Hollins Professor R. H. W. Dillard Revisits His Connection To Cult Classic Film “Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster”

When Hollins Professor of English R. H. W. Dillard was just a grad student at the University of Virginia, he never imagined an expensive bottle of whiskey and a $50 payment to write a screenplay with acclaimed writer George Garrett would result in one of the most (in)famous sci-fi/horror films in American cinema: the 1965 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (FMtSM). And yet that’s exactly what happened. Sort of.

“Given all the things going on both in class and out of class in the world, I don’t think much about FMtSM these days,” said Dillard about the sole film he co-wrote nearly six decades ago. “But I do think of it in class on certain occasions, such as my Kubrick class this last semester, since FMtSM‘s director, Robert Gaffney, was a close associate of Stanley K. and worked on several of the pictures we studied. Then, I put on my FMtSM t-shirt and puff with pride.”

If the title of the movie sounds ridiculous, well, that’s because it is. The flick’s about a modern-day Frankenstein’s monster (named appropriately enough Col. Frank Saunders) created by the U.S. military in order to combat an impending alien invasion aimed at kidnapping earth women to repropagate their race. The film premiered in the summer of  ’65 at the Trieste Science Fiction Film Festival in Italy and for a while was even paired as a double feature with Golden Globe-winning film Inside Daisy Clover, which starred Natalie Wood and Robert Redford.

The sci-fi picture about women-absconding extraterrestrials didn’t win any awards, but over the years, much to Dillard’s surprise, FMtSM became a cult classic, appraised by audiences and critics as either brilliantly funny or so outrageously bad as to be impossible to not (secretly) savor the train-wreck appeal of the film’s ludicrous plot, 60s-saturated soundtrack, and over-reliance on stock footage (that doesn’t always match). The film became so popular/notorious that Robin Williams even once used a scene from FMtSM on a cable TV show, and some clips were also included in a comedic documentary about B movies called It Came From Hollywood (even though FMtSM was neither produced by Hollywood nor shot there.)

Regardless of which end of the critical spectrum fans fall on, the film is now considered one of the first movies to have gathered a large cult following exactly because of its “campiness” or “camp,” a kind of aesthetic or style that’s so low budget and seemingly bad it actually boomerangs back to being really enjoyable. Think of Mel Brooks’ comedic masterpiece Young Frankenstein, a tongue-in-cheek homage to the age of black-and-white horror films, except FMtSM was ahead of its time, beating out Young Frankenstein by nearly a decade. And much like Young Frankenstein, FMtSM has maintained its camp-classic status for more than half a century now.

R.H.W. Dillard
Professor of English R.H.W. Dillard: “I do think of it in class on certain occasions. Then, I put on my ‘Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster’ t-shirt and puff with pride.”

However, most unbelievable about this little B-movie-that-could is the incredibly talented (perhaps overqualified) group of writers behind the screenplay. In addition to Dillard—who’s left his indelible mark in American literature, especially as a poet and editor of the Hollins Critic—the writing credits also include the aforementioned Poet Laureate of Virginia and Guggenheim Fellow George Garrett, and professor and publisher John Rodenbeck, who as the director of the American University in Cairo Press published an English translation of Naguib Mahfouz’s surrealist novel The Thief and the Dogs, which paved the way for Mahfouz’s Nobel Prize in Literature. (There’s even a rumor that Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor contributed some lines to FMtSM, but Dillard said that, although Taylor was a close friend of the group, he didn’t have a hand “or even a finger” in crafting the script.)

But how exactly did these three very different literary titans come together on such a Frankenstein’s creation as FMtSM? At the time, Dillard and Rodenbeck were both graduate students and part-time junior instructors at the University of Virginia, where Garrett, already an established poet and fictionist, was a professor in the English department. The three became fast friends, so close in fact that, according to Dillard, one night he and Rodenbeck “smuggled” their desks from the junior instructor room into the office of George and W. R. “Bill” Robinson, who would become a noted film scholar. Their shared space was marked by a slightly ironical sign that read, “Master Artists Corp.” Now the story goes that Garrett, who had some prior screenwriting experience, got a call one day from his old Princeton friend Richard Hilliard (who was fostering his own indie film aspirations) to write the story for a movie that had only a title. That title: Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Daunted by creating an entire script from such a ridiculous premise, Garrett reached out to Dillard and Rodenbeck for help. So the Master Artists Corp sat around Garrett’s kitchen table one night with a bottle of whiskey and began throwing out ideas for what would become the first draft for FMtSM.

