Friday, October 31, 2008

José Muñoz to be Second Wang Visiting Professor (Fall 2009)

Here is the official press release.

THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY NAMES JOSE MUNOZ AS WANG VISITING PROFESSOR IN CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH LITERATURE

Munoz to Teach and Deliver Public Readings in Fall 2009

WASHINGTON - The George Washington University has named renowned scholar of literature, Latino studies, and performance theory Jose Munoz as the second Wang Visiting Professor in Contemporary English Literature in GW's Department of English. Munoz, who will be in residence at GW during the 2009 fall semester, will teach two undergraduate literature courses, interact with graduate students and researchers, give a public reading, and sponsor events aimed at expanding GW's strengths in Latino studies.

"We chose Jose Munoz as our second Wang Visiting Professor because of our department's commitment to studying literature within a global context," said English Department Chair Jeffrey J. Cohen. "Dr. Munoz's work has been path-breaking to the point of being field-defining. Our faculty members have taught his essays and books in our undergraduate and graduate classes. Even I, a medievalist, have made frequent use of his scholarship. Our students will benefit immensely from his presence. The English Department is deeply honored to have a scholar of such international renown join us."

Munoz added, "I am excited about joining The George Washington University as a Wang Visiting Professor. I look forward to teaching courses that reflect and advance my more recent research on emotion and public life, as well as my ongoing interests in sexuality and race. The prospect of engaging colleagues and students at GW is a very happy one indeed."

Munoz's fields of concentration include Latin American studies, film and video, comparative ethnicity, queer theory, gay and lesbian studies, Latino and Latina literature, and performance studies. He has authored several books and articles including Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (1999), Cruising Utopia: the Politics and Performance of Queer Futurity (2009), and Feeling Brown: Ethnicity, Affect, and Performance (forthcoming). Munoz currently is the chair of the Department of Performance Studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

The visiting professorship was created through a gift by Albert Wang and his family. The gift is one of the largest philanthropic commitments to GW's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences' Department of English. The family gift includes support for the Wang Visiting Professorship in Contemporary English Literature and the Wang Endowed Fund in English Literature and Literary Studies, which will fund an annual series of lectures by prominent authors and scholars. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones was named as the first Wang Visiting Professor in September 2008 and will be in residence during spring 2009.

The English department is an active research community of scholars and creative writers who prize excellence in teaching, publication, and service. The department has about 300 undergraduate majors and an award-winning faculty of more than 30 professors. It is nationally recognized for its strengths in both literature and creative writing. Long known for its expertise in African American literature, the department also is renowned for its research and publication in early modern and medieval studies; ethnic literature, including Asian American and Jewish texts; 19th-century literature; and creative writing. Munoz joins novelist H. G. Carrillo and literary scholar Antonio Lopez in a department that is strengthening studies in Latino literature.

Located in the heart of the nation's capital, The George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in Washington, D.C. The University offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business, and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 130 countries.

Beth Lattin in Forbes

English Department alumna Beth Lattin (class of 2008) has her first article in Forbes: "Blue States Would Sing Obama Tax Blues." Congratulations, Beth!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

GW English's Featured Undergraduates

Those of you who have been by the English department on the 7th floor might have noticed the department's empty bulletin board. To put it to use, I'd like to suggest creating a "featured undergraduate" section for the department, where picture and biographies of some of the English department's undergraduates can be displayed each semester. So, I'd like to invite all of you to submit brief biographies (one paragraph should be fine) and a picture (this will be seen by the entire department, so I don't recommend using any photos of Halloween shenanigans from this upcoming weekend). To be fair, I'll accept 5-10 students on a first come, first serve basis, so if you want to be featured, send your info ASAP to rmenon[at]gwu.edu.

Alumnus update: T. J. Miller

Actor, comedian and GW alumnus T. J. Miller (did you see Cloverfield?) sent me this note about star faculty member Pati Griffith:
I remember that Prof. Griffith was the first person to encourage my writing. She was the first person to validate that I had a writer in me--I just had to develop that, and that discipline was an important aspect of that development. The first time people read my words in my playwrighting class, and it got laughs, I realized that something I wrote could be funny without the requirement of my delivery of it. And so I began to see the comedic power of words. I began to understand that the words are half of the material, and required the same amount of attention. And I learned the necessity of editing, something that comedians must have to be successful. It is vital. Johnny Carson always said that editing is the difference between success and failure. I learned that I was going to have to treat a piece of writing as something that would grow and change, not something I just spit out and hand in. I asked her to be my advisor for my honors thesis because I knew that I needed someone who could help me with the writing. I was a performer, I was in receSs, I knew how to perform. I was sure I could get the laughs. But the point of that thesis was to be structurally and philosophically strong, to approach a subject, the subject of what a one man show is, with great analysis and meticulous attention to the words. I didn't just want it to be funny, I wanted it to be art. That required great attention to the words. So it was a great fit. And I'll never forget when she saw my first run through of some of the material. She said "I have to admit, I didn't really understand how you were going to do what you were trying to do, but now I do. So now, let's shape it." And we shaped it, and edited it, and spent a great deal of time on it. And it was what it was supposed to be: the result of all my work at GW, it was my thesis as a comedian at that university. It was the most important thing I did my entire time there. Most of all, when graduated, she said: "You are a great performer, but never to lose the writer that you are. You can do both, which is rare, so don't stop writing." Since graduating I have written hundreds of stand-up bits, a few short scripts and generally punched up a lot of projects. I continue to struggle as a screenwriter, trying to figure out who I am in that world and gain a mastery of it. But it's part of who I am as a comedian, and what seperates me from people who are just actors. It makes me something that in Hollywood is considered as good as gold: a creator. I can create and execute, write and perform. And as a performer who writes material, it has given me control and opportunity in Hollywood and in my life as a comedian. And I really owe her I do, and the English Dept. at GW for that all, dawg. I just wanted to end this piece with a grammatically incorrect sentence. T.J. Miller
By the way, T. J. Miller does not have a website. He also does not have a blog. He does not have videos at effinfunny. Still he strikes me as quite accomplished.

Good luck T. J.!

Feedback on Suhayl Saadi Residency

If you are a current GW undergraduate and you had the chance to meet our GW-British Council Writer in Residence Suhayl Saadi, would you please take this very brief survey? We'd be extremely grateful.

Fiction Course with Edward P. Jones

We've already told you how to take a screenwriting course with famous producer and screenwriter Jason Filardi. Would you also like to take a course in writing fiction with Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Edward P. Jones?

Jones will be in residence at GW during the spring semester of 2009. If you would like to be considered for admission to his creative writing course, simply print out and complete this form (or pick up a copy from the English Department main office) and return it to us with a writing sample as soon as possible, and no later than November 7.

