Susanna Benko

Prof. Scalzo Publishes Book (And other March Good News)!

We’ve got a lot of good news this month, so we’re dividing it into faculty and student/alum accomplishments. Check out all the amazing things your friends and colleagues have done!

Faculty Good News

Prof. Emily Scalzo’s new book The Politics of Division was published on Mar. 27!

The Indiana Writing Project was awarded a $15,000 grant titled “2017-2018 SEED Invitational Leadership Institute to Invest in Developing New Teacher Leaders.” The money from this grant will be used to support summer programming for teachers.

The Indiana Writing Project was also thrilled to send two local teachers to Washington D.C. in March for the National Writing Project’s Spring Meeting. In their time in D.C., teachers Jeri Tarvin and Katrina Gibson met with legislators to increase awareness about the work of NWP/IWP. They shared student writing and examples of professional development happening at our site.



Profs. Scalzo and Manery Publish Poetry Books (And More November Good News)

Prof. Emily Scalzo had four poems accepted to Scarlet Leaf Review, including “To My Father,” “If the Human Race is the Only Race, Why Does this Shit Still Happen,” “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and “The Reason I Blocked You on Facebook.” They are due to be published in December. Also, her poetry chapbook, The Politics of Division, was accepted by Five Oaks Press for publication in 2017.

Prof. Rebecca Manery’s book of poems, View from the Hôtel de l’Étoile, is just out from Finishing Line Press. Individual poems from this collection have been published in Rhino, Bennington Review, and The Body Politic. Becca is a new faculty member at Ball State. Learn more about her here

Elizabeth Dalton, Academic ResearchAimee Taylor- Instructor at BSUProf. Aimee Taylor successfully defended her dissertation, titled “Fat Cyborgs: Body-Positive Activism, Shifting Rhetorics and Body Politics in the Fatosphere.” Prof. Elizabeth Dalton graduated from Spalding University with an MFA in Creative Fiction Writing. Congrats to you both!

Prof. Emily Rutter received an Immersive Learning Micro-Grant for her Fall 2017 course “Storytelling and Social Justice.” The course will facilitate a reciprocal relationship between Ball State undergraduate students and Teamwork for Quality Living, a local nonprofit focused on decreasing poverty in our community. Students will use acquired knowledge to assist Teamwork members in documenting their personal journeys from poverty toward self-sufficiency. These stories will then become part of a short documentary film and an electronic book.

Prof. Susanna Benko and her colleagues, Emily Hodge (Montclair State University) and Serena Salloum (Ball State University) recently had an article published!  The article, “(Un)Commonly Connected: A Social Network Analysis of State Standards Resources for English Language Arts” was just released in AERA Open, an open-access journal sponsored by the American Educational Research Association.   This article is the first publication from their two-year research project.

Prof. Rory Lee’s audio-video project, “Ways of Knowing and Doing in Digital Rhetoric: A Primer,” was published in the most recent issue of enculturation. Professor Lee completed the project with Matthew Davis from the University of Massachusetts Boston and Stephen J. McElroy from Florida State University.

Prof. Michael Begnal published four poems in Empty Mirror. They are titled “Homage to Yoko Ono,” “Elegy for Lou Reed,” “Elegy for Scott Asheton,” and “Homage to André Breton.” Read them here!


Student Blake Mellencamp discusses young adult literature after Skype session with author Eliot Schrefer

In Dr. Susanna Benko’s ENG 414: Young Adult Literature class this past Spring semester, students read Eliot Schrefer’s novel Endangered. Afterward, she asked him to speak to the class on Skype. In this post, student Blake Mellencamp discusses the visit and his views on young adult literature. 

Young adult literature has achieved a troubling reputation in academic culture of being seen as less than literary. If you’re one who’s settled into this mindset, though, then think again, because young adult literature may just be some of the most dynamic writing of today. The books digested by adolescent readers are anything but watered down. In fact, many esteemed novels of the genre are pushing literature to new frontiers. These books deal with real, tough issues and diverse settings across the world ranging from the little-studied Balkan Genocide to futuristic dystopias to the dismal conditions of American Indian reservations.

On April 8th, Ball State’s Young Adult Literature course was fortunate enough to Skype with author Eliot Schrefer about his popular novel Endangered, a finalist for the National Book Award. This novel takes us to a setting remarkably foreign for the average American young adult reader: the war-torn Congo. While in academic circles we may find most of our cursory knowledge of this region coming from Heart of Darkness, I must admit that Schrefer’s well-researched portrayal of Congo might trounce Joseph Conrad’s. In our “classic” literature, we are provided a biased view of imperialism that gives no consideration to the African mindset. We are confronted with a limitless savagery that in no way resembles the world as we know it to be. Endangered turns this view on its head, giving us an immersive cultural experience in which the reader can be exposed realistically to an unfamiliar setting.

When Schrefer first proposed the title, his agent asked if the author was writing a dystopian novel. With The Hunger Games and Divergent dominating book sales, the agent made a fair guess. However, Endangered is distinct from its peers in terms of subject matter. Endangered follows Sophie, a young Congolese-American girl visiting her mother’s bonobo sanctuary who rescues a baby ape named Otto from a vendor on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. When military conflict surges through the nation, Sophie and Otto must escape through the dangerous jungle. Through the story of Sophie and Otto, the audience absorbs the tangled geography and political conflicts of Congo. We are shown the consequence of imperialism firsthand and are guided by empathetic characters.

Schrefer told our class that the first inkling of Endangered was born when he purchased a pair of pants from an online retailer called Bonobos. At first, he thought that the brand was just a nonsense word, but after searching online, Schrefer became acquainted with the bonobo: a great ape closely related to the chimpanzee and sharing a great deal of its DNA with human beings. Indigenous only to the Congo, the biological research on bonobos led to a great deal of historical research on the country itself. Eventually this research brought Schrefer to a bonobo sanctuary – and you can find some YouTube videos of this experience that are to die for.  A few internet searches led to the creation of Eliot Schrefer’s Great Ape Quartet, the second of which, Threatened, was released in March. Threatened deals with chimpanzees, and there will be an additional two novels revolving around gorillas and orangutans.

Schrefer left our class with a remarkable insight. For years, evolutionary psychologists studying chimpanzees have looked at the apes’ war-like social structure and have deemed human conflict as perhaps being inevitable. However, we are equally related to the bonobos, who curiously lack war and live in peace. Amidst the most violent region in the world, Endangered offers hope in the form of an alternative view of humanity’s heritage. If this is what our young adults want to read, I’m all for it.

To learn more about Eliot Schrefer, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

New Faculty Profile: Dr. Susanna Benko

Last semester, the Ball State English Department began a short series to celebrate and profile our newest faculty members. This week, the department continues the series of new faculty profiles by featuring Dr. Susanna Benko. Continue reading below to see Dr. Benko’s interview conducted by English intern Nakkia Patrick and don’t forget to see past profiles featuring Dr. Miranda Nesler, Dr. Maria Windell, Prof. Liz Whiteacre, Prof. John King, and Dr. Andrea Wolfe.

*Photo provided by Susanna Benko.

*Photo taken by Kelley Bedoloto, Little Heroes Photography.