Department of English Newsletter: December 2020

in this issue

Remembering Roger/Faculty Notes/Connecting International Students/Book Excerpts/Visiting Scholar/Lost Modernists/Alumni News

Remembering Roger Salomon

by Gary Stonum

Dear friends and colleagues,

I am sadly blessed with recalling some of what the late Roger Salomon meant to the English Department during his time as a faculty member and afterwards from his enduring influence. Not all of you reading this will have known him or known him well, although current faculty and graduate alumni will always remember and cherish the holiday parties that he and his wife Betty hosted at their wonderful house on Coventry Road. Far more than that, for much of the second half of the twentieth century Roger personified the department’s ideals of graciousness, generosity, and integrity.

Let me begin with briefly recounting his academic biography, then offering my own eulogy to the man who more than any other was my mentor, and finishing with the recollections of the colleagues and students whose lives he touched. At the end I have included an alphabetical list of those who provided reminiscences and remembrances. Please note the length of this list: I would have liked to include everyone’s thoughts but if so I would be typing until 2021. Also, because some of the remembrances are from private correspondence with Betty, I have kept all of them anonymous, although in most cases the identity is obvious enough from context.

Born in 1928 and growing up on the East Coast, Roger graduated from Harvard in 1950, the year he and Betty married, then went west for graduate school, receiving his PhD from Berkeley in 1957. A childhood anecdote for which I claim no reliability says that, like the fictional Eloise, during the 1930s he and his mother lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

After five years in the English department at Yale, he came to the then Western Reserve University, just before it merged with Case Institute of Technology, and in the next years played a major role in curricular and organizational issues arising from the new Case Western Reserve University. He later continued to take important leadership roles, especially as chair of the English Department in the 1970s and as the director of the department’s graduate programs until his retirement.

Salomon’s scholarly achievements began with work on Mark Twain, culminating in Twain and the Image of History (Yale UP, 1961). At Case he worked chiefly in Anglo-American novels and poetry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, publishing in addition to scholarly articles two further books: Desperate Storytelling: Post-Romantic Elaborations of the Mock-Heroic Mode (Georgia, 1987) and Mazes of the Serpent: An Anatomy of Horror Narrative (Cornell, 2002). He taught courses in all of these areas, often with a specific focus on James Joyce or Virginia Woolf. He retired from the university and the Oviatt Professorship in 1999 but continued to advise colleagues and graduate students for many years thereafter.

Salomon died in October 2020 at the age of 92. In addition to his teaching and scholarship, he is especially remembered as a sterling mentor to graduate students and younger faculty and also as the professor who likely directed more doctoral dissertations than anyone in the department’s history. He is remembered as well, along with his wife Betty, as the social, intellectual, and moral heart of the English Department for more than a quarter of a century.

To me Roger was prime mentor and role model especially in advising graduate students, in teaching, and in leading the legendary herd of cats that is any academic department. We also overlapped considerably in our teaching and scholarly interests.

Continue reading here.

Faculty Notes

Barbara Burgess-Van Aken is part of a team of five faculty who received a 2020 UCITE Nord Grant. Their project included hosting a virtual Mindfulness Matters Week for the Case community at the end of October and conducting a study of the effectiveness of mindfulness activities in the classroom during the Spring 2021 semester

Cara Byrne‘s remarks from the Academic Symposium “Ethical Leadership in the Arts: The Power of Storytelling and Representation” (with LeVar Burton, Dr. Joy Bostic, and Dr. Shannon French) were published in the 7th volume of The International Journal of Ethical Leadership (IJEL).

Mary Grimm‘s story “Sisters,” published in the Colorado Review, is listed as one of the Other Distinguished Stories of 2019 in The Best American Short Stories 2020.

Caitlin Kelly‘s essay on teaching Hamilton: An American Musical has been published by Age of Revolutions.

Dave Lucas has four poems in the Winter 2020 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review.

William Marling gave a lecture on “Hemingway and Affect” at the University of Tartu, in Estonia, on October 28.

Marilyn Mobley introduced Professor Kimberle Crenshaw, Professor of Law at Columbia University and UCLA, who just received the John Hope Franklin Award from Diverse Issues in Higher Education during their virtual award ceremony. The sponsors of the annual event include TIAA and the American Council on Education. During her acceptance speech Professor Crenshaw acknowledged Professor Mobley and shared a new initiative called “TruthBeTold,” designed to address the recent executive order banning the use of diversity-related language and history from the government with truth-telling about issues of equity, access, history, and the law.

James Sheeler spoke to journalism students at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan, who read his book, Final Salute.

Thrity Umrigar wrote this essay on immigration for The Week.

Athena Vrettos gave a keynote address on “The Temporality of Emotional Traces in Victorian Fiction and Psychology” at an international conference on “Conceptualizing Trace” hosted by the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, in September.