I'm appending Jones's official biography below. Dare I say, once again, that the chance to study with an author of such high renown is a once in a lifetime opportunity? Miss it and you'll be kicking yourself for years to come, even perhaps as you enter doddering senility. That's what once in a lifetime means. This chance isn't coming back.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Edward P. Jones was born in Washington DC in l950. He attended the local public schools and won a scholarship to Holy Cross College. Seven years after he graduated from college, he earned his M.F. A. at the University of Virginia.

After a series of jobs, he began working for a tax newsletter, first as a proof reader and then eventually as a columnist, the latter job he held for over ten years. During this time Jones kept on writing. His first short story was published in Essence in l976. Since then he has had stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares and Callaloo. He has taught creative writing at the University of Virginia, George Mason University, the University of Maryland and Princeton University.

Edward Jones’ first collection of Short Stories, Lost in the City, was published in l992 and won the PEN/Hemingway Award, was short-listed for the National Book Award and was the recipient of a Lannan Foundation Award.

Jones’ first novel, THE KNOWN WORLD, published by Harpercollins Publishers in September 2003, received the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In addition, it won the National Book Critics Circle Award, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won the international IMPAC Dublin Literary award and the Lannan Literary award. Edward P. Jones was named a MacArthur fellow for 2004.

The New York Times best-selling ALL AUNT HAGAR’S CHILDREN was originally published in September 2006.

Edward P. Jones lives in Washington, DC.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Sticky Words Project


Please stop by the English Department office on the seventh floor of Rome Hall and contribute to the endeavor we've christened the Sticky Words Project. Our goal: cover the entire loooong wall in front of our seminar room (Rome 771) in quotations inscribed upon Post-It Notes. Your part of the mission: stop by and jot down your favorite quotations and adhere them to the wall.

Bring your own sticky notes of you wish, or use the ones we've left out for your use.

The project unofficially began yesterday, but GW Housekeeping took down all the notes last night, thinking it was a prank. We've notified them that this is a highly literary art project (even that quote from the Flaming Lips). We promise we'll keep the words up for as long as we can.

Stop by and participate! It may be the only time the English Department ever allows you to have fun in Rome Hall again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Suhayl Saadi on "Literature in a Global Age"

The month long GW-British Council residency of novelist, playwright and polymath Suhayl Saadi has come to its end.

Dominick Chilcott, the British Deputy Head of Mission, invited some members of the English department, Dean Peg Barratt, and prominent members of the DC diplomatic and arts communities to his home last night to celebrate a second successful residency under this program. Suhayl read from his novel Psychoraag. He was (predictably) charming and charismatic. We have been fortunate indeed to have him among us.

Suhayl has agree to allow us to publish his comments from the Literature in a Global Age panel. You will find those below ... but I just want to say once more how outstanding an author and what a humane person Suhayl is. Also, my eleven year old son is completely smitten by Suhay's seven year old daughter, so apparently at some point I am obligated to hop a plane to Glasgow and chaperone a first date.

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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and welcome. Thank you, Tara and Jeffrey for your kind hospitality and your sterling introductions. I am most grateful to the British Council and The George Washington University for inviting me to spend what has been a very exciting Fall in DC as British Council writer-in-residence and for asking me to participate in this highly pertinent discussion tonight.

In some senses, the title of this event may be construed as a Robert Louis Stevenson transformative potion, a stimulant oxymoron – and just as some of my best friends are puns and paradoxes, so some of the most effective catalysts for creativity can reside in such juxtapositions. For surely, if we think about it for a moment, literature – at least since the invention and dissemination of that obsessional activity known as writing - has always been global in nature. After all, there is some suggestion from Ancient Sumeria that writing was invented, not by bards or philosophers, but by merchants. And arguably, from the days of cave-painting onwards, chiromancy and orality have constituted dance and music as hypertextual counterpoints to the etched notations of scripture, poetry, fiction, faction et al.

In past times, textual communication was effected by means of the likes of Michael, Great Magus of Selkirk travelling to Sicily to work with Jacob Anatoli and others on translating key texts and onwards, via an army of celibates, schismatics and heretics, majusculing their way across large swathes of the planet. Nowadays, one should be grateful that chastity is no longer on the job description for writers, though for writers and readers, both, the incipience of poverty or obedience remain. To paraphrase Marlon Brando, whether readers, writers or book-burners, we all write, all of the time.

In my view, there are several interesting issues:

1) The situation is far better than in the past, yet still, the proportion of texts translated into, as opposed to from, English remains relatively small. This is important in itself, but is also crucial because of the nationalisation of speech and writing which has occurred over the past two hundred years with the introduction of concepts such as ‘mother tongue’ and ‘Standard’ English, French, German, Urdu, etc. As someone once quipped, a language is simply a dialect with an army, navy and airforce.

I once was involved in a slightly daft jaunt organised by the BBC called ‘The Big Read’, which basically consisted of TV and radio audiences choosing what they considered to be their ‘twenty top titles’ amongst the millions of novels published through all time. I was disturbed, yet hardly surprised, to learn that nineteen out of the twenty novels voted onto the ‘Top Twenty’ list were Anglophone books, the sole exception being Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ – and that was at Number 20. I literally carried into the studio a sack of ‘other’ books and after the show, found that the studio audience was hungry for these texts. Of course, such populist games as, ‘The Big Read’ and my attempt at subversion may be valuable in inducing people to think and talk about books and to read them, yet when variants of ‘Harry Potter and the Goblins of Flatulence’ are pinned as fundamentally important tomes of all time, one cannot help but feel a little dispirited – and by this I mean no slight to J. K. Rowling, who of course also lives and writes in Scotland and whom I greatly admire (and envy) as a writer and a highly socially-aware and politically-active woman. My experience, during this project and more generally, was that readers – that’s you and me, people – actually are well able to ingest texts which are as complex, non-linear and unresolved as our lives and which permit the facility of an active imagination.

Since, for a number of semiotic, socio-cultural and economic reasons, such texts often can come from either the peripheries of, or indeed, from outside, that mother-of-a-nib, the comfortably codified national, standard monolingual, upper-middle-class consciousness, a broader and deeper rubric of publication, translation and transliteration is necessary if such nibs are to find leaf and form. This would be a liberatory political act, or, if like Swift we wish to hold with the irascibly cynical, it would be contingent upon a more subtle modus operandum of that enlightened despotism of public relations and its chemically-wedded spouse, marketing, which together stand as the twin pillars of our time.

2) There is no universal absolute in time, space, semiotic orientation or language. Writing – and reading – largely is about delineating connections and referential or causal links between people, stories, histories and languages. If this is undertaken in a half-honest manner – honest, that is, regarding the flows of power - at times, it can represent a Walter Benjaminite form of nomadic liberatory exegesis. As an anthropological corollary, a suggestion for discourse over tea, toast and an absinthe or two, let us routinely apply a cultural-ethnic-class-economic critique to the work of white, middle class, English writers.

