Thursday, November 15, 2007

Attention wealthy alumni

Recently I was invited to give the Holloway Lecture at McDaniel College. Held once a year on a literary topic of wide interest, this lecture is a big event on campus. Students in a communications class have a competition to design the poster. English majors read work published by the speaker, and acquaint themselves with the materials their guest researches. A formal dinner precedes the lecture. A number of undergraduates are invited, and have the chance to engage the speaker in informal conversation. The Holloway Lecture is in short central to the intellectual life of the college.

Two recent events on the GW campus have made me realize how hungry our own students are for such moments of community. Last Friday the English Department sponsored our Futures of the Field panel, in which six faculty members conversed with about 35 students on what the major might mean in the years ahead. The event stretched to its full two allotted hours, filled with energetic dialogue. Yesterday, as part of Steven Knapp's inauguration festivities, Renaissance scholar Stephen Greenblatt spoke about reinventing a lost play of Shakespeare. As I looked out across the audience, I was pleased to see how many of our English majors were seated in rapt attention.

Now in its twentieth year, the Holloway Lecture is the lasting gift of a generous McDaniel alumnus. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have such an annual event at GW?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jehangir Malegam @ MEMSeminar

The last Medieval and Early Modern Seminar of the semester will be held on Friday, November 30th from 9-11 AM in Rome 771. Jehangir Malegam (GW History) will be presenting his paper entitled:
No Peace for the Wicked: Conflicting Visions of Peacemaking in an Eleventh-Century Monastic Narrative
As usual, please RSVP to me to receive a copy of the paper. The paper should be read in advance; come ready to discuss. Coffee and a breakfast assortment, of course, will be provided. All are welcome.

See you there,

Lowell Duckert []

The Humanities at GW

Dear English majors,

The plenary lecture given by Stephen Greenblatt this Wednesday at 10 AM in the Marvin Center is an important moment for all of us who work in and value the humanities. It is, to my mind, a major public acknowledgment that the humanities matter at the George Washington University.

PLEASE register for this event at! So far only one hundred people have registered. Send a message to our new president (who has his PhD in English) and to the Powers That Be here at GW that this event is pivotal to rethinking all to which our our university should aspire.

On a different note, I'd like to thank the thirty-five of you who participated in the Futures of the Field event on Friday. On behalf of all the faculty, I'd like to say how fortunate we feel to have such bright and engaged majors.

Jeffrey Cohen

Friday, November 9, 2007

T-shirt contest winner

Congratulations to Matt Munkacsy, winner of our T-Shirt contest! (This is NOT Matt in the picture above). To buy your own T-shirt, follow the link. Wear your shirt with pride. Make international affairs majors feel subliterate. Catalyze envy among chemistry majors. Give pre-med students a heart attack caused by agitation and desire. Let philosophy majors feel the existential despair of not being one of us. Cause math majors to calculate their revenge.

All proceeds will be used to fund activities for English majors.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Stephen Greenblatt is coming to GW

Although all of the Inauguration Festivities are likely in their own way to be worth attending, allow me to call your attention to two that you will not want to miss, both of them on Wednesday November 14.

1. "Cultural Mobility: The Travels of Shakespeare's Cardenio" by Stephen Greenblatt, Professor of English, Harvard University.
In the Grand Ballroom of the Marvin Center: 10-10:55am.
Greenblatt is one of the most important scholars working in literature today, the founder of a whole school of criticism. Any English major who doesn't attend will be doomed to a life of miserable and intllectually impoverished life thereafter, a life full of nearly inexplicable regret. Also, Greenblatt will be introduced by by our very own resplendent and charming Gil Harris, your Director of Undergraduate Study in English.

2. 12-1:30pm Research Gallery
Cloyd Heck Marvin Center, Third Floor, Continental Ballroom
View presentations, displays, and posters featuring the work of GW faculty and student researchers and creative artists.
Two department faculty are featured: Gayle Wald and Gil Harris. Please stop by so that they will not be standing before their posters looking lonely.

Course Descriptions for Fall 2008

The course descriptions are online. Registration begins this week. Faculty will be holding extra office hours to lift holds and for advising.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Got $600 for a cup of coffee?

This message is addressed to the wealthy potential donors who read our blog religiously. We know there are many of you out there, even if so far you have failed to send a sign of your actual existence.

A frustration for faculty and students alike is that we possess no welcoming space outside of the classroom to interact. Many English departments at other universities and colleges have a lounge where teachers and students can go to nourish their caffeine addiction ... and more importantly, share some words about Shakespeare or Melville or Hurston or the Red Sox. Personally I believe strongly in the power of such chance conversations. They always build community. They often lead to new insights. They sometimes change lives.

Gayle Wald, the Deputy Chair of English, recently showed me that the Department of German, Slavic and Romance Languages here at GW recently installed a FilterFresh III coffee machine. We have severe machine envy because this would be the perfect one for us: it requires no access to running water and creates no mess: simple push button operation. It takes a modest fee for each cup it dispenses (seventy five cents). It has become a congregation point in that department.

Those of you who have been to our department lounge know how sad the place is: a dirty table, a water cooler, a fridge, and some locked cabinets. I'd like to take the table out, put the FilterFresh III in, add a small sofa or some comfy chairs .... and make the place a between-class destitination for faculty and students to mingle and sip. The FilterFresh costs about $650, plus about $120/month to maintain (much of which is offset by the small fee for coffee). Please let me know if you are interested in helping us to bring about better faculty-student community via donating this machine ...

Two deadlines and a reminder

  • The deadline for the T-shirt contest is Friday 11/2. Earn enduring fame via your clever logo!
  • The deadline for applying for the new English Department Communications Liaison internship is Thursday 11/8. Here is the description and procedure:
For the spring semester, the GW English Department is seeking a Communications Liaison, an internship position providing 3 credits and the chance to develop skills in media outreach, electronic publishing, and professional writing. The successful applicant will assist the department in maintaining and growing the GW English blog, primarily through interviewing alumni and faculty for weekly featured spots, but also through the development of original content; composing press releases and creating publicity for departmental events; disseminating information about the faculty and English majors to alumni; fostering a better sense of community between faculty and students. The hours are flexible and amount to about 8-10 per week. Good writing skills required; some experience with electronic media desired. If you would like to apply, please compose a brief letter to the department chair stating (1) why you are interested in the position and (2) what skills you will bring to the position. Please identify what year you are in (Sophomore, Junior, Senior) and identify two faculty members from the department who know you and would serve as references. Please submit materials electronically to Jeffrey Cohen [jeffreyjeromecohen [at]].
  • Please come to our first ever faculty panel for English majors entitled "Futures of the Field: The English Major in the 21st Century." Herman Carillo, Kavita Daiya, Jeffrey Cohen, Robert McRuer, Jonathan Gil Harris, Gayle Wald, and Tara Wallace will speak about new directions, developments and possibilities in our fields, and what these might mean for GW English majors. Friday, November 9, 2:00 - 4:00 pm in Marvin Center 307.