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”

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.

English Department Honors Its Best

At the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Awards Ceremony on April 10, the English Department honored students for outstanding work in several categories. Kameron Johnson was presented the Corinne Dale Award for Achievement in Writing about Gender; Lily Peterson won the William J. Fallis Award for improvement in First Year Writing; Lauren Bellatti, Amanda Nicklaus, and Rachel Petty earned the James and Sarah King Writing Awards; and Hailey Hanks won the Ruby P. Treadway Creative Writing Award.

The Carl J. and Virginia M. Chaney Awards are given annually to outstanding majors who, besides academic excellence, “must show concrete evidence of broad interests in varied fields of study; must exhibit in their everyday lives appreciation for integrity, refinement, and enthusiasm, and a superior quality of life; and must who every promise that in their future lives they will continue to be a credit to themselves, to their school, to their profession, and to their community.”

The 2017 awardees were Ryan Barker for the Carl J. Chaney Award, and both Lauren Bellatti and Ashley Sanders for the Virgnia M. Chaney Award.

Congratulations to these outstanding students!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Finch’s Recent Accomplishments and Thoughts on Writing

by Charlsie Johnson

Nestled into her office on the third floor of the Janet Ayers Academic Center, Dr. Susan Finch and I chatted about her newest writing achievements, ongoing projects, and career as a writer. Finch teaches Creative Writing to undergraduates as well as graduate students for the English Department at Belmont, while also doubling as a successful published writer. Most recently she won the Special Topics Prize in the Crab Orchard Review for her short story, “Everybody Has a Flood Story,” and was named one of the six finalist for the Hamlin Garland Award in the Beloit Fiction Journal for her story, “Dear Second Husband.”

Finch expressed how she was excited to be selected by Crab Orchard Review this past December. She explained that the published issue this July, in she will be featured, is to be the last issue in print because of the move to publish online. The Special Topics Contest was called All about the Weather, and each submission had to discuss weather conditions in a creative way. Her work, “Everybody Has a Flood Story,” was the product of her research on the floods that occurred in 2010. “The research wasn’t to create factual truth,” said Finch. “The research was to give inspiration to my writing.” Her method for developing the story included listening to different accounts from those who were impacted by the floods. This sparked the creation of fictional mini stories with various narrators who were also victims of tragedy.

COR journal cover

“Dear Second Husband,” submitted to the Beloit Fiction Journal, was recognized as a finalist for the Hamlin Garland Award in February of this year. The Beloit Fiction Journal publishes the best in contemporary short fiction that is either traditional or experimental with its narrative. Finch explained that the story that she submitted for this journal is part of a bigger ongoing project that she is working on: a published collection of nine short stories, titled Dear Second Husband. Its structure is a mixture of the traditional short story and experimental elements that push the traditional boundaries due to its incorporation of letters,  the purpose of which is not revealed until part way through the book itself.

“For a lot of readers of short stories this can be really jarring because it does not follow their personal expectations of what a story should be,” said Finch. “But it’s a lot of fun to do because you get to break down the walls a little bit.”

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