Department of English Newsletter: December 2016

in this issue

Carlisle Interview/Faculty Notes/Ongoing Projects: Iris Dunkle/Past Faculty: Katherine Harriet Porter/Alumni News/Thank You/

Interview with Anne Carlisle (’73)

A published novelist and journalist, Dr. Anne Carlisle is a full professor at the University of Maryland (UMUC), where she teaches online writing courses worldwide to U.S. military students. She also teaches writing courses online for American Intercontinental University. Dr. Carlisle’s PhD is in19th Century British Literature from Case Western Reserve University, where she served as a university faculty member in the 1970s. Her most recent novel is Birdwoman: Memoirs of a Lovesick Siren (Volume 1, Diaries of a Siren).

Case: Is there something about your time at Case that made this book possible?

Carlisle: Everything, actually.

As a graduate student specializing in Victorian Literature, I became fascinated with an obscure novelist, George Meredith. His obsession with his runaway wife led him to write psychological novels to figure out why she did it. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Meredith’s triadic symbolism, how “blood, brain, and spirit” need to be harmonized in human relationships. The artifice of his style contrasted dramatically with his personal anguish. His main theme was the drama of conflicted modern love, and that is my focus in my fictional writing.

But the influence of Case on my life’s work goes much deeper than a dissertation topic.

I married early (I was Anne Rowley then) and had my first child at age 21 in Lake County, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my Masters and PhD at Case. I took my cues from literary people who were both teachers and writers. In the early seventies, there was Bob Wallace, the poet, running his own printing press in the basement of Clark Hall. Lou Giannetti wrote a newspaper column. As for me, I was working on my graduate studies as an English Department teaching fellow, meanwhile helping my husband’s family publish the Painesville Telegraph.

In 1973, at age 26, I received my doctorate from the English Department. The rapidity with which I had advanced happened to coincide with a lucky set of circumstances. That summer, my friend and mentor, Michael Sundell, took a position at George Mason University. His departure left Florence Marsh, interim chair, casting about for someone who could handle Victorian Lit and supervise the teaching fellows who did the heavy lifting with Freshman English. As I fit that prospectus, I came back as a new Assistant Professor alongside Gary Stonum, who eventually became department chair. We both felt the specialness of our positions. My basement office was next door to Robert Ornstein’s, the Shakespearean scholar.

As Director of Freshman English, I invented and administered a new curriculum. Each instructor offered a seminar-like course. Some (like mine) were writing workshops; others offered literature, from science fiction to poetry, as a base for student writing. Over the ten years I was at Case, the duality of my academic responsibilities and creative interests became the main feature of my career. It led to four decades of work involving deanships, association executive posts, public relations jobs, and online teaching, in homes from the Bay Area of California and the Pacific Northwest to Key West, Florida. And always, on the side, was my writing.

It has been a wild ride, like my novels are. And I owe it all to Case.

The complete interview can be found here.


Mary Assad has an essay published in the latest issue of the CEA Critic: “Illness Narratives in the Writing Classroom: Creating a Compassionate Space for Rhetorical and Literary Analysis.”

Sarah Bania-Dobyns’s article, “Scriptural Reasoning in the Context of Limited Pluralism” was published in the November 2016 special issue of the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning.

Cara Byrne‘s article, “Every Tongue Silenced So One Voice Resounds: Redefining Zora Neale Hurston’s Legacy in Adapted Picture Books,” was published in the Winter 2016 issue of Children’s Literature Association Quarterly.

T. Kenny Fountain‘s book, Rhetoric in the Flesh, was reviewed in the most recent issue of Technical Communication Quarterly.

Lou Giannetti is featured in this issue of art/sci (scroll down).

Dave Lucas gave the lecture “Attempt at a Mythology” on December 5th at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.

Erika Mae Olbricht has completed training to become a Peer Reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission, the Midwest region accrediting body for higher learning institutions.

Robert Spadoni is featured in this issue of art/sci.

Kirkus reviews Brad Ricca‘s new book, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes.

