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UMFK English professors participate in International Conference in California

August 20, 2004


UMFK faculty members Geraldine Cannon Becker, instructor of English and Joseph E. Becker, assistant professor of English delivered works to an international conference, "Human, All Too Human", in San Diego, California recently.

The week-long conference was designed to look at contemporary philosophical and practical current issues, to phrase questions and broach solutions through philosophical research from any field of study that seeks to understand what it is to be human and how conceptions of humanity are changing, including philosophy, religion, psychology, biology, neurology, sociology, anthropology, visual arts, and literature.

The conference was sponsored by Expanding Human Consciousness, Inc., a newly formed not-for-profit organization, founded by academics, which describes its mission as promoting "the practical application of philosophical research to issues of international consequence."

Geraldine Cannon Becker presented a selection of poetry from her book, The Ritual Changes, and interspersed her creative material with scholarly observations regarding the ways in which some humans define themselves, exploring the boundaries of human nature--especially through written works such as poetry.

Cannon Becker used the pervasive nature of water as an illustration of how the boundaries that human beings use to define themselves are ever fluid and changing.

"I find that in shaping words, moving the words around in the space before me on the page or on the screen, I am pushing the boundaries of my imagination further and further," said Cannon Becker. "I am stretching and reaching out, extending myself, through my work, toward others. I am reaching for forms remembered when memories were formed; circles, triangles, squares, basic patterns of memory," she added.

Joseph Becker delivered a paper entitled, "Gnostic Dualism and the Blakean Vision," which examined the interconnections between the ancient religious movement known as Gnosticism, the work of the early English romantic poet, William Blake, and modern comic-book superheroes and superheroines.

Becker used the psychological ideas of the Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, as the basis for comprehending the interconnections. Though the paper is aimed at an academic audience, Becker believes that the central issues he discussed, the psychological stress and turmoil produced by humanity's struggle with great philosophical issues such as good and evil, are reflected in many of the world's current problems, such as terrorism.

While at the conference, the Beckers promoted the University of Maine at Fort Kent and publicized its unique qualities and academic merits. They believe their presence at the conference helped demonstrate that small liberal arts institutions, such as UMFK, can have an impact in areas of global importance.

The works they delivered will be published in an electronic journal sponsored by Expanding Human Consciousness with copies available from A book featuring papers and selected poetry by conference participants may be produced later.

Cannon Becker earned a bachelor of arts in English/education (teaching certification) from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina and a master of fine arts in creative writing - poetry from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

She has taught writing courses online for Southern New Hampshire University; composition, creative writing, and literature courses at the University of Arkansas; at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, Arkansas; at Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. She has been the recipient of the John Ciardi Award, the Kenneth Patchen Award, and the Raymond L. Barnes Award for Excellence in Poetry at the University of Arkansas. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Nebo and Riverwind.

Joseph E. Becker earned a bachelor of arts and a masters of art in English literature from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina and an Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

He has taught composition and literature courses at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, at Northwest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville, Arkansas, at Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg Virginia, and at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. He has published articles in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: The Twentieth Century 1914-2000, and he has participated in several conferences.