Thursday, August 30, 2007

Summer Reading

The short stretch between June and August is one of the few times I have a chance to read some non-work related fiction. This summer I found two novels that I would highly recommend you add to your own list.

1. Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions
The best way I can describe this book is as a highly literary analogue to Stephen King's Langoliers (a book longtime readers of ITM will recall from Eileen Joy's comments and post). Having lost his wife and two sons in a plane crash, a professor of English (by the way, Eileen has written on everything: depictions of professors here) becomes obsessed with the life of a silent film comedian. After publishing a book on the man (Hector Mann to be exact; the novel can be overly literary at times, with many a screaming symbol), our hero David Zimmer is called to the artist's home to view a series of films he made for no audience. Mann dies as Zimmer arrives, and in accordance with his will the films must be destroyed by sunset. Zimmer gets through exactly one magisterial installment, then finds the others vanishing in a premature bonfire. Throughout the book history has been disappearing: Zimmer's family, Mann's secret life, works of art ... everything is so quickly dissolved to nothing. The book is actually not as dire as I make it sound, and in fact ends up being strangely affirmative. It is also at times emotionally wrenching: the scene when Zimmer, determined to view the Mann films before their destruction, boards a plane for the first time since the loss of his family and relives the moment of their crash (his wife desperately trying to comfort boys who cannot understand the fate approaching them) is horrific, real, weirdly cathartic.

2. Nadeem Aslam, Maps for Lost Lovers
I began this book in London because Aslam will be GW's writer in residence this autumn. I could not put it down, and found myself taking advantage of the late setting of the sun to read it on our balcony overlooking the city. Indeed, it's the perfect book of contemporary London -- or Dasht-e-Tanhaii, as the characters call the place. Like The Book of Illusions, this work is highly literary, and to my mind demonstrates in its deliberateness that it was composed in longhand. One of the main characters, Shamas, is wandering icy streets, thinking about the almost certain murder of his brother and of his brother's girlfriend, probably by her family. Aslam writes:
The almost five months since the lovers disappeared have been months of contained mourning for Shamas - but now the grief can come out. He is not a believer, so he knows that the universe is without saviors: the surface of the earth is a great shroud whose dead will not be resurrected.
Yet the dead are walking, glimpsed as phantoms that shimmer near lakes, or as memories that resist sinking into oblivion. Kaukab, the daughter of an imam and Shamas's wife, is given a richly complicated portrait in which her faith both sustains and destroys her, and in which she realizes the love that bonds her so achingly to her children has been for them -- against all her intentions -- a poison, leaving them in ruins. There is a beautiful scene in which her son Charag, an artist filled with fury for her inability to see his art as anything but insult, returns to the family home after many years away (years during which his mother daily calls his answering machine to hear his voice, but cannot allow herself to leave a message). Neither mother nor son are able to speak anything without detonating something in the minefield of hurt between them, but when Kaukab ascends to her small house's bathroom and feels the warmth Charag has impressed on its linoleum by standing to wash his face, she has to steady her heart with trembling fingers, so filled is she with joy. This wrenching mixture of love and inexpressibility moves the whole novel along. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time ... and I've told you almost nothing of the plot. Nor of murdered Jugnu, who studied butterflies and whose arm had been forever stained with a phosphorescence that bathes the whole book in eerie, beautiful radiance.

So, what did you read this summer that has nothing to do with medieval studies and that you loved?

[cross posted from In the Middle]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Folger Seminar on Books and Early Modern Culture

In partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library, the George Washington University is pleased to offer a new seminar on Books and Early Modern Culture.

The seminar is a one of a kind experience, offering undergraduates the chance to have reader's privileges at the library and to utilize its world famous collection of Renaissance books.

The seminar will be launched this fall, and we hope to offer it every year henceforth for a select number of ambitious students. We hope they will find it a once in a lifetime experience that will deepen their knowledge and open new horizons.

