Jessamyn Neuhaus is a professor of US history and popular culture at SUNY Plattsburgh, a scholar of teaching and learning, and a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her book Geeky Pedagogy is new in WVU Press’s series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
When I first began thinking about writing a book on teaching and learning in higher education, I knew who I most wanted to reach: geeks, introverts, and nerds (GINs) like me—the eggheads and experts who are fluent in studying, pondering, thinking, and researching but for whom teaching effectively doesn’t come naturally or easily. As I state in the introduction of Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers: “Emulating other writers and commentators today who are proudly self-identifying as geeks and nerds, expanding the definition of geek culture, and challenging negative stereotypes about nerds, I use ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ as an occasionally self-deprecating, but also affirming and celebratory way of describing certain characteristics we in higher education often share and which have an impact on teaching” (3). Because I am a professor and lifelong consumer of popular culture, I leapt at the chance to pay homage in the book and chapter epigraphs to my favorite geeky books, movies, and entertainment franchises. In this post, I reflect on a few of these geek culture touchstones.
“Grade me. Look at me! Evaluate and rank me. Oh, I’m good, good, good, and ohso smart! Grade me!!!!” –Lisa Simpson, “The PTA Disbands,” The Simpsons
Lisa Simpson is one of the most widely viewed popular depictions of a nerd. In “The PTA Disbands,” a teacher’s strike cancels classes and soon brainy, straight-A student Lisa goes into academic withdrawal. I chose this quote for Geeky Pedagogy’s book epigraph in part because I love that one of pop culture’s most famous nerds of all time is a socially awkward little girl who (most of the time) finds enormous satisfaction in her intellectual prowess. Additionally, in the book I argue that many super-smart people teaching college classes started out as students like Lisa, which makes us great scholars but can hamper our teaching efficacy, since most people don’t especially love school and especially dislike being graded. In Geeky Pedagogy, I explore how awareness of and preparing to bridge this potential gulf between GIN professors and our students is essential for effective teaching, and it can start with acknowledging all the traits we may very well share with little bookworms and brainiacs like Lisa Simpson.Read More »
In the first published review of The Painted Forest, forthcoming in our series In Place, Publishers Weeklypraises Krista Eastman’s “thoughtful and elegant” prose, saying her “deep fascination with and love of her home state, in all its complexity and eccentricity, permeate this moving book and will live on in the reader’s mind.” Eastman launches The Painted Forest in Wisconsin in October. Details from Wisconsin Public Radio.
Bitter Southernerfeatures “Hillbillies Need No Elegy”—a major essay by Meredith McCarroll, coeditor of Appalachian Reckoning, with photography by Roger May—along with an excerpt from the volume by contributor Ivy Brashear. The book makes Iowa Public Radio’s summer reading list, and is reviewed—alongside Matthew Ferrence’s “thoughtful, meditative” Appalachia North—in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Appalachia North is positively reviewed, as well, on Brevity‘s nonfiction blog, which also praises Cassandra Kircher’s “inventive and supple” Far Flung.
West Virginia University Press’s new bookMountains Piled upon Mountains: Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocenefeatures nearly fifty writers from across Appalachia sharing their place-based fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry. The excerpt below is from the essay “Forest Disturbance” by Katie Fallon, who is the author of several books, has taught at West Virginia University, and now teaches in low-residency programs at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Chatham University. Mountains Piled upon Mountains, edited by Jessica Cory, is available now on our website.
Isabelle stands directly on top of the running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), a federally endangered species. Her silver Nikes crush some of the three-leafed plants, while other sprouts tangle between her feet. The US Forest Service scientist leading our small group assures us that this clover likesdisturbance—in fact, it requires disturbance to flourish—but we are nervous about obliging.Read More »
Sarah Munroe and Kat Saunders worked as graduate assistants at West Virginia University Press while earning MFA degrees in creative writing from the WVU English department, and both have gone on in publishing—Sarah at Temple University Press, where she is an acquisitions editor, and Kat at Kent State University Press, where she is an assistant editor. In this conversation, conducted over Google Chat, they talk about how their time at West Virginia University informs their publishing work.
Sarah: I don’t know about you, but I miss West Virginia University Press. It was so chill. And the little house with the sheep.
Kat: I do too! Although I don’t miss the dead mice in the walls—only downside to that old farmhouse. What was your favorite project you worked on?
Kat: I worked on the reprint of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead, which featured a new introduction by Catherine Venable Moore. It was a stunning essay. And I loved how Rukeyser wound research through her poetry.Read More »
Greg Bottoms’s Lowest White Boy is excerpted in the “Readings” section of Harper’s—our first appearance in the nation’s second-oldest magazine. Seven Days, Vermont’s alt weekly, praises the book for its “alchemy of lyricism and down-home telling-it-like-it-is.”
In our first appearance in the Times Literary Supplement, Appalachian Reckoning is called a “vibrant” collection of “rigorous, passionate” essays. The volume also lands alongside books by Colson Whitehead and others on the summer reading list at Bitter Southerner, and appearsinThe Baffler, Nashville’s The Contributor, and the podcast Reading Women. Coeditor Meredith McCarroll takes to CNN.com with the essay “Anthony Bourdain Listened to the Voices Hillbilly Elegy Ignored,” and the editorial team behind the book continues to be active on the interview circuit. McCarroll talks with WFDD radio in Winston-Salem, her coeditor Anthony Harkins talks with the podcast America’s Democrats, and the two team up for the podcasts Working HistoryandNew Books Network.
