Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Featured Alumna: Jeanne M. Rose

Jeanne M. Rose graduated with a degree in English twelve years ago. We asked her to let us know how she is doing. She writes:

After graduating from GWU in 1995, I enrolled at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. My graduate work focused on the relationship between literature and composition, and my dissertation "Is Literature Language?" argued for a synthesis of literary study and the teaching of writing. In fall of 2001, I began my current position, assistant professor of English, at Penn State Berks, a college within the Penn State system. There, I teach courses in rhetoric and composition, professional writing, and American literature, and I direct the composition program. My research interests include writing pedagogy, writing program administration, and the history of composition studies, and my recent work has appeared in Computers and Composition, Writing Program Administration, and Composition Forum.

George Washington’s English Department provided an excellent foundation for this work; thanks to my undergraduate training, I was able to enter a Ph.D. program immediately upon completion of my B.A. I feel particularly fortunate that my undergraduate coursework offered both a rich foundation in historical periods/primary texts and theory-intensive courses that enabled me to keep pace with my graduate school peers.

When I look back on my undergraduate experience, I most appreciate my professors’ clear passion for their subject matter—which might explain why I took all of my electives in English! In many ways, I continue to look to my GW professors for teaching tips. Kim Moreland, with whom I took four courses, taught me to always ask my students for feedback. Gail Paster, who generously helped me with my personal statement for grad school, showed me the value of mentoring. Bob Combs took me on as a thesis advisee when others were skeptical about the value of writing on John Irving. Thanks to these teachers—and so many others—I became a perpetual student, making my life’s work one where I will always be reading, researching, and preparing for class.

Congratulations, Jeanne, from all of us in the English Department!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Creative Writing at GW

The English Department at George Washington University includes one of the largest all-undergraduate creative writing programs in the U.S. Each semester between 400 and 500 students study the writing of plays, filmscripts, short fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction in small, 15-person classes. About half of these courses are at the introductory level, and appeal to students who face University requirements in the creative and performing arts or in writing in the disciplines, but the remainder are intermediate and advanced genre-specific workshops.

The instructors of these courses include half a dozen full-time, largely tenured or tenure-track, writers: Faye Moskowitz, Jane Shore, Maxine Clair, David McAleavey, Patricia B. Griffith, and (new in 2007-08) Herman Carrillo. A number of other writers teach in the program on a continuing part-time basis, including Thomas Mallon, Tammy Greenwood-Stewart, Bruce MacKinnon, Fred Pollack, Carly Sachs, Lisa Page, Sarah Blake, Paul Maliszewski, and (departing after this year) Dan Gutstein.

The program attracts about 80 students at any given time who are pursuing a minor field of study in Creative Writing, and there is a selective English and Creative Writing major for up to a dozen of the best students, who write a senior thesis in fiction, poetry, or drama under the close supervision of a full-time member of the faculty.

For more than 30 years, the GW English Department has hosted an annual visiting writer, the Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Washington. Some of the best-known names in American writing have taught with us for a year, including Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton, Carol Muske, Marilyn Hacker, Julia Alvarez, Tony Hoagland, Vikram Chandra, Gloria Naylor, Peter Meinke, and Cornelius Eady.

Starting four years ago, the GW English Department has hosted the World Literature Residency, funded by Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. These 2-4 week residencies have brought writers from around the world to GW to give lectures and readings, to meet with students in classes and informally, and to make presentations throughout the Washington area, at nearby schools and universities, at the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, and elsewhere. Working with local embassies, we have hosted Githa Hariharan (India), Witi Ihimaera (New Zealand), Diana Bellessi (Argentina), and Nokuthula Mazibuko (South Africa). We hope this program will continue indefinitely.

Our partnership with the British Council USA over the past three years has included hosting a reading to celebrate the publication of the anthology, New British Poetry, as well as readings and classroom visits by British Council USA Writers in Residence at Georgetown University, Bernardine Evaristo, Diran Adebayo, and Courttia Newland.

