Rebecca Richards article in the Project Muse database

January 5, 2012 – In this article, the writer argues that the nickname of “iron lady” for women leaders provides an accurate and complicated instantiation of Donna Haraway’s cyborg ontology, providing women a place from which to be responsible for their machinery, while also positioning them (potentially) as complicit agents in the hegemonic traditions of national manhood. Therefore, iron ladies—these women who are heads of state—present embodied and real-world examples of the debate over the potentials and pitfalls of cyborg ontology in women’s studies and feminist research. This article uses historical examples of Margaret Thatcher, Eugenia Charles, and Indira Ghandi to establish the rhetorical trope of iron ladies; then it complicates this tradition with contemporary leaders’ performance of iron lady, examining the political personas of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Benazir Bhutto, Ségolène Royal, and Hillary Clinton. To conclude, the writer analyzes the current U.S. political climate for the emergence of an iron lady president. Based on Clinton’s campaign in 2008, it seems that the iron lady rhetorical performance had become visible to the same patriarchal systems that cyborgs attempt to subvert, thus requiring female politicians to reconsider the potentials of this technologized rhetorical performance.

Carlos Gallego has published Chicana/o Subjectivity and the Politics of Identity: Between Recognition and Revolution

January 5, 2012 – Chicana/o Subjectivity and the Politics of Identity traces the influence of Hegel’s theory of recognition on different literary representations of Chicano/a subjectivity, demonstrating how the identity thinking characteristic of liberal-humanist ideologies is unwillingly reinforced even in subjects that are represented as rebelling against this tradition. Conversely, alternative representations that redefine universality as founded on non-identity, exemplified in Alain Badiou’s theorization of the void, are also examined. This book calls for a return to the anti-humanist philosophy of psychoanalysis and Marxism, challenging conventional notions of identity politics by uncovering the false universalities and ideologically defined differences that such a politics promotes.

Cherewatuk’s book on ‘Morte Darthur’ published

February 21, 2007 – Professor of English Karen Cherewatuk’s book, Marriage, Adultery and Inheritance in Malory’s Morte Darthur, now is available in the United States. The book was published in England last fall by Boydell & Brewer, one of the leading publishers in medieval studies.

In her book, Cherewatuk looks at marriage in the Middle ages as an institution encompassed by conflicting public and private dimensions. She examines the concept of marriage as seen in the Morte Darthur, the story of King Arthur and his knights, and moves beyond it to look at ‘adulterous’ and other male/female relationships, and their impact on the world of the Round Table.

Cherewatuk addresses the compromise achieved between youthful passion and the gentry’s practical view of marriage in the ‘Tale of Sir Gareth’; the problems of Arthur’s marriage in light of political necessity and Guinevere’s infertility and adultery; and the consequences of Lancelot’s adultery in the tragedies of Elaine of Astolat and Elaine of Corbin. Focusing on three generations of Pendragon men, Cherewatuk also considers the myth of “benevolent paternity,” by which men — whether born legitimate or bastard — were united through the Round Table.


Marsalek co-edits book on early English drama

February 19, 2007 – Associate professor of English Karen Marsalek ’90 recently completed co-editing a collection of essays titled’Bring furth the pagants’: Essays in Early English Drama presented to Alexandra F. Johnston (Studies in Early English Drama). The book also contains Marsalek’s essay, “‘Awake your faith’: Resurrection Drama and The Winter’s Tale.”

“It was a great experience to work with the contributors as part of this collection honoring Sandy [Johnston],” says Marsalek, whose dissertation advisor was Johnston.

With ‘Bring furth the pagants,’Marsalek, along with co-editor David N. Klausner, professor of medieval literature and vice dean of interdisciplinary affairs at the University of Toronto, honors the work and career of Johnston, founder and director of the Records of Early English Drama Project. The book brings together original essays in early English drama by colleagues and students of Johnston.

