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THE SPECTATOR

Utica College English Department Alumni Newsletter Winter 2013

More Than an English Degree


Michele (Altieri) Jaramillo Co-Editors
Dr. Mary Anne Hutchinson Professor of English

My third grade teacher asked her class, Who will go to college? I raised my hand not knowing exactly what that meant, but I had some vague plan filled with starryeyed ambition. After high school, I fulfilled one of my other aspirations learning the art of caring for sick people. But my desire to read, think, analyze and write about literature never left me. It never stopped percolating since the days I perused the many books my mother borrowed from the library. So it was with both a sense of relief and accomplishment that I decided to pursue an English literature degree. On the first day of class at Utica College, a wonderful thing happened. I met Dr. Eugene Nassar; I felt a sense of arrival. He treated his students respectfully, while his warm spirit and sense of humor quickly displaced my timidity. The readings in Major Figures in English Literature became the highlight of my week, and Dr. Nassars discourse inspired me to follow a lifelong intellectual journey that I

cherish to this day. I peeled away preconceived ideas wrapped around me by others I had met along the paths of my earlier school days. All my professors allowed my mind to flourish. It was a great gift to me then as it is now. Each stop along the journeypolishing rewrites in Dr. Edween Hams Advanced Writing Class, reading Middle English orally in Dr. Frank Bergmanns Chaucer class, writing a short story in Dr. Jerome Cartwrights Short Fictionhad a special meaning for me. Through the course Mystery Novel, Dr. Mary Anne Hutchinson engaged her students in a scholarly way with the works of well known mystery writers. We read Dorothy Sayerss The Nine Tailors. Years later, I collected all of Sayerss mystery novels and two volumes of her letters. In a preface written by P.D. James, I learned Sayers used her own failed romantic relationship with writer John Cournos in the mystery Strong Poison for the benefit of her fans. He is killed off as the fictional Philip Boyes in the

Prof. Dorothy Obernesser 97 Assistant Professor of English

Contributors

Jason Denman Mary Ann Janda Michele (Altieri) Jaramillo Diane Matza Suzanne Richardson Jennifer Strife The Spectator is published bi-annually by the English Department at Utica College Send correspondence regarding The Spectator to: Dorothy Obernesser doberne@utica.edu

novel. Sayerss heroine, Harriet Vane, eventually marries her famous detective Lord Peter Wimsey, but not before the reader ponders on the problems of two stubborn hearts. Many authors became kindred spirits keeping me company along the way. At one time, did I not speculate about the world through the mind of Brontes Jane Eyre? Do not Jane Austins characters reinvent themselves in the people we know? Familiar authors forged continued on page 2

More Than an English Degree continued from page 1


paths to unfamiliar ones. George Orwell became a friend, along with French philosopher and playwright Gabriel Marcel: Orwell because that perfect line, more equal than others, is one refrain that will continue in a world that repeats itself in so many ways, and Marcel because he keeps my sense of the afterlife a possibility worth examining. My English degree remains a versatile influence in my life. It has been a privilege to work as a substitute reading teacher with elementary students and a pleasure to see their faces light up as they describe the pictures in their story books. As a writing tutor, I assist students to express their thoughts clearly. My familiarity with literature gives me a rich perspective when meeting patients and their families, people from all walks of life whose lives are full, courageous, and sometimes quite weary. Literature keeps my familys relationships from ever disconnecting. I passed the torch to my children throughout twenty years of homeschooling and to my husband who discovered my college books and soon shared with me passages from Don Quixote. It was always my secret pleasure to find one of my literature books missing because someone in the house borrowed it to read. I can still hear my childrens childhood laughter as they listened to Farmer Giles and his dog try to outwit one another in J.R. R. Tolkiens novella Farmer Giles of Ham. On my desk sits my copy of The Mentor Book of Major American Poets ready for use when my son discusses his thoughts on someone he read in his college literature class. My daughter will tell you I never sought after Semleys necklace, but I have skyped my opinion of Joyce and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to my son 150 miles away from home. In some ways, my English literature degree became a stepping stone to my uncharted life. The trials of the human condition encountered within the pages of literary works inevitably shaped my own experiences. I cannot imagine life without my English degree. Through joys and sorrows, it has given me a meaningful way to share my life with others. *Note from the editors of The Spectator: We are always looking for interesting ways that alumni look back on their experiences either at Utica College or how the English degree they earned influenced their lives (or the lives of those around them). Please submit your stories to the contact information on the cover page.

