The opening line of Hamlet’s soliloquy is one of the most-quoted lines in English. The words are famous for their simplicity, while simultaneously traversing deeper concepts such as action and inaction, life and death. Literature reflects the enduring questions that we grapple with as we try to understand our world. I’ve been fortunate to spend decades teaching the discipline of English and immersing students in some of our most important cultural touchstones. That’s why I always enjoy following the work of The Department of English and Philosophy at Idaho State University. The faculty and students celebrate traditional and non-traditional forms of creativity and expression while fostering traits demanded by a rapidly changing workplace.
Take a look at this list of recent contributions:
A unique experience in art and writing: Fascinated by the history of comic books? Explore the work of Professor Matt Levay, whose guest edited issue of The New Americanist was just published. It features two pieces by Levay: an editor’s introduction and an interview with Tony Davis, owner of Million Year Picnic, the oldest comic shop in New England, and one of a handful of Black-owned comic shops in the US. You can find the full issue online. The interview with Tony Davis is currently available for free at https://www.euppublishing.
Visual literacy in Shakespeare: As with so many of his plays, William Shakespeare brings the characters in Hamlet to life with memorable dialogue, speakers, acts and fantastic scenes. Karlee Cysewski, reviewed and analyzed multiple films to create her M.A. paper, “Bending an Eye on Vacancy: Direct Eye Contact with the Camera in Filmed Theatrical Productions of Hamlet.” Karlee currently teaches English at Post Falls High School.
English, communication, and culture: From smartphones to social media, tech use became the norm in the 2010s. Social media became a key pathway to news for Americans. During this time, Millennials surpassed Generation Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. 93% of them owned smartphones in 2019 and nearly 100% said they use the internet. Check out the work of Daniel Gillespie, who successfully defended his dissertation, Web2 Capital: American Media and Culture in the 2010s. Dr. Gillespie has accepted a position as an English instructor at Shoreline Christian School, starting this fall.
Language learning: A great majority of people around the world know more than one language. So, how does knowing one language affect the learning and use of additional languages? These ideas are the focus of the edited collection Cross-language Influences in Bilingual Processing and Second Language Acquisition. Professor Brent Wolter wrote chapter nine, called “Cross-language influences in the acquisition of L2 multiword expressions.” Read Wolter’s article in the department conference room and find out more about this collection at https://benjamins.com/
Historical legends and contemporary heritage: The soon-to-be published book As Legend Has It: Historical Legends, Local History Writing, and Swedish-American Heritage, by Professor Emerita Jennifer Attebery spans more than 100 years of Swedish American local history in the Midwest and the West. Attebery’s thorough examination of nearly 300 historical legends explores how Swedish Americans employ these narratives in creating, debating, and maintaining group identity. She demonstrates that historical legends can help us better understand how immigrant groups in general, and Swedish Americans in particular, construct and perpetuate a sense of ethnicity as broader notions of nationality, race, and heritage shift over time.
Renaissance across the curriculum: Department chair Jessica Winston recently participated in the Stanford University Renaissances Graduate Student Research Workshop on “Moot Histories: Law-School Drama in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century London.” The workshops pair a Stanford graduate student in the Renaissance with an expert scholar in their field, providing a forum where they each present and discuss a work-in-progress on a topic relevant to both of them–in this case, law and literature at the early modern law schools, the Inns of Court. The interdisciplinary workshops are attended by faculty and graduate students in Renaissance literature, law, history, music, and religious studies. Winstons’ book Lawyers at Play: Literature, Law, and Politics at the Early Modern Inns of Court, won the Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature award from the American Association of Law Libraries.
Other gems: Professor Mike Roche recently published “Introspection, Transparency, and Desire” in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. The latest work of recent Ph.D. Dr. Hogan Schaak, a book review, was recently published in the inaugural issue of the journal, The Incredible Nineteenth Century. Dr. Schaak has published numerous articles and reviews, especially in topics related to indigenous literature and horror. Dr. Mike Stubbs, Senior Lecturer in English, recently published “Skiing the Moon: Alpine Touring Isn’t Crazy” in Idaho Magazine.
Finally, Dr. Elizabeth Olaoye successfully defended her dissertation project, “‘I Know Why Lagos Women Whistle’: Gendered Representations of Lagos in Contemporary Nigerian Narratives.” I was fortunate to participate in Dr. Olaoye’s presentation of her research, “The Afropolitan Gaze on Lagos in Looking for Transwonderland and Americanah.”
If you are interested in learning more about English language and literature, I encourage you to visit https://www.isu.edu/engl