Monday, November 21, 2011

Creative Writing Presents Its Annual Fall Student Reading

T. S. Eliot grabs the open mic to read
the swingin’est “Waste Land” ever

Lenthall House (606 21st Street, b/t F&G) 
Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Refreshments will be served. 

Sign up for a slot (5 mins.) on the sheet in the English department office (Rome 760).  Poets, prose writers, dramatists, screenwriters all welcome!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Tempest" Debate: A Guest Post by English Major Tori Kerr

With the Republican debates taking up most of media’s attention in the month of November,  it seems fitting that GW should have its own debate—only,  this one wasn’t political. Students from both Prof. Holly Dugan’s and Alexa Huang’s Shakespeare classes took to the stage in a debate concerning the protagonist of The Tempest—the topic was: “Resolved that Prospero genuinely pardons his foes and is a model of true forgiveness and reconciliation.”  Does he truly forgive his enemies or is it all an act? Four students from each class formed arguments complete with opening statements,  rebuttals,  and closing remarks. 

I entered the event with my own opinion,  which was that Prospero was certainly no model for forgiveness. I must admit,  however,  that the negative team had an advantage in the wording of the prompt: can a debator argue that any person,  not only Prospero,  is a model of “true” forgiveness?  As the negative team pointed out,  that would be like arguing that Prospero is Christlike; even on the cross,  Jesus pardoned his enemies.  It was this tricky word “true” that the negative team utilized in order to formulate their arugment.  

I knew the debate would get heated among the participants,  but I didn’t expect to feel so excited just as an audience member. The argument quickly transformed from animated to passionate and then to fiery.  Members of the opposing teams talked over each other,  threw out sassy rebuttals and even waved fingers in the air to punctuate their speeches. While this sort of frenzy might not be acceptable for the GW Mock Trial team,  state courtrooms,  or the Republican presidential candidates,  it made for a surprisingly exciting debate on The Tempest. I didn’t expect to enjoy the debate as much as I did.  The debators’ energy clearly showed that Shakespeare’s plays were not written for only 16th century audiences—his themes are timeless. Revenge and forgiveness are topics for debate that will endure as long as humans (and politcal campaigns) do.

Graduate Teaching Assistant Molly Lewis for Prof. Huang's class was also impressed by both teams' performance. She wrote: 

"The impassioned debaters were allowed an opening and an additional statement (both followed by cross examinations by the opposing team), as well as a rebuttal at the end of the debate. These vibrant “back and forth”s elicited strong reactions from their audience members, who eventually had to vote for which debate team they agreed with. In the end, though, many actually abstained from voting, a true testament to how well both debate teams performed."
- Tori Kerr

Books by GW PhDs

Congratulations to Joseph Fisher and Brian Flota on the publication of their co-edited volume The Politics of Post-9/11 Music, which will be available next month from Ashgate.
Seeking to extend discussions of 9/11 music beyond the acts typically associated with the September 11th attacks - U2, Toby Keith, The Dixie Chicks, Bruce Springsteen - this collection interrogates the politics of a variety of post-9/11 music scenes. Contributors add an aural dimension to what has been a visual conceptualization of this important moment in US history by articulating the role that lesser-known contemporary musicians have played - or have refused to play - in constructing a politics of protest in direct response to the trauma inflicted that day. Encouraging new conceptualizations of what constitutes "political music", "The Politics of 9/11 Music" covers topics as diverse as the rise of Internet music distribution, Christian punk rock, rap music in the Obama era, and nostalgia for 1960s political activism.
Joe is currently a Learning Specialist with Disability Support Services at GW; Brian is Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University.

Also recently out from Ashgate: Law, Literature, and the Transmission of Culture in English 1837-1925 by Cathrine O. Frank, which originated as a PhD thesis under the direction of Prof. Jennifer Green-Lewis. Cathrine is Associate Professor, Department of English and Language Studies, at the University of New England.

