2015 in Review

What I’ve done in 2015. This is what a teaching scholar looks like. I accomplished what follows during 2015 while teaching a 4-4-3 load with a one semester sabbatical in the Fall, for which I am grateful to my current institution. What could your teaching scholars accomplish with better support? I know quite a few, and they deserve it. Everything listed below was written or published between January and December of 2015.


  • Submitted my first volume of poetry for consideration to a publisher: Tripping the Light Ekphrastic. Still waiting to hear back. These things take time. The poems for this volume were written between 1991 and mid Summer 2015.
  • Submitted about ten individual poems for publication to different venues. Some were declined, some are still under consideration. They may all get declined. That is how it goes. I know, because I’ve been publishing since the 90s. You need thick skin to be a writer; we all face a lot of rejection. I had four poems published in late 2014, though, so that’s good.
  • Wrote about another forty pages of poetry, all new in 2015.
  • Served as a literary agent for Martin Reaves and helped guide his first novel, A Fractured Conjuring, through the entire publication process from contract to editing to release. It was a pleasure. It’s a dark, disturbing novel, but it’s a great one. It is now available in both print and e-book format through amazon.com. This publication is personally meaningful to me — Marty was my best friend from seventh grade through all four years of high school. I spent almost as much time at his house during those years as I did at my own. His family was great to me. He told me about his first date with his wife Charla in our middle school locker room the day after it happened. I was in his wedding party, got pictures of his two beautiful daughters when they were little kids, and now know them both as beautiful grown married women with children. Marty has been writing excellent fiction for well over ten years with only a little luck. My hope for this book is that it makes him a little money, gets him at least a little recognition, and helps to land his next book with the higher end publisher that he deserves.

Exhibits. The “Exhibit” category falls between the categories of “Creative” and “Scholarship,” I think:

  • Blake in the Heartland. This great exhibit ran in the Spring of 2015. It focused on the work of visiting scholar Dr. Michael Phillips, who I recruited to visit. He curated William Blake exhibits at the Tate, the Met, the Petite Palais, and most recently the Ashmolean. He delivered two lectures open to the public, gave two printmaking demonstrations (one for local high school students and one for my institution’s students and faculty), and guest lectured for an honors class. The exhibit was curated by Associate Professor of Art Lee Fearnside — who is the gallery Director. She suffered through all of the institutional work to make this happen, doing most of the heavy lifting to make it happen. I co-authored a grant to support these events with her. For this exhibit, Phillips provided his facsimiles of pages from Blake’s illuminated books that were printed using Blake’s materials and printmaking methods. The exhibit also featured contemporary art by regional artists inspired by Blake. You can see images from the exhibit linked above.
  • I then came up with the the idea for an exhibit at my institution’s art gallery dedicated to Ohio rock and roll. Lee liked the idea, so we wrote a grant to support it, recruited three Ohio rock photographers to contribute photographs, and I recruited two scholars to come present papers in a roundtable session either about Ohio rock bands or rock scholarship in Ohio. I’ve also contacted several Columbus-based bands to see if any of them are available for performance, pending budgetary approval. So far, things are going well. But, there’s more — one thing leads to another. I then came up with an idea for an honors class that would study the intersections of rock and roll with literature — and they are many and fertile, believe me — so I queried a Romanticism listserv for ideas. It turns out we’re not running honors classes this Spring, but responses to my query were so enthusiastic that I decided to develop an edited anthology titled Rock and Romanticism, which leads to my next category: scholarship.

Scholarship: Books

  • Rock and RomanticismWonderful project. I sent out a CFP, collected over forty paper proposals, sent out three book proposals (waiting to hear back), and since then have received seventeen papers and edited fourteen. I see this as an ongoing project resulting in two to three volumes, so I’m still accepting proposals. I’ve set up a book blog (linked above) and am continuing to receive and edit essays.
  • Interpretation: Theory: HistoryI started this anthology back in 2012 and have been wrestling with it ever since. I was awarded a contract last summer, didn’t like the terms, went back to my contributors and slimmed down then revised my proposal, and now have a very good publisher looking at it. I’ve edited three essays and wrote a provisional introduction to provide the interested publisher a writing sample.
  • The Pretenders: I co-wrote a proposal for this book with a colleague, and we submitted it to Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series. They received 605 proposals and accepted 16. Ours didn’t make it. I revised, expanded, and resubmitted it as an individual project, and it is now moving through the stages with another publisher. It’s gone through one round of editorial review and is moving into another. We will see. This project was supported by a week of research at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library and Archives in Cleveland. The archivists there were great.

