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“Do you speak English?” Representations of the American Woman Abroad

   Within modernist literature, readers have been fascinated by travel writing literature and the culture created by the modernist expatriate movement. This interest is amplified and is invariably more controversial when the protagonist of these works is female. Modernist literature has since been dissected for its commentary on both the culture it portrays and the lives of the authors who have created these societal representations. The underlying theme of the expatriate has been personal to both the authors who have chosen to leave America and the characters that they portray leaving America. These representations highlight assumptions about traveling women and work to solidify stereotypes within both the male and female characters. 

When examining Henry James’s Daisy Miller: A Study in Two Parts, the actions and attitudes of the American and European women convey clear sentiments about the transgression of gender roles and class boundaries. The ongoing conversations pertaining to Miller offer a variety of critiques of her character. Some critics believe Daisy is an antifeminist coquette who deserved her unfortunate ending. Others claim Daisy to be a feminist heroine for her ability to independently navigate the social circles of European culture. In addition to these views, Henry James’s biography plays an important role in his characterization of the Millers. In order to highlight the experiences described in Miller’s narrative, I parallel her voice with my own experiences traveling abroad. 


From Mallory to Morgan: How Arthurian Legend had shaped with Time

-Katie Owens      

The stories of our past have a way of staying with us throughout time. This can come in the form of retellings of the story in its original form or in the form of adaptations. One story that has persisted in our collective memory throughout time is that of King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. From the time Sir Thomas Mallory collected them in Le Morte d’Arthur in the 1400’s, there have been countless retellings in the form of books, poems, television series, and movies. One particular retelling of the Arthurian stories in the BBC drama Merlin which aired from 2008 – 2012. This particular adaptation sees Merlin and Arthur as young men in the time leading up to Arthur being crowned king.

By comparing the television show to Mallory’s texts, I will examine the ways in which the two represent themes of chivalry and class structure. In order to do this, I will first examine the nature of adaptations in general and a brief history of Arthurian adaptations. Then, I examine the ways that both Le Morte d’Arthur and Merlin present these themes by looking in depth at specific characters and tales from each. In addition to exploring the themes of chivalry and class structure, I look at the ways that the time period in which each version was created informed the manner of presentation.




The Birds and the Bees are More Than a Sex Talk with Your Mother:

Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and Ecocriticism.

Ecocriticism is a somewhat new field in the world of literary criticism. Critics are now examining works from earlier periods in order to find naturalistic elements. Ecocriticism is defined as “the interplay of the human and the nonhuman in literary texts,” by Cheryll Glotfelty. Texts such as O Pioneers! (1913) and As I Lay Dying (1930), by Willa Cather and William Faulkner respectively, are widely known to a variety of audiences. They have been torn apart at the seams and pieced back together like a puzzle. O Pioneers! is a text in which land and nature play a central role; however, in comparison with As I Lay Dying, the land is viewed in a more geographical sense.

An even closer look at the two texts reveals that there are links with human characters and their relationship with the land they not only live on, but farm and travel. The Bergson family in O Pioneers! not only builds but sustains their lives on the wild plains of Nebraska. The Bundren’s in As I Lay Dying, on the other hand, view land and nature more as a means to reach their destination. Although critics have explored Ecocriticism within the two texts, it is plain to see that there are underlying causes behind the reasons why one promotes a strong relationship with the land, where the other does not.

It is plain to see that the outcomes of both stories are vastly different. The Bergson’s, despite the tragedy at the end regarding Emil and Marie, live prosperously after many years of struggle. The Bundren’s from As I Lay Dying experience hard times from the death of Addie Bundren to the difficult journey to perform her burial and to obtain modern-day technologies. It is clear that the characters’ individual relationships with the natural elements of their stories are directly correlated with the outcome of their tales. The fates of the characters in conjunction with their relationship with land are tied directly to Willa Cather’s and William Faulkner’s own ideas about modernity.


The Humanities: Only if Daddy has $$$

By Megan Zappe

Apparently, only the rich kids get to educate themselves in the realm of the humanities. At least this is where the field is headed – students who are getting turned away from schools because of their interest in philosophy, history, and english degrees, students who are unable to even get into courses required of their humanities degree because of cutbacks on professors – who is running this show anyway? It is sad that kids entering college are being coerced into fields that will prepare them for the professional world. It’s as if the nation is preparing to pump out mini-clones of politicians and corporate moguls.

