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English Accents

A Newsletter of the KU Department of English Spring 2018

Randall Fuller On Board


Inside the Issue n Cover Story n Year in Review n Alum Directs Yale Law Institute n Social Justice and Teaching n Recent Alum Achievements n SAGE Letter Randall Fuller, Melville Distinguished Professor of Nineteenth-Century American Literature

n Fundraising Statement

By Rachel Brown KU English warmly welcomes Randall Fuller, a scholar whose “work reaches deep into the archive and attends to the intellectual networks and vibrant communities that produced the rich literature of the nineteenth-century United States.” So begins Laura Mielke, KU English Associate Professor, who confesses that it is “hard to be concise” when describing Fuller’s presence at KU. “Randy writes in such a beautiful and humane way that he reaches a wide audience. Not surprisingly, he has already reinvigorated our intellectual community here by, among other things, establishing a nineteenth-century reading group for graduate students and faculty. I am delighted to have him as a colleague,” she concludes.

Randall Fuller is the inaugural Herman Melville Distinguished Professor of Nineteenth-Century American Literature, a position generously established by Elizabeth Schultz, Professor Emerita of English. Fuller’s career—already distinguished by three books (a fourth co-edited) and numerous chapters, essays, and editorials—reflects his graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned both his MA and PhD. Nineteenth-century subjects have driven Fuller’s scholarship ever since, particularly in relation to the “self and community.” Emerson’s Ghosts: Literature, Politics, and the Making of Americanists (2007), Fuller’s first book, conveys his early interest

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department of english College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

2017-2018 Year in Review students to know what you are doing, and to let prospective students know the many paths an English student can take!


I am honored to be able to write you after my first semester as chair, having taken the baton most recently from interim chair Professor Dorice Elliott who stepped in for the Fall 2017 semester and, of course, from our wonderful outgoing chair, Professor Anna Neill. Not only has there been a changing of the guard in the department: the University has a new Chancellor, Douglas Girod; the Dean of the College, Carl Lejuez, has stepped in to be the Interim Provost; and our current Interim Dean, Clarence Lang, comes to us from leading the Hall Center, which now sees our own former Chair, Professor Marta CamineroSantangelo, at the helm as Interim Director. These changes are all very exciting and, at the College and University level, bode well for the English department and the humanities more broadly. But of course plenty has changed beyond the University that affects us all. The analysis of English language, rhetoric and literature as well as the study and craft of writing are all profoundly sensitive to change and offer us all the means to navigate it for a better future. We have seen tremendous work from our students, whose creative and astute critical skills challenge and shift habits where we need change, especially with regard to diversity and inclusivity, but in so many other arenas as well. They continue to earn recognition in departmental, University, and national awards. And like all of you reading this, they go on from KU to work in a wide range of fields where they truly have an impact—changing lives through creative endeavors, shaping policy, engaging business, practicing law, advocating to shift social perspectives and resources…the list goes on and on. If you have not yet had an opportunity to do so, please visit our website (www.english. and look at our “Why English” page for some wonderful stories about our alums. And please send us your stories so that we can add to this archive—we want our current


As you’ll see in this issue, we have some very exciting news this year. Professor Randy Fuller, formerly Chapman Professor of English at the University of Tulsa, has joined KU as the inaugural Herman Melville Distinguished Professor of American Literature (an endowed professorship made possible through the extraordinary generosity of Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Schultz). Professor Fuller, whose books on 19th-century American literature have been acclaimed both within and outside the academy, is already an essential and integral member of our faculty, as anyone who has had the pleasure to work with him will know. His wonderful research and teaching will raise the national and international profile of KU English. Indeed, the gift of Professor Schultz is one wonderful example of the ways that the generosity of faculty, former students, and friends of the department have had a real impact this past year. We have been able to build up our visiting readers series, bringing many more writers to campus, significantly enhancing our MFA, Creative Writing Ph.D., and undergraduate creative writing programs. We have been able to provide much-needed scholarship support to students taking our spring, summer, and winter study abroad programs, in some cases making it possible for students to travel who otherwise could not. And we have been able to establish a new summer course for graduate students--the Caffyn Institute. We are currently hard at work trying to raise scholarship funds for summer institute participants (who must pay tuition during the lean summer months), so please let us know if you think this is an area where you might be able to help. Finally, thanks to the many generous gifts that came to us in memory of alumnus Ramesh Thippavajjala (our former Provost’s father), we established a new prize for an international graduate student doing outstanding work in our programs. This year the prize went to Ayah Wakkad, whose work focuses on international prison literature and nineteenthcentury British literature. There were many milestones to mark in the last year, including the 35th anniversary of the History of Black Writing, a project that