[composed by David McAleavey, Director of Creative Writing]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jonthan Gil Harris on Early Modern Studies and Time

From Prof. Harris's essay "Untimely Meditations":

Once upon a time, Time was all the rage in Shakespeare scholarship. Though Time's longue durée lasted from approximately 1960 to 1980, its high-water mark was arguably 1964. In that year, Shakespeare Quarterly published no fewer than three essays on Shakespearean Time, including studies of Time in Romeo and Juliet and the Time Sense of Antony and Cleopatra, as well as an article on "The Shakespearian Clock: Time and the Vision of Reality in Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest." Also in that year, Inga-Stina Ewbank published her well-known essay on The Winter's Tale, fittingly entitled "The Triumph of Time." In the world of Shakespeare criticism, at least, Time had triumphed indeed.

But what -- or whose -- was this triumphant Time? In her essay, Ewbank argues that The Winter's Tale probes "what time means and does to man." Ewbank's syntax, in making "time" a singular active subject and "man" its passive object, reveals much about her conception of Time, to which she attributes supreme agency "both as Revealer and as Destroyer" (85). There is something tellingly fetishistic about this formulation and its capitalized proper nouns. By endowing Time with anthropomorphic qualities that, in the course of its unilinear march into the future, have utter dominion over "man," Ewbank hints at even as she elides how we make Time do things -- how, in the words of Michel Serres, we are equally "exchangers and brewers of time." Time "means" and "does" things to us; but for this to be so, we also have to culturally produce (or "brew") Time as meaningful and active. As a result, Time is always a political animal, even though its politics are (as in Ewbank's case) disavowed.

The tendency to locate Time entirely outside the sphere of politics may begin to explain its virtual disappearance, during the nineteen-eighties and nineties, from the lexicons of North American new historicist and British cultural materialist criticism. The distinctive topographical metaphors of this criticism -- witness its fondness for "sites" or "locations" of diverse cultural practices -- worked in any case to privilege space over time. Because both new historicism and cultural materialism sought to trump the universal with the local, Time also became something of an irrelevance if not an embarrassment, a throwback to an age of criticism invested in Ewbank's every-"man" rather than the cultural and the contingent. Time, in a paradoxical reversal, had become timeless, and so we no longer had time for it.

[read more here]

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Gayle Wald in the NYT Sunday Book Review

From Laura Sinaga's review of Gayle Wald's Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in today's NYT Book Review:
In the 1940s, when big bands were hiring pretty girls with sweet voices to bob over their beats, Tharpe fronted Lucky Millinder’s raucous swing outfit with gutsy force. In the late 1950s, when blues revivalists prized rootsy growls and acoustic guitar twangs, she happily shouted praises over electric riffs. And when early rock historians reached back to trace the form’s lineage, this middle-aged lady cheerily shouting and soloing in front of robed choirs didn’t quite fit their secular, guitar-as-phallus ideal.

Rosetta Tharpe’s story, salvaged here by Wald, a professor of English at George Washington University, is very much a woman’s story, refreshingly free of Svengalis and impresarios. Her picaresque journey from Pentecostal child prodigy in Cotton Plant, Ark., to preteen phenom on Chicago’s church circuit to Cotton Club darling to one of gospel’s first recording stars is constantly surprising.

In Wald’s previous book, “Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture,” an academic examination of racial construction, she showed a taste for the messiness and necessary creativity at the margins of American cultural life. This interest helps her parse Tharpe’s musical contradictions and sensitively explore touchy issues like the hymnswinger’s rumored bisexuality, which some in her circle deny. The author finds humor and pathos in the tale of Tharpe’s third marriage — a publicity stunt worthy of reality TV, staged on the field of Griffith Stadium in Washington and followed by a concert performed by Tharpe in her wedding dress.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Welcome Alumni

Although our undergraduate majors have been enjoying this site for a month, many new readers are finding the English Department's blog this week via the Colonial Cable.

We welcome you, and encourage you to have a look around. Try the "Contents at a Glance" list on the righthand side of this page. You may also be interested in the Note from the Chair.

