Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Local Girl Makes Good

The Tenants are pleased to note that doctoral student Andrea Bebell has been selected as an Outstanding GTA for 2009-2010 by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

Ou Sont Les Beaux Mecs d'Antan?

(1963 at the top, 1991 at the bottom)

Although they've been raising more autonomous children, people seem to have gotten less attractive since 1963.

Sabbatical Land Meets Spring Break Land

So just as I return from driving hither and yon for readings and class visits at other schools, our own beloved college town has nearly emptied of its students. Alas, they’ll be back. And thank goodness! Besides, it’s not as much fun to be on sabbatical when everyone else is on spring break anyway. Where’s the specialness in that?

Anyway, this time the deep thought comes courtesy of Richard Scarry. Remember him? The Best Word Book Ever, What Do People Do All Day (my personal favorite and a question I’m still asking), Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, etc. Weren’t the folks of Busytown just the best? Good ol’ Huckle Cat and his friend Lowly Worm. Mr. Fixit, a clever fox, and Sergeant Murphy, a trustworthy cocker spaniel. Smokey, Sparky, and Snozzle, pig firefighters with dubious skills (is that a colander on Snozzle’s head?). Miss Honey, a bear who taught school—kindly, of course. Just typing this makes me feel slightly, um, like I’m on drugs. Which I most definitely am not.

Now here’s the fascinating part: the books have changed—a lot—from, oh say, 1963 to 1991. Evidence: now, cats have glasses, girls can chase boys and not just the other way around, and boys, too, can play ring-around-a-rosie. I know! Also, apparently bear children, and other children, one assumes, are no longer unquestioningly obedient. The bear pictured above may still wear his retro yellow and orange outfit (nice!), but he’s not coming when he’s called. Nope. Just headed to breakfast of his own free will. Intrigued? Check out this comparison of then and now.

But wait, there's more. If you thought all that other stuff was pleasingly crazy, you’re really going to like this. Anyone else notice how pigs in Richard Scarry books often work as butchers and seem to enjoy bacon and hot dogs? Or how one minute a lion is a doctor and the next he's in a cage at the circus?

Should we be disturbed? Maybe. Probably. But I'm not. I like the idea of pig firefighters rescuing "gentleman" cats and "beautiful screaming lady" cats. The pigs and the cats may eat pulled pork back at the fire station. Oh well. The point is, they're eating side by side. And, for now at least, everyone made it out alive.

And that's What Sabbatical + Spring Break Means to Me. Thanks for asking.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Professor Conner Wins Heebink Award

Congratulations to Pat Conner, who has just received the Heebink Award for Distinguished State Service for revitalizing the West Virginia University Press (a cause for celebration in and of itself).

You can read more about it at:

You can check out the Press's website, including their announcement of a new series, Regenerations: African American Literature and Culture, at:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CFP--Doing Queer Studies Now--Graduate Conference at Michigan

Call for Papers: Doing Queer Studies Now
Graduate Conference
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
October 21-23, 2010

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS: PAUL AMAR (Political Science, UC-Santa Barbara), ADAM GREEN (Sociology, U. of Toronto), JOON LEE (English, Rhode Island School of Design), HEATHER LOVE (English, U. of Pennsylvania).

What is queer about queer studies? Does queer refer to a set of topics or a mode of inquiry? What is the role of theory in queer studies? How is new scholarship bridging the social sciences and the humanities? What is the relationship between actual queer practices and queer studies? What is the relationship between scholarship and activism? How are radical sex critique and queer studies related? What are the limitations of queer?

These are some of the questions we are interested in twenty years after the emergence of queer theory. The purpose of this conference is to take stock of and provide a showcase for innovative practices and pursuits in queer studies, both in the humanities and social sciences, as well as emerging fields that bridge the two.

We are not calling for papers that engage these questions at a meta-level, but rather for work that is conditioned by them.

While we welcome a range of topics, some of the topics we are interested in include:

- the role of historical, political and economic forces in shaping queerness
- governmentality, state and biopolitics
- transnational flows of capital and migrations
- queer intersections with race, gender, class, ability, age, etc.
- queer subjectivities, experiences and identities
- queer historiography, phenomenology and temporality
- visual culture, new media

Paper abstracts of 250 to 300 words should be sent by June 1, 2010 to We wish to notify presenters by Monday, June 21. We will ask for the completed paper for respondents by October 1, 2010.