Focusing on the last will and testament as a legal, literary, and cultural document, Cathrine O. Frank examines fiction of the Victorian and Edwardian eras alongside actual wills, legal manuals relating to their creation, case law regarding their administration, and contemporary accounts of 'curious wills' in periodicals. Her study begins with the Wills Act of 1837 and poses two basic questions: What picture of Victorian culture and personal subjectivity emerges from competing legal and literary narratives about the will, and how does the shift from realist to modernist representations of the will accentuate a growing divergence between law and literature? Frank's examination of works by Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope, Samuel Butler, Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy, and E.M. Forster reveals the shared rhetorical and cultural significance of the will in law and literature while also highlighting the competition between these discourses to structure a social order that emphasized self-determinism yet viewed individuals in relationship to the broader community. Her study contributes to our knowledge of the cultural significance of Victorian wills and creates intellectual bridges between the Victorian and Edwardian periods that will interest scholars from a variety of disciplines who are concerned with the laws, literature, and history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"And the Bridge Is Love" and More Books

Faye Moskowitz at Politics and Prose on Nov. 13.

Prof. Faye Moskowitz's reading tonight from the recent re-issue of her collection And the Bridge Is Love (Feminist Press) was a huge success. Not only did Faye get a standing-room-only crowd at Politics and Prose, but the store sold every copy of Bridge in stock. Faye read her wonderful piece about a Michigan family seder disrupted  by the smell of something burning. GW English was well represented, with faculty as well as current and former students in attendance. 

Recent books by English faculty on display at the Celebration of Scholarship Nov. 11

The photo above is of the display at last Friday's CCAS Celebration of Scholarship. Pictured here are recent works by Patrick Cook, GW President Steven Knapp (The Predicament of Belief), Tara Wallace, Chris Sten, Alexa Huang, Evelyn Schreiber, Thomas Mallon, Jonathan Gil Harris, and Holly Dugan.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shakespeare @GW English

Friends of GW English know that our community is collegial; what you might not have known is that we also have lots of drama in Rome Hall.

ACT I. Collaboration is a wonderful thing

The Shakespearean International Yearbook Volume 11: Special issue: Placing Michael Neill. Issues of Place in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture is now out. The special issue is edited by GW English professors Jonathan Gil Harris and Alexa Huang, and Tom Bishop (University of Auckland, New Zealand), and Graham Bradshaw (who has retired).


ACT II. Students Debate The Tempest

Last night (Thursday, Nov. 11) Shakespeare students from two teams culled from Prof. Huang's and Prof. Dugan's classes came to rhetorical blows over the following:
Resolved that Prospero genuinely pardons his foes and is a model of true forgiveness and reconciliation.

We eagerly await news of the outcome.

ACT III. We set Anonymous straight
Graduate students in English and students in Prof. Huang's and Prof. Dugan's Shakespeare classes were treated to a pre-release screening of Roland Emmerich's controversial new film Anonymous on Oct. 25 at the Regal Theatre Gallery Place in downtown DC. "Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England," the film--with Shakespearean actor Derek Jacobi in the prologue--proposes that the Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere was the author of Shakespeare's plays. Along the way, the film dramatizes "cloak-and-dagger political intrigue, illicit romances in the Royal Court, and the schemes of greedy nobles hungry for the power of the throne were exposed in the most unlikely of places: the London stage." 

As a follow-up, on Nov. 3, students enjoyed a roundtable to discuss the propaganda machine set in action by the film. In attendance were graduate and undergraduate students in English, and Profs. Hsy, Huang, and Dugan. Among the topics discussed were the social expectations and resistance of "geniuses," Hollywood's penchant for "conspiracy" and scandals, and--most importantly--how to set historical facts straight. 

