Tyx, Vermillion earn international prize for essay on service learning

Mount Mercy University English professors Carol Tyx and Mary Vermillion were amongst a small group who contributed to the book honored with the 2017 Teaching Literature Book Award, an international prize for the best book on teaching literature at the college level.

Their essay, titled “Literature Goes to Prison: A Reciprocal Service-Learning Project,” was one of 17 published in Service Learning and Literary Studies in English.

Focused on the work done through the student-run Book Club at Anamosa State Penitentiary, their essay reflected on why the program has been so successful.

“Book Club enhances our understanding of why literature matters beyond the academy,” Tyx and Vermillion wrote in the essay. “Our service-learning project reveals literature’s capacity to foster self-reflection, ethical thinking, empathy and a more inclusive community.”

Winning books are judged by a committee of external reviewers and awards are given biennially by the faculty in the graduate programs in English at Idaho State University

Members of the award committee praised the book’s “well-articulated rationale for service learning as well as practical advice for teachers interested in implementing service learning in their courses.”

According to Jessica Winston, ISU professor of English and chair of the award committee, “The book is a resource for practical ideas and a challenging work of literary analysis.” She added that the book is also timely, since “the service-based expansion of education is at the center of debates about the very nature of the humanities and the cultural role of higher education.”

This year’s committee included Matthew Levay, ISU assistant professor of English; Jesse Matz, William P. Rice professor of English and literature at Kenyon College; Tison Pugh, professor of English at the University of Central Florida; Laura Wright, professor of English at Western Carolina University; and Winston.

The winning book was published by the Modern Language Association in 2015.

Editors of the book, Laurie Grobman of Penn State University and Roberta Rosenberg of Christopher Newport University, jointly commented, “We are delighted that our book has earned this important recognition, and we hope that this will draw more attention to service learning possibilities in literature courses, and throughout the university.”

Learn more about the Anamosa State Penitentiary Book Club here.

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