Interview with UMF English Faculty Steve Grandchamp

By Robert Drinkwater

This semester the UMF English department has been going through a hiring process for who to hire as a new member of the English faculty. Now, a candidate has officially been hired and that is Stephen Grandchamp who will now be a full time English professor here at UMF. I had the pleasure of interviewing him about his time at UMF, his work with The New Commons Project, classes he will be teaching in the future, and the projects that he is working on.

Describe your experience at UMF.

I love it at UMF!I think that the students here at great. They are creative, curious, resilient, and I really enjoy working with them. Also, I think my colleagues here are fantastic too. They are really understanding and overall I just felt very welcomed by the UMF community.

How do you feel about officially being hired by UMF?

I’m thrilled! I think from the moment I started visiting UMF to start my original contract, I originally applied to be the assistant director of The New Commons Project in February 2018, I knew right away that this was a very special place, so I was absolutely thrilled when I heard the news that I’d be able to sty permanently.

Could you describe your work on the New Commons Project?

Right now, I’m the co-director of The New Commons Project with Kristen Case, my colleague in the humanities division. The New Commons Project, to give a broad outline is a public humanities initiative that seeks to initiate conversation between students, faculty, and community members between cultural works that are important to them. We do that by having them nominate cultural works that are important to them in video form. After that, we have a committee that consists of faculty, students, and community members who pick twelve of them and then we have free public programming to go along with the,. So, we’ve had concerts, scholarly talks, round tables, we’ve had a symphony orchestra. I think overall, it’s been such a positive and inspiring experience to be part of the New Commons Project because it really shows how people in Farmington in particular are passionate about works of art, literature, music, and they love sharing with others their love of these works which has been really great to see.

What classes do you plan on teaching?

Next semester, I’m going to be teaching English 181, a course on literary interpretation and analysis. I’m also teaching English 377, a class on video games as literature. Students are going to play through six or seven video games from the 1970’s to the contemporary moment and we’ll talk about the aesthetics, the narrative and analyze the video game we would if it were a work of literature.

Are you working on any projects?

I recently finished an article that is out for review that is about how to use Spotify playlists to teach students poetry. I’m also working on a piece that makes the claim that Kendrick Lamar is engaging with nineteenth century individual development with his album Damn. I’m looking for ways in which hip hop narrative is similar to that of traditional European narrative modes that create them. Lastly, I’m working on my book project Accounting for Failure: Arrested Development and the British Bildungsroman which makes the case that in the nineteenth century, British narrative established the idea that we accept today which is that failure doesn’t have to define a person in order to succeed.

Interview With Michael Johnson About His New Biography “Can’t Stand Still”

By Robert Drinkwater

Michael K. Johnson is Professor of American literature at the University of Maine at Farmington. His primary research areas are African American Literature and the literature and culture of the American West. He is the author of Black Masculinity and the Frontier Myth in American Literature (University of Oklahoma), Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos: Conceptions of the African American West (University Press of Mississippi), and, most recently, the biography of African American singer Taylor Gordon, Can’t Stand Still: Taylor Gordon and the Harlem Renaissance (University Press of Mississippi). He is co-editor (with Kalenda Eaton
and Jeannette Jones) of New Directions in Black Western Studies, a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of American Studies, and he is also co-editor (with Kerry Fine, Rebecca Lush, and Sara Spurgeon) of an anthology of criticism, Weird Westerns: Race, Gender, Genre, which is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press. He is a former President of the Western Literature Association.

Tell Me About Taylor Gordon.

He was a spiritual singer in the 1920’s. He was born in Montana in 1893 and he moved to New York eventually. He wrote an autobiography called Born To Be that was published in 1929. So, I guess to say who he is, is that he is a singer and songwriter. His period of fame was during the 1920’s into 1930’s.

What Made You want to Write About Him?

The area that I work in is African American Literature and I’m interested in black writers who grew up in the American West, and I don’t have to go too far into that topic to find Taylor Gordon. In Born To Be , the first third of his book is about his life growing up in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. I just found his story to be astonishing in so many ways. There are so many weird things that happened. He became associated with John Ringling of Ringling Brothers Circus, because John Ringling was looking for an available hand in Montana and Taylor Gordon was around and it managed to get that leading into a job offer and travel around the country. That’s actually how he got to New York because Ringling was stationed there.

