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Shelf Life

Gretchen Braun, an associate professor of English and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Furman / Jeremy Fleming


Vampires, rope sewing, accepting our limitations, and PTSD


cover photo of Narrating Trauma: Victorian Novels and Modern Stress DisordersNarrating Trauma: Victorian Novels And Modern Stress Disorders

By Gretchen Braun, Associate Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Furman  

(The Ohio State University Press)  

Furman Associate Professor Gretchen Braun’s “Narrating Trauma: Victorian Novels and Modern Stress Disorders” traces the 19th-century prehistory of the mental and physical responses we now classify as post-traumatic stress and explores their influence on the Victorian novel. How must the novel form change to accommodate a protagonist whose mental distress both deepens and, in part, results from their socially marginalized position? The 19th-century diagnostic category of nervous disorder encompassed both mental and physical symptoms. Ascribed in large part to negative effects of environment, nervous disorder typified emergent industrial capitalism’s threat to selfhood and therefore presented a framework for novelistic critique of modern lifestyles, stressors and institutions. Reading Victorian narratives through this interpretive lens, which examines a space between sanity and insanity, complicates the copious literary-critical discourse on women’s “madness.” It also offers historical insight into our modern understanding of PTSD, which, in the wake of COVID-19, is shifting to accommodate the mental effects of sustained and diffuse forms of threat. 


Gentle Slaughter  

By Philip Belcher ’82 

(Mad Hat Press)  

Philip Belcher’s first full-length collection of poems reveals a poet probing memory and art to explore the challenges of living with full awareness of decline, of acknowledging the failure to meet one’s own expectations, and of accepting the inevitability of limitation. Influenced by a long line of Southern poets, including R.T. Smith, Claudia Emerson, Rodney Jones and Steve Scafidi – whose poems stretch far beyond what might be labeled regional – Belcher’s poems also echo Dickinson’s theological reflections, Philip Levine’s discovery of the profound in the quotidian, Hayden Carruth’s absorption in place, and Philip Larkin’s overarching pessimism. The collection includes a poem dedicated to Albert Blackwell, the Reuben B. Pitts Emeritus Professor at Furman. Belcher is vice president of programs for the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife and two hounds. He is among more than one dozen family members who attended Furman over four generations. The family has an endowed fund for the annual Posey and Jean Orr Belcher Organ Recital. 


The Last Vampire: The Strange Legend Of Mercy Brown  

By Thomas A. Bound ’84 


“The Last Vampire, The Strange Legend of Mercy Brown” is a speculative historical fiction novel inspired by actual events and contains strong paranormal elements and some horror, which stick close to the historical record. It is based on Mercy Brown, the last person documented to have been a suspected vampire during the New England vampire panic of the late 18th and 19th centuries. The novel tells the tragic story of a teenage girl, Mercy Lena Brown, whom history records as the last vampire. A century after the first reported case of vampirism, which launched the New England vampire panic in this same, small Rhode Island town, a series of deaths strike the Brown family over a brief period.  

The novel speculates how a family and community come to believe one of their own is a monster and explores the very nature of monsters. It was released on Jan. 17, 2022, the 130th anniversary of Mercy Brown’s death. Bound, who majored in political science at Furman, is an attorney, who lives in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife, Tanya, and their rescued dog, Max. 


Zigzag Rope Sewing Projects  

By Katherine Ellison Lile ’06 

(Fox Chapel Publishing)  

“Zigzag Rope Sewing Projects” is a comprehensive, do-it-yourself sewing instruction guide to using your sewing machine to make baskets, bowls and totes from rope. Learn this approachable technique as a beginner or as an experienced sewist, using common sewing tools and your home machine. Avid rope sewists will find new ideas for constructing, using and personalizing new projects. The book details 16 fresh projects for home decor, organization and gifting – from coasters and bowls to totes and plant stands. Each project is explained with clear instructions and step-by-step photos. A detailed reference section provides expert tips and guidance for building your skills, as well as ways to take the technique and construct your own masterpiece. Katherine Ellison Lile lives in Boone, North Carolina, and runs a sewing and craft business called The Mountain Thread Company.