Department of English Newsletter: March 2017

in this issue

Postgrad:LA/Faculty Notes/Faculty Spotlight/Alumni News/Past Faculty: Oliver Farrar Emerson/Schedule of Events

Postgrad in the Entertainment Industry

by Samantha Flinn

The year 2009 was probably the worst time for any college senior to graduate and enter the workforce. The U.S. economy was still in the throes of financial collapse and the job market was full of uncertainty. If you were a liberal arts major? Laughable prospects.

The last semester of my senior year at CWRU, I participated in New York University’s Tisch School of the Fine Arts’ “Spring at Tisch” program. It was what I had spent two years at Case working toward; hours of independent study, time spent with Professor Spadoni and Professor Ehrlich, endless movie tickets bought at the Cinematheque and Cedar Lee Theatre had been leading to this moment. I was going to learn everything I could about “the biz” in four months at NYU. At the end of my time there, I was certain I had.

As part of my semester at Tisch, I had a rigorous internship at the notorious Weinstein Company in the publicity department. My role as an intern was to cover any and everything having to do with “awards season.” If you know anything about Harvey and Bob Weinstein, it’s that they love collecting Oscars, and that year they had a few hopefuls in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Reader, and Inglourious Basterds. I was fortunate to leave my Weinstein internship with a job offer but chose to buy myself two extra years to build my resume and move to the entertainment hub known as Los Angeles. I accepted my offer to attend Chapman’s MFA program in Film & TV Producing.

The best thing that came out of graduate school was two professors advising me to network outside of school as much as possible, intern as much as possible and when I was done, go work at a talent agency. I spent my two years at Chapman doing just that. I interned at New Line Cinema, Offspring Entertainment, and De Line Pictures. And once I graduated, I interviewed at Creative Artists Agency, the largest talent agency in the world. I was inclined to work for a literary agent (an agent who represents directors and screenwriters) but HR told me “the talent department needs strong women. Would you consider it?” So I did.

What you hear about Hollywood agents who scream, throw things, make you run around town to grab their lunch? That’s all true. I worked with two particularly amazing agents/mentors during my three years at CAA. I say “with” and not “for” because a seamless agent/assistant relationship is a partnership; you’re spending 12+ hours a day with this person. In my case, I sat inside the office with both of my bosses so that our communication was even more in sync.  I could easily slip them notes, mute their calls to pass along information when stumped on a client call, and whisper who was on lines 2, 3, 4, and 5 (yes, the phones are always that busy). The people you truly work “for” are the clients. Agenting (and management) is servicing, through and through.

You learn quickly to lose any notion of being starstruck and realize you need to deliver every single day to the talent. It would appear to be glamorous to work with A-listers (WARNING: name drops forthcoming) such as Nicole Kidman, Liam Neeson, Daniel Craig, Miles Teller, Emily Blunt, and so on, but the job is so much more than that. It’s a roll-up-your-sleeves, pride-swallowing, wear-elephant-skin-every-day type job. And that job encompasses things way above and way below your pay grade. But it’s also the biggest crash course in entertainment. I learned more in my first three months than I learned in two years of graduate school.

As with many industries, upward female mobility is a troubling matter and at the time in my particular department, the same was true. Acknowledging the problem, I received an offer from HBO to work in half-hour scripted programming for a Senior Vice President and accepted. I was honest with my boss that my heart was in representation but I was looking to learn the TV business and the literary side of things and HBO could provide that. I gave HBO a year before leaving to pursue my passion of talent representation.

Last year I started operating under my own banner, Gold Frame Entertainment. This took some gumption on my part and, although it’s the least marquee thing I’ve done, it’s the thing I’m the most proud of. I’ve learned to pull resources from my network, which after working at two juggernauts like CAA and HBO, is now fairly wide. At CAA, I liaised with studio execs, publicists, managers, lawyers, casting directors, and so on. At HBO, it was writers, producers, and agents from agencies other than CAA. I have clients across the spectrum of entertainment, ranging from theatre, television, producing and even the digital space.  Each one has their own path and the struggles that come with it. It’s my job to help them navigate and monetize.