ENGL/HIST 701.80: Folger-GW Undergraduate Research Seminar
Books and Early Modern Culture
Folger Shakespeare Library, Deck A Seminar Room

Dr. Sarah Werner

Course description
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the history of books by focusing on books and early modern culture. By learning about how books were made and how books were used, students will gain a clearer appreciation of how early modern culture was shaped by and was a shaping force in the development of books. The archival skills students learn in conducting this research will serve them in future research projects, and their understanding of the sociology of books will refine their understanding of the early modern period and the roles that books played in later periods.

Course thematics
As we will discuss during this course, the study of books and book history can be divided into three approaches: 1) books as objects; 2) books as a societal force; and 3) books as vehicles for text. This class will draw on each of these approaches during the semester. We will begin with an exploration of books as physical objects: how they were made and what we can learn from their physical presence. By learning about the physical labor that went into making books—how they were printed, how they were assembled, how they were bound—we will learn to recognize the physical traces that can lead us to a new understanding of how a particular book was used, what its impact might have been, and how it shapes the text it contains. After this introduction to books as objects, we will move on to examine the role that books played in early modern culture and the processes by which they were made available. Our examination will be guided by Robert Darnton’s notion of a “communication circuit” and will focus, in turn, on the relationships between printers, book sellers, readers, and authors. We will look at the processes by which the power of print has been harnessed and censored, explore how the growth of printed books shaped new audiences of readers, and consider what authorship meant during the early modern period. Two sessions will focus on subjects that are particularly fruitful in exploring the relationship between print and culture: Shakespeare and early modern Bibles. The final section of our course will consider books as vehicles for text. In some ways the opposite approach of focusing exclusively on the book as a material object, this approach will consider how books transmit (and shape) texts. We will use Gerard Genette’s notion of “paratext” to think about how the liminal shapes a text’s meaning, and will use Randall McLeod’s notion of “transformission” to explore how the medium of print and reproduction alters textual meaning. We will also explore the process of editing texts, and interrogate how early modern texts are reshaped as modern books by studying some of the theories behind modern editing and by working on our own transcriptions and studying instances of modern editions.

There will be five written papers assigned during this course, making up 90% of your final grade for this course (descriptions of the assignments and their percentage of the final grade are provided on the last page of this syllabus). Students will not be expected to write a long research paper for this course, although they will be able to use the skills and information they learn in this course to help them write research papers in other courses. Those students who will be writing theses in the spring semester will find that this course gives them a framework for beginning that research in the Folger’s collection. Late papers will not be accepted; should you anticipate a problem in meeting a deadline, you need to talk to me in advance of the deadline itself.

The remaining 10% of your final grade will be based on your class participation and the occasional archival exercises assigned during class. You must come to each and every class prepared for that day’s discussion. Because we meet only once a week, missing even one session will hinder your preparedness for the assignments and will stand in the way of your developing knowledge about early modern books.

Readings marked on the syllabus with an asterisk (*) are the primary readings for that day; other readings listed should be read as your time and interest allows. Most of the readings will be placed on reserve in Gelman’s library and placed on our course shelves at the Folger. There are two books you are responsible for either buying or checking out of one of the consortium libraries: Warren Chappell and Robert Bringhurst, A Short History of the Printed Word, Second Edition, Revised and Updated (Point Roberts, WA: Hartley and Marks, 1999); and Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1972).

You will notice that the readings specified on the syllabus below consist nearly entirely of modern books about early modern books and book history. We will be working with early modern books in class and outside of class, and you will be provided with a bibliography of the books we have consulted in class. Students are always welcome to bring into the classroom particular books that they are interested in and would like to discuss. And students should avail themselves of the resources in the Folger, both of our collection of rare materials, but also of our range of experts in the field. The library’s curators and staff will help you find your way through our collection.

Finally, readings in the course will be supplemented by appearances of the guest faculty, identified on the syllabus below, speaking on a range of topics such as using bibliographic evidence to date materials, to the history of book illustration, to the rise of 18th-century biblical satire and the circulation of 19th-century gift books.

