All posts by Stacey Lee Donohue

About Stacey Lee Donohue

I am Professor of English at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon. I've been a Department Chair (for two different departments), and for the 2015-16 academic year I will be an Interim Instructional Dean overseeing 4 departments (Humanities; Fine Arts and Communications; Social Sciences; and World Languages and Cultures). I also serve on the Executive Committees of the Association of Departments of English and the Two Year College Discussion Group (soon to be called the Community College Forum). My interest in the K-16 Alliance stems from my work as a faculty mentor and department chair working with high school instructors teaching dual enrollment courses (that count for both high school and college credit) in the high schools that serve a very large geographic region known as Central Oregon. Last year, our region was awarded a significant state grant for our "Cascades Commitment" project, which includes developing alternative certification and professional development pathways for high school teachers teaching college level composition courses in the high schools.

MLA 2017 in Philadelphia: Call for Papers

Boundaries of College-Ready Writing

Forum: HEP Community Colleges
Questions about political and economic contexts of placement, transfer, dual credit. Explorations of college “readiness” or examinations of specific state reactions to the developmental education “crisis”. 500-word abstracts by 18 March 2016; Miles McCrimmon (

Community College Related Sessions at #MLA16

MLA Convention 2016 in Austin

Sessions of interest to Community College faculty and those interested in community colleges

  1. Democratic Vistas: Reading and Writing in the Community College Classroom

Thursday, 7 January, 3:30–4:45 p.m., 9A, ACC

  1. Threshold Concepts in First-Year Composition (FYC) at the Community College

Friday, 8 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., 10B, ACC

  1. Career Opportunities in Community Colleges

Saturday, 9 January, 10:15–11:30 a.m., 202, JW Marriott

  1. On the Relation between Research and Teaching

Saturday, 9 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 4BC, ACC

  1. Books That Cook: Food in Fiction and Memoir

Friday, 8 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., 201, JW Marriott

  1. Collaboration at Community Colleges: Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning Ideas That Work

Saturday, 9 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., 6A, ACC

  1. What Qualities Matter in Teaching the Humanities Online

Sunday, 10 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 201, JW Marriott

Our new name: Community College Forum

The Community College Forum (under the category of HEP–Higher Education and the Profession)  is the new name for the Two Year College Discussion Group!

The 2015-16 Executive Committee Members are:

Michael Burke (Chair)
Falk Cammin
Stacey Donohue (Secretary)
Linda Weinhouse
(One position is unfilled)

If you are interested in working with the discussion group as a member or being considered as a future member of the Executive Committee, please contact one of us, or watch this blog, for information about our annual business meeting at the MLA Convention.

For the 2016 Convention in Austin, we will are arranging a panel on teaching the Humanities online.

Welcome to the Community College Forum/Two Year College Discussion Group!

The Two Year College Discussion Group is one of the 49 MLA Discussion Groups “designed to accommodate the scholarly and professional interests of small constituencies concerned with discrete literatures or with literary and linguistic subjects that are not encompassed by one of the divisions” (

Once the MLA moves from Discussion Groups to Forums, we will be known as the Community College Forum.

The 2015-16 Executive Committee Members are:

Michael Burke (Chair)
Falk Cammin
Stacey Donohue (Secretary)
Linda Weinhouse
(One position is unfilled)

If you are interested in working with the discussion group as a member or being considered as a future member of the Executive Committee, please contact one of us, or watch this blog, for information about our annual business meeting at the MLA Convention.

For the 2016 Convention in Austin, we will are arranging a panel on teaching the Humanities online.

Teaching the Memoir session at MLA 2015

Abstracts below:

Friday, 9 January

  1. Reading Memory: Approaches to Teaching the Memoir

10:15–11:30 a.m., West 210, VCC West

Program arranged by the Community College Humanities Association

Presiding: Stacey Lee Donohue, Central Oregon Community Coll.

  1. “Photo-graphics: Mediating Memory in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home,” David Bahr, Borough of Manhattan Community Coll., City Univ. of New York
  2. “The Space In-Between: Redefining Autobiography in Theory and Practice,” Sarita N. Cannon, San Francisco State Univ.
  3. “Teaching Autobiography-Fiction Blends: The Labels and the Agendas,” Lorna Martens, Univ. of Virginia
  4. “Reading Memory by Re-membering,” Jewon Woo, Lorain County Community Coll., OH [unable to attend]

For abstracts, visit after 15 Dec.