I trust that you will let me know what you think of our new site. Since our majors have gone on to so many different careers, we are especially interested in developing our "Featured Alumni" series. Please drop me a line at chair@gwu.edu, and feel free to suggest what you'd like to see appear in this space.


Jeffrey J. Cohen

Chair, Department of English
George Washington University

World Literature Residency Ends with Embassy Reception

The month long residency of South African writer Nokuthula Mazibuko has come to an end. The Embassy of South Africa hosted a valedictory reception Tuesday evening at the residence of the ambassador, Her Excellence Barbara Masekela. Nokuthula returns to South Africa today. We wish her the best, especially as she looks forward to the birth of her child.

The English Department wishes to thank Dean Diana Lipscomb for funding the residency and encouraging an ambitious framing of the event; our friends at the South African embassy for suggesting Nokuthula Mazibuko as our writer in residence and for working so diligently to ensure it would happen (especially Mr. Freddie Jordaan, Mrs. Cecile Heppes, and Mr. D. Moyo); and all the students and faculty who contributed to the residency's success. The World Literature Residency simply would not have happened without the energy, enthusiasm, and sheer willpower of Professor David McAleavey, director of GW's Creative Writing Program. Our gratitude to you, David.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Gail Paster on the GW English Department

Below are some reflections on the GW English Department given by our former colleague Gail Kern Paster at Commencement in 2004. Professor Paster was the recipient of an honorary degree.

Professor Paster joined the department in 1974, rising from the rank of instructor to full professor. An internationally acclaimed Shakespeare scholar, Paster left GW in 2002 to become director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Though we maintain close ties to the library, we hope to deepen them in the years ahead, as future posts at this website will detail.


I came to The George Washington University in 1974 as an instructor in the English Department, and I rose to the ranks as one does until I left in 2002. Throughout that time I've had the encouragement, the interest and the support of a number of Columbian College deans, of Vice President Don Lehman, and especially of our President, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. Without that support, without that encouragement, without that interest for my scholarship and for my teaching, I could not have been awarded the opportunity, the great gift, of becoming the director of one of the world's great libraries. Throughout that time as well, GW as an intellectual leader in humanistic education forged partnerships with the Folger Library that have strengthened both institutions in innumerable ways. In 1974 I could not possibly have imagined that I would stand on this stage today and receive an honorary degree. Indeed, in January of 2004, perhaps in April of 2004, I could not have imagined it.

So I am deeply honored and deeply grateful to you, President Trachtenberg, to the Board of Trustees, and to all my wonderful former colleagues sitting behind me who have contributed to the wonderful intellectual conversation that has been my life.

Thanks to all of you very much.

More About Gail Kern Paster

A noted Shakespearean scholar, Gail Kern Paster took office as director of the Folger Shakespeare Library on July 1, 2002. She continues as editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, the leading scholarly journal in the field, published by the Folger Library in association with The George Washington University. Paster was formerly professor of English at GW, where she had taught since 1974. In addition, Paster has been a trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America and just completed a term as president of that organization. She served two terms as a public member of the Folger Shakespeare Library committee. She has won many national fellowships and awards, including fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the National Endowment of the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Mellon Foundation.

[LISTEN] (Download RealPlayer)

(source: here)

Monday, March 5, 2007

Jonathan Gil Harris, Sick Economies

From time to time GW English News will spotlight recent publications by English department faculty. Today we offer a glimpse of Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism, and Disease in Shakespeare's England, a critically lauded study published by Early Modernist Jonathan Gil Harris.

A native of New Zealand, Professor Harris joined our department as a full professor in 2003. His undergraduate Shakespeare course has rapidly attained legendary status. A superb teacher and researcher, we are fortunate indeed to have him among our faculty.