The history of books is a broad and fascinating area of research. There are many fields of inquiry that this course will not address: libraries, censorship, mapmaking, and bindings are just a few of the topics that could be added to an exploration of early modern culture and books. But this course will model a variety of approaches to the field and will give students a range of tools that they can use in their independent research and in future courses.

September 7: Orientation

Advance Reading: Bradin Cormack and Carlo Mazzio, “Use, Misuse and the Making of Book Theory: 1500-1700” in Book Use, Book Theory: 1500-1700, eds Cormack and Mazzio (Chicago: U Chicago Library, 2005), 1-37.

Tour of Library with Betsy Walsh, Head of Reader Services, explanation of Library procedures, and presentation on book handling practices with Frank Mowery, Head of Conservation

September 14: Preface: What is book history?

* Robert Darnton, “What is the History of Books?” in The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History (New York & London: Norton, 1990), 107-35. [originally published in Daedalus 111:3 (1982): 65-83.]
* D.F. McKenzie, “The Book as an Expressive Form” in Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999), 9-30. [originally given as a Panizzi lecture at the British Library, 1985]
* Roger Chartier, “Labourers and Voyagers: From the Text to the Reader” Diacritics 22:2 (Summer 1992): 49-61.
* Adrian Johns, “The Book of Nature and the Nature of the Book” in The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1998), 1-57 (esp. 1-40).

Book display with Dr Steven Galbraith, Curator of Books
Tour of Conservation lab

September 21: Introduction: Incunabula: the first printed books

* Warren Chappell and Robert Bringhurst, “Chapter 1: Prologue to Discovery” and “Chapter 4: Incunabula: 1440-1500” in A Short History of the Printed Word, Second Edition, Revised and Updated (Point Roberts, WA: Hartley and Marks, 1999), 3-21 and 65-92.
* Christopher de Hamel, “The Gutenberg Bible” in The Book: A History of The Bible (London: Phaidon, 2001), 190-215.
John L. Flood, “‘Volentes sibi comparare infrascriptos libros impressos …’: Printed Books as a Commercial Commodity in the Fifteenth Century” in Incunabula and Their Readers: Printing, Selling and Using Books in the Fifteenth Century, ed. Kristian Jensen (London: British Library, 2003), 139-52.
Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin, “Preliminaries: The Introduction of Paper into Europe” in The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800, trans. David Gerard (London and New York: Verso, 1976), 29-54. [orig. L’Apparition du livre, 1958]

Guest faculty: Steve Galbraith: Incunabula from the Folger’s collection

view in class: The Making of a Renaissance Book. Dir. Dana Atchely, prod. American Friends of the Plantin-Moretus Museum (Antwerp). 16 mm film, 22 min., 1969. Rereleased by Book Arts Press, VHS, 2000.

September 28: Part I: Books as objects: overview of physical aspects of early modern books

* Warren Chappell and Robert Bringhurst, “Chapter 3: Type: Cutting and Casting,” “Chapter 5: The Sixteenth Century,” and “Chapter 6: The Seventeenth Century” A Short History of the Printed Word, Second Edition, Revised and Updated (Point Roberts, WA: Hartley and Marks, 1999), 43-64, 93-122, and 123-57.
Stephen Orgel, “Textual Icons: Reading Early Modern Illustrations” in The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge, Technology in the First Age of Print, eds Neil Rhodes and Jonathan Sawday (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 59-94.

Guest faculty: Dr Erin Blake, Curator of Art, Folger Shakespeare Library: Introduction to early modern book illustration

October 5: Books as objects: type and presses
Class to be held at Hill Press, with Steven Heaver

* Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1972). “Composition” pp. 40-56; “Imposition” pp. 78-117 [on format, either Gaskell pp. 80-107 or Greetham pp. 112-36 (see below); but Gaskell pp. 109-117 regardless]; “Presswork” pp. 118-141 [skim pp. 118-24].
D. C. Greetham, “Making the Text: Bibliography of Printed Books” in Textual Scholarship: An Introduction (New York and London: Garland, 1994), 77-151, esp. 112-36 [as replacement for Gaskell on format, above]; “Describing the Text: Descriptive Bibliography” pp153-68

useful videos illustrating aspects of punchcutting, typecasting, and understanding format; these can be watched at the Folger, but are not required viewing:
From Punch to Printing Type: The Art and Craft of Hand Punchcutting and Typecasting, dir. Peter Herdrich, prod. Book Arts Press, 1985. VHS, 45 min.
The Anatomy of a Book, I: Format in the Hand-Press Period, dir. Peter Herdrich, written by Terry Belanger, prod. Viking Productions, distrib. Book Arts Press, 1991. VHS, 30 min.
How to Operate a Book, dir. Peter Herdrich, written by Terry Belanger and Gary Frost, prod. Book Arts Press, 1986. VHS 30 min.

October 12: Books as objects: vellum, paper, watermarks
Assignment due in class: Book history and your field

Guest faculty: Dr Carter Hailey, College of William and Mary: Using bibliographic evidence: collating, watermarks, ink

Philip Gaskell, “Paper” in A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1972), 57-77 (esp. 57-66).

October 19: Part II: Books and early modern culture: printing and selling

* Peter W. M. Blayney, “The Publication of Playbooks” in A New History of Early English Drama, eds John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia UP, 1997), 383-422.
* Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser, “The Popularity of Playbooks Revisited,” Shakespeare Quarterly 56 (2005): 1-32.
* John Barnard, “Introduction” in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Vol. IV: 1557-1695, eds John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie, with Maureen Bell (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002), 1-25.
Peter W. M. Blayney, “John Day and the Bookshop That Never Was” in Material London, ca. 1600, ed. Lena Cowen Orlin (Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2000), 322-43.
M. A. Shaaber, “The Meaning of the Imprint in Early Printed Books,” The Library 24 (1944): 120-41.

The debate between Blayney and Farmer and Lesser about playbook popularity continues in this series of responses:
Peter W. M. Blayney, “The Alleged Popularity of Playbooks,” Shakespeare Quarterly 56 (2005): 33-50.
Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser, “Structures of Popularity in the Early Modern Book Trade,” Shakespeare Quarterly 56 (2005): 206-13.

Guest faculty: Professor Ann Hawkins, Texas Tech University: 19th-century giftbooks

October 26: Books and culture: Shakespeare

* Gary Taylor, “Making Meaning Marketing Shakespeare 1623” in From Performance to Print in Shakespeare’s England, eds Peter Holland and Stephen Orgel (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 55-72.
* David Scott Kastan, “From Contemporary to Classic; Or, Textual Healing” in Shakespeare and the Book (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001), 79-110.
* Thomas L. Berger, “‘Opening Titles Miscreate’: Some Observations on the Titling of Shakespeare’s ‘Works’” in The Margins of the Text, ed. D. C. Greetham (Ann Arbor: U Michigan P, 1997), 155-72.

November 2: Books and early modern culture: readers
Assignment due in class: Your book’s readers

* Robert Darnton, “First Steps Toward a History of Reading” in The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History (New York and London: Norton, 1990), 154-87. [orig. Australian Journal of French Studies 23 (1986): 5-30.]
* Heidi Brayman Hackel, “The ‘Great Variety’ of Readers and Early Modern Reading Practices” in A Companion to Shakespeare, ed. David Scott Kastan (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 139-57.
* William H. Sherman, “What Did Renaissance Readers Write in Their Books?” in Books and Readers in Early Modern England: Material Studies, eds Jennifer Andersen and Elizabeth Sauer (Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2002), 119-37.
Heidi Brayman Hackel, “Consuming Readers: Ladies, Lapdogs, and Libraries” in Reading Material in Early Modern England: Print, Gender, and Literacy (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005), 196-255.

