Monday, December 19, 2011

Prof. McRuer Makes a "Top-10 Most Provocative" List--of Books, That Is

Just in time for Christmas or Hanukkah: Sex and Disability, a collection of essays co-edited by Prof. Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow, a PhD student at UC Berkeley, will be published by Duke University Press on December 22. And it's already making Top 10 lists!

Here, DailyLoafing's Shawn Alff calls it one of the "10 most provocative books out this December."

According to the publisher,
The title of this collection of essays, Sex and Disability, unites two terms that the popular imagination often regards as incongruous. The major texts in sexuality studies, including queer theory, rarely mention disability, and foundational texts in disability studies do not discuss sex in much detail. What if "sex" and "disability" were understood as intimately related concepts? And what if disabled people were seen as both subjects and objects of a range of erotic desires and practices? These are among the questions that this collection's contributors engage. From multiple perspectives—including literary analysis, ethnography, and autobiography—they consider how sex and disability come together and how disabled people negotiate sex and sexual identities in ableist and heteronormative culture. Queering disability studies, while also expanding the purview of queer and sexuality studies, these essays shake up notions about who and what is sexy and sexualizable, what counts as sex, and what desire is. At the same time, they challenge conceptions of disability in the dominant culture, queer studies, and disability studies.

Contributors include Prof. McRuer and GW University Writing Professor Abby L. Wilkerson.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tom Mallon on Christopher Hitchens

A portrait by Jeff Singer. (Click through for more about the photographer's memory of the shoot.)

A year ago this week—at which point he’d been thinned by chemotherapy but not yet harrowed with radiation—a few of us sat with Christopher Hitchens around his dining-room table, trying to come up with a title for the essay collection he had scheduled for publication.  The question hovering over us, of course, was whether or not Hitch would still be here to see the book appear, but we set that aside and went merrily to work.  The evening proved inconclusive, and I can see from a search of my e-mail files that we were still at it the next day.  I wrote to him:

How about Persuasion?  It's what you've engaged in all your life.
It's got its Jane Austen echo--a certain ironic delicacy--and seems somehow to combine the political and literary sides of you.  It also seems to suggest the art involved in what you do (the gentle art of making enemies, etc.).  And it makes the book into a single entity, rather than a collection of items.

He wrote back, with one of our usual joke-salutations:

angelface and dream-rabbit,
this is thought, despite its near-uncanny percipience, to be just a shade genteel. can you continue to cudgel?

The collection appeared—and he was here to see it—as Arguably.  As titles go, it’s not bad, but when I consider it now, it seems faintly misleading.  It suggests arguments undertaken just because they can be made.  Hitch did love the pleasures of argument—why shouldn’t he?  he was argument’s Michael Jordan—but for all that, I never, not once, saw him argue a point merely to display his wit (incomparable) or to hear his own voice (soft and seductive).  His beliefs were always authentic, passionate, and wholly sincere; he regarded cynicism as the most boring form of naivete.

Our country and city have suffered a terrible loss.  Christopher Hitchens was a wonderful friend, a brave man, and (I can now hear him saying “if you insist”) a great soul.

This tribute was posted on National Review Online on December 17, 2011.

Friday, December 16, 2011

New Course on Asian American Cultural Studies for Spring 2012

Spring 2012 is the first semester in which English will be offering ENGL 3965, a new topics course in Asian American Cultural Studies. Next semester, Prof. Patty Chu--known to many majors as our Director of Undergraduate Advising (she probably signed you up for the major!)--will be teaching the inaugural course under this new rubric. 
As you'll see below, "Globalization and Its Discontents" has students reading works by a wide range of Asian American authors, from Korean American novelist Chang-Rae Lee to Iranian-French graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, whose award-winning book Persepolis, adopted as a 2007 Academy Award-winning animated film of the same name. Here's a fuller description:
English 3926.10 Globalization and Its Discontents: Asian American Cultural Studies
Tu-Th 2:20-3:30 (67249)

This course examines the cultural legacies of Asian North Americans from China, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, and the Philippines.  We’ll discuss race and identity, orientalism and neocolonialism in the U.S.; adopted, queer, and colonial subjects; trauma, memory, and racial melancholy; real and imaginary homelands; and the ongoing project of inventing Asian American literature.  Representative texts:  The Inheritance of Loss, M. Butterfly,  The Namesake, Native Speaker, Persepolis.  Fulfills the theory/culture studies or the minority/postcolonial requirement for the English major.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Jewish Literature Live" Authors Announced for 2012

Spring 2012 will mark the fourth iteration of Jewish Literature Live, the unique course in which students read the works by writers who then visit their classroom for an intimate discussion. As before, each author visiting campus will give a free public reading. 

This year, the inimitable Prof. Faye Moskowitz has assembled a line-up of writers that includes the author a 1965 bestseller (Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase) as well as younger writers of a 2010 novel about Russian-Jewish immigrants in Connecticut (Nadia Kalman's funny The Cosmopolitans).  

Mark your calendars now for these public readings, and check in to our department calendar for updates about the times and locations of talks. One again, Jewish Literature Live at GW is generously supported by English department alumnus David Bruce Smith.