(from the University of Pennsylvania Press website)

Sick Economies
Drama, Mercantilism, and Disease in Shakespeare's England
Jonathan Gil Harris

From French Physiocrat theories of the blood-like circulation of wealth to Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of the market, the body has played a crucial role in Western perceptions of the economic. In Renaissance culture, however, the dominant bodily metaphors for national wealth and economy were derived from the relatively new language of infectious disease. Whereas traditional Galenic medicine had understood illness as a state of imbalance within the body, early modern writers increasingly reimagined disease as an invasive foreign agent. The rapid rise of global trade in the sixteenth century, and the resulting migrations of people, money, and commodities across national borders, contributed to this growing pathologization of the foreign; conversely, the new trade-inflected vocabularies of disease helped writers to represent the contours of national and global economies.

Grounded in scrupulous analyses of cultural and economic history, Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism, and Disease in Shakespeare's England teases out the double helix of the pathological and the economic in two seemingly disparate spheres of early modern textual production: drama and mercantilist writing. Of particular interest to this study are the ways English playwrights, such as Shakespeare, Jonson, Heywood, Massinger, and Middleton, and mercantilists, such as Malynes, Milles, Misselden, and Mun, rooted their conceptions of national economy in the language of disease. Some of these diseases—syphilis, taint, canker, plague, hepatitis—have subsequently lost their economic connotations; others—most notably consumption—remain integral to the modern economic lexicon but have by and large shed their pathological senses.

Breaking new ground by analyzing English mercantilism primarily as a discursive rather than an ideological or economic system, Sick Economies provides a compelling history of how, even in our own time, defenses of transnational economy have paradoxically pathologized the foreign. In the process, Jonathan Gil Harris argues that what we now regard as the discrete sphere of the economic cannot be disentangled from seemingly unrelated domains of Renaissance culture, especially medicine and the theater.

"Sick Economies, wholeheartedly committed to the recovery of noncanonical early modern writing, shows what can happen when a keen literary intelligence is applied to nonliterary texts. The result is a truly interdisciplinary and refreshingly readable book."—Times Literary Supplement

"In this important book Harris explores the early modern discourse of mercantilism, tracing its merger with the discourse of bodily illness."—Choice

"Harris has successfully argued a decidedly unique angle of interpretation. What may have initially struck the reader as an impossibly broad scope of inquiry is revealed, through rigorous textual analysis, as an intriguing interdisciplinary perspective that will certainly impact subsequent scholarship."—Comitatus

"This book offers great insight into the Renaissance discourses of the body, the emergence of mercantile theory, and early modern drama."—Seventeenth-Century News

Table of Contents

1. The Asian Flu; Or, The Pathological Drama of National Economy
2. Syphilis and Trade: Thomas Starkey, Thomas Smith, The Comedy of Errors
3. Taint and Usury: Gerard Malynes, The Dutch Church Libel, The Merchant of Venice
4. Canker/Serpego and Value: Gerard Malynes, Troilus and Cressida
5. Plague and Transmigration: Timothy Bright, Thomas Milles, Volpone
6. Hepatitis/Castration and Treasure: Edward Misselden, Gerard Malynes, The Fair Maid of the West, The Renegado
7. Consumption and Consumption: Thomas Mun, The Roaring Girl
8. Afterword: Anthrax, Cyberworms, and the New Ethereal Economy

Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at George Washington University and the author of Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic: Discourses of Social Pathology in Early Modern England.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Lambda Literary Nomination for Robert McRuer

Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability, the most recent book by Associate Professor of English Robert McRuer, has been honored as a nominee for a 2007 Lamba Literary Foundation Award. The leading organization for LGBT literature, the Lambda Literary Foundation has been running its awards program for nearly twenty years. The foundation's mission is to celebrate LGBT literature and provide resources for writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, and librarians .

Here is some more information on the awards, taken from the Lambda Literary Foundation website:
March 1, 2007--Finalists for the 19th annual Lambda Literary Awards were announced on March 1 by the Lambda Literary Foundation. Awards are presented in 25 categories, and winners will be announced on Thursday, May 31, at the Lambda Literary Awards Ceremony in New York City.

Finalists were chosen by a jury of judges who come from all walks of literary life: journalists, authors, booksellers, librarians, playwrights, illustrators. In all, 87 judges participated in the selection of finalists from the pool of 381 books that were nominated.

For more information on Crip Theory, see here.