Humanities Spring Reception and Recognition Ceremony
Faculty and Student News
News from Student Clubs
News From Recent Graduates

Humanities Spring Reception and Recognition Ceremony

After a long winter that saw snowfall well into April, a beautiful and sunny May day provided a particularly appropriate setting for the Humanities Department’s first annual Spring Reception and Recognition Ceremony. To accompaniment of music provided by senior English major Levi Galloway, students and faculty gathered in the lobby of the Education Center to celebrate the (at long last) arrival of spring and to both recognize and celebrate the multiple accomplishments of our students during 2006/07 school year.

Professor (and master of ceremonies) Christine Darrohn opened the ceremony by welcoming special guests, Robert Lively, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Jay Hoar (Emeritus Professor of English), and Allen Flint (Emeritus Professor of English). We were also pleased to recognize and to offer congratulations to five graduating seniors on being accepted to graduate school: Tabitha Clark (Carnegie Mellon), Bernadette James (Chatham College), Joe Normandin (Emerson College), Mark Rice (New York University), Cyndi Woodworth (Chatham College).

We also recognized the Humanities students who were among the inaugural group of Wilson Scholars: Mallory Cyr (sponsored by Patricia O’Donnell), Meghan Dzyak (Stephan Pane), Chelsea Goulart (Jeffrey Thomson), Michael Hughes (Jonathan Cohen), Danielle Leblanc (Jeffrey Thomson), Nate Rawson (Paul Outka), and Deborah Scammon (Christine Darrohn and Sylvie Charon). The Wilson Scholars in attendance at the ceremony spoke briefly about their winning projects and were introduced by their faculty sponsors.

The Sandy River Review, UMF’s creative writing publication, also announced the two students who won awards for best poem and best prose piece published in the Spring 2007 issue: Tim Berry and Erika Hoddinott.

The ceremony closed with the announcement of the winners of two scholarships awarded by the Humanities Department, the Wood Scholarship and the Maud Parks Award, and with the recognition of all the members of the small group of nominees (selected from the 100 or so students eligible for the awards) for these highly competitive awards. To make the list of finalists, each student had to be nominated by at least two Humanities Department faculty members. The 2007 finalists were: Andrea Bechen, Erin Bilodeau, Mattie Bowden, Ashley Crosby, Maria Kovacs, Danielle LeBlanc, Dara Maguire, Caroline Pirri, Anna Plisova, and Margaret Reid.

The Maude Parks award, the department’s oldest award, was established before 1900, when UMF was still a woman’s normal school. Joining over a hundred years of scholarship winners was Margaret Reid, the 2007 Maude Parks winner.

The Eleanor Wood Scholarship, named in memory of an English professor who retired in the 1970s, was awarded to Erin Bilodeau.

Faculty and Student News

Apropos Winners: The 2006-2007 edition of Apropos, the UMF journal that showcases the best student writing in the Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, Sciences, and Honors, included the work of several Humanities students: Caleb Collins, Danielle LeBlanc, Elizabeth Montville, Jon St. Peter, Joe Normandin, and Lars Farabee. French psychoanalytical theorist Jacques Lacan did well also, as his theories informed two of the prize-winning essays, Caleb Collins’ reading of the novel House of Leaves (which was selected as the top essay) and Elizabeth Montville’s discussion of children’s fantasy films (which earned third place). In her second-place essay, Danielle LeBlanc applied the work of gender studies theorist Judith Butler (whose writing is nearly as abstract and difficult as Lacan’s) to her interpretation of the character Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Misty Beck presented a paper entitled “Common Objects and the Poetry of Labor” as part of  “The Romantic Machine” panel at the ICR 2007 Conference on “Romantic Objects” in October in Baltimore, where she also chaired a panel on “The Objects of Nature and the Nature of Objects.” Additionally, she has been working as a contributing editor for The Routledge Annotated Bibliography of English Studies, a selective database highlighting the most significant publications each year in literary studies. As editor to the Romantics area, she writes short annotations highlighting the usefulness of the work to scholars, students, and  other researchers. The works include primary sources (from standards like John Clare: Major Works to topical anthologies like Writings of the Luddites and The Poetry of Slavery) and a range of critical articles and monographs. She has written annotations on articles on Joanna Baillie, Wordsworth, and Charlotte Smith, and on books on landscape, imperialism and travel writing.

The anthology that Eric Brown recently edited, Insect Poetics, was featured in the two most recent issues of the on-line journal Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture (3.1 and 3.2). An interview with Professor Brown is featured in issue 3.1 ( His review of Charlotte Sleigh’s A Cultural History of Myrmecology is forthcoming in Anthrozoös. Awarded a Fulbright to Norway for 2007-08, he is currently teaching in Bergen, Norway, and he reports that “the mountains and fjords are the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. In Bergen, the local open-air fish market also sells wolf pelts, whale meat, and troll dolls, and it rains (or threatens to) perhaps 90% of the time.  We live in a small apartment on the block between Henrik Ibsen’s National Theatre and the new-fangled Cinema. The students at the university have been generally excellent especially because they have forgiven my inability to pronounce a single one of their name’s correctly.  Griffin now speaks more Norwegian than I do.”