How would you describe your writing process?

This is a biography and I found this much more difficult than doing literary criticism. With literary criticism, there’s a book, and I basically write about it and it’s very focused on that one thing. With a biography, I sort of had to keep in mind with everything, from 1893 to 1971. I had to keep track of all those details. Once I got up to speed, I was fine. It was a different sort of experience than writing about a book because I can pick that up after not writing about it at any point during the semester, but with a biography, it’s harder to that because I had all these pieces of paper that at some point had to be in my head. If I took two months off, a lot of errands would need to be get done. I don’t have any special techniques or anything, I just get up and do it.

What did you learn from this experience?

I learned that just because you think that there’s nothing there, that doesn’t mean there’s no reason not to look. I continually found information that I didn’t know. For instance, I did not know that Taylor Gordon was involved in radio broadcasting, but I began finding all of these listings kind of like how there are listings of T.V. programs. It was like that with radio broadcasts. Another thing that struck me was that there are projects out there that people don’t know about because they don’t think there’s anything there. A lot of things that seem non-existent just haven’t been looked for. That’s another thing, if you’re learning about the African American west, a lot of people think that there’s not much there, but once you start looking, you begin to start finding things.

What projects are you currently working on?

There are two things. Taylor Gordon had a sister, Rose Gordon and she lived her entire life in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. My original concept for a biography was to write about them both. However, I realized that if I did that, then this book would be too long. Also, the direction of their lives ended up going so differently, so I’m going to do a biography on her life. She made a living writing for the local newspaper and she’s a really interesting person. The other thing that I’m currently working on is about weird westerns. A weird western is kind of like The Walking Dead, so sort of like these hybrid genre stories like Westworld. That’s what I’m currently working on right now.

You can buy Can’t Stand Still from Barnes and Noble here.

Interview With Shana Youngdahl

by Robert Drinkwater

I had the pleasure of interviewing Assistant Professor of English, the faculty advisor to The Sandy River Review’s The River, and the director of the Longfellow Young Writer’s Workshop, Shana Youngdahl about her debut young adult novel As Many Nows as I can Get where we discussed her novel as well YA literature in general.

What inspired you to write As Many Nows As I can Get?

There were several different things that I was thinking about. The trigger event was probably that I knew a couple people in high school that I heard had died. And I couldn’t write poems about that. I knew that I needed to write a novel about them. It has nothing to do with the people that I knew, but I knew that it needed to be a YA novel.

What have you learned from writing your novel?

Well, I learned a lot about plot. Which isn’t something we think about poetry in the same way. It really forced me to think about long term stories and characters, and characters intentions in new and different ways.

What do you hope that readers will take away from this book?

Well, that’s complicated because they get to have that experience on their own. I would hope that one of the things that comes across in the story is that everybody makes mistakes. Everybody at some point in their lives makes some catastrophic mistake or nearly catastrophic mistake, and that doesn’t have to define you, it’s part of your story. It can change you, but it doesn’t have to define you.

What interests you about YA Literature?

What doesn’t interest me about YA literature? I think there are so many interesting conversations happening in the space of young adult literature right now about the importance of multiple and diverse voices about what it means to grow up in our culture now. I also think that there is a lot of experimentation going on in terms of the form of the novel. I also think that we’re not usually genre separated in bookstores because they don’t have enough room for that. There ends up being a lot of cross pollination in conversations between authors who write very different things that lends itself to a really exciting space. There are good reasons why it’s getting so much attention now.

Are there any books that you are currently reading and do you have any YA recommendations?

Right now I’m reading Julia Drake’s The Last True Poets of the Sea. It’s coming out in the next week. She is going to be in Farmington on October 7th at Devaney, Doak, and Garrett. I just read Samira Ahmed’s second novel Internment. Which is a great example of the resistance literature happening in YA literature right now, and I loved Julie Berry’s The Lovely War. There’s not a lot of young adult historical, but that is one of them and it is fascinating. It does a great thing with form. The speaker of the book is Aphrodite and she is telling this love story. American Panda by Gloria Chao is also really good, and I’m teaching Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi in one of my classes.