Grant Funds Connect First-Year International Students with Upper-Class Peers and Alumni

By Mary Assad & Gusztav Demeter

Our Approach

This semester posed many new challenges for writing instructors, and as everyone found ways to modify or entirely revamp their curriculum, the university also offered an opportunity to enhance our instruction through grant funding. When Peter Whiting announced the opportunity to apply for COVID-19 Emergency Funds, we decided to collaborate on a proposal to enrich our SAGES First Seminars for non-native speakers of English.

We were grateful to receive funding that we could immediately use to benefit our Fall 2020 students, while anticipating that the curriculum can be used for future classes, as well. This funding supported the creation of recorded presentations as well as a series of Town Hall Discussion Forums held synchronously on Zoom. First, we invited current and former CWRU international students to serve as guest speakers for our classes: they’d need to write and produce videos that we could share with our new cohort and then participate in discussion sessions. We gave these guest speakers a list of possible topics, all related to the international student experience in some way, but also invited them to choose any other topic they found relevant. Our final list of guest speakers and presentation titles included:

  1. Kaitlyn Pham (sophomore): “To the fullest college experience”

  2. Carina Shi (sophomore): “What are we talking about when we talk about freshman year?”

  3. Tianyi Xu (junior): “How has my taste in food evolved since I came to the U.S.?”

  4. Joyce Pan (junior): “Shock your cultural pool”

  5. Hudson Hu (senior): “Making friends with American students”

  6. Trista Yuan (senior) and Sally Bao (Johns Hopkins ‘20 alum): “Language Barriers: Converter or Convertible?”

  7. Zi Wang (CWRU ‘20 alum): “Curiosity, Courage, and Execution”

  8. Akaisha Kaixuan An (CWRU ‘19 alum): “Be friends with stress and anxiety”

  9. Karina Husodo (CWRU ‘18 alum): “Studying abroad on my study abroad”

Our students watched the videos and then attended the discussion forums, where they had a chance to meet the presenters, ask them questions, and share their own expeiences.

Students asked the presenters a variety of questions, ranging from academic ones — such as how to do well in certain courses, how to cope with stress and stay motivated to study — to ones regarding social life and extracurricular activities — such as which clubs are most welcoming of international students or advice for students who have never cooked at home. Other common themes were seeking advice about how to deal with culture shock, communicate with native speakers, and make friends. Finally, the current pandemic has produced additional concerns and anxiety for international students, which was reflected in their conversations during the Town Hall Forum. Particularly, students wanted to find out how to deal with the challenges of remote learning and not being face to face with peers and faculty.

Mary’s Reflection 

Fostering discussion on Zoom is a challenge many of us face, and I found that inviting peers who have “been there and done that” to talk with my students energized the discussion dynamic and invited open dialogue on relevant issues. Students prepared for the series of four weekly forums by watching a collection of videos each week, creating a 1-2 minute vlog responding to the ideas in one of the videos, taking notes on the videos, and crafting discussion questions to share at the forum. After the forums, students wrote about one video of their choice for a summary & response essay assignment. Logistically, the most successful aspects were the implementation of breakout rooms (1 guest speaker with 8-12 students) and the addition of student moderators (one student, paired with one guest, responsible for reviewing everyone’s discussion questions and guiding the flow of conversation). In the future, I’d like to provide more time for students to discuss the videos with each other before engaging with the guests.

Gusztav’s Reflection 

Similarly to Mary’s students, my students also had to watch all the nine videos, take notes and think of questions they would ask the presenters at the Town Hall Forum, which took place as a Fourth Hour experience. To make conversations more manageable, the Town Hall Forum was divided into three sections, with each section containing 2-4 presenters and implemented in a breakout room. After watching all the videos, students were asked to sign up for one of the sections and contribute questions to each of the presenters in a Google Doc that was then shared with the presenters, as well. This approach helped to better organize the discussion during the Town Hall Forum. Students were very active in the discussion, and found the information in the videos very useful. During some of my advising sessions with students after the Town Hall Forum, some students mentioned using advice presenters gave in their planning for the spring semester.

Looking Ahead

What led us to develop and experiment with this approach? Our proposal responded to the reality that most students in our seminars for non-native speakers would be unable to live and study on campus. Studying remotely from their home countries, students had to manage extreme time zone differences and Internet accessibility issues while physically disconnected from their peers, professors, and advisors.

While the first semester of college typically poses unique challenges for non-native speakers, especially those international students who have not previously studied in the U.S., concerns like language barriers, peer socialization, and physical and mental wellness seemed even more urgent to address for this cohort of “Zoomers.” They did not have the opportunity to step foot on our campus, meet each other for Fourth Hour activities, or walk into our office for advising conversations. Thus, our proposal sought to help incoming students connect with members of the CWRU community and therefore feel welcomed while also creating opportunities for dialogue on international students’ intellectual, social, and mental wellbeing.

