Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Wishes for 2010 and Beyond

The drab room you see to the left is our department lounge, named for the distinguished GW Professor Emeritus of English John Reesing, Jr. The lounge is small and cramped, a graveyard for the empty water jugs from our water cooler, and not all that inviting, despite the recent addition of a new microwave and our first-ever department coffee maker.

If I had a modest department wish for 2011, it would be a renovated lounge area. In my fantasy, we would knock down the wall that currently divides the lounge from our mailroom--which, being dedicated to paper, verges on obsolescence--and create a more spacious and inviting place for faculty, staff, and students to enjoy a coffee or a microwaved burrito together. A complete rehaul of our lounge likely wouldn't run us more than $15K, and would pay dividends in lifted spirits and energized student community. We could even host a student competition to design the new lounge.

Why do I bemoan the state of our lounge now, when classes have ended and the final exam period draws to a close? Not because I lack Christmas cheer, but because I'm thinking of year-end giving. Maybe you're a current student, an alumna/us, a parent (hi, Mom!), or simply a supporter of the department. In any case, as a reader of this blog, you know how creative and vibrant our English Department faculty and students are. You know how hard our office staff--Connie Kibler and Linda Terry--work. You know how many amazing events we hold in any give year--most of them open to the public. You know the dedication of our professors.

Think about it. In 2010:
  • GW English hosted the Jenny McKean Moore reading series, featuring a range of notable creative writers, and welcomed two Writers in Residence: poet Ed Skoog and non-fiction writer Tilar Mazzeo, who celebrates the recent publication of The Secret of Chanel No. 5.
  • We feted the long and distinguished career of Emerita Prof. Judith Plotz with our hugely successful Plotzfest, which brought scores of friends and students out to hear talks by six eminent scholars.
  • Through the generosity of our Wang Endowment, we welcomed Prof. Sara Ahmed of the University of London to talk to students and give a lecture from her recent book on willfulness.
  • We offered popular courses in medieval literature, Shakespeare, U.S. Latino/a literature, African American literature, the American novel and poetry, as well as special topics courses on writers from William Faulkner and Toni Morrison to Don DiLillo.
  • We emailed our first-ever department newsletter to almost 2,000 English alumni.
  • We oversaw the renovation and upgrade of our departmental website.
  • We saw the publication of a variety of faculty books and scholarly articles, from Tom Mallon's Yours Ever: People and Their Letters to Ann Romines's cookbook, At Willa Cather's Tables to Jonathan Gil Harris's Shakespeare and Literary Theory.
  • We offered the unique GWU course "Jewish Literature Live," which brought writers into the classroom to talk with students. (On April 7, 2011, JLL will host E.L. Doctorow. Mark your calendars!)
So, please consider GW English when you are making year-end gifts. Your donation will support all we currently do, as well as give us the opportunity to do more in key areas such as graduate student funding and funding for endowed professorships. Or even, more modestly, to update our rather ugly, but enormously important, department lounge.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Twas the Season

The English Department had its gala Festivus event yesterday afternoon, and, no, we did not have peppermint martinis. In fact, the image above is there because I neglected to take any photos of the festivities. I was far too busy partaking of the delicious spread provided by my colleagues and laughing over the Department Trivia contest organized by Department Secretary Linda Terry and inspired by our work-study student Kelsey Van Hook.

Here are some of the interesting trivia tidbits we learned:
  • Prof. Holly Dugan's bathtub was once featured in an episode of Law and Order.
  • Prof. Gregory Pardlo once operated the spotlight at a Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam concert at Six Flags in New Jersey. [Check out the "Lost in Emotion" video for some serious nostaliga. Que sera que sera!]
  • Prof. Faye Moskowitz can say the alphabet backwards--quite fluently.
  • Work-study student Megan Moore is a highly trained classical pianist.
  • Prof. Ormond Seavey is a former Marine Sergeant.
  • Prof. Maria Frawley once worked at Bath Boutique and sold bubble bath to Magic Johnson. Not knowing who he was, she quite helpfully suggested that he consider basketball.
  • As a child, Prof. Jeffrey Cohen set his house on fire with his E-Z Bake Oven.
  • PhD student Naomi Lesley once played in a string quartet to accompany the dissection of cadavers.
  • Quite a number of English department faculty or graduate students have been cheerleaders (e.g., Prof. Evelyn Schreiber--captain of the squad!). On the other hand, at least one of us (Prof. Gayle Wald) tried out but didn't made the cut--not even for the wrestling cheerleaders. What a loser.

