Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Professor Robert McRuer recently won the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award for his book Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. Since Prof. McRuer began to further his unique research in the combined fields of queer and disabilities studies, he has also edited an anthology, taught at GW, and continued to develop his ideas. Although the book is written for a scholarly audience, Prof. McRuer expressed his delight that people outside the academic world are finding the book accessible and meaningful.
In an informal interview, Prof. McRuer explained the emerging scholarship for the intersection of Queer and Disability Studies. Historically, Queer Studies has not been inclusive of Disability Studies, which can marginalize certain people. For example, AIDS is a very prominent topic relating to people in Queer as well as Disability Studies, so the interdisciplinary discourse pushes a more complete view of AIDS in our culture. Prof. McRuer also spoke about the importance of reclaiming the word "crip" for discussing disabled identity.
Prof. McRuer has been with GW since 1997 and regularly teaches two courses: 175 LBGT (Lesbian Bi Gay Transgender) Literature and 172 Disability Literature. Prof. McRuer says that although the courses are separate, it is rare that his syllabi do not incorporate topics from both disciplines. Prof. McRuer enjoys teaching the classses and participating in his students' experience of learning that the course is not simply about overcoming discrimination. Rather, the courses are an enlightening opportunity to read about identity issues, institutional power and containment, and cultural hierarchies.
Last fall, I had the privilege of attending the GW-Folger Seminar, and it was a truly amazing opportunity. In order to encourage other students to take advantage of this unique course, I’d like to share my experiences.
The early modern book history course is an interdisciplinary study incorporating history and literature, and it will enhance your appreciation for books as they exist today. By thinking of books as objects by examining their form, text, and researching the printers and past owners, we can tell a fuller story about the text’s significance and how print history has developed. Dr. Werner, our instructor, also invited numerous guest lecturers to talk about their fields of expertise, which rounded out individual readings and projects.
Last fall, I was taking a Chaucer course at GW, so I chose to work directly with the Folger Library’s 1498 Wynken de Word copy, one of the earliest printed editions of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. As undergraduates, we were able to access books that were more than 500 years old as well as invaluable research aids compiled by the Folger librarians. My research complemented my reading of The Canterbury Tales and led me to more fully understand just how important Chaucer was as a national figure to his contemporaries. His manuscripts were collected posthumously, and when printing presses arrived in England, The Canterbury Tales was one of the first books ever to be printed in English.
This spring we will continue a colloquium in order to discuss ongoing research and other book history topics. The Folger Library in itself is a beautiful Washington, DC treasure, and I am glad for any reason to be invited back.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The invention of printing in the middle of the fifteenth century played a major role in the creation of Renaissance culture and in the development of the modern world. Without the printing press, the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution might not have spread throughout Europe, poem- and novel-writing might not have become viable professions, and the plays of Shakespeare might not have survived.
The ideas spread through these printed works were significant, but so too were the forms in which they appeared. Small books could be carried in one’s pocket, cheap books allowed readers to collect their own libraries, and lavishly printed and illustrated books proclaimed the importance of their content. Their physical form determined and reflected their use.
By handling these books today, we can begin to recover how they were used and what they meant. The traces of their use—annotations on the end-papers and margins of books, the ways in which they were bound, the collections of which they were a part—provide a window onto early modern culture that cannot be found in facsimiles or modern editions.
In this advanced seminar, students will learn about the history and sociology of early modern books through a hands-on exploration of the rare book archives at the Folger Shakespeare Library. One of the country’s preeminent research libraries, the Folger is normally open only to professors and advanced graduate students. Students in this seminar will be granted full access to the Folger’s collection, and will be able to use this unique opportunity to develop and advance their own research interests.
All GW students who will be in their senior year in the Fall of 2008 are eligible to apply for admission to this course; the application deadline is March 10, 2008.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Jane Austen, Literary Icon
Professor Maria Frawley
ENGL 801 96304
This course focuses not simply on the literary achievements of
Maria Frawley is Associate Professor of English and the author of several books on nineteenth-century women writers and social history, including A
Hamlet on Film
Professor Patrick Cook
ENGL 801 93060
Shakespeare’s most famous play has been filmed at least forty times. This seminar asks how and why. We will examine the sources of the play’s appeal across the centuries, its openness to cinematic adaptation, and the ways in which Hamlet films are shaped by their creator’s varied artistic purposes and cultural backgrounds. More generally, we will consider how theatre, the most popular and dynamic of Elizabethan media, can be transformed into the most popular and dynamic form of modern media. Because the course will require close textual analysis, students will be required to have personal access to either a VCR or DVD player and will be asked to purchase copies of several Hamlet films.
