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“MnWE News”

Late Summer Issue, July-Aug. 2017

In this issue:


     3. TIPS:

     5. About MnWE: Forwarding the News, Joining/Leaving, Grad Credit,

If you are a MnWE representative, please forward this email to colleagues
in English/Writing and related fields. Many may not be on the email list.

If you are a long-term member of this listserv, thank you
for your continued participation. If you are new, welcome! Our listserv
listserv emails are sent to about 2500 English, Writing, and related Upper
Midwest faculty. To join, send a request to the editor at richard at jewell dot net.
Our website is
You are welcome to attend our next Committee meeting 3:30 pm Fri.,
Sept. 22, in 235 Nolte Hall at the University of Minnesota. –Richard J., Editor


       Welcome back to another academic year of teaching! The MnWE Committee would like you to know that the Tenth Annual MnWE Conference in 2018 will, on Friday-Saturday, March 23-24, return to where the Conference started, the University of Minnesota, this time on the Minneapolis east-bank campus. The rather topical theme for 2018 is “Points of the Compass: The Ethics of Our Time.” As the country and world develop deepening ethical questions in our culture and politics, we in English, Writing, and related fields find ourselves asking what our responses should or should not be. The spring 2018 conference will explore this and related ideas and activities – anything you would like to explore. We will send our call for papers and information about sending us your proposals in the next month or two. What could you present on ethics or on other ideas and activities? What are you trying out in your classrooms that would be ready for presentation by spring?


        The Chronicle of Higher Education just announced its new online “teaching-learning” newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe free of charge, see the link below. One of the subjects in the first issue is several ways in which to make your course syllabus more of an interactive or otherwise better-learned event. There’s also a link to 132 photos of classrooms “specially designed to foster active learning” at Vanderbilt University. Also available are links to discussions about the pros and cons of the California State University system’s new decision to drop placement tests and non-credit remedial courses, as well as two other states’ similar recent changes.



        A recent article by the University of Texas’ Marilla Svinicki featured in “Tomorrow’s Professor eNewsletter” discusses how we can discover students’ volitional strategies for better success in college. Svinicki defines volition as “the ability to move a task forward once the intention to tackle it has been invoked.” She uses a survey developed by psychological researchers in which each question of students begins, “When I am unable to get started on my assignment or if I get distracted,” and then has students offer answers in three general categories of their lives: how they study better, “reduce emotional responses to stress,” and “imagine the consequences of finishing or not finishing the study task.”

        Svinicki then has her students discuss their answers. The survey can be as complex or as simple as you want – and if you want the original, Svinicki provides the source. Perhaps the real genius of her method, however, is to have us, faculty, solicit answers from our own students, publish the class results (anonymously), and then ask students to discuss them. The same sets of questions might also be assigned to small groups for discussion with each group reporting its results and reactions.
“Volition: When the Going Gets Tough, What Do Good Students Do?” National Teaching and Learning Forum. Reprinted in “Tomorrow’s Professor,” https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/1567


        In the 2016 Chronicle article “What’s Wrong with Literary Studies?” Marc Parry describes how Virginia professor Rita Felski and others posit a new culture war of sorts. On the one hand, older or more modern-traditional scholars have a “habit of approaching texts like suspicious detectives on the hunt for hidden meanings,” says Felski. On the other, a loosely composed “post-critical reading” group of younger and less traditional scholars are accepting “humanist” ideas related more to enjoyment of reading and to students’ current sociological and psychological interests.   

        Parry says that Lisa Ruddick, whose 1990 psychoanalytic study of Gertrude Stein established her in literary studies, calls the old-fashioned studies a “kind of professional groupthink.” Parry further delineates such studies by adding, “Felski’s message boils down to prefixes. Literary critics have emphasized ‘de’ words, like ‘debunk’ and ‘deconstruct.’ But they’ve shortchanged ‘re’ words – literature’s capacity to reshape and recharge perception.”  

