Friday, August 29, 2014

Framing Ferguson: A Panel and Audience Discussion

This coming Wednesday: an important panel and audience discussion sponsored by the Africana Studies Program and the Multicultural Student Services Center.

Monday, August 25, 2014

GW English Alums on the Move: Joanna Falk

Joanna Falk, Class of 2013

"Consider everything that's being said about the crisis of the humanities, but continue to study what you love."

In 2013, Joanna Falk double-majored in English and psychology, earning honors in both. We chatted with Joanna recently about the meaning and value of her English major, and about her current job and future plans.

GW English: Could you describe where you're working right now, and what you're doing?

JF: Right now, I work at a small labor law firm just a few blocks from GW.  I actually worked there part-time as an Administrative Assistant since my sophomore year, but I started full-time in December 2013.  My new title is "Research and Administrative Projects Manager" (which I made up).  Now that I'm full-time, I perform more office managerial tasks and most of the same administrative assistant tasks I had done previously.  I also conduct strategic research for the firm's clients, and I am in charge of the administration of a political action committee. 

I'm also doing some volunteering on the side – I work at the Friends of the Library book sale at Bethesda library; I am a Teaching Assistant in one of Montgomery College's Adult ESOL classes; and I am the newsletter writer/editor for a therapeutic horseback riding center. 

Have the skills and ways of thinking you learned through your English major factored into the work you're doing now?  If so, how?

Absolutely, those skills have helped me at work and even in my volunteering, particularly at Montgomery College.  For instance, at work, one of the jobs I'm given on a regular basis is to outline a transcript from an arbitration hearing, and when I do that, I pay attention to the nuances in testimony, anticipating what sorts of implications can be used for my boss' arguments in his brief.  That type of skill is one I believe I fostered during my studies of English at GW.      

We understand you're going to apply to grad school in English.  Could you share your thinking about that decision, as well as your thinking about where you'd like to apply and why?  What in particular would you like to study?  Are you interested in teaching eventually?

It's been an anxiety-laden year, and mostly because I've been conflicted about which of my undergraduate majors to pursue in graduate school.  I finally settled on English when I realized that, during this year of anxiety, the only way I've felt temporary but complete relief is through English.  One of my GW professors, Margaret Soltan, has a MOOC on poetry, and in it I remember her saying that people turn to poetry to find meaning in their lives, and that the structure of a poem serves to undermine the seeming chaos of our lives.  In this post-graduate year of uncertainty, that's certainly been true for me.  I feel fulfilled and the most engaged when I’m studying English.  And by "studying" I mean writing, reading, reviewing past notes on literature, or any task that requires me to use those skills in a linguistic and critical sense.  So, that's how I decided on English.
Joanna on the grounds of
Newnham College, Cambridge,
where Sylvia Plath (the subject of
Joanna's GW thesis) attended.
In regards to where I'd like to apply and why, I have certain programs in mind based on their faculty.  For example, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Sylvia Plath, and a Plath scholar named Linda Wagner-Martin taught for a number of years at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.  That's definitely on my list.  There are also excellent programs nearby that I am applying to, such as University of Maryland College Park and Johns Hopkins University.  
At the moment, I think I'd like to focus my studies on American modernist writing; those tend to be the authors I'm drawn to most.  I am applying to PhD programs, most of which don't ask you to pin down a concentration until a couple of years in.  I'm applying to PhD programs, because I am interested in teaching at the university level.  I know these are very competitive positions and that one needs to be willing to accept a job in a location that may not be the most desirable, but I've thought about it and feel willing to make that sacrifice so that I could have this kind of job.

Are there faculty in our department whom you consider mentors?  If so, who, and why?

I take the word "mentor" very seriously, and I first want to say that there were many, many professors in the English department who I admire and who irrevocably changed my way of thinking (for the better) - Professor Katherine Howell, Professor Jonathan Gil Harris, Professor Supriya Goswami, Professor Tony López, Professor Jonathan Hsy, Professor Faye Moskowitz, Professor Marshall Alcorn... I really could go on and on.  

That being said, I consider a "mentor" to be someone who not only expanded my mind during the time I was his/her student, but also someone who really went above and beyond what is required of a professor.  Professors Jonathan Gil Harris and Tony López did that for me by suggesting I apply to the English Honors program.  Even more so, Professor Margaret Soltan has been and continues to be my biggest mentor.  When she was my professor and thesis advisor, she met with me far more frequently than she had to.  She was involved in every step of my thesis, always suggesting new books and new angles to perfect it.  
Do you have advice for current English majors at GW as they think about the future?
I would advise current English majors to listen and consider everything that's being said about the crisis of the humanities, but continue to study what you love.  In my experience, and in my friends' experiences, the job market is tough for everyone right now, and you shouldn't pursue a major or a degree just because you think it'll help set you up for a high-paying, in-demand job.  Just be prepared to fight for the field that you love, and if it's English, then stick with it.

