Friday, July 15, 2011

Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison to visit GW September 21

Toni Morrison in a 2008 photograph.

Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison will be visiting GW on Wednesday, September 21, where she will be honored by the University and the Toni Morrison Society with the dedication of a memorial bench in front of Lisner Auditorium. The event will be part of the society's Bench by the Road Project, which takes its name from Morrison's own observation that in 1989, when she was writing her masterwork Beloved, there was no place to "summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves ... There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby ... no small bench by the road." The bench on GW's campus will recognize the fact that Lisner Auditorium was the first integrated venue of its kind in the District of Columbia.

As part of her visit, Morrison will address students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and guests in an evening talk at Lisner. 

Toni Morrison is widely recognized as one of the nation's most important living writers. In 2006, a distinguished group of writers, critics, and editors deemed Beloved the best American novel of the last quarter-century.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dog Days Reading

English major Jessica Chace recently wrote to ask what folks in the English department were reading this summer, so we did a quick poll. Here are reports from far-flung students and faculty: 

Jessica Chace is finishing up The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty. "The title is a bit of misnomer," she writes, "--it's actually about an overweight Vietnam vet who bikes across the country after his parents are killed in a car accident." 

Prof. Jim Miller recently read Karen Tei Yamashita's 2010 novel I Hotel, a finalist for the National Book Award. Jim describes the book as a "pastiche" about 1960s radicalism. It's also on my to-read list. But before that, I have to finish Teju Cole's critically lauded Open City. And before that I had the pleasure of re-reading David Ritz's biography of Marvin Gaye, Divided Soul.  

Office Manager Constance Kibler is about to dig into Silver Sparrow by former Jenny McKean Moore Washington Writer-in-Residence Tayari Jones. Her ongoing summer reading project is to read Les Miserables in French. "I always get to the same spot--page 17--and then I stop," she says. "Last summer is the last time I picked it up. I have it by my bed."

Speaking of European blockbusters, English major Megan Moore is reading Anna Karenina. And Kelsey O'Brien (GW '11) "highly recommends" Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. "I am currently almost finished with the book; it is easily my favorite already," she writes

Creative Writing Prof. Tom Mallon is re-reading Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, in preparation for writing an introduction to a 100th anniversary edition of the book.

English major (and former blogger) Paula Mejia has this to write from Texas: "Two notable books I've read this summer are Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, which recently won the Pulitzer Prize, as well as Jon Ronsen's The Psychopath Test. After hearing him speak and read an excerpt from his new book at this year's AWP Conference, I'm current reading Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, which is odd but enjoyable so far."

What are you reading, dear reader, when you're not reading this blog?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Visiting Student from Egypt Receives Fellowship for Graduate Studies

Naglaa Mahmoud in a very DC shot. Can you spy the cherry blossoms in the distance?

Occasionally the English department has the opportunity to host visiting students or scholars who come to DC to take advantage of the resources at GW and in the city at large. Naglaa Mahmoud, a visiting student from Al Minya University in Egypt, was our most recent guest. Funded by the Egyptian government, Naglaa came to GW in 2009 to pursue work on a doctoral dissertation on Nubian Egyptians and Nubian literature in Arabic. She also has a strong interest in African American literature, and wanted to investigate the connections and disconnections between contemporary Nubian struggles for social and cultural recognition within the Eyptian polity and 20th-century African American struggles for citizenship and justice in the United States.

Naglaa's GW studies have recently paid off in the form of a Frederick Douglass Doctoral Fellowship to pursue her graduate studies at Howard University. Beginning this fall, Naglaa will be a PhD student in African Studies at Howard, continuing the research she began in Egypt and developed at GW.

Several members of the English department--Jennifer James, Jim Miller, and I--first met Naglaa when we joined colleagues in American Studies in a Fulbright Foundation-funded visit to Egypt to help train Egyptian scholars of American studies and U.S. literature. Although we were technically in Egypt as teachers, the visit was formative for teaching us a great deal about Middle Eastern approaches to teaching U.S. culture and literature at the time. The visit resulted in ongoing collaborations: While Naglaa has been affiliated with English for the past few years, her colleague from that course, Eid Muhammad, is about to complete his PhD in American Studies at GW.

As a visiting student, Naglaa became a visible and involved member of the graduate community in English. We all wish her hearty congratulations for this wonderful achievement!