Missouri State University
Department of English Blog

Laura Ingalls Wilder Biographer to Speak This Monday Night

Pioneer Girl: Exploring the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder with biographer Pamela Smith Hill

 January 26th, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Meyer Alumni Center, First Floor Hospitality Room
Join us for a book talk from noted author and biographer Pamela Smith Hill. She will share insights from her latest role as editor for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s previously unpublished autobiography, Pioneer Girl. Copies of the book were sold out before the book ever launched due to huge pre-order demand as readers clamored to know more about the fictional and real-life Laura Ingalls. Smith Hill is also the instructor for the recently completed massive online course through Missouri State that featured Wilder’s early work, as well as heading up a second course covering Wilder’s later novels. Smith Hill’s biography of Wilder, A Writer’s Life will be available for purchase, as will her newly completed work, Pioneer Girl and a signing will follow her talk.
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English professor wins prize for poetry collection

For Missouri State University English professor Dr. Jane Hoogestraat, home is not just where the heart is. It’s also the motivation behind her award-winning book of poetry. In December, Hoogestraat released “Border States,” a 72-page poetry collection that was inspired by her experiences growing up in rural South Dakota. The book was published as a […]

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Spring 2015 Readings Announced

January 23: Jane HoogestraatJane H Book

7 p.m., Plaster Student Union Theater

Born in South Dakota, Jane Hoogestraat was educated at Baylor  and at the University of Chicago.  Her work has appeared in such journals as Poetry, The Southern Review, DoubleTake, Image, Midwestern Gothic, and Crab Orchard Review. She is a professor of English at Missouri State University, where she specializes in 20th century poetry and literary theory, with a particular interest in ethics and aesthetics. Her latest book, Border States, won the 2014 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry.



Trudy L bookMarch 6: Trudy Lewis

7 p.m., Plaster Student Union Theater

Trudy Lewis is the author of the novels The Empire Rolls (Moon City Press), the initial book in our Missouri Authors Series, along with the novel Private Correspondences (Tri/Quarterly/Northwestern University Press), and the short story collection The Bones of Garbo (The Ohio State University Press). Her short stories have appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Best American Short Stories, Cimarron Review, Cold Mountain ReviewMeridian, New England Review, New Stories from the South, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Witness, and other venues. Trudy is the recipient of the William Goyen Prize, the Sandstone Prize for Short Fiction, and the Glenna Luschei Prize from Prairie Schooner. She is currently Director of Creative Writing at the University of Missouri.



March 17: Ed Madden

7 p.m., Plaster Student Union Theater Ed M book

Ed Madden is an associate professor of English and interim director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at the University of South Carolina. He is the author of two books of poetry: Signals, which won the 2007 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, and Prodigal: Variations (2011), and most recently, Nest (2014). In addition to his creative output, Madden has published numerous scholarly works, including Tiresian Poetics: Modernism, Sexuality, and Voice 1888-2001. He co-edited Irish Studies: Geographies and Genders with Marti Lee. His academic areas of specialization include late 19th- and 20th-century British and Irish poetry, Irish culture and literature, gender and sexuality, gay and lesbian literature, and creative writing. Madden received his B.A. from Harding University and earned his Ph.D. in literature from the University of Texas.


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English professor publishes award-winning poetry collection

English honors professor Dr. Jane S. Hoogestraat enjoyed the December release of her book, “Border States.” As winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, Hoogestraat’s earned a $1,000 award and publication of “Border States,” by BkMk Press, a University of Missouri-Kansas City press. It can be purchased on their website or on Amazon.

About ‘Border States’

According to the 72-page poetry collection’s Amazon description, “Hoogestraat’s meditations on rural life analyze the topography, history, folk music, religion, and vernacular of the heartland, offering crisp and gentle portraits of Americana.”

Luis J. Rodriguez, who selected “Border States” for the John Ciardi Prize, said of its content, “the people, the soil, the tumultuous skies are unforgettable, as are these poems, and that’s the most important aspect of language in verse—the way it makes you feel and think.”

About Hoogestraat

Hoogestraat specializes in 20th and 21st Century poetry and literary theory and has had work appear in publications such as The Southern Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Mars Hill Review. She has published two chapbooks and coedited “Time, Memory and the Verbal Arts: Essays on the Thought of Walter Ong.”

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Student Invitation Reading will feature student work in fiction, poetry, nonfiction

Missouri State’s English department will host the Fall 2014 Student Invitational Reading at the Plaster Student Union Theater Friday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. The event, free and open to the public, will feature the following English students:

Fiction: Jason Brown, Shane Page and Kassandra West

Poetry: Elizabeth Alphonse and Angela Jones

Nonfiction: Jenn Jones

For more information

Contact English professor Mike Czyzniejewski by email or at 417-836-6565.

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English Professors Tackle Masculinity in the Movies: A Look at “Pixar’s Boy Stories”


The English Department’s own Dr. Ken Gillam and Dr. Shannon Wooden are receiving attention for their recent book, Pixar’s Boy Stories: Masculinity in a Postmodern Age.

Boy Stories examines the depiction of male characters in fourteen of Pixar’s popular movies, including Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Cars. The book, which was released in April, was reviewed by SUNY scholar Tristin Bridges in the journal Gender and Society; Bridges later expanded on that review  in “Barrel Chest, Brawn, and Buffoonery: Controlling Images of Masculinity in Pixar Movies”, which was picked up by The Huffington Post in September.

