Upcoming English Honor Society events



Julian Saporiti encourages UMF students and faculty to reflect on stories of Japanese Internment during WWII


Julian Saporiti tuning his guitar after a performance of a song about Vietnam

Recently, UMF welcomed musician and phD student Julian Saporiti, who presented a multi-media presentation entitled “No-No Boy” on the history of Japanese internment camps across the United States during World War II, inspired by his doctoral research at Brown University. “No-No Boy” is a term used to define Japanese Americans who refused to pledge loyalty to the United States after World War II and refused to sign up for the draft.

The internment of Japanese Americans came after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Over 100,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes (especially in California and along the west coast) and relocated to internment camps across the west and midwestern United States.

“After Pearl Harbor, anti-Asian sentiment really began to grow,” Saporiti stated during a presentation to a UMF English class before his Emery Arts performance. “There was a lot of racial fear and economic competition.”

Saporiti’s work mainly focuses on the individual stories of Japanese Americans who lived in these internment camps. He has overall talked to 60 people and fully interviewed 30. For Saporiti, it is more important to get the details of these stories right and let them send a message on their own, rather than trying to push a political agenda.

“I don’t have much of a political message except ‘know your history,'” said Saporiti. “I go for these individual stories because for me, those have a bigger impact. It’s a lot easier to feel sympathy when you can actually put a face behind a label or a movement.”

To tell these stories, Saporiti employs another principle element of his work: music. Stating that he studies history through music, Saporiti has written several songs that describe the life and atmosphere of an internment camp, while also telling the stories of individual people he’s met there.

One of his most notable stories comes from a dear friend referred to only as “Joy,” a now 90-year-old woman who was sent from Los Angeles to the internment camp “Heart Mountain Relocation Center,” in Heart Mountain, Wyoming at age 15. When telling Joy’s story, Saporiti discussed an instrumental part of her time: her involvement in the George Igawa band, a jazz band made entirely of Japanese Americans who wanted to continue to pursue their passion and take their minds off of their situation.

“They were allowed to pursue this dream because jazz music was considered incredibly American,” Saporiti explained. This story led to a song about Joy and the George Igawa band called “The Best God Damn Band,” one of several pieces he performed during his presentation.

Saporiti also has a personal connection to these stories and this research as a result of being Vietnamese American and growing up in Nashville, Tennessee. Some of his works reflected his thoughts of Vietnam and immigration

The audience was engaged and thoroughly interested in what Saporiti had to say on many topics, including how the treatment of Japanese Americans is reflected in today’s modern racial and political climate, with the new target of fear and hate being the Muslim community.

“When I tell the people I interview that I do talks like this at colleges and perform these songs and tell their stories, I always ask them if they have a personal message they’d like me to tell you guys,” Saporiti said. “And they all say pretty much the same thing: don’t let this happen again.”

To find out more about Saporiti’s work, listen to more music, and learn more about Japanese internment, visit his website at nonoboymusic.tumblr.com.

Spring 2018 Literature Courses

Spring 2018 Literature Courses

This course is an introduction to Shakespearean drama, which is both enormously influential in Western culture and somehow central to our notions of what literature is and can do.  We will study seven plays, concentrating on their deployment of various poetic languages, their construction as literary artifacts, and the theatrical and performance issues they raise.  The tentative reading list for spring includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest.   In the context of this particular group of texts, we will be taking up questions related to colonialism, constructions of race and gender, political ideology, textual editing, Renaissance theatrical performance, and the genre of the late plays.    Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

Studying nineteenth- and twentieth- century British literature, we will explore three important literary periods: the Romantic, Victorian, and twentieth-century.  We will learn about the events and contested issues of the culture as we examine the diverse ways writers (such as William Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Charles Dickens, Wilfred Owen, and Virginia Woolf) responded and contributed to these in the content and form of their writing.  The events are tremendous: an economic revolution that remakes the landscape physically and socially, a political revolution that raises hopes and then dashes them, scientific discoveries that trouble traditional beliefs, a cataclysmic war, and profound changes in the legal status of women, to name just a few.  Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

T 1:50-5:10  (EIREANN LORSUNG)