was brought to KU and has been led admirably by Professor Maryemma Graham since its inception. HBW has, over the years, brought a range of projects, from digital humanities and archival work to conference, outreach, and research, to both academic audiences and the wider public; it has deeply enriched not only the study of black writing but opportunities for students in the department. Even as we celebrate these milestones, we are saddened by the death of our colleague Stephen Evans, a lifetime Jayhawk and a senior lecturer who taught in our department for 28 years, courses ranging from first-year English to Shakespeare to Technical Writing to the Harlem Renaissance. Steve passed away in February, and his presence in the department is already deeply missed. In his memory, his husband, Jim Ward, has established a teaching award for graduate students and lecturers which will be awarded for the first time in spring of 2019. Whatever the next year brings, we can be certain that there will be more milestones to mark, more exciting student and faculty achievements to celebrate, more conferences to attend, and exciting visitors to hear. The distinguished visitors to the department in the past year have included author and activist Kevin Powell, Shakespeare scholars Gary Taylor and Katherine Eggert, linguist Anne Curzan, poet Nikki Giovanni, African American studies scholar Christopher Freeburg, poet and activist Juliana Spahr, science fiction author Karen Joy Fowler, and distinguished rhetorician Carolyn Miller. We have also hosted no fewer than three national and international conferences: one on the study of the English language; one commemorating the 80th anniversary of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; and one on sports and literature. We are truly on the map for English studies with its many exciting, interdisciplinary, and influential ways of approaching our past and current worlds. Again, please be in touch with us and let us know what you’re doing and what you like about what we’re doing! And I wish you a wonderful year ahead. -Katie Conrad

Continued from page 1... in public intellectuals. “From being an Emersonian,” Fuller continues, “I’ve increasingly tried to see how communities grapple with ideas. My second book [From Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature (2011)] is about the Civil War, and the third [The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation (2017)] explores how natural selection affected an intellectual community.” Along with other canonical figures like Emerson and Thoreau, Herman Melville has exerted a “gravitational pull” on Fuller. “My longstanding research interests have been American literary production between 1830 and 1860,” Fuller says, “and Melville is such a towering figure from that period.” Fuller sees Melville “as an artist who is so attuned to the pulsating currents of his period and so gifted with exceptional language that he ends up tell-

ing us not only about the America of the 1850s, but also the America of today.” Moby-Dick is particularly resonant in post9/11 society, Fuller asserts, because it addresses the “classic problem of Ahab, who is an authoritarian on a democratic ship”; the “incredibly important facet” of race; and “issues of the post-human and human exceptionalism.” Fuller will continue to explore Moby-Dick and race in a literature course that coincides with Melville’s 2019 bicentennial, an event he will further commemorate by inviting key Melville scholars to present at KU and writing “a general interest reflection on Melville scholarship and why he is more relevant than ever.” A triangulation Fuller is also pursuing involves Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and theater. In his longest on-deck project, Fuller intends “to retell the story of Transcendentalism from the perspective of the women involved,” an endeavor in the spirit of Jill

Lepore’s Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (2013). Doing so, Fuller explains, will bring these previously obscured yet influential figures around the Transcendental intellectual community “into a shared light.” KU English is thrilled to work with Fuller, and Laura Mielke speaks for many when she says that “our great fortune in receiving the gift of the Melville Distinguished Professorship has been matched by our great fortune in having Randy join us in that position.” Fuller likewise feels “very fortunate to be in a department that is so smart and so collegial, unfailingly so. Everyone I’ve met has been both welcoming and fun to discuss ideas with.” Please join in our shared good fortune by welcoming Herman Melville Distinguished Professor Randall Fuller to KU English!