Marsalek’s essay, “‘Awake your faith,'” surveys the tradition of performing Christ’s resurrection or resurrection dramas, which was popular in England until the 16th century. “The essay looks at textual examples and identifies features typical of that type of drama,” Marsalek says. She also looks at the final scene of The Winter’s Tale and argues that Shakespeare works with the features of this theatrical tradition in his construction of the scene.


Holly publishes article in American Literary Realism

February 9, 2007 – Professor of English Carol Holly recently had her article, “Reading Resistance in Mary Wilkins Freeman’s ‘A Poetess,'” published in the winter 2007 issue of American Literary Realism, a journal of critical essays on American literatures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Holly, who last month was named one of St. Olaf’s Lilly Vocational Scholars for 2007-08, says the article is one of several she’s written, such as her publication in Project Muse, on 19th-century American women writers.

“I’ve tried to draw attention to neglected writers who often have been overlooked by scholars and the literary canon,” Holly says.

Holly looks at a work by Freeman, an author born in 1852 in Massachusetts, who wrote poetry, numerous stories, novels and children’s books. Holly’s article focuses on “A Poetess,” a short story originally published in Harper’s Monthly in 1890. Holly found that the story’s ending — in which the dying poetess asks a minister to write her a poem as a eulogy — constitutes an unlikely act of resistance. As well as employing Michel Foucault’s theory of resistance to “A Poetess,” Holly syas she also looks at Freeman’s use of gossip and sentimentality.

Holly adds that American Literary Realism has accepted another article she has written, this onthe New England writer Rose Terry Cooke, the subject of Holly’s Lilly Vocational scholarship, which will examine the politics of gender, the vocation of writing and the role of religion in 19th-century writing.


Interview with Mary Titus

By Anne Torkelson ’07
October, 2006

Mary Titus was a 2007 Minnesota Book Award Finalist in the general nonfiction category for The Ambivalent Art of Katherine Anne Porter, her first published novel. The book examines Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980), a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, essayist, short story writer, and novelist.

The idea for the book began as Titus’ University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill dissertation, which she dropped for many years to work on other scholarship and learning. At first, the topic was a psychoanalytic study about language, fiction, and identity. “It wasn’t until I really became a student of American culture that I began to look at [Katherine Anne Porter] in another way,” Titus said.

That other way of viewing the Southern Renaissance writer was to put her life and letters in the context of her fiction and the intense debate about changes in the gender roles of American women that took place during her lifetime. Raised by her grandmother in rural Texas, Porter “lived through a century of changes in what it meant to be a woman,” Titus said. “Her writings — stories, letters, etc — all record this conflict she had between herself as an artist […] and being a woman, which at that time meant raising children, and not being a public figure.”

To trace Porter’s ambivalent but continued interest in and examination of the relationship between art, gender and identity, Titus used Porter’s unpublished works and newly available editions of her early fiction, poetry, and reviews. Titus structured the book with one of Porter’s unfinished fictional stories about a young girl who is condemned to death for rebelling against her restrictive, “natural” society by inventing art and creating from it armor for herself. The Ambivalent Art of Katherine Anne Porter speaks to the relationship between nature and art, and the way Porter’s art protected her, damaged her, and made her a figure of both adoration and social scorn.


Mary Titus‘s book, The Ambivalent Art of Katherine Anne Porter, has been nominated for the Minnesota Book Award in the general nonfiction category.


Colin Wells recently published the article, “Connecticut Wit and Augustan Theology: John Trumbull, Timothy Dwight and the New Divinity,” in the journal Religion and Literature. Wells also delivered a paper, “Unmasking the American Condorcet: Enlightenment, Race and Manifest Destiny in Anti-Jeffersonian Satire” at the Northeastern American Society for 18th-Century Studies Annual Meeting in New York in October.


Interviews with Faculty Authors

Mark Allister: Eco-Man

–Malcolm Richards, (’05), interviewer

As he immersed himself in teaching men’s studies and environmental literature, English professor Mark Allister identified a gap in the two subjects; namely that men’s studies did not incorporate nature and econcriticism came solely from ecofeminist positions. From this gap came Allister’s inspriation for compiling and editing Econ-Man, an anthology of essays on nature and masculinity.