Shana Youngdahl’s book As Many Nows as I Can Get can be purchased on Amazon and at DDG

Other books mentioned:


American Panda

The Last True Poets of the Sea

The Lovely War

Sabbatical Update: Dan Gunn

English Professor Dan Gunn has taught at UMF since 1980, offering courses, in the history and theory of the English novel, including Shakespeare and Samuel Richardson. He has written on Jane Austen, George Eliot, Samuel Richardson, James Joyce, and Talking Heads, among other subjects. During his time at UMF, he has served as Faculty Senate Chair, Chair of the Humanities Division, Acting Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. He has published critical essays on Jane Austen, George Eliot, James Joyce, Samuel Richardson, and other novelists in distinguished academic journals, including Narrative, Nineteenth-Century Literature, James Joyce Quarterly, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has also published occasional essays in the Georgia Review, the Iowa Review, the Ohio Review and other magazines. He won a fellowship to the National Humanities Center in 1988, a UMF Trustee Professorship in 2003, and the Theo Kalikow Award in 2014.

Dan is currently on a year-long sabbatical that began Fall 2014. Recently, he has been in Farmington, where he has been working in the library, participating in the Emerson reading group, and singing in the community chorus. In the spring, he will hold an appointment as Visiting Professor of English at the Université du Maine in Le Mans in March, and he and his wife will be living together in France and Italy for three months.

This last fall he worked on an essay about narration and free indirect discourse in Henry James’s The Ambassadors, and he hopes, this spring, to turn to a second essay, on the figure of the absent mother in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton. He has also preparing three lectures he will be giving in France: one on history, representation and self-representation in Richard II and TransAtlantic, which will be a plenary address at the “Historical Auto/Biographies in the Arts” conference in Le Mans; a second on children in Jane Austen, featured in the Université du Maine 3LAM research group’s “EN/JEU” series, on childhood and adolescence; and a third on the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and its aftermath.

Although he is enjoying the time he has to work on the aforementioned projects, he is also enjoying the time he has for pleasure reading, including Trollope’s Barsetshire novels; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah; Thomas Pikety’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century; Bill Roorbach’s The Remedy for Love; Janet Browne’s biography of Charles Darwin; George Saunders’ The Tenth of December; Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle; and other books.

He will return to UMF full-time teaching Fall 2015.

Faculty Highlights 2014 (Thus Far), More Highlights!

This is the second of several posts from members of the UMF literature faculty reflecting back on the highlights of the previous year.

Misty Krueger:


• Co-edited a journal issue entitled,“Teaching Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries,” for Persuasions On-Line 34.2 (Spring 2014)

• Published a note entitled, “Teaching Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries,” for Persuasions On-Line 34.2 (Spring 2014)

• Published an article entitled, “Teaching Northanger Abbey as a ‘Crossover’ Text,” in Persuasions On-Line 34.2 (Spring 2014)


• Revising an article submission on Austen’s History of England and her marginalia

• Preparing an essay for article submission on incorporating readers’ theatre into a university course

• Composing an essay on the benefits of creative writing in a literary adaptations course

Invited Lecture

• Invited by the state’s chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America to speak in Brunswick, ME, about Austen’s novel, Mansfield Park, Elizabeth Inchbald’s play, Lovers’ Vows, and the use of readers’ theatre in the classroom


• Attended the MLA convention in Chicago, IL

At the Southeastern American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in Knoxville, TN:
• Presented on a roundtable discussion about teaching 18th-century literature through creative writing

• Chaired a panel on Restoration drama

• Performed scenes from an 18th-century play

At the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in Williamsburg, VA:

• Chaired two panels on mourning in the long 18th century

• Performed scenes from a Restoration drama and participated in a roundtable on drama

• Presented on staging Elizabeth Inchbald’s play, Lovers’ Vows, in a Jane Austen seminar


• Served as a mentor to a UMF Wilson Scholar

New Courses Taught

• Taught a special topics course, English 377: Adaptations of 17th- through 19th-century Literature

• Taught a new section of English 100: Art as Social Critique

Critical Thinking Rubric

• Designed a rubric for the UMF General Education Program’s assessment of students’ critical thinking skills

Faculty Highlights (2014 thus far)

This is the first of several posts from members of the UMF literature faculty reflecting back on the highlights of the previous year.

