Hollins Professor R.H.W. Dillard Talks Centennial Of Legendary Italian Director Federico Fellini

Cinephiles around the globe are no doubt celebrating the centennial of famed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. The year 2020 marks a century since the birth of one of cinema’s most quirky, creative, and surreal auteurs—Fellini directed more than a dozen projects across a career that spanned nearly five decadesand this month will see the release of Essential Fellini, a new 15-disc Criterion Collection box set of Fellini classics, including Academy Award-winners La Strada, Amarcord, and, perhaps the original hyper-meta film-within-a-film, 8 ½.

Fellini films also have quite a history at Hollins University. The Italian director is a favorite of Professor of English, Creative Writing, and Film R. H. W. Dillard, award-winning author and editor of The Hollins Critic.

“He’s an extraordinary filmmaker, and he does it with such clarity in his heart,” said Dillard about the enduring popularity of Fellini’s cinematic universe, which was so unique it gave rise to the term “Felliniesque.” (Fellini’s La Dolce Vita also spawned the word “paparazzi” from one of the movie’s characters, an obnoxiously persistent photographer named Paparazzo.) “Fellini’s humanity draws us back to him, as well as his art,” said Dillard about the director’s gifts. “There are lots of artistically competent filmmakers, but Fellini I’m drawn back to again and again. It’s a cliché, but his films have this heart to them.”

To Dillard’s point, Fellini had a gift for depicting all his characters, even some of his most despicable or grotesque, with a kind of forgivability and gentleness. There are no true antagonists or villains in many of Fellini’s films, only flawed but usually likeable and endearing characters against the currents of the larger world. “Amore per tutti (love for all),” one of Fellini’s characters famously declares in the director’s 1965 film Juliet of the Spirits, a movie about a suburban woman who begins seeing visions while grappling with the abandonment of her husband. “Love for all” seems to perfectly sum up the director’s attitude toward not just his own characters but indeed to the larger, messier tapestry that is humanity. In Amarcord, a film about growing up in Fascist Italy under Mussolini, even Fellini’s depiction of the Fascists and their supporters reveals that, for the most part, they are just people, too: neighbors and townsfolk, a high school math teacher, a clerk at a cigarette shop, or—in the case of the semi-autobiographical central character Titta—a freeloading uncle who rats out his own brother-in-law.

Fellini On Set
“One hundred years after his birth, Federico Fellini still stands apart as a giant of the cinema.” – The Criterion Collection

“He was an artist determined to reveal his full vision as vividly and completely as possible, to discover the universal in the particular,” wrote Dillard in a 1994 essay published in Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture shortly after the Italian auteur had passed away. “Fellini was an artist who depended upon individual and particular vision and expression rather than politically codified generalities and stereotypes.”

Dillard’s connection to both Fellini and Hollins runs deep. In addition to offering a course on Fellini for many decades at the university (he’s actually teaching Fellini this semester, in honor of the maestro’s 100th, in his Film as a Narrative Art class), Dillard said that Hollins is where he saw his first Fellini film. Ever. “When I was an undergrad at Roanoke College, La Strada was showing at Hollins,” said Dillard, recalling the classic film that fetched Fellini his first Oscar win for Best Foreign Language Film (Fellini would go on to win three more awards in this category, a record). “That was also the first time I ever set foot on the Hollins campus. Eight years later, I came back to work here, and I’ve been teaching Fellini ever since. So I’ve always connected the two.”

That screening at Hollins sparked a decades-long Fellini fascination for Dillard. In a situation somewhat reminiscent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dillard’s dedication to Fellini cinema even caused him to brave a crowded theater during the H3N2/Hong Kong flu pandemic in the 1960s. “When Hollins was the first college in America to close down with the Hong Kong flu—and the national news reported it—my friend [and film professor] Tom Atkins was teaching 8 ½ in his film class in Babcock,” Dillard recalled. “I thought, ‘I’m not gonna miss 8 ½,’ because back then that was the only way I could see it. And the room was full of people with blankets, all of them were sick. I watched the movie and loved every moment. And I caught the flu for it.” (Dillard is quick to caution current Hollins students not to follow in his footsteps.)

As for Fellini’s future in the pantheon of the world’s great filmmakers, Dillard has no doubt of the Italian director’s place. “I think he’s made it—he’s never going away,” said Dillard. “Post-World War II cinema is one of the great periods of art, like Elizabethan/Jacobean drama in English, and that doesn’t go away. Fellini and Bergman and Antonioni, they’re all gonna last. And thanks to technology, we can see them in Blu-Ray.” Speaking of which, Dillard added that he’s already preordered his copy of the Criterion Collection’s Fellini Essential box set (due out November 24). With a smile, Dillard said he’s just waiting for it to arrive so he can watch Fellini’s masterpieces all over again.

