Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hear the Hippo's Eloquent Roar: We Are on Facebook

Though our site is only a day old and therefore has little content that makes it worth your time, nonetheless -- because we like to be popular, and don't want to be like one of those departments no one likes (Statistics, do you hear us?) -- well, for that compelling reason alone we say: if you are on Facebook, become a fan of the GW English Department.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Are you on our mailing list?

If you've donated money to the department over the past year, you are already on our mailing list (your name should also appear in the "Department Supporters" box to the right: thank you for your generosity! We couldn't do much of what we undertake without your support). Early in the fall you will receive our inaugural newsletter. Despite the image to the left, it will not be composed via quill.

If you would like to be on our mailing list to receive our festive and fact-filled newsletter this fall -- and to keep receiving our high quality superbly written achingly beautiful materials for all of eternity -- please email us at: You could also donate some money to the department and support our mission, and then we will not only put you on the mailing list, we'll put you in our exclusive little box of honor to the right. And you will have the lasting satisfaction of having helped keep English the very best department in the entire university, if not the entire solar system, galaxy, and maybe even cosmos.

You can make a contribution via the link at right (but you MUST designate the ENGLISH DEPARTMENT on the electronic form or we will not receive your contribution). You can also mail a check to GWU with a note saying it is for the English Department to: Advancement Services, The George Washington University, Division of Development and Alumni Relations, ATTN: Gift Processing, 2100 M Street, NW Suite 310 Washington, DC 20052.

Thank you!

[PS Many thanks to super keen eyed alumna Liza Blake, who pointed out the typo in my post title, now fixed. That's what happens when I attempt to blog via quill.]

Jewish Literary Festival

From the DC JCC
Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival
September 14-24, 20008

What goes on inside the mind of a great author? Join us for the tenth anniversary Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival, September 14-24, 2008 and find out! Come meet a fascinating array of authors, including French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, critically acclaimed novelists Darin Straus, Elisa Albert, and Adam Langer, philanthropist Edgar Bronfman, and president emeritus of The George Washington University Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. Journalist Ariel Sabar will share his family’s fascinating tale of Jewish life in Kurdish Iraq. This year, opening night will be a celebration of Jewish humor.

Check out to see the complete Festival calendar and purchase tickets or call (800) 494-TIXS

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Save the Date: Literature in a Global Age, October 22

A Special Alumni Event

Please join the English Department for a panel discussion on "Literature in a Global Age,” the past and future of writing in English.

A panel of authors and critics will lead a lively discussion of literature familiar and new, exploring the art that happens when cultures meet -- and clash. The panel will feature faculty from the Department of English (including Thomas Mallon, Faye Moskowitz, Judith Plotz, and H. G. Carrillo) as well as renowned Scots-Asian writer Suhayl Saadi, our British Council Writer in Residence for 2008-09.

The panel is followed by a dessert reception and is a special alumni event. All current GW students are welcome as well. Registration here.

Here is some information about each confirmed presenter.

1. Scots-Asian novelist Suhayl Saadi is the author of Psychorag, a powerful account of a troubled Pakistani past set in contemporary Glasgow. A writer known for his rhythmic, inventive style, Saadi is the GW-British Council Writer in Residence. He is the author of many short stories, plays and a poems as well as this novel.

2. Thomas Mallon is a world renowned novelist and critic. A resident of Foggy Bottom, he teaches creative writing at GW. His novels have been widely translated, and include: Fellow Travelers; Henry and Clara; Stolen Words, Dewey Defeats Truman; Mrs. Paine's Garage; Bandbox; and Arts and Sciences. He has also written for GQ, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and Harper's.

3. Jennifer James is an associate professor of English at GW. She teaches nineteenth century and African American literature. She has just published A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature, the Civil War-World War II.

4. Robert McRuer is the award-winning author of Crip Theory and The Queer Renaissance. His current work examines disability within an international perspective. He is an associate professor of English.

5. Faye Moskowitz is the former chair of the English Department, where she now teaches creative writing and Jewish American literature. Among her best known works are: Whoever Finds This: I Love You; And the Bridge is Love; and Peace in the House.

6. Judith Plotz teaches children's literature, nineteenth century literature, and postcolonial literature. She is one of the most beloved professors in the English department and former department chair. Her most recent book is Romanticism and the Vocation of Childhood.

7. Tara Wallace is an associate professor of English and the associate dean of graduate studies at GW. A specialist in eighteenth century literature and a scholar of Jane Austen, she has just completed a book entitled Imperial Characters: Home and Periphery in Eighteenth-Century Literature.

8. H. G. Carrillo teaches creative writing at GW. His debut novel, Losing My Espanish, is a literary tour de force. He is the author of many short stories as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tayari Jones on Kirk Larsen

Former Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Residence Tayari Jones -- one of the most beloved teachers ever to fill that position -- maintains a lively blog.

Recently she wrote about one of our own undergraduate English majors, Kirk Larsen, describing him as "one of my genius undergraduates." If you follow that link, you will see why Kirk, a junior, deserves that epithet.

Readers of this blog may know Kirk from his witty posts at The Colonialist, which we have just added to our own blogroll (at right).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Edward P. Jones to be Inaugural Wang Visiting Professor in Contemporary English Literature

The first Wang Visiting Professor in Contemporary English Literature will be Edward P. Jones, an African American author of world fame.

A DC resident, Mr. Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2004 for his stunning novel The Known World. Set in rural Virginia before the Civil War, this vividly imagined and beautifully composed book centers around a plantation where a freed slave has purchased slaves of his own. The Known World is an emotionally wrenching and complex meditation upon racism, humanity, memory, and the power of art. Mr. Jones is also the author two collections of short stories set in Washington DC, Lost in the City (2004, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award) and All Aunt Hagar's Children (2006). Mr. Jones has been awarded numerous other literary prizes as well as a MacArthur Fellowship.