Guest faculty: Dr Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts, Folger Shakespeare Library: Manuscript and print culture: Mary Wroth

November 9: Books and early modern culture: Bibles and religion

Guest faculty: Professor Michael Suarez, S.J., Fordham and Oxford

* Christopher de Hamel, “Bibles of the Protestant Reformation” in The Book: A History of The Bible (London: Phaidon, 2001), 216-45.
* B. J. McMullin, “The Bible Trade” in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume IV: 1557-1695, eds John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002), 455-73.
* Peter Stallybrass, “Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible” in Books and Readers in Early Modern England: Material Studies, eds Jennifer Andersen and Elizabeth Sauer (Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2002), 42-79.
Jean-François Gilmont, “Protestant Reformations and Reading” in A History of Reading in the West, eds Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Amherst: U Massachusetts P, 1999), 213-37.
Dominique Julia, “Reading and the Counter-Reformation” in A History of Reading in the West, eds Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Amherst: U Massachusetts P, 1999), 238-68.

November 16: Books and early modern culture: authors
Assignment due in class: Your book’s author

* Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” in Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism, ed. Josué V. Harari (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1979), 141-60.
* Roger Chartier, “Figures of the Author” in The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Cambridge, UK: Polity P, 1994), 25-60.
* Maureen Bell, “Women Writing and Women Written” in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume IV: 1557-1695, eds John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie, with Maureen Bell (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002), 431-51.
Wendy Wall, “Dancing in a Net: The Problems of Female Authorship” in The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1993), 279-340.

Guest faculty: Professor Leah Chang, The George Washington University: Louise Labé and female authorship

November 21, 5:00 pm: Assignment due: Your book’s biography

November 23: NO CLASS—Thanksgiving Break

November 30: Part III: Books as vehicles for text: paratext and “transformission”

* Gerard Genette, “Introduction” in Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997; orig. Seuils 1987), 1-15.
* Evelyn B. Tribble, “Authority, Control, Community: The English Printed Bible Page from Tyndale to the Authorized Version” in Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1993), 11-56.
* Random Clod [pseud. Randall McLeod], “Information upon Information” TEXT 5 (1991): 241-81.
Randall Anderson, “The Rhetoric of Paratext in Early Printed Books” in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume IV: 1557-1695, eds John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002), 636-44.
Gabriel Egan, “‘As it was, is, or will be played’: Title-pages and the Theatre Industry to 1610” in From Performance to Print in Shakespeare’s England, eds Peter Holland and Stephen Orgel (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 92-110.
Zachary Lesser, “Typographic Nostalgia: Play-Reading, Popularity, and the Meanings of Black Letter” in The Book of the Play: Playwrights, Stationers, and Readers in Early Modern England, ed. Marta Straznicky (Amherst and Boston: U Massachusetts P, 2006), 99-126.

December 7: Books as vehicles: editing early modern texts

* Robert D. Hume, “The Aims and Uses of ‘Textual Studies’” PBSA 99:2 (2005): 197-230.
* Stephen Orgel, “What Is a Text?” and “What Is an Editor?” in The Authentic Shakespeare and Other Problems of the Early Modern Stage (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), 1-6 and 15-20. [orig. Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 24 (1981) and Shakespeare Studies 24 (1996)]
* Gary Taylor, “The Renaissance and the End of Editing” in Palimpsest: Editorial Theory in the Humanities, eds George Bornstein and Ralph G. Williams (Ann Arbor: U Michigan P, 1993), 121-49.

December 14, 5:00 pm: Assignment due: Early modern texts as modern books

Assignment Descriptions: (longer guidelines will be distributed during the semester)

For all the assignments below, you will want to use an early modern book of your choice (assuming that it is in the Folger collection and with which you can work closely). Your faculty advisor and the staff at the Library (especially Dr Werner) can help you find appropriate books to examine. You may use the same book for all assignments, or you may switch books during the semester. If done properly, the assignments on the book’s readers and author should be able to be incorporated into writing the book’s biography.

Late papers will not be accepted; should you anticipate a problem in meeting a deadline, you need to talk to me in advance of the deadline itself.

Your field and book history (500-800 words; Due October 12; 10% of final grade):
Identify some aspect of book history that is important for your research or primary field of interest. You do not need to know the answers to your queries, only to identify them as areas of interest and to explain why they are of interest.