 


Hollins Students and Faculty Reflect on Voting in the Historic 2020 Election

Though it’s uttered and written nearly every election cycle, the 2020 U.S. General Election truly might be the most significant in a lifetime. With roughly 100 million early votes already cast, polls opened this Election Day morning, Tuesday, November 3, as the last day to cast ballots. So far, early voting records have been shattered in various states (including here in Virginia), and the 2020 election is on track to have one of the highest voter turnouts ever.

Hollins students and faculty shared their experiences voting in what will no doubt go down as one of the most historic elections in U.S. history.

Angelica M. Ramos-Santa ’22, creative writing M.F.A.
I received my ballot in the mail from the Lehigh County office in Pennsylvania. At first, I was excited like, “This is awesome, my vote matters.” But then the reality of how important this election seriously is [set in]. So much is on the line, it truly feels do or die. I opened the ballot and voted. I was nervous about going to actual polls due to pre-existing health conditions. When I sealed the envelope, I felt hope and I hope our generation does the right thing [and] votes for everyone to have an equal chance.

Jessie van Eerden, associate professor, English/creative writing

I requested a ballot very early, online, for a mail-in ballot, in late September. I had never voted that way before and was surprised by the requirement of a witness, but I liked that aspect—having someone bear witness to my exercising of this right we can take for granted. I felt more keenly than usual that I was/am so deeply implicated in the fabric of my country and its institutions, even the institution of the postal service that carried my vote for me into the sea of others’ votes.

Matthew K. Burnside, visiting assistant professor, English/creative writing

I voted by mail extremely early on, along with my wife. We filled out the forms very carefully together, reading aloud instructions back and forth and nervously making sure we got everything perfect, since it feels like any excuse to not have our vote counted this time around could potentially result in invalidation. I’ve never had that fear before but it was palpable this year. My ballot was verified received over a month ago, so that’s heartening. Definitely a tense experience this time around, though! If I were doing it today, I wouldn’t mail it in—I’d deliver to the drop box or vote in person.

Jen Lazar ’21, creative writing M.F.A.

[Jen responded with a haiku of 3-5-3 syllables]

From afar
two envelopes sealed,
we got this

Isabella G. Narducci ’23

I voted in person. It was pretty easy, in and out in like ten minutes. I will say though I was caught a bit off guard by other things that were on the ballot besides the presidency, like for senate positions or on certain bills that I hadn’t heard of. But once I realized I didn’t have to vote on all positions I gave them my ballot and I was off. I voted in the primaries, but this was my first presidential election. I was excited mainly but still nervous because I was worried I’d fill it out wrong or something like that.

Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.


Creative Writing Professor Captures Dzanc Prize for Fiction

Associate Professor of Creative Writing Jessie van Eerden has been named the winner of the 2019 Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction, recognizing daring, original, and innovative writing.

Call It Horses, van Eerden’s third novel, was selected from a pool of hundreds of manuscripts and eventually judged by three celebrated Dzanc Books authors: Lee Martin (The Mutual UFO Network, Late One Night), Peg Alford Pursell (A Girl Goes into the Forest), and John Englehart (Bloomland), winner of last year’s prize. The story centers on Frankie Donne and her aunt Mave, who embark in 1990 on a road trip from West Virginia to New Mexico. Mave is running from her cancer treatments, while Frankie is trying to escape from a loveless marriage, fresh sorrow over a miscarriage, and years of grief over abandonment by her true love, Dillon. They reluctantly agree to take on a third passenger: Dillon’s new wife, Nan, who has her own reasons for fleeing west.

“I was so moved by this book, I sobbed at the end,” said Pursell. “And the language! What a gifted author.” Englehart stated, “Filled with poetry, working-class grit, and undogmatic spirituality, this novel shows us what we gain when we become outlaws in our own lives.” Martin added, “The final scene is one I’ll remember always.”

“This novel has been a long journey, several years of exploring the story of spiritual liminality experienced by a woman standing just outside of fulfillment,” van Eerden said. Of winning the prize she noted, “I’m grateful to all the readers of this manuscript, to those who came alongside me to read early drafts and to the editors and judges who read for the prize, for the ways each reader has helped to usher these characters into the world. And, I’m honored to have this opportunity to work with a press with such a commitment to artful, attentive fiction.”