Alum Directs Public Interest Law Institute at Yale By Ellen Bertels Before Anna VanCleave was a law student, or a public defender, or the director of a distinguished public interest law institute, she was an English major. VanCleave chose to study English in part because she liked how books offer their readers a look into “alternate histories and geographies,” the opportunity to see different lives in different times. She also “just liked reading.” As an undergraduate at KU, she was particularly struck by Dr. Mary Klayder’s freshman seminar, “So You Want to Be a Writer, Huh,” because it made her think more about the precise details that go into a piece of writing. On the other end of the spectrum, she liked Dr. Joseph Harrington’s class on globalization because it asked her to think more broadly about the role of literature in the world. The political world and the literary world, she realized, overlap constantly; they “can’t be divorced” from one another. After graduating from KU, VanCleave attended the New York University School of Law as a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar. Her interest in the client service aspect of law led her to pursue a career as a public defender, first in Washington, D.C., then with the Orleans Public Defenders in New Orleans, Louisiana. After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans public defender system was forced to rely on unsteady sources of funding. VanCleave worked to assist with the city’s growing public defense workload as “people came together in the community . . . and figured out how to rebuild a stable and better-resourced public defenders system.” Later, as the Chief of the Capital Division of the Orleans Public Defenders, VanCleave represented individuals facing the death penalty. In order to get their charges reduced to non-capital charges, VanCleave had to reshape the public’s perception of her clients. To portray an accurate version of their lives, she had to learn “what the more thorough, more nuanced, more accurate narrative is” of each client’s story, then find the most compelling way to portray that narrative. It was a sort of storytelling that sought to “achieve justice for individuals and communities.” Now, VanCleave faces questions of access to justice on a larger scale. As the Director of the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law at Yale Law School, VanCleave helps attorneys, professors, and students promote equal access to justice through research, fellowships, colloquia, and workshops. The Center focused its most recent research on topics such as the policies surrounding solitary confinement and the housing available to death-sentenced prisoners across the U.S. While largely data-driven, the Liman Center’s research and advocacy work are reminders of the human impact that policies have. Much as she noted about her study of English, VanCleave’s work continues to investigate how the political and the narrative overlap one another, and how we can use both to promote justice.


Social Justice as Teaching Practice English Accents sits down for a chat with Marta Caminero-Santangelo and two of her students about her University Scholars Honors Seminar, “Stories of Human Rights and Social Justice.”

English Accents: What was the genesis for you teaching the University Scholars seminar? Marta Caminero-Santangelo: Actually [University Honors Program Director] Bryan Young and [University Honors Program Assistant Director] Anne Wallen came to me to discuss the idea. I was very excited about the possibility of getting to teach an interdisciplinary cohort of such fantastic, engaged students. EA: How did you arrive at the idea for a social justice theme? MCS: I’ve been teaching the literature of social justice for a few years now. I was looking for a topic that could be approached from a variety of disciplinary angles, and a broad topic like human rights and social justice seemed perfect. EA: Can you tell me a little bit about how you originally got interested and/or involved in social justice? MCS: My interest in social justice has been developing for two decades, as I’ve been teaching and writing about Latinx and African American literatures. But the real turning point was when I read a book called The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea, which is about a group of undocumented immigrants who died while trying to cross the desert. The book just moved something in me, and I became an immigrants rights activist. EA: What’s your experience been like leading a University Scholars class? MCS: The group of students is so engaged and insightful. They often take the discussion in unexpected directions, and they are so sophisticated already on social justice issues. EA: How can college campuses serve as hubs for social justice? MCS: Students are our next generation of activists. Because college campuses provide a space to encourage real critical thinking about our society, we are a natural space for activism. I hope we nourish and nurture our students to tap into their passions and commitments. Marta Caminero-Santangelo was born to Cuban immigrant parents in Canada, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, earned her BA in English from Yale University and her PhD in English from UC Irvine. She came to KU as an assistant professor in 1997.