3) One of the intriguing questions which seems to have been posed on a number of occasions during my visit to Washington has been, “Do you ever think about your reader?” It’s a pertinent and global question, particularly for a writer of what can be fairly challenging texts. Well, I hear the reader as a musician, a jazz musician who, to quote Weightmann, “breaks and enters” the text at will and who, through the act of reading, redefines old modalities. This can produce (to quote) “a higher order of significance from which it is often possible to see not so much what a text means but what it is seeking to do”. This is instrumental in determining how we communicate with one another, with the past and with the multiple others that comprise our selves.


The fourth issue on which I will touch tonight is that of representation. The cartelisation of global publishing towards a capitalist plutocracy necessitates analysis of power structures within the publishing-retailing complex (apologies to Ike). Until very recently, for example, there were no non-white commissioning editors for fiction in the entire corporate UK publishing industry. Nil, zero, nada, zilch. There are now two or three, which is better than none, but to what extent does such token representation simply act as a co-optive force and to what degree do such individuals – with whom I feel a frisson of empathy - have to internalise the biases of the dominant group and neutralise any subversive or transformative thoughts they might have had in order to attain, and maintain, those positions in which theoretically, technically, frustratingly and all-too-often disappointingly, they might be have able to effect change?

I am so very tired of reading hugely-trumpeted novels which to one extent or another, essentialise, nativise, orientalise, provide comforting narratives of rescue or other variations of what I call, ‘Dancing Around the Mango’, for the joy and edification of a perceived dominant clientèle.

I can hardly blame the writers of these books – after all, to dance the dance is to get ahead. On the other hand, I know many excellent writers – powerful writers – particularly ‘people of colour’, who are completely frustrated, who either have given up or else who have not been permitted equivalent space in which to develop their talents and about whom one never hears. Unlike the fruitful dancers, the only time these writers want to be in a box is when they’re dead. This is a loss of voice and breath, of thought and possibility and it diminishes our society – an otherwise self-critical and plural society about which I feel passionately.

There are, of course, texts which against all odds do get through, and the fact that literary prizes sometimes have been awarded for such texts may suggest both complex geographical disparities and something of a disconnect between the publishing-retailing complex and writers, readers and others internationally who at times have constituted the judges of such awards.

To provide a broader global perspective, one of my colleagues, Shahid Nadeem, a stage playwright, TV dramatist and broadcaster in Pakistan, has been imprisoned thrice over as many decades under various tinpot military and civilian regimes and on one occasion – as a result of a weirdly postmodern punishment redolent of Ancient Egypt - was banished to a TV outpost in the desert for poking fun at the then-Prime Minister (now holier-than-thou Leader of the Opposition), Nawaz Sharif. The feminist poet, Kishwar Naheed was under 24-hour surveillance for years – she tells darkly humourous tales of having trays of sugared tea sent out to the secret policemen (who are seldom very secret, since they all seem to prefer an identical brand of Funkadelic, 1975-style shades) because she felt sorry for them, mother’s sons, every one, sitting there outside her house, day-after-day, night-after-night, month-after-broiling-month! On a more tragic note, I recall sipping coffee and making small-talk with the courageous, talented and humble Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya just months before she was pitilessly and shamefully gunned down in Moscow on her way back from the grocery store. Global literature can kill.

In terms of everyday life, what was only a handful of decades ago the largest-ever empire on earth has managed to adapt effectively to being a polyglot, social democratic nation-state which explores, celebrates and occasionally understands its own hybridity. In spite of the negative social equities of neo-liberal economics, multifactorial communal underachievements and structural colonial legacies, and because of bilateral processes of consistent engagement and, yes, progressive state legislation and - at least in the local and national public spheres – at times intelligent state intervention, by-and-large, British multicultural society works well. Much-maligned bodies like the police and Crown Prosecution Service at least have recognised and have attempted to address the problems; unfortunately, outside of the state and academia, no such dynamic exists in any systematised or profound manner in the arts. This is one of the numinous reasons why, at this time, a British Barack is almost inconceivable.

The fact that one is able, in the Western liberal capitalist democracies, to say and write these things (whether or not they come to be broadcast or published is another matter) without fear of overt persecution is testament to the struggle of multitudes over many centuries – from Thomas More to Thomas Paine, from Wat Tyler to the Tolpuddle Martyrs to the women of the match-factory, from Mary Wollstencraft to Oscar Wilde, from the Dreyfusards to Rosa Parks to Desmond Tutu. It would be a repudiation and discontinuation of the ongoing struggle to liberate the human spirit if we choose - and this is the difference, at some level, we can choose – to exist and write in a state of denial and complacency rather than to confront the structural and individual deformations which censor by omission. There is an unspoken requirement placed upon artists by this liberal materialist society to hold together the sum of the symbolic meaning of all its forms. Specifically as far as anything multicultural is concerned, we have high priests of tardive truth, otherwise known as commissioning editors and in the performing arts, too many gatekeepers who resemble those Barthian dyskinetic choristers of Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible. Ultimately, then, this is paradigmatic of the fact that elites do not share power voluntarily, that power, wealth and liberty are inextricably linked and that for readers, writers and audiences, alike, what we are dealing with here is a matter of freedom of expression.

Finally, this global gift of the word which has evolved is a precious one, but as with all human attributes, it is multivalent and we would be well-advised to treat it with a certain neurotic awe as we do, death, Freud and electricity. Literature matters and is central in the collective construction of what we call, ‘the world’ and of power in that world and that is why it is so contested. To read and to write is simultaneously to dream, create and remember. It is to exist at the pinnacle of the eternal present, leavened with the joyous opium of artifice. Creative writing is a shambolic experiment, which like De Quincy’s mendacious textual promiscuity, cannot reliably be reproduced. In the past, we called the essence of this process, the Logos, daimonion, ‘God’ and gave it ninety-nine names. But as any court fool knows, the state of being is noisy, legion and porous and the textual delineation of that far greater part of the world which we cannot know necessitates the perpetual possibility of heresy – and that is what, at best, literatures in the current global age could aspire to be. Thank you.

Creative Writing Courses with Jason Filardi and Edward P. Jones

The application form for "Screenwriting" and "Fiction" has been slightly revised and can be accessed here. Copies are also available in Rome Hall 760.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A blog post you will without doubt not read to completion

We know that title sounds gloomy, but we also know what the economy is like right now. We know that the paragraph which follows is going to make you say "I wish" and then go back to reading more amusing websites than this one. YouTube has some pretty good election-inspired videos. What about that Tina Fey?

OK, for those still with us: we would like to ask you to make a donation, no matter how small, to the English Department at GW. We're undertaking our first ever annual drive, mainly to support endeavors we've started recently: residencies like those by the Scots-Asian polymath Suhayl Saadi and the Irish novelist Mary Morrisy; events around the spring residency of Edward P. Jones; a high profile series on Jewish American writers that will feature a visit to campus by Michael Chabon. We're asking you, in other words, to support our expanding ambitions at a time of financial contraction. We don't want to give up on giving our students, alumni, and faculty events like these, and more.