“We have two little boys,” explains Wooden, “so we’re very sensitive to how they’re learning to be boys rather than just people, and men rather than just adults.”

In his original review, Bridges states that Boy Stories examines “patterns that quietly reiterate gender relations and inequalities that the Pixar collection is more popularly understood as challenging”. The result, according to Bridges, is a book which offers “an intriguing appraisal of mediated masculinities that begins an important conversation and will undoubtedly be of interest to scholars and students alike.”

According to Gillam and Wooden, the idea for the book originated several years ago when their older son was, like many young boys, obsessed with the film Cars. Listening to the film being played repeatedly from the backseat during long road trips prompted Gillam and Wooden to discuss how the storyline and characters depicted gender and masculinity. “We have two little boys,” explains Wooden, “so we’re very sensitive to how they’re learning to be boys rather than just people, and men rather than just adults.”

Those Cars discussions led to a published article in 2008, “Post-Princess Models of Gender: The New Man in Disney/Pixar”, which “argued that Pixar had privileged the more communitarian male rather than the alpha male,” according to Gillam. When the article was presented at a pop culture conference, it generated a lot of enthusiasm and discussion amongst the audience “and we realized that this could become a book,” said Wooden.

The 2008 article has since been anthologized in The Gendered Society Reader and Men’s Lives.

A close reading of the films show that it is these characters’ bodies, not their intellect or other traits, which prevent them from being successful.

The physical differences between Pixar's Mike (left) and Sully (right) are obvious to viewers. Photo Credit: Disney-Clipart.com
The physical differences between Pixar’s Mike (left) and Sully (right) are obvious to viewers. Photo Credit: Disney-Clipart.com

The focus of the book differs slightly from the original argument, Wooden states, because a critical examination of fourteen Pixar plots revealed that “the New Man” narrative was presented in conjunction with plots that “reiterated the privilege of a hyper-masculine physical form,” according to Wooden. For example, Gillam states, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., and Monsters University “implicitly argue that your body must be a certain kind of body. They essentialize the body so that we only see a small variety of types as successful or even acceptable.”

Pixar’s Boy Stories is divided into six chapters which discuss the movies’ treatment of the New Man plot, body stereotypes, characteristics of villains, and the role of parents/mothers.

According to the authors, the films often depict villains who are physically small or otherwise fall outside the social ideals of manhood, but who also tend to be very smart and inventive. These characters, despite being given sympathetic back stories, are punished for the ways they physically fall short of societal ideals and, oftentimes, for their ambition. Similarly, says Wooden, protagonists such as Mike from Monsters Inc. and Woody from Toy Story are often depicted as small, inadequate, and physically awkward compared to hypermasculine characters such as Sully and Buzz Lightyear. A close reading of the films show that it is these characters’ bodies, not their intellect or other traits, which prevent them from being successful in their ambitions.

“We own and love and watch a lot of Pixar movies, but we talk about the issues in them with our boys … being literate in the messages pop culture sends is necessary. It’s important. It’s powerful.”

Lastly, Boy Stories examines how parenting – particularly motherhood – is depicted in the films. According to Wooden, characters who are depicted as being “bullies” and villains are often given a back story which includes placing the blame for their “villainy on a mother character”, (the abandonment of Lotso the bear by his owner in Toy Story 3 as being one example). Thus, while the movies celebrate the fatherly role of the New Man archetype, they simultaneously posit the idea that a mother’s absence or failure begets villainy, even evil.

Wooden stresses that the book does not argue against allowing children to watch the movies discussed. “It’s not about censorship,” she states. “We own and love and watch a lot of Pixar movies, but we talk about the issues in them with our boys.” Boy Stories, she explains, regularly expresses approval or fondness for many things that Pixar has been able to create and imagine. “What we want readers to understand is, you don’t have to dislike or protest a text in order to critique it,” she explains. “Cultural messages are insidious, so being literate in the messages pop culture sends is necessary. It’s important. It’s powerful.”

Gillam and Wooden were also featured in MSU’s Mind’s Eye in September. Click here to watch the interview.

Ken Gillam is Director of Composition for the MSU English Department. Shannon Wooden is an associate professor of English at MSU.


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Fiction Writer Michael Nye Will Visit Campus 10/17

michael nye
Michael Nye, Managing Editor of The Missouri Review and author of “Strategies Against Extinction”.

Ever heard of a little literary journal called The Missouri Review?

Chances are, if you are the kind of person interested in things like literary journals (i.e. English majors), then you know that The Missouri Review, published by our state’s very own MU, is highly regarded as one of the best journals around. They routinely present the best and the brightest in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. And their managing editor – the guy who is in charge of what gets into the journal and what does not – is coming to campus this month.

Michael Nye will be giving a reading at the MSU campus on October 17th. He will read from his collection of short fiction Strategies Against Extinction (Harper’s Ferry Press, 2012). Nye also has been at work on a new novel.

Nye’s short fiction and nonfiction essays have been published in acclaimed journals such as Cincinnati Review and Kenyon Review. He has given interviews on the art and process of writing for publications like Every Writer’s Review and  Fiction Writers Review. Nye’s essay “Why I Write”, published on Stymie, is available here.  You can also check out his interview with Braddock Avenue Books.

Interested in seeing what his fiction is all about? You can read his short stories “A Fully Imagined World” (Boulevard Magazine), “The Utility Room” (Atticus Review), and “The Ecstatic” (Hobart).

Nye’s reading will at be 7:00 PM in the Plaster Student Union Theater.

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