Jim Sheeler hosted a question and answer session in Guilford House with 15 visiting journalists from Cambodia. The journalists who visited Cleveland as part of the International Center for Journalists were funded by the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Ongoing Projects: Iris Jamahl Dunkle (’10)

Charmian Kittredge married the bestselling American author Jack London on a cold Chicago night, November 19, 1905, and immediately stepped into the critical public eye. For the rest of Jack’s and Charmian’s lives, until Jack’s untimely death at the age of forty, reporters would follow their every move. She and Jack would travel the world exploring and writing together, but although the world remembers Jack London and his exploits, few know or understand the woman who was by his side, often driving him towards this adventure. Charmian Kittredge London often collaborated with her husband. She wrote every day, only instead of writing fiction, she wrote books about her travels as well as sketches for inclusion in her husband’s books. But history hasn’t remembered Charmian Kittredge London in this way. Instead, she is remembered as an uneducated homewrecker, who hindered her husband’s career.  One must ask why, after all these years, this cartoonish and negative image of the strong, well-educated, and independent woman persists?

The answer lies in a young writer named Irving Stone. Long after Jack’s death, when Charmian was in her sixties, she was visited by thirty-year-old Stone, who had recently received acclaim for his bestselling biography of Vincent Van Gogh, Lust for Life. Stone was determined to write Jack’s story and over the course of a year, he seduced Charmian and manipulated Jack’s step sister Eliza Shepard until they not only agreed that he could write whatever he liked, but also that they’d have no legal right to stop him. It was a mistake both would regret. In his bestselling fictional biography, Sailor on Horseback, Stone didn’t just write about Jack, he condemned Charmian to the caricature that would stay for the next eighty years. He wrote that Charmian “was not attractive looking” (183)  and that “she had thin lips, narrow eyes and drooping lids.” He also painted her as “an indefatigable talker” with an odd sense of humor (188). When it came to controlling Jack, though, he described her as being “shrewd and clever” (187). In his depiction, Charmain “was jealous of every other female” that Jack interacted with, and within nine years, their marriage had been “spiritually destroyed” (316-317). There are many reasons why this image of her has persisted, but chief among them is the fact that she destroyed many of her early diaries in reaction to the invasion of her privacy and restricted access to all her papers, manuscripts, and correspondence at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. To honor her wish, Eliza’s son Irving Shepard and later his son Milo kept the restrictions in place on her surviving diaries until very recently. Thus, no evidence was available to affirm or refute Stone’s inaccurate caricature and none, except for Clarice Stasz, author of American Dreamers and Jack London’s Women, have challenged his depiction of Charmian.

Our forthcoming biography Smiling into Ruins: The Creative Life of Charmian Kittredge London aims to do justice to Charmian Kittredge London’s own voice. Relying on her surviving diaries, drafts of manuscripts, and correspondence, my co-author Susan Nuernberg (Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh) and I have recreated an accurate portrait. Charmian was an artistic, adventurous, and intelligent travel writer, biographer, and correspondent, whose life jumps off the page the moment one reads anything she wrote.

Charmian was a woman who found joy in every day, in the fog that rolled in over the hills at their ranch in Glen Ellen, California, in the sunsets that illuminated the sea when she traveled the world. She was well-educated at Mills College in Oakland. When she met Jack in 1900, she was supporting herself as a stenographer in San Francisco, had already visited Europe and written a travel log about the trip, had traveled throughout the United States, owned rental property in Berkeley, kept a Swedish maid and a suite of rooms, rode and bred her own horse, read extensively, and was part of the literary group affiliated with the Overland Monthly magazine. She began publishing articles in the late 1890s and she collaborated closely with Jack on many of his novels.

Throughout her life Charmian faced immense hardships, losing her mother at the age of five, her father soon after, her only child thirty-eight hours after a difficult birth, and her ability to have more children due to complications. Then she lost the love of her life, Jack London, when he died in 1916. Charmian, however, took pride in being someone who could smile into the ruins of her life. She was the kind of woman we would love to have known. She was brave. She was fierce. She was extraordinary. Our book aims to take you on the adventure of her life.

Charmian London in Waikiki.

Faculty of the Past: Katherine Harriet Porter

b. 16 March 1888, Lansing, Michigan
d. 3 April 1983, Cleveland, Ohio

Katherine Harriet Porter was born in Michigan, but her family moved to Ripley, New York, during her youth. In 1906, she enrolled in Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, and then transferred to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts after her first year. She graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1910, subsequently returning to Lake Erie College as a teacher between 1910 and 1913. She received her Masters of the Arts in English at the University of Chicago in 1914, publishing a thesis called “The Development of the American Lyceum with Special Reference to the Mission of the Local Associations in New England,” and taught at Alfred University in New York from 1914 to 1919. In 1918, she joined the Red Cross and prepared to deploy to Europe to treat injured soldiers, but noted later that “all sailings [were] canceled on eve of departure.” In 1919, she began teaching at the Flora Stone Mather College for Women at Western Reserve University. In 1930, she completed her English PhD at Cornell University, where she was a member of Phi Kappa Phi. Her dissertation was entitled “Margaret, Duchess of Portland.”