I would tell recent graduates to accept the fact that most of the plans they will make for themselves post-GW won't pan out the way they expected them to, because we all really have much less control over our lives than we like to believe.  Just roll with everything that happens; don't let opportunities pass you by just because they don't seem to quite fit in to your post-graduate master plan.  Keep in touch with the professors who inspired you most.  And as all these things happen to you (or don't happen to you) after graduation, listen to yourself honestly and to how you're reacting to all of it.  It will be illuminating at least. 

Thanks Joanna!  And alums, we want to hear from you -- please contact Professor Soltan, our alumni liaison, to make sure your stories are featured on this blog.  She can be reached here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rebecca Bushnell to Deliver Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Annual Lecture

The English Department is pleased to announce one of the very first events of the new academic year.  On Friday, September 5, at 3:00 PM, Professor Rebecca Bushnell will deliver the Dean's Scholars' in Shakespeare Annual Lecture.  The Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Program is directed by Professor Holly Dugan.  This lecture will take place in the Academic Building (Post Hall) of GW's Mount Vernon Campus.

Professor Rebecca Bushnell is the President of the Shakespeare Association of America and professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of numerous books, including Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens (Cornell University Press, 2003) and Tragedy: A Short Introduction (Blackwell, 2005) and the editor of Companion to Tragedy (Blackwell, 2005)

Professor Rebecca Bushnell

Her talk is entitled  “What ist’ o’clock?”: Comic and Tragic Temporality in Shakespeare.

How do characters and audience experience time in Shakespeare's plays and why does it matter? This lecture will pursue a general theory of comic and tragic time in performance, in The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. The Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Annual Lecture is designed for a broad audience.  It is free and open to the public, and it will be followed by a reception. 

Information on the free shuttle between Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campus can be accessed here.

A Companion to Tragedy
Edited by Rebecca Bushnell

Part of the purpose of this event is to welcome the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare to GW.  Students in this two-year, 16-credit program will be residing in Cole Hall and taking courses on Mount Vernon.

The Shakespeare Annual Lecture series features distinguished Shakespearean scholars each year and brings cutting-edge work to GW's campus.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On the Road: Professor Mitchell in Kaua'i

Waimea community mural depicting first
Poynesian explorers coming to Kaua'i.
Photo: Sharon Snyder
As Fall Semester 2014 is about to kick off, GW English is happy to revive its "On the Road" series, which keeps you apprised of faculty research and exploration around the world.  We kick off the series this year with a posting from Professor David Mitchell, who spent the summer in Kaua'i.  You may have seen Professor Mitchell's piece "A Dangerous Mixture in Poison Valley: Neoliberalism, Pesticides, and the Anti-GMO Movement" in Truthout.  If not, you can read the full article here.  What follows is a shorter version of Professor Mitchell's Truthout piece.

Kaua’i’s Mutating Environment and the Anti-GMO Movement
David Mitchell

A Merger of Mutating Embodiments

For the past few years my partner and I have been spending a significant amount of time on the island of Kaua’i.  My mother-in-law and her partner are 20+ year residents of the islands and have lived on Kaua’i since 2009.  Prior to our recent series of return visits, we spent much of our time travelling in Europe, Central America, Canada, and Asia during semester breaks and summers.  The point is that choosing a spot to re-frequent such as Kaua’i is a shift in our travel practices and this change suggests something powerfully alluring about the island itself.
The island of Kaua’i is the oldest formation in a Hawaiian chain of land formations that is composed of more than 135 islands.  Most of us know the “big six”: Big Island (Hawaii), Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kaua’i, but the geography proves much more diversified than this group of more recognizable island names suggests.  Kaua’i is a “red dirt” island due to the rich iron content of the volcanic soil formed from decomposed basalt.  The island is the only island in the Hawaii chain formed by the melding of two separate massive volcanic eruptions that merged together to make the island of Kaua’i today.  It is also the oldest and northern most island in a chain which has been more than 60 million years in the making (relatively young in geologic time particularly given that Polynesian migrants didn’t discover and settle the islands until 300 to 800 CE). 
In James Michener’s novel Hawaii he poetically describes the uniqueness of Kaua’i by referencing the originality and wildly mutating productiveness of its Nature:  "There was then, as there is now, no place known on earth that even began to compete with those islands in their capacity to encourage natural life to develop freely and radically up to its own best potential.  More than nine out of ten things that grew here, grew nowhere else on earth."  This theme of productive mutation strongly represents why we find the island so appealing as scholars and as disabled people.  It spurs our creativity and enfolds our diverse, mutating embodiments in ways that few other places can do.
In her characteristically succinct yet understated and mildly ironic style, the writer Joan Didion once wrote in Democracy that land formations such as those that make up the South Pacific islands are “a transitional accommodation to stress . . . and therefore every erosional landmass along the Hawaiian Ridge – is a temporary feature, and every rainfall or tremor along the Pacific plates alters its shape and shortens its tenure as the Crossroads of the Pacific.” This strange mix of antiquity, originality of flora and fauna, while, at the same time, exuding reminders of geologic temporality work in combination with each other to create the uncanny features that mark this island as so seductive.  The odd geographical pastiche makes for fertile conditions that promote reading and writing (the ‘rithmetic is performed mostly by the accountants of Agribusiness, more on this below).  These catalyzing forces comprise another reason why this place has become so magical for those of us who visit frequently. 