Prof. David McAleavey (who has slept on benches in Germany and Denmark) was the winner of the Trivia Contest, and received a $25 gift card from Giant.

Thank you to Creative Writing faculty member (and one-time actor in a Steve McQueen movie) Lisa Page for getting the ball rolling, and thanks to Linda (who received a gingerbread man at a White House Christmas event when she was ten) and Office Manager Constance Kibler (who saw Jimi Hendrix play in the Washington Hilton Hotel; read the set list here!) for organizing the excellent trivia game. (By the way, did you know that our work-study student Kelsey was once told she was a good actor by Tom Cruise?!)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Karen Russell, One of New Yorker's "20 Under 40," Reads Tonight

Karen Russell, a young American writer who was recently featured in The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list of young American literary talents, reads tonight from her latest work. The reading, the last of the year in the English Department's Jenny McKean Moore series, is at 8 in the Marvin Center Amphitheater. All are welcome.

Russell is the author of the highly acclaimed short-story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006). Her debut novel, forthcoming in February 2011, is Swamplandia!, set in the Florida Everglades. Russell is a native of Miami.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Prof. McRuer's Students to Hold Symposium Saturday

Attendees at this year's Mezipatra (which means "mezzanine" in Czech).
Can you find any of the GWU students?

Once again this year, GWU students had the unique opportunity to join Prof. Robert McRuer in attending Mezipatra, the Czech Queer Film Festival

The students in the class will be presenting their work at a one-day symposium Saturday, December 11, in Rome 204
in Prague as part of their ENGL 179: Transnational Queer Film Studies course.
(801 22nd Street NW). Everyone is welcome!

Here is a description and the schedule of presentations:

This semester, students in English 179 (along with our counterparts at Charles University in Prague) have worked through a range of issues connected to queer theory, transnational theory, and film studies. From November 10-17, we combined our class with students in Prague to attend together the latest Mezipatra: Czech Queer Film Festival. On December 11, students in the course will present their work on three panels with five presentations each. Come and hear the ten-minute presentations and join in the conversation following. Feel free to attend any or all of the three panels. Free and open to the public as all good events should be!

10:30-11:45: Inside/Out: Trans Representations Now

Abigail Dimen-Taylor, “Costume and Camp in Bad Education

Sara Snyder, “Deviance in the American Military: Questioning Masculinity and Homophobia in Soldier’s Girl

Michael R. Komo, “Transamerica: An Analysis of Gender Identity and Expression”

Hallie Swan, “Turning Inside Out: The Fight to Sustain Gender Identity in the Wake of Exposure”

Whitney Kasle, “The Dominant Subordination: A Study of Mainstream Influence on Alternative Film”


1 PM-2:15 PM: Deviance, Desire, Danger: Queer Globalizations

Richard J. Livingstone, “Queering the Israel Defense Forces: A Gay Progression through the Works of Eytan Fox”

Zachary Rice, “The Queering of Time and Space in The Bubble

Tylar Green, “Liberating Homosexuality: 21st Century Queerness and how A Jihad for Love Frames the Western World”

Kirsten Ortega, “Brincando el Charco: Cultivating Puerto Rican Lesbian Identities in Transnational Space”

Chad Latawiec, “Prague as a Center for Gay Tourism”

2:30-3:45 PM: Rescripting Cultural Desire: Normative Authority and Queer Defiance

Colin MacDonald, “The Art of Oppression: Portrayals of Authoritarian Governments in Queer Cinema”

Lynn Thomas, “Critically Sadean: Deviance, Defiance, and Censorship”

Chloe Rome, “The Kids are All Right, and So Are the Parents: The Homonormative Construction of Family”

Megan Davison, “Does Disability Fit into the 29 Dimensions of Compatibility? The Implications of the Disabled Body and Its Relationship with Society”

Stephen Molldrem, “Frat Theory: College Fraternities, Gay Porn, and the Anatomy of Cultural Desire