Monthly Archives

February 2016

Student Research, Study Abroad, The Value of English, Undergraduate English

It’s An Adventure: Walking and Writing Ireland

Dun Aengus Group-680Trading in Minnesota’s snow flurries and below freezing temperatures for soft rains and lush greenery, I joined a group of twenty-one other students and two professors on a quest to walk and write our way through the streets and countryside of Ireland. During the month of January, we covered much of the small country, gallivanting through medieval castles in quaint little towns, weaving between busses on bicycles, and perfecting our collective ability to take group photos.

That, however, was not the sole purposeFisherman's Village-340 of our journey to the Emerald Isle. Led by Professors Emily James and James Garlick, the students enrolled in “Walking and Writing Ireland” spent the month of January poring over the words of Ireland’s literary greats, such as W. B. Yeats and James Joyce.  We had the opportunity to interact with texts in a way that could not be afforded by sitting in a classroom back home.  Tucking away in the upstairs quarters of bookstores and coffee shops, we spent hours picking apart the imagery and themes of Joyce’s poignant short stories.  Each afternoon, we took to the streets to trace the steps of those very stories.

JoyceJames-160One of the key themes we identified and contemplated in Joyce’s work was the overwhelming sense of paralysis. In some way, each of his characters yearned for something beyond the monotony of their everyday lives—something remarkable.  Despite their best efforts, however, these characters could never break free from the confines of their physical, financial, or social limitations.  They were simply stuck.

Wicklow Mountains-340Intrigued by their reach for the extraordinary world just beyond their grasp, I was inspired to explore the counterpart to Joyce’s paralysis: adventure. Although seemingly simple at first glance, “adventure” is rich with historical and cultural significance.  The word’s popularity spiked in the seventeenth century, which speaks to the period’s fascination with exploration.  However, as time progressed, “adventure” widened to encompass the agency of the individual.  No longer did an individual need to be an esteemed explorer who braves the treacherous high seas and unpredictable climates.  As Joyce and his contemporaries understood, an adventurer may now take the face of any individual, provided that he or she has an open heart, open mind, and daring spirit.  In the words of essayist Rebecca Solnit, “When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back.”

Dun Aengus Cliffs-680I stood atop the cliffs of Dun Aengus with the Atlantic Ocean stretching out before me. The salty sea breeze filled my lungs as my feet dangled over the ledge, three hundred feet above the crashing waves below. Despite my paralyzing fear of heights, I was not afraid.  Some crave the pulse of adrenaline through their veins.  But for me, an adventure is about contentment.  It’s about sitting at the edge of the earth and not feeling afraid.

And adventurers we became.

Limper-300

Elise Limper is a junior English with a Secondary Education (5-12) major. After graduation, she hopes to teach high school English to share her love of the written word. With a passion for photography and a severe case of the travel bug, she also aspires to travel the world with her camera in tow.

 

Student Research, Undergraduate English

The Art of Bookmaking

Book Art

Loving books is an implied prerequisite for English majors, but many of us take the process of bookmaking for granted. Books, like everything else, are mass-produced, but the Minnesota Center for Book Arts takes things at a slower pace, and we should love them for it. As part of the Literary Magazine Practicum, the editors of the Summit Avenue Review took a field trip to theMCBA logo 200X200 Minnesota Center for Book Arts in downtown Minneapolis. We were able to see various printing presses and learned about the intricacies of typesetting.

When studying literary magazines and journals in class, we focus on the intention behind design decisions. Seeing the materials and processes first hand helped us to understand the importance of making purposeful decisions. You are forced to think carefully when hand setting type because every space, letter, and punctuation mark is placed individually.

The editors were able to participate in MCBA’s work by printing our own book art on a roller press. We watched the process of inking the press and learned how to line up the paper for an even print. I waited until it was my turn and then approached the machine. I pressed my foot on the pedal to place the fresh sheet of paper at the preset mark. MBA3-320We had been warned that it was sometimes tricky to get the feel of how fast to turn the handle. As I turned it, the cylinder gained steady momentum as my free hand followed in order to hold the paper in place. I removed my paper, now imprinted with reddish brown ink. Rolling the press back into place required more force than I had anticipated. After we all printed it was time to fold our booklets. We used bone folders to crease the paper and X-acto knives to make slits for folding, creating a small eight-page booklet.

We were also able to see different types of hand bound books that are held together with various stitching, adhesives, or a combination of the two. Artists choose the medium that best supports the message they are trying to convey. For example, a poem may be printed on a broadside with large margins or in a small booklet depending on the preference of the artist. We saw examples of each of these, and more, during our tour. We were also shown the product of a collaboration between MCBA employees and local artists: the 2015 Winter Book: “From the Center: On Community and the Practice of Making,” which explores the connection between community and book arts.

The MCBA also has facilities for making paper, and offers classes for children, adults, and has an artist in residence program. The center displays artwork made there as well, featuring many different local artists. Much of the art is solely to be viewed, but many cards, notebooks and other pieces are available for purchase in MCBA’s store.

Morgan Alexander

Morgan Alexander is a senior double majoring in English with a Writing Emphasis and Business Management. She is the President of Sigma Tau Delta Literary Club, a marketing intern at UST Executive Education, and one of the editors for the Summit Avenue Review. She is a self-proclaimed fontaholic who enjoys reading, traveling, and is constantly searching for her next coffee fix.