Your book’s readers (1000-1500 words; Due November 2; 10% of final grade):
Where are the signs of a reader in your book? What are those signs? Are they signs of a specific, individual reader, or are they signs of a projected audience? If both, what is the relationship between that specific reader and the imagined audience? What is the relationship between the author and the reader(s)? Is there evidence of the book having been actually read?

Your book’s author (1000-1500 words; Due November 16; 10% of final grade):
How does your book identify and construct its author(s)? Is there a name on the titlepage? Is it pseudonymous? Anonymous? Is the author identified in other ways, such as through prefatory materials, or the use of the first person in the text?

Your book’s biography (2000-2500 words; Due November 21; 30% of final grade):
Write the biography of your book. Start from the book’s creation (who wrote it, who put up the money for its publication, who printed it) and move on through the history of the book (where it was sold, which owners (if any) can be identified, what uses were made of the book, what changes were made to the book’s physical structure) on up to the present day (how did it come into the Folger’s collection, how is it catalogued). Depending on the popularity of your book, you could address familial relationships (reprints, subsequent early modern editions, subsequent editions), travel history (translations), etc.

Early modern texts as modern books (2000-2500 words [Part Two]; Due December 14; 30% of final grade):
Part One: Transcribe the title page and the first page of text of one of the early modern texts central to your research;
Part Two: Choose one of the two options below:
a) Find a modern (19th, 20th, or 21st century) edition of your book (in either codex or hypertext form) and describe how that book constructs the text (its use, its readers, etc.).
b) Compare your book with its equivalent on microfilm or EEBO and describe how the copy differs from the original (how is the experience of reading them different, what is the difference between the two impressions and the two material objects, what is lost and/or what is gained by reading the text in this other form?).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Letter from an English Major

As many of this blog's readers will have heard, beloved professor of English and longtime director of undergraduate advising Lee Salamon retired at the end of the school year. In recognition of her scholarly achievements and distinguished record of service, Professor Salamon was awarded emerita status at commencement. We hope to see her around the department frequently ... and we hope that she is able to enjoy some leisure time and travel as well.

Professor Salamon was recently cleaning out her electronic files and came across this note. I haven't been able to track down the author, but thought I would at least share it anonymously. I think the email captures well how many of our majors feel about the Department of English ... at least, we aspire to have our majors find so welcoming a home here.

Professor Salamon,

A few weeks ago I met with you about declaring an English major and so far everything is going well with regards to my major. The school year is winding down and I feel the need to share my thoughts on the English Department with you.

As I said when we met, I came to GW intent on studying Political Science, graduating and pursuing law school. For three consecutive semesters I plugged through the classes for the Poli Sci major, always waiting for the class that would spark my interest in the subject. This semester I realized that it is likely that class will never come. I felt my experiences with the Professors in that department were, for the most part, negative. I always felt like I was being treated like a subordinate, and that my role as a student was to merely digest whatever I was being taught. It was disheartening to think that the first half of my college experience was spent this way.

My experience with the English Department has been what has kept me positive through this experience. Every professor in the department has treated me and all of my classmates as scholars, not as pupils, and I think there is a big difference in theses terms. Let me clarify: English professors at GW, from my experience, teach because they are passionate about what they do. They seem to appreciate it when a student shares the same passions, and as a result, every student is treated as the Professor seems to view himself/herself, as a scholar; a consummate student. There is nothing better for a student, than this type of relationship, as it encourages intelligent in-class conversation as well as independent and analytical thinking. This is a credit to you and your entire department.

Since my introduction to the English department I have widened the scope of post-graduate opportunities for myself and am now considering pursuing a masters degree in education as well as a law degree. I see
teaching in my somewhere in my future and I have the English Department to thank for that. My motivation to study and learn has grown tremendously, and I am approaching school with a new level of excitement I have never experienced before. I can only credit this to my experience in the English Department.

