Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Faculty Present for Your Viewing Pleasure: These Fine Mornings

This Thursday, November 29th, at 7:30 in Rome 771 your favorite English faculty members will be performing Joelle Biele's one-act play These Fine Mornings!

These Fine Mornings was adapted from Biele's book Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence. Biele explained that These Fine Mornings was created "pretty organically... I thought my friends and I would just read some of the best letters and mix in a few poems here and there." 

Two of our own faculty, Thomas Mallon and Jane Shore, have personal experience with Elizabeth Bishop and her work. 

Thomas Mallon
Professor Mallon shared, "I remember that, when I was a graduate 
student at Harvard way back in the 1970s, Bishop taught a course called 'Subject Matter in American Poetry.'  I tried to get in and couldn't get a place, but I do remember attending the first class and what it was like to listen to Miss Bishop's (I assure you that's what we called her) very soft voice.  We students all assumed, I think, that 'subject matter' would mean big themes:  freedom, violence, etc.  But Bishop said:  'During the first weeks we're going to read poems about animals.  After that poems about trees.'  Those weren't the exact words, but something like that.  What a demonstration, I thought, of her colleague William Carlos Williams' dictum that there are 'no ideas but in things'!"
Jane Shore

To Professor Shore, Elizabeth Bishop was a mentor, colleague, and friend. She says, "During the time I knew Elizabeth Bishop, I saw many of her poems in the pages of The New Yorker. What Joelle's book and play does is show us the backstory of these now famous poems, the nuts and bolts of the poet's craft, precision, and the wrangling over punctuation that crisscrossed continents until both the editor and Bishop could agree in the final finished poem that would appear in The New Yorker. What astonished me most of all was seeing how many of Bishop's great, truly great poems, The New Yorker rejected!"

Joelle Biele

As attested, Bishop's works are beautiful and touching. When it comes to Bishop's work and the inspiration she drew from it Biele said, "One of the most appealing things to me about her poetry is the combination of her later, conversational style, the clarity of thought, and simplicity of form. To say something so complicated so simply is quite a feat. The other thing I admire is her modesty."

We asked Biele what she wants her viewers to take away from her compiled play. After all, Bishop was a woman who lost both of her parents early in life, maintained a sense of humor, and published beautiful works while always remaining wary of the spotlight. She was a woman of many facets.  Biele responded, "One thing I hope viewers will see is that while writing is a solitary act, that it is also one of collaboration, of intellectual jousting, affection, and mutual respect.  That they were all so passionately devoted to language is something I find quite powerful." 
Wise words of advice for any aspiring or established author. 

Come join us Thursday in Rome 771 at 7:30 to watch These Fine Mornings because you will not want to miss this performance.

Tony Kushner Events Begin This Weekend

You have likely been hearing a great deal about playwright Tony Kushner lately, as he is the screenwriter for Steven Spielberg's new film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis.  Kushner rose to prominence two decades ago, when his play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  Angels in America is a play in two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, and was first performed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.  Set in New York City in 1985, the plays tell the story of the AIDS crisis during its first decade, but through the lens of more than a century's worth of American history: the play focuses critically not only on the Reagan years, but on the McCarthy years, as Roy Cohn (an attorney who became famous during the 1950s "Red Scare," when Senator Joseph McCarthy was conducting high-profile investigations into alleged Communist activity in the United States), is one of the main characters dying from AIDS, which--closeted until the end--he instructs his doctors to call "liver cancer" (you can watch Al Pacino as Roy Cohn with his doctor in the film version of Angels in America here).

We are extremely pleased to announce that Tony Kushner will be appearing at GW on April 9, 2013.  He will take part in a public discussion and presentation at 7.30 on April 9, 2013; this major event for our department is part of this year's Jewish Literature Live course, taught by Professor Faye Moskowitz.  In conjunction with Kushner's visit, we will be presenting a months-long series of events, including a film series focused on Angels in America and other films about the early days of the AIDS crisis; readings and discussions of some of Kushner's other plays, including Caroline, or Change and Homebody/Kabul; a public lecture by Professor Robert Combs of the English Department; and Kushner scenes directed and produced by GW Theatre and Dance students.  Watch this space for a full calendar of Kushner events, appearing later this month.

Events get rolling this weekend, with a "Kushner Performance Festival," on Sunday, December 2.

