May Term Travels

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Olivia Hamilton (Elementary Ed, English Concentration); Taylor Ann McCafferty (English); Mackenzie Kelley (English) enjoying Sorrento on the UMF travel course in Italy.

Spring Reception 2015

The Humanities Division hosted its annual Spring Reception and Recognition Ceremony on the last day of spring classes. The reception celebrates the (at long last) arrival of spring and the (at long last) end of the semester. We also recognize student achievements over the past year: students who received Wilson or Honors Scholar Awards, seniors accepted into graduation programs, winners and finalists for the Eleanor Wood Scholarship and the Maud L. Parks Award (both for achievement in English), the winner of the Beth Eisen Scholarship, and Dean’s List achievers.

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Magician (and Creative Writing major) Richard Southard entertained with card tricks before the ceremony started.

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English faculty member Eric Brown read from his newly published Milton on Film.

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Beth Eisen Scholarship winner Aimee Degroat and Sandy River Review award winner Jill Gringas offered creative writing readings.

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Wilson Award/Honors Scholar with Faculty Mentors (from left): Shana Youngdahl (faculty mentor for Darrian Church–not pictured); Kristen Case (faculty mentor) and Tyler Michaud; Kellie Sanborn and Clarissa Thompson (faculty mentor); Curtis Cole and Christine Darrohn (faculty mentor); Marisela Funes (faculty mentor for Kimberly Clark–not pictured).

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There were so many Wilson Award/Honors Scholars this year, we couldn’t fit them all into one photograph: William Jennings and Gretchen Legler (faculty mentor); Sam Oppenheim and Eric Brown (faculty mentor).

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Finalists for the Eleanor Wood Memorial Scholarship and the Maude L. Parks Award: Janelle Noonan, Elise Musicant, Allison Fortin, Elizabeth Ferry, Jennifer Bailey, and Kimberly Arthurs (not pictured: Samuel Bennett, Joshua Cardella, and Joshua Worthen).

I’m not sure who the skateboard belonged to, but it did make into most of the photos.

The winners of the two awards each read a brief selection:

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Maude L. Parks Award winner Nathaniel Duggan taught us how to pet a cat.

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Eleanor Wood Memorial Scholarship winner Sam Oppenheim offered Shakespeare and corpses (an excerpt from a paper presented at The Medieval and Renaissance Forum).

Senior Brunch! (2015)

As the Spring 2015 semester eases into its end, the graduating English and English education majors shared a lovely brunch with the English faculty. This gave students a final hurrah! with the peers and professors that guided them through their undergraduate careers. The morning was lively with exciting conversation and tasty food; students reflected on their college experiences and talked about what is still to come. Senior brunch was the perfect opportunity to shake off a crazy—but memorable—semester.

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Broken Bodies: A Review of “The Dragon’s Wrath: A Virtual Dream”

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Review by Curtis Cole

Brent Roth, like many of Amazon’s self-published authors, have a unique take on science-fiction; often taking cues from their personal life to shore up narrative defects from authorial inexperience, books such as The Dragon’s Wrath: A Virtual Dream takes inspiration from many sources, but none more so than the author’s own misfortune. This is not a claim made in opposition to such strategies but more of an advisement that a reader is ought to be wary when reading such a text as sometimes it can be difficult to tell where the autobiography ends, and the narrative beings.

Throughout the narrative of Wrath the protagonist, a once athletic and sociable extrovert brimming with confidence, is brought low by a series of accidents. His injuries wound him severely and slowly but surely erode his entity until a shell of his former self is seen: he gains weight, loses confidence, and retreats into an introverted realm of virtual reality in order to compensate for the loss of human interaction, slowly confusing fiction with reality.

Curiously enough, Brent Roth was also injured prior to the writing of this volume. Once injured he was bedridden for three weeks. During this time, he wrote for fourteen hours per day, amassing a mammoth of a book totaling beyond two-hundred thousand words. Obviously this was a kind of therapy for the author while he was recovering; even so, however, aspects of his personality and life—from his political outlook to his romantic inclinations—are reflected ‘between the lines’. So the question is one of this: with many of these autobiographical works operating as either subsumed political manifestos or poorly worked manuscripts rushed out to garner someone’s fifteen minutes of fame, is this work one worth reading?