Monday, March 22, 2010

WVU Foundation Award for Dennis Allen

Dennis laughing with his students as he teaches: the picture really says it all, doesn't it? Except, of course, congratulations on winning WVU's Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching! Hooray for Dennis! Read the press release at:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A few people in Colson Hall have asked me about tenants, tenets, and tenents, so I figure here would be the best locale for an etymological reply.

Let's pick up two lines of evidence. First, we'll work from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED, available to WVU folk at our library's website :
( ).

In the electronic version of the OED, there is an etymology button which reveals each word's known history. As you might have guessed from the similar forms, all three of our specimens come from similar Latin origins. The verb tenir in French still means 'to hold', and tenant (noun) appears to have come from the past participle of tenir by about 1300 CE. The noun tenet came into English much later, around 1619, but appears to have been drawn from Latin writings, not contemporary French. Tenet had immediate stiff competition for survival from tenent. Both forms refer to 'a belief held' but tenet may have referred to a belief by an individual, whereas tenent referred to a belief held by a group (singular and plural conjugations of the Latin verb, respectively). The form tenent was dominant in the seventeenth century, but as these things go, it's meaning was quickly mingled with tenet, and language does not love a synonym.

Semantically speaking, tenant has changed the most. It has been a legal term and a term of wider use. In fourteenth century English law, the OED notes this meaning: "One who holds or possesses lands or tenements by any kind of title". The next step in the semantic change involved tenant referring to the relations between an owner and the person living on the land or in the domicile. The use of tenant to refer to people who lease property that other people own did start early, but only picked up momentum (and became the norm) in the eighteenth century.

Our other line of evidence to discover the ins and outs of these three forms is what I call "The Magic Box", internet searches. Google informs us that it snags a bit over 6.5 million hits for tenet, although it is obvious that some of these hits are names (e.g. Tenet Healthcare Corporation) and other uses. Hits for tenant exceed 35.5 million. Apparently a three hundred year head start can really boost your Google ratings. Tenent does have almost a million hits, but it is perhaps a ruse more than a rebirth: many of the sites I saw were redirects for people who misspelled tenant.

Living languages change, and evidence can be found all around. The descendants of the Latin and French verbs for 'to hold' provide good examples of borrowing and semantic change. Even with the title of this blog, semantic change continues, since the office holders in Colson Hall do not rent from the University. In the title The Tenants of Colson Hall, we can take tenant to mean something more like 'people who regularly spend their time somewhere'.

If you have other language questions for this tenant of Colson Hall, please feel free to email me at

Happy Languaging!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CFP: disClosure, Issue 20 Topic: Family, Sex, and Law

M.A. alum Eir-Anne Edgar writes to say hello to all the Tenants and to ask for submissions for the journal disClosure, which can include creative as well as scholarly work. The particulars are as follows:


The editorial collective of disClosure seeks submissions that explore FAMILY, SEX, AND LAW as they are understood in a variety of areas and disciplines. Possible topics might include:

*Sex and Love Work
*Sex & Affect(ion)
*Law & Marriage
*The Business of Marriage
*Queering Family
*Family Medicine/The Medicalized Family
*Sexuality and Empire
*Family, Sex, and Migration
*Rethinking Childhood/Old Age
*Family and Trauma
*The Post-Nuclear Family
*Sex and Surveillance
*Family Secrets
*Trafficking Women
*Marriage/Sex/Family in Popular Culture

disClosure is a blind refereed journal produced in conjunction with the Committee on Social Theory at the University of Kentucky. We welcome submissions from all theoretical perspectives and genres (scholarly articles, interviews, reviews, short fiction, poetry, artwork) and from authors and artists (academically affiliated or not) concerned with social theory.


Scholarly Articles, Essays, Poetry, and Fiction: Please submit electronically in Word format to Submissions should be double-spaced with no more than 10,000 words. Manuscripts, notes, and bibliographies should follow Chicago format, where applicable.

Book Reviews: Please submit electronically in Word format to These should be approximately 1,000 words and should review works published no earlier than 2007.