But the fact that it is predicted that only elite, wealthy, private colleges and universities will be able to offer the humanities degrees is heartbreaking. There are many students who deserve the equal right to major in something they are passionate about, regardless if that is pre-med or modern languages. There has always been a rift between the science/math (aka: “practical” majors) versus the humanities. There are countless colleges who are beginning to completely cut out their foreign languages programs.  What is at risk here is a generation of American adults who are specifically programmed to be cut-throat, business-minded, and harsh. They will be unable to value ethical reasoning, historical effects, and the importance of the English language in literature.

It’s even more saddening to be hit with the realization that as my college career comes to a close that there will be employers out there who simply do not value my degree. I have wanted to be a teacher for years now, and I am fairly certain that is where my degree will take me, but if at any point in my life do I want to enter a more business-minded tract, I suppose I might as well give up before I get started, since my degree doesn’t fit the requirements.

-Katie Owens

Out of all the boring repetitive things that professors have to put into their syllabi as per the university, there is nothing I roll my eyes at more than the section on academic honesty. This is mostly in part to my philosophy that if you’re going to cheat, why the hell are you in college, because no one makes you come here. Then I remember that not everyone is an English major and that writing papers is hard for other people. I then also remember how easy is it is to plagiarize on accident. These are things that were talked about in the interview with Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamieson that we read.

A lot of the points that were brought up in the study regarding plagiarism are ones that don’t surprise me. The more I thought about my own history writing papers, it was easy to remember times when I simply looked for sources because I had to, by consulting indexes and contents. Rebecca and Sandra studied papers to find out more about the ways in which students use sources, as opposed to strictly finding copy and paste, no citation incidents. Quote mining was another example of something that I think every undergraduate is guilty of at some point or another.

The Citation Project and its findings reminds me of a lot of the readings we have done this years. The actual information is different put the end point turns out to be similar. What we are trying to learn as humanities majors is to take the ideas that are presented to us and combine and use them to meet our own realizations. Whether these realizations are about a particular text or human relationships in general, they are ones that shape our understanding of the world. The Citation Project relates to this is the fact that what they contend that students should be doing, instead of paraphrasing and taking direct quotes, is showing how the research that they have done is in conversation with one another. This conversation is what helps to gain a better understanding of whatever it is that the student is writing about.

Overall, I think that this interview and what they have to say about plagiarism and citations made me think more clearly about what it means to ‘cheat’ both intentionally and not. You really are only cheating yourself in the longer run. *wink nudge*


Who Knew Text Books Would Be Useful

By: Megan D. Davis

When sitting in the classroom, a student views the teacher as having the easiest job because the answers are written in the book for them and they assign papers instead of composing them. However, what they do not know the rules and guidelines that teachers are told they must follow in order to create the “proper” classroom environment. In his book “Bridging English” Joseph O’ Beirne Milner provides these rules and guidelines along with other techniques that will assist English/Literature teachers. Some of the information seems redundant and common knowledge, it is useful that does not just apply to English teachers but some of the chapters apply to other teachers as well. Chapter is all about different ways to instruct and explains the many ways students learn, four organizational structures, and the use of technology. Though, after this chapter the instructions are more focused on English teachers and how to present poetry, drama, and composition to their students.

Currently, as a student, this book blends in with my other text books and is not one that I would pick up for some light reading. However, while reading it for assignments, I realized how vital it would be once I entered the classroom as a teacher. Along with the different ways to teach multiple genres, Milner’s book also provides instructions on how to construct a lesson plan, a unit plan, and plans for the whole curriculum. The final chapters are all about how to better oneself as a teacher and become comfortable in the classroom. This acts as a way to teach yourself how to be an efficient teacher. While it may sound ridiculous to define yourself as a teacher and do self-evaluations, this may open your eyes to an aspect of your character that would have otherwise remained unnoticed. Also this aspect may be something that is helping or hurting your teaching style. If it is hurting your style then noticing it gives you the opportunity to alter it into a helpful aspect. Therefore, while reading a text book is boring, this one contains information that actually is helpful and will come in handy in my future.