The following audiovisual request(s) was/were made for your session: Projection equipment for a computer; Speakers for sound from audio device (e.g., iPod)

keywords: memoir, life writing, autobiography, teaching, literature


David Bahr, Assistant Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College-City University of New York


Photo-Graphics: Mediating Memory in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.


In 2013, I taught the first graphic narrative course at my community college. Having taught the seminar at a private liberal arts college, where Fun Home was popular with students, I again taught Bechdel’s memoir. This time, however, my mostly urban students, some struggling with writing skills, were less receptive to Fun Home, largely because of the literary allusions and vocabulary. To work through this resistance, I focused on the family photograph, as a site of memory and revision, with which all my students could identify.


I devoted about two hours on Bechdel’s use of illustrated photographs, or photographics, as I call it. In preparation for the class, I asked students to bring in an old family photograph, digital or material. My goal was for them to think about photography, specifically the illustrated photograph, as a narrative tool and heuristic device in the recreation of memory.


I began my lesson by asking students to free-write about what they viewed as the purpose of photographics in Bechdel’s memoir, notably as a visual epigraph at the beginning of each chapter. As the class had already discussed Fun Home as a recursive narrative, several students identified these opening images as temporal place markers. As we moved on, I invited the class to explore the strategies and effects of the drawn photograph. This line of inquiry encouraged students to think further about comics as a mode of mediating memory. How is a photograph—retraced and re-imagined—transformed by the human hand? What might the illustrated photograph communicate about an author’s point of view and subjectivity? How is the mediation of an already mediated artifact a means of reclaiming, reimaging, and revising our memories? And, finally, how might discussion prompted by these questions add to our understanding of Bechdel’s memoir, perhaps encouraging identification with her process?


Building on the last question, I asked students to take out the family photo that each of them brought and to attempt their own iconic illustration of the photo. I then asked them to write a page about the drawn image, reimagining the story behind, and the person within, that photographic. The exercise energized the class, creatively and intellectually. I would like to share the experience as part of your panel.


This paper is drawn from an essay that I am writing for a proposed collection Approaches to Literature: Teaching Alison Bechdel, edited by Dr. Judith Garner, to be published by Modern Language Association in 2015.

______________ Sarita Cannon is associate professor of English at San Francisco State University where she teaches courses on 20th-century literatures in English, Ethnic American Literatures, the Novel, and Autobiography.

The Space In Between: Redefining Autobiography in Theory and in Practice

In a course I teach on American Life Writing, I foreground the problem of “truth” in memoir on the first day of class by discussing examples of autobiographical hoaxes, including Danny Santiago’s Famous All Over Town, Forrest Carter’s The Education of Little Tree, and Margaret Jones’ Love And Consequences. These cross-cultural autobiographical impersonations allow me to contextualize the long history of racial appropriation in American culture; yet they also highlight for students the slipperiness of “truth” in the constructed and far from transparent genre of autobiography. Our aim as scholars of life writing is not to discern whether an event “really” happened; rather, it is to ask how autobiographers frame their narratives and how they position themselves in relation to earlier autobiographical traditions. In this paper, I focus on the ways in which two memoirs I teach that trouble boundaries between memory and invention, N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969) and Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982), allow students to see how members of historically marginalized groups reconfigure the genre of autobiography for political and aesthetic purposes.  This understanding becomes especially powerful when I ask students to write their own short autobiographies in which they draw upon conventions, tropes, and techniques from the texts we have read in the class.  More than any other authors in the class, Momaday and Lorde inspire students as they craft their own narratives.  Thus this paper is driven by two interconnected questions: How does reading Momaday and Lorde enable students to recalibrate their own definitions of autobiography, particularly in relation to notions of “truth”? And how does writing their own memoirs facilitate a more nuanced understanding of the choices that life writers make?


Lorna Martens teaches German and Comparative Literature at the University of Virginia and is currently working on a book on women’s childhood autobiographies.

Teaching Autobiography-Fiction Blends: The Labels and the Agendas

On the basis of studying 102 examples of childhood autobiography written by women from the nineteenth-century to the present, I find that autobiography has prototypical characteristics that distinguish it from fiction (albeit fiction can ape anything autobiography does): Lejeune’s autobiographical pact; a justification for writing; conformity to current truth criteria (a veteran truth criterion is completeness, so that an autobiographer does well to create a semblance of completeness, which in turn implies the presence of abundant unmotivated detail); the absence of plot; the thematization of memory; and a serious tone.

