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ASU English Department Authors and Editors Honored

Published authors and editors from Appalachian State University’s Department of English are, from left, Julie Townsend, William D. Brewer, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, David L. Orvis, Abigail DeWitt, Leon Lewis and Holly Martin. Photo by Jane Nicholson

May 7, 2012. From poetry collections to academic tomes, authors and editors from the Department of English at Appalachian State University were honored recently for their published work.

Dr. William D. Brewer is the general editor of an eight-volume set of “The Works of Mary Robinson,” published by Pickering and Chatto for university libraries and other academic collections. Robinson was a novelist, poet and actress who lived from 1758-1800.

Brewer, who specializes in 18th-century British literature, said Robinson was also known for a play she wrote titled “Nobody” that satirized aristocratic women gamblers. “This turned out to be a terrible miscalculation because these women were very powerful and did not like to be satirized,” he said. Gambling became a craze of the French aristocrats who immigrated to England, Brewer explained.

Robinson’s career as a playwright ended when the women gamblers shut down her play by purchasing all the tickets to the opening performance, then giving the tickets to their servants with the instruction to disrupt the play. As a result, “Mary Robinson became very bitter against society and her satire turned much darker and more negative,” Brewer said.

Abigail DeWitt, a non-tenure track instructor who teaches creative writing in the English department, was honored for “Dogs: A novel” published by Lorimer Press. Dewitt has taught creative writing at Harvard Summer School, the Duke Writers Workshop and was a writer-in-residence at Lenoir-Rhyne University in 2010. Her short stories have appeared in “Salamander,” a publication for poetry, fiction and memoirs, and “Carolina Quarterly” and have been listed in Best American Short Stories 1991: 100 Other Distinguished Stories.

“It’s not about canines at all,” DeWitt said of her novel. “The novel is about the narrator Molly Moore’s reaction to events [in her life].” In the book, Moore must come to terms with her family dysfunction and family history.

Novelist Lee Smith called the book “a brilliant and thought-provoking novel,” while Michael Parker wrote, “‘Dogs’ is unnerving the way that the best fiction can be, artfully depicting our common experiences with candor and grace.”

Dr. Kathryn Kirkpatrick recently published her fourth poetry collection, “Unaccountable Weather: Poems” published by Press 53. Kirkpatrick wrote the collection while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “It was a really sustaining practice to be writing. I took the poems into the treatment rooms and hospital settings and they became my companions as I went through his process,” she said. “I wanted the book to be a communal book. It has family narratives running through it. And I wanted to reframe disease as a personal story and also as a family, societal and cultural story.”

Former North Carolina Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer wrote, “Kathryn Kirkpatrick is a poet of such thoroughgoing honesty that reading some of these poems feels like eavesdropping, they are that closely focused on the details of experience. Whether waking up from surgery for breast cancer or describing the massage therapist kneading the scar on her chest, Kirkpatrick does not prettify the moment. Nor does she diminish it. What makes this book memorable is how she weaves her own perspective into a tapestry of other presences, creating a chorus of wounded, healing women rather than one solitary woman’s encounter with death and renewal.”

Dr. Leon Lewis was the editor of “Sherman Alexie: Critical Insights” published by Salem Press. The collection of essays is target for university and other libraries. The publication features 20 essays about the Native American author and his work, many written by other faculty in the Department of English.

“I have been fond of Sherman Alexie’s work, particularly his short story collection ‘The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.’ And it occurred to me Alexie was someone who had not been the focus of a great deal of critical attention,” said Lewis, who proposed Alexie as a focus for the press’s Critical Insights series.

Colleagues who contributed to the publication are Dr. Tammy Wahpeconiah, Dr. Mark Vogel and Dr. Mike Wilson from the Department of English, Dr. Cindy Spurlock from the Department of Communication and Georgie Donovan from Belk Library and Information Commons who wrote a bibliography for the book.

Essay topics included a rhetorical look at Alexie’s poetry and his prominence in young adult literature.

Dr. Holly Martin’s monograph “Writing Between the Cultures: A Study of Hybrid Narratives in the Ethnic Literature of the United States” was published this year by McFarland Press. The associate professor’s research interests include ethnic literature of the United States, particularly Chicano/a, Chinese American and Native American literatures.

“This book started with an interest I had in ways authors find techniques to present two different viewpoints of looking at the same thing,” Martin said. Authors bridge cultures using various literary techniques such using multilingualism or magical realism to present two different viewpoints of reality. Martin wrote in the book’s introduction that these and other techniques allow ethnic authors to express the multicultural identity and perspectives of their characters.

“The variety of ways in which authors create these double narratives, which I call hybrid narratives, to add multiple perspectives to their works and the ways in which hybrid narratives have helped to move ethnic literature away from its minority status within U.S. literature are the subjects of this book,” she said.

David L. Orvis coedited “Psalms in the Early Modern World” published by Ashgate Publishing. The project began when Orvis realized that because of illness, his dissertation director was unable to compile a collection of essays into the printed work.

“This book, which hadn’t even been a proposal submitted to any publisher, was languishing,” Orvis said. “I started going through the essays and realized what a great project it was because no one had talked about the Psalms in an international way.”

According to the publisher, “‘Psalms in the Early Modern World’ is the first book to explore the use, interpretation, development, translation and influence of the ‘Psalms’ in the Atlantic world, 1400-1800.”

Through editing the essays, Orvis said that he “became convinced that the Psalms were by far the most important book of scripture in the Renaissance. Virtually every poet in the Renaissance wrote translations of the Psalms. They were sung, memorized and rehearsed, and central to virtually every denomination. In virtually every culture that has any contact with Western society, the Psalms became very popular.”

Julie Townsend’s second novel is “Seafood Jesus,” a novel about an animal rights activist who rescues crabs by destroying crab traps, and rescues people too, including a fictionalized Rosemary Kennedy. The novel was published by Charlotte-based Main Street Rag.

Barbara Presnell called the novel “Edgy, witty, and unexpectedly poignant.” Robin Hemley wrote that Townsend “manages to create a compassionate, funny, and wistful allegory of this most interesting era in which we live.”