Of Island Chains and Food Chains

Another reason for our investment in the island of Kaua’i involves the fragility of the ecosystems here.  They serve as a frontline indicator of ways to protect and destroy the environment in which we humans and non-humans live in communion with each other in the complex interplay of organic and inorganic matter.  Upon arriving on the island this summer my partner’s mother, a member of the citizen activist group Kaua’i Rising, sent us an article about Genetically Modified corn (GMO) against which (along with voluminous pesticide sprayings) much of local Kaua’ian culture struggles. As a key site for agribusiness’s experimental farming exploits, Kaua’i represents both an example of a wildly natural environment as well as a toxic dumping ground for corporate despoliation.  Perhaps the only damaging anti-eco business left to come is fracking.  While it may seem completely counterintuitive for fracking to come to a volatile geographical area such as the Pacific Rim I submit that the high pressure practice is already occurring in equally unstable zones such as along the Pacific Ocean’s Monterey Shale and in California on the San Andreas Fault.

The main entrance to Dow AgriBusiness on the east
side of Waimea is nestled between a Pre-School
and a Low-Income Housing Project.
Photo: Sharon Snyder

Imagine the impact of this overwhelming practice of dumping toxins on an island with a diameter of only 562.3 miles?  Queer linguistic theorist Mel Chen’s claims to the inevitability of our living with the strangely mobile inorganic compounds of toxicity not withstanding (in the Animacies), I tend to find myself agreeing fervently with scholars such as Stacy Alaimo who find that citizen/activists and activist/scientists tend to supply the siren call for encroaching toxicity dangers.  There is rarely empirical proof to back toxicity claims by people living within harm’s spray of corporate and state-sponsored practices that destroy the environment and threaten organismic health on the planet.  Yet without them the glacial nature of evidence that things we are doing to the environment resound with catastrophic results for all go unheeded in times of relatively unfettered exploitation of natural resources; this is a ground zero of neoliberalism.
The odd particularities of neoliberal governing tactics came to mind for many of us on the island when it turned out that the governing County Council of Kaua’i illegally blocked a petition signed by more than 8,000 residents to stop GMO development by the likes of Monsanto, Dow Agribusiness, BASF (yes, your old cassette tape manufacturing company), Syngenta, among others.  Historically, petitions that receive the requisite number of signatures go directly to ballot without hindrance because they represent the purest expression of the will of the people.  Thus, 4 of the 7 Councilpersons employed an unprecedented abuse of power to keep the will of the people from reaching a simple vote by the larger population.  The reason given for the unprecedented blockage (when reasons were given) was that the petition for amendment potentially encroached upon the rights of Agribusiness to decide its own practices.  Allowing the petition to go to a vote would give people who live on the island affected by GMO and its attendant pesticide spraying “too much say” in how corporations manage their privately owned lands.
Of course, such a contention used to block the petition was exactly the point of holding a signature drive to get it on the November ballot.  Thus, Council deployed the very logic of a peoples’ petition to undermine its viability for consideration by the wider Kaua’i electorate.  Further private contacts with the Councilpersons to ask what they thought they were doing in exercising such an abuse of power were met with either silence or a contention that they were supporting Bill 960 under consideration in Honolulu federal court.  Bill 960 involves a court case brought by private Agribusiness lawyers to prevent local municipalities (such as Kaua’i) from exerting excess say over how Agribusiness uses land that it leases from a private school company established exclusively for privileged native Hawaiian students.  In other words, one petition to block further GMO development until the corporations can prove their product neither harms people nor animals was toppled by another bill at the federal level to prevent such petitions from exerting a people’s governance over the use of local lands. 

