by Daniel Gunn
One of the highlights of the fall semester for me was October 12, when students and faculty at UMF celebrated the work of the Irish novelist James Joyce with a day of readings and presentations. Joyce in Farmington developed from discussions that Steve Pane and I had when Steve sat in on my Joyce seminar in the fall of 2005. Joyce loved music—particularly popular song—and Steve helped our seminar to explore the relation between language and music in Ulysses, particularly in the “Sirens” episode, which is composed in an experimental style which attempts to imitate musical forms. We had originally planned a semester-long program of reading groups, concerts, performances, panels, and meals in local restaurants, but we eventually came to our senses and settled on a single day of activities to celebrate Joyce and highlight his relation to music.
During the Common Ground period, at 11:30, a group of faculty and students read the “Cyclops” episode of Ulysses aloud to an alternately entertained and bewildered audience in Roberts 23. The reading was highlighted by the performance of Dara Maguire, a senior in Secondary Education English, who read the narrator’s part with great comic energy and authenticity. (Michael Burke asked me afterwards, “Where did you manage to hire the Irish guy?”) The monstrously exaggerated interpolations were read by a range of students and faculty, including Evan Gleason, Dani Leblanc, Nate Rawson, Hannah Robbins, Michael Johnson, Steve Pane, and Kevin Dettmar, our visiting scholar from Southern Illinois University. The reading provoked much laughter, as it always does, and it also illuminated the play of narrative voices in the episode. Several students who had read Ulysses previously commented that they had not actually understood the structure of “Cyclops”—the game being played—until they heard it read aloud at this event.
At an afternoon session, three students from the fall 05 Joyce seminar read edited versions of their final papers to a small, appreciative group of students and faculty. Drawing on material from Eric Brown’s Falstaff seminar, Evan Gleason explored connections between Falstaff and Leopold Bloom, the main character of Ulysses. Jennie Ferris explored a web of references to the Italian language in Ulysses, including the privileging of Italian as the language of culture and music and its debased appearance in a trashy novel. Finally, Nate Rawson examined the sexual economies of the “Nausicaa” episode, examining Gerty McDowell’s sexuality in relation to the prevailing ideals of femininity that Joyce disrupts and undermines. Kevin Dettmar offered stimulating comments on all three papers, and there was additional discussion as well.
In the evening, in Nordica Auditorium, the day’s events culminated in an innovative lecture and performance by Kevin Dettmar, Steve Pane (piano), and Dan Woodward (tenor). Kevin, who is both a Joyce scholar and a music scholar—his latest book is titled Reading Rock and Roll—gave a lecture in which he discussed musicality in Joyce’s work and argued that Joyce consistently tried to undermine the distinction between high and low art in music and elsewhere. At various points during the lecture, Steve and Dan performed the works that Kevin was discussing.
One highlight for me was Dan’s beautiful rendering of “The Croppy Boy,” a sentimental ballad sung during the “Sirens” episode. As Kevin pointed out, the power of the music, which Joyce seems to recognize and acknowledge in the text, tends to undermine any high-art superiority we might feel towards its melodramatic narrative manipulations or its politics. Another was Steve’s exciting and wildly energetic performance of Antheil’s Airplane Sonata—an avant-garde work by one of Joyce’s favorite composers, which couldn’t be farther, in its aesthetics, from “The Croppy Boy,” but whose non-linear structures somehow coexist harmoniously with it in Joyce’s work. The evening was at once smart, accessible, interdisciplinary, and intellectually exciting—a model, I thought, for the kind of inquiry and exploration that should go on in a university but which our ordinary academic structures don’t often allow.
Alice James Press editor April Ossman reports that AJP’s recent publication, Brian Turner’s poetry collection Here, Bullet, has now won seven awards: 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award; 2006 Maine Literary Award in Poetry; 2006 Northern California Book Award in Poetry; 2006 Sheila Margaret Motten Award from the New England Poetry Club; 2006 PEN Center USA “Best in the West” Literary Award in Poetry; 2006 Lannan Literary Fellowship; 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Poetry.
Apropos Reception: The Humanities Department and the UMF Honors Program hosted a reception in October to celebrate the publication of this year’s edition of Apropos, the UMF journal that showcases the best student writing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and to recognize the English and Creative Writing majors whose work appeared in the issue. Present at the event and reading excerpts from their essays were Amy Ferrari, Bianca Sea Garber, Evan Gleason, and Nate Rawson. The department also took the opportunity to recognize several students from the Humanities (as well as students involved with Humanities courses and programs) who were awarded the new UMF Wilson Scholarships. Wilson Scholars introduced at the reception were Meghan Dzyak (nominated by Dr. Steven Pane); Dustin Gage (nominated by Dr. Daniel Jackson); Danielle R. LeBlanc (nominated by Dr. Jeffrey Thomson); Hannah Robbins and Kimberly Trimpop (not present, Aline Potvin) for a team project (nominated by Dr. Ron Butler); Nathaniel Rawson (nominated by Dr. Paul Outka).