An easy way to donate is to use your credit card and go HERE. Please make sure you designate your gift to the ENGLISH DEPARTMENT or it will vanish into some science project like a nuclear reactor or a time machine instead.

You can also send a check directly to GW, and put "English Dept." on the memo line (mail to Advancement Services, George Washington University, Division of Development and Alumni Relations, ATTN: Gift Processing, 2100 M Street, NW Suite 310 Washington, DC 20052). Or your mom or dad or aunt or uncle or friend or lover or even a stranger you accost at this very moment can send a check to that address, or donate online.

And THANK YOU for thinking of us in very tough times. Your benevolence isn't the only reason we love you. But it really helps.

Yours sincerely,
The English Department at GW

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Call For Papers: Public Writing

Public Writing: A Cultural Studies Journal for Undergraduate Writers provides a lively and provocative online forum for undergraduate writers who are engaged in critique of contemporary, historical, public ideas.

Student writers from across the humanities and social sciences and around the world are invited to submit to Public Writing. A Public Writing submission may combine any of the following fields in an interdisciplinary manner: cultural theory, social theory, literary theory, cultural anthropology, linguistics, rhetoric studies, historical analysis, sociology, queer studies, disability studies, gender studies, philosophy or any other applicable field.

Public Writing’s open-access format allows writers to be exposed to a larger readership. The open-access movement in scholarly publishing provides a model whose essence is unlimited availability and use. As such, authors themselves—not publishers—retain copyright. Work published in Public Writing will be freely available on the Internet.

Submissions to this journal should be approximately 15-25 double-spaced pages in length. Please use MLA format only.

Please submit an electronic copy here, or by e-mail to public.writing@gmail.com. E-mailed submissions should also contain a separate document containing:

• Author’s name
• Title of manuscript
• Mailing address
• Affiliated institution
• E-mail address
• Phone number

All manuscripts that wish to be considered for Volume 1 must be submitted no later than January 1, 2009. Any manuscript received after this date will be considered for later volumes.

Public Writing is being published with the support of both the George Washington University and Gelman Library. The editorial group consists of students, faculty, and librarians from a number of universities and colleges. It is lead by Andrew Noel, junior major in American Studies from GWU, and Rachel Riedner, Assistant Professor of University Writing at GWU with the assistance of Cathy Eisenhower and Dolsy Smith from GW’s Gelman Library.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A suggestion to GW from the English Department Chair

This morning I sent the following email to Helen Cannaday-Saulny, GW's Assistant Vice President for Student Academic Support Services. I don't understand why every college campus in the United States but ours (oh and possibly Bob Jones University) is fringed by funky noncorporate coffee houses where students and faculty hang out together, go to poetry readings, hang out together ... Am I alone in thinking this?
Dear Helen Cannaday-Saulny,

I know from my own students that the new lounge at 2145 G Street is a cause for happiness: students have never had a very good place to hang out. I know the space is rather small, but a suggestion I'd make to consider in the future is that unlike most college campuses in the US, GW does not have a good independent coffee house with an arts vibe. Considering our student population, this is very odd indeed. Starbucks, popular as it is in Gelman, can't fulfill such a need.

It would be worth your while to check out Busboys and Poets. It's bigger, I know, than the G St space, but it has been so successful on V St that it now has two branches (NE and Arlington). Many of our students make the trek to 14th and V St to hang out there, and English Department faculty have been involved in some events there as well ... but it would be great to have such a place nearer to campus, something that brings some life and art to a coffeehouse culture close by.

Just a thought.

Jeffrey Cohen
Chair, Department of English

Jane Shore @ Gelman October 30

Come hear the inimitable Jane Shore discuss her latest book of poetry A Yes-or-No Answer (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)

Faculty Authors Book Signing Reception
October 30, 2008
10:00 am – 12:00 noon
The Gelman Library
Room 207

Click on the image to enlarge. All are welcome.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On "Literature in a Global Age"

The office of department chair yields much fodder for complaint: the hours can be long (yesterday I arrived on campus at 7:15 AM, and wasn't home until 9:00 PM), the paperwork an endurance test, personnel issues can mount, deadlines come like piranha schools and nibble your soul to its skeleton, the tiny aggravations can accumulate in the course of days and months.

Whatever. Readers of this blog have likely gleaned already that I'm not much given to complaint, that in fact I have very little tolerance for kvetch modes. I'd much rather be involved in affirmative projects with clear goals and tangible outcomes. I've enjoyed being chair of the English Department at GW. My three year term comes to a close this spring, and I am nostalgic in advance as its end looms. I hope that what I have called my Reign of Terror will in fact be remembered for attempts to build a lasting, convivial community that includes faculty, students, alumni, and the world outside this particular university. I leave it to my colleagues and our students and alumni to decide if I have been at all successful.

Last night I ran an event that gave me some hope that this community really has come into being. I put together a panel called Literature in a Global Age, and invited GW's faculty and undergraduates. We made a special effort to reach out to alumni as well, hoping to lure them back to see how energized and vibrant our English department remains. The event was not a celebration of globalism in literature, but an exploration of how scholars and creative writers analyze, meditate upon, and produce art that explores, reflects, deflects, critiques the culturally complicated time into which it is born. We had a wide ranging discussion of universals, humanism, particularities, posctcolonialism, neocolonialism, politcs, power ... and art. So many people registered for this event that we reached our capacity of sixty-five: who knew there was such an audience for professorial pontification? The only drawback is that we had so much to say on the panel, yet had not allocated sufficient time for discussion: convivial indeed, but all too brief.

As a medievalist, I feel I should add: the globalism panel was in many ways an extension into the present of work undertaken by medievalists. Sure, many of the panelists did not know this in advance ... but the Middle Ages were referenced repeatedly as having been reapproached as a time period not of local solitudes but of nomadism, world movement, cultural flow. Globalism as catalyst to change, creativity, discontent is one of the more obvious topics through which medievalists can enter into lively conversation with their colleagues in other time periods and disciplines.Globalism in its complexity is also an excellent way to break down the divide between what is scholarly and what is artistic.

At least, that's what I beheld my colleagues doing last night ... and extending the conversation to form a community that extends well beyond the faculty of an English Department. I don't think I've ever seen such a lively group attend one of our events. So, all hail convivial literary, artistic, and cultural studies. All hail.

[x-posted from In the Middle]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The English Department Thanks ...

Eric Alexander Brichto, a current student at GW, for his recent and generous donation. We're truly grateful that someone who is still paying university tuition would think enough of us to support our mission. Thanks, Eric!

Please stop by my office at your convenience and we can talk about that summa cum laude you asked to purchase...