This course offers a mix of theoretical and material work. We will read small, alternative, and independent publishers’ books (and other artifacts) to think about what it means to be a (micro-) publisher as well as to think about what kinds of writing have entered the literary scene via these publishers over the past decade or so. We will encounter and grapple with the question “What is a book?” and use books we read (and those we make) to address it at the axis of form and content. In addition to reading literary work, we will read scholarly writing on small press publishing as we work to articulate our own editorial/publishing/artistic philosophies. Part of our time will be spent in bookmaking practica, in which students will learn to bind physical books. Students in this course can expect to read a book a week for much of the semester, write three papers, and work independently or in a team on a final editorial/publishing project.  Prerequisite: ENG 100 and sophomore standing.


Since the coming of sound to movies, the American movie thriller in all its forms — crime stories, war movies, Westerns, sci fi and horror, etc. — has offered a reflection of the American character, the movies changing as American society changed. The thriller may have offered an exaggerated, sometimes even distorted view, but one always somehow connected to the audience it served. This course will examine a number of key movie thrillers, and the social context which produced them and which they reflected.


Primary readings in literary and cultural studies theory will provide conceptual frameworks for offering critical commentary on contemporary culture (literature, film, television, music, etc.). That commentary will take the form of blog posts, reviews, recaps, tweets, podcasts, etc. Also included in our primary readings will be contemporary blogs and websites that offer reviews and cultural criticism.  Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

In this course we examine historical and contemporary constructions of the female body in Western culture: in medicine and science, in law, in popular culture, in literature, and in sports culture. Our goals are to become more astute cultural critics, to better understand the political, personal, intellectual, and social ramifications of dominant constructions of the female body, and to analyze challenges to these constructions—in theory, research, literature, the arts, and in everyday embodied practices. Prerequisite: ENG 100; for students in ENG, SEN, CWR, or ELE-Language Arts, ENG 100 and ENG 181.

Students will investigate foundational schools of literary theory, learn about the field of English as an academic discipline, and think about how being an English major prepares them for life and career after their degrees are completed. As a result, students will become aware of different critical approaches to literature and will begin to define their individualized interests and aims in the major.  At the end of the course, each student will complete a concentration statement that explains how four or more of the elective courses in the major form a coherent group.  Prerequisite: ENG major, ENG 181, and one 200-level literature course.

The focus of this course will be Native American literature and film primarily written and produced over the last two decades. We will place that material in the larger context of the history of Native American representation in film and literature. We will be especially attentive to Native American literature that has been adapted to film, but we will also look at films with original scripts, at experimental films, and documentaries.  Prerequisite: 200-level ENG literature class or JR/SR standing.

How do British Victorian novels evoke complex worlds and welcome readers into them?  During a period of extraordinary transformation, how did the diverse kinds of novels that were popular in the Victorian age enable writers and readers to understand themselves, their relation to others, and their place in the world?  What can we today–as we face the challenges within our own local and global communities–learn from these novels?  We will explore the multifaceted worlds–physical, social, and psychological–created in a variety of Victorian novels, such as the sensation novel, the multiplot novel, and the adventure novel, including novels by some of the following: Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Charlotte Bronte, Lewis Carroll, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, H. Rider Haggard, and Bram Stoker. Prerequisite: 200-level ENG literature class

An advanced seminar, focused on three novels: Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen; Middlemarch, by George Eliot; and The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James.  The works of these three writers constitute a central tradition in the history of the English novel, and they share many formal and thematic features, including moral scrupulousness, precise evocations of social circumstance, carefully modulated irony, narrative subtlety and complexity, and an interest in representing consciousness.  We will read and discuss the novels in detail and consider them in relation to one another and in the context of recent scholarship.  Students will spend the last six weeks of the semester working on substantial seminar papers, which they will present to the class.  Prerequisite: 300-level ENG literature class other than ENG 300.


An advanced seminar, focusing on a capstone independent research project, for senior English majors who have already taken one 400-level seminar.  Students will draw on the knowledge they have developed during their coursework in the major to create a project that synthesizes and extends that knowledge and engages in a wider scholarly or professional conversation. Research topics may be influenced by the instructor’s areas of expertise. Students will present their capstone projects publicly and will write reflections on the research process.  Prerequisite: senior ENG major and 400-level ENG literature course.


