Two faculty members in the Department of English, Associate Professor Mary Quade, and Professor Joyce Dyer, recently earned 2014 Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council.
Each year, the Ohio Arts Council awards grants to creative artists for the exceptional merit of a body of their work that advances or exemplifies the discipline and the larger artistic community. These awards support artists’ growth and development and recognize their work in Ohio and beyond.
Quade was awarded for three essays, “Steel: Products of Cleveland,” “The Collection” and “In the Classroom,” all of which concern awareness to damage in the world.
“We seem comfortable analyzing the roots of current situations, believing we know why things happened in the past, but we’re less comfortable accepting responsibility for future sacrifices,” she said. “The essays consider where we can use imagination to help us to find antidotes to our damaging appetites and where imagination falls short.”
Of each individual essay, Quade writes:
- “Steel: Products of Cleveland”: I begin with my attempt in 2009 to explore the city’s history using an inaccurate, outdated map, ignorant of the fact that as I walked the streets, serial killer Anthony Sowell was nearby murdering women. I end in Jerry Siegel’s attic, where he creates Superman. The essay suggests that if we apply imagination to the present to predict both hopeful and the horrible outcomes, we may overcome pitfalls of the past.
- “The Collection”: The essay considers the role of stories in our beliefs and how we use stories and our place in stories to justify our present behavior. Specifically, it digs into early churches and the stories of violence that shaped Christianity, wondering why violence is needed to gain salvation. Perhaps, instead, we need salvation in order to explain and justify our violence.
- “In the Classroom”: (This essay) grew out of a 2012 trip to Cambodia and Vietnam and the recent school shooting in Chardon, Ohio. On my visit to the Genocide Museum, the former Khmer Rouge prison in Phnom Penh, I was struck again and again by the fact that the prison was a converted school. As a teacher, I wondered about this transformation, about how something built with such good intentions could be rewritten into a history of horror.
Dyer submitted and was awarded for an excerpt from a book she has been working on about John Brown, the abolitionist famous for the Harper’s Ferry raid during the Civil War.
“It’s a memoir — an attempt to struggle with the place of John Brown in my own life, and in the lives of my readers,” she said. “Who is he today, and what knowledge does our response to him yield about the American character, and about ourselves?”
Dyer lives in Hudson, the same Ohio town that Brown’s family settled in in 1805, and her book draws on that connection.
“His house was around the corner from mine, and he took his first public vow to destroy slavery in 1837 in a church that stood just catty-corner from my own,” she said. “Would it be possible to have such a man as a neighbor? What would that be like?”
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