We believe in the importance of supporting and uplifting our community of non-native speakers whenever possible, and we hope that our efforts this semester helped foster an inclusive and equitable learning environment in our virtual classrooms. Recognizing that peer mentorship can supplement the mentorship offered by academic advisors and navigators, we decided to build a support structure for our new students to meet former international students, learn from their experiences, and share their own.

Book Excerpts

“Mera fondled the tiny cylinder of dried batwing as she wandered the crooked and trash-strewn streets of Re. . . . It contained the thin papyrus map that would lead to Inmor’leh. . . .
She dared not reveal to any captain she hired her secret destination, for the tale of Cax shriveled the courage of all who unfurled sails or rowed oars to the beat of drums. Finding a captain and crew who would wander with her into the unknown and dark past would be near impossible.”

–from Rakefire and Other Stories by Jason Ray Carney

Visiting Scholar

This spring, the English Department will welcome Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young, Associate Professor of English and Communication Arts at Waterloo University in Ontario, Canada, as a Hildegarde and Elbert Baker Visiting Scholar. Dr. Vay (as he is known) is a distinguished scholar within the disciplines of communication and writing, focusing on gender, performance, and race. During his (virtual) visit in April, Dr. Vay will participate in a variety of activities with students, faculty, and CWRU community members, all themed around his work in “code-meshing,”defined as “combining two or more dialects, language systems, and/or communication modes to effectively write and speak within the multiple domains of society” (Other People’s English 2014). Dr. Vay will deliver the Edward S. and Melinda Sadar  Lecture in Writing in the Disciplines on April 23, 2020 (details TBA), which is free and open to the public. He will also moderate a discussion group for CWRU community members.  For more information about these events, please email Dr. Vay’s visit has been sponsored by the English Department, Writers House, and the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities.

Lost Modernists

By Francesca Mancino

I first came up with the idea for a website when I couldn’t find a one-stop place holding information about Lost Generation and, more broadly, Modernist writers. Wanting to learn more about female Modernists – like Evelyn Scott, Storm Jameson, and Dorothy Richardson – propelled me to create a site under a name that enveloped my literary interests: Lost Modernists. “Lost,” here, has a double-meaning, as I strive to provide content about Lost Generation writers that comprised the Modernist period, along with forgotten authors that have since fallen from the canon. (I widely include individuals that wrote during the Modernist period, even though some may not be considered Modernists.)

While Lost Modernists is still in its early stages, there are a handful of tabs that can be perused for literary content. The “Lost Modernists” tab holds information that pertains to novels or profiles from the Modernist period. My favorite tab is “Mini Authorial Profiles,” where you can sift through short biographies of writers, like Sarah Teasdale and Claude McKay. I wanted to create profiles that are fairly short and contain the most interesting aspects of the subject’s writing career. Similar to “Mini Authorial Profiles” is the “Quotes” tab, where you can read some of the loveliest quotes by 20th-century writers, such as Wallace Stevens and e.e. cummings.

Along with these features, there is a section concerning rare books that contains photographs and information about novels from my personal collection. In August 2019, when my father and I began collecting, I felt uncertain about the idea of harboring books that should be seen by other individuals. For example, of the 1,000 first editions/first printings of Ulysses, half of the originals (if that) still exist, but primarily in private and university libraries. As our personal collection grew, and amassed two first editions of Ulysses, I wanted my website to show photographs and give background to books that aren’t readily available to readers worldwide. Eventually, I plan to open up a bookstore where I would like to have these books on display.

Something else you can find on the website are interviews. Though there aren’t many up now, I plan to interview more booksellers/bookdealers, students, professors, and social media presences that are interested in Modernism. The interviews, along with the aforementioned content, are intended to raise a general awareness to an era of literature where the style, structure, and premise of the novel were recreated and subverted.


Alum (’15) Jason Ray Carney’s book, Weird Tales of Modernity, is reviewed on

Lisa Chiu (’93) has an essay in McSweeney’s: “An Open Letter to the Woman Who Was Questioned By a Police Officer For Merely Sitting In Her Car In a Target Parking Lot After Midnight Taking A Break From Her Family.”

Iris Dunkle (’10) has a poem, “Frontier: A Definition,” in the ten year anniversary edition of Talking Writing.

Kristin E. Kondrlik (’16) has an article in the Victorian Periodicals Review: “Conscientious Objection to Vaccination and the Failure to Solidify Professional Identity in Late Victorian Socio-Medical Journals.”

Jeff Morgan (’99) has a presentation about Robert Frost at Edify at FAU (Florida Atlantic University), a streaming platform.


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