Monday, April 30, 2007

Nadeem Aslam to be writer in residence (autumn 2007)

Renowned British author Nadeem Aslam will be the GW English Department's inaugural British Council Writer in Residence during the fall 2007 semester. Beginning in mid-October, he will spend a month in Washington through a new program sponsored by the department and the council.

Mr. Aslam achieved international recognition with the publication of his brilliant novel Maps for Lost Lovers in 2004.

Look for more information on Mr. Nadeem's residency on this blog in the future. For now, we offer the following short biography from Bookbrowse:
Nadeem Aslam was born in 1966 in Gujranwala, Pakistan. When he was 13 he had had a short story published in Urdu in a Pakistani newspaper. He came to Britain at the age of 14 when his communist father (a former poet and film director, now garbage collector and factory worker) fled President Zia's regime and settled the family in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. He went to Manchester University to read biochemistry but left in his third year to become a writer.

He sent the manuscript for his debut novel, Season of the Rainbirds, unsolicited to Andre Deutsch, who accepted it within 10 days. It was published in 1993 and won two awards. He was 26 when he began writing Maps For Lost Lovers in 1992, thinking it would take him 2 years to complete - it actually took him 11. During this time he lived on the award prize-money and various grants, living in a number of different UK locations - wherever he could find a place to stay.

Maps For Lost Lovers was published by Faber & Faber in the UK in August 2004 (USA publication by Knopf in May 2005).

He writes in longhand and says that sometimes a sentence will take a whole page of crossing out." He says that the first chapter alone too five years to get right and the following story about Kaukab took seven months - but he then rejected it, keeping only 1 sentence of the 70 pages he'd written!

After two years he stopped writing the novel altogether in order to develop 100 page biographies of the main characters so that "I fully understood what this family was. Then I was six years into the writing and in deep financial trouble." He laughs: "But it had to be done."

He prefers to write in absolute isolation, draping the windows with black cloth and not going out for weeks at a time. He says, "I always think of the silence and the darkness of a root that enables the flower to grow."...."The only time I'm ever fully alive is when I'm writing. When I'd finished this book, I felt like a cage from which the songbird is being removed. For a month I just didn't know what to do.";

Although culturally a Muslim, he describes himself as a non-believer and, due to money constraints, has not been back to Pakistan since leaving at the age of 14. However, he says that he was raised with a 'feeling for the life of the mind' and was urged by his father to 'live a passionate life' and not to worry about money. Aslam appears to live by these works as when he received a Royal Literary Fund grant he actually turned part of it down saying that he didn't need that much!

When asked if he is apprehensive about how the Muslim community will receive his novel he answers, "Writers have always got into trouble with people who think they know the answer....there's no message in my books. My writing is my way of exploring my own life and the workings of my own consciousness."

He currently lives in north London.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Literature of the Americas (English 40W)

English 40W, "Literature of the Americas," is a new course that reflects recent intellectual developments within the field of American literary studies.

"Literature of the Americas" is just one term for a new approach to American literature. Others include "Black Atlantic literature," "trans-hemispheric American literature," and "circum-Atlantic literature," and draw on the work of theorists including Paul Gilroy, Antonia Benitez-Rojo, and Joseph Roach. Although these approaches differ in their methods and perspectives, they share a desire to understand "American" literature as it is produced in relation to the history of the United States "in the world." "American," in this context, means not just the United States of America, but all of North America ( i.e., Mexico, the United States, and Canada) Central America, and South America. The Caribbean figures prominently.

An example of a "literature of the Americas" approach is "Literature of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade." The history of "New World" slavery involves various sites: Africa, England and Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, South America. Africans were transported, via the Middle Passage, to Jamestown, in the U.S. colonies, as well as Bahia, Brazil and Havana, Cuba. How might this history of the transatlantic trade in human "cargo" affect our approach to 18th and 19th-century literature? For one thing, we might want to consider slave narratives written from different places, and/or in different languages, to understand the continuities and discontinuities among slavery in different places, where slave practices differed according to local culture, climate, and social customs (laws, etc.). How might we account for a subject like Mary Prince, the author of a 19th-century slave narrative, who traveled throughout the region and published her autobiography (in English) in London in the early 19th century?

These are just some examples. The English Department is excited to offer our first Literature of the Americas course (ENGL 40W) in fall 2007, when it will be taught by Professor Gayle Wald. Her focus will be on slavery and the "circum-atlantic" In the future, other faculty members will teach the course, molding it according to their own expertise and interests.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007

Conference on Zionism at GW

Several faculty members in the English department also serve on the Judaic Studies Committee. We would like to bring this important conference to your attention.

