Sunday, November 12, 2006

Who knew?

ETA: OK, I conflated the Welsh and the Cornish in my babbling about pasties and miners below. D'oh! Pasties are Cornish. And the miners who brought them to the UP were Cornish as well. But the miners in southern Ohio were indeed Welsh. But wait, there's more! -- see below.

So I've spent at least half of each of the last three days compiling a mailing list of every high school English department in our metro area and every college and university English department in the upper Midwest that doesn't have an MA program -- all for recruitment purposes for our own MA program. And since I'm doing this on the web and not in phone books, it gives me opportunities to learn all sorts of interesting things about education in my metro-area and region of the U.S. because it's hard to keep myself focused on getting the basic information I'm there to get. Clicking around is almost second nature!

For one thing, I've learned that you can do three electives in gourmet cooking at one of our area's best public high schools, and that graduates have gone on to the CIA (the culinary one, not the government one). I wonder if they'd take an "adult learner"? Te-hee!

I've also learned that there are an un-frakin'-believable amount of tiny colleges in this part of the country. Seriously, how do these places survive?! Now, some of them are Christian colleges with very active religious missions, so I suspect they have a very directed marketing campaign. But how do the rest survive? These are the kind of places that are so tiny that they have departments of "language and literature" where there are five English profs, a Spanish prof, and maybe a French prof. Our area high schools have bigger faculties -- and their own, separate departments of English and Foreign Languages! (Clearly my life-long association with research universities is beginning to show here. But dang, even the SLACs I know something about are about 10x the size of these places. Maybe we should call them TLACs for "Tiny Liberal Arts Colleges.") Anyway, I'm especially targeting these places because their students really need our MA program if only to get a decent generalist program of study in English for whatever their goals are. They probably wouldn't be able to get into most Ph.D. programs with their majors in "English/Humanities."

But I've also found out all sorts of little cultural and historical tidbits. I remember last summer finally learning how the "pasty" (pronounced "past + y" and not "paste + y"), which I think of as belonging to certain parts of Great Britain, became the regional treat of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and parts of Northern Wisconsin -- the Welsh Cornish miners who worked there brought it with them. But does Northern Michigan University, situated on the Upper Peninsula, have a center for Welsh Cornish studies? No, it does not. Meanwhile, it turns out that southern Ohio is a region with a Welsh heritage, also related to mining, and so much so that teeny weeny University of Rio Grande (and no, it's not in Texas) has a Madog Center of Welsh Studies. There's even a Welsh Scenic Byway in that part of the country. Who knew? Now I totally want to take a scenic drive there someday.

ETA: OK, so while the Welsh were in southern Ohio, the Finns were waaaay up yonder in Michigan's UP, founding Finlandia University on the tip of a smaller peninsula jutting into Lake Superior (pretty much as far north in Michigan as you can get). And get this: you can major in Finnish studies! Again, who knew?! I'm learning so much about the upper midwest.

And now I swear I'll stop updating this post.

Ah the internets -- making a boring task fascinating and much, much longer that it really should be! Sigh.

17 comments:

The Combat Philosopher said...

Dr. V.,
Your pasty comments are interesting, although I am a little confused by them.

The pasty is actually mostly associated with the area of Britain known as Cornwall, rather than Wales. It was Cornish miners who dug for tin, rather than coal (as the Welsh do, or did), who first developed pasties.

The CP

Rob Barrett said...

Rio Grande, OH, was also the home of resturanteur Bob Evans. I've eaten in the flagship Bob Evans there. :)

Tiruncula said...

Re: Welsh in Southern Ohio - who knew??

Dr. Virago said...

The CP: Yes, you are right. I have conflated two kinds of mining and two different British Celtic peoples. My mistake! Yikes! I'll edit the main entry.

That said, the pasty has seemed to migrate all over Great Britain.

Dr. Virago said...

And Rob -- OK, now I *really* have to visit Rio Grande!

trillwing said...

Seriously, I saw your "ETA" about miners and pasties and imagined them all in a chorus line, bare-chested, wearing the other kind of pasties.

Thanks for that image. ;)

I wish we had gourmet cooking at my high school. I got stuck in yearbook, writing the damn obituaries. A souffle would have been much more fun to create.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - but the pasty IS a traditional welsh food too... recipe here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/4841110.stm

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks, Anon, for justifying my confusion! :)

And trillwing -- maybe we should make up a song for your pasty-wearing, dancing miners, along the lines of the Lumberjack Song. :)

Bev said...