Michael Burke has been offered a contract from a Boston publisher for a book of essays about Maine. His recently published memoir The Same River Twice was named as an honorable mention for the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment’s first annual ASLE Award for creative writing. He is also editing an anthology of criticism on Maine’s Place in the Environmental Imagination.

In September Amy Clary’s article “TechnoNature: Wilderness and Simulation on the ‘Last Frontier'” appeared in Technoculture, a special issue of Interdisciplinary Humanities, published by the National Association for Humanities Education. She also presented the paper “Wild Images: Simulation and Scopophilia on the ‘Last Frontier'” at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference in Portland in November.

Jonathan Cohen’s book has been accepted for publication by Prometheus Books under their Humanity Books imprint.  It should come out in their Fall 2008/Winter 2009 catalog.  The tentative title is Science, Culture, and Free Spirits: A Study of Nietzsche’s Human, All-Too-Human.  The book seeks to give a reading of Human, All-Too-Human (1878) as the watershed of Nietzsche’s philosophical development.

Tara Gagnon, creative writing major, has been named a Michael D. Wilson Scholar for 2007. Her faculty sponsor is Patricia O’Donnell. Her project involves writing a short story based on the historical flooding in 1949-50 of several Maine towns to make way for a new hydro-electric dam.

Katharine Gergosian, secondary education English major, was selected as a George J. Mitchell Peace Scholar, a scholarship sponsored yearly by the University of Maine System. The scholarship will cover her costs for attending one semester at the University College, Cork, Ireland.

Michael Johnson recently published three articles: “Looking for the Big Picture: Percival Everett’s Western Fiction” in Western American Literature (Spring 2007);”Teaching Toni Morrison’s Paradise: Race, Justice, Violence, and the American West” in the anthology The Fiction of Toni Morrison: Reading and Writing on Race, Culture, and Identity, edited by Jami Carlacio; and “Traumatic Experience and the Representation of Nature in the Novel and Film of The Pawnbroker” in Literature/Film Quarterly (Fall 2007). Over the summer, he was invited to speak at the Meagher County Book Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, where he gave a presentation on his work in progress: “Taylor and Rose Gordon: A Biography of Harlem and Montana.”

Gretchen Legler’s On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica was named the best book of environmental creative writing published in 2005-2006 by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. At ASLE’s Seventh Biennial Conference in Spartanburg, South Caroline, June 2007, Professor Legler was presented with the inaugural ASLE Award in creative writing. For more details, see the ASLE website:

George Miller delivered a paper (“Existential and Social Justice in Emerson’s Theory of Compensation”) at the Northern New England Philosophy Association conference in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on October 12. He also reports that Joseph Stephenson, a recent UMF Philosophy graduate, was there also, delivering a paper in the student session (“Nietzsche and the Un-free Self Creator: A Reconciliation of Nietzschean Free Will and Determinism”), and observes: “I attended the student session, which had (I thought) the best discussions of the whole conference. All three papers were excellent, but Joe’s was, of course, the best. He really did shine. He didn’t just read the paper, as the others did; he stood up and spoke extemporaneously, consulting note cards from time to time, and he handled the questions afterward very well, too.”

Jennifer Reid’s book on Louis Riehl has been accepted by the University of New Mexico Press.

Margaret Reid, creative writing major, has been named a Michael D. Wilson Scholar for 2007. Her award will help fund a trip to Nashville, which will also be the subject of a personal essay about songwriting. Patricia O’Donnell is her faculty sponsor.

Penelope Schwartz Robinson’s essay collection Slippery Men has won the Stonecoast Book Award and will be published by New Rivers Press in October, 2008.

Jeffrey Thomson has two books coming out,  Many Ways to Dig a Tunnel, translations from the Spanish of Juan Carlos Flores, with Marta Hernandez Salvan, in late fall 2008 from Green Integer Books, and Have you Heard? Poems From the Fishouse, co-edited with Matt O’Donnell and Camille Dungy in early 2009 from Persea Books.  Also, he was awarded the 2008 Individual Arts Fellowship in the Literary Arts by the Maine Arts Commission.

Frank Underkuffler attended a program of lectures, seminars, and conversations presented by Oxford University scholars and distinguished alumni on topics ranging from medieval philosophy to supervolcanoes. He reports, “Dutifully, I attended the law and the philosophy presentations so I missed the more dramatic stuff. ‘Meeting Minds’ was the first-ever University-wide reunion weekend. And it didn’t rain once.”

Jan Watson-Hein reports that her novel, entitled The Dubious Gift of Empty Spaces, has been signed by Tin House Books ( The novel will be promoted as a featured title of their New Voice Series and is tentatively slated for publication in late 2008.

