What We’re Writing/Reading

Dr. Shanti Weiland

I am currently editing my poetry manuscript, “Cracked Planet,” which is a dark, modern fairytale that explores the relationship between time and memory. I imagine the manuscript as a photo album of relationships (romantic and platonic) that emerge from the understanding of familial experience and the balance (and, at times, incongruent nature) of religion and enlightenment.

Last year, I started a literary blog called, The Poets That You Meet, that discusses poetry and provides writing prompts. I am interested in helping people to understand poetry better and to find poetry in places they didn’t expect. In fact, this month’s post discusses the genre of found poetry.

I also recently started a web corner called Online Enlightenment, which publishes poetry, art, and music that expresses the artist’s understanding of “enlightenment.” In October, I published alternative hip hop artist Ven’s really cool album, Circa ’16. The album combines music and poetry, and weaves New Thought and pop culture references throughout its narrative.

 

Van Newell, MFA

The Question of Access, by Tanya Titchkosky, concerns disability culture on higher education campuses. A professor of disability studies at The University of Toronto, Titchkosky combines her own personal experiences as a person with a disability, her partner who has a different disability, and something nearly universal to most colleges and universities in North America: buildings and washrooms. Using a phenomenological analysis, Titchkosky explores her own campus and notices the difficulties those with disabilities would likely encounter. What I enjoyed about this book is that it opened my eyes to the difficulties faculty, staff, and students with disabilities encounter on campus day in and day out. Fans of Judith Butler will enjoy this book as well.

 

Dr. Sarah K. Cantrell

This summer, I received an email from my alma mater, Centre College, a small liberal arts campus in the rolling, green hills of Danville, Kentucky. The campus boasts the Norton Center for the Arts—a state-of-the-art theater complex that attracts major performing arts touring productions. The staff remembered my work in French children’s literature. They hoped I would write an essay to accompany Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella, which would be on campus. The piece would appear in the program and online, and help attract viewers to the show.

Needless to say, I said yes.

As an academic, I realize that scholarly monographs are hardly enjoyable weekend or bedtime fare. Here, by contrast was a chance to write for regular folks—students, families and their children, and couples enjoying a night out. I relished this opportunity to write for fun! In keeping with the musical’s frothy dance numbers, my essay needed to be both breezy and thought-provoking. No scholarly jargon; no rhetorical flourishes.

I began with my audience’s starting point—Disney’s animated Cinderella, and introduced readers to the 17th-century French moralist Charles Perrault’s version of the tale upon which Disney’s animation is based. I contrasted Perrault’s story with the Brothers Grimm’s darker (and likely, more accurate) telling, connecting the latter’s disfiguring violence to Cinderella tales from ancient Greece, medieval China, and the Canadian Micmac nation. Because I frequently teach world literature, I was delighted to explore the diverse facets of this popular and seductive good-girl-gets-the-prince narrative.

In addition to its entertainment value, Cinderella’s rags-to-riches story offers us an important opportunity to think about the real, live Cinderellas—the ones who vacuum our classrooms, clean our bathrooms, and take out our trash. I remember the Cinderellas I met at in college: the young woman dutifully ladling mashed potatoes in the cafeteria as students complained about the food; the young mother cleaning the dorms with her toddler on a Saturday morning. But for a few different choices, I might have been in their shoes, and they in mine. Did these young women ever get the big white dress? The beautiful shoes? The prince?  I hope so.

Good stories—like Cinderella—invite us to think about those who lack the privileges of parentage, birth, wealth, and inheritance. Great stories invite us to rectify those imbalances, so that everyone has a seat at the table.

I am grateful for this opportunity to engage with a story that still has so much to teach us.

 

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