For what it’s worth, the movie was originally intended to be a parody of the sci-fi/horror films that Dillard loved growing up. Of the three writers in the Master Artists Corp, he was the most versed in horror movies, and it’s actually a genre that fascinates and haunts him even today. “I am, of course, still trying to figure out the appeal of the horror film to my psyche, Frankenstein especially,” said Dillard. “Perhaps something dark in there beneath my cheerful demeanor.” The Hollins professor considers horror to be profound cinema that explores the dangers of technology, the inner darkness of humanity, and the compassion we can all have for our monsters. That first draft of FMtSM would’ve explored these themes, particularly through the manmade “monster” Col. Frank, with some comedic routines such as Frank’s legs, which were transplanted from a deceased tap dancer, breaking out into dance whenever the melody of “Sweet Georgia Brown” was played. Sound familiar to Mel Brooks’ monster from Young Frankenstein singing, or really groaning, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”? Except FMtSM would’ve done it first!

However, that’s not (necessarily) the film that got made. The producers of FMtSM, while amused by the original concept, wanted a serious horror film they could easily sell to the summer drive-in movie theater crowd. “I learned (and try to pass on to my students who don’t want to hear it) that the first version of a screenplay is far from the final version,” said Dillard, who’s also taught film and screenwriting courses at Hollins for years. “The final film may bear little resemblance to where the screenplay started out. That’s an important lesson and one that’s often overlooked in screenwriting classes.”

To that point, Dillard and the Corp did numerous rewrites on FMtSM, each straighter than the last, to appease an increasingly nervous pair of business-minded producers. And while the three writers had no hand (or even a finger) in the actual production of the movie, the end result does retain a lot of the initial script’s core ideas and even some scenes from the overtly comedic first draft, such as the gloriously cheesy and over-the-top performances of Princess Marcuzan and Dr. Nadir (the film’s two primary antagonists), and the impressive ineptitude of General Bowers, who chuckles over comics in the midst of an alien invasion.

It’s been more than half a century now since Dillard worked on FMtSM (and saw it at a Vinton drive-in where the reels were played out of order), but the campy classic that’s entertained multiple generations still occupies a special place in his heart. “Those days sharing an office with the other members of the Master Artists Corp were a joy and a delight, even though sadly enough I alone am left to tell thee,” said Dillard. “We had such a great time day-by-day, and FMtSM was a lasting (or so it seems) tribute to the good time we had.”

Isabell Kingori Brings Public Health Expertise to Hollins as Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence

Most people might not think of studying infectious diseases as a pleasant endeavor, but public health expert and parasitologist Isabell Kingori believes that sharing her knowledge with the world is one of the most fulfilling things she can do.

After a year-long delay to her arrival due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kingori has finally joined the Hollins community for the 2021-22 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence. Kingori, who earned her bachelor’s degree in applied biology from Kenya Methodist University and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in applied parasitology from the University of Nairobi, is bringing an international perspective to Hollins’ own public health curriculum. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate students at Kenyatta University’s School of Public Health in Nairobi since 2018, with course topics including immunology, communicable diseases, and vector control.

“I first wanted to study parasitology because people in Kenya are affected by a lot of different diseases — and in order to control a disease, you must first understand it, how it’s spread, and at what part of the transmission cycle you want to stop it,” Kingori said. “I was motivated to do the Fulbright program because I felt the need to share my knowledge with a country that doesn’t face the same diseases that my country does. Any time I gain new information by researching, I want to share it with people who don’t know anything about it.”

Kingori’s expertise is certainly on display in the Vectors of Public Health Importance course that she is currently teaching. The class focuses on diseases that are transmitted to humans by organisms, particularly biting insects. “In Africa, we have so many diseases that are transmitted by insects, like malaria, sleeping sickness, and bilharzia. I’m teaching the students about the particular organisms that are responsible for these diseases, and how they can be controlled through methods such as trapping the insects,” she explained. “For example, malaria is transmitted by the anopheles mosquito, and mosquitoes breed in water. So there are environmental management measures we can take to make sure that mosquitos are not able to breed in the water.”

“I also want to help my students understand the importance of development in a nation, because the more a country is developed, the more it is able to tackle simple infections and diseases that would otherwise kill people in an underdeveloped nation. It’s so valuable to learn the milestones that have been met by certain countries in terms of improving health, education, and social systems because those are milestones that some countries still need to meet.”