The anthology of essays does not maintain one unified voice, instead representing a wide range of voices and opinions. The essays range from an examination of the urban wilderness in Stephen Mexal’s “Consuming Cities: Hip-Hop’s Urban Wilderness and the Cult of Masculinity,” to St. Olaf professor Jim Farrell’s description of the nature he finds in his day-to-day existence in “The nature of My Life.” Due to its diverse selection of essays, Eco-Man appeals to readers of varied interests.

Eco-Man highlights the great complexity of nature and masculinity in our society today. As Allister says in his introduction, “I believe, and the book’s essays taken as a whole suggest, that the social constructions of masculinity in relation to nature are a mix of good and bad, a mix that affects individual men and women, as well as our society.”

Allister’s own experiences of nature exemplify the diverse ways that males experience nature in our society. As a young man, Allister went camping and backpacking, but as he’s grown older his experiences of nature are more likely to come through gardening, birdwatching, or even teaching classes on environmental themes. The essays in Eco-Man have influenced Allister as well, as he occasionally finds himself incorporating aspects of the essays into his own thoughts and discussions.


Mark Allister: Refiguring the Map of Sorrow: Nature Writing and Autobiography

–Lacy Werner (’02), interviewer

“Writing as a way to work through grief is as old as art itself,” says Mark Allister in his new book, Refiguring the Map of Sorrow. In it, he brings together several prominent nature writers who have utilized reflection of the natural world to sort through and heal their grief.

Allister began working on the book more than ten years ago as an autobiographical studies project. Through his research, however, he became interested in a group of people who have written specifically about overcoming loss with the help of the natural world. He examines the work of Terry Tempest Williams, Sue Hubbell, Peter Matthiessen, Bill Barich, William Least Heat-Moon, and Gretel Erlich.

Several of the chapters were published before the entire book was released this year. For Allister, the work was an exercise in balancing his family life with his writing and academic lives. He is grateful for a six-month sabbatical from teaching in 1998-99 to be able to rewrite the entire piece from beginning to end to make it into a more workable book form.

Judging by the increased interest in nature writing over the last several years, Refiguring the Map of Sorrow is sure to reach an audience far wider than Allister’s expected group of scholars and environmental literature writers, because it discusses ways in which different types of people have-and can-find solace in the world around them.

Published by the University of Virginia Press, Refiguring the Map of Sorrow is part of the Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism series.


Joseph Mbele: Matengo Folktales

–Lyndsay LeClair (’03), interviewer

In 1999 Associate Professor of English Joseph Mbele published his most recent book, Matengo Folktales, after 23 years of field research, scrupulous translating, and writing commentaries. The book, which contains ten folktales translated from Mbele’s mother tongue of Matengo into English, represents the culmination of the professor’s life-long project and passion.

Mbele, a widely-known and respected folklorist, began his research on Matengo Folktales during the summer of 1975 while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. He was first introduced to the folklore field by a professor from Lesotho, South Africa, who joined the university during Mbele’s time there. “Through taking his course I discovered that I connected with folklore naturally. My own father was a great storyteller and storytelling was a very important part of my childhood. I was inspired in the field and never turned back.”

During the summers of 1975 and 1976, Mbele recorded folktales from area storytellers near his home in southern Tanzania, including three folktales from his father. After taking detailed field notes and recording each folktale on cassette tapes, he began the long process of translating the folktales from Matengo, an oral language, into written English. In 1999 after 23 years of translating and writing accompanying commentary, Matengo Folktales was published.

The translation process interests and frustrates Mbele, who explains that completely accurate translations are “an impossible dream.” He says, “In certain ways I feel that oral languages are richer than written languages, and to say we have translated accurately is to deceive ourselves. Compromises must be made.”One of Mbele’s goals for the book was to make it accessible not only for academic readers but for all people. Mbele says, “My father was a great conversationalist. He connected with everyone without distinction. I wanted this book to do the same.”

