Monday, December 24, 2012

Deaf American Prose--A New Door for English to Explore

GW English alumnae Jennifer Nelson recently published the anthology Deaf American Prose with Gallaudet colleague Kristen Harmon.  The collection is the first in a series called the Gallaudet Deaf Literature Series and promises to be a rich perspective to explore. 

Professor Harmon is an English professor and on loan as the Center Manager of Impact on Education and Disseminations for VL2, a program at Gallaudet that focuses on visual language and visual learning, and Professor Nelson specializes in multiple fields of literature, including ASL Literature. 

Professor Jennifer Nelson
The anthology is a companion piece to John Lee Clark's Deaf American Poetry and so Nelson and Harmon used multiple forms of prose, from narratives to fiction. Professor Harmon shared, "Our subtitle for the work is Deaf Papers, and we meant this to include all the possible connotations of this-- as documentation, as an assertion of equal rights, as a response, as a collection of usually overlooked or unseen 'papers,' as a sequence of reports in English, as an insider's report, as a response to stereotypes and flattening representations of deaf people in mainstream literature in mainstream literature and media, and finally, as a recording of deaf lives on paper."

When advertising the book, Gallaudet Press says, "The rising Deaf writers presented here further distinguish the first volume in this new series by thinking in terms of what they can bring to English, not what English can bring to them."

As two professors with intimate connections to languages that are not spoken but communicated visually, I asked what doors Professors Harmon and Nelson thought this new series could open for English.

Harmon responded, "
English as a language and as a literature contains the history of its interactions with other peoples and other languages, you could look at it as containing a series of lower case 'englishes' that assert a different and resistant perspective on identity and language. We wanted to see tale of the different 'englishes.' We also wanted Deaf ASL/English bilingual writers to enter the discussion and to take risks with their own writing of themselves within community and language. Finally, because so many of us grow up with the message that there is only one way, one language (e.g. spoken English made accessible through technology and speech therapy), it is empowering to consider the ways in which being bilingual, existing within and between two languages is a source of creativity and multiplicity." 

Professor Kristen Harmon
Harmon passionately reminds us that too often spoken English is the dominant voice in English circles, but that many other voices are out there. Many voices with many promises with new ideas to explore and discover. So snuggle up with a copy of Deaf American Prose this winter break!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scenes from a Holiday Party! 12/12/12 in the English Department

Professors Daniel Saalfeld and Daniel DeWispelare 
Uproarious Laughter Decked the Halls

Smiles All Around, Ready to Ring in a New Year

Katie and Eve, this semester's fabulous Work-Study Students

Professor DeWispelare with Department Operations Manager Constance Kibler

Professors Patricia Chu, Evelyn Schreiber, and Ormond Seavey

Graduate Students Theodora Danylevich and Elizabeth Pittman

Professor Holly Dugan with her son and daughter

Department Operations Manager Connie Kibler with one of her favorite graduate students: James Francis

... and Connie Kibler with one of her favorite graduate students: Molly Lewis

James Francis, Nedda Mehdizadeh, Connie Kibler, Haylie Swenson, Molly Lewis: and a good time was had by all!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Former Student J. Grigsby Crawford Publishes His First Book, The Gringo: A Memoir

J. Grigsby Crawford, a 2008 GW graduate who minored in English, has published a book titled The Gringo: A Memoir, which chronicles his two-year experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Amazon. And it is far from your typical story of travel or life abroad.

The Gringo—filled with a wide range of bizarre adventures—is arguably the book that the Peace Corps doesn’t want you to read.

Shortly after arriving in Ecuador, Crawford narrowly escaped an abduction attempt orchestrated by the people he was sent there to help. As the book continues, things only get stranger. Crawford’s journey is one part literary tale (of a young man coming to grips with loneliness, isolation, and bizarre illness), and one part coming-of-age.  There is even an eye-popping, chapter-long description of a bad experience with a psychedelic drug.

The story takes on a gonzo-journalism appeal as it describes a government agency floundering after a half-century of existence; one reviewer has said the book is, “What I imagine Hunter S. Thompson would have written, had he lived a life of service.” Crawford himself says, “There is no they’re-poor-but-they’re-happy moralizing found in my story. I set out to write something that was entertaining and gritty—but, above all, honest.”