Kingori isn’t the only one who’s passionate about her teaching opportunities at Hollins. “Dr. Kingori is able to provide incredible insights on health care disparities and disease systems in Africa,” said Elizabeth Gleim, assistant professor of biology and environmental studies. “Ensuring that our students going into health care and public health have a global perspective and understanding of systems outside of the U.S. is so incredibly important as we are cognizant more than ever of the international efforts that are often needed to address public health issues and the ability of diseases to so easily cross international borders thanks to modern-day travel.”

While studying diseases matters a great deal to Kingori, she’s equally as eager to be a mentor who can support her students in whatever ways they need. “What I value most about teaching is giving. As a teacher, you give a lot. Sometimes teachers don’t realize this, but students can carry what you give them for the rest of their lives. It could be something different from what you teach them in class, like the way you talk or handle yourself. Maybe they learn something from teachers who always come to class on time or mark the assignments on time,” she said. “A teacher who talks to students and encourages them and tells them that they’re going to make it in life has a heavy impact.

“I just want to give students hope that there’s going to be a better future. That’s why I’m always so happy when I see my former students working. I’ll learn that they’re giving immunizations or working in public health offices, and it’s a really good feeling. It motivates me.”

Marin Harrington is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. She is pursuing her M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.





New Hollins Professor, Poet/Novelist Candice Wuehle, To Bring Focus On Genre-Blending And Magic In Writing

Candice Wuehle seems like the perfect fit to teach English and creative writing at Hollins. An emphasis on genre-blending? Check. An impressive academic and professional resume? Check. An interest in the occult and spooky things? Double-check.

“I’m fascinated with séance as a literary mode and mediumicity as a poetic strategy,” Wuehle said about her interest in what she calls “occult technologies” in creative writing. “There are a lot of writers working within that occult realm as a way into the craft of writing.”

The poet/novelist joined the Hollins faculty this fall as a visiting assistant professor, and the historic presence of the university isn’t lost on Wuehle. “It seems like a lot of the students at Hollins are interested in the ‘haunted’ history of the campus,” said Wuehle. “I’d love to teach a course about the craft of ghost stories that might merge with Hollins’ history and perhaps archival research at the university.”

Even though she’s been teaching at Hollins only since September, it’s already clear that Wuehle has lots of ideas about what to do with her time at one of the nation’s oldest higher-ed institutions for women. “Right now I’m really enjoying for the first time in my life doing what I always imagined a creative writing professor doing, which is mostly just workshopping all the time,” said Wuehle. She calls Hollins a “dream job” that allows her to craft her classes around her own interests: hybrid works and authors who write across genre and form. “I like to think about the slippage between genres,” said Wuehle. “What’s to be gained from this additional space that’s generated by crossing between those borders?”Monarch Book Cover

Wuehle has quite the resume, too. Born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa, she’s the author of three poetry collections including Death Industrial Complex, which was selected as a 2020 finalist for The Believer Magazine Book Award. Her debut novel, MONARCH, is due out in March of next year. Wuehle holds an M.A. in literature from the University of Minnesota, an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a doctorate in creative writing from the University of Kansas, where she was the recipient of a Chancellor’s Fellowship.

As for how this über-talented writer landed at Hollins, the credit partly goes to an old friend of Wuehle’s: Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Matthew Burnside. Both Burnside and Wuehle attended what many consider the most prestigious creative writing program in the country: the Iowa Writers Workshop in Wuehle’s hometown of Iowa City. “It was nice to know someone in the department before I came here,” said Wuehle, who studied poetry at the Iowa Workshop while Burnside was studying fiction. “I’d also heard of Hollins because there are so many very famous graduates and writers from the university.”

While earning her master’s degree at Iowa, Wuehle first became interested in memory studies, ghost stories, the occult, tarot, and more. She even had a class on magic and occult technologies taught by poet D. A. Powell. “We had a séance in the basement of the English department at Iowa,” recalled Wuehle. “There were maybe 40 people there, and it was really active. So I started working on projects in that magic course and just never stopped.”

Some writers struggle with the competitive environment of the Iowa Writers Workshop, but Wuehle felt differently about her experience at the nation’s oldest creative writing institute. “I’m from Iowa City where the culture of the writing program really spills over into the town,” she said. Wuehle even had high school teachers who were graduates of the workshop. “I know some people feel that Iowa City is a small town, but it was a return to where I was from, to people I’d known since high school,” said Wuehle. “It was just a really nice time there for me.”