Politicking for votes in Poison Valley by
Kaua'i County Councilpersons supporting GMO.
Photo: Sharon Snyder
These are the new machinations of neoliberalism that govern on behalf of paving the way for corporate markets rather than on behalf of the people.

Conclusion: What’s In A Label?

So where do we stand in relation to GMO development and the citizen/scientist chronicling of its harmful effects?  According to journalist Ronnie Cummins who has pioneered some significant exposés of the Agribusiness industry, there are three basic principles with which we need to struggle.  First, we must begin to reckon with the mounting scientific evidence that GMO food and crops as well as the pesticides used to develop them are hazardous to people and animals.  Second, GMO remains an ideological foundation stone to the cultivation of an increasingly poisoned food chain that now predominates in many agricultural and industrialized geo-political zones of the world where Agribusiness works its magic.  Third, fraudulent labeling practices such as “natural,” “all natural,” and even “almost organic” allow manufacturers to mislead the public into thinking it is buying nutritious alternatives that are often at the forefront of environmental toxicity.  Beyond these important facts about GMO production it is also important to understand that in Europe where GMO labeling is mandatory GMO-based Agribusiness has been almost completely run off the grocery store shelves.  To place a GMO label on the package of any food is equivalent to placing a “skull and crossbones” there as one industry executive for Monsanto explained nearly 20 years ago.
This significant consumer market impact is exactly the reason why Bill 960 in Honolulu and the Kaua’i Rising Charter amendment petition to limit GMO based food production until Agribusiness produces evidence of the safety of their product are being fought so vigorously by corporation lawyers and lobbyists at the federal, state, and local levels.  These grassroot activist measures threaten state and private industry efforts to preserve profit at the expense of people and other organisms with whom we share the environment.
Waimea cemetery and smoke stack
with "poison valley" in the background.
Photo: Sharon Snyder
During our visit, two citizen-activist groups, the Center for Food Safety and Hawaii Seed, co-hosted presentations by doctors from the Philippines who have been working on the effects of GMO and pesticides in human beings.  One of the speakers, Dr. Romeo Quinjano, identified pragmatic steps for combatting the effects of the GMO industry: 1) make Agribusiness prove that what it’s doing is safe, the Precautionary Principle, by providing scientific backing for their pesticidal overlays of GMO crop development; 2) expand monitoring of GMO spread and the accompanying toxins at the local, state, and federal levels; 3) fund independent scientific studies that are not financed by the financial interests of Agribusiness; 4) continue to recognize people power as the frontline fortification against unmitigated Agribusiness expansion.  Somewhat soberingly these recommendations almost exactly mirrored the recommendations identified in the Charter amendment that the Kaua’i County Council blocked upon presentation of the requisite 8,000+ signatures to move the petition forward to the ballot in November as Charter Amendment Article 33. 
Without these efforts to combat Agribusiness’s intensions to make docile citizens complicit in their poisoning campaigns “from above” there is little hope of refuting misinformation “from below.”  Corporations often disparage citizen knowledge of their bodies and the relations they posit to environmental contaminants as ill conceived.  The case of Kaua’i citizens against the GMO industry is indeed “ill conceived”:  particularly in the sense that people’s bodies are going awry in the onslaught of chemicals being introduced into their environments.  This “felt knowledge” of harm “from below,” as Nikolas Rose puts it, “pluralizes biological and biomedical truth by introducing doubt and controversy, and relocate[s] science in the fields of experience, politics, and capitalism.” This pluralization of truth is the dynamic, organic, ever mutating present that Kaua’i embodies for those trying to preserve a sustainable futurity for the island.

Sign posted by residents in the town of Kilauea calling attention to
the Kaua'i cocktail's deadly mix.
Photo: Sharon Snyder

Friday, August 15, 2014

Introducing Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Residence: Brando Skyhorse

The Jenny McKean Moore Fund was established in honor of the late Jenny Moore, who was a playwrighting student at GW and who left in trust a fund that has, for almost forty years, encouraged the teaching and study of Creative Writing in the English Department, allowing us to bring a poet, novelist, playwright, or creative non-fiction writer to campus each year. While in residence, the writer brings a unique experience to the GW community, teaching a free community workshop for adults along with Creative Writing classes for GW students..  

