Sunday, January 31, 2016

Margaret Talbot Reading: The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century

Margaret Talbot Reading: The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century.

The GW English Department Presents:
A Reading by Margaret Talbot
\The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century.
Friday, February 12th,
7:30 pm
Gelman 702

Margaret Talbot is an essayist and nonfiction writer, as well as a staff writer at The New Yorker. She will be reading from her newest work, next week, her book entitled The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century. The Entertainer about her father, the American Warner Bros actor Lyle Talbot, who was best known for his 10-year role as Joe Randolph on the TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, as well as a leading role in Leave in to Beaver.

Talbot crafts a compelling look at the rise of American pop culture during the golden age of Old Hollywood movies. She traces her father’s career from his time in a traveling carnival; his job as a magician’s assistant; a theatre actor, and finally as a major Hollywood TV star.

“In her captivating, impeccably researched narrative—a charmed combination of Hollywood history, social history, and family memoir—Margaret Talbot conjures warmth and nostalgia for those earlier eras of ’10s and ’20s small-town America, ’30s and ’40s Hollywood. She transports us to an alluring time, simpler but also exciting, and illustrates the changing face of her father’s America, all while telling the story of mass entertainment across the first half of the twentieth century.” 

Margaret Talbot has worked as a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, and served as a an editor at The New Republic, for whom she wrote on contentious topics including single parent families, pop culture, and feminism, as well as profiling Martha Stewart and Bill Gates.
Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, and The Times Book Review.

Her work at The Atlantic covered social issues spanning from education, criminal guilt, social satire, to “the era of consumer – driven eugenics.”
For National Geographic, her prominent piece, “Searching for Sacagawea” explored the enigmatic figurehead of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  
Margaret Talbot was a founding editor at Lingua Franca, and her accomplishments and awards include the Whiting Writer’s Award and a position as a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.  

Praise for The Entertainer:
“Sharp and engaging . . . Talbot père comes across as a sort of Zelig-with-personality, a life-embracing man whose career spans, and illuminates, the first 60 years of the 20th century.”—The New York Times Book Review

"A well-researched and clear-eyed history of the early American entertainment industry told through the perspective of a Zelig-like figure who worked with everyone from Shirley Temple to Mae West to Ed Wood. Talbot fille draws from historical sources as well as her own recollection, and the result is less a walk down memory lane than a gateway to a bygone era."—Entertainment Weekly

Monday, January 18, 2016

Kseniya Melnik in Conversation with Lisa Page: Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner

Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner Present:
Kseniya Melnik in Conversation with Lisa Page
Thursday, January 21st, 2016 at 7 p.m.
Free tickets here
Kseniya Melnik, the 2015-2016 Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington at GWU, is the author of the linked story collection Snow in May, which was short-listed for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Epoch, Esquire (Russia), Virginia Quarterly Review, Prospect (UK), and was selected for Granta’s New Voices series.

Kseniya Melnik at an on-campus reading from Fall 2015

Snow in May is a collection of nine short stories featuring “a cast of characters bound by their relationship to the port town of Magadan in Russia's Far East, a former gateway for prisoners assigned to Stalin’s forced-labor camps. Comprised of a surprising mix of newly minted professionals, ex-prisoners, intellectuals, musicians, and faithful Party workers, the community is vibrant and resilient and life in Magadan thrives even under the cover of near-perpetual snow.” More information available here .

She will be in conversation with Lisa Page, the current Director of Creative Writing at GWU and the former president of PEN/FaulknerFoundation, a nonprofit literary organization that promotes a lifelong love of reading and a connection to writing through public events, in-school education, and public promotion of exceptional literary achievement.

Lisa Page, who has been a resident faculty member of the Yale Writers Conference, focuses her studies on contemporary literature and cultural identity. She is teaching a course on The American Memoir this semester, while Kseniya Melnik is teaching both a free community workshop and an undergraduate fiction workshop focused on contemporary and classic short stories.

Melnik aims to teach students to wield the “axe” to access “the frozen sea within us,” a reference to Kafka’s famous quote on the function of literature. Lisa Page’s course involves both a literature and a creative writing, in which students aim to “examine the structural elements of contemporary American memoir, and learn the history of the genre” in the process of writing their own memoirs.

With both distinct and intersectional interests and backgrounds, this event will be a generative and fascinating explication of Kseniya Melnik’s work and pedagogy.