More information on Jones (including a short but thorough bio) can be found here.

Mr. Jones will be in residence during the spring semester of 2009. He will teach an advanced creative writing course, lead a literary reading group for undergraduates, and give at least one public reading.

Created through the generosity of Albert Wang, the Wang Visiting Professor in Contemporary Literature allows the Department of English in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to bring to campus a prominent scholar or author for a residency of at least a semester. In honor of our home in Washington, DC, and in recognition of the strengths and mission of GW's English Department, the emphasis of this author's work will typically be on literature within a cosmopolitan and international context. Literary achievement of the highest caliber, Edward P. Jones's work fits this description admirably. We are honored to have him at GW.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Featured Alumnus: Ivan Kander

Despite my reputation as Mean Old Professor Cohen, my former student Ivan Kander recently friended me on Facebook. He must be over the trauma of my exams -- and considering that he graduated only a year ago (2007), that is a remarkably swift recovery. Ivan writes:

During my time at GW, I was a very proud English major. I thoroughly enjoyed all my classes on modern and historic literature, and I relished the camaraderie between the professors and students. However, when I wasn't analyzing literary texts in the classroom, I was pursuing a strong interest in filmmaking and video production. Through lots of trial and error, I taught myself the how to edit video, design for print, and develop content for the web.

In turn, when I graduated from GW in 2007, I landed a position with JuiceBox Design Communications -- a boutique video production and design firm located in Northern Virginia. My time at JuiceBox has given me invaluable experience in the world of digital video. Currently, I serve as secondary camera operator on documentary style shoots as well as an assistant video editor and junior graphic designer for our in-house productions.

In my spare time, I cohost, shoot, edit, and produce a weekly movie review podcast entitled "Worst Movie Ever!", which can be downloaded for free via iTunes or through my personal website, Also, I'm currently preparing to direct a short film that I hope to submit to the DC Independent Film Festival.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my wonderful professors at the GW English department. Throughout my time there, I was always impressed with their intelligence (a level of intellect to which I can only aspire) and insight. Often people find it odd that I graduated with a degree in English, yet I'm pursuing a career field that seems completely unrelated. Well, to these detractors I simply relate that English has afforded me a dynamic skill set, from the ability to organize information rationally to strong critical thinking skills. And, most importantly, it related the simple but important fact that -- when it comes down to it -- there is just no substitute for being able to tell a good story, regardless of the medium.

We in the English Department are happy to hear that you are having such success, Ivan, and wish you the best in the future.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cultural Diversity in the British Middle Ages

Professor and Chair Jeffrey Cohen has published a new collection of essays on the uneasy co-existence of multiple cultures in medieval Britain. Details are here and below. The book is in harmony with the English Department's desire to explore how most literature emerges from within multilingual and culturally mixed contexts. The book is also related to the themes of the new GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, which has its own blog.



Through close readings of both familiar and obscure medieval texts, the contributors to this volume attempt to read England as a singularly powerful entity within a vast geopolitical network. This capacious world can be glimpsed in the cultural flows connecting the Normans of Sicily with the rulers of England, or Chaucer with legends arriving from Bohemia. It can also be seen in surprising places in literature, as when green children are discovered in twelfth-century Yorkshire or when Welsh animals begin to speak of the long history of their land’s colonization. The contributors to this volume seek moments of cultural admixture and heterogeneity within texts that have often been assumed to belong to a single, national canon, discovering moments when familiar and bounded space erupt into unexpected diversity and infinite realms.


“This intriguing collection of essays sets out to trouble the myth of the English nation, calling into question the wholeness, autonomy, insularity, and inevitability of the political entity we now call the British Isles. Cohen’s ‘infinite realms project’ recasts the island (the symbol of totality and autonomy) as an archipelago (a symbol of fragmentation and interdependence) whose current political configuration can in no way simply be read back into the past. The essays, on texts both familiar and arcane, not only invite us to rethink the textual canons of Great Britain’s four main ethnic groups, but more radically to interrogate the fictiveness of political identity itself. This is not just another collection touting ‘cultural diversity’ among hypostasized identities; these essays invite us to reimagine political collectivities, rethinking the ways in which they encounter one another, clash, assimilate, and reform around new identities.”--Laurie A. Finke, Kenyon College and co-author of King Arthur and the Myth of History

About the Author

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is Professor and Chair of English, George Washington University. He is the author of Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain; Medieval Identity Machines; Of Giants; and the editor of The Postcolonial Middle Ages; Thinking the Limits of the Body; Becoming Male in the Middle Ages; and Monster Theory.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Infinite Realms--Jeffrey Jerome Cohen * Between Diaspora and Conquest: Norman Assimilation in Marie de France’s Esope and Petrus Alfonsi’s Disciplina Clericalis--Suzanne Conklin Akbari * Reliquia: Writing Relics in Anglo-Norman Durham--Heather Blurton * Cultural Difference and the Meaning of Latinity in Asser’s Life of King Alfred--David Townsend * Green Children from Another World, or The Archipelago in England--Jeffrey Jerome Cohen * Beyond British Boundaries in the Historia regum Britanniae--Michael Wenthe * Arthur’s Two Bodies and the Bare Life of the Archives--Kathleen Biddick * The Instructive Other Within: Secularized Jews in The Siege of Jerusalem--Randy P. Schiff * Subversive Histories: Strategies of Identity in Scottish Historiography--Katherine Terrell * Sleeping with an Elephant: Wales and England in the Mabinogion--Jon Kenneth Williams* Chaucer and the War of the Maidens--John Ganim * The Signs and Location of a Flight (or Return?) of Time: The Old English Wonders of the East and the Gujarat Massacre--Eileen Joy