My opinion would be yes, it is worth reading. Let me explain.

As explained previously, the premise of the novel is that a former socialite is torn from his preppy upper-middle class life. In order to compensate for the lack of socialization and self-esteem, he enters a virtual world. This is where the narrative picks up: the world he enters is called “The Dragon’s Wrath” a Virtual-Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (VR-MMORPG). Ultra-realistic and difficult, reminding readers of a “Hardcore” gaming experiences such as “Dark Souls”, the world of “The Dragon’s Wrath” is something of a medieval fantasy infused with fictional creatures; recreating a Dark Ages inspired by Tolkein, this VR-MMORPG features home building reminiscent of “Minecraft”, first-person combat inspired by “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim”, and player teamwork taken from the “World of Warcraft” handbook. Clearly the author is well rounded in his stable of contemporary fictional realms.

The protagonist, also named Brent, thrives in this world: he starts his game in the northern wastelands, the most formidable and deadly region, the barest of resources and the most desolate in terms of villages and other players. Slowly leveling his character while gathering resources, he is preparing for a trek to the top of a mountain. A place which holds a special artifact which will grant Brent’s character a great advantage in combat. After much effort, time, and patience the player is rewarded: he makes it to the top of the peak to be granted lightning powers, one of only a few such legendary perks in the game.

From here on out the narrative, though lacking overall structure, due—in part—to the nature of world building and volume installments of the narrative as a whole, takes a dive in terms of intelligibility: the plot goes from “discernable objective” to a series of events: a rescue, a raid, town creation, a dungeon crawl… with little indication of what any of the transactions amount to, the reader is left in the dark. With the pace of the volume slowing down, in addition to becoming vaguer, quality as a whole suffers. Since is this the first installment of a large book, however, this is to be expected. And yet, even so, I felt that the author could have pushed just slightly harder to include how the narrative beyond the first volume will play-out.

However, pacing and some narrative murkiness aside, I consider the volume’s largest missteps to reside in those autobiographical elements taken from the author’s own romantic life. Repeatedly throughout the volume, the protagonist muses on his relationships, his status and bodily image as women see him, and how he views women in turn. More than once these musings either border, or directly constitute, misogynistic rants; in truth, the story as a whole takes a nose-dive whenever the protagonist wonders about how women ignore him in his non-virtual life: its content tends to be a pseudo-Men’s Rights diatribe while reading it is the equivalent of being privy to the hormonal rant of a fourteen-year-old boy.

This is to say there is nothing original, innovative, or thought-provoking about these segments and could have the volume, and book as a whole, do without. Of course, I would be amiss to characterize the entirety of these relationship diversions as merely trash; there are moments in the volume which read as exceptional existential meditations. When the protagonist recounts a long-distance relationship with a suicidal girl who later rejects him as being weak, and his subsequent life after the break-up, the reader cannot but help be impressed by the emotion: although, of course, undertones of reactionary sentiment persist, this remembrance reads as an authentic piece of drama laid bare so as to reveal, if not justify, where the protagonist, and by extension author, is coming from. Combined with the injury element this brief tale saves the plot whenever the backward musings on woman arrive: not because it is a justification of the anti-woman aspect, but because it reads as a genuine expression of existential Angst.

With a strong voice, vivid descriptions of both combat and nature, as well as an intriguing game world, the first installment of Wrath deserves a read. It is slow at times, yes, while being a bit obscure at other times but if one is able to ignore these non-terminal mishaps, a mistake epidemic to many novels, especially newcomers, while simply rolling one’s eyes at the romantic-sexual connotations, then any fan of fantasy sci-fi will be enjoying themselves in this short read. With several additional volumes likely in the future, since this volume has only taken up “roughly eighty-five hundred words” out of over two-hundred thousand, future fans will continue to be pleased for several years to come.