Ryan Boyd considers “How Humans Learn and the Future of Education” in the Los Angeles Review of Books, calling Joshua Eyler’s book “a splendid repository of ways to rethink how we teach college.”
In other news from our Teaching and Learning in Higher Education series, Jessamyn Neuhaus’s Geeky Pedagogyappears in the Inside Higher Ed preview of fall highlights from university presses. The SUNY Oswego podcast Tea for Teachingfeatures interviews with both Neuhaus and Derek Bruff, author of Intentional Tech.Read More »
Foreword Reviews calls Cassandra Kircher’s Far Flung—the latest title in WVU Press’s series In Place—a set of “intimate and moving essays on nature, family, and adventures in the wild,” noting that “Kircher, who was the first woman to patrol the remote, isolated backcountry of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, writes about how love for the earth’s wild places is intimately tied up with who we are.” We’re pleased to share an excerpt from this perfect summer read, and encourage you to see the author on tour this July and August.
I’m eighteen. My dad, my mom, my brothers, and I are on vacation driving across Nebraska and Wyoming in our Ford LTD before making a right-hand turn at Colter Bay and heading up to Glacier National Park. Behind the Ford, we’re pulling a wooden pop-up camper, one that is hand built and swerves in the wake of our exhaust like a water-skier. My father has picked it up from the want ads.
My father has picked up a lot of new equipment for this trip: five down sleeping bags, five foam air mattresses, five rectangular backpacks, and a whole fleet of plastic containers recommended—according to my father—by camping experts: a tube for peanut butter, another for mayonnaise, a carton molded to nest half a dozen medium-sized eggs. He buys everything one afternoon from The Backwoods, the only mountaineering store in Omaha. He also purchases an expedition tent in which my youngest brother and I will sleep. The tent features a snow tunnel and a little half-moon panel that can be zipped out of the floor in case you want to light a stove indoors and brew a cup of tea during a blizzard.
“I think,” my brother says with a maturity way beyond his twelve years, “that Dad might be feeling his midlife.”Read More »
In a first-of-its-kind public scholarship collaboration, the LexingtonHerald-Leader dedicates its entire May 5 opinion section to work from WVU Press, running three essays, a poem, and photography from Appalachian Reckoning. Harkins and McCarroll’s book also generates interest in Michigan, where the Petoskey News-Reviewfeatures a personal response by columnist Glen Young. Editors and contributors from the volume will appear in Greensboro, Wake Forest, Hendersonville, and Atlanta in May, and a recent appearance at Parnassus Books in Nashville will be broadcast on C-SPAN on May 19.
Amy Alvarez of the WVU English department takes to the Los Angeles Review of Books to talk with Greg Bottoms about Lowest White Boy, new in our series In Place. Bottoms is also interviewed in Pittsburgh Current, and “Growing Up at Ground Zero of American Apartheid,” an excerpt from the book, is featured in Literary Hub. Another excerpt is slated to appear this summer in a print publication with roots in the nineteenth century. Watch this space!
North Carolina Public Radio’s “The State of Things” features an interview with Valerie Nieman, author of To the Bones. Nieman will appear in Greensboro, Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Charleston, Richmond, Huntington, Asheville, and other cities this summer.
“Pittsburgh is very much a part of Appalachia . . . The fact that ‘very few people’ in our area ‘actually see themselves as Appalachian’ encouraged Ferrence to explore the tensions surrounding that identity.” Pittsburgh Magazinereviews Matthew Ferrence’s Appalachia North.Read More »
Valerie Nieman is a professor of English at North Carolina A&T State University. A former journalist and farmer in West Virginia, she is the author of three novels, as well as collections of poetry and short fiction. She is a graduate of West Virginia University, and she received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. To the Bones, her latest novel, is now available.
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time digging: century-old crockery pulled up from dumps behind fallen-in houses, jack-in-the-pulpit and native azalea dug out of the woods and toted home, stones pried out of hillsides. (That last led to a broken ankle, when I stepped in the hole I’d created earlier.) My bedroom was adorned with trilobites, the skulls of wild creatures, slab-sided patent medicine bottles.
Two of West Virginia University Press’s books won awards from international scholarly societies this spring. The Politics of Listsreceived the Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award from the Political Geography Group of the American Association of Geographers, and The Argument about Things in the 1980s received the Arthur Miller Institute First Book Award from the British Association for American Studies. Congratulations to authors James Tyner and Tim Jelfs.
Greg Bottoms is “one of the most innovative and intriguing nonfiction writers at work,” according to Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Bottoms’s latest book, Lowest White Boy—a study of growing up white and working class in Tidewater, Virginia, during school desegregation in the 1970s—is new in WVU Press’s In Place series. Here Bottoms talks with Jeremy Wang-Iverson.
What inspired you to write about racism from your boyhood experience?
I’ve written a lot about the South and Virginia, and I’ve touched on racism many times and in different ways in other books, both fiction and nonfiction. I’ve thought about writing directly about white racism for a long time because it was so prominent in my childhood personal geography. But it is our political climate of rising racism and the pushing back on civil rights of all kinds that really made this feel urgent to me. Jeff Sessions was AG. Steve Bannon developed core ideas for the Republican candidate, now president. Stephen Miller is in the White House. Racism is the subtext and often the text of Trump’s words. These men are white supremacist, first and foremost, and a solid minority of our country supports their ideas with votes. White ethno-nationalism is now a fundamental pillar of one of our two major American political parties and has a powerful media ecosystem that magnifies these views. I’m describing an objective, factual reality.Read More »