Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Introducing Steven Knapp Introducing Edward P Jones

[photo by Calder Stembel]

First, THANK YOU to all of our readers who attended the Edward P Jones Inaugural reading last Thursday.

The previous evening I had had a nightmare in which the only people in attendance at the event were me, Edward Jones, Steven Knapp, and the English department secretary. I imagined that President Knapp would be so angry he would yell "COOOHEN!" in that same voice that Superintendent Chalmers uses on Principal Skinner in "The Simpsons." You can imagine how relieved I was that the Jack Morton Auditorium was standing-room only ... and that the reading itself was so great.

Below you will find my introduction of the GW President. You will note that I refrained from calling him by his nicknames of "Knappybaby," "Steve-o," and "The Knappster," saving those for behind his back use.

Enjoy ... and again, thank you for participating in a great night for English.
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On behalf of my colleagues in the English Department, welcome. I am Jeffrey Cohen, the chair. I am so happy to have you join us tonight.

I am currently in the third year of leading the English Department. Shortly after I took office, we agreed on a mission statement that foregrounds our commitment to teaching and researching literature within as capacious a frame as possible. Thus my department boasts strengths in the diverse literatures of the British archipelago, and American literatures that include Jewish, Asian, and African-American. I believe that tonight’s event is intimately related to this mission, and am so grateful for the funding that made it possible.

I could not be more pleased than I am right now, standing on the same stage as Edward P Jones (who has been a terrific addition to the Department) …. and as Steven Knapp, whom it is my pleasure to introduce.

You might not know this, but president Knapp works for me. I’m the chair of English, he has a PhD in literature and so his tenure in my department … and therefore I actually run this university. (Though I haven't really been able to convince anyone else of that fact.)

I am grateful to President Knapp for four reasons:
  • For the fine job he has done in guiding this university. There is an intellectual energy on this campus that is infectious.
  • For being an exemplary humanities scholar, who has published books with obscure titles like Literary Interest: The Limits of Anti-formalism and Personification and the Sublime: Milton to Coleridge.
  • For making it clear that humanities research is just as exciting and as valuable a university investment as policy studies and science labs (GW is deeply connected to the Folger Shakespeare Library; my department has a long history of strengths in African American and non-majority literatures, as befits our Washington DC location)
  • For answering – once and for all – the eternal question “What you do with an English major anyway?”
It is my pleasure to present to you this evening literary scholar and university president Steven Knapp.

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