bohr's home in Copenhagen in 1941 in the early years of WWII when both sides were working to develop the atomic bomb.

The play originally debuted in London in 1998, and the New York production won a Tony for Best Play in 2000 [see image at right].  It’s really an amazing work, and this production, directed by Susan Shaunessy, looks to be outstanding.  Paul is Niels Bohr and Tom Orr, chairman of the OU Theatre Department and a really outstanding actor, plays Heisenberg.  Although Paul has performed in films, television, and all over New York, this is his first time to act in Oklahoma. I hope you’ll get a chance to see it. 

The show opens Thursday, September 9 at the Weitzenhoffer Theatre in the Fine Arts Center on the OU campus. It runs Thursday-Saturday, September 9-11, at 8:00 PM, with a Sunday matinee on September 13 at 3:00 PM.  After the Sunday matinee there will be a Symposium and Reception in the theatre lobby to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of OU’s Physics Department.  The Theatre Box Office phone is 405-325-4101. More information on the attached poster.

All best,

Everett Poetry Series: Ken Hada

Poet Ken Hada, Director of the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, will read from his new book of poetry, Spare Parts.  Book signing and reception to follow.

7:00pm – 8:30pm

Jacobson House Native Art Center
609 Chautauqua AvenueNormanOK 73026
(405) 366-1667


Friday, September 3, 2010

Sigma Tau Delta: Today at Two

Please join us at 2:00 in the Tower Room of the University Center for the first Sigma Tau Delta meeting of the Fall 2010 semester. We will be discussing a recent article on "Plato's Pop Culture Problem," and following this debate wherever it takes us. Hope you can make it!

Remember, we meet the first Friday of every month at 2:00 during the fall semester, so mark it on your portable electronic calendar simulacrum devices!

Joshua Grasso

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Attention English Teacher Certification Majors

There are scholarships available for the Spring 2011 semester. Applications can be picked up in the Education Office (Room 204 in the Education Building) or downloaded from the College of Education and Psychology landing page.  The completed application must be turned into the Education Office by 5:00 on Monday, October 25th.  If you have any questions please contact Dr. Martha Pennington at extension 322 or email her at