Composition and rhetoric … and more

A teacher, writer, mentor, and advisor, Brenda Boyle has been awarded tenure at Denison.

The college recently announced that four members of the faculty have been awarded tenure by the Board of Trustees and will be promoted to the rank of associate professor. This is the first in a four-part series highlighting the faculty earning tenure this year: Brenda Boyle, English; HyeKyung Lee, music; Jonathan Walley, cinema; and Lina Yoo, biology.

As a faculty member in the English department and director of the Writing Center, Brenda Boyle seems to thrive on the power of words in literature and nonfiction.

She teaches classes in composition and rhetoric, British and American modernism, the contemporary novel, academic writing, and fiction and nonfiction war narratives. Last semester, for example, she taught “Languages of War” in a first-year class, and this semester she’s offering a senior seminar for English majors and minors titled “War and Masculinity.”

At the Writing Center, she trains 17 student staff members to help their fellow students become better writers. The center is available to the entire student body, and it continues to grow each year.

Boyle’s first book, Masculinity in Vietnam War Narratives: A Critical Study of Fiction, Films and Nonfiction Writing, was published in 2009. She has written a number of scholarly essays, including “Gender Lies in Stars Hollow,” a collaboration with her daughter Olivia, who is majoring in comparative literature at Oberlin College.  And she collaborated with Associate Professor of Psychology Frank Hassebrock on “Memory and Narrative: Reading ‘The Things They Carried’ for Psyche and Persona.”

Boyle grew up in a military family and was one of nine children. Her father was a colonel in the U.S. Army, and she lived in 12 states and Germany before heading off to college.

The recipient of a four-year Army ROTC scholarship, Boyle graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina. While there, she met fellow English major, Kirk Combe, who today is a professor and colleague in Denison’s English department. The couple married in 1979 after her graduation. Boyle served as an intelligence officer in the military for four years and continued her education, earning an M.A. in international relations at University of Southern California, and another M.A. and a Ph.D. in English at Ohio State.

She first came to Denison as an instructor of first-year studies from 1995 to 1999, teaching “Words and Ideas,” a class designed to instill critical thinking and writing skills in first-year students. Then, in 2005, she became a visiting assistant professor of English and a Posse Mentor, working closely with a group of 10 students from Chicago. She was named assistant professor and director of the Writing Center in 2007.

Boyle and her husband are currently co-writing a book on masculinity and monstrosity in blockbuster films of the last decade. The films discussed include 300, Tropic Thunder, King Kong, V for Vendetta, Terminator Salvation, The Hurt Locker, Avatar and District 9.

Along with teaching literature and writing, Boyle says the mentoring and advising matter to her, too. She treasures her students about whom she says, “They enrich everything I do.”

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3:28 PM February 28, 2012

Dave Powell wrote:

One of the problems with collegiate writing centers these days is that they rarely hire outside professionals who write for a living. As a result, business and industry often find that college graduates can’t write for real-world, non-academic readers.

Last year, I interviewed several writing-center heads, and almost every one admitted that they couldn’t write! The common explanation was that composition, rhetoric and literature are NOT adequate preparation for helping students pen their thoughts simply and clearly. As one writing-center head told me, these disciplines actually get in the way because they are “too formalistic and academic.” She even admitted to obtaining terminal degrees in these fields without learning anything about real-world writing.

At least it sounds like Brenda has much more on the ball in this area… which is a very good thing for Denison!

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