In contrast to other theoreticians, I find that stylistic features, so-called “poetic effects,” occur far too frequently in autobiographical writing to be counted as differentiating characteristics. Fictionalization is signaled by real-world impossibility, e.g. extensive remembered dialogue, telepathy.

So there are two distinct genres. Yet autobiography-fiction blends are perfectly possible, indeed commonplace. Labels can be misleading. Authors and publishers often choose labels strategically: in the English-speaking world, an “autobiography” sells better; a “novel” is more discreet.

How to make this state of affairs productive for teaching?

In my childhood autobiography classes, I start by having students write their own autobiographical narratives. I do this at the beginning of the course, before students have read anything. I ask them to write three papers: 1. their first memory (1p.); 2. their most significant childhood memory (2-3 p.); 3. their childhood generally (5p.). These writing assignments get the group talking. Assignments 1 and 2 initiate a discussion of memory. We talk about what is remembered and why, at what age memories start and which ages are remembered best, and about the influence of adults’ stories, photos, and videos. Assignment 2 and especially Assignment 3 lead to the question: did you fictionalize? Nearly everyone admits to having employed some kind of shaping for the sake of making a coherent story in Assignment 3. We then discuss: what do you understand by fictionalization? We go on to discuss the need to select and organize material in life-writing, the pressure to compress events out of consideration for readability and length, the temptation to establish a story line or theme, and effective techniques for telling. All these issues make much more sense if students have tried to write autobiography themselves. We also talk about how the intended audience might have an effect on what one writes, as well as the importance of consideration for living people such as parents or siblings.

Over the course of the term, then, I like to make my students aware of the agendas that drive autobiography-fiction blends and the labels “autobiography” and “novel,” as well as of the characteristic features of these often-mixed genres.


CFP for MLA 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia

The Executive Committee of the Discussion Group on the Two Year College will be posting two Calls for Papers for the 2015 MLA Convention.  Below is the first one; the second, on Digital Pedagogy, will be posted in the next few weeks.

Session type: Discussion Group
Organization: The Two Year College Discussion   Group
Title of session: Writing in Context: Content Based   First Year Composition
Submission requirements: 300 word abstracts
Deadline for submissions: 14 March 2014
Description: While composition is often a standalone   course, some colleges offer it as discipline-specific writing, either as a   linked course or integrated into a learning community. Brief presentations   that explore successes and challenges as well as the impact on student   success.

MLA14: “21st Century Pedagogies”: Abstracts and Presenter biographies

Session #213, sponsored by the Discussion Group on the Two Year College, will be held on Friday, Jan. 10th, at 8:30am in the Michigan-Michigan State room of the Chicago Marriott.

Below are abstracts and presenter bios: Presentations will be brief enough to allow the full 15 minute question and answer period.

                                             “Not on Wikipedia: Making the Local Visible”

Laurel Harris is Assistant Professor of English at Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York. She recently co-edited the 2013 collection Communal Modernisms: Teaching Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture in the Twenty-First Century Classroom.

In this paper on “21st-century pedagogies,” I consider a collaborative project in my English 101 classroom that uses the dustiest of literacies—navigating physical archives—to engage first-year writing students in the construction of local history.  The process of archival research positions students as interpreters of resources that have received little contemporary attention. In this reconstruction of the research paper, a genre generally relegated to the first-year writing program, students begin not only with gaps in their own knowledge, but also with gaps in campus and community knowledge, conduct background research, move into the archives, and, finally, reflect on their experience and make connections with the past. The students’ reconstruction of events and repositioning of archival material correlates with contemporary theories of active learning. This project also suggests a new role for the research paper in the first-year writing sequence. It thus raises questions of the modes and venues for curating and interpreting archival primary sources and of the relationship between web-based and archival literacies.