Join us as senior majors in the Department of Theatre and Dance  (studying with Professor Jodi Kanter) direct scenes from across Kushner’s large body of work.  The scenes are performed in Building XX (20th Street between H and I) in two installments.
2:00 p.m. - Kushner in the World
Scenes from plays and adaptations set in Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, including A Bright Room Called Day, Homebody / Kabul, The Good Woman of Szechuan, Slavs!, and The Illusion. 

8:00 p.m. -  Kushner in America
Scenes from Kushner’s plays and poetry in the American context, including Angels in America, Ambivalence, and Caroline or Change. 

Running time for each installment is approximately 90 minutes.  Seating is unreserved and admission is free.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Professor Antonio López’s New Book: Unbecoming Blackness

Associate Professor Antonio López’s first book, Unbecoming Blackness: The Diaspora Cultures of Afro-Cuban America, has just been released by New York University Press.  Professor Ricardo Ortiz of Georgetown University, author of Cultural Erotics in Cuban America, says of the book, Unbecoming Blackness promises to make a transformative impact on Cuban American Literary Studies; it will certainly put López on the map as one of the field’s most important and groundbreaking scholars.”  We had the pleasure of sitting down with Professor López in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this past weekend, where he was presenting at the American Studies Association Convention.  Here’s what he had to say:

What is the main project of Unbecoming Blackness?  How does it specifically intervene in Cuban and Cuban American Studies?  What other fields of literary and cultural studies do you hope the book speaks to?

The point of my book is that there is a tradition of literature and performance by Afro-Cubans in the United States from the 1920s to the present that reveals Cuban America as a place of overlapping Cuban and African diasporic experiences.  It contributes to Cuban Studies by identifying such a tradition as particularly Afro-Cuban-American—that is, as one produced by Afro-Cubans beyond the island, on U.S. ground, in contact with U.S. histories of race and ethnicity in ways that sometimes travel back to Cuba to transform Cuban notions of identity.  At the same time, the book challenges Cuban American Studies by featuring a group of Afro-Cuban-American works that disturb the cultural and political business-as-usual of Cuban American whiteness.  The book is in solidarity with multiple fields in literary and cultural studies, including the field of Latino Studies, of course, as well work in African American and African diaspora, all of which, needless to say, constitutes a large part of what goes by the name of Americanist today.  The book also has a lot to say about colonial and postcolonial conditions, while the way it engages historical archives collaborates in interdisciplinary ways, I hope, with the work of scholars in Latino history.

The subjects of your book seem to be very connected to a lot of your teaching at GW over the past 7 years.  How has your work as a scholar shaped a few of the classes you have designed and implemented?

I’ve taught several versions of a Dean’s Seminar on Cuba and its diasporas that have been absolutely connected to the book.  In one class, for example, I brought in recordings of Eusebia Cosme, the poetry reciter and subject of chapter 2, and asked students to listen and respond to the sonic performance of her voice, beyond the meaning of its words, as her non Spanish-speaking African American listeners did at Washington, DC’s Armstrong High School in the late 1930s.  I also taught a graduate seminar called Black Cultural Studies of the Americas that came out of the material that eventually became the book’s introduction.  GW students were wonderfully open to reading and discussing much of the material that went into the book, and they very much shaped my own interpretations.

What was it like having your book “premier” at the American Studies Association Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico?  Do some of the issues you talk about in your book also haunt that very different colonial space?

It was a thrill to see my book finally on display at the NYU Press tables at the ASA in San Juan!  In fact, there’s an entire chapter of the book—chapter 3, “Supplementary Careers, Boricua Identifications”—that addresses the long, rich history of Cuban and Puerto Rican cultural and political contacts through the situation of Afro-Cuban-Americans and mainland Afro-Puerto-Ricans…so, yes, it was significant to catch a first glimpse of my book in public there.

You're already hard at work on your next project!  Could you give us a hint at what it’s about?

Most definitely.  The next book project is called “¡Vámonos! Latino Transit Cultures.”  It considers the literary and popular expressions of walking and riding in their embodied varieties across public and private U.S. transportation infrastructures.  It focuses on a range of 20th and 21st-century U.S. Latino works and puts them in conversation with theories of movement, space, and the body from Walter Benjamin to disability and diaspora studies.  I discuss, for example, a text like the Guatemalan-American Héctor Tobar’s novel The Barbarian Nurseries, which sparks reflections on how the presumed “illegality” of Latinas/os in a post-Arizona SB 1070 United States is both managed and undermined by the movements of people across the transit spaces of downtown Los Angeles and its suburbs.  Still another element of the project is a critical ethnography of bus routes in the Latino zones of Prince George’s County, Maryland.  In this way, “¡Vámonos! looks to explore recent debates regarding the built environment, citizenship, and the state.