Scholarship: New Media. Since my institution may be moving toward a professional writing focus in its English major, I’ve started to expand my profile in New Media publishing.

Scholarship: Articles, Edited Anthologies

  • “Late-Romantic Heroes as Archetypes of Masculinity: Breaking Bad, The Fast and the Furious, and Californication,” by invitation for the edited anthology Class, Politics, and Superheroes: Populism in Comics, Films, and TV, Ed. Marc DiPaolo. Forthcoming 2016: currently under contract with the University of Mississippi Press.
  • “Silly Love Songs and Gender in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron,” by invitation for the edited anthology Assemble!: The Making and Re-making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ed. Julian Chambliss and Bill Svitavsky. Forthcoming 2016: currently under contract with McFarland & Company, Inc.

Scholarship: Book Reviews

  • Rev. of Sexy Blake, eds. Helen B. Bruder and Tristanne Connolly for Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions. Forthcoming 2016.
  • Rev. of The Emigrants, or, A Trip to the Ohio, A Theatrical Farce (1817), by George Cumberland. Elizabeth B. Bentley, ed., and Angus Whitehead, Intro. 2013 for Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly. Forthcoming 2016.
  • Rev. of Sexual Enjoyment in British Romanticism: Gender and Psychoanalysis 1753-1835 by David Sigler for Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions, published October 2015.
  • Rev. of William Blake and the Production of Time by Andrew M. Cooper for Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. 38.3 (Sept. 2015): 472-4.
  • Rev. of The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor, and the Myth of Creation by Roderick Tweedy for Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, published Summer 2015.

Scholarship: Conferences. I’ve been presenting papers at three to four conferences a year since 2007. Most of them have been national, with some regional and some international. Unfortunately, my institutional support only covers about 25% of my costs at most, so I’ve had to scale back. I had a panel and a paper accepted for the CCCCs conference, but I had to pull out because of costs. I will still list the panel below, though, as the panel itself was accepted and did run. I also had a paper accepted for the Midwest MLA conference, but I had to pull out. I’ve been trying to focus on lower-cost regional conferences near me lately.

  • “Cohorts and Risk Management,” CCCCs National Conference, St. Petersburg, FL 2015. Successfully wrote the panel but did not attend.
  • “Imagining the Mind-Body Relation: The Skull as a Cave in Blake’s Mythological Works.” March 2015 for the national College English Association conference, Indianapolis, IN.

Scholarship: Digital Humanities

  • I attended a coding workshop for the Mary Russell Mitford project (Digital Mitford) in June of 2015 and finished my first round of markup for her poem Watlington Hill. I need to mark up people and places and write site index entries for it now.
  • I created an online gallery for the Blake in the Heartland exhibit.

I haven’t included blogging for my book projects or for my personal blog (here), which includes the online gallery for the Blake in the Heartland exhibit linked above, but I can provide links to my annual reports for my personal blog and my Rock and Romanticism blog.

All that I’ve listed here is my publishing productivity during 2015. It doesn’t include teaching, advising, or committee service: four courses in the Spring and three graduate courses in the Summer, including being a reader for one Master’s thesis. It also doesn’t include about twenty letters of recommendation, editing books for two friends of mine, and editing a few essays for friends too. This stuff is all part of the job that most college teachers do.

I’ve also tried to be a husband and father, but I think I suck at that.

Support your teachers. I’m just one of them, but they’re all working hard for you, their students, and their schools.

I would like every teacher to post a list like this about their summer work so that people know what we do.

Next up: forthcoming in 2016.

A Fractured Conjuring: Now Available

I’m proud to have represented Marty’s latest novel, A Fractured Conjuring, so that we can all finally see his brilliant work given a little bit of the recognition and support it deserves. I took on the role of literary agent just for this novel — just to see my friend finally published with a decent press.