​​ENGLISH ACCENTS: What made you want to apply for the University Scholars seminar? MONICA MARTINEZ: It was really my awesome adviser, Emily Gullickson, who encouraged me to apply. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to have conversations about difficult topics and my adviser helped give me that push to go for something as big and prestigious as the University Scholars Program. EA: Can you describe your project for the class? MM: My project is about the labor exploitation of undocumented immigrants in the United States. I explore why and how they are being exploited by looking at stories/testimonies about exploitation as well as looking at research about the types of labor that are exploitable in the US. I will examine exploitation as a violation of human rights by such means as unsafe working conditions, unjust wages, and using the fear of deportation by employers as a way to keep undocumented immigrants in exploitable positions. My mission is to bring awareness to the issue and show that undocumented immigrants deserve the same rights as other humans. EA: How did you pick your project topic? MM: I knew from the start that I wanted to do my project about labor exploitation because I think it is a huge issue that goes unnoticed in our society and that the labor performed by undocumented immigrants is really taken for granted. I am also an American Studies major and a lot of what I study is focused on the Hispanic immigrant experience in the United States. Unfortunately, exploitation is something that many immigrants experience in the US. Currently, I am in another class called “Labors of Love?” taught by the wonderful Professor Joo Ok Kim. She has introduced me to authors such as Irene Mata and Grace Chang who write frequently about the exploitation of undocumented workers. Their insights really fueled the fire for me to further my studies about the violation of human rights faced by undocumented immigrants through labor exploitation. EA: How can college campuses serve as hubs for social justice? MM: The most important steps college campuses can take moving forward are simply to create awareness about social justice issues in our world and create an environment in which activism can flourish and those voices that provide this kind of awareness can be heard and respected.

ENGLISH ACCENTS: What made you want to apply for the University Scholars seminar? HENRY WALTER: I got interested in the program through my older friends who had done it in the past and had enjoyed it—not to mention, there’s a scholarship and at least a little bit of prestige associated with being a part of the cohort, so those were nice co-benefits. EA: Can you describe your project for the class? HW: My research project is investigating the rhetoric that fossil fuel companies use to communicate with their employees. That is to say, I am investigating the representations that influence those at the mine, wellhead, or other point of extraction. EA: How did you pick your project topic? HW: Climate change is a big interest of mine and frankly, something I think is incredibly important. I am on the debate team and this year’s topic was about how best to restrict private sector emissions. I am a researcher in the Department of Public Affairs and Administration for a project regarding subnational climate governance, and just about any paper I write for a class has some kind of climate spin to it. EA: What’s your experience been like in the University Scholars program? HW: I’ve enjoyed the program quite a bit. Professor Caminero-Santangelo (or, better yet, Marta) is one of my favorite professors at KU because of her enthusiasm for teaching, the subject of discussion, and her ability to include everyone. The book-a-week structure of the class has been difficult at times, but a lot of fun as well because it keeps the discussions moving and reveals the interconnections between different social justice issues. EA: How can college campuses serve as hubs for social justice? HW: College is the critical nexus for social justice issues because these issues get hashed out basically nowhere else.... Forums like the University Scholars program and others on college campuses can serve as vital laboratories to make those solutions most effective in the real world. Henry Walter is a sophomore majoring in economics and political science and is a member of the debate team and several other organizations at KU.

