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UMFK English professors participate in Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Conference

December 9, 2005


University of Maine at Fort Kent English professors Joseph E. Becker and Geraldine Cannon Becker presented work at the 59th annual meeting of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Conference held in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on October 20 through October 22.

The Association, founded in 1947, is a non-profit organization that promotes the study and teaching of language, literature, and culture. Scholars from around the United States and several international locations attended the proceedings.

Becker presented a paper entitled, "Tolkien, Barfield, and the Language of Creation." The paper discussed the intellectual relationship between J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), the acclaimed author of The Lord of the Rings, and philosopher Owen Barfield (1898-1997), author of Poetic Diction (1928).

Tolkien and Barfield, who were both members of the Oxford University intellectual group called the "Inklings," which centered upon author and critic, C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), developed mythological and linguistic systems that shared striking similarities to the concepts of Lurianic Kabbalah, an esoteric cosmology developed by Jewish scholar and mystic, Isaac Luria (1534-1572).

Becker demonstrated the parallels by discussing components of Tolkien's works, Barfield's linguistic theories, and the concepts of the Kabbalistic system.

Cannon Becker read a collection of poems called, "Unnatural Cage and Other Poems" to a gathering of scholars, writers, and editors. Her poems reflected her childhood in southern Appalachia, and she incorporated many aspects of the language and culture, where she grew up, into her poetical images.

In the scholarly discussion that followed her reading, an audience member noted that Cannon Becker's poetry, though flavored by her heritage, transcended regionalism and involved many universal themes and concepts. She noted that the audience was quite receptive to her material, and one editor also asked for copies of her work for possible publication.

Becker earned a bachelor of arts and a master's of arts degree in English literature from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He also received a master's degree of arts and a Ph. D. in comparative literature from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

He has taught composition and literature courses at the University of Arkansas, at Northwest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville, Arkansas and at Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg Virginia.

Becker has published articles in various literary encyclopedias and journals, and he has participated in many academic conferences.

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

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, Fayetteville.

Her poetry has appeared in journals such as, Nebo, Riverwind, and the Pedestal Magazine Online. Selected poems appear in Consequentiality, Vol. I, an electronic publication produced by Expanding Human Consciousness, available on, and

Cannon Becker is also guiding UMFK students in the development of an online journal, the Aroostook Review.