The Judaic Studies Program at the George Washington University
Invites You to a Conference

The Future of Zionism: Looking at Israel in the 21st Century

Keynote Lecture by Tom Segev
“1967: Israel, the War and the Year that Transformed the Middle East”

Eran Kaplan, University of Cincinatti
Derek Penslar, University of Toronto
Walter Reich, George Washington University

Sunday, April 22 2 - 4 p.m.
Funger Hall, 2201 G St. NW, Washington, DC

Scholars’ Colloquium with Sessions on:
1. History: Derek Penslar (Univeristy of Toronto), Eran Kaplan (University of Cincinatti), Ilan Troen (Brandeis University)
2. Culture: Yael Zerubavel (Rutgers), Miri Talmon-Bohm (Florida Atlantic), Gadi Taub (Hebrew University)
3. Sociology and Political Science: Gil Eyal (Columbia University), Uri Ram (Ben-Gurion University/The New School, New York), Yoav Peled (Tel-Aviv University)
4. Literature: Uri Cohen (Columbia University). Gideon Nevo (Ben-Gurion University), Yaron Peleg (George Washington University)

Monday, April 23 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Marvin Center, 800 - 21st St. NW, Rm. 403, Washington, DC

RSVPs required for Monday colloquium
For more information check out or call (202) 994-2190

Monday, April 9, 2007

Ann Romines on Eudora Welty's Cake

We scholars publish much that can be described charitably as dry. It's a pleasure to post here some scholarship that is not only moist, it is also sweet and beautiful. Below you will find a recipe that Professor of English Ann Romines created from references in Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding. Professor Romines also provides a detailed narrative of how cooking matters in the novel from which she creates the cake. The recipe for "Mashula's Coconut Cake" has just been published in the cookbook Southern Cakes.

Baking the Cake:
My Recipe for Mashula's Coconut Cake

As a reader/scholar who loves Eudora Welty's fiction and has a long-standing interest in American women's domestic culture, I've found Delta Wedding an irresistible text, and I've returned again and again to nibble at its edges. I've been particularly interested in all the cakes and cake-eating in this book. In previous discussions, I've emphasized the importance of these cakes as textual expressions of the continuities and conflicts of local women's culture, both white and black. To apprehend the full complexity and artistry of Delta Wedding, I argued, it was necessary to read the cakes.

The women of Shellmound plantation have an extensive vocabulary of cakes, ranging from a picnic caramel cake to confectioner's wedding cake to Partheny's voodoo patticake. But the quintessential family cake is Mashula's coconut cake, a complex family recipe passed down from a long-dead great-aunt, who first prepared it in antebellum Mississippi. One of the great and extraordinary sequences in Delta Wedding occurs in the kitchen, as Ellen Fairchild stirs up this cake. Her assistant is her nine-year-old niece Laura, and Ellen instructs the child in the intricacies of Mashula's recipe. And, as she assembles her delicate batter, Ellen is in a trance-like state of heightened awareness, thinking of some of the most complex issues of her life, embodied in her daughter's coming wedding and her brother-in-law's marital estrangement. As I wrote several years ago,
The passage is one of the extraordinary texts of U.S. women"s writing. As Ellen stirs up a Fairchild ancestor's recipe . . . Welty shows how much of tradition, innovation and consciousness are expressed in the baking of a cake" ("Reading the Cakes" 608).
I wrote those words in my university office, after I'd spent hours poring over Welty's words:
As Ellen put in the nutmeg and the grated lemon rind she diligently assumed George's happiness. . . . adding the milk, the egg whites, the flour, carefully and alternately as Mashula's recipe said -- she could be diligent and still not be sure (25-26).

As I was driving home that night, I thought, Wait a minute. I recognize that recipe. I could make that cake. When I got home to my kitchen, I got out the butter, the coconut, the cake pans -- and I did bake a reasonable (and delectable) facsimile of Mashula's coconut cake.