¡Felicidades Profesor López!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Professor DeWispelare's New Dean's Seminar for Spring 2013

Photo Credit: "Eleanora Reading" (1997). Fernando Scianna, Milan, Italy
We remain very excited about our newest faculty member, Professor Daniel DeWispelare, who is currently teaching Romanticism and Critical Methodologies.  For Spring 2013, he has designed a brand new Dean's Seminar, "Literacy and Literature."  Spread the word to those who are eligible--first-year CCAS students seeking a focused, seminar-style class in a focused topic.  Here is the course description:

For most of human history, the ability to read has been confined to a tiny segment of the population: religious mediums, dynastic chroniclers, and cosmopolitan diplomats.  However, beginning with the print revolution in the 15th century, and accelerating rapidly during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, literacy spread so rapidly and widely that it is now generally thought of as a skill learned in childhood which subsequently forms the precondition for all other intellectual achievements.  

Photo Credit: "Alphabetization Campaign" (1974). René Burri,  Havana, Cuba
Some—including several nations’ constitutions—have gone so far as to frame literacy as an inviolable human right.  This course will investigate the massive historical, artistic, and philosophical changes that have tracked the spread of literacy.  We will focus particularly on public policies that have gradually made literacy into a cornerstone of modern life while altering older ways of organizing local communities; on educational texts that have centralized literacy and brought standardized national languages into being; and on political and artistic reactions that have accompanied and criticized literacy’s expansion.  Readings will mostly derive from oral and written literature, but students can also expect to engage with social science work on how literacy is measured, how literacy’s modern-day ruptures reveal themselves along racial, class and ethnic lines, how multilingualism affects national literacy debates, how World English literacy facilitates globalization, and how new media continue to alter the future of homo legens.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

More Exciting Spring 2013 Classes: Dean's Seminars Focused on Shakespeare

Dean's Seminar, Spring 2013

ENG1000: Global Shakespeare  ||   Prof. A. Huang (Taught on Foggy Bottom)

Course Description

The 2012 London Olympics and the multilingual World Shakespeare Festival brought global Shakespeares home to Britain. Beyond the English-speaking world, his plays and motifs are present in the performance cultures of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Asia/Pacific, Africa, Latin America, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and far-flung corners of the globe. In fact, the history of global performance dates back to Shakespeare's lifetime. A world-class and truly global author, Shakespeare continues to be the most frequently performed playwright. In the past century, stage, film, and television adaptations of Shakespeare have emerged on a wide range of platforms. What is the secret of Shakespeare’s wide appeal? Has Shakespeare always been a cultural hero? This course examines the aesthetics and techniques of interpreting Shakespeare, with an emphasis on the conversations between Shakespeare's modern collaborators. Specifically, the course considers the tensions between claims for originality and poetic license, text and representation, and between interculturalism and nationalism. Special consideration is given to the cultural history of the Shakespearean corpus. The final list of plays will be sent to students prior to the start of the session. 

Faculty Bio

Alexa Huang is Director of the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Program and Associate Professor of English at GW. She is also general editor of the journal Shakespearean International Yearbook; and co-founder of Global Shakespeares, an open-access digital video archive (http://globalshakespeares.org). She is the recipient of the Modern Language Association's (MLA) Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize and holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature and a joint Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities from Stanford. 

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Dean's Seminar, Spring 2013 || 

ENG1000: Hamlet and Modern Culture || Prof. P. Cook (Taught on Mt Vernon)

Course Description

Hamlet and Modern Culture will consist of two related parts. In the first half we will intensively study Hamlet as an Elizabethan performance text, examining Shakespeare’s use of sources and his dramatic techniques as well as the play’s multiple texts, cultural contexts, and contemporary reception. The second half will examine the play’s remarkable afterlife, studying the changes and continuities of its reception across four centuries as Hamlet established itself as arguably the most studied, performed, adapted, sampled, appropriated, translated, parodied, spun-off, and quoted literary text both within and outside the English-speaking world.

Faculty Bio

Patrick Cook is Associate Professor of English. He obtained his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught courses in British literature, epic poetry, film adaptation, Shakespeare, and Milton, and interdisciplinary courses for the Humanities Program in the ancient near east and Classical Greece and Rome. His most recent book is Cinematic Hamlet.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Culture of the Spectator: November 12

Dennis Kennedy, a distinguished scholar working on performance and cultural studies will be visiting GW. On Monday, November 12, from 1-2 pm, in Rome Hall 771, Dr. Kennedy will be presenting an illustrated lecture on “The Culture of the Spectator.” Currently Beckett Professor of Drama Emeritus in Trinity College Dublin, Kennedy will consider examples from sports, popular culture, and the theater in order to open up a discussion about a "culture" of the spectator in the present. He will be able to address issues across a range of fields, including but not limited to American and cultural studies, performance criticism, early modern and Shakespeare studies, translation studies, and visual culture. 

