Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Professor Kavita Daiya Speaks at the State Department's Institute for Foreign Services

GW English Professor
Kavita Daiya
 Prof. Kavita Daiya, who teaches postcolonial and South Asian American Literature and Cinema in the department recently was invited to give a talk at the State Department’s Institute for Foreign Services.  She is the author of
Violent Belongings: Partition,Gender and National Culture in Postcolonial India (Temple UP, 2008; Delhi: Yoda Press, 2013).  As her research focuses on questions about violence, gender and nationalism in India and South Asia, she has often being invited to speak on South Asia
related issues there.  In this most recent lecture, Prof. Daiya spoke about how women were represented in colonial India in British and Indian cultural discourses; she then explained how this history informs some contemporary problems for women around discrimination, violence and access to equal rights in contemporary India as well as in its neighbors like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.  The talk touched upon questions about sati and the idealization of motherhood, as well as on violence against women in moments of ethnic conflict like the 1947 Partition and Godhra 2002, rape culture and rape laws in the subcontinent, women’s education and development practices, secularism and legal representation, indigenous representations of women’s agency and marriage, and the impact of globalization on women’s lives in India.

Prof. Daiya’s multimedia presentation engaged literature by noted writers like Bapsi Sidhwa, Bhishan Sahni, and Amrita Pritam, and films by Rahul Dholakia and Rakesh Sharma, alongside the social scientific work of scholars like economist Amartya Sen, historians Ritu Menon and Kamala Bhasin, and sociologist Saskia Sassen, among others. She discussed relevant literary accounts and film clips alongside social scientific data; as a result, she was able to emphasize the importance of cultural representations in shaping how South Asian women were historically able to access equal rights in state and local institutions. 

The talk was followed by a Q and A session that generated a terrific debate about the colonial history of religious laws around women and marriage, and how that shapethe working of secularism and human rights, as well as about how gender violence in South Asia might be tackled on the ground, both culturally and through state institutions.  Attendees later said “everybody loved your lecture,” and that her talk was “excellent”; Prof. Daiya has already been invited to a Spring 2014 conference on India at the State Department, and continues to be committed to growing interdisciplinary dialogue between the Humanities and Public Policy through her work.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Katherine Bradshaw: Dean's Scholar Interns at Shakespeare Theatre Company

GW English Major
Katherine Bradshaw
During the summer, as well as during the academic year, our majors often serve as interns in a wide range of locations.  Classical Studies major, English minor, and Dean's scholar Katherine Bradshaw recently sent us a summary of her experience in Summer 2013 as an intern for the Shakespeare Theatre Company.  Congratulations Katherine and thanks for sharing your story!

As a long-time Shakespeare devotee, I had known about the Shakespeare Theatre Company for years. My enthusiasm for the Bard started at age seven, and became stronger as I got older. So, in high school, I attended STC’s Camp Shakespeare. The purpose of Camp Shakespeare is to increase students’ understanding of Shakespeare’s works through analysis, movement, improv, and performance. Camps run for two weeks, focusing on one particular play or theme. Professional actors – assisted by eager college students – teach classical acting techniques, stage combat, textual exploration, and more. Finally, each session ends with a camper performance of a play. Personally, my experiences as a camper became the capstone of my high school Shakespeare studies. So, when I entered college, I earnestly hoped that I could intern with STC; I wanted to help give 2013’s campers the joy that Camp Shakespeare gave me. When I mentioned the idea to my GW Shakespeare professors Dr. Alexander Huang and Dr. Holly Dugan, they encouraged me to apply and provided lots of support during the application process.

As an intern, my job was a composite of many things. My main role was assistant to the teaching artists – classically trained actors who use their professional skills to coach students in Shakespearean theater techniques. As such, I served as dramaturg, scribe, exercise and game leader, script editor, casting assistant, stuntwoman, human prop, program proofreader, concept demonstrator, gopher, and occasionally mother lion. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these jobs. But I had another, less official, role – learner. Often, I had the opportunity to watch the teaching artists at their work. They would get students excited about the plays while challenging each camper to go farther, think harder, and look deeper than he or she might instinctively. Since my future goal is to become a Shakespearean scholar and educator, I took copious notes on techniques for teaching about the author, the plays, and everything in between.

The teaching artists also took time to mentor me. Whenever I led an activity or exercise, they would follow up later with suggestions and advice for next time. They shared lessons, traded ideas, and discussed goals with me. One team of artists even let me teach a class on textual analysis for high school campers. The artists guided me through the planning process before the workshop, listened during it, then gave helpful and encouraging feedback afterwards. While teaching that class, the best part was seeing the “Aha!” look on a camper’s face when she understood the material that I covered. Before that moment, I knew that I wanted to share the importance of Shakespeare with students after I finished my formal education. But, seeing that camper’s eyes light up confirmed my direction and made me think to myself, “I really love teaching!”