Matengo Folktales can be purchased from the St. Olaf College Bookstore. A complete listing of Professor Mbele’s work and praise for Matengo Folktales can be found at:


Colin Wells: The Devil and Doctor Dwight: Satire and Theology in the Early American Republic

–Elizabeth Lund (’02), interviewer

EL: What inspired you to write this book?

Colin Wells: My inspiration was Dwight’s 778-line satiric poem “The Triumph of Infidelity,” which I read in graduate school for the first time. What struck me immediately was how apparently incomprehensible it was, which led me to try to “crack its code”–the unspoken assumptions that made it make sense to a number of people in 1788. Once I was able to do that, I realized both that virtually no one had gotten the poem right before, and that the larger story of its significance would take a book-length project to explain.

EL: What other work have you done with Early American satire?

Colin Wells: This is a long-time interest, but most of that time has been spent writing about Timothy Dwight and his fellow Federalist Wits–poets who waged satiric warfare against Jeffersonian Democracy in the early years of the republic (such poets as John Trumbull, David Humphreys, Richard Alsop, Lemuel Hopkins and Dwight’s brother, Theodore).

(Students: don’t worry if you’ve never heard of these writers; not many people have, but I’m hoping that someday they will.)

EL: What did you hope to accomplish in your writing? Do you feel that you have accomplished that?

Colin Wells: I wanted, first, to recover for a modern audience the literary, religious, political and ideological significance of Timothy Dwight’s campaign of satire and controversial writing at the end of the eighteenth-century. In addition, I wanted to make “The Triumph of Infidelity” “readable” again for teachers and students alike. (As an appendix to the book, I include the full text of Dwight’s poem.) Whether I’ve succeeded or not I’ll leave to my readers….

EL: How did you go about finding a publisher?

Colin Wells: While still working on the book, I applied for a fellowship from the Institute for Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, VA, to complete the manuscript. I didn’t get the fellowship, but the publications editor at the Institute wrote to say she was very interested in it, and asked me to submit it when finished. I did, and they accepted it (with further revisions, of course).

EL: Have you been happy with the response so far?

Colin Wells: Extremely: the only responses I’ve seen are by those who provided the blurbs for the cover, but I was struck by how these descriptions of the book matched my own sense of what I was trying to accomplish.

EL: Which part is your favorite? Which part was the most fun to write?

Colin Wells: There are particular passages, particular paragraphs that I reread proudly and remember the moment I wrote them for the first time. But I can’t call it fun; as the saying goes, I hate writing, I love having written.

EL: Did your opinion of Dr. Dwight and his work change over the course of writing the book?

Colin Wells: What surprises me is how Timothy Dwight–a figure whom other historians and critics have sometimes viewed unfavorably–appears to me as a better writer and a smarter social critic than when I started. He really is an unappreciated but fine satirist, and judging from the advance quotes, people are starting to recognize that.

EL: How do you balance academic work with teaching? Are there any ways in which they conflict?

Colin Wells: My own work on seldom-taught writers and their worlds is sometimes difficult to make fit with my courses. I’ve rarely taught Dwight in my courses, though much of what I write about in the book is Dwight’s allusions to Pope, Swift, Dryden and other famous figures. However, now that I’ve made the text of “The Triumph” available (with notes), I will try to teach it. I feel that part of what I’m supposed to offer as a teacher is my particular expertise, whatever that may be. As the world’s expert on this poem, I should make that knowledge available. So students, beware!

EL: Do you have any plans for future projects?

Colin Wells: My next book is a larger and wider look at satiric poetry in the Early Republic. Poets and satirists in the 1780s, 90s, and 1800s were engaged almost daily with the political issues of the times, and there is a fascinating story to tell about the “poetry wars” they waged against politicians and each other in the name of shaping America’s future. On my sabbatical, then, I’ve been engaged in a systematic process of reading every political poem written in this period (including poems published in newspapers). I’ve completed the 1790s, and the list of poems already tops 300. I’ve got about 25 or 30 more years to do, so look for me at the microfilm machine for the next year or so.