His newest novel stares evil in the face and shows its readers just what it sees. I don’t think this book is about hypothetical evils. I think it represents real evil in fictional form, exposing it so that we can understand it and its destructive, multi-generational effects. So yes, it’s a very disturbing novel. It’s not something that you read for entertainment, but rather for the intensity of the reading experience, and to learn why the worst parts of our world are the way they are. While I am opposed to trigger warnings in general, I would append a trigger warning to this book. If you have never felt like your soul has been taken away from you at some point in your life, I wouldn’t recommend reading it.

If you’re up for it, or if you know someone who is, A Fractured Conjuring is now available for purchase through the publisher’s website and through amazon.com in addition to a number of other outlets. It should be available through all standard book readers very soon, if it isn’t already.

If you are a regularly publishing reviewer and would like a review copy, please email me at jamesrovira at gmail dot com.

Happy Birthday, William Blake

Today would be the 258th birthday of the British poet and printmaker William Blake. If you’d like to explore some Blake resources on this website, check out the online gallery for the Blake in the Heartland exhibit and my page of Blake resources, which has a PowerPoint on Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and a Prezi on Blake’s sources. You might also want to check out this description of my monograph. You can also select the “William Blake” link in the category cloud to the left to find more posts about Blake.

I was first introduced to the poetry of William Blake through the song “William Blake,” which appears on the Daniel Amos album Vox Humana. That song — which plays in the background of the Prezi mentioned above — inspired me to run over to the nearest B. Dalton bookseller and buy a copy of The Viking Portable Blake. I haven’t been bored with him since.

Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning: An Overview

I’m going to write an overview, not a review, of Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning. I don’t particularly feel like evaluating it yet, for one thing, and I think a description will be enough anyhow. What I will provide is maybe a brief description of the content followed by a quotation from each section. That should be enough to hook you into buying the book, hopefully, or to put you off of it forever. Either is fine. For my part, while I’d read a little bit of Gaiman before, this book is the one that made me a real fan. I’m reading American Gods for the first time now because of it.

Trigger Warning is a collection of twenty-four short stories preceded by an introduction in which Gaiman talks about his own stories. He warns you what he’s going to do ahead of time, and suggests that you think about how you want to learn about the stories before reading the rest of the introduction. You could read straight through, skip it, or come back afterwards, he suggests. I read the book cover to cover, introduction through the stories, and I didn’t feel that reading the introduction ruined the stories for me. I think that if I were to read the book again, I might just skip the introduction and then read each section of it immediately after reading the story.

Favorite quotation from the introduction? Gaiman’s description of how he met his wife: “I first spent time with the woman who would become my wife because she wanted to make a book of photographs of herself dead, to accompany her album Who Killed Amanda Palmer? She had been taking photographs of herself dead since she was eighteen. She wrote to me and pointed out that nobody was going to buy a book of photos of a dead woman who wasn’t even actually dead, but perhaps if I wrote some captions they might” (xxxii).

You can listen to the album on YouTube if you want:

I’m listening to this album as I write this post.

The quotation above is from Gaiman’s introduction to the story “Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale.” Many of Gaiman’s stories are in fact fairy tales, but this one is about a daughter abandoned to her stepmother and stepsister who cares for everything that she encounters, so that when she gets home, jewels fall from her mouth when she is slapped by her stepmother. This story stood out to me because it ends by quoting from John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

  1. “Making a Chair”: free verse poem about making a chair, which then compares chair making to writing. “Making a book is a little like making a chair. / Perhaps it ought to come with warnings, / like the chair instructions.”

2. “A Lunar Labyrinth”: “‘When the moon waned, they walked the lunar labyrinth with love,’ said my guide. ‘As it waxed, they walked it with desire, not with love. Do I have to explain the difference to you? The sheep and the goats?'”

3. “The Thing about Cassandra”: “The thing about Cassandra is this: I’d made her up.” Don’t worry. This quotation doesn’t give anything away.

4. “Down to a Sunless Sea”: “But instead you stumble out from under the canvas awning, and the water of the rain runs down your face like someone else’s tears.” The title alludes to Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.”

5. “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains…”: “I am old now, or at least, I am no longer young, and everything I see reminds me of something else I’ve seen, such that I see nothing for the first time. . . I say that, but my time on the Misty Isle that is also called, by the wise, the Winged Isle, reminds me of nothing but itself.”