Dr. Frank Bergmanns Planned Retirement


Monday, December 10, 2012, was the last day of campus teaching for Dr. Frank Bergmann, Professor of English and German, and the longest serving faculty member in the history of Utica College. Dr. Bergmanns colleagues from several disciplines toasted him with champagne to mark the end of his distinguished classroom career on campus. Dr. Bergmann began teaching at Utica College in 1969. Also, the week before, on Sunday, December 2, 2012, Dr. Diane Matza hosted a gathering at her home for the English faculty to celebrate and reminisce with Dr. Bergmann. Dr. Bergmann will spend the Spring 2013 semester teaching at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, in the colleges exchange program. In the Fall 2013 semester, he will use his transitional sabbatical to work on his proposed biography of Walter Edmonds.

Creating Meaning Through Creative Nonfiction


Suzanne Richardson In September, I had forty-four meetings on how to make meaning with forty-four individual creative nonfiction writing students. The students entered my office in DePerno 121 with their narrative personal essays, sat, looked up expectantly, and asked how to improve what it was they already put on the page. Each told a story, a real story, something that happened, something that was worth telling, something that revealed a piece of their interior, their drive, their talent, their gifts, their mistakes, the way they see the world: a unique lens. What each student did was tell a true story, and in the revision process, I asked them to then do the hard work of showing a reader that this true story is meaningful and impactful without being manipulative. Writers new to nonfiction often have a problem with pathos emotion driven/void essays. Pathos problems include the essay that relies far too much on the writers emotional ties to the events on the page so that the reader feels theyve encroached on a private piece of writing, the essay that drips with sentimentality and pulls each obvious string in a reader, and the essay that is so void of emotion it reads like an action script, where events unfold but characters dont react or reflect and the reader feels no impact. The new writer tends to lean on the idea that because the story is true or real it is not only worth telling, but by simply committing this true story to the page, there is an immediate bond with a reader. Critic and Editor B.J. Hollars begs the question, How do we tell our tales in a manner that matters to others? (Hollars 46). This is often the fear with creative nonfiction, that stories being told arent able to connect to a reader in a way that really truly matters, or worse, they alienate a reader imploring for their sympathy. Hollers states the problem frankly, Most of the essays that I have read deal with similar narratives and themes and have run on mostly sentimentality. That is, the pathos of the piece is what is carrying the writers entire essay, and after were done reading we feel less connection to the writers narrative/human condition in the world, and more of a connection to emotions and emotive understanding (Hollars 48). I think this is the real challenge any personal essayist faces with everything they ever write, or attempt to write. We ask our students to not only convey a truth about themselves, but a universal truth that then pierces a reader, and through the articulation of those two connected things, they create meaning. At the beginning of the semester, I wrote on the chalkboard the words self and world with arrows running between. I told students that essays are intrinsically always about self and world and the relationship between something particular and something universal. To be particular, three nights before I moved to Utica, New York, I sat deep in the back of a cave in the Sandia Mountain range, on the edge of Albuquerque, New Mexico, at two-thirty in the morning drinking a beer in pitch black with a man Id been seeing for about a month, Mike. We had driven all the way out to the range in my truck and walked the half mile trail in the dark holding hands by the light of his cell phone and climbed the tourist stairs into the cave, and then climbed over the partition to crawl about a mile deep to get to the absolute darkest point of the cave, just because Id never been. In the dark of the cave, I couldnt see anything in front of me, not my own hands that held the beer we had carried, nor Mike, beside me, and the cave was damp and cool and dusty and we only spoke occasionally breaking the darkness. I cant imagine my life in Utica, I offered. Hed taken me to that place because of a dream Id told him about a week earlier: us in a cave, him taking my hands and putting them over the ancient paintings inside and slowly interpreting for me the meaning of each image. In the back of the cave, I felt the tingling of my future stretching out before me familiar and foreign, like when you momentarily see a face in a crowd you recognize only to realize you never knew it. Mike, in the cave, who in my dream gave me meaning, wasnt going to be a part of my life in Utica, and in that moment, he and I both knew it. In my office my students are confused when I tell them create meaning, so I give them tools, Use imagistic writing. Reflect upon past action. Images pervade our culture. Images are a coded language that must be interpreted, and the more precise continued on page 4 3