Would You Like to Take a Course on Screenwriting with a Famous Hollywood Writer?

The English Department welcomes our alumnus, Jason Filardi ('93) back to campus in Spring 2009. A successful writer and producer now residing in Los Angeles, Jason has agreed to teach a course called "Screenwriting" (English 182.10) that will admit fifteen lucky undergraduates. The application form is here and can also be picked up in the English Department office.

Among Jason's credits (as writer, producer, or production polisher) are the films Life 4 Sale (in development), Beverly Hills Chihuahua, 17 Again, Topper, Cellmates, Wild Hogs, Eight Below, In the Navy, The Pacifier, Bringing Down the House, and Drum.

We welcome Jason upon his return to the English Department ... and know that many of this blog's readers will want to study with him while he relocates to DC just to teach this once in a lifetime course.

RSVP for "Touching the Past"

If you intend to attend the Touching the Past symposium (the inaugural event of the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute) on Friday November 7, would you let us know that you plan to come? You can email Lowell Duckert (lduckert@gwu.edu) or me (jjcohen@gwu.edu).

We'd like to ensure that our room is large enough and that we have enough cookies for everyone.

Thanks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Guess who is coming to campus on Monday March 23?


(and he will be introduced by Edward P. Jones, no less. Details to follow here)

Application for English 182 (Spring 2009): REVISED

We will have two very special versions of English 182 this coming spring. More information will follow here, but for the time being, here is the application. Applications may be submitted until the course roster has been completed, but we urge students to turn in their applications by Nov. 7 if at all possible. We hope to notify students by Nov. 14
-----------
Application for ENGL 182, Spring 2009 Date:

Name:

School: Major:

E-mail: Phone:


Choose one:

[ ] I am applying for SCREENWRITING with Jason Filardi.

Have you taken ENGL/TRDA 105W (Fundamentals of Dramatic Writing)? Yes / No

Please attach a statement explaining your interest in this course, and a writing sample (no more than 20 pp.) which would help establish your preparedness for this course.


[ ] I am applying for FICTION WRITING with Edward P. Jones.

Note that ENGL 81W is required, and 103W is strongly recommended as prerequisite for admission to this course.

Please attach a statement explaining your interest in this course, a list of creative writing and literature courses you have taken, and a sample of your fiction (no more than 20 pp.).


APPLICATIONS MUST INCLUDE A COMPLETED RTF.

Submit applications to the English Department (Rome 760).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Congratulations to Professor Kavita Daiya!


Congratulations to Professor Kavita Daiya, who has recently published her book Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender, and Postcolonial Nationalism in India. Professor Daiya answered a few questions for me about her book, which should be of great interest to students of many disciplines, not just English.

How did the research for Violent Belongings begin? Did the process of writing the book require extensive travel to India?

Violent Belongings happened because I was interested in why, suddenly, after so many years of being a cosmopolitan, secular community, Bombay in the 1990s was seeing increasing outbreaks of Hindu-Muslim communal violence. At the time, the Indian economy had started on the road to liberalization; yet, inspite of globalization, people seemed to me to be “turning back” into reclaiming non-secular investments. So I thought, why, even though we are becoming more globalized, are Indians also becoming more culturally invested in Hindu-Muslim ethnic identities? And why, unlike in the past, were Indian women becoming more politically involved in communal conflict? As I researched the issue, and the story of religious/ethnic identity in India, it became apparent to me that the British Partition of India in 1947 was a key moment, if I wanted to understand what was happening in contemporary Bombay and indeed India, with respect to secularism, ethnicity, gender and violent conflict.

The research for this book was done in the US, UK and India. Apart from the Chicago area libraries (I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago) I did archival research at the British Library in India over several summers, where I looked at anything and everything related to 1947 and India - official records, reports, newspapers, novels and memoirs. At the National Film Archive of India, I looked at Partition films and trade magazines from 1947-1960; at the Maharashtra State Government Archives, I looked at letters that individual Partition migrants – Hindu, Sikh, Jewish - wrote in 1947 to the Government of India, asking for help, and expressing anger at their imminent forced migration.

What led you to an academic interest in the Partition of India?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, while studying globalization and contemporary urban ethnic conflict in Bombay at Chicago, I became increasingly interested in the history of religious/ethnic identity in India. As I researched this more, I felt that the 1947 Partition was somehow a crucial part of the story. I didn’t know how exactly, but the facts were there: within a few months, the British decided to partition India before making it independent in 1947, ensuring the subsequent ethnic bloodbath as 2 million people were killed in Hindu-Sikh vs. Muslim violence. At this time, 16 million people forced to migrate between the newly created nations India and Pakistan, and this remains the world’s largest mass migration in under 9 months.

I started researching this stupendous moment of migration and violence: what exactly happened, how, how did people at the time make sense of it, how was it represented in literature, film, mass culture? How does it get talked about today in South Asian public culture, in postcolonial immigrant fiction and new Partition films in Bollywood? Most books on Indian history either start in 1947, or end at it; few focused on 1947 itself as more than a temporary “moment of insanity.” So I tried to understand what happened in 1947 itself – with migrants and refugees, with violence to male and female bodies, with new ideas about citizenship – through the study of cultural texts in the public sphere. Later, I discovered that there were other people like me who, at the same time, were also investigating Partition but from the social sciences -- Gyan Pandey, Urvashi Butalia, Ritu Menon, and Kamal Bhasin, to name a few.

How do the issues that you explore in the book play into the courses that you teach at GWU?

Well, my graduate and undergraduate courses dwell, in good measure, on questions about nationalism, imperialism, race and ethnicity, violence, and gender. They explore these questions through a combination of literature and film, and like the book, connect what is happening out there in Asia, Africa or the Caribbean to what is happening in Euro-American contexts. Also, like the book, they approach contemporary concerns by looking at them historically, connecting seemingly discontinuous events to think about current problems in new ways. So even if the course is not focused on South Asia, the issues that my book is passionate about – migration, violence, human rights, difference – dominate the courses I teach; most of these courses, because of the priority I give to questions about gender and sexuality from a feminist perspective, are cross-listed with GW’s Women’s Studies Program.

What are your current research pursuits?

I am currently on sabbatical in India, interviewing men and women here who are Partition survivors; we are fast losing that generation, and I am recording these interviews on digital video, to create an online archive of testimonies of the 1947 Partition experience at www.1947Partition.org. These interviews will also play a central role in my second book, currently in progress. The CCAS has been generous with helping me to fund this research.

