UMF Student Inspires Mt. Blue High Schoolers to Deliver Unique Contributions to New Commons Project

The New Commons Project at UMF is a community wide effort to create a “cultural commons,” a collection of cultural works deemed important by the Farmington community that they will utilize for teaching and learning for the next five years. Anyone from the Farmington community can contribute, which recently includes students from Mt. Blue High School.

Heather Leet, a Secondary Ed. English major, completed her practicum unit at Mt. Blue under the tutelage of Travis Tierney, where she taught the New Commons Project to four out of his six classes.

“I started out by observing like most students do, then Travis and I talked about the New Commons. He already planned on teaching it, but he handed it over to me, let it be the thing I contributed to his classroom as a practicum student,” said Leet.

According to Leet, students were initially hesitant to participate in a project that did not originate at Mt. Blue.

“There was a good amount of confusion. I completely underestimated how challenging it would be to effectively explain the project; it does have so many aspects and possibilities, it is very open ended,” she said. “Once they figured out there were so  many things they could nominate, they got excited.”

“I asked them, ‘What about your nomination specifically can help the community?'”

The students sought out unique ideas that would make interesting contributions, and their nominations expanded beyond films and books. Nominations from Mt. Blue include the United States Air Force, a summer camp that helps grieving children who lost a parent, and rapper Logic’s recent hit single “1-800-273-8255.”

“One student ended up nominating the American Canoe; he talked about its history and how it’s important to our country and its overall contribution to our culture; the Native Americans created it, and now we have so many sports centered around it,” Leet commented when thinking about nominations that stood out to her. “Another student considered nominating her own poetry; I was so excited about her confidence in her own work! I don’t know anybody here or anywhere who has nominated their own work or has thought about it.”

Although Leet herself has not submitted a nomination, she applauded the Mt. Blue students for their originality and challenging her to think outside the box for her own choice.

“I’m thinking of nominating an album or musician for the project,” she said. “Music was a big theme and topic amongst the students because everyone is connected to music.”

Overall, Leet was thrilled with the Mt. Blue students’ work and is thankful to Tierney for the opportunity to bring the students out of their comfort zones.

“It was a privilege to work with Travis because he has such a great relationship with his students. They were respectful to me even though I was new and he’s been there for 15 years; his room is a safe zone, and I think that inspired a lot of creativity with current issues and their community,” she said.

“I made it as clear as possible that they are an enormous, important part of the community,” Leet said. “Their voices matter and are valuable. I wanted to give them an opportunity to contribute to this project; what they have to offer is going to be unique and influential.”

Beyond the University and Mt. Blue, Leet is also optimistic about what the New Commons will mean for the community at large.

“I really do believe that the special aspect of it is the amount of possibilities. It can be what the community makes it,” Leet said. “I believe in Kristen and her vision and I know whatever she puts together will be fantastic. I am optimistic and very hopeful for what it will eventually become.”

To find out more about the New Commons Project and/or watch some current nominations, please visit the website at http://newcommons.umf.maine.edu/.

 

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Fall 2018 Courses

Fall 2018 Literature Courses

ENG 251H BRITISH TEXTS AND CONTEXTS I  MWF 1:10-2:15 (DANIEL GUNN)
In this course, we will study English poetry, prose, and drama from early Anglo-Saxon lyrics through 1798, with an emphasis on literary, historical, and cultural contexts. The material will be divided into three loose historical clusters—Medieval, Early Modern, and Eighteenth Century—and we will consider a series of related texts in each of these areas. We will also be following three important themes throughout the semester: the constitutive power of literary languages; Christianity as context; and the construction of gender, particularly in the depiction of women.  For fall, 2018, texts will include substantial selections from Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, and Paradise Lost; Robinson Crusoe; and additional work by Elizabeth I, Donne, Herbert, Lanyer, Congreve, Pope, Goldsmith, Leapor, and other writers.  Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

ENG 265H AFRICAN-AMERICAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE T 6:15-9:35 (MICHAEL JOHNSON)
An interdisciplinary study of African American literature examined in the context of music, art, film, and other media representations of African American life that will include a wide range of literary, historical, and cultural materials (from ancient African folk tales to contemporary black writers, performers, and artists).  This semester the course will be part of the 1968 Then and Now Co-Lab and will have a particular focus on the mutual influence of African American aesthetic and political movements: from the Black Arts and Black Power movements of the 1960s to today’s Black Lives Matter movement.  Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

ENG 272H AMERICAN TEXTS AND CONTEXTS MW 3:40-5:20 (SABINE KLEIN)

This section of American Texts and Contexts will focus on the way memory, history, and trauma have shaped American literature since the Colonial Era. Throughout the semester, we will read novels, personal narratives, histories, dramas, and poetry by such authors as William Bradford, Allison Bechdel, Willa Cather, Louise Erdrich, and Tony Kushner among others. We will consider how authors approach personal and national pasts and how they deal with difficult personal and national experiences.

Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

ENG 277H GENDER AND THE LITERATURES OF GLOBALIZATION TuTh 3:50-5:30 (ANN KENNEDY)

In this course, we will study literature and film that explores the connection between gender and the historical processes of globalization. We will analyze how gender is implicated in the literatures of people and cultures in and between nations, covering topics such as the black diaspora, transnational economics and labor, immigration and migration, water and ecoliterature, tourism and travel and new genres such as petro-fiction and narco-novelas.  Authors might include Monica Ali, Chris Abani, Dionne Brand, Jenny Turner, Bharati Mukherjee, Helon Habila, Yuri Herrera, Mohsin Hamid, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

ENG 288H WOMEN AND WRITING   TuTh 12:00-1:40  (KRISTEN CASE)
This course will feature a range of texts by women from the beginning of the western literary tradition through the present, including Sappho, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Helene Cixous, Gertrude Stein, Robin Coste Lewis, Anne Boyer, and others. We will pay particular attention to the relationship between gender and form and look closely at the way the act of writing is both practiced and thematized in the work of these writers.  Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

HUM 277H THE NEW COMMONS COURSE TuTh 9:50-11:30 (KRISTEN CASE, STEVE GRANDCHAMP, JOHN MESSIER, STEVE PANE, AND MAJA WILSON)
This team-taught course will introduce students to the fundamental principles of digital and public humanities in a semester-long engagement with the New Commons Project. Students will study the four works featured in the semester in depth, attend all New Commons events, interact with New Commons guest lecturers/performers, and create a digital or public outreach project based on one of the four works. Through the works studied in this course will be drawn from several disciplines, the approach will be Humanities-based, involving discussion about and interpretation of works, close attention to language and meaning, and analysis.

ENG 344 EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY LITERATURE TuTh 3:50-5:30 (DANIEL GUNN)
This is an advanced course in eighteenth-century English literature.  We will begin by looking at some of Addison’s Spectator papers to get a sense of the social, cultural, and literary atmosphere of the eighteenth century.  Then we will move on to consider works by Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Charlotte Lennox, a collection of women poets, Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson, and Jane Austen.  Texts from this period tend to be comic, satiric, highly rational, socially engaged, and formally sophisticated.  We will, in addition, be reading a series of critical essays, including work written from feminist, historicist, and formalist perspectives, in an effort to develop a preliminary idea of the issues addressed by eighteenth-century scholars and the range of possible interpretive strategies suggested by their work.   Prerequisite: one 200-level ENG literature class.

ENG 345 THE ROMANTIC ERA MW 3:40-5:20 (MISTY KRUEGER)
Study of representative literature from 1798 to 1832, with an emphasis on poetry, gothic fiction, and a theme: “the power of the imagination.” Texts are chosen from the works of writers such as Wollstonecraft, Austen, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, the Shelleys, and Keats. Prerequisite(s): One 200-level ENG literature course.

ENG 362 AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING TuTh 1:50-3:30 (KRISTEN CASE)
An exploration of the concept of environment in American writing from the 19th century to the present, this course will address fundamental questions about the relation between nature and culture at play in American writing about the natural world.  Readings will include ​writings by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Leslie Marmon Silko, Roy Scranton, Michael Pollan, and others.  Prerequisite: one 200-level ENG literature class.

ENG 455 LITERARY THEORY AND CULTURAL STUDIES M 3:10-6:30 (MICHAEL JOHNSON)
Study of various theoretical approaches used in the analysis of literature, with the emphasis on contemporary developments in literary theory, with a particular focus this semester on semiotics, sound studies, and cultural studies. Texts will include Roland Barthes’ Mythologies, Josh Kun’s Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America, Brandon LaBelle’s Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s Staring: How We Look.  Prerequisite: one 300-level ENG literature course other than ENG 300.

ENG 477 MODERN SELVES, MODERN FICTIONS TuTh 1:50-3:30 (CHRISTINE DARROHN)
This course in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British fiction focuses on representations of the complexity of selfhood in an era of profound intellectual and social upheaval.  We will study examples of late nineteenth-century realist and Gothic fiction and of early twentieth-century fiction that boldly reinvented the conventions of narrative.  As we do so, we will familiarize ourselves with intellectual contexts, such as late Victorian degeneration theory and early twentieth-century psychology; we will study transformations of British society, especially regarding gender roles; and we will consider the impact of global events, particularly the cataclysmic Great War.  Fundamentally, we will ask what forces—psychological, social, and natural—shape and buffet the self, what is the potential for knowing oneself (or one’s selves) and others, and how do different modes of fiction pose and explore such questions.  Our texts will include fiction by at least some of the following: Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Virginia Woolf.   Prerequisite: one 300-level ENG literature course other than ENG 300.