Anonymous calls to mind such films as Miloš Forman and Peter Shaffer's Amadeus. But there is one thing even undergraduates and non-specialist audiences do not buy. The film presented a very unconvincing picture of literary production. In the whole of early modern England, no one other than the Earl could write good poetry,  and "Shakespeare," Jonson,  and Marlowe stumbled over one another to beg (or threaten as the case may be) de Vere for an uninterrupted supply of manuscripts (which acts peculiarly as drugs). The film also misled the audience to assume that no other companies or performance venues mattered in Shakespeare's time. 

The good thing that can come from "Anonymous" is that it can lead people to the real tour-de-force that is James Shapiro's fine book Contested Will, Records of Early English Drama,  Early Modern London Theatres online,  and other vetted sources for further study.

ACT IV: The Korean Tempest

Renowned Korean director and playwright OH Tae-suk visited GW on Nov. 4 to talk about his film version of The Tempest.  Oh's Tempest won the prestigious Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh International Festival this year (August 2011). 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Gay Bombay" Talk Today

Flying High Like a Disco Jalebi: Gay Bombay and Beyond, a talk and reading

Parmesh Shahani, TED and MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow, and author of "Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)Longing in Contemporary India" (2008)

Tuesday, November 8,  2-3.30 pm  Rome Hall 771 (801 22nd St. NW)

Parmesh Shahani is not your usual academic. He runs a newly formed corporate funded ideas lab that examines the nature of modernity in contemporary India. He also has a parallel life in which he travels all over India as Editor at Large for Verve, India’s leading fashion and lifestyle magazine, and tops lists like 2010 CNN list of “Mumbai’s coolest queers”. In his talk (accompanied by feature and documentary film clips), Parmesh will reflect on the changes taking place on the ground for LBGT people in India, set against the context of the larger national changes that the country is going through. Drawing on his ethnographic research within an online-offline gay community in the city of Bombay, Parmesh will mull over questions of identity, community and the national imagination. He will also read excerpts from his book.

Co-sponsored by GW's English Department and Women's Studies Program.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lounge news (what else?)

To decorate our new lounge space, English has partnered with Project George's Laura Van Biber and Elise Walker (both MFA candidates in Interior Design at GW). Here's the plan they proposed. It includes seating for 7 people. Laura and Elise also helped us pick out durable, attractive, and inexpensive furniture that will add a bit of color and make the room a bit less institutional. Highlights: wall lighting, a floor lamp, and colorful accent chairs that double as table space.

Furniture, including a new refrigerator for storing lunches, should be arriving next week.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Evil" Inspires (When Taught by Prof. Carrillo)

Had you taken Prof. Carrillo's class on "Evil," you, too, could have written about Marilyn Manson.

 For this post, I'll just quote at length from GW student Ali Peters, writing in Monday's Hatchet:
It began with Marilyn Manson. One of my first college assignments was to dissect the lyrics to “The Beautiful People.”
For a kid coming from a suburban high school where slapstick poet Billy Collins and artist Salvador Dalí were considered controversial, Manson’s “The Beautiful People” brought education to a whole new level. I was completely out of my league.
Filing through YouTube videos of zombies, women in lacy straight jackets and dental torture devices, I began to wonder: Was this professor serious? It was the first time I had ever heard of shock rock, and as it was chock-full of cryptic one-liners like, “Hate every motherfucker that’s in your way.” I was definitely shocked.
The class was called “Evil.” Looking back, it’s not surprising that the simple, one-word nomenclature in itself prompted so many eager students to register for the course. The professor asked us to call him by his first name, so Hache quickly became the subject of my weekly phone calls home. Evil is where I was introduced to what would be a never-ending slew of ‘ism’s, like Panopticism and other concepts I had never encountered before. Every class was an adventure, whether we were picking apart Manson or debating post-Columbine massacre literature. I was excited and challenged. I finally felt like I had arrived. I was in college.
High praise indeed for Prof. H.G. Carrillo, affectionately known to students by his first initial. Students considering their spring schedules should consider Prof. Carrillo's ENGL 1310, "Critical Readings in English," a course that will focus on the short story and on techniques of literary analysis. The course will be held Mondays and Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.