News in and about the English Department

English Department News

English Department Halloween Party, 6-7:30, Oct. 30, 2014—DSU Harrison Room


 Faculty Excellence Awards for work in 2013

Congratulations to ...

Dr. Jean Filetti, Professor and Chair of the Department of English, who won the University Faculty Excellence Award for Service;

Dr. Sharon Rowley, Associate Professor, who won the University Faculty Excellence Award for Scholarship; and

Dr. Trevor Hoag, Assistant Professor, who won the University Provost's Award for Writing Instruction.


(October, 2013) Coleburn Volman won the department's Albert J. Millar Scholarship for his essay "Don Quixote: The Humanist."

For information on this and other scholarships available in the English department, visit the Scholarship webpage.



Student Documentary Filmmaker Zac Grigg Wins Spot in 2012 Virginia Film FestivalOctober 2012

"Willie"  • A film by Zac Grigg

"Willie," a film by English major (Film Studies concentration) Zac Grigg has been chosen as an official selection of the Virginia Film Festival. The film will be screened at 11 a.m., Sunday Nov. 4, in the Newcomb Theater Hall on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

See a Charlottesville television interview of Zac at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville.

About the film
Willie Greenough is a model maker in Charlottesville, who has been creating three-dimensional models of homes and buildings for 14 years. This documentary follows Willie through his latest creation, which reveals a close friendship with a local architect as well as the role of the community at Innisfree Village in Willie's life. His unique approach to model-making has helped shape Charlottesville and its surrounding area as it appears today. Though autism is a development disability, Willie shows that, despite his challenges, we are more alike than we are different.
See the trailer for "Willie."

ZAC GRIGG is an English major with a concentration in Film.  This is hardly his first movie.  He writes, directs, videos, and edits films for other classes and for fun.  Film is Zac’s passion; getting lost in the creation of a movie and spending hours perfecting it is all absolute bliss in his opinion.  Zac intends for film to be his career and way of life in the future.   He spent time making movies in New York this summer, and can see himself living there permanently, as he loves cities.

Zac also loves the classic film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," spending reflective quiet time on his own, and is generally easy—going and positive about everything.  Except wet grass. He hates wet grass.—Sally Grace Holtgrieve

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 Zac Grigg
                           Zac Grigg


Documentary Students (ENGL 462) Publish Website on Elders' Stories

May 2012
NEWPORT NEWS-- Love, loneliness and song all were on the minds of Hampton Roads elders whose stories Christopher Newport University journalism students documented in recent months.
    Grow in love. Don’t fall in love, one elder advised.
    “I really miss him," a widow said of her late husband.  "I would go anywhere and do anything to get him back."
    Another said, “See, I’m 77 years old, so I sing while I got a chance."
    Their videos and stories have just been published online in The Wisdom of Age Project / Hampton Roads.
    Students fanned out from Hampton to Williamsburg, spending three months regularly visiting elders in their homes, at a daycare center and even along railroad tracks, where one man helps out homeless people. Each student worked with one elder or one couple.
    “Our goal is to challenge ageist stereotypes,” according to Terry Lee, the CNU professor who began the project three years ago. “We spend time getting to know elders, hearing their stories. Spending time and listening are the keys. We learn that elders have complicated lives like everyone else, and that they can be happy and eager to learn themselves.”
    Stereotypes about elders—that they are simply financial burdens, that they have no zest for life, that they are boring—evaporate once students visit their elder a few times.
    One student documenting the stories of a retired mental health worker learned a lot. “Spiritual Existence,” “Life at Its Most Elemental” and “Don’t Fall In Love With Me!” are the titles of three of the eight films she produced.
    Stories of Vietnam, Egypt and the seas are documented by another student who spent time with a retired U.S. Navy captain. “You know, a lot of people in my family really do not recognize what I did in the past while I was in the military,” the captain told her.
    Several elders expressed their thanks not only for providing family stories to share and pass on, but for the experience of “reaching back into the past to remember all of those good (and bad) times,” as one elder reported. Another elder wrote about his experience, “She caused a wonderful adventure for each of us, for which I will always be grateful.”
    Lee has taught the course three times and will teach it again next spring semester. “For me, documentary work of this nature is of a high moral order. Students become part of their elder subject’s life, coming to appreciate both their joys and their struggles. Then the tough work begins, because framing one’s life in a short video or narrative, I assure you, is not easy.”
    Lee said that students also learn some tough life lessons. Three years ago, the wife of one student team’s elder died early in the project. “The whole class was upset,” Lee said. “Should the students continue their project with the bereaved husband? Were they intruding? There were mixed feelings, and the two students documenting his story were at an impasse. So I said, ‘Why don’t you ask him?’ They did, and he wanted more than ever for them to do the project.”
    The students did, they attended his wife’s funeral service, and they still visit him, Lee said. (That film, "Where's Jesse?" is online.)
    Videos and narratives in The Wisdom of Age Project are available online at

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 Wisdom of Age Project