The Gringo, which is Crawford’s first book, has already earned accolades from a broad spectrum of entertainers and literati. Comedian Chevy Chase calls it a “must read.” And Josh Swiller, the best-selling author of his own stranger-in-a-strange-land tome The Unheard, raves, “In appealing, clear-eyed prose, [Crawford] recounts a series of adventures stretching from life threatening to slapstick, and a cast of characters too strange and flawed and hopeful to be anything but human. Often sardonic, occasionally romantic, and always vivid, The Gringo is a sobering record of this world's complexity—and, in its honesty, a heartening one too.”

Crawford’s writing has been published in numerous newspapers magazines, covering everything from politics to sports. Having graduated with a major in political science and a minor in English, he credits his GW creative writing classes with expanding his interest in pursuing the narrative nonfiction genre.

The Gringo can be purchased starting tomorrow (Dec. 11).  In January, Crawford will be conducting a reading/signing event in Washington, D.C.; for details on all of this, visit his website here.  And follow him on Twitter.  Congratulations!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Professor McRuer's Students to Hold Public Symposium

Inside the St. Vitius Cathedral near the Prague Castle
Professor Robert McRuer’s annual fall class, “Transnational Queer Film Studies and LGBTQ Cultures,” was held again this fall.  This was the fifth instantiation of the class, which is taught at GW every fall, but which is simultaneously taught in Prague to students from the Czech Republic (and across Europe) by Professor Kateřina Kolářová of the Charles University Gender Studies Program.  For one week each November, Professor McRuer’s students travel to Prague to meet their counterparts and to attend together the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival (Mezipatra means “mezzanine” in Czech, signifying a place in-between, in the middle).  This course is offered in partnership with the Short-Term Study Abroad Program. From November 7-15, 2012, the two classes met daily together for several hours each day to talk about what they had been studying all semester and about the films that they watched during the week’s attendance at the film festival (the festival's theme this year was Power/Manipulation/Madness).  This innovative class is, for many students, one of the highlights of their GW education, and is also (for some students) part of GW’s new LGBT Studies Minor (housed in the Women’s Studies Program).

This semester was an especially rich one for students in DC, who were not only able to study with Professors McRuer and Kolářová, but with some of the most prominent figures in queer theory and gender studies writing today.  J. Jack Halberstam was Professor-in-Residence for a week in October and GW, and held several talks and events in relation to his current work around the recently-published Gaga Feminism.  Professor Halberstam was a special guest of the class in DC on October 3, 2012.  In Prague, Professor Jasbir K. Puar was a special guest of both the Mezipatra Festival and GW, and gave a riveting presentation to students on her most recent work on Palestine/Israel, “pinkwashing” in Israel and queer activism in Palestine, and the ways in which not only sexuality but disability figures into these processes and conflicts.

The students in the class invite you to attend a public symposium to highlight their work-in-progress emerging from the class.  Three sessions will be held this Saturday, December 8, in Rome Hall 771.  The schedule is below.  Come out and support this innovative student work and this unique class!

Transnational Queer Film Studies and LGBTQ Cultures Symposium

Session 1. 11 AM-12:15 PM
Sally Kaplan, “Wig in a Box: Hedwig the Midnight Check-Out Queen and the Queer Art of Failure”
Chelsey Faloona, “Bounded Bodies and Tortured Borders: BDSM and the Edge of Homonormativity”
Salem Srour, “Gay Fucking Communist Fags: Towards a Riot”

Session 2. 1-2:15 PM
Ryan Manning Cooper, “(Re)Visiting Twinkopolis: Identity, Commonwealth, and Telepresent Tourism in Transnational MSM Pornography”
Brenna Markle, “Kentucky Fried Culture”
D. Gilson, “Hipster Boys Wear American Apparel Briefs: Complex Universality in Weekend

Session 3. 2:30 PM-3:45 PM
Tanya Ahmady, “Coming Out Lesbian in Chinese-American Culture”
Jen Gushue, “Tomboy/Tomgirl/Tombody: The Genderfluid Child as the Performative Other”
Molly Lewis, “An Out and Proud Black Lesbian’s ‘Leap of Faith’ and the Particular Dangers of Queer South African Progress Narratives”