Misty Beck has just been named a “Contributing Editor” to the Annual Bibliography of English Studies, which is a bibliography/database from Taylor and Francis/Routledge publishers in the UK. ABES is rebuilding the database into one that will be offered to libraries as a subscription service. Professor Beck will be writing annotations for new books and journal articles on Romantics-related topics.
Insect Poetics, an anthology of criticism edited by Eric Brown, was published in Fall 2006 by the University of Minnesota Press, and was recently featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Nota Bene” reviews section. Professor Brown will also be presenting the paper “Reimagining the Blackfly in Northern New England” in March at the College English Association conference “Of Mice and Men: Animals in Human Perception” at the University of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
In December, Sylvie Charron participated in a reading and book launch reception for Canuck and Other Stories: Franco-American Women’s Literary Tradition, an anthology of newly translated Franco-American women writers of Maine and the border lands of Canada. Professor Charron, with Sue Huseman, provided the new translation for the novel Canuck, by Cammille Lessard Bissonnette (originally published in French in 1936 by a Lewiston, Maine, newspaper). Two more readings are planned in April, one in Lewiston (April 3), and another at UMF (date TBA).
Elizabeth Cooke reports that she has completed her book manuscript, Living With It: A Family Memoir, and is looking for an agent. She has also recently published an article entitled “Finding Her Footing in China” in China Connection, a journal for New England families who have adopted children from China, and which has also accepted another article, “Back in Time: A Visit to Beijing’s Hutong.”
Michael Johnson presented a paper entitled “Queer Spaces and Emotional Couplings in Deadwood” at the Western Literature Association conference in Boise, Idaho, in October 2006. He was also elected to a 3-year term on the WLA’s executive board. His essay review, “‘The Like of Which Is Found Nowhere Else in All the World’: Placing and Imagining an African American West,” was published in the Fall 2006 issue of Western American Literature.
Gretchen Legler recently published twenty entries in Homeground: A Literary Guide to Landscape Terms (Barry Lopez, ed. Trinity UP, 2006). Professor Legler reports that “this is a beautiful book that would appeal to anyone who loves beautiful writing about landscape—and who is curious about landscape terms. It is also very affordable—I think $20.” She also joyfully reports, “I will be on sabbatical next year, beginning December 2006 and returning January 2008. My only plan is to write!”
Wesley McNair, UMF writer-in-residence and Humanities Department emeritus professor, received a $50,000 USA Ford Fellowship given by United States Artists.
Pat O’Donnell reports that her paper on the use of Preceptors in undergraduate creative writing classes has been accepted for publication in the Pedagogy Forum book of the Associated Writing Programs conference. She also attended the AWP conference in Atlanta in March, along with other members of the UMF faculty and student officers of the Writers’ Guild. On sabbatical last semester, she completed the first draft of a novel called The Waking, and an earlier novel has been submitted to presses by her literary agent. Her short story “Gods for Sale” has also been submitted to a journal. Later in March, Professor O’Donnell will read original prose in a public performance inspired by Bach’s Goldberg Variations, as performed by Stephen Pane.
Emily Paquin’s (Creative Writing) poem “Unborn” was published in the Fall 2006 issue of the on-line journal Poetry Southeast.
Lee Sharkey was a recipient of a 2006 Maryann Hartman Award, given by the University of Maine’s Women in the Curriculum/Women Studies Program, in recognition of her work as a professor, author, editor, poet, and activist.
Rope Walk Press published Jeffrey Thomson’s chapbook, Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, in February.
Michael Burke has been offered a contract from a Boston publisher for a book of essays about Maine.
Jennifer Reid’s book on Louis Riehl has been accepted by the University of New Mexico Press.
Several Humanities Department faculty were recently awarded promotion/tenure for: Ming-Ming Pu and Michael Burke have been promoted to the rank of Professer. Paul Outka has been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor, with tenure.
Several students in the Humanities (or connected with the Humanities) were named as Wilson Scholars for Spring 2007: Mallory Cyr (nominated by Professor Pat O’Donnell); Meghan Dzyak (nominated by Dr. Steven Pane); Chelsea Goulart (nominated by Dr. Jeffrey Thomson); Michael Hughes (nominated by Dr. Jonathan Cohen); Deborah Scamman (nominated by Dr. Christine Darrohn.
Jennifer Baum (English) was recently hired as the editorial production assistant at Down East Magazine. She assists with the design, layout, and occasionally photography for the magazine.
Recent BFA grads Michael Delaney and Jim Doucette have started a reading series held at the Granary in downtown Farmington, called WORD.
