Student Presentations: How Structure Shows Power

by Victoria Pan

The Belmont Undergraduate Research Symposium, often shortened to just BURS, is a series of presentations to showcase student work. Moderated by an advising faculty member, students form a panel to share their critical analysis in front of their peers. It’s a highly flattering honor, but also nerve-wracking situation.

Not that you would be able to tell, had you attended “Structuring Voice and Identity: How Narratology Informs Power and Suffering,” just last Thursday, on April 20. The panelists, which included Alexandra Huff, Elliott Neal, Amanda Nicklaus, and Rachel Petty, were all utterly composed and ready to share their thoughts.

All four students shared their work from Dr. Caresse John’s Special Studies in Critical Theory course just last fall, focusing particularly on narratology. Narratology is a structuralist approach in which form is divorced from context. Narratologists examine elements like narration, authorship, speech representation, chronology, metanarration, and narrative space.

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Nashville Shakespeare Performance Archive Launches

By Victoria Pan

For many students, technology and literature exist in two separate spheres, often in opposition to each other. However, for students working on The Nashville Shakespeare Performance Archive, this isn’t the case. For these students, led by Dr. Marcia McDonald, Dr. Joel Overall, and Dr. Jayme Yeo over the past year, technology is a means to preserve and learn from artistry found in Nashville.

These students, separated into five groups, were in charge of video editing, interviews, compiling text, and synthesizing information. The project currently encompasses the Nashville Shakespeare Company’s performance of Comedy of Errors and will also include the Hamlet performance coming in the spring of 2018. Their work divides plays into four sections: directing, songwriting, acting, and costuming. The impressive results of all of their hard work can be found at

However, all of this was inspired by and made possible with the help of Dr. Laura Estill, editor of the World Shakespeare Bibliography and Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University. During her keynote speech on April 21, she spoke about what inspired her work. Her focus, she said, is in the digital humanities: an ever-fluid field that studies humanities through digital means and specializes in the ways online sources assist and expand scholarship. Shakespeare, in particular, already was a digital phenomenon before the creation of the World Shakespeare Bibliography, and this is only becoming more and more evident. For Dr. Estill, technology helps to bridge the gap between the then of the Elizabethan era with the now of today. Continue reading “Nashville Shakespeare Performance Archive Launches”

Dr. McDowell Delivers Simmons Lecture

by Amanda Nicklaus

On Monday, April 17, students and faculty gathered in the Massey Boardroom to listen to Dr. Gary McDowell speak as part of the Robert E. Simmons Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series. The Series, named in memory of the former Dean of the School of Humanities and Education, provides faculty members in the College of Arts & Sciences an opportunity to share significant research with colleagues. Simmons Lecturers are chosen based on a “high level of teaching and level of accomplishments,” according to current Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Bryce Sullivan. McDowell certainly fits this description. Holding a Ph.D. in American literature, creative writing, and poetry, he is an accomplished author, with publications including seven books, 150 poems, six critical essays, and eleven interviews, as well as having over fifty awards to his name.

Dr. Gary McDowell speaks in Simmons Lecture Series
Dr. Gary McDowell (photo credit: Sam Simpkins)

His lecture, titled “On Being One on Whom Nothing is Lost: A Writer in Search of a Genre,” outlined McDowell’s writing journey as he tried his hand at several different genres. He knew he wanted to tell stories, he said, but a professor in grad school, upon reading one of his short stories, told him bluntly, “You’re not good at this.” She did, however, suggest trying poetry, and McDowell’s love of language moved him forward, this time satisfying his affinity for storytelling through the intentional, colorful language of poetry. Continue reading “Dr. McDowell Delivers Simmons Lecture”

Dr. Pinter Talks Fantasy Tropes, Concludes Spring Speakers Series

By Jacqueline Karneth

Last Friday, April 7th, Dr. Robbie Pinter gave a presentation entitled “Thresholds, Portals, and Crossovers: Fantasy Tropes in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia and George MacDonald’s Lilith.” In this final installment of the Spring Speakers series, students were grabbing every seat available, anxiously awaiting a discussion of a genre sometimes forgotten in academic literature: fantasy.

Dr. Robbie Pinter
Dr. Robbie Pinter

In a room full of Narnia fans, Dr. Pinter began her speech by describing her own experience with liminal spaces. She recalled driving to work one day when she noticed something en route that disrupted her usual routine. She saw three men sitting by a gas station, staring into the distance as if they knew something that she didn’t. She thought they were seeing something that her eyes could not access, or her brain could not process. Pinter remembers this experience as a liminal one: not entirely other-worldly, but as a point of crossover between this world and another one.