Patrick Cook is Associate Professor of English. His research interests extend from classical, medieval and Renaissance literature to modern film and cyber-culture.
Sensing Bodily Boundaries
Professor Holly Duggan
ENGL 801 96301
What are the boundaries of a body and how do sensory perceptions shape understanding of them? In this seminar, we will explore a variety of theories of embodiment in an attempt to understand cultural presumptions, taboos, and beliefs about the body and its boundaries. For example, popular television shows such as Crime Scene Investigation posit that a human body always leaves a material trace in its environment. In a similar fashion, Renaissance anatomical texts often included self-dissecting corpses, flaying, cutting, and opening themselves to reveal the body’s mysterious insides to readers. These two examples might seem extreme; the first posits that any body can be interpreted through objective, sensory data, the latter represent corpses themselves as perceiving organisms. In this course, we will investigate these two approaches to the body to explore how the bodily boundaries were defined through the five senses. Along with the two examples discussed above, we will explore texts and practices from the Middle Ages through the 19th Century. Finally, we will explore the science and sensationalism surrounding bodily boundaries within two medical museum collections: the Wellcome Museum of Medical history, explored through the Quay Brother’s film, The Phantom Museum: Random Forays into Sir Henry Wellcome’s Medical CollectionMutter Museum, by Gretchen Worden, curator of the Mutter’s collection. The hope is that by the end of the course, seminar participants will have gained insight into thinking and writing about how bodily boundaries are defined, shaped, and imagined through sensory perception.
Holly Duggan is Assistant Professor of English and teaches early modern English literature. Her scholarship focuses on the history of perfume and the
role of smell in late medieval and early modern English culture; she has an article on this topic forthcoming in the Spring 2008 issue of The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Professor Thomas Mallon
In this seminar, students will examine the immediate historical context of Abraham Lincoln’s murder, and use the assassination as a window through which to observe various aspects of 19th-centruy American culture. These will include theatrical taste, portrait photography, historical painting, and literary elegy. Visits to Ford’s Theatre and other sites associated with
Thomas Mallon is the author of thirteen books, among them the novels Henry and Clara, Bandbox and Fellow Travelers. He has published a volume of literary essays (In Fact), as well as books on diaries (A Book of One's Own) and plagiarism (Stolen Words). He received his Ph. D. from
Disability Studies, Disability Culture
Professor Robert McRuer
ENGL 801 96303
This course examines how disability has been represented and misrepresented in American cultures. We will interrogate how “normalcy” is constructed and enforced through various interpretations of bodily difference, and we will consider how men and women with disabilities have spoken and written back to the discourses that would delimit them. The course will examine a wide variety of written and visual texts in order to pose a series of overlapping questions: how have discourses of sympathy, compensation, and accommodation been deployed to constrain or empower people with disabilities? What cultural forces and what uses of language have served to unite disparate groups such as the blind, people who use wheelchairs, and people with chronic diseases? How have specific subcultures (people living with AIDS, Deaf subcultures) appropriated, contested, or expanded the meanings of “disability”? How does disability studies challenge our current sense of what it means to live in a multicultural society?
Robert McRuer is Associate Professor in the Department of English where he teaches disability studies, lesbian and gay studies, and critical theory. He is the author, most recently, of Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (NYU Press, 2006).
Monday, January 21, 2008
We're always looking for suggestions -- and volunteers -- for our features.
We're particularly interested in expanding our featured alumni section, and in featuring the work, projects and achievements of our undergraduate majors.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The following ten students will form the inaugural class of English 702. 10 "Studies in Contemporary Literature" (CRN 97032):
Rajiv Menon Lauren Kriz Chris Pugh Jessica Wilde Rachael Baird Nai Lee Kalema Elise Kigner Reed Cooley Lisa Francavilla Taylor Brown
This one credit reading course will meet on the four Tuesdays in February in Rome Hall 663 (the English Department's small conference room) from 6:30-7:30. Three books have been ordered by Mr. Aslam: Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World; Alan Warner, Morvern Callar; and Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage. They may be purchased now at the GW Bookstore.