Art and other graphic materials: Artists should submit digital or camera-ready material. Electronic submissions should be accompanied by a hard copy. Art cannot be returned, so do not send originals. Do not submit material that has been half-toned for publication (e.g., pictures in books or catalogues). All art will be published in B&W, so please submit accordingly.

Authors are responsible for securing copyright and fair-use notices and must submit them prior to disClosure publication. All material accepted by disClosure for publication becomes property of the journal. disClosure is not responsible for loss or damage resulting from submission.

Inquiries and Submissions:

Jeffrey Zamostny and Rebecca Lane

Art and Other Graphic Materials:
C/O Naomi Norasak/Jeffrey Zamostny/Rebecca Lane
1613 Patterson Office Tower
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0027

The Committee on Social Theory at The University of Kentucky:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Recent Achievements in English: March 2010

News of Student, Faculty, and Staff Professional Activity
Issue 2010 No. 1

JOHN ERNEST and Erick Gardner's edition of J. McHenry Jones's 1896 novel _Hearts of Gold_ has been published by West Virginia University Press. _Hearts of Gold_ is the first publication in WVU Press's series, Regenerations: African American Literature and Culture, for which the general editors are John Ernest and Joycelyn Moody.
KEVIN ODERMAN has published: *Lloyd Goldsmith Looking Downtown*, a monograph, Square Moon, 2009, and "Of *Corse*," a literary essay, *The Tusculum Review, *5 (2009) 83-102.

KIRK HAZEN presented the poster "Unassumingyet influential: The effects of contraction on was leveling" for the Linguistic Society ofAmerica annual conference in Baltimore, MD, on January 9, 2010.
On January 15th, Kirk presented a paper entitled "Unvernacular Appalachia" language variation and change research group in the linguistics department at TheOhio State University.
Later that day Kirk presented" Teaching to the choir and beyond: Being overt with thefoundations of science, linguistics, and 21st century America". This was an invited keynote address for theSeventh Annual Martin Luther King Day Linguistics Symposium at the OSUConference on Linguistic Pedagogy.
GWEN BERGNER presented "Voodoo Politics: Haitian-U.S. Transnational Relations" at the American Studies Association conference in Washington, DC in November.
SARAH EINSTEIN's essay "Mot" has been published in Ninth Letter. It has also received a Pushcart Prize nomination.
AMANDA COBB has published the poems, "No, It's not a Bad Time," "She Thinks About Quitting," "Simon
Says Baby," and "Thirty-Minute Lunch Break" all by Connotation Press in September of 2009. They can be found (as well as a Q&A) on
Her poems, "Baby Girl" and "Family Tree of You" are forthcoming from Pebble Lake Review in the Spring/Summer 2010 edition.
She also has two poems forthcoming from Tygerburning: "Last Lost Prayer" and "On Being Unsure."
MARY ANN SAMYN published two poems---"Don't Panic" and "The Kingdom of God"---in the most recent issue of The Journal. A review of her most recent book, Beauty Breaks In, can be found here: .
Mary Ann has also published a limited edition chapbook, The Boom of a Small Cannon, with Dancing Girl Press.
JOHN SHUMATE's story "Contessa's Diesel Phone" will appear in the Open Thread Regional Review anthology, Vol. 2. John will be reading at the release event for the publication: March 31 at 7pm at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
DONALD HALL has been elected to a three-year term on the executive committee of the Association of Departments of English (the ADE).
He has been named to the Editorial Advisory Board of PROFESSION, the annual publication of the Modern Language Association.
He also gave two papers at MLA (on full-time hiring policies at WVU and on critical dialogue) and a paper at the World Universities Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Students, Faculty, and Staff Members in English are encouraged to send
notices of all recent professional achievements for collation and distribution to the department in the next issue of "Recent Achievements in English," appearing soon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

2010 Colloquium

This past Friday and Saturday the graduate students of the English department held their annual colloquium. MAs, PhDs, and MFAs from seven local universities presented and discussed their work throughout a wonderful day of panels.