This year we are especially proud to host Brando Skyhorse, who won both the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2011 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction for his novel The Madonnas of Echo Park.  This year, Professor Skyhorse has published, to great acclaim, Take This Man: A Memoir, which tells the story of his "American Indian" heritage and childhood -- a heritage that was in fact based on stories that his mother invented; Professor Skyhorse learned years later that in actuality he was not in fact the son of an American Indian activist but of a Mexican man who had left the family when his son was just three years old.  Professor Skyhorse has been talking about and reading from Take This Man over the course of Summer 2014; the GW community will have a chance to hear him read from this work when he opens the Jenny McKean Moore reading series on September 11.  We sent Professor Skyhorse some questions in anticipation of his arrival.

What attracted you to the position at GW, and as Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington?

For years my mother toiled away at a memoir called “The Beginning” that, sadly, never found an end. It was a privilege to edit some of her pages into a short excerpt that I included in my latest book but I wondered how much more she could have accomplished if she’d had taken writing courses. Knowing the JMM fellowship lets its recipients teach a free community based writing workshop made this position irresistible. What an incredible opportunity for both visiting writer and students alike! I hear new voices that I might not easily find on a college campus and they get writing experience without paying for an MFA course. This workshop could be the difference between a stack of pages that stays in someone’s drawer and a novel that goes on to be published and changes the lives of its readers and its author.

This applies just as much to college students eager to know more about the writing process. I decided to become a writer when I was in college which I owe to some incredible teachers. They helped me understand that writing is something that’s impossible to do well without constructive feedback and empathetic encouragement. Many writers aren’t taught how to deal with creative frustration and rejection. It will be my privilege this year – and it is indeed a privilege – to encourage writers both on and off campus to turn their creative baby steps into confident strides.   

You arrive as this year’s Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington having  just published Take This Man: A Memoir.  It traces the life of “Brando Skyhorse,” the American Indian son of an incarcerated political activist.  As it turns out, however, this life, your life, was based on a fabrication.  Tell us a bit about what motivated this fabrication and how you felt when you learned about it.

My mother was a fantastical storyteller. I can only imagine how much more my students in DC would learn this year if she was their teacher instead! When I was three my Mexican father abandoned me so my Mexican mother reinvented us both as American Indians. She did this in part because she found a pen pal – slash – potential husband in prison who was willing to be my surrogate father and thought it’d be easier if I believed this man was my biological father. She also did this because she was greedy for a specific part of life that all of us take for granted via Facebook and Twitter: reinvention. We share just the parts of our life online that we want people to know about and can get instant affirmation about this fictional representation of ourselves. That affirmation is incredibly important to some people. It would have been important to my mother.  

When I was twelve or thirteen I discovered I was Mexican and continued the lie because I ran the risk of emotional and/or physical abuse if I contradicted my mother. There wasn’t much danger of that at first because my “Indian” upbringing was all I knew. Over time, my mother and I clashed over who and what I told people because I’d felt she’d forced me to live a life that was one massive lie. It took years more of processing and, in particular, writing, to come to an understanding of not only the life I lived but who I really am: a Mexican-American author with an American Indian name. Pretty exclusive club, that!

What are a few of the things you hoped to accomplish translating your story into creative non-fiction?  What are some of the challenges of moving between fiction and creative non-fiction?

One of my best writing instructors was Geoffrey Wolff, who has likewise moved between fiction and non-fiction throughout his career. I took both a fiction and a separate memoir writing workshop with him and he was clear on what the rules were. Fiction is for the events we can change the moment they hit paper. The things we can’t change go in the non-fiction box. He was very specific that both these things be kept separate and wasn’t a believer in non-fiction books that take creative license with the truth. My problem was how to write a truthful account of a habitual raconteur and liar. I had to sift through my mother’s lies to find the one seedling of truth that inspired them. So I couldn’t just record my mother’s version of events because while that would have been a truthful recounting of what she said, everything she recounted was almost entirely made up.

When I tried writing fictionalized elements of my life it never worked because the events, ironically, seemed too unbelievable. In fiction, characters need motivations and you need to demonstrate the specific actions that shaped them into who they are. In non-fiction, if you record a person’s actions, sometimes it’s enough to say, “Well, she was just crazy.” This memoir might have been easier to write as a novel but I wanted this book to reach other survivors of dysfunctional families with a seal of approval that said, “This really happened and I survived. Maybe I’m not perfect but I’m here. You can survive, too.” That non-fiction seal should mean something. It should tell the reader that the writer lived through every painful event on the page and found the courage to share that pain so that you could learn something from it. That’s why it’s important to have two separate categories and that we respect what makes fiction different from non-fiction. 

Tell us what you’ve been working on.  Will you be presenting both from Take This Man and some of you new work when you open the JMM reading series in September?