 My internship with the Shakespeare Theatre Company provided lots of similar epiphany moments. Every day there would be some concept, tip, or occurrence that I could ponder after work. When people ask me about my experience, I respond with, “It was wonderful, fantastic, and every other word for amazing” because, well, it was. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jenny McKean Moore Writing Series: Professor Jennifer Chang Reads October 24

Join GW English and Creative Writing next Thursday at 7:30 PM for a reading by Assistant Professor Jennifer Chang.  Professor Chang joined our faculty this year and teaches poetry in the Creative Writing Program.  Check out our interview with her from last May here.  And see you at the Honors Townhouse next week!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Professor Antonio López on the Culture and Politics of Race in Cuba

Professor Antonio López appears in the latest edition of "The Chronicle Review" for The Chronicle of Higher Education, reflecting on a number of recent scholarly publications on Cuba and race, focused especially on the situation of Afro-Cubans.  Readers of this blog are already well-acquainted with Professor López's work in the field, as his own eagerly-awaited book, Unbecoming Blackness: The Diaspora Cultures of Afro-Cuban America, appeared from NYU Press late last year.  Read about that publishing event here.

In The Chronicle this week, Professor López writes, 

Reuters, Enrique de la Osa (from the review article
"To Be Black in Cuba," by Antonio López in
 The Chronicle of Higher Education)

"For years many people in the United States either ignored Cuba or viewed the island through a familiar prism: the U.S. intervention in the war for Cuban independence in 1898, the missile crisis, the rise and influence of post-1959 expatriate communities, or the mass migrations from the island. Beneath the headlines, intellectuals and writers in Cuba and the United States have long been interested in the island, though often through a lens of evasion and contradiction when it comes to race and, in particular, the situation of Afro-Cubans. That was the case despite the efforts of some critics who looked at racism in Cuba. Now, in the last decade or so, scholarly attention has coalesced on the culture and politics of race in Cuba—and in the broader Cuban diaspora."

If you are on GW's campus, or have a subscription to The Chronicle online, you can read the full review here.

Professor López discusses two monographs -- Vera M. Kutzinski's The Worlds of Langston Hughes: Modernism and Translation in the Americas (Cornell UP, 2012) and Jafari S. Allen's ¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba (Duke UP, 2011).; two edited collections -- Alejandro de la Fuente's The Art of Afro-Cuba (U of Pittsburgh P, 2013) and Daisy Rubiera Castillo and Inés María Martiatu Terry's edited collection Afrocubanas: historia, pensamiento y prácticas culturales (Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2011); and, finally, a biography of the Afro-Cuban-American baseball player Alejandro Pompez -- Adrian Burgos, Jr.'s Cuban Star: How One Negro-League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball (Hill and Wang, 2011).   Professor López's review surveys controversies in journalism on and off the island, the "twists and turns of Spanish in its relations with English," a hemispheric American or African-American literary and cultural studies, and the ways in which gay and lesbian sexualities intersect with Afro-Cubanness.  He concludes by detailing the performance in Miami of the Afro-Cuban rapper Raudel Collazo Pedroso, performing (in Pedroso's own words) "as a father, as a Cuban, and as a negro." Pedroso's peformance, Professor López suggests, gestures toward or sounds out "an island-Cuba future other than the one sanctioned now."

Monday, October 7, 2013

GW English Alums on the Move: Jack Sussek's Manhattan Affair

"In restrospect, I wouldn't major in anything else": we continue here our series reporting on GW English Alums and their successes.

Writer Jack Sussek, who graduated from GW "when Washington was still a sleepy town, [and] when K Street was simply the name of a downtown street no more significant than G," has published his first novel, Manhattan Affair.  It's a political thriller set among moneyed New Yorkers, and has been attracting good reviews. 

We asked Jack to reminisce about his time as an English major in our department.

Jack Sussek, author of Manhattan Affair 

First off, my time at GW was terrific. I loved going to school there (although, I must confess, by my senior year I was itching to get out of academia). The English Department was where I hung my hat and some of the courses I took very definitely shaped my ideas and views about writing, literature, and art... Four professors stand out all these years later: Profs. Ormond Seavey, Bob Ganz, Dean Linton, and Thelma Levine. Professor Seavey taught American Literature and Melville, Fenimore Cooper, and Hawthorne stand out; Ganz taught poetry and all of it stood out for me: Edward Arlington Robinson, Dickenson, Ginzburg, Levertov, and of course Whitman, to name a few. Dean Linton and his lectures on English Lit and language, and Thelma Levine’s Philosophy of Literature and Philosophy of History still influence me today.