UMF hosts Henry David Thoreau Bicentennial Symposium

On Friday, Sept. 22, UMF celebrated the life and work of author Henry David Thoreau. The event kicked off in the morning with a roundtable discussion, followed by a talk from guest speaker James Finley. Professors Steve Pane and Kristen Case performed a collaborative piece featuring Pane on piano and Case reading poetry. Finally, the symposium ended with a documentary by filmmaker Huey: Henry David Thoreau: Surveyor of the Soul.


James Finley

James Finley delivered a thoughtful and thorough analysis of Thoreau’s collection, The Maine Woods. In his lecture, Finley offered insight into Thoreau’s appreciation for wilderness.

“I think his book The Maine Woods is fascinating as it is both an environmental book and a political book,” Finley said. “I think he liked how Maine wasn’t as developed as Massachusetts, so he could go canoeing for three weeks and not run into dams.”

“As a thinker, he never lands on one place and stays there,” Finley said in regards to what he found interesting about Thoreau. “He’s always rethinking and revising his thoughts.”

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Kristen Case and Steve Pane

English professor Kristen Case collaborated with music professor Steve Pane on a performance that showcased their connection to Thoreau. Case read poetry inspired by Thoreau’s journal entries, and Pane accompanied her on piano. Pane also performed a solo piece (with a brief flute interlude).

Finally, the symposium ended with the documentary Henry David Thoreau: Surveyor of the Soul, directed by Huey. Surveyor of the Soul featured interviews from Thoreau scholars and a fitting soundtrack comprised of “tunes that Thoreau would have sang around the fire,” discovered when Huey flipped through the Thoreau family songbook.

Huey addressed many issues Thoreau would have with the world today; “There’s the issue of environmental ethics today, people chaining themselves to the White House fence, and also Standing Rock…” he said. “There’s all that, and Native Americans, they’re still struggling to get their rights, so I think that what he was touching upon are issues that we still haven’t fully resolved in our society.”

When an audience member asked Huey for his personal thoughts on Thoreau and if he felt the film rang true to him, Huey posed some questions of his own, including: “Who is Henry David Thoreau?”

The bicentennial symposium delivered multiple answers. Thoreau was an environmentalist, author, philosopher, rebel, and a friend of the finer things in life.

“He’s a special figure in American writing. We have a finite time to be on this planet, and Thoreau really makes you think about that,” Case said. “Are you really spending your days the way you want to? I think that’s a question we need to be asking.”



UMF English Department kicks off the new year with Fall English Barbecue


English majors and professors discussing classes, the food, and literature

On Friday, Sept. 15th, the English faculty and several English majors gathered at professor Daniel Gunn’s house for the inaugural Fall English Barbecue. Set in the perfect backdrop with a comfortable breeze, trees with fiery leaves of red, orange, and gold, and an endless soundtrack of classic and indie rock, the event was an opportunity for current faculty and upperclassmen to meet incoming English majors and discuss the life of an English major at UMF.


Professors and students discussing favorite books and authors

Incoming English majors had the opportunity to meet and talk to English professors about the different classes they offer, bond over literary puns and apparel, and enjoy a scrumptious barbecue dinner and dessert, thanks to professor Gunn and his wife.

Upperclassmen attended as well. Along with catching up with old professors and acquainting themselves with the unfamiliar ones, they also talked with the new students about classes, homework, and campus life around UMF in general.


Professors and students had the chance to bond over various literary jokes and apparel

The barbecue lasted well after the skies turned black for the night. The English department looks to keep this budding tradition alive for years in hopes that new English majors will feel welcome in their new community.

Noisy, Wild, and Fire-Breathing: a Discussion on Dragons, Westeros, and Storytelling

panel again

On September 4th, “Noisy, Wild, and Extremely Troublesome: Lectures in the Arts and Humanities” kicked off the new school year with an engaging discussion about the smash hit HBO series Game of Thrones, based off the series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin. Presented by UMF English professors Eric Brown, Kristen Case, Daniel Gunn, and Michael Johnson, the panel and the audience joined in a rigorous analysis of the show’s narrative, storytelling, and its mysterious appeal to a vast audience; comparing these elements from past seasons with the current season.