The event began Friday night at the keynote lecture. The first order of business was to thank everyone who organized or would participate in our yearly conference (see more of those thank-yous below!) and to award the "I have no EGO award," also known as "The Beagle." Each year graduate students nominate the professors they would like to to recognize for their hard work and dedication on behalf of grad students. While many of our across-the-board outstanding faculty were nominated this year, professor Gwen Bergner received the most votes and took home the trophy.

Dr. Kristina Straub of Carnegie Mellon gave her presentation, "Performing The London Cuckolds," to a receptive audience of professors, students, and guests from other universities. Comparing adaptations of Edward Ravenscroft's 1681 play, the talk provided an engaging look at how performance can reinterpret notions of sexuality, gender, and class. EGO thanks Dr. Straub for being a part of the event with her wonderful lecture and participation at panels the next day.

Saturday saw the graduate students presenting their work, moderating panels for their peers, or attending to and discussing the papers given. Praise for the strength of the papers presented this year abounded. The colloquium again enjoyed a wonderful turnout, one of the many positives our event offers for our own students and our guests from other schools. We are especially grateful to the faculty who attended the keynote or the panels. Your support means everything to us and we were so happy to see so many of you stop by.

EGO would again like to thank the Student Government Association and the English Department for their support of the colloquium. A special thanks to Marsha Bissett, Michele Marshall, and Greg Thumm for their help. More thanks go to Cari Carpenter, Bryan Coyle, Rebecca Schwab, and Lindsey Joyce.

And still more are owed to the incredible organizers of the colloquium: Andrea Bebell, Erin Johns, and Teresa Pershing. The organizers did an amazing job continuing the tradition of the colloquium and have worked so very hard since the beginning of the academic year to ensure its success. They did, quite simply, an outstanding job.

Lastly, EGO would like to express its gratitude to everyone who agreed to present papers, or to moderate, or just came by to support the colloquium. Your participation made it a great conference, and we are so pleased that we are a part of such a wonderful community.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ode to Spring

Which raises the question: what happens to a spring break deferred?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Our Beloved Blog

Despite the many fascinating things happening in our department—including last weekend's undergraduate literature symposium (congratulations to participants and award recipients!) and yesterday's double feature (a lecture by Elaine Treharne and a poetry reading by yours truly)—our blog has, um, come to a bit of a standstill. Hence this shabby little sabbatical update.

I can't explain where our other bloggers have wandered off to, but I've been in Palm Springs (see citrus-y photo!), where I sat in the very same pedicure chair as Angelina Jolie! I know! And now, next time she goes to the Parker Meridian, she can say she sat in *my* chair! That lucky girl. And of course while in the desert I did jot down many Very Important Notes for Poems and have returned to Morgantown where I promptly and dutifully began writing.

Let's see... what else... well, I did read books while sitting by the pool. Impressive, huh? The best was Donald Revell's latest book of poems: The Bitter Withy. I said "wow" a lot. Out loud. By the pool. And did I mention that this was just one of 41 pools at the very lovely La Quinta? As Dennis said, "41??" Yep. Anyway, I was so taken with this book that I emailed Revell to say so. His work has gotten more and more stripped down and he's so good at saying devastating things clearly. Just a wait a minute, and I'll leave you with a poem of his.

I also read (lots of) Paul Muldoon's The End of the Poem. I got a little impatient after a while (enough word play already... I don't know how much stock I want to put in the "near-perfect rhyme... between Yeats and Keats" though, yes, their work is interestingly linked) and I'm now convinced that Plath and Hughes were just plain nutty with that ouija board, but Muldoon is a good reader (and a good poet, of course) and he strikes just the right "walk with me a minute and chat" tone. The chapters on Frost, Bishop, Dickinson, Moore, and H.D. are especially good.

Finally, a little David Sedaris helps pass the time in the airport. I read When You are Engulfed in Flames but any book of his will do in a pinch.

OK, from Revell, from part V of "Long Legged Bird," some lines to break your heart:

Overhead, a long-legged bird
Circles my sweet house. I feel
He is waiting for me to join him,
To find real wings and rise out of my own mind
Into his air.
What would I find there?
Portals and invisible heavy traffic...
My mother as a baby, my father a cowboy,
My sister, finally, after so much heartbreak,
A girl.
The body travels inside the soul.
The body's a passenger.
This has nothing to do with Jesus
Though he is right here beside me.
He is unhurt.