When that essay was published, I mentioned my cake in a few words--just one sentence in sixteen pages of criticism. As a Welty scholar, my subject, I thought, was reading cakes, not baking them. But now, a few years later, I'm not so sure. For recipe-writing was another significant motif in Welty's life and career. She was one of the writers who collected recipes and food remembrances for a projected book, to be titled America Eats, that was planned for publication through the Federal Writers Project in 1942 (although it never appeared). This book was to be "an account of group eating as an important American social institution [and] its part in development of American cookery as an authentic art" (Edge ix). Welty's contributions included lucid recipes for Beaten Biscuit and Mint Julep. Unlike Laurel Hand of The Optimist's Daughter, Welty did not burn her mother's jotted recipes that had "accumulated themselves over the years from friends and relations and from her own invention." Instead, she complained of the limitations of these treasured inherited texts:
My mother's [recipes] don't do me as much good as they might because she never included directions. Her reasoning, often expressed, was that any cook worth her salt would know, given a list of ingredients, what to do with them.

In fact, Welty describes what may have been her debut as a recipe writer, in her mother's kitchen:
I had to sit on a stool while she made spoonbread and take down what I saw like a reporter, to get her recipe (The Flavor of Jackson, unpaged).

By the time she had become a local celebrity in Jackson, Welty was also the patron of local cookbooks (usually fundraising projects), for which she sometimes produced introductions. One such essay, The Flavor of Jackson, was sufficiently important to Welty that she included it in her literary oeuvre, as one of the essays collected in The Eye of the Story. In The Flavor of Jackson, she celebrated local recipes as a medium by which memory was transmitted, recalling,
I make Mrs. Mosal's White Fruitcake every Christmas, having got it from my mother, who got it from Mrs. Mosal, and I often think to make a friend's fine recipe is to celebrate her once more.

In fact, Mrs. Mosal's recipe was included (as submitted by her daughter) in The Jackson Cookbook. Later, Welty circulated privately printed copies of the fruitcake recipe as a Christmas remembrance to her friends. Clearly it's Mrs. Mosal's recipe--but Welty has made a few judicious revisions and additions. Although Chestina Andrews Welty may have scorned directions, her daughter's recipe is complete with meticulous instructions. Eudora Welty wrote six paragraphs of directions, as opposed to Mrs. Mosal's one. For example, she's much more specific about pan sizes and ingredient preparation; she alters the baking temperature, and she specifies that the "cup of whiskey" should be bourbon (Edge 286-87). The text that she chose to share with her friends testifies to more than an antiquarian's interest in old recipes. Obviously, Welty saw recipes as texts meant to be used, as well as preserved, and thus in a constant state of transition and revision.

So, when we return to Delta Wedding's account of the baking of Mashula's coconut cake, perhaps we should not be surprised to discover the vestiges of a functioning, usable recipe there. Most of the cake ingredients are specified: fourteen guinea eggs, sugar, butter, a coconut, a lemon, nutmeg, milk, flour, blanched almonds, and rose water. And, embedded in the narrative, Ellen's thoughts, and her interchanges with Laura and the household's African American cook, Roxie, many of the recipe's directions are included, as well. We learn that the eggs are separated and the whites beaten, the sugar and butter are creamed together, the coconut and lemon rind are grated; the almonds blanched and then pounded in a mortar and pestle with rose water (except for twenty-four perfect almond halves, saved for decoration), and milk, egg whites and flour are added alternately to the batter. The batter is baked in four pans, two at a time. Then the cake is filled (the filling contains eggs and the almond paste) and frosted, "thick on top with the perfect almonds over it close enough to touch" (32).

As I and other critics have already noted, in the process of receiving this recipe, we have learned quite a lot about the plantation culture of which the Fairchild family is a part. Their ongoing history of affluence, for example; coconut, lemons, almonds are all luxury ingredients that cannot be grown locally and must have been extremely hard to come by in the antebellum years when Mashula first baked her coconut cake. We know that this cake is an important part of the Fairchild family tradition of celebration and memory, instantly recognizable. (With one bite, Aunt Tempe says, "Oh, Mashula's coconut!" [141]) And, as Ellen and Roxie negotiate who will do which cake-baking tasks and who is banished from whose kitchen, we glimpse the fraught and delicate relations between white and black women, working together in plantation households. Ellen bakes the cake to celebrate the arrival of beloved family members, to teach motherless Laura an important part of her Fairchild heritage, and--perhaps--to confirm her own faculty as plantation mistress. After all, the guinea eggs have come from the flock that she tends herself (as American farm women have traditionally done), and she tells Roxie, "I got fourteen guinea eggs this evening, and that's a sign I ought to make it [the cake]" (29). As the house fills up with managerial relatives (particularly masterful Aunt Tempe) and friends, converging for Dabney's wedding, Ellen (although she has an expert professional cook in her kitchen), chooses to execute this complex family recipe herself. It is both a challenge ("Smell my cake?" she challenged, as Dabney appeared radiant at the pantry door") and a test ("Was the cake going to turn out all right? She was always nervous about her cakes" [33]). Cakes have been traditional proof of a cook's skill, particularly in the South. And with Mashula's coconut, modest, quiet Ellen--who is after all a Fairchild only by marriage, not by birth--reminds the assembled family of her centrality. Baking the cake is a quiet assertion that will literally be taken in by all the family, as they eat the legendary "Mashula's coconut"--which is now also Ellen's cake.