Monica Martinez is from Topeka, KS. She is a sophomore studying American Studies and Spanish at KU.


Mary Klayder Inducted into Women’s Hall of Fame Women & Gender Equity contribute to a rich legacy; they are recognized for their powerful leadership and other significant contributions within and beyond KU’s campus.

Mary Klayder, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies in English, was inducted into the University of Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame this spring. The select group of women inducted each year by the Emily Taylor Center for

Klayder has taught many classes at KU through the Department of English and the KU Honors Program. She has hosted annual study abroad programs to London and Costa Rica, enriching students’ lives through further cultural exchange and interaction. Klayder is especially known among KU English alums (and current students) for her impressive advising, support, encouragement, and ongoing mentorship. Among interviews with alums for this very publication, Mary Klayder is often mentioned as a key figure, guiding her students into their current careers, including creative writing. Through her passion for teaching and mentorship, and her ability to encourage and inspire her students to pursue English studies as a major, minor, and even career, Klayder has profoundly influenced not just the English Department, but the entire University of Kansas. Her induction into the University of Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame is well-deserved recognition of a brilliant educator, leader, and role model. Congratulations to Mary Klayder on this great achievement; KU English is so very fortunate to have you.

Laura Moriarty Publishes New Book and Receives University Scholarly Achievement Award Laura Moriarty, Associate Professor of English, has had a remarkable academic year. Moriarty’s fifth novel, American Heart, was published in January 2018 by HarperTeen. This young adult novel is set in a futuristic United States in which Muslim Americans are registered and sent to detainment camps. Her novel explores the dangers of extreme ideologies, xenophobia, and mob violence, while also engaging with the responsibilities of those outside of danger. Moriarty was also awarded a 2018 University Scholarly Achievement Award by Chancellor Douglas Girod at an awards ceremony on April 23rd. She was one of five faculty members acknowledged for “significant scholarly or research the middle of their careers.” Previous Moriarty novels of special note include The Center of Everything (2003), which became KU’s Common Book in 2014-2015, and her fourth novel, The Chaperone (2012), which made The New York Times bestseller list and has since been adapted as a PBS Masterpiece film. That film is set to be aired later this year. Congratulations, Laura, on your multiple achievements this year!


Reading as Resistance: Danny Caine, New Owner of The Raven Book Store

Photo by Stephan Anderson-Story

By Megan Dennis In August 2017, locally beloved Lawrence bookstore, The Raven, changed hands from the owner for the past decade, Heidi Raak, to 2017 KU English M.F.A. graduate and poet, Danny Caine. Alums who fondly remember (and perhaps still visit) The Raven, should be pleased to know the cats, Ngaio and Dashiell, remain with the store. Danny Caine is not originally from Lawrence, but is a proud Cleveland native and Cavs fan, and his poetry reflects his roots in that city. As a reader of his chapbooks, I know personally the interesting and relevant ways Danny explores Jewish identity, familial relationships, sports and the suburbs, as well as grief and loss through his writing. He was drawn to the University of Kansas’s M.F.A. program in Poetry, and through the program was able to expand his skillset to include graphic design, printmaking, and administering literary events. While working on a graduate student committee, Danny explains, he gained experience curating, advertising, and hosting local readings. Danny’s experiences with books, especially recent post-colonial literature, also continue to affect the sorts of things The Raven values. “I was drawn into reading as resistance,” Danny says. “Indigenous, feminist, BLM [Black Lives Matter], these were all issues being engaged in theory that I could see books can turn into action somehow. That’s how we ended up putting together our ‘reading as resistance’ displays.” According to Danny, the impetus to purchase a bookstore and curate and advertise marginalized voices was not only an interest, but a call to action. He describes trying to mirror theory in daily life, and he sees his role as bookstore owner and curator of events participating in that work. Activism, for Danny, is tied to direct community engagement. Danny sees The Raven thriving as it caters to “politically-motivated readers.” In November of 2017, The Raven started showcasing more books about political engagement. Danny describes his own need to feel engaged in this way: Following the 2016 election, I thought, ‘how can I actually make a difference’? And the bookstore seemed a way to do something beyond tweeting. It’s always a challenge to figure out ways to be more involved. It’s always ‘what else can I do?’. I went to a bookstore in Charlottesville, and I saw an anti-fascist display they made; It made me rethink the displays I can create in my own spaces. In addition to featuring writers of color within the store, Danny, in conjunction with local black activists, inaugurated Mic Supremacy, a monthly event space that includes a featured reader and an open mic centered on people of color. This event space is one tangible way to partner with the community to “mak[e] a difference, because a lot of these writers haven’t had an event space solely dedicated to them. And now we’re drawing more and more POC writers to our event space, including big name writers.” The Raven has also featured innovations like “gumball poetry,” where customers inserted 50 cents into a gumball machine to receive a small poem and a prize, such as a free T-shirt or 20% off their total purchase. 100% of proceeds from “gumball poetry” went to Puerto Rico hurricane relief. In addition, The Raven also donates gift cards to local events and organizations, such as the East Lawrence Block Party, Just Food, Rain Tree School, and Kaw Valley Kickball League. Danny believes his time in the KU English department contributed to his development as a successful independent bookstore owner. I, for one, am excited to see his continued engagement with the community.