Thursday, Jan 26, Aryeh Lev Stollman, author of The Far Euphrates

Thursday, Feb 9, Nadia Kalman, author of The Cosmopolitans

Thursday, March 1, Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love

Thursday, March 22, Pearl Abraham, author of The Romance Reader

Tuesday, April 10 Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying

Tuesday, April 24, Bel Kaufman, author of Up the Down Staircase

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"What does it do?": A Student's Tribute to His Professor

Recently we blogged about the news that may be a relatively reliable indication of students' assessments of their professors, contrary to what some of us thought.

Here is a teaching"assessment" of the old-fashioned sort. The subject is Assistant Prof. H.G. Carrillo. The author is senior Joe Mancinik, who officially closes out this semester as student blogger.

On any given afternoon turn a corner on the seventh floor of Rome Hall and you'll probably hear the question, at once so terrifying to creative writing majors everywhere, pronounced with a heavy emphasis on the last syllable, "What does it do?" Now, granted, you may not know what "it" is, or what it might be doing (it is probably not doing much), but you will have the feeling that it needs to do much more; and you would be right.

If you happen to turn that corner and peak into the office from which this terrifying verb is emanating you'll likely see a shivering form seated in a chair in the center of the room. Fingernails digging into the chair's arms, the figure dodges books flung from shelves upon which they were formerly clinging. A man is seated at a computer shoved against the wall. His desk is overflowing with books steepled in the center, making librarians everywhere cringe. Wearing blue jeans, a long-sleeve white shirt, and impeccably-shined black boots, the man is thumbing through a sheaf of papers. Like cigarette ash the leftover pages drift to the floor. Pay attention; blink a few times. Be a good observer, as Ernest Hemingway once admonished. For amidst this swirling elixir of agony, books, and manuscripts magic is occurring. To have sat in this chair, as the author has on many occasions, leaves one panting both in exasperation and anticipation, as the man digresses from comments on the style of Swann's Way, a viral video on YouTube, the role of the paragraph break in narrative, the brilliance of John Updike, the charm of Flannery O'Connor's racist characters, and the latest episode of Glee. Topics to be avoided are the works of Jane Austen, paragraph breaks in the narrative, and the latest episode of Glee

The man, of course, is Professor Hache (pronounced as "H" in Spanish) Carrillo. What he asks of young writers that is at first so dreaded to the novice is the most important question for all of us: What is your story doing? How is your story working within the framework you have created? Creation, that is what he is asking of his tutelage. Wilted roses mean something much more to him if that is the image the writer decides upon. Books are not flung from his shelves in anger. They are maps. Find your way. Have a voice! As with all the most magical teachers he gives very few few guided suggestions. And he is a magician. And a teacher. And a writer, escritor. (To see how these multiple forms can exist--teacher, writer, language--in one form, within, read Hache's beautiful debut novel Loosing My Espanish)

Laughing with fellow author Terry McMillan
So come prepared to defend your work. He asks nothing less. I could dwell on the number of times he has said that one word, that one phrase (The work is bigger than us, he says softly, as I hold the phone between my legs watching the little red slivers break out on my knuckles), which turned me back from whatever abyss I was staring into. It is not exaggeration to say that he has taught me everything I know about writing, by first teaching me everything that I didn't know. Did I do all of this for nothing? he recalls of his own formative experiences as a writer, but the message is unmistakable.

So how can I ever describe my teacher, my friend, my inspiration? What does it do? 

I just did.

- By Joe Mancink

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dec. 8 Reading by Randall Kenan to Conclude Fall Jenny McKean Moore Series

Writer Randall Kenan

Join the English Department in welcoming Randall Kenan, the last speaker in this fall's Jenny McKean Moore readings series. Kenan will read from his work on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Marvin Center, Room 310. 

Kenan’s fiction includes the novel A VISITATION OF SPIRITS and the short-story collection LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR DEAD.  He is also the author of several works of nonfiction.  A highly decorate writer, Kenan is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the John Dos Passos Award, and was the 1997 Rome Prize winner from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2005.

Kenan is Associate Professor of English at UNC, Chapel Hill. His reading is free and open to the public.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jane Shore Has a Perfect RMP Score!

RateMyProfessors can be a delicate subject for faculty members, who often mistrust and fear it the way business owners mistrust and fear Yelp! ("The food was awesome!" "The food was inedible!" "Awesome!" "Inedible!").

But according to an interesting piece in The Hatchet, the site ranking system seems to produce results that roughly mesh with evaluations conducted the old-fashioned way. Except, of course, for the chili peppers, which are a RateMyProfessors hallmark.

We know that RateMyProfessors has is getting something right, though, because as the Hatchet piece reveals, Jane Shore has perfect scores on the site! By my wholly non-scientific reckoning, this either means that:

1. Jane Shore's students love her.
2. Jane Shore's students feel passionately enough about her teaching to go to RateMyProfessor.
3. All of the above.

If you're an English major, do you use RMP to record your thoughts about English courses? To award chili peppers? Do you trust RMP as a guide to choosing courses from semester to semester?