6th Annual Peace Poetry Contest May 12 Text

The English department will host its 6th annual Genesee Valley Peace Poetry Contest Awards Ceremony on May 12 at 7 p.m. in Alice Austin Theater.

This year, students from over 30 local elementary and middle schools will take part in the event by reading their poetry for family, friends, and others.

 Roughly 500 poems on the theme of peace are submitted for the contest each year, from which 70 winning poems are selected. Contestants compete in three separate age categories: kindergarten through 2nd grade, 3rd grade through 5th grade, and 6th grade through 8th grade.

The contest is organized each year by Geneseo English professor Rob Doggett, a scholar of the poetry of W.B. Yeats.

“Young people need a stable, nurturing and peaceful environment to flourish,” says Doggett. “Unfortunately, a lot of young people aren’t given the chance to find that peaceful environment, because they live amid conflict and sometimes, as is the case with many young people in the US; they simply aren’t given the chance to think about peace – about the things that make them happy, content, loved.”

Doggett also emphasizes that the poetry contest is about “helping students to develop their own creative skills. Writing poetry is a difficult skill, and it’s something that some students naturally do well. So what’s great is when one of these students, someone who’s maybe become frustrated with school, suddenly finds that he or she has a real gift.”

The contest is important, Doggett adds, “because it teaches everyone involved that peace is something valuable – it’s something worth thinking about and writing about.”

Another prize for Porter

English major Will Porter has racked up another prize – this one for an essay he delivered in Pittsburgh at the 2011 convention of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society (March 23-26).

Will’s essay on Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself took second place in the “Critical American Literature” category.

Back in November, Will won the Dante Prize for “best essay submitted by an undergraduate in any American or Canadian college or university,” awarded by the Dante Society of America.

Stelzig book on Robinson wins Barricelli Prize

Back in June, we reported on the publication of Gene Stelzig’s Henry Crabb Robinson in Germany: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Life Writing by Bucknell University Press.

Stelzig’s book has now been awarded the 2010 Jean-Pierre Barricelli Book Prize for the year’s best book in Romanticism studies.

In communicating the award, Prof. Larry H. Peer, Executive Director of the International Conference on Romanticism and Professor of Comparative Literature at Brigham Young University, wrote to Stelzig that, “Your book is a particular piece that has been needed in the field of Crabb Robinson studies for generations.”

Stelzig will receive a commemorative plaque at the annual meeting of the International Conference on Romanticism in Montreal next October.

Henry Crabb Robinson
(1775-1867) met Goethe and Schiller and left his impressions of S.T. Coleridge, Charles Lamb, William Blake, William Wordsworth, and other writers in his Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence, first published in 1869.

New Course! Hum II in Thoreau Territory

This summer, SUNY Geneseo students can take Western Humanities II within walking distance of Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau went to “live deliberately,” an experience that inspired one of the most influential and important works of American literature, Walden.

Students will read and discuss the works on the Hum II syllabus – Walden included – in an area steeped in the history that those works reflect and, in some cases, helped to bring about.

If you enroll in the course, you’ll live in Concord’s historic Colonial Inn, which British soldiers and American minutemen passed in order to exchange “the shot heard round the world” just a few hundred yards away. (The Inn has been featured, more recently, on SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” television show: stay away from room 24!) You’ll be able to walk from your own room, haunted or not, to the Concord battle site, but also to places connected to 19th-century controversies over women’s rights and African-American slavery. Besides Thoreau, authors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller and Louisa May Alcott lived and worked in Concord.

Classes will be held in a variety of locations in the area, including the house where Thoreau was born, the Thoreau Institute at the Walden Woods Project in Concord, and, of course, outdoors at the pond itself.

There will be field trips to downtown Boston, where colonial revolutionaries took actions derived from the words of John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government; and to the National Historical Park in Lowell, Massachusetts, to see examples of the factory system that provoked intellectuals like Karl Marx because of its dehumanizing features.

Concord is a commuter-rail stop in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system, which means that the Freedom Trail and the Boston Commons, the Museum of Fine Arts, the New England Aquarium and Fenway Park, fabulous restaurants and splendid musical performances – all the cultural and recreational offerings of one of America’s great cities – are just a half-hour away.

