I Am Proud Of My Students!

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I feel blessed that I am able to follow two of my passions in my life–teaching and writing. I spend a great deal of time in this blog speaking about my writing, but now I want to talk about one of the classes I teach at college.

I love all of my classes, but something extraordinary happened this semester in one of my classes at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. This was part of a cluster–two courses taught by two different professors about a central issue or question. This cluster’s name is America on The Cusp of Crisis: The Literature and History of A Nation in Turmoil, and it is about the history and writing of the Civil War of the United States of America.

I was also fortunate to be able to work with Dr. William Feeney, who taught the history course. Dr. Feeney is one of the most talented teachers I have ever had the honor of knowing, and I have known many in my now 25 or so years of teaching English at college. Dr. Feeney is a scholar on the Civil War and is deeply invested in teaching and finding new and challenging ways for his students to learn. Any student who has him as a professor is fortunate.

The students were given a project, working in small groups, to conceptualize, design, and print a model of a Civil War monument. This was not working on an existing monument, but creating a new one about an aspect of the Civil War they found important and interesting. The students would use the college’s 3-D printer to make the model. They also had to write a dedication speech and a reflective essay on their projects. The students were aided in the design and printing by Instructional Technologist Jordan Noyes.

The 4 groups created monuments to Civil War horses, Clara Barton, The Sanitary Commission, and the Battle of Shiloh.  All of the models of the monuments demonstrated an abundance of work, planning, and execution. I was astounded by their efforts.

The students presented the models, including a ribbon cutting and a reading of their dedication speech. They then spoke about the process of their work. Their presentation was covered by the student newspaper The Muhlenberg Weekly. This was an exercise that included analysis, knowledge, creativity, design, and production, and I believe this work brought out the best in these students.

The models are now on display on the main floor of the Trexler Library of Muhlenberg College.

I am honored to have worked on this cluster with Dr. Feeney and with Jordan Noyes. I am deeply proud of the work of my students.

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Harvest of Ideas at Lehigh University’s Linderman Library

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Last month the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries hosted the Sixth Annual Harvest of Ideas at Lehigh University’s Linderman Library, in which faculty who published books over the previous year were showcased. I was deeply honored to have been one of the authors in attendance for my novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book 1.

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This was a lovely and genial event, and I am proud to have been a part of it. Congratulations to all the authors involved, and thank you to the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries, to Linderman Library, and to Heather Simoneau, Humanities Librarian.

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Again, to all involved, thank you!

 

 

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

Beautiful Writing: Part 2: William Shakespeare

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I would certainly be avoiding the truth and not doing duty to writing if I did not include in this series the man who is certainly the best and most important writer in English Drama and Literature: William Shakespeare.

In full disclosure, I am a Shakespearean. I have made the study of his work one of my areas of my Ph.D. in English, I have taught Shakespeare many times, I have presented papers on Shakespeare, and I have directed and acted in his plays. So, I do come with a particular bias, but I maintain that his work is the core of English Literature.

You certainly do not have to agree with me.

I will offer a few examples:

Sonnet 116

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

Henry V (Act 4. Scene 3. Lines 21-70)

“What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

 

Hamlet (Act 5. Scene 2. Lines 206-211)

“Not a whit, we defy augury: there’s a special

 providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,

 ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be

 now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the

 readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he

 leaves, what is’t to leave betimes?”

My book Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is now in the Lehigh University Library!

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I am very excited to say that my horror novel, Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I  is now in the humanities library, Linderman Library, at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA! This is something for which I am very grateful and deeply satisfied. I have been connected to Lehigh University for many years; I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English Literature at this school, and now I teach there as an adjunct professor.

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Having my novel included in the new books section is a serious honor, one of which I will be proud for the rest of my life.

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Thank you to Heather Simoneau for the photographs!

And please consider voting for the cover of my book in authorshout.com’s Cover Wars.

Please visit this site to vote!  Cover Wars

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

A New Semester!