The Dragon’s Wrath: A Virtual Dream

Brent Roth

272 pages. Published by Brent Roth. $3.99 (Kindle).

Would You Open The Door? Would You?

On Wednesday, April 15th, the Modernism and Manifestos CoLab put on their cumulative event: The Surrealist Salon. There were several events at the salon: a puppet show, poetry readings, art displays, and games. Two lovely ladies in tutu’s made of coffee filters (or “coffee filter couture”) put on a game called: “There Is A Knock At The Door… Would You Open The Door?” As players entered the vicinity to play the game, they were greeted with the following scenario:

“Close your eyes and imagine for me, if you will, that you are dreaming. And in this dream of yours, you are in your beautiful home, doing the things you like to do. You are feeling relaxed, you are feeling peaceful, and you are feeling like you. Suddenly– *someone knocks on a table* there is a knock at the door. You haven’t been expecting company, so you approach the door, and look out the peephole (because all great doors have peepholes.) You recognize the person at the door; you have seen this person before. You immediately have two decisions to make, and thus two questions to answer. The first is: Do you open the door? Yes or no? The second is: What is your immediate reaction to this persons presence at your door? What do you do?”

The players were then shown a slideshow alternating between a door (accompanied by the spoken phrase: “There is a knock at the door…”) and an image of a person, usually a celebrity, whose name would be spoken by one of the game masters. Players were asked to anonymously record their answers to those two questions on index cards. After an unspecified number of slides, the players were asked to share their answers with one another, and of course the game masters.

The following presentation is the very one that was used for the game. However, the anonymous responses from the visitors of the Surrealist Salon who participated in the game are featured with the images of the person who was “at their door.” With very few rules or guidelines and under the veil of anonymity, players provided all kinds of different answers, which have been censored for the purpose of this blog.

By compiling the responses, it has become evident there are a few awards to present:

MOST DISLIKED: Rush Limbaugh, Justin Bieber, and Barack Obama
MOST LIKED: Bill Nye, Prince, Hulk Hogan, JFK, Elizabeth Ferry, James Franco, Steve Buscemi, and Clint Eastwood
MOST DESIRED TO ROB: Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys and Boston Bruins Goalie Tuukka Rask
MOST UNKNOWN: Lil’ Wayne (Honorable Mention to Mark Ruffalo)
BEST RESPONSE: “No, I don’t open the door for anyone.”

Without further adieu, here is both the presentation featuring the results. While watching, ask yourself: would you open the door?

The Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College: A Narration of Before, During, and After the Experience

“Looking at the program of the day’s readings, it felt immensely empowering to see my name alongside college professors, scholars, and other very impressive people—getting to discuss my own piece with these folks as well, was even more of a privilege.”—Molly Olsen

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From left to right: Molly, Eric, Tyler, Sam, and Misty

It’s proven quite difficult to stop talking about the Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College! On Friday, April 24, Molly Olsen, Sam Oppenheim, and myself hopped into a UMF van with Dr. Eric Brown and Dr. Misty Krueger to head for the long awaited trip to Keene, New Hampshire. The trip started early Friday morning and lasted through Saturday night.

Although I was really excited to be invited to join the conference, I was also nervous about presenting to people that were perhaps more knowledgeable in the field than me. Luckily, Eric and Misty provided us with ample time to revise and edit our papers as well as rehearse the presentations. By the time of our presentations (Friday at 2:25), I felt amply prepared to give it my best!

I wasn’t alone in my feelings of nervousness; Molly said,

When someone at the conference asked me if I was a Medievalist I was quick to reply, “Well, I’m an English teacher.” Because, although through my studies I have found history and historical works incredibly interesting and important, I am not particularly drawn to this time period (well, at least not beyond wishing that I was Daenerys Targaryen, but that’s a story for another day…). Coming from this mindset, I knew that this event was going to be very different from anything I’d ever experienced, and I was excited to see where it took me.