Porter served as an Assistant Dean of Mather College from 1927 to 1929, and the Dean of English from 1927 to 1933. From 1930 to 1951, she served as the Director of Freshman English at Mather College and then served as the head of the Mather English Department from 1949 to her retirement in 1953. Between 1946 and 1949, she represented Western Reserve University at the American Association of University Professors. Porter also belonged to the College English Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Modern Language Association. Her specialties were composition, English literature, and American literature. During her tenure at Mather College and Western Reserve University, almost all of her publications were in-house, consisting of writing manuals created for the English department such as her Style Leaflet (1934, 1945), and articles posted to the Western Reserve University Bulletin. After her retirement, she published Through a Glass Darkly: Spiritualism in the Browning Circle (1958) through the University of Kansas Press, a book on Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Victorian mysticism.

Porter’s closest colleagues at Mather College were Eleanor W. Thomas and Margaret Waterman. According to a 1945 Alumni Folio article, Porter and Thomas began living together in 1920; they still cohabited in 1969 when Thomas died after a protracted illness at age 88. Mather College offered the Thomas-Porter Scholarship in their honor. Porter co-wrote two manuals with Margaret Waterman: Your Course Paper: How to Plan and Document It (1949) and Themecraft (1950), which Waterman later revised independently. Porter died at the age of 95 while residing at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.

Entry by Lara Klaber, from records in University Archives, CWRU, and from public documents. Photo courtesy University Archives, CWRU.


Maria Assif (’05) is now Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Critical Writing about Literature program in the English Department at the University of Toronto.

Julia Bianco (’16) worked as an intern at MTV News and is now a Digital Content Producer at Cleveland 19 News.

Gabrielle Buffington (’16) is a department assistant in the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity at Case Western Reserve University.

Adam Church (’14) transferred to the University of Michigan Law School this year, where he is an Associate Editor on the Michigan Journal of International Law and will be a student attorney with the Michigan Transactional Lab & Clinic this spring. Additionally, this summer he will be a summer associate with Sullivan & Cromwell.

Alum (’02) Gerry Canavan’s book Octavia E. Butler is now available from the University of Illinois Press.

Jacquelyn McLendon (’86) has just edited a new book on Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen. McLendon, a professor at William and Mary, studied with now Professor Emeritus Gary Stonum in the early 80s.

Annie Nickoloff (’16) is the Social Media Coordinator at

Marques Winick (’16) entered the Law School at the University of Michigan (admitted into a class of 300 from more than 5,000 applications).

Lexington Books has accepted a book proposal from Jennifer Young (’14), an assistant professor at Tiffin University:The Student Bodies: Rhetoric and Embodiment in the American High School.

Our Thanks to You

The Department of English is very grateful to the many donors who annually support us. We rely heavily on such generosity, especially in a climate of reduced funding for the Humanities. We therefore want to give our warm thanks to all who have contributed this year. In 2016, we received major gifts from Stephen R. Prest, Sidonie Ann Smith, Marilyn E. Shea-Stonum, and Gary Stonum. We continue to benefit from vital long-standing funds established by liberal endowments from Dixon Long, Edward S. Sadar, Melinda Melton Sadar, Helen Buchman Sharnoff, and Jean Campbell Price. A variety of our offerings, such as The Neil MacIntyre Prize, Nathaniel R. Howard Memorial Lecture, Roger B. Salomon Dissertation Fellowship, Vonna and Arthur Adrian Fellowship, and Frederica Ward Scholarship carry forward because of targeted gifts. And, cumulatively, annual alumni donations ranging from $10-$500 help us to build successful programs and initiatives for our graduate and undergraduate students. These donations come from places as far afield as Boynton Beach FL, Salt Lake City UT, Tucson AZ, and Charlotte VT. They support our key curricular, pedagogical, and programmatic initiatives: The Center for the Study of Writing, The English Department Colloquium Series, The English Graduate Student Association, Friends of English, Writers House, and the Writing Resource Center. Thank you all.