Artists, Scholars, & Innovators Lecture Series

The Artists, Scholars, & Innovators Lecture Series, hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning, is presented by award-winning faculty with artistic, scholarly, or innovative achievements. Please see below for information about upcoming presentations.

Spring 2024 Lectures

Actors, Agents, and Sonic Codes in Benjamin Britten’s Canticle III: ‘Still falls the Rain’

Presented by:
Dr. Vicki Stroeher
Professor in the School of Music, College of Arts & Media
Marshall University Distinguished Artists & Scholars Award, 2022-2023 Senior Recipient for Arts, Social Sciences, Humanities, Education, & Business

February 22, 2024 | 4-5 pm | Drinko Library 402*

*Attend virtually via Teams:  Click here to join the meeting


After the enormous success of Winter Words both at home and abroad, Britten turned again to the canticle for his next project in song, penning another trio, this time for tenor, horn, and piano. Canticle III, ‘Still Falls the Rain’, completed on 27 November 1954, is one of his most highly regarded works, praised for its imaginative elucidation of contemporary writer Edith Sitwell’s stark wartime prose poem, its modernist nods toward serialism and serialist procedures, and its tightly conceived structure in which instrumental interludes, assuming the form of a theme with variations, interweave with vocal recitative. Among the music intelligentsia, the canticle’s exploitation of the total chromatic and serial procedures in its melodic construction marked the continuation of an exciting new direction the composer had signaled with his inclusion of a twelve-note theme (the ‘Screw’) in his opera, The Turn of the Screw, this work’s immediate predecessor. In fact, Britten’s utilization of both variation structure and serial operations begs for comparisons to the opera, not solely along technical grounds, but rather, in consideration of their potential to support the act of musical discourse and especially, musical narrativity.

The structural and procedural connections between Canticle III and The Turn of the Screw are neither superficial nor a simple borrowing or similarity of techniques. Instead, the interconnectedness of the two works centers around Britten’s exploration of the nature of musical discourse, and in particular, his manipulation of embodied and disembodied voices as both actors and agents in the service of Sitwell’s modern lament/meditation on the image of ‘the Starved Man hung upon the Cross’ and the conditions of war. The instrumental voices in Canticle III, as one might expect, provide atmospheric and topical details typical of their accompanying roles; but as wordless – but not speechless – identities separate and distinct from the voice, they exploit the potential for intersections between musical structure and the discursive act, using the structural function of musical materials and their semiotic potency as discursive code. These sonic codes participate in the unfolding of a musical process that strives toward the integration of separate and distinct pitch and rhythmic collections as found in the actors: horn, piano, and voice. Thus, one can follow Britten’s ‘characters’ on a progression from independence of identity toward unification, and hence, spiritual resolution.

On the Art of Confessional Writing in the Age of Oversharing

Presented by
Dr. Rachael Peckham
Professor in the Department of English, College of Liberal Arts
2022-2023 Hedrick Outstanding Faculty Award Recipient

March 28, 2024 | 2-3 pm | Drinko Library 402*

*Attend virtually via Teams:  Click here to join the meeting


While the history of literary confession reaches as far back as Augustine—and much later, to Montaigne, Rosseau, De Quincey, etc.—the trend toward popular confession in memoir and in American media at large might give one the impression that the confessional mode is a relatively new cultural phenomenon, one that’s been readily maligned in recent decades with trends in social media, where the tendency to overshare appears in tension with a secondary response: too much information (T.M.I.). Whether the impulse to publicly confess is met with applause or backlash, the confessional mode continues to elicit a strong response—as it has historically for women writers—and presents unique challenges for the writing and teaching of memoir, the personal essay, and other intimate forms of creative nonfiction.

This presentation considers both the tradition and more recent trends of confessional writing in creative nonfiction and examines its political implications. What does it mean to confess? Whose work is deemed confessional? And how do we practice and teach the confessional mode as a process of honest self-examination that resonates with readers in a relatable and meaningful way?


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