Speaking of small towns, Wuehle seems already settled into her new life in Roanoke. “I’m really loving being at Hollins,” she said. “I’m fascinated with the general culture of this school, the mix of really contemporary—the curiosity and political passion of the undergraduates—with the older traditions like Tinker Day and the architecture of the campus itself. It feels like a really special, idyllic place to be.”

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.


Playwright Wendy-Marie Martin M.F.A. ’14 Returns to Hollins as Theatre Department Chair

Talk about a homecoming! Wendy-Marie Martin, who earned both an M.F.A. (2014) and a Certificate in Directing New Work (2017) from the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, returned to her alma mater earlier this year to become chair of Hollins’ theatre department.

“I love this place—I was very excited to come back,” said Martin, a successful playwright, educator, and current Ph.D. candidate in interdisciplinary arts/theatre at Ohio University. “The students at Hollins are great,” Martin said. “They’re interested in things that aren’t necessarily mainstream, which aligns really well with my aesthetic.”

Martin took over for Ernie Zulia, who stepped down last spring after helming the department for 17 years. She recalled that one of the big takeaways from her time as a Hollins grad student was the program’s  encouragement to try new things and learn from failure. “We live in a very perfectionist society,” said Martin. “It’s difficult to give yourself permission to go outside of what you know will be right or successful. We’re in the process of adopting the same attitude in the undergraduate program so that process is seen as equally important to product/performance because we can’t know what’s possible until we give it a shot, and there’s always risk involved.”

Although Martin officially became the new chair this fall, she guest taught a couple of classes in the spring as a part of a gradual transition into her new role. Because of this, Martin had the opportunity to meet with students one-on-one and hear what they were hoping to get out of their time in the program. “One of the things that came up often was more demand for women playwrights,” said Martin. “They also wanted more contemporary work, which is great. That’s right up my alley.”

Martin isn’t exaggerating, either. In her doctoral work at Ohio University, she is focusing on feminist theatre and 20th and 21st century women playwrights, and all theatre productions at Hollins this year will be by non-binary or female-identifying writers.

Speaking of those plays, this semester’s season kicked off back in September with a staged reading of The Orphan Sea by Cardid Svich, which was directed by undergraduate resident professional teaching artist Michelle LoRicco. The next performance to catch will be The Skriker, which will be performed on Hollins Theatre’s Main Stage October 21-24. This 1994 play by Caryl Churchill, which tells the story of the titular fairy Skriker, begins with several pages of nonsensical language. “I was very concerned that the students weren’t going to get through the first three pages because it’s challenging,” said Martin. “But they were all ridiculously excited about it. The students have just been on top of it with offers and ideas on what they want to suggest for the play, which is really exciting.”

Looking even further ahead, Martin’s hoping to expand the theatre program in two different areas. First, she wants to develop a scholarship arm of the department, i.e., getting students to write analytical/critical papers that can be potentially published or presented at conferences for financial aid or scholarships. Second, Martin is seeking to embrace more original work. She plans on doing this by commissioning a play from the Playwright’s Lab and developing it with undergraduates over the course of two years all the way to live production. “That’s one thing that we’re going to try to start doing next year: developing new work over a long period of time,” said Martin. “We have the structure here to do something ambitious like that.”

Martin’s also heavily focused on diversifying the theatre department. That means more diversity training and inclusion as well as an eclectic lineup of guest artists to expand the cultural perspective of the program and better serve its students of color. “Right now that’s where most of my energy is,” said Martin. “It’s a very exciting group of students here who are willing to try new things, and I love 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.


English Professor Julie Pfeiffer Publishes Book Examining Nineteenth-Century Girls’ Fiction

Some people never want to think about their teenage years again; others find that those years are worth revisiting.

Julie Pfeiffer, professor of English and chair of the Department of English and Creative Writing at Hollins, certainly believes the latter. Her first book, Transforming Girls: The Work of Nineteenth-Century Adolescence, keeps literary representations of adolescent girlhood at its center. Set to be released October 15 by University Press of Mississippi, Transforming Girls analyzes a variety of since-forgotten mid-nineteenth-century bestsellers that were aimed at adolescent girls in the United States and Germany.

