Monday, October 29, 2012

Jessica Chace's Work as 2012-2013 George Gamow Undergraduate Research Fellow

English Major Jessica Chace received a George Gamow Undergraduate Research Fellowship for the 2011-12 academic year. Like GW’s Luther Rice fellowships, the Gamow Fellowship supports an undergraduate researcher in ways that allow her or him to work closely with a Faculty Mentor.  The working title of Jessica’s research project is “The Humor Defense: Laughter as Therapy in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”   At this point, she has read all of the texts in her bibliography for the project; these texts focus on Kesey’s novel and related materials and on psychoanalytic theory. Over the summer, Jessica traveled to the University of Oregon, where she examined the  Kesey Collection directly, focusing particularly on Kesey’s letters and manuscripts, as well as  on letters from some of his contemporaries, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.  In order to gain access to this closed collection, Jessica had to receive the permission of Kesey’s wife Faye.  She is currently working on the next phase of her research project. Her mentor for this project is Professor Kim Moreland.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spring Classes to Look Out For

This upcoming spring, two GW English PhD candidates will be teaching a series of unique classes that will be of particular interest to our undergrads. With registration just around the corner, now is a great time to learn about the special topics these classes cover!

Maureen Kentoff will be teaching ENGL 3840.11- Women, Place & Time

Delving into the world of identity, gender, and location, the course will explore the "everyday life" of modern American women through authors such as Kate Chopin, Willa Cather, Mary Antin, Zora Neale Hurston, Paule Marshall, Julia Alvarez, Julie Otsuka, Marge Piercy, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, and Barbara Kingsolver. Works will be a mix of autobiography and fiction, which will be looked at through a feminist lens that also brings to the conversation a multitude of other theories including psychological, postcolonial, and poststructural criticism. 
 Maureen is excited about the upcoming semester and the promising discussions to come. 
Maureen Kentoff

The class will run Monday/Wednesday from 2:20-3:35 on the Foggy Bottom campus and can be found under the Gender and Literature section on the Registrar's English page. 

Elizabeth Pittman will be teaching ENGL 3810.10- US Black Freedom Movements

Though the title may change, this course will use a mixture of historical, literary, and cultural studies methods to help students better understand the Civil Rights period and its connection to other Black Freedom movements in America and the rest of the world. Works will look at the role of art, writers, and how language is used as a tool to change the world starting at the 1940s and continuing to recently published texts. 

 Elizabeth Pittman

Elizabeth is very enthusiastic about teaching this course because she believes that students often have only a limited knowledge of this period but are eager to understand the Civil Rights Movement and the 60s in more depth since it is a period of dramatic transformation in the United States. 

This class will run Tuesday/Thursday from 11:10-12:25 on the Foggy Bottom campus and can be found under Selected Topics in Literature on the Registrar's English page.

Both classes present amazing opportunities to further learn about topics that are of great interest to the passionate instructors who will teach them and who wish to further ignite a hunger for the topic in their students. Keep a look out for more posts about amazing opportunities coming to you this spring!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Professor Mallon Inducted into American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Thomas Mallon with Daniel Day-Lewis
On Saturday, October 7, Professor Thomas Mallon, Director of Creative Writing in the Department of English, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Professor Mallon is the author of eight novels, including Watergate: A Novel. last weekend. He is the third member of George Washington University's Faculty, and the second member of the English Department, to be inducted into the AAAS; other AAAS members include Martha Finnemore, a Political Science and International Affairs professor, and GWU President Steven Knapp (who is tenured in English.

The Academy has been recognizing the excellence of scholars for over 250 years. 
The organization consists "of 4,000 American Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members"(AAAS) and is dedicated "to elect to membership men and women of exceptional achievement, drawn from science, scholarship, business, public affairs, and the arts, and to conduct a varied program of projects and studies responsive to the needs and problems of society" (About AAAS). 

It is an amazing achievement for our faculty to join the ranks of the Academy founded by famous scholars such as John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and our university's namesake George Washington (Historical Notes AAAS).

Actor Daniel Day-Lewis was inducted into the Academy last year, but was unable to attend the ceremony because he was busy on the set of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (watch the trailer here).  The delay proved fortunate for Day-Lewis, who was able to have his photo taken with Professor Mallon.  Congratulations again, Professor Mallon!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature

October can be an interesting time for literature professors writing about contemporary novelists, because the Swedish Academy announces the Nobel Prize in Literature during this time, changing the fate of little-known masters overnight or causing controversies around acclaimed authors to arise. Many English departments offer courses on world literature and Nobel laureates. This year's Nobel Prize in Literature went to Chinese novelist Mo Yan (1955 -- ). Mo Yan is the pen name (meaning abstinence from speech) of Guan Moye who began his career as a peasant in China's Shandong province. Mo Yan's styles range from magic realism, with a healthy dose of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to black humor and bawdy fable. 