English Alums Talk: Charlotte Davis And Black Women’s Self-Empowerment Through Writing and Literature By Rachel Atakpa Charlotte Davis’s forthcoming young adult novel, The Good Luck Girls (2019) is the first in a fantasy duology that follows five girls as they “escape from the ‘welcome house’ that owns them and embark on a dangerous journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge” (Publishers Weekly Oct. 9, 2017). In the novel, Davis (’13) looks to an alternative past to unearth lessons about how to interrogate systems and unpack justified anger in order to “turn it into something productive.” Davis notes that, although there are “some obvious parallels to America’s history with anti-black racism, it’s not the central conflict for these protagonists”—she has created “a world where that doesn’t exist.” Davis intends her work not to be “a story about black suffering” but, instead, “a story about self-empowerment” driven by a desire to engage with how the protagonists came to be in the positions they are—a desire to interrogate how the systems that subjugate them came into being. In our own contemporary moment and political context, the questions that drive Davis’s novels have taken on a “whole new level of urgency.” Davis hopes “to help readers better understand the history [of real-world systems of oppression we have today] and to see not only that we’ve been here before, but that we’ve won.” Davis’s work fits within a long-held tradition of Black women interrogating systems and unearthing new possibilities through storytelling. Further, as Davis intends for her work to be “the books [she] needed growing up,” there is a clarity and confidence to her writing that reflects her desire to write stories that depict young people as “heroes, not just victims.” Growing up, Davis “never got to see black girls or queer girls in fantasy” and, while living in the Midwest, “always felt ‘undercover’—to exist, unapologetically, as a queer person of color seemed almost rude.” Davis’s works seeks to alleviate this absence and erasure by writing “about learning self-love… with inclusive representation.”


Charlotte Davis, author of The Good Luck Girls

To that end, Davis was drawn to writing young adult literature partly because “there’s a lot more room to play with genre and voice than you tend to see in ‘adult’ fiction.” And, although Davis writes primarily fantasy/sci-fi fiction, she notes that her relationship to creative nonfiction, which began during her time at the University of Kansas, has helped her to confront feelings and experiences in a way that “makes sense of them in a way other people can understand,” which is then adapted with “fantasy elements [that] better bring those themes to light, rather than bury them.” Thus, Davis’s work explores “complicated themes from the real world while also providing an escape from the real world.” Situated within a multidimensional “always changing” writing process and “decadent… high fantasy” literary context (Davis recommends reading The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi), Davis’s work emerges as a foundational and intersectional piece of the rich “renaissance of Black art” that is developing in our contemporary moment—an always timely reminder that we must “read books by Black women.”

