Chair of the English Department Dr. Erin Sadlack described Conlogue’s work as "engaging and relevant." She said she used a passage from his book in her Digital Shakespeare course that started a discussion in the class. "I think that one of the really fantastic things about Bill’s writing in particular is that he is able to take these really complex ideas and make them accessible," she said. "I think that’s also really important because it helps people understand that the work that we do in the humanities is really relevant to their lives." She encouraged everyone to read Conlogue’s book.
As much as by chronology or theme, his book proceeds via metaphors, myths, and the literature he reads, studies, and teaches. He works such motifs as the "undermining" of his title and the "measures" of his subtitle — a reference to seams of anthracite — to consider what the region’s history of mining reveals about human folly and endeavor.
Surrounded by anti-intellectualism, poverty, and the environmental degradation that inevitably attended the burst of extractive capitalism that swept through and then abandoned so much of the United States, Conlogue articulately makes a calm but passionate plea for keeping the humanities central to a curriculum that legislators and college administrators relentlessly want to divert toward vocationalism.
In the Scranton area, history is buried literally and figuratively. The remnants of a once vibrant coal industry lurk underground; the sweep of time has effaced a legacy of environmental damage and social turmoil. Bill Conlogue's insightful book masterfully takes stock of transformations in the region's present by uncovering much of its forgotten past.
In Undermined in Coal Country, Bill Conlogue has achieved a heart-rending expose of the damage done heedless mining practices and greed to his hometown and the whole of coal country and a powerful metaphor of the human condition with the hope that studies of the arts and humanities may offer.
Part family history, part environmental lament, part literary meditation, Undermined in Coal Country is a compelling investigation of the high costs that the anthracite coal industry has imposed on northeastern Pennsylvania. In a distinctive voice, Conlogue emphasizes the devastation not merely caused by coal extraction but its danger coupled with a dishonest celebration of blue-collar suffering, thereby diminishing the expectations of those who live and work there today. Anyone who grew up in the rustbelt, as I did myself, should read Bill Conlogue’s book.
Remarkably well written, graceful, and powerful. This hybrid book, which is both scholarly and literary, boldly explores the place of literature (and the liberal arts in general) in dealing with environmental issues and understanding local environments.
Undermined in Coal Country is a thoughtful reading of the subsidence—both literal and metaphoric—that everywhere insinuates our local and global landscapes. Grounded in the communities in and around Scranton, PA, Conlogue traces broader, interwoven narratives of resource extraction, community, labor, literature, and education to provide readers with nuanced ways to understand what might lie beneath the surfaces of the places they call home.
1. Campus as Question
4. In the Gaps
5. Body Language
6. On Broken Ground
7. Burying Books