“There’s a critical assumption in the United States that adolescent fiction didn’t develop until the 1970s. Yet, there are all these books written in the mid-1800s that are explicitly about adolescent girls and that talk about adolescence as a time of difficult transition,” Pfeiffer said of the historical context surrounding her book. “I realized that, in fact, there were nineteenth-century American girls’ books about adolescence and we had just forgotten about them.”

Pfeiffer’s discovery of these popular American girls’ novels was preceded by an interest in nineteenth-century German girls’ literature that developed during her sabbatical as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Johann-Wolfgang University in Frankfurt, Germany. “I initially thought that German girls’ books were different from American ones because American girls’ books are family stories or they’re about younger girls, while these German books were about adolescents. I thought I might write a book about the contrast between American and German girls’ books until I actually started reading best-selling American girls’ books from the 1800s and noticed their similarities.

“The German tradition of adolescent fiction for girls — called the Backfisch novel — helps us frame our understanding of the earliest novels for girls in English,” Pfeiffer explained. “People forget what a strong German presence there was in the U.S. in the nineteenth century. There were German printing presses, and German books were translated into English and vice-versa. A cross-cultural exchange happened that was oriented around the idea that there is such a thing as adolescent girlhood, and these books treated female adolescence as a creative, transformative space, whereas we currently view adolescence as a time of alienation and angst.”Transforming Girls

“The teenage girls in these nineteenth-century books tend to be awkward. They’re kind of a mess, and they’re loved despite that. The girls feel embarrassed, but the adult women around them acknowledge that becoming a woman is not an inevitable, natural process, but a construction that’s hard work. These female role models provide girls with a supportive environment where it’s okay to make mistakes. Today we expect the ideal teenage girl to be charming, and if she’s not, that’s a problem that needs to be solved.”

Female community is particularly important to the books Pfeiffer writes about in Transforming Girls. “One of my chapters is called ‘The Romance of Othermothering’ and it talks about how mothering happens outside of heterosexual marriage in these books. The characters are often mothered by single aunts or teachers, and the girls are mothering each other as peers who take care of each other. There’s a sense of completion that happens in these novels when a girl learns how to nurture other girls and women.”

Though there are positive messages about adolescence in nineteenth-century girls’ literature, Pfeiffer acknowledges that these books still have a complicated relationship with contemporary audiences, especially considering that their young protagonists are expected to focus on finding husbands as soon as possible.

Transforming Girls really developed from a question I started asking maybe twenty years ago, which was: Why do I read, teach, and study these classic girls’ books that are so clearly sexist and also reinforce white privilege?” she said. “I say in my book that I don’t necessarily recommend giving these books to teenagers. I write instead about using the positive aspects of these novels to imagine a different vision of adolescence and reframe our ideas about how to support teenagers.”

Pfeiffer ultimately hopes that her scholarship encourages people to think about how they were shaped by the books they read when they were young. “I do believe that the things we read when we’re young, before we have structures for intellectual critique in place, can become deeply internalized. We absorb certain ideologies and maybe spend the rest of our lives sorting out which of those ideologies we actually wanted to absorb and which we didn’t,” she said. “I think part of the importance of studying children’s literature is thinking about the kind of conversations we want to have with children who are reading.”

One possible conversation strikes Pfeiffer in particular: “Taking on the womanly identity your culture expects of you is a kind of invisible labor, and these girls’ books make that labor visible. Now we have the opportunity to think about what we’re choosing to do and what we’re not — and maybe redefine the grumpy adolescent girl as someone who’s actually working really hard to make herself into a new person.”

Pfeiffer will give an in-person lecture (open to the campus community) based on her book on Thursday, October 21, at 7:30 p.m. EST in the Green Drawing Room, Main Building. Titled “Transforming Girls: How We Make Girls into Women,” the lecture will be open to the public via Zoom. The passcode is 403576.


Marin Harrington is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. She is pursuing her M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.



Award-Winning Author Scott Blackwood Joins Hollins as Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing

For author Scott Blackwood, one word comes to mind when asked about Hollins’ Jackson Center for Creative Writing: commitment.

“I just wanted to teach at a program that was committed,” said the university’s new Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing. “Every person I’ve met so far — undergrads, graduate students, and faculty — is committed to the entire process of writing.”

Blackwood, who has a background in both fiction and nonfiction writing, is similarly committed to his craft, and it shows in his diverse body of work. He is the author of two novels, We Agreed to Meet Just Here and See How Small, both of which were released to critical acclaim. See How Small won a 2016 PEN USA Award for Fiction and was named an “Editor’s Choice” pick by The New York Times. His nonfiction credits include publications in Chicago Magazine and the narrative work The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volumes I & II, which was nominated for the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes.