In her new book Weltliteratur und Welttheater: Ästhetischer Humanismus in der kulturellen Globalisierung (World Literature and World Theatre: Aesthetic Humanism in Cultural Globalization, published in 2012, Alexa Huang wrote about Mo Yan, Gao Xingjian (winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature), and the role of the Western canon, notably Shakespeare, in the aesthetics of several other writers and directors. The 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature was widely seen by Western media as a sign that the Nobel committee is warming up to China, a rising power. The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, infuriated China, and the 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded to Chinese-French author Gao Xingjian, was "disowned" by the Chinese government due to Gao's politics.The 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature was widely seen by Western media as a sign that the Nobel committee is warming up to China, a rising power. However, there is always another side of the story. 

During a recent interview with Voice of America, Alexa argued that the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature signals the beginning of Western recognition of a "third world" writer who does not slot into tired definitions of "dissidents." Stories of oppression must be known, but other cultural stories must also be told--in creative ways as has been done by Mo Yan. Headlines about China converge on the notion that politics dictate cultural life, a notion that leads to routine praise and the expectation of dissident, subversive, or political undertones in "third world literature." Fredric Jameson suggests in his widely cited essay "Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism" that arts and literature from the developing world tend to operate as national allegory. 

The tendency to gravitate toward literature as "national allegory" can be a problem. Mo Yan's social criticism is more subtle. The Nobel Literature Committee may be signaling an important shift in how world literature can be viewed. For good reasons, some Western critics are more interested in the output by the so-called dissidents. They are less interested in art for art's sake. In Mo Yan's humorist, satirical and humorist narratives about his society we see a different face of art and literature from that part of the world. 

Mo Yan has been at the center of some of the most significant literary events of his time. The meanings of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature are diverse, and the full picture is still emerging. Mo Yan's pen name, signaling a vow to "abstain from speech," contains a healthy dose of humor because he is one of the most prolific writers of our times. This claim to silence may be seen as a gesture of self-mockery, but it is also a tool to speak the unspeakable, and humor commits the invisible to writing. 

The citation for the Nobel Prize highlights fantastical realism as Mo Yan’s primary contribution to world literature, rather than his political stance. Predisposed toward the political values of literature, China watchers in the West often do not have patience for or interest in the artistic merits of China’s literary output and soft power. Mo Yan’s 2012 and Gao Xingjian’s 2000 Nobel Prizes are the first step toward a more balanced view of the world beyond political headlines. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Newark, Philip Roth, and the Grip of History: A Visit by Michael Kimmage

The Department of English, in association with ALCO, the American Literature and Culture Organization, is pleased to announce another great upcoming event.  On Monday, October 22, from 1-3 PM, we will be hosting Michael Kimmage, who will be talking about his latest work.

Michael Kimmage is Associate Professor of History at the Catholic University of America. He has translated, and written an introduction to, Wolfgang Koeppen's Journey through America, and he is the author of The Conservative Turn: Lionel Trilling, Whittaker Chambers and the Lessons of Anti-Communism (Harvard University Press, 2009). His newest book In History’s Grip: Philip Roth’s Newark Trilogy from Stanford University Press (2012)

In History’s Grip concentrates on the literature of Philip Roth, and in particular American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and The Human Stain. In History’s Grip foregrounds the city of Newark as the source of Roth’s inspiration, and history as central to his work.

"Newark," Kimmage wrote in an article that preceded the book, "is where history begins for [the trilogy's] two Jewish and one African-American protagonists.  Each of these protagonists escapes Newark only to find himself in the grip of powerful historical forces.  They are thus reduced from powerful men to the playthings of history.  In search of emancipation from the past, the heroes of the Newark Trilogy fall into history, and they do so without the protection of a well-defined personal or family history.  Looked at together, the Newark Trilogy explores the will to live outside history.  By explicating the failure to live outside history, the Newark Trilogy illustrates the mechanics of history itself."

Dr. Kimmage has been the recipient of various awards, including a Fulbright grant, and has held a German Chancellor Scholarship from the Humboldt Foundation. From 1995-1997 Kimmage was also British Marshall Scholar.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

GW's American Literature and Culture Organization (ALCO)
ALCO is the "American Literature and Culture Organization," a group in which graduate students and faculty participate in discussions about language and culture from an Americanist perspective attentive to national, transnational, and hemispheric questions.  The goal of ALCO is to open discussions across the various areas of study in GW's English Department, as well as between departments within the university, across the DC consortium, and elsewhere. 

