Texas Tech University.

Volume 4, Number 2; September 2012

All Things Texas Tech

Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library Selects Winners of Sowell Collection Student Essay Contest

This spring, three students in Professor Mary Jane Hurst's Linguistic Approaches to Literature course were chosen as winners of the Sowell Collection Student Essay Contest. Cari Babitzke won first place, while Quinn Smith placed second, and Jessica Schuhmann captured third.

The contest is sponsored by the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library. All TTU students may submit essays to the contest, under the condition that essays focus on a writer or writers in the Sowell Collection. The contest will be held again next spring, and the deadline for submissions is April 5, 2013. More information about the contest is available at the Sowell Collection Student Essay Contest page.

Below are introductions to the winning essays from the 2012 competition, with the full texts available at the links that follow.


"Style and Language as Vehicles for Exploring Sandra Scofield's Plain Seeing"
by Cari Babitzke

In Plain Seeing, Sandra Scofield paints a colorful portrait of what it can be to be a strong woman living in the world of weaker men.  She uses a wide array of language devices and narrative examples to create a world that draws the reader into the lives of the Clarehope women, as well as connecting, in a concrete way, that world to our own.  The conventions of traditional narrative, the stylistic concepts of conversation, and the overarching gender issues are key to understanding what the story is telling us.  The language utilized by Scofield in Plain Seeing yields richness to the tales of the Clarehope women and the men who have shaped their lives, creating a recipe layered with deep meaning about what it is to be a woman. Continue reading Babitzke's essay >


"Nature of Language in Susan Brind Morrow's The Names of Things"
by Quinn Smith

The Names of Things: A Passage in the Egyptian Desert is a narrative in which linguist Susan Brind Morrow writes about the time she spent in and around Egypt studying language and nature. This text, along with a collection of Morrow's papers, is housed in the Sowell collection in the Southwest Collections/ Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University. Morrow's linguistic background shows with her attention to minute language details. For example, Morrow explains to her editor the importance of the word in instead of into as part of the book's title claiming that into is "clunky" and "at its best simply means hallway" whereas "passage in" refers to "times spent", "a transition", and "something written" (Morrow, Letter to Joanna Burgess). This attention to detail in the title hints at Morrow's rich and purposeful use of language within the text itself. The specific language phenomena I will examine in this paper are breech of the Maxim of Quantity, use of metaphor, and tracking as a specific metaphor for language. The Maxim of Quantity is one of four maxims introduced by H.P. Grice as part of his Cooperative Principle which assumes that a speaker will make their utterances appropriate for the situation in terms of truthfulness, informativeness, relevance, and clarity (Grice 66). This paper will look at the effects of Morrow's language choices and how those choices lend themselves well to writing about the natural world. Continue reading Smith's essay >

"To Have and To Hold"
by Jessica Schuhmann

Husband, Pilot, Father, Professor—these are all terms that could be used to describe Walter McDonald. Yet, in addition to those titles, he is also an inspiring author who depicts West Texas values of family, faith, country living and the Vietnam War in his poetry. His work is featured in the Sowell Collection at Texas Tech University, where he also served as an English professor. McDonald says that he never intended to write about Texas, "but (he) started looking around and sure enough , (he) began to feel the call of the wild, semiarid West Texas which (he) knew better than his adopted state of Colorado, better than Vietnam" (Ellery). McDonald originally wrote strictly prose; yet after serving in the Vietnam War he turned to poetry "as a way of saying some things that (he) couldn't say in short stories" (Ehrhart). His first attempts at poetry "were like letters to the dead", as he wrote to friends who had died in the war. Unlike many poets, McDonald insists that "every poem is an invention, a made up thing" as opposed to being a literal autobiographical account of his life (Ellery). His hope is that readers will relate to an experience (happiness, sadness, fear), instead of thinking of the poem as his own specific life story. Above all else, McDonald appreciates poetry that "makes (him) love what matters in the world", and believes that it is a writer's duty to "be interesting and clear" (Ellery). In all of his poems, McDonald consistently uses language to capture the hearts of his readers. In Walt McDonald's poem, "To Have and to Hold," language and syntax is used to support underlying commentary on love, life, and death. Continue reading Schuhmann's essay >