Beginning with Johnson, he expressed that his favorite part of the show was its tendency to draw on multiple genres. Case explained that she is not typically a fan of fantasy, however, Game of Thrones drew her in with its exploration of power (powerful characters, power dynamics, etc.), as well as their fight scenes. She claims that Game of Thrones fight scenes are “compelling,” adding that “the cinematography, the music, the imagery, it all builds tension and you can feel the anxiety that comes with the action.”

Gunn enjoys the excess that comes with Game of Thrones. As a reader of the series before watching the show, he was thrilled to see the excess of the world of Westeros brought to life on the screen. Like Case and Johnson, Brown was also interested in the layers of genre. He appreciated that the first season was lowkey on the fantasy register, allowing fans outside of the genre to approach it easily. He went on to say that the series “has advanced beyond the books,” which he would go on to explain is both a good and bad thing for the series as a whole.

The audience chimed in with their own responses to how they got into the phenomenon. Many agreed that it was the compelling storylines that drew them in, and others enjoyed that the world of Westeros felt immersive and complete. However, fans who read the books argued that this translation is lost in the show.

One audience member explained what he feels is the biggest downfall of the series, with which everyone agreed: “Martin wasn’t done when the TV adaptation started. He gave them an outline to work with, he’s nowhere near done the books. What people like about Game of Thrones is the expansiveness, but now Martin has to wrap up the series in two books.”

Case reiterated this point, stating that the narrative was “slightly clumsy this season” because they need to tie things up. The storytelling and consistency has suffered as a result: for example, travelling across vast distances now happens in a matter of an episode instead of a season. Brown agreed, arguing that at this point, “the series is spinning out plot after plot, it’s going too fast to keep up with.”

Despite this season’s fall in storytelling, the panel and audience agreed that the characters and cinematography come together to create an intensity that draws audiences closer to their screens. “We really see the characters transform, like Jamie [Lannister], who went from kind of a lazy heartthrob into this respected war hero,” Case claims, “and Daenerys, who at the beginning was a child sold into marriage, and she’s now the Queen of Dragons. The character arcs are compelling.”

As Game of Thrones comes to a close next season, our panel and audience will be glued to their screens to see how it the epic adventure ends. According to Johnson, whenever that end may come, “we plan to be back in Lincoln for another discussion!”

Looking back at Spring 2017


Brunch for graduating senior English majors



Richard Southard’s presentation, part of his Wilson Scholars presentation on literary adaptation and the art of magic.

Symposium Day Highlights

Game Day in the Proto-Science Fiction Class

The Surrealist Salon

At the inaugral Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society) meeting.



Adaptation and Magic



Literary Adaptation and the Art of Magic” was a performance and presentation by Creative Writing and English major Richard Southard. With the support of a Wilson Scholarship in Spring 2017, Richard worked on a scholarly and creative project focused on adaptations of literature to magic. He developed a set of card magic routines adapted from a variety of literary texts (e.g., a card trick based on John Keats’s “The Human Seasons), which he performed, and he also gave a presentation about the history of magical adaptations of literature and about his own process of adaptation. Since card magic works best in a more intimate setting, for the first fifteen-twenty minutes of the event small groups (4-5 people) from the audience joined Richard on stage, where performed one card trick for each group.



You can experience Richard’s magic for yourself through videos posted on YouTube, including his adaptation of John Keats’ “The Human Seasons.”

The New Commons Project

English majors at UMF should be excited by the arrival this fall of the first stages of The New Commons Project, supported by a Mellon Grant, which will endeavor to build a collection of 24 cultural works (novels, plays, poems, graphic novels, essays, paintings, songs, symphonies, albums, films, videos, performances, philosophical treatises, scientific works, manifestos…). Over a five year period, each of those works will provide a focus for discussion and programming on the UMF campus.

The works will be nominated for inclusion via short videos. Anyone living in the state of Maine can make and submit a video nominating a favorite work. Submissions are already open.