This business is hard. Even when you’ve “made it,” it continues to be hard. This is a business that’s rapidly changing. The digital era is officially here. Instagram stars are booking roles in the traditional acting space. Movie stars are moving to television. Amazon won two Oscars this year. Hollywood has not gone unaffected by the current political climate either. Casting directors are making honest efforts to reflect the diversity in the world onto the silver and small screens. Actors who could normally book a TV pilot easily are being overlooked for minority actors who normally go underrepesented in mainstream entertainment. To succeed is to adapt. And I’ve learned to do so.

Tenacity is the one trait that anyone who succeeds in Hollywood has. This is a town full of “no.” You’re constantly turned down, overlooked, and miscast, and there are many other great candidates lined up to take your place. Nearly everyone is replaceable. What I’ve learned is to make myself irreplaceable. Much like in 2009, when there’s no opportunity, don’t panic. But rather, come up with a plan to create your own.

Samantha Flinn (CWRU ’09) earned a Masters of Fine Arts at Chapman University in 2011 and since has worked at top entertainment companies such as Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Home Box Office (HBO), and ID Public Relations. In 2016, Flinn started Gold Frame Entertainment, a talent management company which represents actors, writers, and producers. She resides in Los Angeles with her longtime partner (a screenwriter) and her three rescue dogs. 


Barbara Burgess-Van Aken presented a paper, “Evolving Fear: Edward Ravenscroft’s Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus,” at the Congrès 2017 de la Société Française Shakespeare in Paris. The theme of the conference was Shakespeare and Fear.

Cara Byrne gave a presentation titled “How to Build a Home Library that Reflects Diversity” at the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women on February 10th.

Michael Clune is featured in this Chronicle article on his mentor—Walter Benn Michaels.

Joe DeLong presented “Ken’ichi Sasō and ‘The Forest of Homo Sapiens’: Translation, Ecopoetics, and Emotion” at MMLA.

T. Kenny Fountain presented “Reconciling Tensions: Visual and Verbal Praeteritio in 16th-Century Anatomy Texts” at the ATTW 2017 Conference in Portland, Oregon, on March 15.

Mary Grimm taught a class for Literary Cleveland: “Speculative Fiction: Divorcing the Tropes” on Saturday, January 28th, at Loganberry Books.

Hee-Seung Kang reviewed Tutoring Second Language Writers in TESOL’s Second Language Writing News.

Dave Lucas‘s poem “November” is included in The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature (11th ed).

Marilyn Mobley‘s memoir, The Strawberry Room—And Other Places Where a Women Finds Herself has been published.

Judy Oster has been giving non-credit lit courses (very much like senior scholars) at AACI, Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel. The students are all English speakers—English, Australian, South African—doing really heavy-duty stuff. Recently, they spent a month on The Brothers Karamazov.

Brad Ricca was on BookTV on C-SPAN-2 to talk about his new work—Mrs. Sherlock Holmes.

Martha Schaffer presented “Directed Self-Placement Assessment: How Novice Writers Can Revise a Writing Curriculum” at CCCC 2017 Conference in Portland, Oregon, on March 16.

As part of Faculty Friday at CWRU, Jim Sheeler presented “Reporters are People Too: Events in Journalism.”

Faculty Spotlight: Martha Schaffer

Though I am new as Associate Director of Composition this year, I have been at CWRU since 2014, when I came on as the Foundational Writing Director for a very small subset of students in SAGES First Seminars who needed additional support with their writing. I arrived at an exciting time, when SAGES and the Writing Program had decided to implement a directed self-placement process for incoming first-year students. In this one project, I got to do all of the things that I had hoped to do in my new career: research, assessment, administration, curriculum development, and work with students. Not only did we develop a placement process that empowers student writers, we discovered a need for an expanded curriculum that has become Foundations of College Writing, a First Seminar that offers students opportunities to delve into their writing processes and develop themselves as writers.