The relationship between teaching and writing is also powerful for Blackwood, whose teaching experience ranges from high school students to Ph.D. candidates. “Teaching has been a very positive thing forWe Agreed to Meet Just Here me,” he said. “When you start teaching other writers’ stories, you really think about the chances they took — and that inspires you to take risks in your own work that you might not have considered before.”

“I hope to help my students take risks, too. I’ve found that you will exponentially find your voice if you’re pushed in that direction. Students sometimes forget that they don’t have to focus on certain things in their writing or they feel like they have to be a certain type of writer. I want to be the ground beneath them that holds them up while they take risks of their own.”

Blackwood was particularly drawn to the openness of the M.F.A. curriculum. “I’m enamored with the cross-genre experimentation here. The way the graduate students come out with so many variations of the themes that interest them — it’s powerful. I’m eager to push them to play with form, structure, and point of view.”

See How Small“For example, I’m really interested in ideas like a collective point of view or an associative plot, where a story isn’t just driven by the cause and effect we typically see,” he said. “What happens when a writer explores the collective voice of a place like a neighborhood or makes it so that numerous characters are brought into a different landscape and unified through that? That excites people.”

In many ways, Hollins itself encapsulates what matters the most to Blackwood when it comes to writing. “What’s important to me is the co-mingling of all these worlds. I don’t believe that every academic discipline or writing genre should be separated from each other. There should be some version of cohesion.”

Recalling his first meetings with various members of the English faculty, he added: “I felt so very bound to them and like we were collectively on a mission to do something special.”

Marin Harrington is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. She is pursuing her M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.



Hollins Honored As Tree Campus Higher Education Institution


The Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Hollins University as a 2020 Tree Campus Higher Education institution.

Launched in 2008, the program honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation.

“Over the past year, many have been reminded of the importance of nature to our physical and mental health,” said Arbor Day Foundation President Dan Lambe. “[Hollins’] campus trees provide spaces of refuge and reflection to students, staff, faculty, and the community.”

To obtain this distinction, Hollins met the five core standards for effective forest management, including establishment of a tree advisory committee, evidence of a campus tree care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance, and the sponsorship of student service learning projects.

“Your entire campus should be proud of this work and the leadership of [Assistant Professor of Biology] Elizabeth Gleim and the committee,” Lambe noted.


Hollins Professor Examines Arab Spring, Qatar Boycott in New Books

Two new books written by Edward A. Lynch, John P. Wheeler Professor of Political Science at Hollins University, offer analysis of two of the Middle East’s most significant political crises in recent years.

The Arab Spring: The Failure of the Obama Doctrine, published by Praeger Security International, looks at the wave of revolutions that shook the Middle East ten years ago and the challenges those events posed to the Obama administration. Isolating Qatar: The Gulf Rift Crisis 2017-2021 (tentative title), forthcoming from Lynne Rienner Publishers (LRP), focuses on the events of June 2017, when Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates announced a comprehensive boycott of Qatar.

Praeger describes The Arab Spring as “a succinct, readable, and comprehensive treatment of how the Obama administration reacted to what was arguably the most difficult foreign policy challenge of its eight years in office.”

“That reaction included confusing mixed signals, inconsistent application of principles, and a repeated tendency to draw the wrong lessons from each succeeding upheaval,” Lynch says. “As a result, U.S. influence in the region diminished.”

When Qatar was blockaded, Lynch notes, “it seemed that disaster loomed for this small Gulf nation. But not so. Instead, in an unexpected turn of events, the Qatari government deftly used its enormous wealth and extensive reserves of soft power to nullify most of the effects of what came to be known as the ‘Rift.’”

“Exploring the historical and contemporary causes of the dispute, the reactions to it both regionally and globally, and the surprising end to the crisis, Isolating Qatar serves also to highlight the often unrecognized role of small states in international relations,” says LRP.

A member of the Hollins faculty since 1991, Lynch was a foreign policy consultant to the Reagan administration and is a frequent commentator on political events. He has made several trips to the Middle East for research. He is the author of six books and numerous articles.

Art History Senior Symposium and Tribute to Professor Kathleen Nolan, April 24

Hollins will observe the 25th anniversary of the Art History Senior Symposium and pay tribute to retiring Professor of Art History Kathleen Nolan during two virtual events on Saturday, April 24.

