Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 Annual Graduate Student Colloquium at West Virginia University

2010 Annual Graduate Student Colloquium at West Virginia University

Call for Papers [Graduate Students]: On March 12th and 13th of 2010, the English Graduate Student Organization at WVU will be hosting a colloquium for graduate students of literature, creative writing, and professional writing and editing. On Friday the 12th there will be a keynote address at 7:00 p.m., followed on Saturday the 13th with a full day of panels scheduled between 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Graduate students from neighboring colleges are encouraged to submit abstracts for individual papers or pre-formed panels dealing with any subject within the following topics:

  • Literature, Literary Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Pedagogy (Literary, Creative Writing, Composition and Rhetoric, etc.)
  • Craft or Technique Oriented Creative Writing Panels
  • Professional Writing and Editing, Technical Writing

Any historical periods are welcome. Individual proposals for fifteen minute presentations are being accepted. Panel proposals of up to three participants are also being accepted.

The keynote speaker this year will be Dr. Kristina Straub, who is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies, Associate Head of English, and Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University where she teaches eighteenth-century British studies, performance studies, gender studies, and sexuality studies. She is the author of Divided Fictions: Fanny Burney and Feminine Strategy (Kentucky 1986) and of Sexual Suspects: Eighteenth Century Players and Sexual Ideology (Princeton 1991), and co-editor of an anthology, Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity (1991). She is the editor of many teaching and scholarly editions of eighteenth-century British texts, including a Bedford Cultural Edition of Burney’s Evelina and a Pickering Masters edition of Charlotte Smith’s Celestina, as well as many scholarly articles and reviews. Her newest book, Domestic Affairs: Intimacy, Eroticism, and Violence Between Servants and Masters in Eighteenth Century Britain was published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in Spring of 2009. She is now looking forward to her return to theater studies with a new project that grows out of the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama’s production of Edward Ravenscroft’s The London Cuckolds.

Dr. Straub’s presentation is entitled “Performing The London Cuckolds.” This lecture focuses on two texts and a performance: Edward Ravenscroft’s 1681 comedy, The London Cuckolds, Terry Johnson’s 1998 adaptation of that play, and Don Wadsworth’s 2009 production at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama (which draws on both texts). Her goal is to understand how the gendered sexualities of the 17th century “haunt” the performance of 2009. If the 1681 version allows for a queer take on marriage and heterosexual romance in general (as she argues that it does), how does that queerness take the stage in 2009? Is this queerness “performed” by the student and faculty cast and design team in the 2009 version, and, if so, how does it play out for its modern audience, a very different community from the one that watched the play in 1681?

Please submit abstracts of approximately 250 words for paper presentations of fifteen minutes maximum. Submit abstracts to by Monday, February 8th, 2010. Responses will be sent out by the middle of February.

Students, faculty, staff and friends of the department: Save the dates now so that you can show your support for the research and creative work of English graduate students!

Friday, January 22, 2010

What we mean when we say English majors will "learn how language works"

One critical component of the undergraduate English curriculum in all three tracks--literature, creating writing, and professional writing--is to develop students' understanding of what genres are, how they take shape and get reworked by writers, and what rhetorical and cultural functions that genres serve. Here are two recent New Yorker essays that explore contemporary genres. First, humanities scholar Daniel Mendelsohn examines the increasing popularity of the memoir genre, asking not only the question of why so many people are writing memoirs these days but also why so many readers find this genre to be compelling. In short, Mendelsohn speaks to the cultural significance of this genre as he explains what the popularity of memoirs tells us about ourselves. Second, novelist Junot Díaz considers the importance of narrative as a genre in the political arena. Countering the notion that politicians tell stories only to "spin" an issue or deceive the public, Díaz maintains that the ability to tell compelling narratives is important for politicians because stories are the basic tool that we all use to make sense of the world around us.

Digital Humanities...remixed

If you haven't had a chance to see this remix of 'the bunker scene' from the Critical Commons it is worth a fav line, "We can't fool them much longer. We'll have to work for a living."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

From Colson Hall to the Capitol Rotunda

Ms. Joanna Thompson, a senior Criminology and Investigations major and Professional Writing & Editing minor, will represent the WVU English Department at the seventh annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol event on Thursday, January 28. The URDC event will take place in the State Capitol Rotunda in Charleston, where undergraduate students from across West Virginia will deliver poster presentations on their research projects. The URDC event aims to help members of the State Legislature and Executive Branch understand the importance of funding undergraduate research programs by giving them the opportunity to talk directly with the students whom these programs impact.

