Friday, October 28, 2011

Get Your MLA On

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Road Trip, anyone?

Dr. Christine Pappas of ECU's Political Science department will be taking a van of students to Norman on Thursday to hear Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak. Click here to learn more about the speaker and why some of us think some of you might be interested in going. Contact Dr. Pappas if you'd like to tag along (thank you Dr. Murphy for the heads up).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011


Saturday, October 22, 2011

You Are Not in Control of Your Own Thinking

Daniel Kahneman
According to a recently published essay (Oct. 20, 211) in the New York Times by columnist David Brooks, the research Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman is now publishing will be remembered hundreds of years from now.  Among other things, Kahneman challenges the notion that people "are mostly rational agents" who "have control over the most important parts of their own thinking."   Kahneman's research may change the way you view literature, writing, morality, and the way we learn about  (and teach) all of these things.

Click here to learn more about what Kahneman has to say about the relationship between thought, emotion, human nature, bias, behavior, and the importance of working with people you disagree with.

Literature Fights Evil?

Evil or Antidote to Evil?
In the "The End of Evil?," published on Slate September 30, 2011 (and recommended to us by Dr. Davis--thanks!), Ron Rosenbaum discusses recent research by neuroscientists who suggest that there "evil" is better understood as a "lack of empathy."  As readers of this website already know, many supporters of literary study in the schools (including Martha Nussbaum) argue that its value lies its ability to promote empathy in students.  In that sense, it could be argued that studying literature is a way to fight evil (or what has been traditionally thought of as evil).

Rosenbaum seems to think that the neuroscientists' view of evil is overly deterministic.  If evil (or lack of empathy) is a matter of neurons,   he suggests, then human actors have no "moral agency."  Click here to read Rosenbaum's article and let us know what you think.

From the "It's a Small World" department:  One of the neuroscientists Rosenbaum cites is Simon Baron-Cohen, cousin of Sacha Baron-Cohen, the infamous British star of the Da Ali G Show, Borat, and Bruno. The connection inspires this question: Does Sacha's comedy encourage empathy or weaken it?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jason Murray: 2011 Crazy Horse Educator of the Year

Dr. McMahon writes:
Crazy Horse Memorial (model in foreground) in South Dakota
"Many of you already know our new Assistant Professor of English, Dr. Jason Murray. He is a graduate of ECU.

"What you may not know is that Dr. Murray was recently recognized as 2011 Crazy Horse Educator of the Year for his work teaching at the Indian University of North America.

"We are so pleased to count Dr. Murray as a member of the East Central University faculty. Our students are fortunate to have such a talented and caring teacher.  And we, his colleagues in the Department of English and Languages, are terrifically proud of his achievement.

"Please join us in offering Dr. Murray your congratulations."

Thanks, Dr. McMahon.  We do!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What is the role of the writer in the larger culture?

Hank Lazer (

Hank Lazer addressed the question this way when asked in an interview (that's Hank in the photo at left--and on the cake):

"First, I don’t think that there is a fixed “role of the writer” – certainly not a version of what a writer should be. A writer’s range of possible roles will, to a significant extent, be determined by cultural, historical, and local conditions.

"Personally, and in my own circumstances – living in Alabama, in the US, etc. – I think that as a poet I have an opportunity and an ethical imperative to explore and to advocate for non-utilitarian engagements with language. Poets have an opportunity to critique prevailing cultural assumptions and habits, including those of the various overlapping and separate poetry communities. Poetry, as an activity in a capitalist and consumer society, has the capacity to be a rare form of non-alienated labor. The poet’s role thus becomes an example of choosing work/play/labor that, for the most part, is done for its own sake. In the larger culture, the presence of such persons is a challenge and a provocation, as well as a reminder."

Click here to read the rest of the interview.
(Thanks for the heads up, Dr. Tribbey!)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dr. Jason Murray Carries the Fire

On Thursday, October 6th, Dr. Jason Murray, the most recent addition to the department of English and Languages full-time faculty rolls, participated as a panelist in a Native Humanities Forum titled "Carry the Fire," an inaugural event at the new Chickasaw Nation Arts and Humanities building.

According to the Chickasaw Nation website, the forum provided "an opportunity for public dialogue between Native and non-Native sectors on Native humanities for the development and welfare of local communities, regions and the State of Oklahoma."  Dr. Thomas Cowger, the Chickasaw Nation endowed chair of the Department of History and Native Studies at ECU, led a question-and-answer panel discussion of the basic tenets of the humanities, historic contributions of Native and non-Native humanities, important current initiatives, and cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.  In addition to Dr. Murray, other panelists included: Dr. Alvin O. Turner, emeritus dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at ECU;  Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw poet, novelist, essayist, playwright and environmentalist as well as Chickasaw Nation writer-in-residence; and Rachel C. Jackson, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma instructor for Kiowa Clemente Course in the Humanities and a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. The program was funded in part by the Oklahoma Humanities Council (OHC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

"Jason did an awesome job," reported departmental colleague Dr. Robin Murphy. "Our department should be very proud; he was articulate, relevant and extended the conversation in ways the other panelists did not."