To learn more about Professor Daiya's book, visit http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1958_reg.html

We wish Professor Daiya all the best in her future endeavors!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Application for English 81W (Intro Creative Writing)

In the spring semester a number of seats will be reserved in our Introduction to Creative Writing classes and awarded via application. The form is below, and can also be picked up in the English Department main office.
-----------------
Application for ENGL 81W Date:

Name:

School: Major (if any): Hours completed:

E-mail: Phone:

Choose one:

[ ] I am applying ON THE BASIS OF AN INTEREST IN PURSUING CREATIVE WRITING AS A FIELD. If you check this option, please provide a writing sample, up to 10 pp. (preferably but not necessarily a sample of poetry, prose fiction, creative nonfiction, or playwriting). Do NOT give us the only copy of your work! (Samples will not be returned.) Preference will be given to sophomores and freshmen who show achievement and promise as writers.

[ ] I am applying ON THE BASIS OF THE NEED TO GRADUATE. Do not check this option unless you can complete your undergraduate degree this next semester. Please supply a copy of a balance sheet, a statement from your academic advisor, or some other official document indicating that you need a course such as ENGL 81W either for the CCAS Creative and Performing Arts requirement or the University Writing in the Disciplines requirement.

[ ] I am applying ON THE BASIS OF SPECIFIC UNIVERSITY OBLIGATIONS. This is an option for athletes and others with similar University-mandated scheduling restraints. If you are in this situation, please submit pertinent documentation (such as a statement from the team coach).

We will accommodate as many students as possible, but we cannot guarantee a space to any student, regardless of the basis for the application.

APPLICATIONS MUST INCLUDE A COMPLETED RTF (INCLUDING THE COURSE WHICH WOULD BE DROPPED IF THE APPLICATION IS APPROVED).

Submit applications to the English Department (Rome 760).

Ann Romines lectures on Willa Cather in Quebec

Ann Romines writes of a recent trip to Quebec to address a prestigious gathering of scholars:

Novelist Willa Cather visited Quebec City for the first time in 1928, passing through on the way to her summer home on Grand Manan Island. When her companion, Edith Lewis, came down with the flu, their overnight stay stretched to two weeks. While Lewis recuperated, Cather roamed the steep stone streets of the old city, admiring the Norman architecture of houses, shops, churches, and convents and reading local history in the library of the Hotel Frontenac. When Lewis was recovered, and they left the city, Cather was already planning her Quebec novel, Shadows on the Rock. Published in 1931, and awarded the French Prix Femina, the book is set in 1699 and populated with such historical personages as Count Frontenac and Jeanne le Ber, the hermit nun of Montreal. At its center is “an orderly little French household,” where a young daughter keeps house for her apothecary father. The father longs to return to Paris, but his daughter Cecile is becoming an ardent Canadienne. Cather wrote, “really, a new society begins with the salad dressing more than with the destruction of Indian villages. Those people brought a kind of French culture there and somehow kept it alive on that rock, sheltered it and tended it and on occasion died for it, as if it really were a sacred fire.”

Shadows on the Rock traces a year in the ritualized life of Quebec City, at the borders of a great river and a great inland wilderness. In 2008, as Quebec City observed its 400th anniversary, the Anglophone community in this Francophone province celebrated its history with a colloquium devoted to Cather’s Quebec novel. Four American Cather scholars presented talks and joined in lively discussions and readings in English and French, as well as a walking tour of Cather’s Quebec. John Murphy of Brigham Young University spoke about “Cather’s ‘French stronghold’ and ‘goal of . . . fantastic dreams;’”; Robert Thacker of St. Lawrence University discussed “Frontenac’s Smile: Shadows on the Rock and the Beginnings of Quebecois Culture.” Guy Reynolds of the University of Nebraska spoke about “Permanence and Transmission: Cather’s Cultures,” and my topic was “A Girl’s City, a Girl’s Vocation: Cecile’s and Cather’s Quebec.” My talk explored the ways in which Cather included the often enclosed and confined lives of girls and women in the frontier intensity of early Quebec life, and I used a recently discovered unpublished manuscript chapter of Shadows on the Rock to show how the immigrant girl Cecile’s love of her new town became a passionate vocation, not unlike Willa Cather’s own powerful commitment to place, demonstrated throughout her fiction. Our talks led to nearly two hours of intense and lively discussion, and we American scholars learned much about how Cather’s novel resonates for present-day Quebecois readers.

It was a stimulating day for all of us, and an apt celebration of the enduring stone city that captured Willa Cather’s imagination in 1928. My thanks to the English Department for supporting my participation in this colloquium. And one bit of advice: if you are planning a trip to Quebec City, be sure to take along a copy of Shadows on the Rock!

-- Ann Romines

The four talks and walking tour from the Quebec City colloquium will be featured on the Willa Cather Foundation website, www.willacather.org.

Aravind Adiga wins Man Booker Prize


Aravind Adiga has been awarded the prestigious Man Booker prize for his debut novel The White Tiger. More information here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Creative Freedom Tour at GW

Looks like GW students can look forward to another great creative writing event! Click to Enlarge.

What would a fully funded doctoral program look like?

I've received a few emails about the post below, in which I suggested that the reason CCAS has difficulty retaining its doctoral students is simple economics: we do not support our PhD students with the same frequency or at the same level as the schools to which we compare ourselves. My experience is limited mainly to the English Department, but I believe that our situation may hold true for other departments.

So what would it take to make our doctoral program in English a nationally recognized, fully funded one that could compete -- say -- with Ivy League schools?

Not much, actually. We possess the faculty and archival resources already (the Folger, anyone? Library of Congress?). The quality of our applicants is high enough to support such an endeavor. What we lack, though, is a sufficient number of support packages. A modestly funded doctoral program requires, by my calculation, twenty-five support packages: five each for each of the five years it should take for a motivated student to attain the PhD. That means, in other words, that we could admit five students per year with full funding (tuition plus enough of a stipend to prevent the student from living in utter poverty -- something like $20K would be reasonable, considering the cost of living in DC). Twenty-five packages is roughly three times what we currently possess -- and is still far short of the 8-10 per year that many other universities award.

The English Department is in the unenviable position of possibly having no award packages to offer come this spring's admission season. To say that such a situation places us at a competitive disadvantage is to put things mildly. It's a pity: we have everything else in place here to have a world-class graduate program. The PhD students who are already enrolled are among our most revered teachers in undergraduate courses and sections (trust me on this; I read every course evaluation!)

Someday, I hope, we'll have the financial resources that match our actual ambitions.

Seeking a Creative Writer

(readers of the post below may recognize that this year we are seeking a replacement for Maxine Clair, who had the gall to retire on us last year. Maxine is, of course, irreplaceable ... but we will hope for the best).

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing


For appointment beginning in the fall of 2009, we seek a tenure track assistant professor. The position is open to a fiction writer, playwright, poet, or creative nonfiction writer who works with the African American experience, to join a thriving Creative Writing program in an English department with a strong cluster of African-American literature specialists. Through this appointment we seek to deepen our strengths in US literature and to bolster a college-wide emphasis on African American studies.

