Family Literacy Day

Many BU English majors pitched in to share the joy of reading with kids in the Edgehill neighborhood at Family Literacy Day this past Saturday. This event is always a highlight of the Spring semester! Read on!! (click on title above for slideshow of images)

Macey Howell Wins National Recognition at Sigma Tau Delta Conference

Macey Howell (at podium)

At the national Sigma Tau Delta Convention in St. Louis this past week, BU English major Macey Howell won an Honorable Mention Award for her critical paper “Muslim Superheroes: Islam in Comic Books,” which she presented during Thursday’s “Superheroes” session. Chapter President Michael Meadows also presented at the conference; his “The Loveable Blues” kicked off the “Toni Morrison” session on Friday. Congratulations to these outstanding majors!

Michael Meadows

Spring Speakers Series: “Stop the Machine: Civil Disobedience and Maria Alyokhina’s Riot Days”

by Misha Saeedpour

On Wednesday, February 27th, faculty and students joined Dr. Charmion Gustke in the Bunch Multimedia Hall for the English Department’s first speaker of the Spring Speakers Series. Her reading examined similarities between Maria Alyokhina’s Riot Days and Henry David Thoreau’s “Resistance to Civil Government.”

Dr. Charmion Gustke

Maria Alyokhina is a Russian political activist, best known for her role in the anti-Putinist punk rock group Pussy Riot. She was arrested in 2012 during a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior and sent to jail for two years, convicted for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”. Alyokhina played a main role in the Pussy Riot trial, making sure she could take part in cross-examining witnesses and questioning the proceedings. She is an advocate for the freedom of the individual and its inability to ever truly land in the government’s hands. She expresses these feelings during her closing statement for the trial when she declares, “For me, this trial only has the status of a ‘so-called’ trial. And I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of lies and fiction, of the thinly disguised fraud in the sentence of this so-called court. Because you can only take away my so-called freedom. And that is the exact kind that exists now in Russia. But nobody can take away my inner freedom.”

Dr. Gustke tied Alyokhina and Thoreau together by bringing attention to they ways they chose to fight against government transgressions. Both individuals wrote about the “impure” authority of government and worked against oppression in their own ways, Alyokhina using performance as a way to protest and generate reaction and Thoreau advocating for paying closer attention to the choices one makes within the community, for example not supporting businesses that are tied to what you are personally against.

We closed the discussion with a Q&A, where faculty and students had the opportunity to expand further on the topic.

Spring Speakers Series: “Literature from the Cliffs”

by Misha Saeedpour

Students and Faculty gathered in the Bunch Multimedia Hall on Friday, February 22nd for the English Department’s second installation of the Spring Speakers Series. Inspired by her recent visit to the Cliffs of Dover, Dr. McDonald presented a reading of Shakespeare’s King Lear from a position on the Cliffs, also knows as Shakespeare’s Cliff. She spoke on the importance of Dover within the text, reflecting on scenes from Act IV and the way they interact with the way Shakespeare describes the lovely landscape of the cliffs. Dr. McDonald referred to the Cliffs of Dover once being a landing point for refugees who were crossing the English Channel, allowing the landscape to symbolize a place resilience and a shelter for outcasts within the text. Considered a regular attraction, the sights of Cliffs of Dover have influenced many other works of literature throughout a number of literary movements.

Literature From the Cliffs
Dr. Marcia McDonald

After the presentation, a short Q&A was held so students and faculty to ask further questions. 

James Sanchez’s “Man on Fire”

by Misha Saeedpour

Filmmaker James Sanchez joined us in the Johnson Theater Monday, February 4th for a screening of his documentary Man on Fire. The film followed the story of Charles Moore, a 79-year-old minister, who set himself on fire outside a Dollar General as an act of protest against racism in his town of Grand Saline, Texas in 2014. Sanchez said he decided to film the documentary after finishing his dissertation on the same topic. He felt a strong connection to Charles Moore because he was also from Grand Saline and remembered the stories of racism shared throughout the town. While working on his dissertation he found that many newspapers and news networks didn’t fully cover the story, leaving Moore’s name and intention out of their reports, and therefore felt motivated to produce the documentary.

  Watch trailer →

Following the film, we had time for an extensive Q & A session. Students were able to ask Sanchez more about his filmmaking experience and his thoughts about the film since its completion. Overall, while the film was heartbreaking, it was inspiring to hear the story of someone who took such a passionate stand against the wrongs their community was perpetuating.

African American Read-In

On Wednesday in the Multi-Media Room of the Bunch Library, students and faculty gathered to read and listen to literary works at the African American Read-In. This convocation was part of a national event, founded in 1990 by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English with the intention of making literature a major emphasis of Black History Month.


A wide variety of writing was read: James Baldwin to Ta-Nehisi Coates; Maya Angelou to Lauryn Hill; Margaret Walker to Elizabeth Alexander. More than 15 readers came forward to read literature by these writers and others: Toni Morrison, Terrance Hayes, Robert Hayden, Melvin Dixon, Jesmyn Ward, and many more. Though the room was hot because of library remodeling, we hope everyone left with a resolve to seek out and read these authors and their works!