By weaving the recipe into this fictional text, Eudora Welty offers us the opportunity to experience Delta Wedding in yet another way--we may experience the balancing act of skill, invention, concentration, and precision that baking a complex cake involves, followed by the sensory pleasures of serving and eating the cake! Also, I must admit that, by baking up my version of Mashula's (and Ellen's. and Eudora's) Coconut, I feel that I have become a small part of this literary/culinary tradition, myself--passing on the cake and the recipe to my Southern literature students (my first tasters!) and now to you.

But, you may say, how can I talk about a "cake recipe" in Welty's novel, when she doesn't specify amounts for many of the ingredients? Well--remember that we know Ellen starts with fourteen guinea eggs. "Any cook worth her salt" would know (as a poultry-raising friend told me ) that two guinea eggs are roughly equivalent to one large chicken egg, the standard size for baking today. We also know that the egg whites are beaten and folded into the cake and that "the rest of the eggs" (probably the yolks) go into the filling. Knowing the number of egg whites, an experienced cook (especially if she has access to a library of cake recipes) can estimate other amounts. And that is exactly what I have done. I've also had to assume certain additions. This amount of egg whites wouldn't be sufficient leavening for a four-layer cake, so I've added baking powder, an ingredient to which Mashula might not have had access, although Ellen would have, in the 1920s. I've also added vanilla (reminiscing about her Jackson childhood, Welty noted that "Vanilla must have had a central importance in those days--think of all the cakes" [Flavor]). Plus a bit of almond extract, to play up the almond flavor, and a bit of salt. Also, the text doesn't indicate how the grated coconut is used, so I've chosen to follow a standard Southern practice and layer the coconut on the top and sides of the frosted cake. However, an occasional recipe also adds coconut to the cake batter; if you want to try that, fold in 1 cup very finely chopped coconut before adding the beaten egg whites. I've made a buttercream "icing," as my mother did, but a cooked white frosting (such as the seven-minute frosting my grandmother made), would also be a good and traditional choice. The filling includes the almond paste, rosewater and egg yolks that Welty specifies, but the rest of the recipe is my own adaptation. And I have taken advantage of a few conveniences that weren't available to Mashula and Ellen, such as packaged almond paste and flaked coconut.

In the process of reading and baking and eating this twenty-first century version of Mashula's Coconut, I've learned a lot about the multiplicity of Eudora Welty's artistry. I hope you'll try this version of the recipe. Following Eudora Welty's precedent, feel free to add your own revisions. Remember, Welty's birthday is April 9. And as she reminded us, "to make a friend's fine recipe is to celebrate her once more" (Flavor). Why not celebrate with a slice of Mashula's Coconut and a rereading of Delta Wedding?

Mashula's Coconut Cake: My Version

For the cake:
3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large chicken eggs or 12-14 guinea eggs), at room temperature
2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon salt
1 2 cups white sugar
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
the rind of one small lemon, finely grated ( no more than 2-1 teaspoon)
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides and bottoms of three or four 8" round cake pans. Line each pan with a circle of waxed paper; grease the waxed paper.

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and optional nutmeg. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the extracts and lemon rind. (Throughout this recipe, mixing may be done by hand or with an electric mixer.)
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in 2 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until soft peaks form. (An electric mixer is especially useful here, but of course it can be done by hand-- as Mashula did!)

Beat the flour mixture and the milk alternately into the butter/sugar mixture. Combine until smooth, but do not over-mix. At the end, gently fold in the beaten egg whites. Divide the mixture among your prepared pans. Run a knife through the batter in each pan, to break up any air bubbles, and rap each pan sharply on a flat surface, about 5 times, to distribute batter evenly.

