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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Sue Sorensen

Sue01Dr. Sue Sorensen, Associate Professor of English, has taught at CMU since 2005.

What do you love about your work here?

I used to be a bit of a recluse – I thought most of my friends were in books. I never used to be a people-person, but CMU has sort of turned me into one. The best people I have ever met are on this campus, and that includes students, faculty, and staff. There is a real culture of kindness and gratitude at CMU.

What are you reading for enjoyment?

This past summer, I reread some fiction by A.S. Byatt, who is the British writer I did my PhD thesis on. I also discovered Lydia Davis. She’s an American writer who writes radically short stories – some of them are only a sentence or two long. And for deep pleasure, I’m re-reading A Dance to the Music of Time, a sequence of 12 novels written by a British author named Anthony Powell.

Where or how do students give you hope?

Students at CMU are well read, extremely well prepared, and intellectually ambitious. Beyond that, the kindness they demonstrate gives me hope. I watch the way they help each other with personal problems, the way they help each other with peer tutoring, and a lot of sort of informal peer counselling that goes on here. When students are in trouble, they circle the wagons and help each other out. Over the years, I myself have been the recipient of this kindness and support that students have offered. It’s again that element of incredible kindness, generosity, and compassion that I’ve seen here at CMU.

What do you most long for in your work?

One of my wishes is that students recognize themselves as my fellow scholars. There’s not a hierarchy in my mind where I’m the person that gets to spout some sort of expertise and people are going to soak in my alleged wisdom. Scholarship is an investigative journey that we work on together, as peers.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

One thing I’m most excited about in the coming months is that some of my poetry has been set to music and will be sung by Renaissance Voices, a Winnipeg choir led by CMU’s own Janet Brenneman. I’ve written a series of poems about the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation for their Christmas program, and CMU alumnus Jesse Krause set one to music. It’s one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had in my life: to know that my words have now been set to music and that I’m going to get to hear fine singers sing them.

What saying or motto inspires you?

Michael Ondaatje once said, “I’m just writing to try to see clearly.” That’s quite true and quite wondrous in its simplicity and its depth. A lot of people think that literary writing is about self-aggrandizement. Really, the best writers are not at all narcissistic – they’re actually looking for lucidity and clarity. I really prize this very simple quotation by Ondaatje.

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Events General News News Releases

Event planned to celebrate books published by CMU faculty

‘The CMU faculty is doing very significant work,’ says vice president

CMU faculty who will be a part of the book celebration. From top-left; Froese; Doerksen; Gerbrandt; Sorenson
Among the published CMU faculty to be featured in the December 9 book celebration are (clockwise from top-left) Froese, Doerksen, Sorensen, and Gerbrandt.

Peacebuilding in Laos, the history of Mennonites in California, Deuteronomy, and the portrayal of clergy in pop culture—recent books by faculty from Canadian Mennonite University cover a wide range of topics.

The university will recognize faculty who have published work in the last year-and-a-half at a special celebration happening on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 3:00 PM.

The celebration will take place at folio café in Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.). Admission is free, and all are welcome to attend.

In addition to selling and signing their books, CMU faculty will give brief presentations about their work.

“The CMU faculty is doing very significant work,” says Dr. Dietrich Bartel, Interim Vice President Academic. “We want to highlight that.”

The event will celebrate the following books:

  • Deuteronomy (Herald Press, 2015) by Dr. Gerald E. Gerbrandt, President Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Bible. The 29th volume in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series, Deuteronomy examines divine grace and the practices of justice and right living.
  • Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding in Laos: Perspective for Today’s World (Routledge, 2015) by Dr. Stephanie Stobbe, Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution Studies. Using the case study of Laos, a small country that has seen brutal poverty and violence, this book examines the power of traditional and indigenous conflict resolution systems as a tool for social justice.
  • The Outsiders’ Gaze: Life and Labour on the Mennonite West Reserve 1874-1922 (Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, 2015), co-edited by Dr. Adolf Ens, Professor Emeritus of History and Theology. This book is a perspective of Mennonites through the eyes of outsiders from 1874-1922 when 7,000 Mennonites emigrated from southern Russia and settled in Manitoba.
  • Inner Peace Through Conflict Transformation (2015) by Dr. Paul Redekop, Professor Emeritus of Conflict Resolution Studies. This is a groundbreaking guide that aids readers in achieving a more peaceful relationship with themselves by applying basic strategies of conflict resolution to inner conflict.
  • James and Paul: The Politics of Identity at the Turn of the Ages (Fortress Press, 2015) by Dr. V. George Shillington, Professor Emeritus of Biblical and Theological Studies. This book seeks to understand the different but complementary missions of the apostle Paul and James of Jerusalem.
  • Voices of Harmony & Dissent: How Peacebuilders are Changing Their Worlds (CMU Press, 2015), co-edited by Dr. Jarem Sawatsky, Professor Emeritus of Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies and Valerie Smith, Co-Director of CMU’s Canadian School of Peacebuilding. This book explores the stories, theory, and tools of 16 peace leaders, trainers, and activists from around the world.
  • California Mennonites (John Hopkins University Press, 2015) by Dr. Brian Froese, Associate Professor of History. This book examines the Mennonite experience in the Golden State, from the 19th century migrants who came in search of sunshine and fertile soil to the evangelically oriented, partially assimilated Mennonites of today.
  • Toward an Anabaptist Political Theology: Law, Order, and Civil Society (Wipf and Stock, 2014), edited by Dr. Paul Doerksen, Associate Professor of Theology and Anabaptist Studies. This collection of essays by the late theologian Dr. A. James Reimer pursues the investigation of theological realities that are to serve as the engine of a political theology that seeks to articulate both a critical and a positive-constructive approach to public/political life and institutions.
  • The Collar: Reading Christian Ministry in Fiction, Television, and Film (Cascade, 2014) by Dr. Sue Sorensen, Associate Professor of English. This is a wide-ranging study of the many ways Christian ministers have been represented on page and screen. Ranging across several nations, denominations, and eras, The Collar is an inquiry into pastoral passion, frustration, and fallibility. 