My apologies if this email was too long but I think that sometimes your department is overlooked in its value to this university. Thank you once again for helping my in the process of declaring myself an English Major and I look forward to taking class with you in the future. Best of luck in the Summer and in the Fall Semester.


[a sophomore English Major]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What to do with an English major

We asked the class of 2007 to let us know what career paths they were following upon graduating from our program. Their responses illustrate well the flexibility a major in English gives when choosing a profession. We wish each one of our alumni good luck on their diverse endeavors.

I will be reading screenplays and then writing the "coverage" to share in meetings. Essentially, what this task entails is writing an annotated bibliography for a screenplay ... I will be studying for my MFA in creative writing at Arizona State ... I have an editorial position at Random House ... I got a job as a Junior Publicist in a local public relations firm ... While my long term career goals remain rather vague and up in the air, I will be going to USC for the Master of Professional Writing in the fall to take classes in Screenwriting, Non-Fiction, and Poetry. I guess "Freelance Writer" or "Screenwriter" would be your best bet for me, if not "Starving Artist" ... I am currently working at the Lincoln Theatre as marketing coordinator/project manager, helping to develop the Lincoln as a multicultural performing arts venue through outreach to the community and diverse programming ... Paralegal, then law school ... Right now I am teaching summer school science to elementary school kids (it was the only opening). I also started my masters degree in elementary ed at UMBC. I hope to language arts at some point in the future. I am already learning how an English degree makes a fabulous precursor to teaching ... I will be attending the Boston University School of Law with an intended concentration on intellectual property ... I’m currently doing Development work for a non-profit organization in New York dealing with international human rights related to gender and sexuality, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. After getting a little bit of experience in the non-profit world and in New York, I intend to enter a Ph.D. Program in English / Cultural Studies within several years ... I am currently employed full-time as a Research Analyst for Kelton Research, a market research firm in DC ... I am planning on going to graduate school in the fall at Columbia as part of their Masters in Social Work program working to get my MSW so that I can delve into the field of private practice therapy ... I will begin working for the Kennedy Center as a Program Assistant, Community Partnerships ... I am currently in my third week of graduate school at NYU working towards a Masters of Arts in English Education. I begin student teaching English at local public schools in the fall ... I am now working as an Account Executive at a Public Affairs firm here in DC. This is surprisingly one of the most writing and research intensive jobs I've ever had ... I am a writer at a consulting firm that specializes in predicting future consumer trends. My title is writer and futurist ... Law school in the Fall of 2008 ... I'm now working as an Editorial Assistant at the City Paper ... I'm fundraising for the MS Society here in DC ... I've accepted a position as a 2007 Corps Member with Teach For America in New York City. I will be teaching 7th and 8th grade English at a public school in Brooklyn for the next two years ... I teach high school English in New Orleans ... I will be going on to Washington College of Law at American University and I plan on concentrating in Sports & Entertainment Law ... I'll be landing in Santiago, Chile to teach English to a group of high schoolers. It's through a program called English Opens Doors, sponsored by the Chilean Ministry of Education (the MINEDUC). It should be very exciting, though it's my first time teaching ... I am working full time as a paralegal at an appellate services firm called the Lex Group. I plan on taking the LSAT soon and would like to attend law school ... I am currently the Director of Administration for John McCain's presidential campaign ... I'm moving to Spain at the end of the summer to teach English for a while ... I am doing public and political advocacy for National Service at an organization called ServeNext, which I co-founded ... After traveling to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in August, I plan to look for an editorial position here in DC. I'd love to work some place like National Geographic, but I might also return to Thompson Publishing Group, a company I interned with while a student at GW. But in all honesty, I'm not really looking for an editorial career; it's mostly just to earn money while I try to write and publish a novel ... My post GW plan is to attend Santa Clara law school in the fall ... Teach for America! I'll be teaching 7 and 8th grade English in Palestine/Wheatley, Arkansas, in the Mississippi Delta region ... In the fall I am going for my Master's in Library Science with a concentration in manuscripts and archives at Drexel University.