Creating Meaning continued from page 3


the image, the less puzzling an individual has to do to interpret. Images are also situational; a red check mark means something different on a milk carton than on a phone. Therefore, images have what poets call connotative meaning; depending on the situation, an image is presented and it can be interpreted differently, much like a word placed in a sentence. Images are also one of the most important elements in writing. I always tell my students, even when Im teaching about music writing, You have to give me an image, so I understand what the music sounds like. Janet Burroway makes her case for imagistic writing scientifically, But it is sense impressions that make writing vivid, and there is a physiological reason for this. Information taken in through the five senses is processed in the limbic system of the brain, which generates sensuous responses in the body: heart rate, blood/oxygen flow, muscle reactions, and so in order to have an effect on your readers emotions, you must literally get into the limbic system, which you can only do through the senses (Burroway 16). Here Burroway makes a direct connection between a readers emotional responses and imagery. By using images and mainly central images, I believe a writer of nonfiction can write around this overindulgent pathos problem and deepen an essay that feels void of emotion. The problem of pathos is common in nonfiction, but it can be addressed through the purposeful usage of image, which can also become an organizing principle for less structured work. Work that feels overly reliant on emotions probably hasnt yet found its universality, its essay, and remains stuck in the personal aspect of personal essay. Image can catapult the personal experience into essay. Reflecting upon past action is the very stuff of meaning. I asked students to write down what their relationship to their memory/past selves were. One spoke up to start our discussion by saying, Without my memory, Im not me. It makes me who I am. While it seems like a simplistic concept, its the very heart of personal essay. The moment in the cave is how I remember that relationship: adventurous, romantic. I remember being scared when we walked passed the shrine for the woman that went missing by the cave, all the trinkets hanging in the boughs of the trees for her, and the graffiti on the rock face in black spray paint that simply said: Where is Carla? Sandia Man Cave got its name from famous Anthropologist Frank Hibben, who, as a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, discovered the cave and came up with a theory that the oldest specimen of man once lived there. This turned out to be a false theory, much of the evidence behind it faked by Hibben himself. Hibben wanted a good story, so he created one. While we sat in the back of the cave, the history of Hibbens false theory that mankind originated there hung around us, and the mystery of Carlas disappearance remained unsolved, but the ending to our relationship was already being written in our dusty footprints as we crawled out of the cave in the dark. I drove from New Mexico to Utica, 4 New York, and when I got to Tennessee, I realized my glove box still held the outline of the Mikes dusty knee prints from the night we went to the cave. At a gas station, I wiped them away with a fast-food napkin dipped in a cup of melted ice. It rained almost every day after I arrived in Utica this summer. The rain made things a deep green, a kind that doesnt exist in the South West. Sometimes I woke up to the rain, and looking at the grey streaks on the windowpane, I felt quenched after such a long time in the desert. One day in October, a student came to my office and told me she wasnt sure how to tell her story in a way that would make other people want to read it. I told her that the very fact that she had this fear meant she was thinking in the right ways to get her story into the world. After forty-four meetings on creating meaning at Utica College, I still search for it in my own work and in the work of others because its important, because once meaning is made it stands, and takes on another form, connection, which allows individuals to truly see into one another. As a writing teacher, I am in the business of helping people see their voices, their lives, their experiences as meaningful, as conduits for connection, and Im thankful for that. Works Cited: Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing. 3rd ed. Boston: Longman 2011. Print. Hollars, B.J. The South Loop Review Tearing Your Heart Off Your Sleeve: The Problem of Pathos in Creative Nonfiction 13 (2011): 46-54. Print.