Friday, January 15, 2016

January Edition of the Lowercase Reading Series: Tara Campbell, Koye Oyedeji, and Collin Dwyer

January Edition of the Lowercase Reading Series:
Tara Campbell, Koye Oyedeji, and Colin Dwyer

I recently had the pleasure of attending the lowercase at Petworth Citizen, a monthly reading series hosted on the first Wednesday of every month by 826dc. The nonprofit was represented by Christina Mueller, a GWU English Major Alum, and Gus Caravalho, a volunteer who works with children to promote literacy. Gus described one of the nonprofit’s programs in which a group of children work together to write a three page story while he illustrates the plot and projects his drawings on the wall in real time. This event featured three local writers who shared excerpts of their most recent work.

Tara Campbell, a writer of crossover sci-fi who volunteers for 826DC and Books Alive! Washington Writers Conference, read from her new work, "The Human Zoo." This piece focused on the Ashanti people who were brought from the Gold Coast of Africa to perform in theatrical troupes. She argues that despite their subjugation and exploitation, they had far more agency and decision making than it would seem.
Her favorite line from "The Human Zoo":
 “An ancient name cannot be cooked and eaten; after all, money is the thing.”
Favorite author and work: Margaret Atwood, "A Handmaiden’s Tale"

Koye Oyedeji, a contributing editor for SABLELitmag , is currently working on his first novel and a collection of short stories. A creative writing teacher at the Duke Ellington School of Arts, he is a VONA and Callaloo fellow as well as a recipient of an Arts Council of England grant. He has been featured in Washington City Paper, and he read from his work, "Postscript From the Black Atlantic," set on an estate in England during a time when girls were going missing.
Favorite line from "Postscript From the Black Atlantic": 
“He was none the wiser though, wrapped up in things unseen –his travels and his ambition, a sense of spirit that stirred within and flood his arteries with the promise of something; a tingle that felt like fortune, an air that trapped his lungs with the swallow of success.”
Favorite author and work: Adrunhati Roy, "The God of Small Things"

Many of his former students came to the event, including Sarai Reed, a Masters Candidate at GWU.

Colin Dwyer, a digital producer who writes and edits for NPR, read from his newest work, "Static." In his introduction, Gus Caravalho described how “before backsliding into journalism, he was an English major -- and even, shudder to think, a creative writing major -- who spent most of his time in school telling people that, no, he didn't care to be a journalist.”
Favorite line from "Static": 
“His blood and genes and facial features, all now and in the bodies of sons and daughters he would never meet. If synecdoche were scientific law, he was in thousands of places in any single moment. He wondered at that, stopping at the intersection and letting the stroller continue on. Within a few generations he could be everywhere at once. He could be God.”
Favorite author and work: Don Dellilo, "Underworld"

826DC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.
With this in mind we provide drop-in tutoring, field trips, after-school workshops, in-schools tutoring, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications. All of our programs are challenging and enjoyable, and ultimately strengthen each student’s power to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice.”

Sunday, January 10, 2016

English Department “On The Move”

 For the past month or so, the English Department has been a flurry of boxes, files, and books as we’ve moved from the 7th floor of Rome to the 6th floor of Phillips. The move has made the location of the English department far more cohesive, with all the professors and offices now on one floor. This has been a great time for everyone to fulfill that oft-made resolution to clean up and reorganize!

Professor Holly Dugan spoke to her favorite part of the somewhat hectic process:
“In the process of packing up, I discovered papers from students I’ve taught in past semesters, going back 10 years. I looked some of them up on LinkedIn and it was exciting to see their thriving careers. All in all, it was a great trip down memory lane.”


I thought the best part of the move, for me personally, was getting to spend time with Professor Schrieber outside of class, and hearing about her life and career. Having taken her graduate course, 20th century, this past fall, it was a pleasure to hear about her time at GWU and all her stories about past years, especially since she will be on sabbatical this spring.

The movers were incredibly friendly, helpful, and efficient, and the new main office has plenty of sunlight. Luckily, there is no longer construction that’s taking place outside the window! A big thanks to the IT department as well, who had the computers and phones set up and ready to within the very first days.

Parker Stoker, a Masters candidate, is excited to have his very first office as he teaches a UW course this spring. After holding office hours in Gelman Library last semester, he will now have a more permanent space to help students with their questions on his course.

With all the ups and downs, it is fantastic to finally be settled in to the new space. The start of 2016 has brought a fresh new look and layout to the English Department. Goodbye, Rome Hall, and hello Phillips!

Pictured: The new lounge, fully stocked with coffee and water!