Any advice for our majors?

Read everything you can get your hands on, everything; fiction, non-fiction, journalism, poetry; bad writing as well as good. To be a good writer I believe you first need to be a good reader. Write as much as you possibly can but more than that REWRITE everything at least ten times and then think about it before you rewrite it again.  In retrospect, I wouldn’t major in anything else.

Jack is at work on his next novel, tentatively titled Dimon - 2012. 

The story opens at the edge of the Hindu Kush on the Afghan – Pakistan border; an American agent by the name of Dimon is waiting for his asset to come over the frontier from Pakistan. This is a sudden development and the Americans don’t know why this deep cover asset suddenly wants to flee Pakistan. The asset never arrives and thus begins our story.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Congratulations to Vinod Busjeet

Vinod Busjeet
This year the Washington DC Jewish Community Center challenge was to write about a major world event that had an impact on your life.Vinod Busjeet has been named the winner of the  Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival Community Prize in the over 18 category. 

Busjeet is currently a proctor in Faye Moskowitz's Advanced Fiction class at George Washington University. His personal experiences and reflections upon students' work have been a welcome addition to the class. Busjeet submitted for consideration a short piece called "A Matter of Honor," a touching memoir reflecting on the complications of his parents' marriage and the unusual and difficult trials that led to its consummation. The piece is now published online for your reading pleasure.

He will be announced as the prize winner on Sunday, October 13th at 7pm during the Local Author Fair, and we encourage all students and faculty to attend.

Once again, congratulations Vinod Busjeet!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

GW English Alums on the Move: David Bruce Smith at the Jewish Literary Festival

The Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival begins this Sunday and GW English is pleased to note that our alum David Bruce Smith (BA, 1979) is on the "Local Author Fair" roster for his new book American Hero: John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States.  John Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1801-1835) and the figure most responsible for making the Supreme Court the powerful institution that it remains today.  American Hero is beautifully illustrated by Clarice Smith, David Bruce Smith's mother.

The Local Author Fair (flyer below) is on October 13 at 7 PM at the Washington DC JCC, 1529 16th Street NW.

A long-time friend and supporter of the English Department, David Bruce Smith's generous contribution has made possible "Jewish Literature Live," taught every spring since 2009 by our own Professor Faye Moskowitz.  Jewish Literature Live was recently named by Time magazine as one of the most exciting classes in the country (read about Time's coverage of Professor Moskowitz's popular course here).

Senior Samantha Yakas has served both as Professor Moskowitz's assistant for the class and as Communications Liaison for the English Department.  In anticipation of the Local Author Fair, she posed some questions to David.  Hope to see you on October 13 at the DC JCC!

Samantha Yakas: The book you will be presenting at the Local Author Fair is your first children's book.  What inspired you to write for a younger audience and what were some of the challenges that came along with that?

David Bruce Smith: The Marshall book was a lucky break. I was asked by the John Marshall Foundation in Richmond if I would be interested in writing a children's book about him. Even though I told them I had never written for that age group, 2nd and 3rd graders, it was not a concern. My only request was that my mother be the illustrator, a wish they were happy to accommodate--especially since they were familiar with her work.

SY: Over the course of America's history we have had many Chief Justices make vital, life-altering decisions. What drew you to Chief Justice John Marshall?

DBS: Before the book, I didn't really know much about Marshall. One of the things I learned was that he transformed the Court; when he became Chief Justice in 1801, the justices met only a few days each year, and the Judicial branch of the United States government was not taken seriously.  However, when Marshall's tenure ended with his 1835 death, the Court was powerful, influential, admired--and copied--by countries from all over the world.

SY: Your books are published by David Bruce Smith Publications, what has been your experience as both an author and a publisher, and has it influenced the way you write and present your work?

DBS: Marshall wasn't published by David Bruce Smith Publications, but we were still able to achieve what you get with your own imprint: a great deal of artistic and creative control. Luckily, I also have people around me to help make that occur.

SY: The Local Author Fair gives the opportunity for many up and coming authors to present themselves. Who are some of your favorite local authors that GW students should be looking out for?

DBS: I'm not familiar with many local children's authors, but for adults: Melissa Ford--who is in this year's Festival; Mary Lynn Kotz, Nick Kotz, and Faye Moskowitz--who are not.