Coffee Shop Anxiety

Christopher Freeburg spoke to me. Not literally but through his essay, “Teaching Literature and the Bitter Truth about Starbucks.” You see, I spend a lot of my time toiling away at a coffee shop. Perhaps Northern Light Espresso Bar isn’t an evil, mutant mega corporation like Starbucks but the sentiment is there. Freeburg starts his essay “I have spent far too much time in coffee shops…” (25). My eyes light up with the familiarity of understanding my author. You see, as I read that line, as I soured his essay, I was also in a coffee shop. Surrounded by caffeinated luxury and a couple bookshelves, I’ve always thought of “Northern” as a sort of sanctuary. The point Freeburg ultimately makes is one that I intimately understand. Freeburg writes, “As at any good bar, the Baristas at Starbucks, many of them students, get paid to listen to me talk about my research and interests” (25). As I read these words, I realized just how true his statement was. The regulars that come into the café come for friendship. They come to talk to us, they come to talk to each other and many of them are, in one way or another, involved with one of the local colleges. Just last week I had the privilege of making the perfect latte for the dean of my college. As I tamped the espresso, I told her about what I was working on with my thesis paper. The grinder caused me to raise my voice as I proclaimed “The modernist expats were really on to something…” and as I pour her skim milk over the crema of that perfect shot she had enough time to give me her feedback on my paper. These interactions, my causal run-ins with literacy, wouldn’t be possible if Northern Light didn’t exist or if I decided to do something better with my time than sit at a coffee shop.

 My point, much like Freeburg’s point, is that these atmosphere’s invite the intellectual conversation that may otherwise not exist. They create the casual environment where a barista can ask Freeburg what good there is in what he teaches or why he even bothers (25). While these questions might come off as rude in a more academic setting, they are perfectly acceptable at the coffee shop. Strangely, I ended Freeburg’s essay with a pit in my stomach. I enjoy my job as a barista and I’ve loved my life as an English major but I couldn’t help to know exactly what Freeburg meant when he said, “The bitter truth about Starbucks is obviously not the taste of black coffee.  I do not want my students to continue to work at a coffee place when they graduate unless they want to” (30). In these lines, Freeburg sums up the anxiety of the English major. The fear of uselessness that was coupled with the heckling of unsupportive family members four years before graduation. The stigma that the English major is an unemployable consumer of novels and poetry, doomed to pour lattes for the rest of her life. While Freeburg doesn’t say this is the be all end of the English major, he does put pressure on the professors to make sure the English major understands how to apply all these fancy skills we learn.


Freeburg, Christopher. “Teaching Literature and the Bitter Truth about Starbucks.” Profession. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2012. 25-30. Print.

Calling All Traveling Spinsters!

This year the Travel Cultures Seminar Series presented by the University of Oxford is focusing on the perennial topic of traveling women. The conference, ‘Navigating Networks: Women, Travel, and Female Communities’ is sure to excite feminists, women’s studies majors, and lady-likers from all over the world. Oxford  is looking for papers that expel the stereotype that travel writing is a man’s field and to widen the perspective. After all, it’s 2013 and women still hold up half the sky. Interestingly, they aren’t looking for a bra-burning haiku, either. The University of Oxford is interested in looking at papers that disregard the idea of gendering the travel and to see traveling as the human experience that it is. According to the website, they are looking for papers that focus on connection from any historical period. The muse can be anything from letters and diaries to paintings and photography… GO!

I was happy to read that they are looking to focus on wealthy women, women traveling “independently” from men, like Daisy Miller or, even more hilariously, “Spinsters Abroad.” The conference seems just perfect for my paper “Representations of the American Women Abroad.” On top of the of everything I’ve already mentioned, the website also welcomes papers with the following topics or themes:

The Act of Travel:
• access to exclusively female spaces abroad (harems, baths, spas, circles of gossip)
• development of alliances between the female traveller and the female local
• issues of ‘othering’ – do women have an imperial agenda or do they sympathise with foreign women?
• bonds of sisterhood, friendship, and partnerships
• communities of female expats; salons and social scenes abroad
• feminine self-fashioning: creation of female travel identities abroad
• negative associations with female travel networks: women’s aversion to being lumped together with other female travellers; their desire to break free from collective identities and stereotypes

Many of these ideas coincide with what I’ve ready written about the class issues and female dynamics within Daisy Miller. Other topics and ideas that haven’t been exactly addressed in my paper are also featured and could have relevancy if I was to reconstruct my long paper as a conference paper. All this and more will be presented at the Navigating Networks: Women, Travel, and Female Communities’ conference in Oxford on October 4, 2013!

For more information, check out their website (which I used to help me with this blog post).








because writing and researching and analyzing is hard work!