The successful candidate will teach in our all-undergraduate Creative Writing program; may teach literature courses, including in the graduate program; will advise students and perform other departmental and university service; and will continue to publish at a high level. The English Department of the George Washington University is a research-active community of scholars who prize excellence in teaching, service, and publication.

Basic Qualifications: MFA or PhD by August 1, 2009, and excellent teaching skill as evidenced by teaching assessments. Preferred Qualifications: Successful experience teaching Creative Writing and notable publications are preferred. Application Procedure: To be considered, please send a cover letter, sample of publications and curriculum vitae to Jeffrey Cohen, Chair, Department of English, George Washington University, Washington DC 20052. Only complete applications will be considered. Review of all applications will begin on November 17, 2008, and will continue until the position is filled. The George Washington University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tom Mallon in the New Yorker

Check out "Set in Stone: Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Memory" in this week's New Yorker (October 13 2008). A review of Looking for Lincoln, the essay is also a meditation upon "the first [president] with a psychology, a delicate mental makeup that suggested itself to anyone who saw his picture in a newspaper, let alone heard him on a platform." Mallon's description of Lincoln's only surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln, are especially poignant:
Robert had spent his early life seeking, and never truly winning, his father’s approval; after his father’s murder, six decades of mass sympathy and deference left him equally unsatisfied. He knew that he would never have been made Secretary of War or Ambassador to Great Britain without the Lincoln name, and his weird accidental presence at the assassinations of Garfield and McKinley, in 1881 and 1901, must have seemed a fateful punishment for refusing his father’s invitation to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. That night, Robert stayed home to study Spanish, just as he had chosen to remain upstairs in the White House the day his parents took lowbrow delight in an East Room reception for the newly wed Mr. and Mrs. Tom Thumb.
A novelist of international fame, Mallon teaches creative writing and literature here at GW. You can also see him at out Literature in a Global Age panel on October 22.

What do professors do with their sabbaticals?

If you are Margaret Soltan, among the projects you might undertake are blog posts that capture vividly the experience of being by the sea in the off-season. Between land and water is a philosophical verge. Professor Soltan captures her own moment of drift in prose passage that reads like poetry.

An excerpt:

Off-season, the sand is a library. Wordcombers space themselves along the shore, place blankets on their legs, and hunch over books. Fishermen page through magazines while tending their lines. Heads are bowed.

Of course the heads of gulls are bowed as they scan the breakers for fish, and when the dolphins leap their heads are bowed. The fool with the metal detector bows his head.

Everyone seems to be thinking hard, or praying. The water and the sky bleach out unnecessary words, leaving each beachgoer a simple mental plank on which can be read personal messages.

I look for written things - not sea glass bottles, but stones with black lines across them like sentences, and sentiments scratched into the sand with toes, and shells incised on castles in some sort of code.

GW Grad Student in the News

From today's Hatchet, PhD student John Figura:

This quest for answers has brought many students, such as English Ph.D. candidate John Figura, into doctoral programs despite the lack of any previous graduate credentials or work experience. Figura said he made the leap immediately following his undergraduate degree because of his decidedly clear career goals.

"I knew coming out of undergraduate school that I had a passion for literature and that my ultimate goal was to be a professor of English, and the only way to do that was to get a Ph.D," Figura said.

While this experience gap initially put Figura at a disadvantage, he said he soon caught up because he was "a quick study."

Yeah John! We are VERY happy to have you in the program.

The article is entitled Half do not complete CCAS Ph.D.s. Can I suggest an easy answer to that enigma? We are strapped for funding at the graduate level. If the English Department, like many of its competitors, were able to fund all of its PhD students, we'd not only have a very high completion rate ... we would have one of the best doctoral programs in literature in the United States. That statement is not hyperbole: we have the faculty, we have the willing students, we have a deep relationship with all kinds of other DC institutions like the Folger ... but what we lack is sufficient funding to attract and keep the very best students. We're very happy to have John Figura and the many others like him in our doctoral program: take it from me, you won't find better elsehere, and I have been to many elsewheres. But without more graduate student funding, the future of our own excellent graduate program is uncertain.

And you know, everyone benefits from very good PhD students being present at GW -- they are in fact among our udnergraduate majors' favorite people in the department, because they are truly partners in inquiry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Introducing Professor Vanashree Banerjee

Professor Vanashree Banerjee is currently with us at GW from the Department of English at Banaras Hindu University through a Fulbright Visiting Scholar Fellowship. Professor Banerjee is currently teaching one course, English 173.11, Modern and Contemporary Indian Drama. Before coming to GW, Professor Banerjee has been teaching for almost twenty-four years, and has been widely published in Indian and international journals. In addition to Postcolonialism and Indian Drama, Professor Banerjee has research and teaching interests in Anglo-American fiction, feminism, contemporary literarure in English, American Drama, Shakespeare, Post-Structuralist theory, and American Poetry. Professor Banerjee's latest book, co-edited with Sukbir Singh, Twentieth Century American Fiction: T.S. Eliot's Children (2006), is concerned with the ubiquitous presence of The Waste land in twentieth century fiction. The book contains eighteen essays by American and British writers and brings tothe fore the knowledge that American novelists have been continuously inspired by Eliot's innovative literary techniques. In addition to GWU and Banaras Hindu University, Professor Banerjee has taught at Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. We at the GW English blog welcome her to GW, and we look forward to seeing the contributions she will make to our intellectual community.

Attention Students and Alumni: READ THIS

If you have not registered for this event yet, you are just plain out of your mind.

Do I need to tell you how famous Tom Mallon is? How amazing Suhayl Saadi is? How renowned H. G. Carrillo is? How great Judith Plotz and Faye Moskowitz will be? If you are not attending this event and free dessert, we're dropping you from the English majors listserv. Heck, we're banning you from further coursework. And registration is looming.

And is you are an alumnus or alumna -- we are doing this event for you! If you do not come, we will offer you NOTHING in the future. NOTHING. Live with that.

Follow this link to register.

"Literature in a Global Age"
Panel Discussion and Dessert Reception
Featuring the Department of English and the British Council Writer in Residence Suhayl Saadi
Oct 22, 2008 6:30PM - 8:00PM ET
The George Washington University
Alumni House @ 1918 F Street, NW

Please join us for a panel discussion on "Literature in a Global Age," the past and future of writing in English. A panel of authors and critics will lead a lively discussion of literature familiar and new, exploring the art that happens when cultures meet -- and clash. The panel will feature faculty from the Department of English, as well as renowned Scots-Asian writer Suhayl Saadi, the 2008 GW-British Council Writer in Residence.

Advance registration is required. Event fees include the panel discussion and dessert reception.

PANELISTS

H. G. Carrillo teaches creative writing at GW. His debut novel, Losing My Espanish, is a literary tour de force. He is the author of many short stories as well.