Michael Johnson

The highlight of the year for me was the publication in Feb 2014 of my book, Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos: Conceptions of the African American West, by University Press of Mississippi. A revised and expanded version of a paper on director Quentin Tarintino’s film Django Unchained (presented at the 2013 Western Literature Association Conference) was solicited by the editors of Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies for a special roundtable on the film to be published in fall 2014.

This past spring was a particularly wonderful and intellectually engaging semester. The Why English? series brought us the amazing Sir Christopher Ricks lecture on T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. One of the other highlights of the year was performing in the staged reading of The Waste Land along with several colleages in the Arts and Humanities. Also, as a member of the various Libra Scholar and University Forum Series committees, I participated in bringing several engaging speakers and distinguished scholars to UMF throughout the semester: Mary Louise Pratt, Annette Kolodny, and Lisa Brooks. For the Annette Kolodny visit, Prof. Sabine Klein and I collaborated with University of Southern Maine professor Lorrayne Carroll on a Libra Scholar proposal to bring Prof. Kolodny to spend time at both campuses. Prof. Klein and I both spoke at an event honoring Dr. Kolodny sponsored by the University of New England and hosted by UNE Prof. Jennifer Tuttle at the Maine Women Writer’s Collection. Another enjoyable collaboration was with UMF’s Prof. Stephen Pane on his Beethoven’s Opus 111 and “late style” project. As part of the project, I gave a talk on the “late style” of Langston Hughes. Prof. Pane and I, as part of this event, coordinated a group of students in a staged reading of excerpts from Hughes’s late work, the long poem Ask Your Mama, which included joining in with the class to sing “The Hesitation Blues” between sections of the poem. This was, I think, my first public performance singing the blues!

Jane Austen Journal Features Article about Teaching Northanger Abbey at UMF

Dr. Misty Krueger has recently co-edited the spring 2014 issue of the Jane Austen journal, Persuasions On-Line. The issue contains essays from scholars across the U.S., and Dr. Krueger also contributed an article about teaching Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey, at UMF.

To access the issue and the article go to: Persuasions On-Line Table of Contents



Krueger and Mayes Present at JASNA Maine Chapter’s Meeting


On April 26, 2014, Dr. Misty Krueger presented her talk, “Mansfield Park Comes to Life: Teaching Austen’s Novel and Staging Elizabeth Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows,” at the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Maine chapter’s spring meeting. Dr. Krueger was invited to give the keynote address to the chapter, and she spoke with the group about the theatrical scenes from Austen’s novel, her spring 2013 senior seminar on Austen, and the class’s decision to participate in a readers’ theatre version of Lovers’ Vows after their having read Mansfield Park. Along with Dr. Krueger, senior UMF student, Cidney Mayes, attended the meeting and shared her thoughts about the experience of performing in Lovers’ Vows.

Tribute Event for Annette Kolodny


From left to right, Margo Lukens (University of Maine), Lorrayne Carroll (University of Southern Maine), Sabine Klein (kneeling, University of Maine-Farmington), Michael Johnson (University of Maine-Farmington), Jennifer Tuttle (University of New England), Annette Kolodny (Professor Emerita of American Literature and Culture, University of Arizona), Nancy Gish (University of Southern Maine), and Cathleen Miller (University of New England).

Held at the Maine Women Writer’s Collection at the University of New England, faculty from several Maine campuses gathered together to pay tribute to influential scholar Annette Kolodny, present in Maine to participate in a series of lectures at three UMaine campuses (USM, UMF, and Orono).

The Tempest at UMF

Students from multiple classes attended the recent UMF production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which provided material for a lot of good student writing about the play, including Delaney Klein’s review published in the Farmington Flyer. The online journal Knack, published by UMF students in the arts, also included multiple articles on the production, including interviews with the director, composer, and make-up designer, which includes a detailed look at the process of putting on Caliban’s make-up.

