Goshen College English Department launches new Center for Mennonite Writing online


Professor Emeritus of English Ervin Beck and Professor of English Ann Hostetler

» Center for Mennonite Writing: www.mennonitewriting.org

GOSHEN, Ind. – For Mennonites and non-Mennonites interested in Mennonite writing, there is now one place to go online for a multitude of resources: the Center for Mennonite Writing (CMW). CMW, a project of the Goshen College English Department, was launched as a Web site in the middle of January at: www.mennonitewriting.org.”We’ve had enthusiastic responses from some of our contributors, and we hope that more people who care about Mennonite Writing will find that Goshen College is a virtual hub for this sort of ongoing creative activity,” said site editor and Professor of English Ann Hostetler. “We also hope that the web form of this journal will open up the possibility of an international reach and scope for the study of Mennonite literature.”

The site has three components: a journal section that includes new writing and criticism; a resources section that includes writers’ biographies, bibliographies, links to other relevant sites and classic Mennonite texts; and a community section that is interactive and includes forums and discussion groups.

The bi-monthly journal, called the “CMW Journal,” will be initially guest edited by Professor Emeritus of English Ervin Beck and will reflect “the best of contemporary Mennonite writing” in the genres of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and criticism. “Each issue of the journal will focus on a theme of special interest to Mennonite literature,” said Hostetler. “A web journal, I felt, would offer many attractions: the possibility of incorporating sound files as well as images, a venue for publishing a wider variety of creative and critical works in the same place, a greater tolerance for informal prose and the occasional opinion piece, and an interactive blog feature.”

For example, the first issue is on orality in Mennonite literature, and features a critical essay by Magdalene Redekop of the University of Toronto, mp3 files of Low German comedy, a series of poems by WBZ Boston radio journalist and 1979 Goshen College alumnus Carl “Stevens” Haarer, and a new short story by programming director of WSBT-TV and 1973 GC alumnus Bob Johnson. Future issues will focus on Yorifumi Yaguchi, life writing, Mennonite folk culture, martyrdom and Mennonite poetry.

“At present our writers are mainly from the United States and Canada, with a significant writer from Japan,” Hostetler said, “but we hope the web format of our site and journal will attract writers from around the world, as we aspire to reflect the truly global potential of our location in cyberspace.”

In addition, the site has a resources section that features links to Mennonite writers’ Web sites, Mennonite publications and other web resources. “We are also creating an interactive blog through which readers can respond to the articles, poems and stories,” Hostetler said.

The site was designed by Matthew Yoder, a 2008 graduate who was a communication major from Lancaster, Pa. He began work on the site as part of the college’s summer 2007 Maple Scholars program, with direction from Hostetler and Assistant Professor of English Kyle Schlabach.

“Matt not only brought skills in design and computer coding to the project, but a savvy sense of what younger Mennonites would find appealing in a Web site of this nature,” Hostetler said. “The contribution of thoughtful students to the site is, I hope, one of its hidden strengths, and a promise that our work will have relevance to a younger group of readers and writers.”

Yoder’s design for the Web site was inspired by the traditional Mennonite folk art of fraktur and invokes a rural heritage. The image inside the flower “bud” on the site logo that resembles a circle and a pen stroke was inspired by a traditional image for “work and hope” — that of a figure spading the ground — used in traditional Mennonite iconography. Matt’s “contemporary graphics that interpret Mennonite folk art and images illustrate the importance that a younger generation places in a ‘rooted’ tradition that is also conversant with contemporary style,” Hostetler said.

The project has benefited from having the Mennonite Church USA Archives located on campus, as well as the Mennonite Historical Library. Both have been collecting papers from Mennonite literary writers. “The site draws on some unique resources at Goshen College, including networks created when we hosted the second and third Mennonite/s Writing Conferences in 1997 and 2002,” said Hostetler. The fifth conference in this series is slated for fall 2009 at the University of Winnipeg. “We hope that this Web site will be a place where the conversations and exchanges can continue in cyberspace beyond the marvelous but time-limited venues of live conferences.”

The advisory board for the Web site includes: Beth Martin Birky, Jeff Gundy, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Bobby Meyer-Lee, Paul Meyer Reimer, Maurice Mierau, Barbara Nickel, John D. Roth, Kyle Schlabach, Duane Stoltzfus and Hildi Froese Tiessen.

The vision for this significant undertaking, according to Hostetler, should be attributed to Beck, who though retired from teaching at the college is still playing an instrumental role in the launch of this site. “Ervin inspired me with the idea for the Center for Mennonite Writing on the Web, because he had long been dreaming of a center for the study of Mennonite literature at Goshen College,” Hostetler said. “With technology fast becoming the publishing medium of choice, it seemed a great way to go.”

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.

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Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report‘s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.

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