Graduate Student Maia Gil'Adi is a Latino/a studies scholar participating in ALCO. She says, "we are comprised of scholars who focus on a variety of fields. This is what makes our organization so wonderful - the variety of voices, opinions, resources, etc."  Besides Latino/a Studies, ALCO includes 19th  and 20th century African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Modernism and Postmodernism, Queer Theory, and Disability Studies.  ALCO is always hungering for new perspectives and opinions. 

D.Gilson, a graduate student and a Queer Theory scholar, said, "One thing ALCO has really done for me so far is making me feel at home here in the English Department at GWU. Already, I know these are folks I can engage in not only relevant and smart, but also fun, conversations as we help move each other's scholarship forward." 

One of the goals of ALCO is to develop the kind of close knit community of scholars that made D feel so at home. Already, the organization has made a big impact on campus and was a main factor in Professor Jack Halberstam's recent residency at GW. While here, Halberstam visited classrooms, organized seminars, and promoted his new book. It was an amazing opportunity for graduates, undergraduates, and faculty alike.

This year, ALCO will be breaking out into DC seeing plays, attending conferences, screening films, and all the while critiquing what these things say about literature and culture. They will also be working on developing their own American literature. Already the ALCO has reached out to George Mason's cultural studies PhD program and hopes to further expand the community.

The American Literature and Cultural Organization recently launched a new blog where you can follow them and don't forget to like them on Facebook! ALCO welcomes any graduate or faculty member interested in adding their voice to the discussion. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

GW EGSA Symposium 2013 -- Call for Papers!

Temporal Slippages and Spatial Slidings: A Symposium on Failed Fixities

In his book Provincializing Europe, Dipesh Chakrabarty suggests that “[w]e need to consider why we find anachronism productive.” And in this symposium on slippages and slidings of time, place, space, and identity, we hope to explore just that. Despite our discipline’s best efforts to encode certain texts to specific temporalities and geographies, graduate students of GWU's English Department recognize that figures and objects are not static relics of time, and any attempt to keep them as such will only result in failure. By embracing that Halberstamian failure, though, as a site of productivity, we hope to explore the possibilities that lie within those literary, historical, artistic anachronisms that remain dynamically in flux.
Thus, the GWU EGSA board is excited to announce our third annual symposium entitled Temporal Slippages and Spatial Slidings: A Symposium on Failed Fixities, taking place on February 15, 2013. We invite panels and papers that explore subject matter on race, space, nationality, identity, queerness, translation, transitional figures, ghosts, and all manner of things that cannot and will not remain still. Further, what do these failures tell us about space, place, identity, and time, and in what ways do they tell us? In this symposium, we hope to foster conversation between presenters and participants across concentrations and even disciplines through the intersections of current graduate student work to explore Chakrabarty’s suggestions as a question: what productivity will we find in exploring anachronism?
Panel Submission Guidelines
The GWU EGSA board will first be accepting panel submissions for our symposium, then individual panel organizers will be accepting paper abstracts. Panel submissions should be sent, along with your contact information, to Molly Lewis at by 11:59 on October 26. Submissions must be 250 words or less and must be submitted as a Microsoft Word document or PDF.  Please include the words “EGSA Panel Submissions” in the subject line of your e-mail. Information on how to submit abstracts will be soon to follow. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Haylie Swenson: First Winner of the Michael Camille Essay Prize

Congratulations to MEMS PhD student Haylie Swenson for winning the Michael Camille Essay Prize! The prize was established this year and sponsored by postmedieval: A journal of medieval cultural studies, Palgrave Macmillan, and the BABEL working group. Her essay, "Lions and Latour Litanies in The Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt," took first place out of twenty essays from contestants all over North America and Europe. The theme this year was "Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity" in honor of Michael Camille's last book on the gargoyles at Notre Dame and his lifelong work in medieval studies. The judges for the contest were Anne Harris of DePauw University, Robert Mills of University College London, Michael Moore of the University of Iowa, and Karl Steel of Brooklyn College (CUNY).

In response to Haylie's Essay, the judges said, "[her essay] makes an important contribution to object-oriented philosophies, critical animal studies, and indeed the ethics of the artistic encounter. This essay brims with original ideas, shedding new light on Villard de Honnecourt's Sketchbook and presenting one of the most sensitive readings of Villard's lion to date The author strikes a wonderfully Camillesque balance between visual analysis, verbal dexterity, and critical insight. The essay breaks free of longstanding debates over whether Villard drew his lions from life by reading his humanoid lion as an encounter with the "unnervingly direct gaze" of an agentic other, a strange, predatory, and ultimately unrepresentable thing." Villard's lion can now be understood as an artistic, powerful object in its own right, representing the unfathomable, even dangerous depths of any artistic object or any object, leonine, human, or otherwise." Finally, the essay makes a timely contribution to debates in animal/posthuman studies, fields in which postmedieval takes a special interest." 

Congratulations Haylie; we're so proud of you!