We’ve collected below several posts written by students in Honors 277 (Analyze This!!!!!!), touching on different elements of the production.

On the Opening Scene of The Tempest

by Samuel Bennett

In his introduction to The Tempest, David Lindley notes how many performances interpret the shipwreck in the first scene differently: “the subsequent stage history of the opening scene is characterized by oscillation between elaboration and simplification, realism and stylization” (17). I felt the performance at UMF combined these two approaches in a way that was effective and contributed to the play.

The scene began with a symbolic depiction of the storm, with Ariel leading several spirits to drive the waves. This recalled Ariel’s later statement that he would “divide and burn in many places” (127) – the spirits all seemed to be coordinated with his motions and moved as one, suggesting they were extensions of Ariel. The show’s rendition of “Come Unto These Yellow Sands” added to this effect – Ariel played music and gestured like a conductor while disembodied voices sang the lyrics. This established Ariel’s multifaceted, malleable nature by disconnecting his voice from his actions and having the lyrics be sung in different voices and intonations, suggesting there were multiple spirits that Ariel either directed or manifested as. I thought this was an interesting representation of an idea given in the text, and I was disappointed when Ariel’s other songs only used one voice.

Additionally, I thought the costuming and choreography of the spirits was effective – they wore white sheets and moved in wave-like motions, which both established them as embodiments of natural forces and represented the actual waves of the sea, giving the audience a sense of the stormy waters. Furthermore, my father (who I invited to the show) interpreted them as representing waves, whereas I saw them as the blowing wind. This ambiguity was likely intentional – Ariel is associated with both the sea and the wind; their costumes recalled both white rapids and the air; and their motions could easily be viewed as those of both waves and gusts of wind. The use of dance to represent the storm reminded me of the symbolic representations of the scene Lindley describes, which had “a huge puppet snake wind across the stage” (20). However, the actual dialogue and action of the opening scene was performed literally. I thought the actors depicted the storm effectively with the limited resources at their disposal – like the 1951 Mermaid Theatre production, “everybody acted high seas and hurricanes, and not a word was lost” (19). It was clear from the sounds of thunder, the flashes of light, and the frantic, panicked voices and motions of the actors that a storm was going on around them. The scene seemed chaotic and tumultuous because of how the performers played their parts and how audio-visual clues were used. I particularly liked how the gallery of the ship was represented by tying a rope to a pillar in the balcony – this set was obviously designed around the auditorium’s actual layout, but the balcony, with its railing and mast-like pillars, really did look like a ship, and tying the rope to the “mast” was enough for me to read it as such. This reminded me of Barthes’s idea of mythology – the balcony could resemble either a balcony or a ship, so simply tying a rope to the pillar produced a distinctly nautical image strong enough for me to view it as the latter without any other props or set pieces. All in all, I enjoyed The Tempest. It was fun to watch, and since I knew the complicated history of the play and its staging, I was able to get more out of it by seeing how the show was performed and how it impacted the presentation as a whole.

The Portrayal of Caliban

By Erika Burns

I thoroughly enjoyed UMF’s production of The Tempest. I wasn’t sure what to expect because there is so much open for interpretation. The use of lighting and sheets billowing in the wind of the storm provided an interesting and authentic portrayal of the shipwreck. The simple use of the upper balcony for the boatswain to climb down the rope also helped to create an image of an actual ship. I was very impressed by the storm scene as a whole.

I was most looking forward to seeing the depiction of Caliban in the UMF production. The Tempest casts him as an almost inhuman character, so far removed from society and enslaved that he has no regard for human social interaction or even human movement. Characters often refer to him as a monster so repulsive they do not even consider him to be a human. I didn’t think that UMF would come even remotely close to portraying him accurately, but I was quickly proven wrong. Caliban’s movement and dress made him seem very primitive. Putting him in a loincloth is the easiest way to convey a primitive look, but there were many added effects to enhance his look. Caliban’s make-up included hairy wart-like patches and animal print paint placed randomly on his forearm and leg. All of this – in addition to his facial make-up and greasy, tousled hair – created a caveman-like image. One foot literally had a monster’s foot attached instead of a human foot, which literally turned him into the monster that the play makes him out to be. Caliban’s movement is also distorted and not human. He was hunched over for the entire play, often resorting to moving around on all fours  to “walk” across the stage. For slight movement, Caliban’s right arm was always drooped, which created a hunched back and made him look more like an animal.