I’ve been promoting Take This Man for the past two months so there hasn’t been as much time for new writing as I’d have liked! I have some ideas for new novels but it could be a while before they’re ready for their public debuts. I may share some fiction from my first novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park. I hope to read some new material by the end of my visiting year at GW.

Who are some of the writers of creative non-fiction you have been reading lately?   

Likewise, book promotion doesn’t leave you enough time for reading but I have set aside space on the “to-read” shelf for Russians: The People Behind The Power by Gregory Feifer, Roxane Gay’sBad FeministWho Owns The Future by Jaron Lanier, and Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. You can see from this list that creative non-fiction is a large enough bookshelf to accommodate works of every topic and flavor. What I want as a reader is for a writer’s empathy to equal their knowledge, passion, or command of their subject. Empathy is the best tool in any writer’s arsenal – fiction or non-fiction – because it demonstrates you are an excellent listener. Empathy lets you observe the world and record your findings. That’s as good of a mission statement for “writer” as you’re going to get.   

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Note from the Chair

Professor McRuer in Mexico's
Museo Nacional de Antropología
It's hard to believe that it's already mid-August and that classes at The George Washington University start one week from Monday.  Our faculty has been far and wide this summer and, indeed, you should watch this blog in the days ahead for news of all the projects we have been engaged in over the past few months.  I myself am finishing up a brief research trip in Mexico City, where I've been talking to a number of people about Colonia Roma, a rapidly-changing neighborhood west of the historic center.  I'm studying a photographic installation that was made about Colonia Roma as part of the global project "Museo de los Desplazados"/Museum of the Displaced, which spotlights and critiques the role of culture in processes of gentrification.  Other faculty members have been reearching or studying in Hawaii, Iceland, England, South Africa or teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont; some of those stories will unfold here at this blog soon.

In the meantime, we've been gearing up for what promises to be an amazing academic year.  Indeed, the English Department faculty is meeting for an all-day retreat next week to talk about all the ways we hope to make Academic Year 2014-2015 one of our best years ever for our undergraduate majors, our graduate program, our alums, our colleagues across the university, and our friends in the community.  Alums, please remember that we love to tell your stories here; Professor Margaret Soltan remains the alumni liaison for this blog and will be very happy to hear of your success and adventures and feature them here.

We'll be kicking off the year with the annual lecture for the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare, given this year by Professor Rebecca Bushnell of the University of Pennsylvania, the current president of the Shakespeare Association of America.  Our Wang Distinguished Professor-in-Residence, in late October, will be Simon Gikandi, who is a Professor of English at Princeton University and editor of PMLA, the official journal of the Modern Language Association.  Professor Gikandi researches the Anglophone Literatures and Cultures of Africa, India, the Caribbean, and Postcolonial Britain, the "Black" Atlantic and the African Diaspora.  Our Creative Writing Program will host Brando Skyhorse, this year's Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington, who arrives soon and will read in September as part of the Jenny McKean Moore Reading Series.  The GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute and the GW Digital Humanities Institute will similarly have a full range of programming in the year ahead.  Our calendar (to the right) will have all the details for upcoming GW English events.

I urge you to consider using the CONTRIBUTE link at right, and designating your gift to the Department of English. The Department continues to thrive; in fact, I've just completed our Annual Report and my colleagues continue to inspire me with their incredible productivity.  Part of the report lists selected publications that have appeared over the past year; below my signature line here, take a look at that section of the report -- and of course feel free to read the creative work and scholarship we've been generating.  I thank you in advance for your generosity and your continued support of all we do.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (and, yes, we promise that we'll start to Tweet more soon!).  And please stop by and see me in the main office of the Department.

Yours truly,
Robert McRuer
Professor and Chair

Selected Publications from GW English, 2013-2014:


Marshall Alcorn, Resistance to Learning: Overcoming the Desire-Not-To-Know in Classroom Teaching, Palgrave-Macmillan.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, ed., Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green, University of Minnesota Press.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, ed., Burn after Reading: The Future We Want—A Collaboration, Oliphaunt/Punctum Books.

Jonathan Hsy, Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature, Ohio State University Press.

Selected Essays:

Jennifer Chang, “On Forgetting and Other Natural Erasures,” The Volta (premier online journal of poetry and poetics).