Harold Frederic English Society Update


Jennifer Strife For the Harold Frederic English Society (HFES), this past semester has been rather busy. We planned an open mic poetry reading the week of Halloween. HFES members, faculty, and students shared scary poems and stories. For fundraising, we had a bake sale and a yoga class taught by UC and HFES alumnus, Jeff Percacciante. We have also been seen around campus sporting our new HFES T-shirts which we sold to faculty and students. With all the money we raised, HFES members bought tickets to go see Wicked at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse. We have a full slate planned for the upcoming spring semester. Fundraising efforts will continue. We hope to use the money we raise to sponsor a school in need of supplies and plan a trip to either New York or Boston to see another show. Our biggest upcoming project is the English faculty roast that will give us an opportunity to satirize our professors all in the name of fun. Alumni are more than welcome to participate and attend when the roast occurs sometime in the spring. Updates to the time and place of the roast will be posted at the Pioneer Place home page at pioneerplace.utica.edu.

Christopher Gibbs does a reading

The Writing Center Becomes Visible


Mary Ann Janda Though Writing Centers always crave more space, we never thought very much about moving the UC Writing Center, which lived in room 216 Hubbard Hall. In the middle of a busy hallway in the classroom building, the Writing Center was arguably in a good, visible spot, accessible to most constituents in the College. Then a funding source made it possible to refit a room in Gordon as a zoology lab. That wouldnt seem to have much to do with the Writing Center, except that the occupants of the intended zoology lab space, the Media Center, had to find a new place to store audiovisual equipment, and IITS had their hearts set on room 216. After several months discussion and negotiation, it was determined that the Writing Center and the Math and Science Center could move into the newly conceived Learning Commons in the first floor the Gannett Library. The move meant taking the Writing Center and its operations out of a closed room and into an open space. Many other Writing Centers at other colleges had converted to the Learning Center model, and many of them reported positive results. It had always been difficult to conduct more than two tutoring sessions at a time in room 216; in the new location, the entire first floor of the Library opened up as potential tutoring space. Furthermore, the Writing Center is visible on a new level in the Learning Commons. We also enjoyed the advantage of another financial gift to the college which funded new furnishingsround tables and chairs. 5 Since the move in September, weve found the Learning Commons to be a comfortable new home. Students working in the Library come into the Writing Center throughout the day; arguably, they might not have been as inclined to use our services if they had had to walk across campus to Hubbard Hall. We had been concerned about the sound level in the new location, but, thus far, it has been quite manageable. The library staff has been very hospitable and even provided us with a signage above our space. If you are on campus, or have the opportunity to stop by the campus, come into the library and see the newly located Writing Center. In coming semesters, we hope to be able to expand Writing Center hours to weekends.

Readers Choices
Each fall semester, Utica College hosts a major and minors fair in the Library Concourse. This year, Prof. Suzanne Richardson came up with the idea of having each faculty member write about a book that, through the years, remained an influential read. The Spectator would also like alumni to contribute to this section so that we may start a dialogue, and perhaps introduce/reintroduce each other to new/old titles and share the impact our reading habits have had on us. Below are our first three offerings. Please consider submitting your own. Submissions and correspondence addresses and emails are listed on the front page of The Spectator. Please include your year of graduation. We look forward to hearing from you. Diane Matza Ph. D Professor of English When I was 14, I read James Baldwins The Fire Next Time, a book that opened my eyes to racial injustice. I was born in the Bronx, grew up in a Manhattan I thought I owned, I was dimly aware of segregation. Only at age 12 did I have an African American classmate for the first time. A year later, we moved to Miami, Florida, where the White Only signs on gas station bathrooms truly shocked me. They shouldnt have. The year was 1962. One night on the news I heard about or saw James Baldwin. How I got a copy of The Fire Next Time, I have no idea. After one page, I was hooked. Baldwins voice, telling me, a white teenager, what it was like to be black in an arbitrary hierarchical system was impassioned and angry, but it all made so much sense. The language, despite the anger, was cool and supple. A year or two later, Eldridge Cleaver said, if you arent part of the solution you are part of the problem. But this idea originated with Baldwin, who saw more clearly than Cleaver how intertwined are white and black lives, how much is at stake for both races in the fight for racial justice. Baldwin made me feel responsible, personally responsible. I was never much of an activist, so, no, reading Baldwin did not have me flying banners on the ramparts, but it did help me figure out what I thought and how to articulate those thoughts. The world has changed a great deal since 1963 and the publication of The Fire Next Time, but I think students can still be blown away by Baldwins honesty and his power of belief. Jason Denman Ph.D Associate Professor of English I read Fyodor Dostoevskys The Brothers Karamazov in a comp lit course at UC Davis. It was the only thing on the reading list. My professor felt, rightly, that a ten-week quarter could only accommodate one mammoth, life changing novel. I came in only knowing one part: The famous section where the Grand Inquisitor faces Christ in a version of the Second Coming. I knew it as a sort of existential parable, and so I associated the book with these sorts of weighty philosophical problems. What I quickly came to see was that the book was far, far more complicated, a wild clutter of opposing arguments and positions (what Mikhail Bahktin called a polyphonic novel) filtered through a totally unreliable narrator, whose voice was quirky, discontinuous, self-negating, evasive. At 20 or 21, it struck me as the ultimate novel, and it changed how I think about more topics than I can usefully list. At any rate, its sort of tied with Moby Dick as the most totally engrossing novel Ive ever read. Both novels are as dark as it gets, and, finally, comic; so I came to appreciate that kind of balancing act, and still do. Mary Ann Janda Ph.D Professor of English One book that changed my life was Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting. It was the first book I ever read straight through on my own. It was the first time I felt myself completely immersed in reading and completely taken up by a story. I think its important that it was a well-written book that engaged my imagination and my intellect. Sometimes I think that students who dont like to read just havent met their first book yet, and they need to keep trying. There are many excellent books that are no less engaging because they were written for children, and there is no reason that adults should not visit and re-visit them.

