Thursday, March 28, 2013

Graduate Student Tawnya Ravy Wins Prestigious Fellowship

Tawnya Ravy
Graduate student Tawnya Ravy has won a prestigious Summer Research Fellowship for 2013 from the Northeast Modern Languages Association.  This fellowship will allow her to travel to Emory University in Atlanta to work in the newly opened Salman Rushdie Archive at the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Library, and to conduct critical research for her dissertation (titled Reframing Salman Rushdie: Gender, Nation, and New Media in Transnational Public Culture.)

Salman Rushdie Archive
Directed by Professor Judith Plotz and Professor Kavita Daiya, Tawnya's dissertation explores the critical conversations about Rushdie’s work since 1980 in relation to his recent literary and media projects and the development of his celebrity persona. The MARBL archive will enable her to analyze his journals, drafts, and notes for evidence of his engagement with the conversations surrounding his work, and examine how Rushdie has sought to shape his public image through his correspondence, collected writings, and the construction of the archive itself.  

Tawnya plans to spend two weeks at the archive to make a thorough study of what is open to researchers from 215 boxes of materials and 55 oversized papers. This is a unique opportunity, and will be invaluable for Tawnya Ravy's dissertation.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On the Road: Professor Hsy in Australia

Professor Jonathan Hsy reports:

No, the conference was not in Sydney --
but apparently any blog posting about
Australia requires a photo in front of the
Sydney Opera House.
Last month (mid-February), I had the pleasure of presenting my work at the Biennial International Conference of the Australia and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (ANZAMEMS); the theme for the 2013 was "Cultures in Translation"  <>, and this proved to be an excellent venue for me to present some of my current work bridging medieval culture and contemporary disability studies. One of our PhD students in English, Shyama Rajendran, also attended the conference -- and she gave an excellent paper engaging medieval literary translations with modern theories of embodiment.

There are fewer medievalists working in Australia and New Zealand (compared to the UK, US, and Canada) and I find that this smaller community fosters a real sense of openness to interdisciplinary discussions (people seem to be more willing to step out of the comfort zones of their own disciplines and subfields to find a wider audience). Individual sessions often yielded surprising juxtapositions of topics and approaches. My own talk, "Translating Disability: Thomas Hoccleve, Eyeglasses, and Lyric Prosthesis," discussed how one medieval poet uses lyric poetry to manage shifting perceptions of his own visual impairment and reflect upon his increased reliance upon the relatively new assistive technology (prosthetic device) of eyeglasses; much of this material is essentially "test run" of a more fully developed keynote lecture I'll make at the "Transformative Literacies" Conference at the University of Maryland in a few weeks <>. My talk on Hoccleve was paired with a presentation by Annick Macaskill (PhD student in French at the University of Western Ontario) about the early modern poet Anne de Marquets, a nun who wrote French translations of Latin religious poetry. While our presentations initially seemed unrelated, we discovered a important point of convergence in the ensuing discussion: the poet-translator Anne de Marquets was also visually impaired, and she may have dictated some of her own devotional poetry while she was blind.

Presenters'-eye-view of the presentation slides.

I was excited to find out just how many other scholars -- including many with areas of expertise outside the field of literary studies -- are actively engaging premodern culture with modern disability approaches. Dr. Diana Jeffries <>, Lecturer for Clinical Leadership in the School of Nursing at the University of Western Sydney, examined The Book of Margery Kempe -- an autobiographical text attributed to a medieval housewife; Jeffries brought her professional training to bear in examining Kempe's intricate portrayal of childbirth and the ethics of care. Dr. Ursula Potter <>, a Renaissance scholar affiliated with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions <> at the University of Sydney, offered a fascinating presentation on puberty and eating disorders in Puritan England. I found it remarkable how "patient-centered perspectives" -- as they are known in the discourse of health care professionals today -- could resonate with premodern forms of what we'd now call autobiography. Historically distant forms of literary autobiography -- and the increasingly diverse range of disability memoirs that are being produced today -- can work to encourage more attentive approaches to how people inhabit the world and transmit lived experience.

Book Table featuring recent issues of the ANZAMEMS
interdisciplinary journal, "Parergon."

Medieval and modern: neo-Gothic
cathedral reflected in glass.
Outside of disability studies, the conference truly lived up to its theme of "cultures in translation," showing now engagement with the medieval past reorients how we think about contemporary culture. I was gratified to see scholarship by medievalists animating discussions of topics as varied as mainstream media coverage of the recent papal election to young adult novels set in a mythic past; one presentation by Helen Young <> about contemporary discourses of race in the "Game of Thrones" online forums was extremely thought-provoking for me, demonstrating how very urgent and "alive" the Western Middle Ages can be in contexts far beyond Europe (for an interesting Arab-American perspective that resonates with some of Young's work, see here: ANZAMEMS was a stimulating and mind-expanding experience, and I was pleased to be able to bring my work to a new audience of scholars on the other side of the globe. I hope to return to this venue in the future!