UMF English major Astra Pierson has already submitted her video!


From the press release about the program:

UMF awarded prestigious Mellon Foundation grant

FARMINGTON, ME  (July 10, 2017)—University of Maine at Farmington President Kathryn A. Foster is proud to announce that the University has received a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This prestigious award will be used to support the creation of a New Commons Project in Public Humanities and Arts for UMF and the Maine community.

“Over the course of our history from the 1860s to the present, UMF has championed humanities and arts as a cornerstone of a quality education to help individuals broaden their horizons and contribute to their community,” said Foster. “We are honored by this significant Mellon Foundation award and the opportunity to spotlight a collection of wide-ranging works selected by and for our Maine community.”

Through the next five years, the New Commons Project will help give voice to the role of UMF as a public liberal arts university and as a cultivator and steward of artistic and creative works and the communal ideas they bring to life. Starting in fall 2017, UMF will work with the Maine Humanities Council, schools, libraries and other groups to solicit video entries about works of literature, philosophy, history, music, art, film, theatre and other arts and humanities disciplines that merit a place in a New Commons today.

“The creation of a statewide digital ‘commons’ of artistic, cinematic, historical, literary, and musical work has the potential to become a national model for public liberal arts colleges and state humanities councils who create, share, and disseminate knowledge in behalf of the common good,” said Eugene Tobin, a senior program officer for Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities at the Mellon Foundation.  “We are very pleased to support this thoughtful and innovative contribution to the public humanities and the people of Maine.”

From the wide array of works nominated and posted to the on-line Commons, a project advisory group will select 24 works—classic or contemporary, diverse and compelling—for special use and value to the Maine community in the 21st Century. People on campus and throughout the state will come together on-line and in-person to study, discuss and draw insight and inspiration from these varied and meaningful works.

“As a public institution, UMF celebrates a legacy of providing the community access to the rich experience and exchange of ideas that are found in the arts and humanities,” said Eric Brown, UMF provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The Commons Project invites creation and consideration of our cultural commons found in novels, paintings, films, symphonies, essays, poems, graphic novels, sculptures, treatises, songs or any other artistic and humanistic medium.”

For each work, UMF will host a number of open-to-the-public events, including a faculty-led seminar, public lecture by a prominent scholar, and workshop. In collaboration with local school districts and the Maine Humanities Council, the New Commons Project will coordinate community engagement projects around each work. A digital portal will be established to provide the community with access to extensive online resources. A Digital Commons course will be available to students in which they will work with a Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow to create portal content that will be accessible statewide.

“A commons is something that belongs to all of us. It represents a public good, like clean air or knowledge, from which we all benefit. We want the New Commons Project to embody that idea,” said Kristen Case, UMF Associate Professor of English and Director of the New Commons Project. “We can’t wait to see what works of art, literature, and ideas our diverse community believes we need to consider together here and now.”

For more about the New Commons Project, including how to submit nominations, visit the website at http://newcommons.umf.maine.edu/.


Local Bookseller Offers Student Discounts

Devaney, Doak, & Garrett Booksellers Present UMF Student Reward Program

Hi there. I’d like to take moment to introduce DDG Booksellers’ new University of Maine-Farmington Student Reward Program. In 2017 few personal choices have more power to affect the health of our local communities than where we choose to spend our money. We recognize that many college students have potent reasons to be price conscious, but that they are also conscious of the value of supporting businesses which support their communities. DDG has been Farmington’s Independent Bookstore for over 26 years. Our commitment to community is evident in the national and statewide awards we have won recognizing our community outreach to schools. While the UMF Bookstore has ceased carrying books and become an ecampus.com affiliate, DDG remains committed to providing a physical place to carry, sell and discuss books.

To make supporting a community business with your course book purchases possible we are establishing a new student reward program which works with UMF Faculty members who wish their students to have the choice to buy their books at an independent bookstore. The way it works is simple. Students who enroll will receive both a 10% discount on their course book purchases and a 5% customer reward card on all store purchases given after after every ten books bought here. You can sign up by email or when you stop by the bookstore to pick up your course books. Thanks. We really appreciate your business.
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