The annual Art History Senior Symposium, the capstone experience for art history majors, will take place from 10 a.m. – noon EDT. Four members of the class of 2021 will present their original research through a series of 20-minute talks. Email knolan@hollins.edu for the Zoom link and more details.

From 1 – 3 p.m. EDT, art history alumnae will come together for a reunion to honor Nolan and her distinguished 35-year academic career at Hollins. Nolan shaped the art history department into a multi-faceted program and taught majors, minors, and non-majors the skills to perceptively and thoughtfully interpret images from the past and present alike. She has taught medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art history, and her scholarly interests include the history of women in the Middle Ages, and the works of art commissioned by women to tell their stories. She co-edited Arts of the Medieval Cathedrals: Studies on Architecture, Stained Glass and Sculpture in Honor of Anne Prache. Her book, Queens in Stone and Silver: The Creation of a Visual Identity of Queenship in Capetian France (Palgrave 2009), looked at queens’ personal seals and effigy tombs. Her articles and essays have appeared in The Art Bulletin, the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Studies in Iconography, and Gesta.

Christine Holt Fix ’97, Zirwat Chowdhury ’05, Gwen Fernandez ’06, Sarita Herman ’08, and Rory Keeley ’17 will deliver brief reflections on how their experiences studying with Nolan shaped their career paths. Through short videos, many other alumnae will also offer greetings and share their recollections. The celebration will also include opportunities to catch up with classmates, provide updates, and make new connections. Preregister for the Zoom link, or contact Amy Torbert ’05 at amy.torbert@gmail.com to learn more about the reunion event or to contribute your own memories.

Hollins Professor Jessie Van Eerden Celebrates Launch of Award-Winning Fourth Book, “Call It Horses”

When it comes to writing, some projects are well worth the wait. Author and Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Jessie van Eerden certainly understands that. Today, van Eerden celebrates with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café the e-launch of her fourth book, Call It Horses. Her third novel and the winner of the 2019 Dzanc Books Prize was eight years in the making.

“I didn’t work on it eight years consistently,” laughed van Eerden. “There were a lot of other things in that time, but this book took a lot of reimagining.” Call It Horses revolves around three women—niece, aunt, and artist stowaway—and the 1990 road trip that this improbable trio embarks on from West Virginia to New Mexico. Spending a lot of time experimenting with the book’s structure, van Eerden first tried out a narrative poetry sequence, then a more traditional first-person plot, before finally settling on the current epistolary form (i.e. told through letters).

“I think the joy of publishing a book is seeing something that you’ve labored over come to fruition,” said van Eerden about the long process of writing Call It Horses. “To complete that circuit with readers, that circuit of something that’s lived in your head for so long, it’s pleasurable no matter what.”

Call It Horses Book CoverIn the end, all that hard work paid off for van Eerden. In 2019, she was named the winner of the coveted Dzanc Books Prize for Call It Horses—the manuscript was selected from a pool of hundreds—a win that resulted in Dzanc Books publishing Call It Horses. Flash-forward a year and a half, and now van Eerden’s looking at a spring and summer of events to promote her new novel. “It’s exciting because it’s a book that’s very close to me,” she said. “I’m always interested in letting my characters go out in the world and meet other people.”

Indeed, the novel does hit close to home for van Eerden. Call It Horses starts in Caudell, West Virginia, a small rural town reminiscent of van Eerden’s own upbringing in that same state. “It is interesting my relationship to place with respect to my fiction,” she said. “I feel that there’s the physical landscape of where I grew up, and also the spiritual landscape: of the community of people and the tiny church and the ways that people interacted and cared for each other.” In Call It Horses, those two landscapes inform both van Eerden’s fictional Appalachian world as well as the quasi-spiritual journal out West undertaken by the three central characters.

As for the future, van Eerden isn’t taking a breather. She’s already working on her fifth book, a return to nonfiction and essay portraiture, a form that won her the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award for her 2017 portrait essay collection, The Long Weeping. “I’m planning on peering into some portraits of biblical women,” she said. “[I’m] doing a lot of excavation of biblical myth alongside more memoiristic material of my own narrative life—looking into the philosophical realm of human responsibility and human freedom, and the relationship between those two poles of existence.”

The launch of Call It Horses is at 6 p.m. today and will also feature acclaimed writer Siamak Vossoughi, winner of the 2014 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. To participate, please RSVP here.


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.