“Survival Spanish Online:  Designing a Community-College Course that Bridges Culture and Authentic Connections”

Cecilia Kennedy is an Associate Professor of English and Spanish at Clark State Community College.  She has designed a number of online and hybrid courses in English Literature and Composition, Regional Studies of Latin America, Survival Spanish, and Spanish I, II, III, and IV.  She has Chaired the Clark State Humanities Colloquium for four years now.  In August of 2000, she received her PhD from The Ohio State University in the area of Sixteenth Century Golden Age Theater from Spain.  She has published articles in her area, but also has an interest in community-based language learning.  She recently co-authored the textbook:  Sitios:  A Community-Inspired Approach to Spanish, which incorporates activities and lessons organized around the places where students will meet and interact with Spanish speakers in their communities.

“Survival Spanish,” as a course title, might suggest a “fast-food” approach to “conquering” a language: learning just enough to get by.  Furthermore, putting it online might appear to compromise that creative, spontaneous, and human element inherent in language.  Spanish, after all, is spoken by many people who value deep, enduring relationships.  In this view, language is savored, not devoured.  The challenge in designing a “Survival Spanish” course online that still makes room for the human touch, rests in aligning language goals with community-based activities that take the students off line, even if only for a brief time.   I plan then, to discuss how I designed these initial projects that empowered students to:

  • Identify a community partner
  • Initiate written exchanges online
  • Speak in person about family, courses, interests, and hobbies

In order to implement these activities, I consulted various best practices that recommend aligning course goals with community activities, allowing for reflection, and assessing student work.  Preliminary results from my two sections of online Survival Spanish (fall 2012) indicate that students developed a “willingness to take risks,” (Sally Berman, 2006) empathy for others, and newer, deeper connections with extended family members and co-workers.


“Sound Essays: a Cure for the Common Core”

Kate O’Donoghue is a PhD candidate in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, specializing in 19th century American fiction and Composition and Rhetoric. She has been teaching at CUNY since 2005 and has also worked as a writing fellow to help faculty across disciplines integrate writing goals into their curricula. She is currently an adjunct at Queens College and a graduate fellow at Baruch’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Her interests in educational technology and multimedia stem from her experiences in the classroom and have been further informed through seminars, workshops, and research. She has designed and taught curricula for hybrid courses using WordPress, Wikispaces, Blackboard, and various social media outlets. 

Critical thinking derives from failure, risk, and creativity–notoriously difficult skills to assess. The increased emphasis on testing, standardization, citation, and secondary sources recommended by the Common Core standards may create greater facility with evidence at the expense of creativity and engagement. I strive to retain an emphasis on sources and citation without sacrificing creativity in my college-level writing courses by assigning argument-based expository compositions that reward abstract thinking, risk-taking, and creativity. One such assignment is a sound essay, created from user-friendly, open-source software and existing web-based sounds. The stated objective is to exemplify tension between sources. Initially, students write 500-word proposals on the course wiki. Then, we spend two weeks in the computer lab working collaboratively to compose the sound essays. Students upload their finished projects to the wiki, accompanied by 1,000 word essays that explain their process, justify their sources, and defend their theses. Finally, each student presents the sound essay to the class. The assignment encourages critical and abstract thought that students then apply to their own reading and writing. Also importantly, the inevitable conflicts between practicality, creative vision, availability of sources, and technical competency guarantee a certain amount of easily-recognizable failure–which, with instructor guidance, transitions to a broader realization that such setbacks are necessary for learning. Moreover, students begin to recognize sources as critical components of the argument, which expands the possibilities of evidence and emphasizes the importance of citation and bibliographies. By the end of the lesson, students morph from prolific consumers to confident users of technology.


“Leveling Up: Gamifying the Literature Classroom.”

Jessica Lewis-Turner is a PhD candidate at Temple University.  During her time there, she has been the instructor of record for classes in the English, American Studies, and Women’s Studies departments, as well as in the First-Year Writing Program.

“Gamifying” education has recently become the subject of intense debate.  Much of the writing on the subject, however, either treats gamification abstractly, or discusses practical applications only in the context of K-12 classrooms.  In this paper, I explore ways in which some aspects of gamification can be brought into the study of literature.  I argue that video game techniques of questing, repetition, and even low-stakes failure are of particular use in introductory and interdisciplinary courses, where students are unfamiliar with literary analysis.  To model this practice, I describe my efforts to gamify my “Introduction to Literature” course, a non-major, general education course in the English department.  I found that by breaking down the work of critical analysis into short, concrete tasks, and by allowing students to fail without significant consequence, my students were able to view the course not as an insurmountable challenge but as part of a journey.