Students enrolled in the course will keep a reading journal. A copy of the journal and three pages of reflection upon the course's materials will be due to the department chair at course's end.
Students accepted into the course may register by leaving a completed ADD/DROP form in the English Department Main Office (Rome 760).
Friday, January 18, 2008
All meetings take place in the conference room of the GW English Department (801 22nd St NW, Rome Hall 771). The seminar starts at 9 AM and concludes by 11. A breakfast of coffee and pastries is served. Papers circulate a week in advance. We look forward to your participation.
Feb. 15 Lindsay Kaplan (Georgetown University), Augustine's doctrine of Jewish inferiority and the medieval development of racial thinking
March 14 Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University), Margery Kempe and travel literature
April 11 (afternoon meeting) Panel on the archive, with special guests. Details soon.
April 25 Four graduate students from Gil Harris's "Becoming Indian" seminar will present their work
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Mainly I was worried about how to speak to eighty people at once without mere lecturing. What's the use of offering a live version of a video recording? If no opportunity for conversation exists, if no space opens for a dialog that can alter our destination (or at least bring us to some unexpected stations along the way), the course is not a literature class.
The technology I hoped to utilize also caused me some anxiety. Although in the past I've been the recipient of all kinds of funds for bringing electronic media into the literature classroom, in the past five years I've become relatively low tech: me, a book, some handouts, real-time and embodied discussion. Typically my classes unfold in the shabby spaces that populate our campus, rooms that make our students wonder why our tuition is so high and where all the money goes. "Myths of Britain" answers that second question. Because the theater-style classroom I've been assigned belongs to GW's school of international affairs, it has technology up the wazoo: a document projector, a computer, a DVD player, a touchscreen master control, microphones, two descending screens, twin LCD projectors, lights that dim at various percentages of brightness, microphones, podcast enabling software ... a colleague predicted that I'd be acting out the Disney version of the "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," with screens rising and falling, lights flashing, special effects booming. Fortunately I did not play the "Mickey Mouse in a pointy hat" part after all -- mainly because obsessive moi went into the classroom twice last week and practiced using the machines.
So, on the first day of class I opened with the closing scene of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot, the hammy song where Richard Harris tells young Tom of Warwick that he must in future narratives memorialize the "one brief shining moment" that was England [!] at its best. We talked about how the film cites T. H. White citing Malory; how JFK may or may not have cited the film (and the publicity machine that aligned the dead president and the film's bittersweet ending); and how Monty Python then turned citing the musical into an industry. I think by the end they were fairly convinced of the life of the past, its utility to the present, and its destiny as forger of desired futures.
After going over the syllabus, we had a brief PowerPoint collage of maps, a reverse history of Britain, from the (dis)United Kingdom to neolithic migration. Despite these potentially distancing technologies, most of the class was actually just me and a poem, 'The Wanderer." I pretended that there weren't eighty students in front of me, just my usual twenty-five, and I spoke with them as I would to smaller group. Remarkably, the students answered back. The acoustics of the room are good, we had an intriguing discussion about apocalypse, living in a time that would like to imagine itself as new, the relegation of living peoples to a distant history... and so we are off to a good start. It helps as well that I have two superb graduate students who will be leading the smaller discussion sections once a week.
Below, for anyone who is interested, is my syllabus. The course is introductory level and writing intensive.
ENGLISH 40W: MYTHS OF BRITAIN
Professor Jeffrey J. Cohen
Much great English literature turns out not to be so English after all: the action of the epic Beowulf unfolds in Scandinavia; King Arthur was a Welsh king before he was an English one; Shakespeare's Tempest takes place on an island in the Mediterranean, but the play is also about the colonization of the New World. "Myths of Britain" looks at early English literature within a transnational frame. Students will enjoy literary works like Seamus Heaney's version of Beowulf; the Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Geoffrey of Monmouth's medieval Molotov cocktail of a text, the History of the Kings of Britain; and Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest. We will also read some lesser-known texts that beautifully stress the turbulent multiculturalism of medieval England: Marie de France’s lais, elegant narratives of transformation and desire; and Mandeville’s Travels, a journey through a world populated with strangely familiar monsters and marvels.
