Bookstores, Classrooms Feature New Books by UNK Faculty

Vicki Rice Kraeger

While browsing through your favorite bookstore, you just might come across a recent book authored by a UNK faculty member. Other faculty members have recently authored or co-authored books that will more likely be used in the classroom.

Among those who have recently had books published, or who are working with a publisher, are Dr. Mark Ellis, history; Dr. Gene Fendt, philosophy; Dr. Charles Fort, English; and Dr. Mike Mosher, chemistry. Dr. Ellis co-authored A Century of Sports at the University of Nebraska at Kearney with graduate student Jordan Kuck of Bertrand. Dr. Ellis had already written a book about the history of Kearney for the same publisher, Arcadia Publishing, and pursued the opportunity to write the sports history book knowing a collection of about 40,000 of former Sports Information Director Don Briggs’ photographs was available at the Calvin T. Ryan Library.

Dr. Ellis and Kuck went through old newspapers and yearbooks to learn much of the history, and also talked with coaches and a few athletes. Most of what is in the book is pre-1970s.

“We wanted to focus on this historical development,” Dr. Ellis said. The school’s early years included so many outstanding athletes who have all but disappeared,” he said. “A lot of these guys deserve recognition.”

Dr. Ellis has another new book, Law and Order in Buffalo Bill’s Country, and the California native is working on two other book projects, including one on the cultural history of surfing. Dr. Fort recently learned that he will have two books published— one that includes new and selected poems, published by Red Hen Press, and another that will be the third in a prose poem series that will also include elements of fiction and creative nonfiction, called Mrs. Belladonna’s Supper Club Waltz, published by Backwater Publishing.

The book of new and selected poems will include poems he has had published since 1967, in addition to new material.

Dr. Fort said he found it fascinating to go back to his early work and see how he has since matured as a writer.

“It’s like a time machine, it takes you back,” he said. He expects the books to be out in a year or more.

Dr. Fendt’s and Dr. Mosher’s books probably will not be found on the shelves in bookstores, but will more likely be found in teachers’ offices and classrooms.

Dr. Fendt’s book, Love Song for the Life of the Mind: An essay on the Purpose of Comedy is geared toward teachers of courses dealing with drama, philosophy of literature and literary criticism.

“Teachers will use it to get ready for their classes, to help them think about the things they’re teaching,” he said.

The seed of the book was planted more than 20 years ago by a novel written by an Italian philosopher named Umberto Eco. Eco’s novel, The Name of the Rose, was later made into a movie. The the story is set in the middle ages in a monastery where monks were mysteriously dying. The killer was poisoning the pages of Aristotle’s book on comedy, because he thought it was scandalous. At the end of the movie, the monastery’s library burns down, and so the last copy of Aristotle’s book on comedy is lost.

The premise of Dr. Fendt’s book, published by Catholic University of America Press, is that Aristotle and Plato are correct in their belief that the happiest life for a human being is a life of contemplation, but the social and physical life of human beings obscures this and makes it exceedingly difficult to achieve.

“Therefore, we need the arts to exercise and strengthen our passions, so that we will aim rightly and become more capable of achieving that highest good — happiness,” Dr. Fendt said. Among his other published works are Platonic Errors: Plato, a Kind of Poet, For What May I Hope? Thinking With Kant and Kierkegaard, and numerous poems.

Dr.Mosher’s book is already being used in the classroom. He was approached about six years ago about writing a textbook by someone with a teaching pedagogy similar to his to keep students motivated and interested in what they are studying by providing real world examples.

“Most textbooks don’t do that,” he said. However, the new chemistry textbook he co-authored with Drs. Paul Kelter and Andrew Scott does.

The textbook, Chemistry: the Practical Science, is being used in the first-year general chemistry classes at UNK. The textbook, published by Houghton Mifflin, includes many online and print materials to help both students and teachers. In addition to UNK, colleges and universities in Michigan, Florida,Massachusetts and California are also using the book.