Patricia P. Chu, “Bildung and the Asian American Bildungsroman,” in The Routledge Companion to Asian American and Pacific Islander Literature, ed. Rachel C. Lee.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Introduction: Ecology’s Rainbow” and “Grey,” in Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “The Future of the Jews of York,” in Christians and Jews in Medieval England: Narratives and Contexts for the York 1190 Massacre, ed. Sarah Rees Jones and Sethina Watson.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Elemental Relations,” O-Zone: A Journal of Object-Oriented Studies.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “In the Middle of the Early Modern,” Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Undead: A Zombie-Oriented Ontology,” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts.

Daniel DeWispelare, “Teaching Romanticism and Translation through British Hebraism,” Romantic Circles Pedagogy.

Holly Dugan, “The Senses in Literature: Renaissance Poetry and the Pardox of Perception,” in Cultural History of the Senses, Vol III: The Renaissance, ed. Herman Roodenburg.

Holly Dugan, “Seeing Smell,” in The Senses in Early Modern England, 1558-1660, ed. Jaqueline Wilson and Simon Smith.

Holly Dugan, “Double Falsehood: Cardenio and the Lost History of Rape,” in Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Embodiment, ed. Valerie Traub.

Jennifer Green-Lewis, “Eye to Eye with the Trilobite: Time’s Texture and the Matter of Early Photography,” English Language Notes.

Jennifer Green-Lewis, “The Invention of Photography in the Victorian World,” in A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography, ed. Anne Lyden (long essay for exhibition catalog at the Getty).

Jennifer Green-Lewis, “The Victorian Novel and Photography,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Victorian Novel, ed. Lisa Rodensky.

Jonathan Hsy, “Blind Advocacy: Blind Readers, Disability Theory, and Accessing John Gower,” Accessus: A Journal of Premodern Literature and New Media.

Jonathan Hsy, “Distemporality: Richard III’s Body and the Car Park,” in “Finding Richard III: A Forum—Art, Archaeology, Disability, and Temporality,” ed. Will Stockton, Upstart: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies.

Jonathan Hsy, “Charles d’Orléans and a Disorienting Preposition/La Préposition Désorientée and Charles of Orleans” in “dystranslation,” ed. Chris Piuma and David Hadbawnik, kadar koli.
Jonathan Hsy, “Mobile Language-Networks and Medieval Travel Writing,” in “Medieval Mobilities,” ed. Laurie Finke et al., postmedieval: a journal of medieval studies.

Jonathan Hsy, “Translation Failure: The TARDIS, Cross-Temporal Language Contact, and Medieval Travel Narrative,” in The Language of Doctor Who: From Shakespeare to Alien Tongues, ed. Jason Barr and Camille D.G. Mustachio.

Alexa Huang, “The Locality of Cultural Identity and Knowledge Production: Observations from Early Modern Studies,” Chung-Wai Literary Quarterly.

Alexa Huang, “Global Shakespeares as Methodology,” Shakespeare: Journal of the British Shakespeare Association.

Alexa Huang, “Hamlet als Denkfigur: China,” in Hamlet Handbuch: Stoffe, Aneignungen, Deutungen, ed. Peter W. Marx.

Alexa Huang, “Screening Dutch Formosa in 2000: Taiwan as China’s Renegade Province in Wu Ziniu’s The Sino-Dutch War 1661,” in Scenes from Dutch Formosa: Staging Taiwan’s Colonial Past, ed. Llyn Scott.

Robert McRuer, “Epilogue: Disability, Inc.,” in Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada, ed. Liat Ben-Moshe, Chris Chapman, and Allison C. Carey.

Robert McRuer, “Pink,” in Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory Beyond Green, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen.

David Mitchell, “Gay Pasts and Disability Future(s) Tense: Heteronormative Trauma and Parasitism in Midnight Cowboy,” Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies.

David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, “Minority Model: From Liberal to Neoliberal Futures of Disability,” in Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies, ed. Nick Watson, Alan Roulstone, and Carol Thomas.

David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, “Permutations of the Species: Disability Independent Film and the Critique of National Normativity,” Film Festival Yearbook 4: Film Festivals and Activism.

Kim Moreland, “Hemingway and Women at the Front: Blowing Bridges in ‘A Farewell to Arms,’ ‘The Fifth Column,’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’” in New Perspectives on Ernest Hemingway’s Early Life and Writings, ed. Steve Paul, Gail Sinclair, and Steven Trouth.

Kim Moreland, “Death by Drowning: Trauma and ‘Islands in the Stream,’” in Hemingway, Cuba, and The Cuba Works, ed. Larry Grimes and Bickford Sylvester.

Lisa Page, “Edwidge Danicat Illuminates Haiti,” Virginia Quarterly Review.

Ann Romines, “The Well-Furnished Table:  Food and Willa Cather's Art,”  Letterature D'America.

