Welcome to the blog for the Villanova English department! Visit often for updates on department events, guest speakers, faculty and student accomplishments, and reviews and musings from professors and undergraduates alike.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The English Department at Parents' Weekend

The English department hosted two panels for this year’s Parents’ Weekend--a Creative Writing workshop on Friday, Sept. 20, and a discussion of “The Future of the Book” on Saturday, Sept. 21.
Parents and students composing poetry at the Creative Writing workshop
Professors Alan Drew and Kamran Javadizadeh of the English Department conducted an interactive Creative Writing Workshop for parents and students alike. Prof. Drew delighted the audience with a powerpoint of his favorite writing quotes that he made with his nine-year old son in the spirit of the weekend.  Drew, the bestselling author of Gardens of Water, gave an anecdote of writing his second book.  He expressed his frustration that, although he knew all the details of his second novel, when he sat down to write it, things did not flow organically. He then realized that writers need to be "open to moments that are unplanned, moments that surprise you;  losing control-- that's the good stuff." He read excerpts from his first novel that are contingent on spontaneously writing himself into the book and eventually led him into the heart of the novel.

In the second half of the workshop Prof. Javadizadeh instructed the audience in the art of poetry writing. He gave four rules to be followed for a poetry-writing exercise:  1) use five words from a list written on the whiteboard (see photo below);  2) use a familiar proverb, adage or saying but alter it slightly;  3)  write a poem of ten lines;  4) write the poem in ten minutes.  The audience vigorously undertook the exercise, and volunteers shared their poems with the whole group.  The variations were witty and engaging!
Prof. Alan Drew

Prof. Kamran Javadizadeh
“The Future of the Book” session, led by English professors Jean Lutes and Lauren Shohet, invited its participants to consider how their reading experiences have changed with the advent of new technologies.  “What do you want the future of the book to be?” asked Prof. Lutes.  Prof. Lutes surveyed the current state of the publishing industry, raised questions about the rise of electronic reading, especially in the realm of genre fiction, and the relatively small share of the market that electronic textbooks have captured and compared the emergence of electronic reading to the slow rise of the paperback as a dominant form of reading in the twentieth century.

Prof. Shohet asked the audience to think about the book not just as an “object” but as a “technology” and to give play to what she characterized as an “extensive” notion of the book.  We tend to use different technologies simultaneously, emphasized Prof. Shohet, and one form doesn’t typically replace another.  The book “doesn’t vanish” and remains a stable enough technology that it is unlikely we will forget how to access it.
Professors Jean Lutes and Lauren Shohet
Spirited discussion followed the presentations of Professors Lutes and Shohet.  Audience members reflected on the relationship of screen reading and shallow comprehension, wondered about the future status of libraries, and evaluated changing notions of sharing books in an era of electronic readers (“You cannot give away your Kindle!”).  Reading an entire, material book, one participant reminded, can still provide a distinct feeling of “triumph.”