        According to Parry, Felski believes teaching of literature should involve people in why they are attracted to certain literary works, what these works have to say to them, and how they communicate with generations of readers in positive ways. Felski says, “Critics should describe the full range of motivations that drive people to take up literature.” She adds, for example, that people read for “recognition” (“self-understanding”), “enchantment” (“escapism”), and “shock.” She says, “Our attitudes to artworks are much more unpredictable and surprising than a lot of social theories allow for…. And therefore we need to look at these specific examples of a relationship to an artwork. A lot of specific examples are going to explode our [old] theories rather than confirm them."

        In addition, along with Parry, we might consider how most beginning literary students want to write about a work of art. Often they hope not to debunk or otherwise tear it apart, but rather to explain why and how it works well, placing in their own milieu.

        Critics of Felski, Ruddick, and the post-critical reading movement say, according to Parry, that only the worst of traditional critics are groupthink bound in always finding something negative to interpret or find hidden in literature. For example, Bruce Robbins of Columbia says the post-critical reading movement scholars do not look at positive manifestations of traditional critiquing: Felski is “not paying attention to the many varied and extremely interesting ways in which people’s positive appreciation is part of their critical practice.” Others suggest that the post-critical movement is, in part, bending to pressures to gain more students in English departments whose offerings – and students’ interests – are dwindling.

FORMATTING, INVITATION, & CREDITS: These listserv emails usually are formatted in a simple way using html. If you cannot read them, please go to the link at the top to see them on the web.
        If you have any questions, we invite you to email any of us on the committee. You also are always invited to attend any of our five MnWE Committee meetings per year.  You also are invited to offer suggestions—or volunteer your leadership—for a special or double section at the annual conference. 
        This newsletter is written primarily by Richard Jewell without copyright so that anyone may quote, paraphrase, or forward any or all of it freely. We ask only that you give credit to the “MnWE Newsletter” and/or “
www.MnWE.org“; and when you use material that has been quoted or paraphrased in this newsletter from other sources, please be sure to give proper credit to the original source. 
REPRESENTATIVES: Representatives (as listed below), please forward each of these emails: many of your writing and English colleagues may not be on this listserv. Potential volunteer representatives: We always appreciate hearing from you if your school has no rep. See the “Representatives” list below, and if no one at your school is on it, please volunteer! Email richard at jewell dot net.  We are especially looking for reps from Greater Minnesota, Canada, Iowa, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin. 
Richard Jewell, Larry Sklaney, Danielle Hinrichs,
Anthony Miller, and Gordon and Beata Pueschner, Coordinators

Richard at jewell dot net - (612) 870-7024
larry dot sklaney at century dot edu - (651) 747-4006
danielle dot hinrichs at metrostate dot edu - (651) 999-5960
a dot miller at nhcc dot edu
gordon dot pueschner at century dot edu - (651) 686-4468
beata dot pueschner at anokaramsey dot edu – (651) 686-4468

Minnesota Writing & English
A Consortium of Colleges & Universities

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into teaching and learning experiences

using methodologies that serve students best.


Bringing scholarly ideas and practical

pedagogy together to create our futures.




Donald Ross of the University of

Minnesota and Taiyon Coleman of St. Catherine

University run a breakout session about literature.




Geoffrey Sirc of the University of Minnesota
runs a small breakout after his keynote presentation.




MnWE started in 2007. The cofounders

were Richard Jewell, here giving a welcome

after lunch, and Donald Ross, first picture above.




During a 2016 breakout, Beata Puschner presents

on improving classroom inclusion of ELL students.


Updated 25 Aug. 2017




Editions: 12-09, 10-14, 8-15, 9-16

Conference Questions--Larry Sklaney or Danielle Hinrichs. General--Richard Jewell

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All MnWE work is volunteer. MnWE thanks the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for meeting and web space, and the Minnesota State system (formerly MnSCU) for financial and site services. Photos © MnWE