Thomas Mallon is a world renowned novelist and critic. A resident of Foggy Bottom, he teaches creative writing at GW. His novels have been widely translated, and include: Fellow Travelers; Henry and Clara; Stolen Words, Dewey Defeats Truman; Mrs. Paine's Garage; Bandbox; and Arts and Sciences. He has also written for GQ, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and Harper's.

Faye Moskowitz is the former chair of the English Department, where she now teaches creative writing and Jewish American literature. Among her best known works are: Whoever Finds This: I Love You; And the Bridge is Love; and Peace in the House.

Judith Plotz teaches children's literature, nineteenth century literature, and postcolonial literature. She is one of the most beloved professors in the English department and former department chair. Her most recent book is Romanticism and the Vocation of Childhood.

Suhayl Saadi, a Scots-Asian novelist, is the author of Psychorag, a powerful account of a troubled Pakistani past set in contemporary Glasgow. A writer known for his rhythmic, inventive style, Saadi is the GW-British Council Writer in Residence. He is the author of many short stories, plays and a poems as well as this novel.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Suhayl Saadi in the City Paper

In the Washington City Paper blog Mark Athitakis writes:

As you may have heard, some smart guy who helps give out the Nobel Prize in literature recently said that Americans are simply too “insular” and possessed of a restricting “ignorance” to produce great writing. So we have much to learn from the arrival of Suhayl Saadi, who’s here for a month of readings and lectures at George Washington University. Saadi, who according to a press release is “known throughout the UK as the preeminent Scottish-Pakistani writer,” has received much acclaim for his 2004 debut novel, Psychoraag, which he’ll be reading from tonight. The book doesn’t have a U.S. publisher—we’re insular and ignorant, remember—but copies will be available for purchase at his D.C. readings and at the campus bookstore. Or you can just legally read the whole thing for free. Americans like free stuff.

Tonight’s reading from Psychoraag is at 8 p.m. in the City View Room, seventh floor of 1957 E St. NW. A second event, during while he’ll discuss “the role that memory, time, place, and multiple voices play in ‘destabilizing’ literature,” takes place Monday, Oct. 13, 8:15 p.m. in room B07 of the Media and Public Affairs Building at George Washington University.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cerebral Stimulation. Also, Dessert.

Feed your mind and body. See the English Department in action. Meet famous novelists. Learn about the future of literature. Eat something sweet. Mingle with students, faculty, alumni.

LITERATURE IN A GLOBAL AGE: PANEL DISCUSSION & RECEPTION
Featuring the British Council Writer in Residence Suhayl Saadi

“Literature in a Global Age” is about the past and future of writing in English. A panel of authors and critics will lead a lively discussion of literature familiar and new, exploring the art that happens when cultures meet -- and clash. Featuring Herman Carrillo, Thomas Mallon, Faye Moskowitz, Judith Plotz, and renowned Scots-Asian writer Suhayl Saadi.
Wednesday, October 22 | 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Alumni House @ 1918 F Street, NW
Washington, D.C.
More info and registration here. The event is free for undergraduates, a nominal charge for alumni and non-GW guests. If you don't attend you don't really belong here anyway and we will drop you from the major (current students) or "accidentally" misplace all your transcripts (alumni).

Suhayl Saadi Reads Tonight!


Please join us for the debut reading of our GW-British Council Writer in Residence, Suhayl Saadi. This FREE READING is at 8:00 PM at the George Washington University, 1957 E Street NW, between 19th and 20th Streets (City View Room, 7th Floor).

More information about Suhayl Saadi may be found here at the British Council website.

Gudelsky Awards for Student Travel to Israel 2008-09

The Judaic Studies Program at GW is pleased to announce that it will give awards of up to $2,000 each to 3 undergraduate students for travel to Israel in the 2008-09 academic year due to a generous grant from the Gudelsky Foundation. The awards will be given to students who demonstrate that travel to Israel will be used for research on a major academic project undertaken at GW, such as a term paper (15 pages or more) or a senior thesis, or projects in other media such as the visual arts. Research on such a project may involve, but is not limited to, such activities as attending a conference in Israel, making use of research-materials in Israeli libraries, or consulting with Israeli academics. Awards will not be given to help fund a semester in Israel. Travel to and from Israel must be completed before July 30, 2009.

Preference will be given to Judaic Studies majors and minors, but other students should not feel discouraged from applying. All serious applications will be considered.

Applications should include the following:
1. A completed application form. Forms can be found at www.gwu.edu/~judaic. Click on “Internships and Opportunities, Gudelsky Scholarships"
2. A three-page essay (double-spaced, 12-point font, one-inch margins) describing the project.
3. A letter of recommendation from a faculty member who will be overseeing the project.
4. A GW transcript (does not have to be official).
5. A one-page preliminary budget of expenses for the trip.

Students who are given awards will be required to write a brief report on their activities in Israel for the selection committee within two weeks of their return.

Applications are due December 1, 2008 in the Judaic Studies Office 2142 G St NW, or can be e-mailed to judaic@gwu.edu. We hope to give notification of the awards no later than December 15, 2008. If the pool of applicants is insufficient either in terms of numbers or the quality of the proposals, some of these awards may be available in the second semester as well. If there are any questions, please contact Prof. Robert Eisen 4-4780.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

From Alumni Relations

The Office of Alumni Relations launched the redesigned GW Alumni website. You can view the redesigned site at http://alumni.gwu.edu/index.cfm.

Alumni, please update your contact information: www.alumni.gwu.edu/update. And do not forget the following:

-- Free lifetime email accounts, powered by Google (http://alumni.gwu.edu/benefits/email/index.html)

-- Alumni Travel program 2009 destinations (http://alumni.gwu.edu/benefits/education/travel/index.html)

-- Alumni Course Audit program (http://alumni.gwu.edu/benefits/education/courseaudit/index.html)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stocks Fall Like Satellites, Auden Weighs In

Hi, again. It's me, Kirk.

Did you hear about this?! [Washington Post]
A grenade was found in Rock Creek Park this morning & removed by the army.
Hooray! Efficiency!

Like the Rock Creek's maintenance worker, Gayle Wald "[saw] something, [said] something: she linked us to this post on Will Ostrem's blog, Northern Light. The post highlights some lines from Auden's "Here on the cropped grass" which do that strange thing all good writing does: resound within and around an ever-widening ambit of pertinence.
I won't post the lines themselves or conjecture much more regarding them because Will Ostrem already has it covered, so read his post!

HIs post reminds me of Rod Smith's last poem in the last section [Homage to Homage to Robert Creeley] of his most recent book, Deed. Rod manages Bridge Street Books, a really great bookstore. It's the closest bookstore to campus!!
Here's the poem:
pour le CGT
We work too hard.
We're too tired
To fall in love.
Therefore we must
Overthrow the government.
Have a good day!


top image from http://www.stanford.edu/~njenkins/cgi-bin/auden/