Ann Romines, “The Double Bind of Southern Food in Willa Cather's Sapphira and the Slave Girl,” in Writing in the Kitchen:  Essays on Southern Literature and Foodways, ed.  David A. Davis and Tara Powell.

Evelyn Schreiber, “Power and Betrayal: Social Hierarchies and the Trauma of Loss in Love,” in New Essays on Toni Morrison’s Paradise, Love, and A Mercy, ed. Lucille P. Fultz.

Ayanna Thompson, “Introduction,” in Red Velvet, 2nd Edition.

Ayanna Thompson, “Black Macbeth,” Luminary Macbeth iPad Application.

Ayanna Thompson, “Cardenio: Shakespeare’s Lost Race Play?” in The Creation and Re-creation of Cardenio, ed. Terri Bourus and Gary Taylor.

Ayanna Thompson and Benjamin Minor, “Edgar I Nothing Am: Blackface in King Lear,” in Staged Transgression in Shakespeare’s England, ed. Rory Loughnane and Edel Semple.

Ayanna Thompson and Laura Turchi, “Shakespeare and the Common Core: An Opportunity to Reboot,” Phi Delta Kappan.

Gayle Wald, Preface, in The "Posts" of Passing, Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, ed. Julie Cary Nerad.

Selected Articles:

Jennifer Chang, “The Public Life of Poetry: An Interview with Natasha Trethewey,” The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Alexa Huang, “The Humanities and Globalization in the the Twenty-First Century,” Open Times (article based on May 2013 Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill).

Antonio López, “To Be Black in Cuba,” The Chronicle Review.

Thomas Mallon, Bookends, New York Times Book Review (Prof. Mallon contributes regularly to Bookends).

Thomas Mallon, “Scenes from a Marriage” and “The Devil’s Own,” Review Essays for The New York Times Book Review.

Thomas Mallon, “Born to Do It” and “Big Talker,” Review Essays for The New Yorker.

Lisa Page, “Rachel Urquhart’s The Visionist,” Washington Post Book World.

Margaret Soltan, “Everybody Must Get Stoned: Gender Segregation at British Universities,” Inside Higher Education (this is one example; Prof. Soltan maintains a regular column at IHE).

Selected Poems:

Jennifer Chang, “Genealogy,” in The Ecopoetry Anthology, ed. Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street (selected for republication from The History of Anonymity).

Jennifer Chang, “River Pilgrim,” “End Note,” “Pastoral,” and “Genealogy,” in Beltway Poetry Journal (the first was reprinted from The Kenyon Review and the rest from The History of Anonymity).

David McAleavey, “Economics, a lament,” “Near frozen falls,” “The Devil’s Bowl,” “Wagnerian,” “We all saw the man,” Broadkill Review.

David McAleavey, “Being beauteous,” “Dawn,” and “Drifters,” The Knickknackery.

David McAleavey, “Andrew’s rocks/Cub Scouts” and “Drive-through safari park,” Keyhole.

David McAleavey, “Revealed” and “When my shirt dries,” Beltway Poetry Quarterly.

David McAleavey, “Below-grade connection” and “Rustlings,” Turk’s Head Review.

David McAleavey, “Big ifs,” The Evansville Review.

David McAleavey, “Waiting,” Drunken Boat.

David McAleavey, “Session,” Marco Polo Arts Magazine.

Jane Shore, “This One,” in The New Yorker.

Jane Shore, “Eau de Joy,” in The New Republic.

Jane Shore, “The Family Plot,” in Moment.

Jane Shore, “A Closer Look: 15 Poems by Jane Shore,” in Innisfree.

Jane Shore, “Last Words” and “A Yes-Or-No Answer” in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry.

Selected Works of Fiction:

Thomas Mallon, “Magnified,” The Atlantic (Special JFK Anniversary Issue).

Faye Moskowitz, “The Twelfth of Never” and “The Things We Carry When We Come from Someplace Else,” in District Lines (new journal featuring Washington, DC writers).

Faye Moskowitz, “Finding Our Place,” in A Women’s Seder Haggadah.


Christopher Sten, with Alan Wade, Frank Conlon, and GW Students, “The Heart of the Stranger That Hover’d Near,” Recital Performance as part of National Civil War Project.

Thomas Mallon’s novel Fellow Travelers is being adapted into an operatic version with Prof. Mallon’s permission.

Film Screenings:

Ayanna Thompson had two juried screenings at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Memphis Indie Film Festival.


Ann Romines and Thomas Reese Gallagher, 2014: A Year with Willa Cather, Willa Cather Foundation.