Ruta Sepetys Speaks to English Majors

On Tuesday, September 26, bestselling author and recent Carnegie Medal recipient Ruta Sepetys spoke to an intimate gathering of BU English majors. Over the course of ninety minutes, she regaled aspiring writers with inspiring stories of her transition from the music business into life as a hugely successful young adult novelist

Sepetys, the author of Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea, began by explaining how her 22 years in the music industry telling others’ stories through writing press releases and artist biographies led eventually to the realization that she had her own story to tell. As a child of a Lithuanian refugee who had fled from his home in 1940, she knew part of that story through her father, whose harrowing tales of last-minute escapes and of long years in refugee camps–and of their relatives who did not make it out alive–gave her a starting point for what eventually became her first novel, Between Shades of Gray, which has been translated into 37 languages and published in 53 countries.

The successful publication of her Between Shades of Gray, however, had its own long history, including the emotionally difficult research involving interviews with survivors of Stalin’s takeover; the 16 painstaking revisions she undertook before submission; the excruciating wait before hearing from publishers after submission; and the 4 year additional wait between selling the novel and its publication in 2011.

Sepetys also discussed the value of archives in historical research, but emphasized the importance in making human connections, like the garrulous retired New Orleans mobster she interviewed for her second novel, Out of the Easy. “Hunting for hidden histories,” as she termed it, also led her to the subject of her most recent novel, Salt to the Sea, which chronicles Germany’s Operation Hannibal during World War II and the single largest maritime disaster in human history.

For Ruta Sepetys, “telling stories for the true witnesses” has become her life’s calling. Throughout her talk and the question and answer session that followed, she emphasized finding her literary voice and rhythm; being open about what she is working on (it has helped her find people and resources she needed); revising continually, even while she is doing readings of her own work; and, most importantly of all for aspiring writers, “getting my butt in the chair” to produce good work.




Belmont Students Recognized as Colloquium Scholars

On December 7, at an English Department gathering, ten Belmont University students were recognized as Colloquium Scholars for their participation in the inaugural Humanities Symposium Colloquium. Honored participants were required to read a common text, attend at least three of the four talks in this year’s series, and submit a written reflection on their takeaways.  The 2016 Colloquium focused on “Issues in Digital Humanities” and addressed Amy Earheart’s monograph, Traces of the Old, Uses of the New: The Emergence of Digital Literary Studies.


(Front, L to R): Jamelia Hatchett, Lindsay Hunnicutt, Jackie Karneth, Breanne Lampert.
(Back, L to R): Brooke Massey, Andrew Cox, Joseph Dierkes, Anna Hayman. 

(Not pictured, honored in absentia): Naomi Bartlett, Devin Bradbury.

Sigma Tau Delta Inducts New Members

On November 20th, at the home of Dr. Bonnie Whitehouse, the following students were inducted to the Belmont chapter of Sigma Tau Delta: Samantha Binnie, Anna Clark, Micaela Cuellar, Zenna Daker, Allison Gospel, Anna Hayman, Steven Henry, Lindsay Hunnicutt, Jacqueline Karneth Hannah McClure, Michael Meadows, Kendal Miller, Emily Minarik, Amanda Nicklaus, Ashley Sanders, Katie Schmitt, Natalie Souza, Chris Tully, Naomi Weigand, and Aubrey Downing. The ceremony was lead by Dr. Charmion Gustke (faculty sponsor), Lauren Bellatti (President), Hope Moore (Vice-president) and Kathleen Albritton (secretary).

Sigma Tau Delta, International English Honor Society, was founded in 1924 at Dakota Wesleyan University. The Society strives to confer distinction for high achievement in English language and literature in undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies, serving society by fostering literary. With over 880 active chapters located in the United States and abroad, there are more than 1,000 Faculty Sponsors, and approximately 9,000 members inducted annually. Sigma Tau Delta also recognizes the accomplishments of professional writers who have contributed to the fields of language and literature.



Belmont English Student News

English Majors Interview Shakespeare Acting Company

thumb_the_nashville_shakespeare_festivalStudents in Dr. Marcia McDonald’s Shakespeare class interviewed the cast and crew of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival‘s Comedy of Errors on Thursday, September 23rd. The interviews were conducted as part of a project to create an online archive of local Shakespeare productions. Dr. Joel Overall and MA in English graduate student Alyssa Wynans assisted the students during the interviews. The archive will be housed by Belmont University’s library and is funded by a grant from the Folger Shakespeare Library in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Humanities.


 Graduate Students Present at Humanities Symposium

Alyssa Wynans, Hannah McIntosh, Aleksandra Kojadinovic, and Grace Miller presented on the evolution of technology in the humanities at the Belmont University Humanities Symposium. Their papers covered the relationship between technologies and humans in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from online Shakespeare fanfiction to the impact of media and technological devices on self-image and relationships.

To Be, Or Not To Be… An English Major

WONKAIn a recent piece titled “The Ideal English Major” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Edmundson, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, explains the numerous benefits of majoring in English.  He begins, “Soon college students all over America will be trundling to their advisers’ offices to choose a major. In this moment of financial insecurity, students are naturally drawn to economics, business, and the hard sciences. But students ought to resist the temptation of those purportedly money-ensuring options and even of history and philosophy, marvelous though they may be. All students—and I mean all—ought to think seriously about majoring in English. Becoming an English major means pursuing the most important subject of all—being a human being.”

→ Click here to read the rest of Professor Edmundson’s article.