Sara Gelston (BFA in Creative Writing, 2005) spent almost a year in Ireland, working; she then took a PR position in Portland, working with architectural firms. Currently, she is applying to a graduate program in Critical Writing and Curatorial Practice in Sweden.
Catherine Merrow (English, 2005) worked for a year at the Farmington Hospital as art director, in charge of finding appropriate historic and cultural pieces and displaying them in artful ways in certain spaces around the hospital, and she is currently working as an assistant director at the hospital.
Paul Oxman (BFA in Creative Writing, 2005) has been working at two jobs: an in-home counselor for families in crisis, and at a home for adjudicated youth. He traveled to Central America for six weeks this fall, and is now back at the home for adjudicated boys, developing all sorts of creative methods for working with them.
by Kyle Baker
[Kyle Baker is a junior in Creative Writing; this excerpt from a longer essay describes his experiences as part of winter term travel class (Biology 277/English 277) co-taught by Drew Barton and Jeffrey Thomson. The full-text of the essay is available as part of the on-line newsletter, posted on the Department of Humanities website: http://humanities.umf.maine.edu/index.php. Click on “news.”]
It’s difficult to anticipate a place you’ve never seen. Most of what I’d seen of Costa Rica came from the movie Jurassic Park, (where the film was shot). I pictured lush green mountainsides, palm trees, and waterfalls. “Hawaiian Tropic” and “Herbal Essences” commercials scrolled through my mind, and I began to feel as if I was headed toward a true tropical paradise, the likes of which I’d only read about. But I’m a skeptic, and I couldn’t help feeling like I’d somehow been misled by magazine captions and travel brochures. Corcovado Nat’l Park: Below Right. The more I thought about the place, the more I began to disbelieve it could be that nice.
On the connecting flight from Atlanta to San Jose, I tried not to anticipate. Anticipation, I thought, would only set me up for disappointment. When we arrived in San Jose, it felt like any other airport. There was a lot of waiting, standing in line, and passing through various security, customs, and immigration checkpoints.
We left San Jose, and I was glad. I didn’t like the haze hanging over the city, and the smell of diesel fumes from busses and trucks was unpleasant. Savegre Mountain Lodge, however, was like nothing I’d ever seen. When we arrived there, I was immediately taken in. We’d already driven high into the mountains, and down again into a verdant, lush valley. We’d been told to keep our eyes open for the resplendent quetzal,
a green, red, and teal-colored bird of nearly unequivocal beauty and stature found only in this area (We saw one later, on the drive out of the mountain valley.) I was anxious. I began to feel that there was something about this place that was entirely different, exciting, and rare. I found at our first meal that some of the things we ate–fruits and fish specifically–were grown and raised on site. It seemed a novelty to me that a place like this, nicely furnished and geared to accommodate tourists, could be in any part self-sustaining. But it was. And it was beautiful, embodying for me a lush, picturesque mountain landscape, and providing a welcome change from rocky New England.
When we left Savegre for Corcovado National Park, a part of me felt melancholy. I would have liked to have spent my entire two weeks here, hiking the mountain paths and spending my evenings in the lounge playing the old nylon-strung guitar and sitting by the fire in quiet reflection. My knees and feet hurt from the 16 kilometer hike a day earlier, and I didn’t feel like traveling nine hours on a bus. But I was excited about Corcovado and what professor Thomson had told me. Almost too beautiful for words, he’d said. He’d been there before.
We arrived at Corcovado at night, and made the 45 minute trek across the beach in the dark. I’d never seen the Pacific before, and even in darkness I was in awe. It was warmer than I thought it would be, and walking through the surf made me think of how different it was than the Atlantic beaches I was so used to. By the light of my headlamp, I could see there were no salty kelp beds. There were no rocks to form tidal pools and trap
little fish and crabs. And there were no shrieking seagulls pecking the sand in search of food dropped by picnicking beachgoers. I walked in silence, just listening to the water and stepping carefully to keep the pebbles out of the tips of my water sandals. Words already felt unnecessary, and I hadn’t even seen what the beach looked like during the day.
It is an indescribable experience to fall asleep in an open-air tent cabin only 30 feet away from a Pacific beach. Though I’d gotten only a few hours of sleep, I felt as well-rested as I’d ever been. Morning at Corcovado felt as if it had come right out of one of the travel brochures toward which I had been so skeptical. As I looked at the beach in the daylight, I couldn’t help but think that this was somehow too good to be true. It was too perfect.
I had the entire morning free, and the prospect of swimming in the Pacific appealed to me. Once I got past the breaking waves and into calmer water, I floated on my boogie board and looked back toward the beach. I wondered how many Americans had been out here floating before me, and what they’d said when they’d returned home. Did they tell all their friends about how beautiful the place was? Did they take lots of pictures to prove it? How many more people would arrive here after I left, and how long would it be until the beach began to change?