Glorybound (WordFarm, 2012), winner of the Foreword Editor’s Choice Fiction Prize, and My Radio Radio (Vandalia Press, 2016), selected for the Top 10 of 2016 by Image Journal, are van Eerden’s two previous novels. Her portrait essay collection, The Long Weeping (Orison Books, 2017), won the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award.

Dzanc Books is a nonprofit organization committed to producing quality literary works and providing creative writing instruction in public schools through the Dzanc Writers-in-Residence program. It also offers low-cost workshops for aspiring authors.

 


Championed by Dedicated Volunteers and Hollins Writers and Artists, Artemis Thrives

Few publications have celebrated the prodigious talents of Southwest Virginia writers and artists as Artemis.

For the better part of four decades, the literary journal, published annually, has showcased compelling new voices in tandem with notable authors that have ranged from poet laureates to Pulitzer Prize and other major award winners and nominees. The rich history of creativity at Hollins University in the written word and other artistic expression has played an integral role in the success and perseverance of Artemis: Through the years, over 140 Hollins writers and artists, including more than 90 students and 40 professors, have been featured contributors, or have donated their time and expertise as board members for the all-volunteer operation.

“Without Hollins and the direction it provided, Artemis would not have lasted,” says editor and founder Jeri Rogers, who herself is a Hollins alumna, having earned her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies in 1991.

Artemis Archive
The literary journal Artemis was first published in 1977.

Artemis began in 1977 while Rogers was serving as director of the Women’s Resource Center in Roanoke, sponsored by Total Action Against Poverty (now Total Action for Progress). “I had gotten a grant to do a photographic study of women and in the process found that a lot of my subjects were writers. At the same time, one of the biggest problems I saw at the center was women who had suffered from abuse. That’s a really tough subject to deal with because poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness are also involved. It was so upsetting and sad to see this, but I thought, ‘What can we do to help move this forward?’ So, I started a writing workshop for abused women.”

The first workshop, which was run “with the help of some of Hollins’ best writers,” she says, generated “amazing results.” Rogers was inspired to launch a new literary journal that she named Artemis after the lunar goddess. “I pitched the idea and my supervisors were like, ‘go for it, we’ll get some money for you.’ That was how it started and it was such a great vehicle because it published some of the writings of these women and talked about the work we were doing at the center.”

Poems and short stories by Hollins students and professors appeared as well in the debut issue of Artemis, and over the years, contributions from acclaimed Hollins authors such as Professor of English Jeanne Larsen M.A. ’72, Professor of English Cathryn Hankla ’80, M.A. ’82, and Beth Macy M.A. ’93, and artists including Professor of Art Emeritus Bill White and Betty Branch ’79, M.A.L.S. ’87, have been published. Well into the 1980s, Hollins faculty writers including Amanda Cockrell ’69, M.A. ’88 (founding director of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature), Thorpe Moeckel (associate professor of English), and Professor of English Eric Trethewey (who passed away in 2014) continued to play a prominent role in the writing workshops. Rogers notes that “[Professor of English] Richard Dillard got involved early on, and thanks to him, every issue of Artemis is now part of Special Collections at Hollins’ Wyndham Robertson Library.”

Betty Branch Artemis Cover
A sculpture by Betty Branch ’79, M.A.L.S. ’87 graced the cover of Artemis‘ 2016 issue.

The first 20-plus years of the journal’s existence were gratifying yet exhausting for Rogers and her volunteers. During the same time period she was raising three children and working as a professional photographer. Artemis went dormant in 2000 for more than ten years, but its concept and mission never diminished. “There were a number of us who missed it,” Rogers recalls, “and we decided to resurrect it in 2014” with one caveat: “We’ve gotta keep it small.” Today, the Artemis staff features Rogers and just six other volunteers, and she’s emphasized recruiting younger people to ensure the journal continues for years to come.

Rogers admits that producing a “beautifully printed, perfect-bound,” 200-page volume in the digital age “is a challenge. It’s pushing that boulder up that hill. But we don’t give up. There’s nothing like having your work printing in a page form in a book. You can have all kinds of things done in a digital format that are then uploaded to ‘the cloud,’ but how do we know that’s going to be there five years from now?”

Since its return, Artemis has actually seen its print number increase to somewhere between 500 and 600 copies. Most copies are sold for $25 each during a celebration launch event held each year at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art. The official debut of Artemis XXVI, the 2019 edition of the journal, takes place on Friday, June 7, and will feature a special dance performance by the Southwest Virginia Ballet.