Rio Grande is a great place to visit if you like biscuits, antique farm equipment, and scenery, but before you go, make sure you know how to pronounce it the southern Ohio way: it's RYE-uh grand.

And while we're on the subject of nomenclature, where would you put the border between SLACs and TLACs? I fear we're on the cusp.

Dr. Virago said...

I say, if all your humanities profs are in *one* department, and that consists of three English profs, a Philosophy prof, and one Spanish prof, you're a TLAC. Which is not to say that a TLAC is a terrible thing to be! I just found it kind of amazing.

And apologies if I sounded condescending. I don't mean to be. Clearly, my experiences all come from much bigger places (indeed, where I work now -- an urban comprehensive -- is the smallest uni I've ever been).

Tell me something -- am I right in assuming that a student from a tiny college would have a more difficult time getting into a PhD program? Since so many of our students come to our MA program from such places, I feel they at least think they need to fill some gaps. What do you think?

Dr. Virago said...

Oh, and thanks for telling me how to say Rio Grande the Ohio way, in case I'm ever there!! (Now I totally want to go to see the flagship Bob Evans *and* to impress people with proper pronunciation of the town!)

Bev said...

Now that I know where I am (at a SLAC, not a TLAC), I'll make a stab at responding to your question: it would be interesting to see some statistics on whether students from tiny colleges have trouble getting into PhD programs, but I know it is difficult to get my students to even think about graduate programs. Two years ago we had thirteen senior English majors and four of them went right into grad school, but that was an anomaly; most years only one or two English majors apply to grad schools, mostly to M.A. programs. Our best and brightest students are often the first in their families to go to college, and they just don't see grad school as a possibility. Those who do apply do not always get into their top-choice schools, but they generally get admitted somewhere, and they do well, but most of our majors just don't see themselves as grad school material. I wish I knew why.

Dr. Virago said...

Maybe that's why we get the students we do -- they're testing the waters, seeing if they *are* grad school material, which is a good use of our 2-year program, I think. Our majors, by the way, are very similar to yours -- a little afraid they're not cut out for it. It's kind of a bummer, really.

Karl Steel said...

Ah, Pasties! There's a version of the South English Legendary that has the story of Nicholas and the Three Clerks (summary: three clerks stay the night at a butcher's. During the night, at the bidding of his wife (Lady MacBeth avant le lettre?), the butcher murders them, steals what little they have, and, in this version, turns them into pasties.

So, Nicholas shows up, "and axed of him what he hadde, and what to sillin wolde.” The butcher “answered baldeliche, pasties and pyes he hadde / and good chep." I love it. It reminds me of that old Hitchcock program where a woman murders her husband by battering him with a frozen roast. She then cooks the roast and feeds it to the cops when they show up to investigate. (eventually, of course, Nicholas resurrects the clerks)

Anniina said...

Yup, we Finns do get around. When I was looking at colleges in the US, I got a scholarship from some place in the middle of a field 3 hrs from any major town, for Finnish studies... and I was thinking... OK, I'd stay in Finland, if I wanted to study that, heheh. But I guess it's cool that someone wants to study us - after all, we do have the Kalevala, Tolkien based Elvish on Finnish, and.... Santa Clause lives in Finland. Man, I'm sounding like a commercial. Weird, since I prefer living in the US :P

Dr. Virago said...

Anniina, the scholarship to do Finnish studies is hilarious! Yeah, why *would* you go all the way to the middle of nowhere to do that when you were already in Finland! Btw, in my original post I should've said that Finlandia was the only university *in the US* founded by Finns (but I'm sure you figured that out). Anyway, I think it's cool. If I were independently wealthy and had a summer place on the Upper Peninsula, I'd totally take Finnish Studies courses there every summer! The UP in the summer is *gorgeous* but pretty remote. And then there are the black flies...Hmm...maybe better to get the imaginary summer house in Finland itself!

Anniina said...

Yes, I do suggest the imaginary summer house in Finland itself - after all, no black flies there. And whence better to study the natives, than from the comfort of your own little imaginary cottage on the shore of a lake, while your imaginary salmon catch is simmering on a fire for a wonderful imaginary summer dinner!