Obligatory koala photo (and future
English Department mascot).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ann Romines on Willa Cather's Selected Letters

Scholars working on Willa Cather, such as our own Professor Ann Romines, are very pleased with the beautifully-edited new edition The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, which Professor Romines calls an "amazing and transformative book."
From the ChronicleWilla Cather's letters are being made public
 for the first time. 
The Selected Letters of Willa Cather,
due out next month,
is edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout
and features about a fifth of the writer's 3,000 known letters.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in an article quoting Professor Romines here, reports:

"Many living people have cared a great deal for Cather's work since she sent that cri de coeur 75 years ago. But it has been next to impossible for scholars or anyone else to quote from the thousands of letters the author wrote to Roscoe and other family members, friends, publishers, and other correspondents. Cather died in 1947, and her will made it clear she did not want her letters published or her works dramatized. The Willa Cather Trust, created to manage her intellectual property after her death, enforced her wishes. That restriction put the letters, rich in detail about the writer's creative, personal, and business lives, out of quotable reach.
"All of us Cather scholars have become very skilled in paraphrase," says Ann Romines, a professor of English at George Washington University and an expert on Cather's work. "It was very destructive to Cather scholarship for many years."
Romines and other Cather scholars need paraphrase no more. In April, Alfred A. Knopf brings out the Selected Letters of Willa Cather, a nearly 700-page volume that begins with Cather's teenage years in Red Cloud, Neb., and ends right before her death. Two Cather scholars, Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout, edited the book, granted permission by the Cather trust after the death, in March 2011, of Charles E. Cather, the author's nephew and last designated literary executor."
We share Professor Romines's excitement about the volume and are pleased to see her longstanding work on Cather noted in the Chronicle.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ACTING UP & Workshops: A Prelude to Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner will be arriving in 
20 DAYS!
Tony Kushner is coming to visit GW through the Jewish Literature Live Program thanks to a generous grant from David Bruce Smith.

In conjunction with Kushner's visit we have and will be running the ACTING UP film series and a series of Play Workshops focusing on Kushner's work.

This Thursday (March 21st) we will be screening Marlon Riggs's extraordinary avant-garde documentary, Tongues Untied, one of the most powerful statements on the African American queer experience of the AIDS epidemic. 
The event will be held in the American Studies Building, 2108 G St Room P201 from 6-9pm.

Friday (March 22nd) we'll have our first play workshop on Kushner's Civil Rights era musical "Caroline, or Change," led by American Studies Ph.D. students Shannon Davies Mancus and Justin Mann. They'll introduce you to the play, its central themes and ideas, and lead a lively discussion - no preparation or advance reading required
This is a great way to get to know Kushner's work before his visit! 
The event will be from 12-2 in Rome 771.

Next Thursday (March 28th) Professor Robert Combs will be giving a keynote lecture exploring central themes in Kusher's work with explicit attention to Angels in America. His talk is titled, "Kushner's Angels and Demons." 

The event will be at 3 PM in Rome 771.

There will also be two film screenings next Thursday & Friday (March 28th & 29th) of Angels in America in its entirety. Part 1 will be shown Thursday and Part 2 will be shown Friday.
The screenings will be from 6-10pm. 
Thursday will be in MPA B07 and Friday will be Rome 771. 

Friday afternoon (March 29th) There will be a play workshop on both parts of Angels in America!

April 9th at 7pm Tony Kushner will be giving a reading in the Jack Morton Auditorium, which is located in the Media and Public Affairs building.
The event is free and open to the public, so you don't want to miss it!

Stay Tuned for More Kushner Details!
Please e-mail Ramzi Fawaz ( with any questions

Ninth International Melville Conference to be held June 4-7

Melville and Whitman in Washington
The Civil War Years and After
History • Politics • Nation • Memory
The Ninth International Melville Conference
Washington , DC • June 4-7, 2013
8:30 a.m., June 4, to 1 p.m., June 7

                                                Featured Keynote Speakers
Ken Price (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Ed Folsom (University of Iowa),
Elizabeth Renker (Ohio State University), and John Bryant (Hofstra University)

Abraham Lincoln's 1961 Inauguration
Library of Congress - Civil War Photos - Item 96511712

The Melville Society’s ninth international conference—to be held June 4-7, 2013, in Washington, DC—features the Civil War writings of two of the major poets of the nineteenth century: Walt Whitman and Herman Melville.  Sponsored by the Melville Society, the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman, the Mickle Street Review at Rutgers University-Camden, and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at George Washington University, the conference is timed to coincide with the Sesquicentennial of the war and a rich array of museum exhibits, artistic performances, and commemorative activities in and around the nation’s capital.  The conference will be held on the campus of George Washington University and the Arts Club of Washington, just blocks from the White House, Corcoran Gallery, National Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art, Ford’s Theater, and other museums and historical sites in downtown DC.  More than one hundred scholars from the United States and many other countries—from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia—will be speaking, presenting papers, and participating on panels on a host of topics related to Whitman’s and Melville’s writing about the Civil War and its aftermath.  Additional conference-sponsored activities will include guided tours of special collections at the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library; walking tours of Civil War Washington and Walt Whitman’s Washington; an exhibit of Melville- and Whitman-inspired art by contemporary artists; and a choral performance of Whitman’s and Melville’s poetry. 

For further information and to register for the conference, consult the Melville Society website ( or contact Chris Sten ( or Joe Fruscione ( 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

David Bezmozgis Reading: Tuesday, March 19th

Don’t miss a reading with award-winning writer and filmmaker 
Marvin Center Amphitheater 7:30pm
Tuesday March 19th

Bezmozgis is the author of the critically acclaimed books 
The Free World and Natasha and Other Stories, and is visiting GW as a guest of the Jewish Literature Live program. 

Natasha and Other Stories won the Toronto Book Award, was nominated for the LA Times First Book Award, and was a New York Times Noteable Book. 
The Free World made the New York Times Sunday Book Review and was met with praise. 

Bezmozgis’ first picture, Victoria Day, was first viewed at the Sundance Festival in 2009 and received a Genie Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.


For more information on Jewish Literature Live events