Our objectives are threefold:
(1) to give you the chance to hone your writing through the careful analysis of a rich body of literature within its historical context
(2) to introduce you to cutting edge approaches to the study of early England within a transnational frame
(3) to explore the relation between narrating the past and bringing about a desired future, paying close attention to who and what must be excluded from this emergent community
Course format: The course meets twice a week, on Mondays at 11:15 a.m. in 1957 E Street B12 for lecture, and on Wednesdays for discussion sections. Attendance at both lecture and discussion is mandatory.
Required books: (available from the GWU Bookstore)
Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney
Shakespeare, The Tempest (Bedford Case Study edition)
The Travels of John Mandeville
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Marie Borroff
Marie de France, Lais
1. Attend lectures and sections; participate in discussions; complete readings on time.
2. Reading quizzes: Monday lecture sessions will begin with a brief reading quiz. Lateness or absence from lecture is not an excuse for missing the quiz, and quizzes cannot be made up. The quizzes cumulatively take the place of a midterm and final exam.
3. Writing assignments: There are five short but intense writing assignments, culminating in a final paper that will be revised once. Detailed information about the assignments will be available in advance, and you will have opportunities to discuss the assignments in section.
Policy on lateness and extensions: Except for a documented medical reason, late work will not be graded. You may not take an incomplete for this course.
Academic dishonesty: Academic dishonesty of any kind will be treated as a serious offense. In most cases, you will fail the course. You can find more on the Code of Academic Integrity at http://www.gwu.edu/~ntegrity.
Disability statement: If you feel you need accommodations based on the impact of a disability, contact Prof. Cohen and your TA. Disability Support Services (Marvin Center 242, 994 8250, http://gwired.gwu.edu/dss) is available to assist you.
Participation and attendance at section 10%
Reading quizzes 15%
Five short but intense writing exercises 10% each, for a total of 50%
Final paper (including revision) 25%
Code of Courtesy
Arrive on time with your cell phone silenced. Bring the appropriate book to class. Give the professor and your TA your full attention. Remain in the room until the class ends. Never hesitate to ask a question or to request clarification.
Schedule of Readings and Assignments
January 14 Lecture: The Britain in England. Text: “The Wanderer” (handout; also on Blackboard)
January 16 Section: Introductions. “The Dream of the Rood” (please print out a copy via Blackboard and read before section meeting).
January 21 No lecture (MLK day)
January 23 Section: Comparison of opening lines of Beowulf in several translations. Short writing assignment #1 handed out: two passages of poetry to be rewritten without poetic language.
January 28 Lecture: Beowulf: A Verse Translation, trans. Seamus Heaney lines 1-1798. First assignment due in lecture.
January 30 Section: J. R. R. Tolkien, “The Monsters and the Critics” (Beowulf: A Verse Translation pp. 103-130).
February 4 Lecture: Beowulf: A Verse Translation, trans. Seamus Heaney, lines 1799-3182
February 6 Section: Seamus Heaney, “Translator’s Introduction” and Daniel Donoghue, “The Philologer Poet” (Beowulf: A Verse Translation pp. xxiii-xxxviii; 237-47). Short writing assignment #2 handed out (close reading of passage).
February 11 Lecture: Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain pp.1-169. Writing exercise 2 due.
February 13 Section. Discussion of Geoffrey of Monmouth and writing assignment 2.
February 18 No lecture (President’s Day)
February 20 Section: Paper writing workshop (How to Compose a Successful “Problem Paper”).
February 25 Lecture: Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain pp. 186-284.
February 27 Section. Writing assignment #3 (Problem Paper I) due.
March 3 Lecture: Marie de France’s Lais I (“Guigemar” to “Les Deus Amanz”)
March 5 Section.
March 10 Lecture: Marie de France’s Lais II (“Yonec” to “Eliduc”)
March 12 Section. Writing assignment #4 (Problem Paper II) due.
March 17-19 Spring Break
March 24 Lecture: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Fitts I & 2
March 26 Section. Critical paper assigned.
March 31 Lecture: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Fitts 3 & 4
April 2 Section. Writing assignment #5 due (first paragraph and prospectus of critical paper).