All of our presentations turned out really well and elicited questions and positive responses from several attendees: three of which were undergraduates from Dartmouth and their professor, Dr. Tom Luxon. Our audience was attentive and inquisitive, challenging us all. Sam said, “Having Tom Luxon sit right across from me and stare me down during my reading was intimidating, but a challenge I was willing to take on!” Perhaps the best part of the presentation was that it gave me a sense of life in English academia, and also provided me with the opportunity to share my work with my peers by choice; rather than with my professor and peers for a grade. This distinction changes everything.

Molly: Presenting a paper I wrote at an academic conference was not only truly educational, but also gave my thoughts and opinions a validation I had never gotten to experience before. The whole event reminded me how glad I am that we have professors at this school who are willing to help us find, participate and thrive in these kind of opportunities.

Other key moments from Friday:

  • Delicious food (Italian and Thai)
  • A memorable reception with hors d’oeuvres and refreshments at the president’s house.
  • Molly tried Thai food for the first time—ever—and loved it!
  • I ate duck for the first time (sorry, Sam, it’s totally not my thing).
  • I had the most comfortable king size bed in the whole world all to myself.
  • Molly and I stayed up Friday night to make crowns fit for the occasion. Alas, they never would have survived the ride home.

On Saturday, we decided to separate and go to the sessions that appealed to each of us. In total we saw 8 panels: some of which were amazing (For those, I felt like I couldn’t write quickly enough or take enough notes), some merely average, and some terrible. The variety of work, both in topic and quality, was amazing. The breadth of work that I saw at the panels provided me with considerable context in which to place myself as an academic—in a sense, the forum validated my confidence in myself. By the end of the presentations, we all seemed to be in agreement about the breadth of the work presented.

Molly: The entire conference was incredibly informative in many different ways. Watching so many people present their papers and ideas in one day, really made me think about the way in which I, as a future educator, will teach my students about these sort of topics. The pop culture integration, the jokes, the anecdotes, the passion, as well the overall ways in which people presented, showed me what will keep your audience’s attention, and what may leave them doodling on their notepads. Knowing how to present your ideas in a dynamic and informative way is such a tremendous skill to have, and I felt like I was getting a sort of boot camp in the entire practice.

Sam: It was incredibly fun listening to all of the different papers, some great and some really terrible. The best, believe it or not, came from our sister school. Robert Kellerman of UMA had this amazing essay on Pericles and made me want to read the play!

After the panels, we were all exhausted; but we still had the keynote address by Coppelia Kahn, a founding member of Shakespearean studies. She presented a hypothesis on how Shakespeare became so popular in modern societies. A point that I thought was particularly noteworthy was that after Shakespeare’s death, his plays were ignored for 44 years, only to be revived by William Davenant. Thus, Davenant is responsible for Shakespeare’s preservation.
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Following the keynote presentation we headed to the medieval feast. The themed dinner was relaxing after a long day. Dinner boasted delicious herbed chicken, corn on the cob, diced potatoes, and much more. Aside from the corn, none of these foods were traditionally finger foods. Alas, for the sake of “historical accuracy” and role playing, we had to giggle our way through our meals with nothing but our hands as tools. Between that, the music, and the metal knights guarding the two food tables, I’m sure that the medieval feast will prove hard toforget!

In hindsight, the Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College was a developmentally significant event in my undergraduate career, and I hope that I’m able to attend more conferences in the future! I want to thank Eric and Misty for the chance to participate. Additionally, I want to thank all four of them (Eric, Misty, Molly, and Sam) for all of the great conversations and memories, as well a their support throughout the event. I’ve spoken to Molly and she also hopes to attend other conferences; she said, “I hope to attend more conferences in the future, although I doubt that any of them will ask me to eat chicken with my hands again—huzzah! for arguable historical choices (and wet wipes)!” Likewise, I’ve spoken to Sam and he wanted to add the following: “Above all else, it was a blast getting to know Tyler and Molly and having many intellectually stimulating conversations with Eric and Misty. It was a truly great experience and I was honored to be a part of it.”KeeneStateForumMedRenCollage

—Tyler M. Michaud