Because each author has a background in teaching and is also involved in a church community, their work will appeal to a variety of readers, including lay readers, pastors, teachers, and more.

 “These writers are not just speaking to other scholars,” says Dr. Vic Froese, Library Director at CMU, who is organizing the December 9 event. “They are aware that there is an audience that has a more practical interest in what they have written.”

Froese is looking forward to the celebration.

“I hope that people who attend learn more about the excellence we have here on our faculty,” he says, adding that the event is also meant to recognize the hard work of CMU’s professors. “We want to express our appreciation to them and congratulate them on a job well done.”

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program. 

For information about CMU visit www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

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General News News Releases

New book explores the portrayal of clergy in literature and film

Professor hopes book will reach a wide audience, serve the church

Winnipeg – How does the portrayal of clergy in secular culture affect the church? What are the cultural factors that might make the ministry a hard sell? And have literary and cinematic works been misrepresentative, misleading or even harmful?

These are some of the questions at the heart of The Collar: Reading Christian Ministry in Fiction, Television, and Film, a new book by Sue Sorensen, Associate Professor of English at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

The Collar Sue SorensenThe Collar combines thematic analysis and close readings to create what publisher Cascade Books describes as, “a wide-ranging study of the many ways—heroic or comic, shrewd or dastardly—Christian ministers have been represented in literature and film.”

Sorensen adds that The Collar is a good intersection of her interests in church, literature, and film.

“These are all things that profoundly affect me,” she says.

Concentrating on works from Canada, the United States and England, Sorensen explores a variety of novels, plays, TV, and movies—from The Scarlet Letter to Footloose—to make inquiries about “pastoral passion, frustration, and fallibility.”

Sorensen says that one of her personal incentives for working through the clerical references in literature and film is that many people she knows, including her husband, are members of the clergy.

She notes that ministers are often portrayed as conservative, out of touch and repressed—a description that does not fit the church leaders she knows.

When she began work on the book, Sorensen could think of many negative portrayals of Christian ministers in literature and film, and hoped she would find more positive portrayals in her research.

However, some of the books she found most heartening included portrayals of pastors who were failures, but good failures—characters who were deeply flawed human beings but trying their best to serve God and the church.

“I did not find heroic, positive role models, but I think I found something better,” Sorensen says.

While it may seem contradictory, Sorenson’s style in The Collar is both scholarly and accessible. She hopes the book reaches a wide audience, so that the average person in the pew can pick it up and read it.

Ultimately, Sorensen wants The Collar to be of service to the church. As she notes in the book, all Christians are ministers.

“Most of us do not think of ourselves in this manner from day to day, but unconsciously we must be studying pastoral actions and attitudes for models of what we should be doing or not be doing.”

An active member of First Lutheran Church in Winnipeg, Sorensen is the author of a novel, A Large Harmonium, and the editor of West of Eden: Essays on Canadian Prairie Literature. She has written about contemporary British literature, detective fiction, film, popular music, children’s writing, and is also a published poet.

The Collar is available in stores now. A Winnipeg book launch event is planned for Sunday, October 5 at 2:00 PM at McNally Robinson (1120 Grant Ave.).

Visit www.suesorensen.net.

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury Campus and its Menno Simons College and programs. 

For information about CMU, visit: www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB R3P 2N2

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Audio Faculty interviews Sunday@CMU Radio

Sue Sorensen – Reflections on West of Eden

Sue Sorensen, Assistant Professor of English
Interview Date: January 17, 2010

In this interview, David Balzer, host of Sunday@CMU Radio, caught up with Sue Sorensen to discuss West of Eden, a critical compilation of Prairie literature edited by Sue and published by the CMU Press.

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Contact: ssorensen@cmu.ca

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Faculty inConversation Video

Sue Sorensen – English Program

Sue Sorensen – English Program at CMU ‘An Extraordinary Place’