This new course is part of SUNY Geneseo’s continuing connection to the work and legacy of Walter Harding, pioneering Thoreau scholar and Geneseo English department faculty member from 1956 to 1982.

Another Triumph for Molly Smith Metzler (English ’00)

Dramatist and Geneseo English alum Molly Smith Metzler, who launched her playwriting career in Geneseo’s Black Box Theater, has had a play selected for main stage production in the 2011 Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky. Metzler’s Elemeno Pea was one of six plays selected from over 1,000 entries for the country’s largest and most prestigious competition for new plays and emerging playwrights. The play will open March 8, 2011 at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Quoted in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Marc Masterson, Artistic Director of the Humana Festival, said that Metzler’s play has “the potential … to be a break-out production both for Metzler and for the festival. It’s funny, it’s socially aware and the character work is extraordinarily confident and full. … You would not think this was written by an early-career playwright. It’s so confident and self-assured and fully-rendered.”

Since graduating from Geneseo, Metzler has fashioned an impressive career. In 2003, a revision of her original Geneseo play, Training Wisteria, won the Kennedy Center’s Best New Play Award in the National Student Playwriting Contest, the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award, and the Mark Twain Comedy Playwriting Award. Her play Carve was produced in London’s Tristan Bates Theatre. Close Up Space was produced this past summer at the O’Neill Theatre Center in Connecticut, the artistic “birthplace” of Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s early major works as well as premieres of major plays by Wendy Wasserstein and John Guare, among others.

Geneseo English major wins prestigious Dante Prize

The Dante Society of America has awarded its annual Dante Prize for the “best essay submitted by an undergraduate in any American or Canadian college or university” to William Porter, a junior English major at SUNY Geneseo and a participant in Geneseo’s Edgar Fellows program.

Porter’s winning essay, entitled “‘L’arco de lo essilio’: The Nexus of History, Pilgrimage, and Prophecy in the Heaven of Mars,” is, in Porter’s words, “about the nature and significance of exile” in the Divine Comedy — in particular, “how Dante’s own exile can be transformed into spiritual pilgrimage, shown through the prophecy of his great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida in Cantos 15-17 of Paradiso, or the Heaven of Mars.”

Porter is the second SUNY Geneseo student in the last five years to win the Dante Prize. In 2006, the prize was shared between Lisa Caruana, for her essay “The Dynamic Motion of Paradise,” and John Davies, a student at Harvard College, for his essay “Purgatorio Petroso : The Rime in the Purgatorio.” Prize winners in other years have submitted their essays from undergraduate programs at Princeton, Duke, Berkeley, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Northwestern, Bowdoin, Duke, and Brigham Young.

The Dante Prize is “meant as a sign of encouragement for those younger scholars on whose contributions the future of Dante studies in America will depend,” according to Vincent Pollina, Secretary-Treasurer of the Dante Society of America, who signed for the Prize Committee in his letter to Porter this fall.

Join us at the fall Advisement Mixer

The English department’s fall Advisement Mixer is this Wednesday, October 20, at 2:30 p.m. in the Harding Room (Welles 111).

English majors, minors, and concentrators are welcome to join us for pizza and beverages. Faculty will be mingling and will be glad to answer any questions you may have about their spring, 2011 courses.

You can read descriptions of our spring course offerings here.


Geneseo English profs win award for digital humanities project

The National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) has awarded its October 2010 Community Contribution Award to two projects: The Early Novels Database at Swarthmore College and English 170: The Practice of Criticism at SUNY Geneseo.

English 170: The Practice of Criticism is a collaboration among four Geneseo professors — Schacht, Doggett, Woidat, and Paku — teaching Geneseo’s course of the same name.

Students in the four sections are engaging in online conversation about several “big questions” raised by literary criticism as an enterprise. They’re also working together to annotate a baker’s dozen of short poems.

For their part, the four faculty members have gone out on a limb by recording brief audio commentaries on Yeats’s poem “Easter, 1916” in order to give their students a feel for the questions that critics typically ask of poetry.

Schacht, Doggett, Woidat, and Paku plan to publish a case study of their project in Academic Commons in April, 2011 under the theme “Digital Humanities and the Undergraduate.”

English 170: The Practice of Criticism lives in the SUNY Geneseo wiki.