Book Deals and Publishing Becky Mandelbaum and Bad Kansas By Sarah Anderson KU alumna and Wichita native Becky Mandelbaum (‘13) was named this year’s winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Mandelbaum is the youngest author to receive the honor. After graduating from KU, she attended the University of California-Davis where she wrote the award-winning and brutally hilarious story collection, Bad Kansas. Prior to receiving the Flannery O’Connor Award, Mandelbaum published stories in The Missouri Review, The Georgia Review, The Rumpus, Necessary Fiction, and numerous other print and online journals. She began publishing during her time as an undergraduate in the KU English Department where she says she “worked mostly with Adam Desnoyers, Megan Kaminski, and Laura Moriarty—all spectacular writers and teachers.” She also says that Mary Klayder was her “life coach and spirit guru.” These faculty members were key to Mandelbaum’s success. Theyencouraged her to pursue writing as a career and appear at events like the Taproom Reading Series in Downtown Lawrence throughout her undergraduate education. She says that the community of writers in Lawrence was her first “writing family.” They influenced her immensely and supported her decision to pursue a Masters in Fiction at UC Davis. Despite the name, it was during this time in California that, Mandelbaum wrote the majority of the stories in Bad Kansas as her Masters thesis. According to her, she was homesick for Kansas and had to reach back into Lawrence, “a town crawling with stories and poetry,” to find inspiration for most of the pieces in the book. Like Lawrence, Bad Kansas contains a quirky collection of characters brought together in an exceptional and beautiful way. “The award gives me permission to keep writing, a privilege I don’t intend to take for granted,” Mandelbaum says. In order to continue her focus, Mandelbaum is currently based in the Skagit Valley area of Washington where she spends her time moving between animal sitting and working for the National Park Service. Both jobs provide her time to keep writing and give her a constant influx of people and ideas to draw from. Her attraction to national parks stems from her love of places like Lawrence that “attract extreme and unconventional personalities—the kind of people you want to put in a story, people who have texture and spirit.” A proud Jayhawk, Mandelbaum’s first book is filled with stories of characters and situations that can only be found in the most flown-over state. Her humor and honesty shine through every page in Bad Kansas. She is witty, sharp, and has already achieved great literary recognition. Becky Mandelbaum will continue to be a writer worth reading.

Becky Mandelbaum, author of Bad Kansas

Meet the Frugalwoods

Elizabeth Willard Thames, B.A. in Creative Writing and Political Science (2006), published her first book, Meet The Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living in March 2018. While Thames’s book discusses money management and an environmentally-friendly lifestyle change, she also identifies the book as largely memoir. Meet The Frugalwoods explores the financial and moral decisions She and her family grappled with as they made final decisions to move from the city and office jobs to a homestead in the woods of Vermont. Thames describes the book’s central idea as prompting readers to ask themselves what they wish they were doing, then asking themselves what challenges are standing in their way, and what they can do about those challenges. Thames acknowledges the impact the English department at KU has had on her journey as a writer. The courses she took within the department, as well as motivation from Mary Klayder, have remained strong influences on Thames’s writing process. Before writing her book, Thames enjoyed freelance writing and maintained a money management blog. Through her blog, Thames was contacted by an editor at HarperCollins about a book deal related to her financial independence story. While the book stems from her blog, the book contains entirely new material. Over the past year and a half, the family’s focus on sustainability and frugality has allowed them to enjoy their homestead in the woods, as well as Thames’s continued writing success. Congrats to English alum Elizabeth Willard Thames!