Arrange the pans evenly in your preheated oven. If you are baking four layers, you may need to bake them two at a time, as Ellen did. The pans should have at least one inch between them. Bake until the layers are lightly browned and begin to pull away from the pan edges. When the center of a layer is touched lightly with your finger, it should spring back. This will take about fifteen minutes, depending on the thickness of your layers. To keep your cake tender, do not overbake. Cool on racks for ten minutes after removing from oven, then turn out on racks to cool completely. (Remove the cake papers at this point, and enjoy the "golden scrapement.") Keep covered with clean dish towels. Assemble cake as soon as layers are cool.

For the filling (which you will probably want to make first, so that it has plenty of time to chill):

2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks, slightly beaten (or 8-10 guinea egg yolks)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon almond extract
4 ounces almond paste
about 2 teaspoon rosewater, if you are using purchased almond paste

Combine the sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Whisk in the milk, working very slowly at first
to avoid lumps. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often, and boil for one minute. (You may do this on the stovetop or use the microwave, as I do. Again, a whisk helps to avoid lumps.) Remove from heat. Beat in egg yolks very quickly. Then place about one cup of the mixture in a bowl and work in the almond paste thoroughly; this will take a few minutes. Return the almond mixture to the whole and bring to a boil again; boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add flavorings. Refrigerate until entirely cool.

For the frosting:

In a large bowl, combine 2 cup softened butter with 1 2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 teaspoon almond extract, 1 teaspoon brandy (optional), and a pinch of salt. Mix well, by hand or with electric mixer. Then beat in one one-pound box of confectioner's sugar, adding enough light cream or whole milk to make a spreadable mixture. (Add the liquid cautiously, in small increments.) Taste. If the frosting needs more of flavoring extracts, add.

To assemble your cake:
You will need cake layers, frosting, filling, about 2 cups grated or flaked coconut, and twenty-four perfect almond halves.

If you have a cardboard cake round (available at a baking shop), use it as a base; it makes the cake easier to handle. But this is not essential.

Start with your thickest layer. Spread it with filling. Don=t take the filling quite to the edges of the layer, or it will ooze out. If the filling seems too thick to spread, thin it with a little milk. But it should be fairly thick. Repeat with the remaining layers, but do not spread filling on top of the top layer. Your thinnest layer should be on top. If you are afraid your layers are not secure, you may anchor them with a couple of toothpicks. (However, experienced bakers pride themselves on not needing toothpicks!)

Ice the cake with your prepared frosting. I recommend doing the sides first and then spreading the remaining frosting "thick on the top," as Ellen does. Then cover the entire cake with the grated coconut, pressing lightly to make it adhere. Let the cake firm up for a few minutes, then do a cleanup/grooming job, brushing away the excess coconut. Decorate with the twenty-four almond halves, arranging them "close enough to touch." In Delta Wedding style, present the cake on a footed glass cake stand and serve it on your best small china plates (like "those little Dabney plates" [242] that Ellen uses).

Ann Romines Alexandria, Virginia February 2004

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A history of the World Literature Residency

The Dean of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at GW, then William Frawley, started the World Literature Residency in 2004, working with the Creative Writing program in the English Department. The program has continued under the leadership of Interim Dean Diana Lipscomb.

Our first World Literature Residency Fellow was Githa Hariharan, a novelist from India.

The second WLR Fellow was Witi Ihimaera, from New Zealand, who was with us for a month.

Mr. Ihimaera is a novelist whose book for young adults, Whale Rider, had been made into a movie successful worldwide. A former diplomat and currently a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Auckland, Mr. Ihimaera was an acquaintance of a fellow countryman, Gil Harris, who teaches Shakespeare on our own GW faculty.

Mr. Ihimaera’s residency was a period of great excitement and interest; a Maori, he spoke about some of the problems facing indigenous peoples, especially indigenous artists, to a large audience; he showed his film not once but twice to large audiences, who asked him many questions; and he gave a very well attended reading from his fiction. He spoke around town, appearing at Georgetown University, the Field School, and elsewhere. He also visited several GW classes. The Embassy hosted a reception for about 100 people, which was attended by both the Ambassador and President Trachtenberg of GW.

Diana Bellessi of Argentina, a poet, became our third WLR Fellow, thanks to the active involvement of Sergio Waisman, himself from Argentina, who teaches in GW’s Department of Romance, Germanic, and Slavic Languages and Literatures. A specialist in translation, he was able to help us with Ms. Bellessi’s public addresses and English class appearances, and was able to insure that she not only felt at home in Washington but also had plenty of students to meet with.

A wise, warm-hearted woman of great courage and wide experience, Ms. Bellessi touched everyone who met her. Ms. Bellessi visited half a dozen Spanish literature classes, and two English Department classes dealing with postcolonial literature. Also, CNN En Español interviewed her during her visit.