With each issue, the editors of The Spectator would like to include more information about what is going on in the lives of the English alumni. If you would like us to include updates of what is happening in your lives (publications, awards, promotions, and anything tied back to your UC English major/minor experience), submit your information to the addresses listed on the cover page. Please include year of graduation.

Deborah Mylinski Honored in Rome, New York


(Information paraphrased from Rome Observer news article entitled Sports wife and mother also a local treasure written by Carl Eilenberg.) Deborah Myslinski is an active board member of the Rome Sports Hall of Fame as well as a volunteer for this group. Deborahs husband, Tom, was inducted into the Rome Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 (he played for the New York Jets), and one of her sons, Tom, was inducted in 2003 (he played for the Tennessee Titans and is currently a strength and training coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars). Her youngest son, Tim, teaches physical education and was named Section VI Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year in 2010. Her dedication to her family, friends, and community are reasons fellow Rome Hall of Fame board member and Rome Observer writer Carl Eilenberg refers to her as a local treasure. Deborah Myslinski did not attend Utica College until her youngest child started school. After she earned her degree, she began teaching at Rome Catholic School as an English and French teacher. She is now retired, but she received recognition from the Rome College Foundations Student/Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program as the Most Influential Educator for both 2011 STAR recipients from Rome Catholic School.

Jackson Lunch Hour Series


Spring 2013 Readings
All programs begin at 12:30 p.m. in MacFarlane Auditorium. Literary Programs are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency. March 6, 2003 Daniel Asa Rose, author An NEA Literary Fellow for 2006 and winner of an O. Henry Prize and two Pen Fiction Awards for his first story collection, Small Family With Rooster. Come hear him read from and discuss his latest book, Larrys Kidney: Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China With my Black-Sheep Cousin and his MailOrder Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant - and Save His Life. March 27, 2013 D. Nurkse, poet D. Nurkse has received a Whiting Writers Award, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Tanne Foundation Award. Recent awards include a Guggenheim fellowship and a 2009 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His latest work is a collection entitled A Night in Brooklyn. April 24, 2013 Jane Springer, poet Jane Springers first book, Dear Blackbird, won the Agha Shahid Ali prize for poetry. Her latest collection is entitled Murder Ballad. Ms. Springers poems have received, among other honors, an AWP Intro Award, and The Robert Penn Warren Prize for Poetry.

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Mark your calendar: Nassar Poetry Prize Reading Friday, April 26, 2013 7:30pm MacFarlane Hall Please join us for an evening reading by the winner of the first Eugene Nassar Poetry Prize, Jennifer Grotz, who will read from her book The Needle.