Artemis is also made available for purchase online – the journal is planning a pre-sale event for the 2019 edition this spring where the book will be available for $20 – and Rogers says sales have “gone beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains,” reflecting the fact that submissions have been coming in from writers and artists outside the region.

Ferguson Rogers Harris
(l. to r.): Artemis literary editor Maurice Ferguson, Artemis editor and founder Jeri Rogers, and Special Collections Librarian Beth Harris of Hollins’ Wyndham Robertson Library.

“Among the more than 1,000 submissions we had last year, some came from Italy, England, and France, and we published those,” Rogers explains. “The power of the Internet has helped spread the word about the quality.”

Fittingly, the two featured writers and artists in Artemis XXVI are distinguished Hollins alumnae: Natasha Trethewey M.A. ‘91, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate, and Sally Mann ’74, M.A. ’75, who was named “America’s Best Photographer” by Time magazine.

“Natasha – you just can’t get much better that that. And what can we say about Sally other than ‘Wow,’” Rogers states. “They both have dealt with being Southern artists and writers, and I think they both really tie into that Southern Gothic scene. Natasha’s poem in the new edition of Artemis addresses racism and is called “Reach.” Sally said she’d be honored to be paired with Natasha, and the image of hers that we’re considering is so good, we think it’s cover-worthy.”

While Rogers acknowledges that she’s “not going to be around forever” as editor of Artemis, she clearly relishes the achievement each edition represents and considers last year’s issue to be her proudest moment. At the same time, she is quick to praise the many volunteers that have supported the journal over the years, noting that “it literally takes a village to sustain the energy needed for Artemis.” Two of the key players along with Rogers since the beginning who continue to play vital roles today are literary editor Maurice Ferguson and design editor Virginia Lepley. Rogers also cites organizations such as the Taubman, which provides space for the annual issue launch free of charge, and the Roanoke Arts Commission, whose grants have given Artemis crucial financial support.

“When you start something, it’s probably going to work out if you have good intentions,” Rogers concludes. “If it’s egotistically motivated, it’s going to have some problems. It won’t last. All along, during the history of Artemis, there have been people who get on board, are so dedicated to the arts, and want to keep this thing going. I think that’s why we’ve existed as long as we have.”

 

Top Image: The artwork for the cover of Artemis‘ 2015 issue, created by Hollins Professor of Art Emeritus Bill White. 


Hollins Author Is Finalist for Library of Va. Literary Award

Hollins University Professor of English Cathryn Hankla is among the nine authors who are finalists for the 20th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards.

The Library of Virginia’s annual literary awards recognize the best books published the previous year by Virginia authors or on a Virginia theme. The winners in each of the three categories (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) receive a monetary prize of $2,500.  The finalists are chosen by an independent panel of judges from hundreds of books nominated for the awards.

Hankla is one of three finalists in the poetry category for Great Bear, published by Groundhog Poetry Press.

The winner in each category will be announced at a gala celebration on Saturday, October 14, at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

 


Hollins Professor’s Novel Wins Kafka Prize

As Close to Us as Breathing, a novel by Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Poliner, has captured the 2017 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize.

Established in 1976 and presented by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and the Department of English at the University of Rochester, the Kafka Prize is given annually to a woman who is a U.S. citizen and has written the best book-length work of prose fiction, be it a novel, short story, or experimental writing.  Previous winners include such distinguished authors as Toni Morrison, Ursula Le Guin, and Anne Tyler.

According to the Kafka Prize webpage, the award honors its namesake, “a young editor who was killed in a car accident just as her career was beginning. Those who knew her believed she would do much to further the causes of literature and women. Her family, friends, and professional associates created the endowment from which the prize is bestowed, in memory of Janet Heidinger Kafka and the literary standards and personal ideals for which she stood.”

Poliner will participate in a reading, award ceremony, and book signing at the University of Rochester on November 2.

As Close to Us as Breathing is the story of a close-knit Jewish family that strives to cope following a tragedy. The novel is “vivid, complex, and beautifully written,” said Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World. “[It] brims with characters who leave an indelible impression on the mind and heart. Elizabeth Poliner is a wonderful talent and she should be read widely, and again and again.”

The Kafka Prize is the latest of several honors the novel has received. In May, the book was named a finalist for the 2017 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award. Last November, As Close to Us as Breathing was selected as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Editors’ Picks for 2016 and an Amazon Best Book for March of that year.

 

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Prof’s New Poetry Collection “A Book of Seeking, Beseeching”

Hollins University Professor of English Cathryn Hankla‘s new volume of poetry may be titled Galaxies, but don’t mistake it for an exploration of astronomy.