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Summer is close to ending, and autumn will soon be here, a wondrous season of change.  Among those movements are the leaving behind of summer activities and the return of the academic school year.  The first day of the semester at both schools where I teach, Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College, has arrived. I had a busy summer and taught summer classes, so this is not following on a long break, but I always am excited at the start of a new collegiate year.

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I often write, in this blog, about writing, and that is my other passion, but teaching is still my main field, my main vocation, and my driving force in life. I love to teach, and this semester I have a wide variety of courses; among them are the following: First Year Composition, Renaissance Imagination, Gothic and Horror, and Modern American Fiction. These courses reflect some, but certainly not all, of my areas of study and interest.

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I always feel blessed that I am able to incorporate my love of reading into a field in which I lead discussions about this material. In fact, I am extraordinarily lucky, because I love my work, and I know there are far too many people who do not have this good fortune.

I also love that I have a wide range of students in my classes.  I teach both traditional-age students and non-traditional adult students.  As someone who was an adult student myself, a story for another post, I embrace having adults in my classes.

So, onward with the semester!

Shakespeare Folios

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Yesterday, at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The English Department Creative Writing Program along with The Friends of the Lehigh Univeristy Libraries sponsored an event called Sonnet Slam!  This event featured readings of poetry, a celebration of the student literary magazine Amaranth, and the 400th year of Shakesepeare’s life and showcased a display of extraordinary importance for lovers of Shakespeare.

The event was held in the Bayer Galleria, a beautiful room, filled with special holdings in its bookshelves, an old fireplace, plenty of seating, and a very important display. Lehigh University has an extraordinary collection of early Shakespeare texts: in the case were the First Folio, the Second Folio, the Third Folio, and the Fourth Folio.

Shakespeare is one of my main areas of study, and as a Shakespearean, viewing these rare and important volumes was nearly a sacred experience.  I have loved Shakespeare since I was a teenager; I have studied his work, loved reading the plays and poetry, acted in some plays, directed a play, and taught his work.  Having been intricately connected with Shakespeare, being able to see these early texts was a moving and deeply powerful experience.

When the event began, I read two sonnets and had fun with that.  When I was younger, I had a goal to memorize all of them, but let’s say that was not entirely successful!  Then undergraduate students, a graduate student who is the advisor for the literary magazine and an excellent poet, and a professor read.  At that point, I had to leave to prepare to teach my upcoming class, but it was a wonderful and moving experience.

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Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: The Brides of Dracula

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A tsunami of horror films cascaded into movie theaters in the 1960s, some by the larger studios and an abundance of grade B-Z films from smaller companies. Following the success of Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, and The Mummy, Hammer created a plethora of sequels as well as new horror films. Frankenstein and Dracula would serve as the basis for the most sequels, thereby creating a seemingly non-ending money source for the studio, even as the films often became bad imitations of the original productions.

Oddly, the first sequel to The Horror of Dracula, The Brides of Dracula, (1960) does not feature Dracula as a character. Instead, the movie features a Baron Meinster, as the opening voice-over narration says is a disciple of the ongoing cult of vampirism led by the now destroyed Dracula. While Dracula does not appear, the renowned vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing does as played once more by Peter Cushing. Along with Baron Frankenstein, this role would establish Cushing as a major horror film star of the 1950s-1970s.

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The characters are indirectly based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, the foundation for most vampire films, until Anne Rice’s revolutionary treatment of the undead in Interview With The Vampire.

The plot involves a young teacher who is “wooed” by a Baron Meinster. He proposes to her, while intending to make her his vampire bride. The tone of the film is clearly Gothic, with an architectural focus on a castle, the threatened young maiden, and a Bryonic Hero–the Baron.  These are standard, but not all inclusive, elements of a Gothic tale, and the Byronic Hero is typically a sexually attractive and threatening person, but more importantly, someone who lives according to his or her own rules, ignoring  the dictates of society.

