Monday, May 19, 2014

Congratulations 2014 Graduates!

Congratulations to all members of the Class of 2014. This spring, GW English graduated 5 Ph.D. students, 5 M.A. students, and 84 B.A. students. We are proud of all of your hard work and your many accomplishments!

Ph.D. students were "hooded" at a ceremony in the Smith Center on Thursday evening. The dark blue color on the hood signifies the doctorate. The pocket in the hood is good for cell phones, lipsticks, and keys.

Although it rained on the Graduate Celebration on Friday, the weather did not dampen the spirits of M.A. recipients Lubaaba Al Azami or Elisa Valero, who braved the downpour for their CCAS medallions! Lubaaba now goes on to Ph.D. work in England.

M.A. recipients Lubaaba Al Azami and Elisa Valero.

Finally, on Saturday we honored our graduating seniors of the Class of 2014. Students, their professors, and their families mingled at Saturday's departmental party. After, students and faculty made their way to the Smith Center for the official Celebration, which included an address by CCAS Dean Ben Vinson, III.

Prof. Wald welcomes graduates and their families.

This year's recipients of English honors and special awards.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2013-14 Student Poetry Prize Winner: Melissa Mogollon

The English department is delighted to announce that Melissa Mogollon is the winner of this year's Student Poetry Prize for her poem "Salon." David Meni is the winner of this year's Academy of American Poets Prize for his set of poems titled "Intermezzo."
There was a robust set of entries for both prizes this year, and the judges--Profs. David McAleavey, Fred Pollack, Jennifer Chang, and Jessica Garratt--had a very hard, rich task to perform.
Below we are very happy to publish Melissa's poem, as well as a brief narrative of its emergence in an Intermediate Poetry course taught by Prof. McAleavey.
The woman cutting my hair asks where I’m from.
She asks if the rain feels different there. Chunks of
hair fall on the floor. She tells me the rain is naked
here. Back home there is wet clay. Rain seeps through
roof cracks. Chunks of wet hair. Where am I from?
Rain feels different here. Chunks of wet clay. Woman
cuts hair. Bloated rain drops at home. She swivels
my chair towards her. The rain falls lightly here.
I’m from wet clay.  She’s from poor roofs. Charged
raindrops. Hair falls. She puts down her scissors.
Chair swivels. Asks where I’m from. Asks if it’s too short.
Hair falls. Rain falls. Asks if my roof lets the rain in here.
She tells me she’s done. Charges me. We both walk to
our new homes. With solid roofs. Through naked rain.

About the poem:

This poem was written in Professor MacAleavey’s Intermediate poetry class in Spring of 2014. We were reading Joshua Beckman’s work and I wrote Salon as a reaction to Beckman’s [The dead girl by the beautiful Bartlett]. I was scared of the poem at first because of its repetitive style. I was a very structured poet who loved stanzas and ends-stopped lines. Reading Beckman and being prompted by Professor MacAleavey to explore this modern chopped form of a sonnet ultimately led me to write this piece. I wasn’t confident in its abilities at first and wouldn’t have followed through with the editing without the encouragement of my peers during workshop.
I was lucky enough that this mysterious little woman washing my hair during a haircut last summer realized I was Latina and decided to pursue her interrogation of my heritage through rain. The events and conversations taking place in the poem are a dramatized slowed-down replica of our 30-second interaction. I chose to have her character cutting my hair in the poem vs. washing it to play off the notion of things “falling.” Modeled after Beckman, the words I chose to repeat were: rain, hair, chunks, fall and wet clay.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Student Spotlight: Katherine Bradshaw

This semester honors student Katherine Bradshaw took home first prize at GW Humanities Day for her work on Shakespeare's King Lear

Katherine is majoring in English as well as Classics and has been working on her Luther Rice Fellowship project, which focuses on another Shakespearean work, Coriolanus. Professor Alexa Huang was Katherine's mentor for her successful project and continues to aid her as she delves into Coriolanus
Prof. Huang & K. Bradshaw
I was able to sit down with Katherine and discuss her research project as well as some of plans for the future.

How would you summarize the point of your Research Day project?

For this project, I looked at the anonymous 16th Century play King Leir, William Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Sir Trevor Nunn’s 2008 filmed adaptation of King Lear starring Sir Ian McKellen in the title role. I focused on the character of the Leir/Lear’s loving youngest daughter Cordella/Cordelia to explore each work’s perspective on the nature and motivation of a daughter’s duty (responsibility) to her father. I had the opportunity to conduct archival and textual research both here at GW and at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Library and Archive in England. My study concluded that, taken together, the three works form a trans-temporal arc from gratitude-based obligation, through unconditional love, and finally to emotional pity, showcasing the changes in notions of filial duty over time. 

I have to ask, what particularly drew you to Shakespeare?

Wow! There are so many things. Just to give a bit of context, I’ve been a Shakespeare enthusiast since age seven, so my reasons have changed over the years. Back then, I enjoyed his comedies, and I think I was subconsciously drawn to the sound of his language. I still love the auditory beauty and intricacy of how he strings words together. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more interested in his compelling portrayals of human nature and human struggles. Using often extreme representations and circumstances, Shakespeare’s plays and poetry explore themes that apply to each of our lives in their own way, and that’s why I like to study his works.

How did you come up with your idea for Research Day? Did it stem at all from your Luther Rice Fellowship work on Shakespeare's Coriolanus? 

I’ve been fascinated by the topic of duty and responsibility ever since I read Vergil’s Aeneid in my high school Latin class, because that poem is basically an exploration of duty – pietas in Latin. This Research Days project grew out of a combination of my interest in duty and a desire to study Cordelia’s character. During freshman year, I created a term project on how Shakespeare adapted the character of Cordella/Cordelia to question early modern standards of daughterly duty. This year, with the support of my faculty mentor Dr. Alexa Huang, I wanted to expand on that research to understand the connections that the early modern plays have with a modern adaptation. Nunn’s King Lear is quite captivating because it emphasizes the complexity of Shakespeare’s characters, so that production was an easy choice. The Research Days project flowed from there.

Are you hoping to continue your work on King Lear

Definitely. I focused on the character of Cordella/Cordelia in this project, and I’d like to more closely examine the characters of her older sisters, Gonoril/Goneril and Ragan/Regan as examples of duty (or rather lack thereof).

What are you hoping to work on in the future? Are you brainstorming any new projects?

Well, my Luther Rice Fellowship on Coriolanus will be my main focus in the coming months. For the long term, since I’m a Classics and English double major, I’d like to continue combining my two fields of interest, analyzing each of Shakespeare’s Greco-Roman plays and poems in depth. I’m still trying to decide which ones to study next.