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Poetry in Motion: English and Sports

poetry in motion

He waltzes into the lane
’cross the free-throw line,
fakes a drive, pivots,
floats from the asphalt turf
in an arc of black light,
and sinks two into the chains.

~Michael S. Harper, from the poem “Making Jump Shots” in Images of Kin (U of Illinois Press, 1977)

In the summer of 2013, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin displayed a popular exhibit called Literature and Sport. The exhibit write-up reminds us of the long-standing relationship between the two realms:

Sport holds a sacred place in western culture and literature. Writers as diverse as Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Norman Mailer, Don DeLillo, Tom Stoppard, Joyce Carol Oates, and David Foster Wallace have written about sport.

Great literary works capture the broad appeal of sport and its ability to transform individuals and society. Through sport, writers explore the complexities of life, from its challenges and disappointments to its great pleasures. Prominent themes in…the works relate to friendship, aggression, failure, honor, humiliation, pride, loss, and hope.

Here at Taylor, literature and sports come together more often than we might imagine. Two recent stories highlight the relationship.

Current English Education major Josh Dingeldein, a junior defensive lineman on the Taylor football team, was named the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League Defensive Player of the Week this past Monday. Josh’s performance in Saturday’s upset of No. 17 Saint Francis included two sacks, four tackles for lost yardage, one fumble recovery, and one pass breakup, along with five total tackles. As Josh looks to student teach next year, he’s also taking Early American Literature and studying the craft of poetry in Introduction to Creative Writing.

The second news-making blend of English and sports comes from the basketball court. English Ed alumna Sarah Shedd (’04) was just named assistant coach of the women’s basketball team. Shedd previously taught English and coached at Northrop High School in Fort Wayne, as well as working as a Campus Life Director for Youth for Christ in the Bluffton and Belmont middle schools. She recently completed her masters in counseling at Huntington University.

The Department of English celebrates these victories with Josh and Coach Shedd! Their examples help break down old stereotypes and remind us of the complexity of the people around us. They also make perfect sense: after all, the themes of sports include “friendship, aggression, failure, honor, humiliation, pride, loss, and hope.” And these are some of the same themes we find in the world’s great literature.

Athlete photos via

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