Though Corcovado provided a beautiful landscape, even more striking to me was the area wildlife. The night we arrived, we went looking for frogs and insects. We saw the smoky jungle frog (leptodactylus pentadactylus). We took pictures of the golden orb spider (nephila maculata). And a few of us failed in our attempts to find any type of
snake. As I sat in a hammock above the open-air bar that first morning, a female green iguana (iguana iguana) descended from the palm-thatched roof and down a tree not five feet from where I lay. She stopped to look at me for a minute, and seemed uneasy that I was there. I couldn’t blame her for her suspicion.
That afternoon, a small group of us hiked with a guide through the forest and up a ridge overlooking the Pacific. After being fitted in climbing harnesses, we arrived at the base of one of the tallest, widest, and (I later learned) oldest trees I’d ever seen. We were hoisted up one by one to an aluminum observation platform 60 feet up, just above the forest canopy. A howler monkey (alouta alouattinae) watched the goings on with disinterest from his perch in a nearby tree. He seemed to prefer munching leaves and moving leisurely across the branches to watching us spinning in the air tied to the end of a climbing rope. While in the canopy, we saw through our binoculars toucans, green and scarlet macaws (ara macao and ara ambiguous), and myriad other birds in flight. I was amazed at how obnoxious the screeching calls of the macaws were, and found it a bit ironic that a bird so beautiful could make such a horrible sound. But at the same time, I enjoyed seeing them free and in flight, outside the confines of a pet store or zoo. Here, the birds were not taught to talk, and were not kept in cages as a source of enjoyment and amusement for spectators and would-be owners. They were able to fly, raise their young, and eat fresh fruit as they saw fit, and there was something liberating about having the privilege to see them as they were meant to be seen.
If one was to ask me what I thought was the answer to preserving Costa Rica while sharing its beauty with the world, I would probably have no response. While it is perfectly idealistic (and at the same time, unrealistic) to think that not visiting this country is the best way to save it, I find myself remembering the paradox. If no one knows about the biodiversity of this place, no one will make any effort to conserve it. And if too many people visit it, it will be misused and eventually ruined.
I’d like to provide an example to my readers that I may use to illustrate the dangers of excessive tourism and misuse. Manuel Antonio National Park lies 132 kilometers south of San Jose, and is located on the Pacific coast. The area was designated a National Park in 1972, and is well-known for its beautiful beaches and diverse wildlife. What many people don’t know is that it’s infested. It’s infested not by disease-carrying mosquitoes or invasive plant species, but by tourists. As I walked through the entrance to the park, I expected another Corcovado. I expected quiet, sandy beaches, and pounding surf punctuated only by the sounds of birds. Instead, I got a waiting line, and could only hear the voices of people on the beaches. Along the side of the main trail, rare trees (the name of which I cannot recall) that shed their bark as a defense mechanism were carved with letters: love notes in various languages, names of people who had visited, and little slogans which meant something to the people carving them. Above us, white-faced capuchin monkeys sat close on low-hanging branches, eyeing our backpacks and waiting for the opportunity to unzip them and search for food. Every now and then, a plastic water bottle lay in the leaves off the trail. In Corcovado, the monkeys were afraid of us, darting high into the canopy if we got too close. In Corcovado, there were no carvings in any of the trees, and there were no discarded plastic bottles along the trail.
Our Costa Rican guide, Luis, seemed a little ashamed of Manuel Antonio, and as we walked he remarked how a lot of people did not know how to behave here. Some people don’t respect nature at all, and that makes me very sad, he said to me as he looked at the carvings in the trees. I couldn’t argue with him.
11:30am-1:00pm: English Club Meeting. 101 Roberts
October 12 A Day in Celebration of James Joyce
11:30am-12:45pm: Reading of “Cyclops” episode from Ulysses, featuring Dara Maguire, Dan Gunn, Dan Ryder, and other students and faculty. Roberts C-23
4-5:15pm: “Reading Ulysses”: panel of student papers, by Nate Rawson, Jennie Ferris, and Deborah Scammon. Student Center NDH A
7:30pm: Lecture/Performance on Joyce and Music, featuring Kevin Dettmar, Professor of English at Southern Illinois University and author of The Illicit Joyce of Postmodernism and Is Rock Dead?, with performances by Steven Pane, piano, and Dan Woodward, tenor. Nordica Auditorium.
7:30pm: Michael Burke, The Same River Twice. Thomas Auditorium
There will be a staged reading of Linda Britt’s play, “Bottom of the Ninth,” performed by faculty members from the Department of Humanities. More information about date, time, and place of the performance will be forthcoming.
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