Caliban’s depiction was also enhanced by his interactions with other cast members. When he kissed the feet of Stephano, Stephano dissolved into laughter. He was mocking Caliban for being so desperate to serve him that he was willing to kiss his feet. The fact that Caliban did it again added to his desperation and, therefore, added to his mockery. It was clear to the audience that Caliban was never anything more than a servant and an odd creature to look at. Stephano recoiled every time Caliban drew near and he watched him in awe as he drank so desperately. Moments like these are not portrayed in the written play. Subtle nuances and movements cannot be accurately represented and aren’t written down as strict instructions for the actors to follow. Movement is left open to interpretation, and I think that the UMF production of The Tempest did a good job of showing Caliban’s lack of human characteristics (or at the most, very primitive ones). Doing this from all aspects was crucial in creating the desired effect. From Caliban’s make-up to his movement to his interactions with other actors, there was truly an animalistic air about him and the way others viewed him in the play.

The Portrayal of Ariel and Caliban

By Emily Cote

Ariel, being my favorite character in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest is the figure I’d like to focus on. One of Shakespeare’s talents is creating characters for theater that can be interpreted in many different ways – ghosts, spirits, gods, and fairies are present among his works and their presence on stage have been portrayed differently over the years. Ariel is a character of similar complexity, and an interesting point David Lindley voiced was that: “Caliban is not only a slave and political rebel, but is also defined by his relationship to Ariel. How this relationship is characterised by critics and represented on stage has vital consequences for any interpretation of the play. The transformations in the two roles, indeed, have taken interestingly intertwined paths.” (58)

In UMF’s representation of The Tempest, there was an emphasis on making Caliban a sympathetic character from his apparent physical disfigurement, blatant from makeup and costuming (I liked his gruesome-looking foot) while Ariel was made impressively graceful – everything from the lithe in his step to his flowing lines gave him an air that separated him and Caliban. Some critics of other Tempest performances have speculated that Ariel should be portrayed as a figure from Heaven, while Caliban should be seen as a creature from Hell. Despite his “monstrous” appearance, I did not get the sense that Caliban was evil, but simply pathetic and primitive – he dislikes his master for a good reason, as the prejudice is apparent in the treatment of both Ariel and Caliban by Prospero. Caliban’s loincloth was also a good touch, but his dress evoked a “caveman” feeling rather than a “demon” one. Ariel, however, was given a god-like appearance, especially due to the fact he was included in the beginning of the play with his muses/spirits (the chorus). It has been long debated whether or not he should be seen in the beginning, because some say it takes away from the plot as Ariel is quickly revealed to be a slave to Prospero; however, I liked that UMF included him, as it added to the drama of the storm (it seemed he was commanding the muses, making him more god-like).

Posture and self-awareness are huge keys in acting that really influence how Caliban and Ariel appear. The actor that portrayed Caliban avoided eye contact and made himself seem beneath whoever he was talking to. Ariel, on the other hand, didn’t seem so much a slave but rather a helping hand who was indebted to a savior – this is especially apparent because Ariel appears much more humble and eager than Caliban. While I don’t necessarily believe the UMF cast portrayed Caliban and Ariel to be foils of good and evil, I do think they emphasized the difference between cultured and primitive, and between graceful/godlike and crude/enslaved. Even had we seen them simply dressed side-by-side without the context of the plot we would have made the distinction that one was elegant (Ariel’s costume was simple but did the part well – he had gossamer-looking frills that implied grace, though I would have liked to have seen wings) and one was a monster or outcast. Though Ariel’s costume didn’t really give away that he was a spirit, his implied magic comes alive when he instructs the music and chorus like a symphony conductor – easily my favorite interpretation of his power and grace.