A Letter from S.A.G.E. Co-Presidents Charlesia McKinney and Hannah Scupham Since its founding in 1967, the Student Association of Graduates in English (SAGE) has provided vital resources for graduate students in the department. In its fifty years, SAGE has created opportunities for professionalization, developed a strong relationship between department administration and graduate students, and sponsored social events to create a warm environment within the English graduate program. SAGE has also assisted graduate student development by offering a model of academic service to the graduate student community, as well as providing supplementary funds to students traveling to attend conferences. The support network SAGE provides is strengthened through teaching practicums, coursework, and other department events; these activities afford a strong sense of community, which is not available through any other aspect of our campus experience.

As we look to the future, SAGE will continue to offer opportunities for graduate students to gain professional experience through workshops, panels, and travel funding for both academic and alternative academic careers. One of the wonderful aspects of SAGE that we hope continues into the next fifty years is that the community offers a space for students to seek out programs and assistance that align with their progress in their personal and degree goals. We hope SAGE will continue to prepare students for their futures within and beyond the academic sphere and also offer a friendly community in which graduate students can flourish. - Charlesia and Hannah

Here’s a brief overview of a few activities from the past few years: •Annual Welcome Picnic for new graduate students and faculty. •Fall and Spring Book Fair •Halloween Party and Costume Contest •Silent Auction at the English Department Holiday Party •Prospective Graduate Student Visits Program These activities build rapport in the department, raise funds for conference travel and technological equipment, and provide opportunities for graduate students to showcase talents other than those evident in their academic and creative work. SAGE’s events continue to grow the friendly and vibrant graduate student community in our department, and foster an excellent relationship between English faculty and graduate students.

Are you getting together? Let us know! If you’re having an alumni gathering, no matter how big or small, East Coast, West Coast, or in between, let us know! Mary Klayder might even make a guest appearance. Email your plans to 10

A Note About Giving In the University of Kansas English Department, we believe that an education grounded in the humanities provides individuals with the intellectual tools and perspectives to engage successfully with a complex world. Our students are trained to think critically, write effectively, and appreciate fully the ways that language, ideas, and stories reflect and shape our lives. Whether through the study of literature, writing, or rhetoric, the English Department is dedicated to providing students with both academic and life skills. We believe that what students learn during their time in our programs of study will serve them continually, whatever they do or wherever they go. A gift to the Department of English helps us offer opportunities to our students in a variety of ways: • RECRUITMENT FELLOWSHIPS help us bring graduate students to KU by making sure their work and studies are supported. • RESEARCH SCHOLARSHIPS for undergraduates provide students with a way to get an early start putting their education to work.

• INTERNSHIPS provide real-world experiences and help build career paths.

• STUDY ABROAD gives students a chance to experience new outlooks and gain a broader perspective on their humanities training. • GRADUATE TRAVEL FUNDING lets MA and PhD students represent KU by presenting their research on campuses around the world. Gifts to the English Department are tax-deductible. You can give to the Department as a whole, or target giving to specific programs, degrees, or areas of study. Gifts of all sizes help. If you can only contribute modestly, you could consider a monthly or quarterly donation. To donate to the English Department online, visit the “Giving” section of the English Department home page ( There you can view different options for giving, which will take you to the site for the KU Endowment Association - the nonprofit organization that handles KU’s fundraising. You may also send a contribution by mail to: Dan Simon Senior Development Director College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Kansas University Endowment Association P.O. Box 928 Lawrence, KS 66044-0928 Be sure to specify the gift is for the English Department, and thank you so much for helping us continue our mission to educate and develop undergraduate and graduate students.

This newsletter is published by: KU Department of English 1445 Jayhawk Blvd., Room 3001 Lawrence, Kansas 66045 785.864.4520 Graduate Assistant: Megan Dennis Faculty Sponsor: Mary Klayder ©2018– All rights reserved


KU Department of English Wescoe Hall, Room 3001 1445 Jayhawk Blvd. Lawrence, Kansas 66045




A Newsletter of the KU Department of English Spring 2018

English Accents 2018  

University of Kansas English Department Newsletter 2018

English Accents 2018  

University of Kansas English Department Newsletter 2018