It is well recognized in theatre and performance studies that each spectator at an event is likely to have a unique physical and psychological encounter. This recognition, important as it is, has actually hindered full discussion of the spectator, since many scholars are reluctant to ascribe interior attitudes or responses to anyone other than themselves. Further, it is obvious that audiences as groups react outwardly in ways substantially determined by the type of performance, so that live spectators at a football match as a group behave differently than those at a tennis match or a classical concert or a Shakespeare performance. This lecture puts these two issues together to consider how (in the philosophic sense) spectators might react, inwardly and outwardly, as a result of the conditions of the performance itself. The examples, from sport, popular culture, and the theatre, open discussion about a "culture" of the spectator in the present.

Dennis Kennedy, Beckett Professor of Drama Emeritus in Trinity College Dublin, is the author or editor of many award-winning books, notably The Spectator and the Spectacle, Looking at Shakespeare, Foreign Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Asia, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance, and its shorter version, The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance. He lectures and gives acting workshops around the world, and has held distinguished visiting professorships at universities from Berlin to Beijing. A member of the Royal Irish Academy and Academia Europaea, he has also frequently works as a playwright and dramaturg in professional theatres internationally. In 2005 he directed Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Beijing in Chinese.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jewish Literature Live: Spring 2013

This spring the English department is happy to have ENGL 3810:12 Jewish Literature Live once again! The class is an innovative, hands-on experience where students read and then meet authors and ask them questions about their work. In the past, the class has hosted Erica Jong, author of the break-through novel Fear of Flying, as well as Nicole Krauss, who wrote The History of Love and was one of The New Yorker's "20 under 40" fiction writers.
Professor Faye Moskowitz with author Michael Chabon in Spring 2009

Professor Faye Moskowitz will be teaching the class next semester. Professor Moskowitz is an experienced writer whose novel, And the Bridge is Love, was recently republished by the Feminist Press. She has taught the class from its inception and is thrilled to begin the program next semester.

Jewish Literature Live is proud to release their roster of distinguished guests and the novels, stories, and plays they will be discussing this Spring:

January 24, 2013: Lisa Zeidner (Love Bomb)
February, 7. 2013: Jami Attenberg (The Middlesteins)
February 21, 2013: Bruce Jay Friedman (A Mother's Kisses)
March 19, 2013: David Bezmozgis (Natasha: and Other Stories)
April 9th, 2013: Tony Kushner ( Angels in America)
April 25th, 2013: Nathan Englander (What we Talk About when we Talk About Anne Frank: Stories)

Each visit will involve an in-class discussion as well as a night reading, which everyone is invited to. To stay updated follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

In conjunction with Tony Kushner's visit, a series of events will take place from December 2012 until April 2013.  These will include performances of scenes from his work by students in Theater and Dance, lectures by English professors, screenings of films connected to the AIDS crisis, and discussions of some of his plays.  Watch this blog for more information soon on the full extent of Kushner-related English Department events.

Professor Moskowitz will have two assistants this upcoming spring: Justin Solar and Samantha Yakas.
Justin Solar

Justin is a Junior from the suburbs of Philadelphia majoring in Communication and minoring in Judaic Studies. A seasoned Jewish Literature Live student, he describes the class as "a truly #onlyatGW class and experience, something that I looked forward to each week and found myself "kvelling" about it to everyone that I know! Looking forward to seeing people from all majors, minors and concentrations in class!"

Samantha Yakas

Samantha is a Junior majoring in English and Women Studies with a minor in Creative Writing. Another old hand at Jewish Lit Live, she is excited to work alongside Professor Moskowitz, whom she has had as a professor for three consecutive semesters. She found the class to be an amazing opportunity and she can't wait to see the program grow in the future.

Samantha is also Communications Liaison for the English Department in 2012-2013, and thus a frequent contributor to this blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

The class will run Tuesday/Thursday at 12:45 and can be found under Selected Topics in Literature.

If you are interested and have any problems with registration or are wait-listed for the class please contact Samantha and Justin at jewishlitliveGWU@gmail.com.