6. “My Last Landlady”: Another free-verse narrative poem. “We stand so still. / Why must we stand so still?” Gaiman’s poetry is readable, but as poetry, not as impressive as his fiction. It’s not at all bad. The form doesn’t seem necessary to the narrative most of the time, however — I’m not sure why he didn’t just write these in prose. He does answer this question in the introduction, of course, and his answer is that “this is the form in which the story came to me.” I won’t argue with that, but I don’t think the form contributes much to the narrative in the case of his poems.

7. “Adventure Story”: “Yes. No. Hang on. So what were these people? And pterodactyls have been extinct for fifty million years.”
“If you say so, dear. Your father never really talked about it.”

8.”Orange (Third Subject’s Responses to Investigator’s Written Questionnaire.) EYES ONLY.” I have to say that this story is perhaps my favorite, or at least certainly one of the top two or three. It’s a series of numbered answers to questions that the reader doesn’t see:

25) That she was glowing.
26) A sort of pulsating orange.

9. “A Calendar of Tales”: This story delivers on its title by providing a different short story for every month of the year. It has within it what is probably my new favorite love story, “October Tale”: “‘No,’ she said. ‘I’m good. No wishes. How’s the tea?'”

10. “The Case of Death and Honey”: A new Sherlock Holmes story that is very consistent with the Holmes canon, acts as a sort of midrash for the Holmes canon by describing the beginning of Holmes’s beekeeping years, and pays homage to the enduring nature of the character of Sherlock Holmes. “I am only alive when I perceive a challenge.”

11. “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”: “All I have left is the space in my mind where you used to be.”

12. “Jerusalem”: This story is a tribute to William Blake. It’s about a couple named Delores and (nice touch) Morrison who are visiting Jerusalem, and Delores has a bit of a breakdown. Morrison finds her on the street preaching. “‘Everything is love,’ she was telling the people. ‘Everything is Jerusalem. God is love. Jerusalem is love.'”

13. “Click-Clack the Rattlebag”: “I would have pulled away then, if I could; but small, firm fingers pulled me forward, unrelentingly, into the dark.”

14. “An Invocation of Incuriosity”: “‘I want to go back to the beginning,’ he said. ‘When it started. I want to stand there in the light of the universe waking to itself, the dawn of everything.'”

15. “And Weep, Like Alexander”: “‘The trouble is,’ he said, ‘with the Wispamuzak gone, that’s it. I’m done. It’s all been uninvented. There are no more horizons left to undiscover, no more mountains left to unclimb.” This story is an amusing dig at smartphones in general and Apple in particular.

16. “Nothing O’Clock”: It’s a Dr. Who episode, and it made me want to watch Dr. Who again, which I did, with my son, who is now a fan:

“Were you always like this?”
“Like what?”
“A madman. With a time machine.”
“Oh, no. It took ages until I got the time machine.”

17. “Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale”: Discussed above.

18. “The Return of the Thin White Duke”: David Bowie tribute story. “I’d rather write a something song than rule the world.”

19. “Feminine Endings”: A love letter from a statue. “I dream of dragons.”

20. “Observing the Formalities”: Another narrative poem. “It could be argued that I should not have turned up uninvited.”

21. “The Sleeper and the Spindle”: Very much another fairy tale, as you should tell from the title. “It’s always the same with your kind. You need youth and you need beauty. You used your own up so long ago, and now you find ever-more-complex ways of obtaining them. And you always want power.”

22. “Witch Work”: Another poem, this one using standard four-line, cross-rhymed stanzas. “She sold me a storm when my anger was strong / And my hate filled the world with volcanoes and laughter.”

23. “In Relig Odhråin“: Also a poem, based on a true story. Think Browning poem about monks. “(God is not what you imagine. Nor is Hell and nor is Heaven).”

24. “Black Dog”: A continuation of American Gods in which Shadow Moon is in England en route to London. When he arrives in London, Gaiman seems to imply, that will be the beginning of the next novel. “I don’t know why you can look at me and see the real me, or why I can talk to you when I find it so hard to talk to other people. But I can. And you know, you seem all normal and quiet on the surface, but you are so much weirder than I am. And I’m extremely fucking weird.”  

My favorite stories: the Dr. Who and Sherlock riffs, the questionnaire, and the love story.