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While much of the film does not break new earth in exploring the vampire story, it does feature one very unusual twist. In one sequence, Dr. Van Helsing is attacked by a vampire and bitten. He passes out, and when he awakens, he is able to remove the curse of the vampire bite. He heats an iron in glowing coals, then uses it to cauterize the bite and finally pours holy water onto the wound. It works and suggest that the vampire attacks are not merely demonic but also infections. This motif is one that will be greatly developed in many later vampire novels, TV shows, and films.

Van Helsing is successful in destroying the vampire and saving the young woman. The motif of the holy symbols are repeated: Van Helsing throws holy water onto the face of the Vampire, repelling and burning him, and then he is able to catch the Baron in the shadow of a giant cross, which destroys him.

Terence Fisher directed, and the film did well enough at the box office to justify a chain of sequels. Even though Christopher Lee did not appear in this movie, he would soon return to reprise the role of Count Dracula in the near future.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

Quotations From Writers From Earlier Times

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Today I will offer a few quotations from writers from earlier eras about creativity, learning, and teaching.

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(illustration from Cassell’s History Of England – Century Edition – published circa 1902)

“And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche”

“And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.”

These are the Middle English and the Modern English versions of this quotation from “The General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. This idea is of enormous importance to me, because I am both a teacher and a life-long student.  All people should try to continue to learn throughout their lives and to teach someone else the wisdom they have amassed.

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“Suit the action to the word, the

word to the action, with this special observance, that you

o’erstep not the modesty of of nature. For anything so over-

done is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at

the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror

up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her

own image, and the very age and body of the time his

form and pressure.”

                                William Shakespeare (Hamlet Act 3. Scene2. lines 16-23)

Shakespeare speaks to the importance of representing life and humanity as it is and to examine the world in its complexities; it can also be an injunction for all creative efforts. I do not mean we should eliminate abstraction, metaphor, or altered forms, but that, at our core, we are creating art about humanity and our world.

Keep learning and keep sharing what you know.

 

 

Dining With Authors: A Bit Of A Mystery

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I am currently teaching a course Medieval Literature at The Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, and I am having a great time exploring these texts. Among the texts we are studying are Beowulf, Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, and Le Morte D’Arthur. Many themes and historical circumstances connect these works, but for the purposes of this post, I am concerned with the mysterious nature of their authors.

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Unknown Author Beowulf, British Library Cotton Vitellius A.XV

Beowulf is an old English poem, probably written during the 800s or 900s A.D. and is arguably the oldest piece of English literature.  That is a scholarly debate and interesting, but it is not my main point here. The works deals with a warrior hero and is set in ancient Scandinavia.  The poet is usually called “the Beowulf poet.”  We have neither a clear idea nor evidence to indicate who he might have been.  That he was educated is clear, but was he a member of the clergy or nobility or someone else? We don’t know.

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 Howard Pyle from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)

We also do not know the identity or background of the person who was the poet of Sir Gawain And The Green Knight. An argument can be made about the approximate area of Britain from which he originated, but even that is scholarly supposition.  We simply do not know who this writer was.

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On first glance, a different situation might seem to be the case with Le Morte D’Arthur, since an author’s name is attached to the work: Sir Thomas Malory. There is, however, a problem because there were at least seven people who claimed that name at that time, and we cannot be certain which one, if any, wrote the work.  Ah the interest of the literary mystery!

Given that uncertainty surrounding the identities of these three writers, I thought I would issue an invitation to these three unknown authors to dine at a pub with me and see who arrives.  Who do you think might be there? Who might choose to sit and dine with me and discuss their writings?

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More Reading and Writing Quotations

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“Read a lot. Reading really helps. Read anything you can get your hands on.”                                    J. K. Rowling

 

“I always advise children who ask me for tips on being a writer to read as much as they possibly can. Jane Austen gave a young friend the same advice, so I’m in good company there.”                                         J. K. Rowling

 

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“Believe in yourself. Keep writing.”  Neil Gaiman

“Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.”                                              Neil Gaiman

 

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“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”            Ray Bradbury

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

                                                                  Ray Bradbury