Nokuthula Mazibuko, a fiction and non-fiction writer, and documentary filmmaker, came from South Africa to be our fourth WLR Fellow.

At GW, Ms. Mazibuko gave a public talk one evening; another evening, she screened a documentary movie about the 1976 student uprisings in Soweto; and on a third evening, she gave a public reading from one of her books. She also visited several classes, both in literature and in creative writing. She participated in a conference at Georgetown University, and was a guest of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where she stayed for two nights, reading, showing her film, and meeting with faculty and students.

Thanks to the active involvement of the South African Embassy, Ms. Mazibuko also spoke at the Library of Congress, at the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art, and at the National Geographic Society. She visited students, faculty, and parents affiliated with GapBuster Learning Center, a community educational opportunity organization. Her vivid personality and generous candor made her many good friends during her month-long stay.

[composed by David McAleavey]

Thursday, April 5, 2007

José Buscaglia-Salgado at GW

Please come to the English Department Colloquium featuring

Professor José Buscaglia-Salgado

“The Dissolution of Form: Metaphorical Subjectivity in Caribbean Mulataje and the Architecture of Coloniality”

Friday, April 6th from noon until 2PM
Duques Hall 251

Reception to follow, hosted by the English Department in Rome Hall 663

Professor Buscaglia-Salgado is the Director of the Program in Caribbean Studies, University of Buffalo, SUNY. His most recent book is Undoing Empire, Race, and Nation in the Mulatto Caribbean (2003).

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Vikram Chandra to read at GW

Vikram Chandra, formerly a professor of English in our department, will be reading from his latest work on Thursday April 5 at 8PM (Marvin Center, Third Floor Amphitheatre). Chandra is the author of Red Earth and Pouring Rain which was awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. He is also the author of a collection of short stories, Love and Longing in Bombay, which was on the New York Times Book Review’s “Notable Books of 1997” list. His critically acclaimed novel Sacred Games was just published in January.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Featured Alumna: Kyaiera Mistretta

Kyaiera Mistretta, class of 2003, is fondly remembered by her former professors at GW as one of those students whom everyone looks forward to having in class: smart, engaged, perceptive, full of promise. We asked her to let us know what career path she had followed since leaving GW. She writes:

Currently I work as a high school English teacher in the city of Stamford, Connecticut. I teach a variety of courses that cater to a range of abilities. Teaching is a lot more than a job, especially at the urban schools I’ve taught in. While teaching is demanding and the hours are a lot longer than just the school day, it is extremely rewarding. Every day I am able to share my love of literature and writing with my students. I work to create a classroom atmosphere where I can engage my students in thoughtful analytical discussion. It is through these discussions that I find myself gaining new insights into texts. My students are often able to enter texts from unique and interesting perspectives that greater inform my own reading. Teaching also affords me the opportunity to conduct research into learning styles and methods, and then to implement and refine the results to improve my pedagogy.

What I learned at GW is at the heart of my teaching. When I had to teach Beowulf this year I went back to my notes from Monsters and Medieval Identity, when I had to teach poetry I found myself referencing the many creative writing courses I took, and when I had to teach Jane Eyre I built my lessons off my notes from The Victorian Novel. For nearly every text I teach I find myself looking back on what I learned at GW. My classes at GW also provided me with a solid foundation that allowed me to excel in my graduate studies at Columbia Teachers College.

When I reflect on my time at GW I am always thankful for my professors’ enthusiasm, encouragement and willingness to engage in discussion beyond the classroom. The time I spent learning to be a better writer and reader of poetry with Jody Bolz and David McAleavey is something I will cherish. I will also always have fond memories of Prof. Ganz who really helped me to push myself as a reader.
Congratulations, Kyaiera, on choosing such an important career and succeeding so brilliantly. We wish you all the best.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Jeffrey J. Cohen at Hamilton College

Professor and chair of the English department Jeffrey J. Cohen just presented from his book in progress at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. His public lecture was called "Through a Monster's Eyes: The Landscape of Postcolonial England." An analysis of the strange case of two green children discovered in Woolpit (England) in the twelfth century, the paper will appear in a collection of essays entitled Cultural Diversity in Medieval Britain: Archipelago, Island, England. Containing twelve essays by prominent scholars exploring the "disunited kingdom" in the Middle Ages, Professor Cohen's book will be published in the New Middle Ages series at Palgrave Macmillan next year.