Six Ohio Northern University Getty College of Arts and Sciences Humanities faculty are celebrating recently published and soon-to-be published critical and creative works on topics ranging from ethics to England. These works were recently showcased on campus in a Humanities Publication Showcase led by associate professor Jennifer Moore.
Douglas Dowland, Ph.D., associate professor of English
We, Us, and Them: Affect and American Nonfiction from Vietnam to Trump
Publication date: March 2024, University of Virginia Press
Dowland’s book explores how some authors answer the question "What is America?" in a way that creates an America of "us" versus "them." From John Steinbeck’s hawkish enthusiasm for the Vietnam War to David Sedaris’s wry perspective on the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency, the book uncovers the worrisome emotions that underpin narratives of American strength.
“What I would like readers to walk away with is the idea that the strength of our convictions too often proves to be our greatest weakness,” Dowland said. “We can be so convinced that America is one way — or should only be one way — that we lose sight of our neighbors, our newcomers to the nation, and how the nation, by its very definition, is something far greater than any one person's convictions.”
Dowland wrote the book for his students. “As I told them, ‘As I teach, you inspire me, you push me, you challenge me, and I know that I push and challenge and inspire you in return.’ I also dedicated the book to them because they are the future of this country and will be part of the discussion of how to answer the question my book poses.”
Jennifer Pullen, Ph.D., associate professor of creative writing/fiction
Fantasy Fiction: A Writer's Guide and Anthology
Publication date: January, 2024, Bloomsbury Academic
Pullen’s book is the first textbook focused on the history of fantasy fiction, its present, and the craft of writing fantasy. Additionally, it contains an anthology of fantasy short stories by some of the best contemporary writers in the field, chosen by Pullen.
“I hope this book is helpful to anyone who wants to write fantasy, or teach others to write fantasy. Fantasy is plagued by many misconceptions,” Pullen said. “People often think Tolkien invented fantasy, that it's mostly for children, or that it's all set in a pseudo medieval European past. All are inaccurate beliefs. Fantasy predates Tolkien and has evolved wildly beyond pseudo medieval fantasies and has never been and isn't now primarily for children. So. I hope that people will enjoy the book, and learn from it, so that they can understand and take part in the wild, wonderful and diverse literary world that fantasy fiction is, was, and will be!”
Pullen has been a lifelong devotee of fantasy literature, even though it is largely underappreciated or ignored by academia.
“I wrote the book I have wished existed for my entire academic life. I've had the great privilege at ONU to have been hired specifically to teach fantasy and science fiction, alongside other courses. This means I get to offer opportunities to our students that are rarely offered at other universities. Thus, this book is an extension of my passions as a writer, reader, and teacher,” she said.
Ray Person, Ph.D., professor of religion
Scribal Memory and Word Selection: Text Criticism of the Hebrew Bible
Person’s book focuses on the inevitable varieties of how ancient scribes selectively preserved and transmitted texts. He draws from studies of how words are selected in everyday conversation to illustrate that the same word-seletion mechancisms were at work in scribal memory.
“Scholars of ancient literature have understood for some time that ancient literature existed in multiple manuscripts, none of which are exactly alike,” Person said. “This presents a problem for scholars that can be understood as, ‘How did this diversity come about?’ Most scholars still assume an original text that was written by an individual author, but this idea does not explain the textual plurality well; therefore, we have been looking for better explanations.”
Person provides a cognitive-linguistic explanation for why and how ancient scribes would allow the kind of textual diversity that confuses us, but was quite natural to them, by comparing how the textual diversity of ancient literature is much like how diversity works in every conversation (for example, in storytelling) and in living oral traditions. “This is a completely different way of thinking about ancient literature. This book is the result of my thinking and writing about these ideas for over 30 years,” he said.
Person researched and wrote much of the book during his last sabbatical.
Robert Hartman, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy
“A Christian Ethics of Blame: Or, God says, ‘Vengeance is Mine’”
Published (open access) in Religious Studies: An International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion
If someone deserves blame, does that imply that it’s OK for another person to give them the blame they deserve? In this journal article, Hartman argues the Christian answer is no. “For example, even if Jake deserves blame for his wrongdoing, you shouldn't blame him if it would be hypocritical or if it's none of your business. I argue in this article that if Christianity is true, you also shouldn't blame vengefully—even if you make the wrongdoer suffer exactly as he deserves,” Hartman said. “Instead, you can non-vengefully blame the wrongdoer to reform him or to protect innocent people from him.”
Hartman’s inspiration for the article derives from a Christian tenet about retaliation. “There's considerable beauty and wisdom in the divine commandment not to avenge yourselves. After all, don't you agree that there's considerable beauty and wisdom in the way that Martin Luther King Jr. non-vengefully blames the white moderate and the white church in the Letter from Birmingham Jail by highlighting his disappointment with their apathy?” said Harman.
“Most people want to know whether human beings have free will in part because they want to know whether it's OK to vengefully blame others,” Hartman continued. “But if I'm right in this paper and if Christianity is true, we don't need to know whether we have free will to answer that question. Even if we do have free will, we still shouldn't give others the vengeful blame that they deserve for their wrongdoing; that should be left to God.”
Kanishka Sen, Ph.D., associate professor of Spanish
Horacio Quiroga’s Selected Short Stories/A Spanish-Bengali, Bengali-Spanish Bilingual Anthology
Published by Avenel Press, India
Horacio Quiroga belongs to the Generation of 900, an influential and diverse group of authors from Uruguay. Quiroga’s imaginative portrayal of the struggles of humans and animals in hostile ambiances amidst challenging situations “comes alive through his cinematographic and terse storytelling,” Sen said.
“I grew up speaking, reading, and writing in Bengali, English and Hindi simultaneously,” said Sen. “Spanish is my fourth language. Therefore, navigating multiple linguistic and cultural spaces at the same time was an integral part of my education.”
“I took up this project because I wanted non-Spanish speaking readers to have access to the incredible sensory load of the scenes and the moments that the original stories of Horacio Quiroga generate as they transport readers to unfamiliar places in South America. I want non-Spanish speaking readers to have access to stories that explore human psychology through narratives of struggles, perseverance, compassion, and empathy,” Sen explained. “What I hope is that this translation generates multiple productive and enriching readings and ultimately new conversations that can further lead us to other areas of knowledge.”
David Strittmatter, Ph.D., assistant professor of history
Memory, Heritage, and Preservation in 20th-Century England
Published by Springer Nature
Strittmatter’s book explores commemoration practices and preservation efforts at the locations of some of the most famous events in English history. He describes how some places develop as heritage sites whereas others do not, and argues that these heritage sites became a forum for an evolving social and political environment, while allowing British national identity to be renegotiated. “I hope that readers grasp the significance of heritage sites and what they actually do,” Strittmatter said. “More than just plaques or museums, these places promote narratives which are crucial to national identity.”
Strittmatter’s love of travel inspired him to write this book. “One of things I do when traveling is visit historic places. I got curious about what happened at these places after the famous events. When did people start visiting for a connection to such-and-such event? When did people start putting up monuments and charging admission fees? In terms of preserving and commemorating, why did people do what they did when they did it? I suppose the ‘after-story’ is the story of my book,” he said.