I came to academia in a roundabout way. I majored in English and Psychology at Marietta, and then moved into a Masters’ program in English Language and Literature at the University of Toledo. I studied American and British literature as well as language and linguistics there, and I enjoyed it, but the thought of being a professor seemed horrible to me at the time. Ah, youth!

So, I went to law school. I quickly picked up a clerking position at a large plaintiff’s firm in Toledo. They hired me on as an attorney when I graduated, and eventually I was a partner. I practiced workers’ compensation law, representing injured workers before the Industrial Commission and in common pleas court, the court of appeals, and the Supreme Court of Ohio. We had a very high volume practice and most of our clients came in to see us because they were in dire straits, financially and emotionally, but helping them was invigorating.

My law career was wonderful, but it seemed more and more like a detour and in 2012, the thought of being a professor seemed wonderful to me. Ah, wisdom! I lucked into a redo with the support of my family, and I quit my job to be a graduate teaching assistant at Bowling Green State University, twenty minutes from my house, where I discovered rhetoric and composition. Now, in my new position, I happily spend my time at CWRU with a delightful balance of student interaction, planning, and working with teachers on curriculum and pedagogy for writing classrooms. I don’t regret my detour into the law, but I couldn’t be happier to be back in academia.


Gerry Canavan (’02) has an article in Science Fiction Film and Television.

Lisa Chiu (’93) had work featured in “Crossing Borders: Immigrant Narratives,” a staged reading that is part of the Cleveland Humanities Festival.

William Heath ( ’71) edited Conversations with Robert Stone now published by the University Press of Mississippi.

Jamie McDaniel (’10) will receive the Pittsburgh State University Outstanding Faculty Award this year.

Andrese Miller (’16), one of our recent BAs with Teacher Licensure in Integrated Language Arts, just received the Teacher of the Quarter award for her work at Lincoln West High School, even though she is just in her first year as a teacher.

John Vourlis (’88) produced & directed the documentary Breaking Balls which will be screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Geoff Wedig (’94) won an Academy Award for technical innovation.

Faculty of the Past:

Oliver Farrar Emerson

b. 24 May 1860 Wolf Creek (now Traer), Iowa
d. 13 March 1927 Ocala, Florida

Oliver Farrar Emerson studied at Grinnell College (then Iowa College), where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1882. He worked as head of the Grinnell and Muscatine, Iowa, schools, and later as Principal of Grinnell College Academy. During his time in Grinnell, he kept a journal in French, was active in the Grinnell Browning Club, and established himself as the champion tennis player of south central Iowa. In 1888, he matriculated at Cornell University on fellowship, earning his doctorate in 1891. Subsequently he taught English at Cornell, first as an instructor and then as an assistant professor of rhetoric and English philology. Emerson married Annie L. Logan of St. Louis on September 24, 1891.

In 1896 Emerson left Cornell for the Oviatt Professorship at Adelbert College, Western Reserve University where, over the next thirty years, he established English at WRU as a modern discipline with national visibility. He arrived at a moment of transformation for English at WRU. Along with William Henry Hulme (PhD Freiburg 1894), who also began in 1896 as associate professor of English at the College for Women, he represented the first generation at WRU to bring sustained influences from beyond the Yale-WRU relationship. In December of Emerson’s and Hulme’s first year at WRU, the English faculties at WRU hosted the MLA annual convention. Together Emerson and Hulme anchored the English Departments at Adelbert and the College for Women for the next three decades.

Emerson raised the profile of Adelbert and Western Reserve by his deep involvement in professional societies nationally. He served as Secretary of the American Dialect Society 1898-1905, during which time he served as editor of Dialect Notes. He was subsequently President of the Society from 1906-1909. Concurrently he chaired the Central Division of the MLA in 1907-1908, served several terms on the Executive Council of the MLA, and was MLA President in 1923. He also held positions with the Linguistic Society of America, the Humanities Research Association, the AAUP, and the Simplified Spelling Board.