April 7 Lecture: Mandeville’s Travels.
April 9 Section.
April 14 No lecture. Work on critical paper. Extra office hours today.
April 16 Section. Draft of critical paper due.
April 21 Lecture: The Tempest Acts 1-3
April 23 Section: Aimé Césaire, A Tempest (The Tempest pp. 246-54). Draft of critical paper returned.
April 28 Lecture: The Tempest Acts 4-5
May 5 Revised critical paper due.
[x-posted from In the Middle]
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
From: Professor Jonathan Gil Harris
Re: ENGLISH HONORS
January 4, 2008
Dear English Major,
You are invited to apply to the English Department Honors Program. Department Honors offers a unique opportunity to participate in an intensive and supportive year-long program, comprising the fall and spring semesters of the senior year.
In the fall semester, students participate in a small (6-12 students) seminar focused on contemporary theory and application to texts. Readings in recent seminars have included the theoretical work of Georg Hegel, Karl Marx, Gilles Deleuze, Gayatri Spivak, Elaine Scarry, and Amitav Ghosh.
The fall semester seminar also prepares students for writing the honors thesis. A step-by-step process moves students through research strategies and theoretical frameworks to the writing of the thesis proposal; intermediate drafts are discussed in the seminar, enabling students to engage with each other’s projects and to form a support system for the final semester.
During the spring semester of the senior year, students take a three-credit “course” designed to provide time for writing the thesis. Students meet regularly with a Director and Reader of their choice, and produce a forty-page thesis which reflects research in and development of a topic of particular interest to them.
To prepare students who wish to apply for the Honors Program, the English Department will offer this February and March a 1-credit workshop series in Literary Studies (ENGL 701-10). The series comprises three evening workshops on undergraduate research. All students who wish to apply for the English Honors program (but not those studying abroad!) are expected to attend the three workshops, which can be taken as a 1-credit course. The series will include workshops on
• Library Skills and Resources, featuring staff from the Gelman Library and the Library of Congress, as well as faculty from the Folger Shakespeare Library (February 20 or 27);
• New Directions in English Studies, featuring English department faculty (March 5);
• How to Write a Thesis, featuring current English Honors students (March 12).
Please let me know as soon as possible (email@example.com) if you will sign up for the workshop in Literary Studies!
Some bureaucratic information:
• You do NOT need to be a member of the University Honors Program to participate in English Honors. If you ARE a member of the UHP, the English Honors sequence will fulfill UHP requirements for both coursework and senior thesis.
• The seminar counts as a theory course for the English majors’ requirements.
• You CANNOT substitute any other course for the seminar; you must be on campus in the fall of senior year.
• You CANNOT write the thesis while not on campus.
• Application forms are available in the English Department office. These should be submitted to the office or to Jonathan Gil Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Wenesday, March 26, 2008. In addition to the form, please submit a transcript and a writing sample.
• You can certainly apply from abroad. Get the application from Connie Kibler (email@example.com) via email, and send me the completed application by email or snail mail if there’s time.
Please feel free to contact me with questions.
Professor Jonathan Gil Harris
Soltan, who attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, was delighted to be a member of the press corps, and especially delighted to take part in a press conference, during which she put some questions to Myles Brand, head of of the NCAA.
Her posts about the NCAA are here.
Aslam will also give a four session reading course devoted to three novels by contemporary British authors. The course is English 702 "Studies in Contemporary Literature" and is one credit. It will meet on the four Tuesdays in February in Rome Hall 663 (the English Department's small conference room) from 6:30-7:30. So far the following students have been accepted:
If you are not on this list and would like to be, please contact me immediately. This course is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Happy beginning of the spring semester! All of us in the English Department hope that it is off to a good start.
Friday, January 11, 2008
This award is given annually by the Gay and Lesbian Caucus for the Modern Language Association. The judge's report on Crip Theory declares:
The members of the Committee were especially impressed by McRuer's original intervention in the area of queer studies, one that not only sheds light on the important new area of disability studies, but brings it into conversation with a variety of disciplinary perspectives, from composition studies to performance art. McRuer's book combines the public and the private work of queer studies in surprisingly new ways.
Some information on Alan Bray may be found here. Congratulations, Robert!