News from Student Clubs

Literary Society: The newly established Literary Society has started holding regular meetings on Monday nights from 5:30-6:30 on the third floor of the Creative Writing house. Any student interested in literature is welcome to join. As this is a new club, members have been involved in exploring what they want the club to be and do, and, as a further exploration of what it means to be a Literary Society, the club is planning several events for spring semester around the theme: what does “literary” mean? For more information, contact club president Sabrina Landry.

Religion and Philosophy (reported by Jacques Rancourt): The officers of the Religion and Philosophy club this year are: Jacques Rancourt—president; Matthew Luzitano—vice president; Mollie Lyne—secretary; Meg Reid—treasurer. The Religion and Philosophy Club meets the first Thursday of each month in Jennifer Reid’s office, Roberts 136. The Religion and Philosophy Club sponsored a presentation on the 1651 Louis Taiaeronk’s Condolence of the Ursulines on Friday, November 30. Also, the club is having a end-of-the-semester dinner for its members as well as a farewell for one of its advisors, Professor Kristen McLaren.

Writer’s Guild (reported by Jacques Rancourt): Officers of the Guild this year are: Jacques Rancourt—president; Matthew Luzitano—vice president; Dani Leblanc—secretary; Andrea Bechen—treasurer. Writers’ Guild meets Mondays at 7pm in the attic of the Creative Writing House.

In other news, Writers’ Guild held its first-ever write-a-thon lock-in. Members of the Guild wrote all night long Friday November 29th through Saturday morning, fueled by high-doses of caffeine and prompts. This event also served as a fundraiser, as the Guild accepted pledges from faculty and community members who wished to support the artistic endeavors of those who were staying awake, and proceeds will fund the Sandy River Review Editor’s Choice Award.

News From Recent Graduates

Jennifer Baum is working at Downeast Magazine.

Peter Biello, BFA Creative Writing, made his debut recently as a radio journalist on National Public Radio. He attributes his getting a foot in the door in radio to Gretchen Legler’s “radio essay” project in ENG 312.  Peter says “I hope you are all doing well. I have some interesting news. Some of you are regular listeners to NPR. . . and some of you heard me talk about this story as it was being researched and edited. It aired on NPR’s ‘Day to Day’ and is now archived:”

A former Creative Writing major, Kaorlyn Buotte, is now chair of the English Department at Leavitt High School.

Mallory Cyr is working for the HRTW National Resource Center as an advocate for youth with disabilities or illnesses.

David Disarro is in the PhD Program in Rhetoric and Composition at Ball State University.

Julianne LaMay is a marketing copywriting at a Boston law firm.

Darcie Moore, who graduated with a BFA degree in Creative Writing in 2003, writes to say hello from her new job as a journalist: “I’ve been working almost since I graduated as a reporter at a small newspaper in Brunswick called The Times Record. I started out as an intern and soon an entry level position opened here (which is rare given the funding difficulties of small newspapers).  The only thing I’ve written for the paper so far in first person was about my flight the summer before last with The Blue Angels. However, people here haven’t forgotten it since it details my getting sick from the spins.”

Erin Nichols, BA in English, is attending Simmons College in Library and Information Science.

Mark Rice writes from New York, where he is getting an MFA in Creative Writing:  “I wanted to speak to you about my workshop with Sharon Olds…Firstly, I love it.  But it’s structured in a way that was a shock to me. We workshop the poems on the same day they are due. We don’t get to read the poems to ourselves and prepare for the workshop like we do at Farmington….I’ve got just one other class.  It’s a lit crit course that’s sucking up most of my time and energy.  We’re reading people I’ve never heard of before: Derrida, Lacan, Bakhtin, etc.  It’s super hard but that’s what I get for being in grad school. Brooklyn’s great.  I’m in Williamsburg on the northern coast.  I can see the Manhattan skyline from my porch.  I love my roommates. Emily Whittenhagen (BFA grad) is living south of me.  She’ll be in my neighborhood tonight, so I’ll catch up with her.  It’s great to have a Farmingtonian around when I need one. Miss you tons, tell everyone I say hello!!”

Rachel Ingrid Robbins got her MFA from Stonecoast and is now an English teacher at Winslow High School.

James Ryan, who got his BFA in Creative Writing in 2002, is now part-time faculty at California State University Fullerton where he teaches upper-level composition courses for the Childhood and Adolescent Studies Department. He’s been up to a lot since he left UMF: Masters of Theological Studies (2005) from Boston University School of Theology; author of Rebuilding our Spirits: Recovery from Destructive Spirituality, forthcoming from Intervarsity Press; editor, STEPS Magazine (2003-Present),  a publication of the National Association of Christian Recovery.

Rachel Sasseen is a copyeditor at Penny Press.

Sarah Seveney is teaching English to preschoolers in Seoul, South Korea.

Tryfon Tolides, whose book of poetry was published in 2005, will read at UMF in the spring.

Brendan Veayo is in a PhD program in Houston.

To submit news items, please contact: Michael Johnson, Editor:

Angie LeClair, Production Design,