In Cleveland, he helped found the Novel Club of Cleveland in 1896 and was, in the words of his colleague Hulme, its “unobtrusive guiding spirit.” In the 1920s, he organized an “English Club” among the members of the separate English faculties of Western Reserve University (Adelbert College, College for Women, Cleveland College) and faculties of other colleges of Greater Cleveland. Eventually the Club drew faculty from across Northern Ohio.

Emerson lived in East Cleveland, and made a habit of walking to the Adelbert campus regularly. While he was slight of build, he continued to play tennis vigorously in Cleveland, and also played baseball with great relish. He had a summer home on the lake, as other faculty of the era seem to have had (Frank Comstock of CSAS, for instance). He and Annie Emerson had two children: Harold (b. 1893, Adelbert C. 1914) and Olive (b.1896, C. for Women 1918).

Emerson died unexpectedly in 1927 in Ocala, Florida, where he had traveled in an attempt to heal from a heart condition and Bright’s disease. A volume of his extensive work on Chaucer was published as a memorial by the Western Reserve University Press, edited by his colleagues Walter Graham and William Henry Hulme. Hulme simultaneously collected Emerson’s sonnets, which were also published by WRU Press.

Upon his death, his family gave his collection of books treating the history of the English language and Old and Middle English to the Graduate Library, hoping to inspire a new generation of scholars. (The Graduate School had just reorganized and relaunched the MA and PhD degrees.) The bookplate for the Emerson contribution to the Graduate Library appears below.

Emerson’s subject matter ranged from “ghost words”—words introduced into the language through printers’ errors and so on—to Sir Walter Scott’s translations to transverse alliteration in Teutonic poetry.” He is best known for his ground-breaking and standard-setting The History of the English Language (1894). Other works include A Brief History of the English Language (1896); A Middle English Reader (1905); An Outline History of the English Language (1906); and Chaucer: Essays and Studies: A Selection from the Writings of Oliver Farrar Emerson, 1860 -1927 (1929). He edited, with an introduction and notes, History of Rasselas, Prince of Abysinnia (1895); Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Edward Gibbon (1898); and Poems of Chaucer: Selections from his Earlier and Later Works (1911). His poetry was published as A Sheaf of Sonnets (1929).

Emerson taught across the discipline, everything from courses in “Rhetoric and English Composition,” “Rhetorical Theory,” “English Prose Style,” and “Forensics” to “Chaucer, Spenser, and Bacon,” “Collins to Keats,” “A History of English Prose,” and “The English Novel.” At the center of his teaching, however, were courses in Old English, in Middle English, and in advanced study of the history of English.

Entry by Kurt Koenigsberger and Andrew Field, from records in University Archives, CWRU, and from W. H. Hulme’s biographical essay in Chaucer: Essays and Studies, as well as public documents.

Photo courtesy University Archives, CWRU. Bookplate courtesy Special Collections and William Claspy, Kelvin Smith Library.

Schedule of Events

Friday, March 31st
“The Anthropocenotaph: Structures of Mourning a Transforming World,”
a Lecture by Matt Burkhart. Guilford Parlor. 3:00 to 4:15 p.m.

Friday, April 7th
“Case Studies in a Poetics of Memory,”
a panel discussion with Lucy Biederman and Arthur Russell. Guilford Parlor. 3:00 to 4:15 p.m.

Friday, April 14th
“From History to Mystery: Or, How to Tell the Truth, Even When You Are Lying,”
a Reading and Discussion with Samuel Thomas. Guilford Parlor. 3:00 to 4:15 p.m.

Friday, April 21st
Celebration of Student Writing & Research.
Veale Convocation and Recreation Center. 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Friday, April 21st
“Green-Screeners: Locating the Literary History of Word Processing,”
a Lecture by Matthew Kirschenbaum. Clark 206. 3:00 to 4:15 p.m.

Case Western Reserve University