Joanna will be presenting the results of a ethnographic research project she completed in English 301: Writing Theory and Practice, a required course in the PWE minor. Joanna's ethnographic study explores how a deputy sheriff uses writing to support her work in investigating criminal complaints, maintaining case files, and managing the local police force.

To learn more about the Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol event, and to see pictures of undergraduate researchers from previous exhibits, please visit the URDC homepage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Update from Sabbatical Land

Since I last wrote, many interesting things have happened—not least of which is the New Shiba Inu Puppy Cam (! Thanks to Professor Ballentine for alerting us to the arrival of the new litter. As many TCH readers know, I’m already a tad overwhelmed by my two dogs, but, as Professor Ballentine would no doubt point out, the cam is quieter. Thus, I highly recommend this serene-for-now (the pups were just born, after all) experience.

On the Research Agenda front, I’m happy to report that I’ve rediscovered The Sunshine Family (pictured above). Remember them: like “‘Leave It to Beaver’ set to a John Denver soundtrack.” Mom Steffie, Dad Steve, and Baby Sweets. And don’t forget Grandma and Grandpa (sold separately). These craft-makin’, flat-footed dolls arrived on the scene in 1974—of course!—and yours truly played with them while trying to talk her mother into buying a Barbie doll. So, yes, I had mixed feelings. Were they trying to teach me something? Hmmm…. I never have enjoyed learning a lesson. (ironic, huh?) Besides, Barbie’s clothes were so much better, though the Sunshines did have that surrey cycle…

Maybe The Sunshine Family + Candy Land = an essay. Possible. Certainly, Professor Allen and other theory pros could have fun with The Sunshines. For now, though, I’m working on a piece about/“about” narrative, Alice Munro, longing, and patience. Also, poems, though, to tell you the truth, writing or not writing has nothing to do with being on sabbatical. At least not for me. Basically, to write I have to pay attention to stuff like nature and emotions. Sometimes I’m capable; sometimes I’m not. Right now I am, so let’s not jinx it by saying any more!

On the other hand, if you really want to know more about How Poems Are Made, you can ask the folks at OLLI since they’ll be listening to me talk about this very topic… next week! Yes, I know: soon! I’d give you a little preview now, but, ahem, I’m not quite at the “sharing” stage yet. And thank you, Professor Allen, for inviting me to partake in this Very Special Experience.

OK, now where was I? Oh yes, new poems—lots of those—and lots of upcoming readings, including our annual Valentine’s Day Ladies of Creative Writing reading, sweetly and ably organized by Professor Brazaitis, another reading here on campus in March, and visits to Carnegie Mellon, the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, The Virginia Festival for the Book/UVA, Kent State, U Pitt Johnstown, and Marshall (this last one with Professor Brazaitis: thank you, Mark! … and will you drive?).

On the Serious Business of Being a Poet front, I’ve just begun proofing galleys for a limited edition chapbook, The Boom of a Small Cannon, that’ll be out soon-ish from Dancing Girl Press, and also did the final edits on “Close to You,” an “essay” (if you know my essays, you know why that’s in quotes) about prose poetry and Karen Carpenter, white space and the Army Corps of Engineers, “watershed moments” and scenic lookouts and charm for The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry.

So yeah, life in Sabbatical Land is just fine, thanks for asking. Now, I gotta go: time to put another coat of polish on my nails and then dash off to meet Professor Farina for drinks.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Buffed and Ready for Action

I'm sure that everyone will be pleased to know that one of the most famous poets of all, Dante Aligheri, is alive and thriving. He's been going to the gym a lot and got himself an awesome new suit of armor so that he can star in an animated film, based on a video game, which is also available in "novelised" form (not really sure which came first, but does it matter?). As we learn from the movie trailer, posted here:
the macho Floretine needs to rescue the lovely Beatrice from Hell. Yeah, in the poem, Beatrice is already in Paradise and kind of needs to rescue Dante, but that's just the book. I'm sure the movie is way better.