While most Millennials are familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia, not too many are aware of one of the inspirations for the iconic wardrobe. Dr. Pinter enriched the minds of Belmont’s fantasy fans with her discussion of MacDonald’s Lilith, a novel that C.S. Lewis recognized as having influenced his Narnia series. Pinter noted that although Lilith is lesser known in modern culture, it holds a symbolic weight in fantasy fiction that deserves our attention. MacDonald’s novel uses liminal spaces such as those that we see permeating our favorite fantasy tales today in The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Doctor Who, and even the Netflix original, Stranger Things. Continue reading “Dr. Pinter Talks Fantasy Tropes, Concludes Spring Speakers Series”

BU English Majors Honored at University Scholarship and Awards Day

At University Scholarship and Awards Day on April 12, Rachel Petty (“A Witness to Suffering: A Narratological Analysis of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye”) and Hailey Hanks (“No One Would Choose to Die”) were honored as university-wide winners of the Alfred Leland Crabb Award for outstanding academic writing. Congratulations to these outstanding writers!

Scholarship and Awards Day
Rachel Petty receiving her award from Dr. Susan Finch (photography credit: Sam Simpkins)
Scholarship and Awards Day
Hailey Hanks being congratulated by Dr. Finch (photography credit: Sam Simpkins)

Dr. John Wins Chaney Award, Belmont’s Highest Teaching Honor

At University Scholarship and Awards Day on April 12, Dr. Caresse John was named Chaney Distinguished Professor. The Chaney Distinguished Professor Award, determined on the basis of superior teaching, is presented each year to a faculty member who best represents the vision of the university to be a “premier teaching institution.”

Scholarship and Awards Day
Dr. Caresse John (photography credit: Sam Simpkins)

Congratulations to Dr. John, as well as to Dr. Amy Hodges Hamilton, who was also nominated for the Chaney Award, and to Professor Sue Trout and Dr. Annette Sisson, who were nominated for the Presidential Faculty Achievement Award.

Tiana Clark Reads From First Chapbook

by Max Mason
“What is left whispering in us when we have stopped trying to become the other?” is the last line of “Equilibrium,” the eponymous poem of Tiana Clark’s 2016 chapbook, which she read from during Belmont’s second Deep Song Reading Series this semester. On Thursday, April 6th, in the Janet Ayers Conference Room, Tiana shared her stories, answered questions from the audience, and asked questions of her own. Extra chairs were provided to accommodate the crowd, which was deathly silent as she read her work.
Image result for images tiana clark
Tiana Clark
Professor Gary McDowell gave an introduction, which he started by claiming something he knew: among them that evening was “one of the brightest lights in contemporary American poetry.” McDowell mentioned that April is National Poetry Month and that in spirit of that, the selfless act of “championing each other’s work” could be considered one of the most difficult things that poets do for each other. He then complimented Tiana for being such a positive influence on those who know her, and described her as “a marvel of both as a poet and as a literary citizen.” After reading through her bio, he repeated his point: “Like I said, a marvel of literary citizenship.”
True to herself on the mic, Tiana was honest and made the crowd laugh when she asked, “So how many of you came for the convocation credit?” When one girl raised her hand, Tiana said she appreciated her honesty. Later on during the reading, she asked another honest question: “So does anyone have daddy issues in the audience?” When one girl raised her hand, she dedicated her next poem, “A Blue Note for Father’s Day,” to her.
She started the reading with a “brand-spanking” new poem called “Eight-hundred Days in Claymation,” about a young man, Kalief Browder, who was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack that he didn’t steal and who was sent to Rikers Island where he stayed for three years without trial. He spent about eight-hundred days in solitary confinement, and whenever he was taken out, he was severely beaten. Starting with the line, “it rained inside me,” she wrote her poem about Kalief’s suicide and her reluctance
to watch the documentary of his story.
The next poem she read came from Equilibrium, called “Broken Ghazal for Walter Scott.” She explained that a ghazal is an ancient Persian poem that comes in many forms, but can function as a kind of prayer. She calls her poem a broken Ghazal because she likes to deviate from form in her poems. The poem is about Walter Scott, who was shot by a police man who lied on his police report when he claimed that Scott reached for his taser. She said the poem was also about how social media affects our brain. “We can see what someone ate yesterday, we can see a beautiful baby, and then we see these youtube videos now where we see people dying, and sometimes it’s all at one time,” she said.

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