Mercer University Press, the publisher, instead describes it as “a book of seeking and beseeching. Galaxies forms a collective of connected but disparate things. Each galaxy grouping constitutes a gravitational system of concern, finding its own music and approach to what a poem can be. Together the poems create a spiritual pilgrimage, a sequence sending up an alarm for the earth, inviting the reader to walk a path to the heart’s center.”

Galaxies has already received considerable praise. Author Alice Fulton called it a “quietly mind-blowing book,” while poet and novelist Carol Moldaw said the collection consisted of “poems of lyric capaciousness, thoughtful, intricate, and enticing.”

Hankla will be discussing and reading from Galaxies during her upcoming book tour:

Tuesday, August 8
Bookworks, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, August 9
Collected Works, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 6 p.m.

Saturday, August 12
Tattered Cover, Denver, Colorado, 2 p.m.

Tuesday, August 15
Colorado Mountain College, Leadville, Colorado, noon

Sunday, September 3
Malaprops, Asheville, North Carolina, 3 p.m.

Friday – Sunday, October 13 – 15
Southern Festival of the Book, Nashville, Tennessee

Thursday, November 9
Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, Hollins University, Roanoke, Virginia, 7 p.m.

Born in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, Hankla teaches in the Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins and serves as the poetry editor of The Hollins Critic. She has published 12 previous books of fiction and poetry, including Fortune Teller Miracle Fish and Great Bear.

 


Hollins Professor’s New Novel Garners Considerable Attention

The author of one of the country’s most-talked-about new novels also happens to be a member of the Hollins University faculty.

Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Poliner’s As Close to Us as Breathing (Lee Boudreaux Books) has been named an Amazon Best Book for March 2016 and is one of four new releases this month that W magazine calls “must reads.”  Reviews have also been published or are forthcoming in The New York Times as well on NPR.org and in People, Good Housekeeping, and Washingtonian magazines.

As Close to Us as Breathing is the story of a close-knit Jewish family that strives to cope following a tragedy that occurs while summering at the Connecticut shore in 1948. Publishers Weekly calls the book “an exquisitely written investigation of grief and atonement, and an elegy for a Jewish family bound together by tradition and tribe.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones says, “Vivid, complex, and beautifully written, [it] brims with characters who leave an indelible impression on the mind and heart. This moving story of the way one unforgettable family struggles with love and loss shows an uncommon depth of human understanding. Elizabeth Poliner is a wonderful talent and she should be read widely, and again and again.”

In conjunction with the novel’s publication, Poliner will be appearing at the following bookstores during March and April:

Tuesday, March 15: Newtonville Books, Newton, MA, 7 p.m.

Thursday, March 17: RJ Julia Bookstore, Madison, CT, 7 p.m.

Saturday, March 19: Politics & Prose, Washington, DC, 6 p.m.

Sunday, March 20: Book Court, Brooklyn, NY, 4 p.m.

Tuesday, March 22: Longfellow Books, Portland, ME, 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 9: Op. Cit Books, Taos, NM


Hollins Writers Make National Book Awards Shortlists

Two Hollins authors are among the twenty finalists for one of the nation’s most prestigious literary prizes, the National Book Awards.

Five finalists each in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature categories were announced on October 14.

Karen E. Bender, who joined the Hollins faculty this fall as the university’s Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing, is a first-time finalist in the Fiction category for her short-story collection, Refund. She is the author of the novels Like Normal People and A Town of Empty Rooms, and her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and other magazines. She has previously won two Pushcart Prizes.

“The tales told in Karen Bender’s Refund, a collection of stories that centers on money and family, are exquisitely composed portraits of modern life, and chances are you will encounter characters that remind you a little or a lot of yourself,” said the Chicago Tribune. “That’s the brilliance of Bender’s storytelling….[her] ability to transform observations of life into uncomfortably realistic stories cannot be denied.” 

Hollins alumna and world-renowned photographer Sally Mann is on the shortlist in the Nonfiction category for her memoir, Hold Still. She has previously received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and her photographs are held by major institutions internationally.

The New York Times called Hold Still “uncommonly beautiful” while The Atlantic described the bestseller as “gorgeously written and convincing.”

Mann’s many books include Second Sight (1983), At Twelve (1988), Immediate Family (1992), Still Time (1994), What Remains (2003), Deep South (2005), Proud Flesh (2009), and The Flesh and the Spirit (2010).

The National Book Awards will honor this year’s winners at a ceremony in New York City on November 18. Each recipient will be given a bronze sculpture and a $10,000 cash prize.