Check it out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Among the many excellent blogs detailing academic life, perhaps none is doing so well at the business of making concrete suggestions for better teaching, writing, and simple living as an academic in a postmodern world than ProfHacker, a collective blog in the LifeHacker tradition. Yes, I'm friends with several of the contributors (and went to grad school with co-editor George Williams), but you will be hard pressed to find better advice on a more consistent basis.

Sabbatical So Far...

OK, since no one has objected (or shown any signs that they are paying attention), I guess it’s safe to risk the evil eye by talking about sabbatical.

In short: it is AWESOME.

It’s not like I don’t like teaching; I do. But I like not working even more than I like teaching. And I’ve been teaching for some time now (at Fordham, NYU, Grinnell College, and here), so it’s nice to have a wee respite.

A few things I’ve read on my time off: Jeanette Winterson’s The Powerbook, Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (which I believe Kayode may have published on), Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own, Leo Bersani’s Intimacies, Daniel Heller-Roazen’s The Inner Touch, Erin Manning’s RelationscapesThe Cape Malay CookbookWildflowers of South Africa, Pliny’s Natural History, Aristotle On the Soul and The Generation of Animals, The New Yorker magazine, and Abouet’s series of graphic works, Aya of Yop City. All great stuff. I’ve also discovered blogs—well behind the curve, I realize, but I'm totally hooked on watching textual communities in action.

On the production side of things, I wrote an article about queer desire for a forthcoming book, Clinical Encounters, edited by Eve Watson and the fabulous Noreen Giffney. Check out Noreen’s recently published collection, Queering the Non/Human (actually, don’t, because I have the library’s copy and I’m not giving it up any time soon). Also in the Fall, I gave a conference paper on Gawain and the Green Knight and these guys,

the "Blemmyae" or "Blemmys" (this one's from Wonders of the East). I'm contributing an expanded version of the piece to a very groovy collection titled Medieval Skin (yes, really! how cool is that?). I’m now getting started on a chapter on women and reading for the Palgrave Encyclopedia of British Women’s Writing. And, best of all, I’m working with Holly Duggan (who is at George Washington Univ.) on a special issue of the new journal, Postmedieval (see The issue will be on “The Intimate Senses: Taste, Touch, and Smell,” and it is going to be the BOMB. We’ve got great contributors and are totally psyched about it. This is an outcome of my research on the sense of touch (Holly, an early modernist, works on drama and smell).

In other news, my project of cooking curries from around the world has stalled, sadly. I’ve ventured into Burmese, Cambodian, Lao, Pakistani, North Indian, South African, and Thai, but there are so many more to try. Singaporean anyone?

Oh yeah, I'm sleeping a lot, too. Because I can.



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Report from Sabbatical Land

The first in an occasional series, because it’s fascinating to hear about other people’s Research Agendas, isn’t it? I certainly think so. Maybe Catherine Gouge, recently returned from Sabbatical Land, or Lara Farina, still adrift somewhere, will provide us with additional reports.

My experience of Sabbatical Land thus far is strangely like my experience of Candy Land. You know, the game, with its Crooked Old Peanut Brittle House and Gumdrop Mountains and Molasses Swamp. It all starts out so pleasantly: I was skipping along…

One such swamp so far has been QVC, which now sells Hello Kitty jewelry. I’m not buying anything, of course, but I am learning a lot. For instance, did you know that Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth “because she speaks from the heart.” I know! Profound.

Other highlights of Sabbatical Land include a recent Nancy Drew-like trip to the stacks of the downtown library—the PR section, to be precise, where they keep the Canadians and it smells like a swimming pool.

The Canadian in question was Alice Munro. Regular readers of TCH will recall my Munro posts from last May and June. If anyone has a favorite Munro story, post a comment. I find it rather hard to choose, but for now will cast my vote for either “Meneseteung” or “How I Met My Husband.”

And how’s this for profundity: here’s Munro, in “Jakarta,” having just described a relatively innocent scene—life going along as we think it should—when suddenly the next steps aren’t so clear: “… after that the progression got dimmer and it was hard to be sure just when you had arrived at wherever it was you were going…” Indeed. Candy Land. Just like I said.

Oh, and yes, this is how poets do research.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Web Site Story

Worth clicking on. Really.
P.S. You can just skip the commercial at the end. I thought those production values were suspiciously high.