Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jewish Lit Live Hosts Nicole Krauss

Interested in learning about the relationship between history and narrative creativity? -- Ever had the opportunity to meet an award-winning, international bestselling author at GW?

Come to Jewish Lit Live's Evening with author Nicole Krauss. Nicole Krauss is one of the most successful writers of Jewish-American literature. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, was a finalist for an LA Times Book Award. Her works, Great House and The History of Love, are international bestsellers. In 2010, The New Yorker named her one of the 20 best writers under 40.

Krauss's works have been translated into over 35 languages and she currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Don’t miss this unforgettable evening as Nicole Krauss discusses her life and writing.

***Thursday, March 1, Marvin Center Continental Ballroom @7pm***

~Jewish Literature Live is made possible by the generous support of David Bruce Smith. All of our events are FREE and open to the public~

- By JLL Intern Megan Moore

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

F Street House Reception Honora New Head of Folger Shakespeare Library

On Feb. 24, the English department cosponsored an event with the Office of the President honoring new Folger Shakespeare Library Director Michael Witmore, who assumed the position in July after the retirement of GW Prof. Emerita Gail Kern Paster. Pres. Knapp and Diane Knapp opened the F Street House to about three dozen invitees, including Jim Leach, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

After an introduction by Pres. Knapp and brief remarks from English Chair Gayle Wald, Witmore--the author of two monographs and many articles on Shakespeare and a former Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison--addressed the group, noting that one of his goals as Folger Director is to make the Library's resources available to as many people as possible. Programs such as the GW Folger Seminar, which allows GW undergraduates access to rare books and other manuscripts, is part of this vision.

Folger Director Michael Witmore
Witmore told the GW group that more than half of the world's population will encounter a Shakespeare text in some form in their lifetime. As one of the world's leading Shakespearian archives, he said, the Folger has unique opportunities and responsibilities.

We wish Witmore all the best in his tenure, and look forward to ongoing collaborations with the Folger.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Q & A With English Honors Alumni Darci Frinquelli

We English majors, like other GW undergraduates, are often concerned about our future career prospects and the worth of our degrees. GW alumna Darci Frinquelli helps us realize that we shouldn’t worry so much. After graduating in 2010 with honors in English, Frinquelli enrolled at NYU Law School, where she has applied the knowledge gained from her English coursework both in the classroom and in her social life. Though she’s “not entirely sure” what’s next for her, don’t worry--Frinquelli certainly has plenty of options.  

English Alumna Darci Frinquelli at the 2010 Commencement on the Ellipse

How has your English academic background helped you in law school?

First of all, a huge chunk of law school is simply getting the reading done and due to my time at GW I am certainly used to do doing a lot of reading outside of class. In addition to the reading, we do have a few writing assignments, including a 30-page "substantial writing" paper, and all of them include a great deal of research. I am more accustomed to writing these kinds of papers than classmates who majored in finance or the sciences. After writing a 70-page thesis, I am luckily not too daunted by the prospect of a 30-page paper. 

Lastly, almost every second-year law student works on a law journal and we spend most of our time proofreading articles and fixing footnotes so that they conform to the legal style guide. I have always been a bit of a grammar nerd and I can definitely say that this work is made substantially easier by all of the years I spent writing and editing both for my classes at GW and with the GW Review, which I can objectively say is the greatest literary journal this country has ever seen.

What is the most valuable skill/concept that you've learned from your undergraduate studies?

Definitely the ability to bring together a group of disparate works and find a common theme between them. The whole point of every law school course is to make connections between prior cases and the situation at hand. My courses at GW taught me to find parallels and analogies between texts as well as to explore a work's context to see how the author's place in history affected his writing. Cases, just like novels, are shaped by the era from which they emerge and are colored by the judges' private opinions. For instance the Supreme Court determined both Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education by looking to the Constitution, but the Court's interpretations of that document were greatly affected by the eras in which they were determined.

How else has your English degree helped you since graduating?

I do occasionally talk to people outside of law school and I find that my English degree is pretty useful in my social life and the outside world as well. Even though I don't often get to read for pleasure anymore, most of my non-English major friends who spent their college years immersed in textbooks which they no longer remember have a way to go before they will catch up with the number of literary classics I have read. This fact is very surprisingly useful for making general conversation, erudite allusions, and successful nights of pub trivia.

But ultimately I like to think that all of the reading I did in college has stayed with me now to make me a more well rounded person. All of those wonderful books I studied at GW have helped me to hone my own value set, see situations from a great deal of perspectives, explore contemporary texts with some background knowledge of the Western canon, and analogize to a Wharton novel when giving relationship advice or watching Downton Abbey.

What’s next for you?

I am not entirely sure--I am largely focusing on environmental law at NYU (American literature has always been my favorite and I blame the Transcendentalists for my choice) but I would also like to be involved with religious liberty work. I will be working at the EPA this summer and then I have another year of school. After that I'll hopefully be working in environmental law, perhaps with the government or an advocacy group.

Sorry, I can’t resist asking the most cliché English major question: What’s your favorite book?

The Great Gatsby. Almost every sentence in there could be a poem by itself. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


English alumna Magai Armallis-Tiseyra will be joining the faculty at the Univ. of Mississippi

.... to Magali Armillas-Tiseyra (BA '05), who is completing a PhD in Comparative Literature at New York University. Magali just landed a position as assistant professor at the University of Mississippi.

... to Prof. Holly Dugan, whose recent book The Ephemeral History of Perfume: Scent and Sense in Early Modern England (Johns Hopkins University Press) received an appreciative and laudatory brief review in the current Times Literary Supplement (Feb. 17, "In Brief," p. 26). The reviewer, Katharine Craik, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at Oxford Brookes University, concludes: "Together, Dugan's six early modern scentscapes challenge the assumption that early modern England was simply smellier than our deodorized present.  Full of surprising, colourful detail, The Ephemeral History of Perfume sheds new light on Renaissance bodies, environments, and the relationship between them forged by various kinds of 'stinking-gere'."

... to Prof. Thomas Mallon, whose new novel Watergate continues to garner rave reviews. Look for him to be reading from the novel March 2 at the National Press Club and March 3 at Politics and Prose bookstore.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Last Layer of Toni Morrison's 80th Birthday Cake

Prof. Evelyn Schreiber brought this cake to the department lounge today. It's one layer of a birthday cake made to celebrate Toni Morrison's 80th birthday at the Library of Congress last year. (This layer spent a year in Prof. Schreiber's freezer.)

Here is the cake in its original incarnation:

This layer represents Morrison's latest novel, A Mercy. It's also got a nice message from Evelyn.

Slices might still exist. Hurry now to the lounge for yours!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Two Upcoming GW MEMSI Events

GW MEMSI, the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, promotes and provides a venue for intellectual inquiry and debate for faculty and students. Headed by English Prof. Jeffrey Cohen, MEMSI sponsors a number of yearly events--including some geared toward the wider community of students and scholars. Here are two upcoming MEMSI events of particular interest:

Ecological Movement: A panel co-sponsored by the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute and the Program in Graduate Studies in English at GW
Friday, February 24, 2102
Rome 771, 5:30 p.m.

Speakers: Stacy Alaimo (University of Texas at Arlington)
Lowell Duckert (GWU)
Jennifer James (GWU)
Eileen Joy (Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville). 

More information about  speakers may is here.

Cultural Translations: Medieval / Early Modern / Postmodern: A GW MEMSI Symposium
9:30 am - 4:00 pm, Sunday, March 25, 2012
Location (on GW campus) TBA

Texts travel. Empires are lost and won, and stories are marred and rediscovered through cultural translation--the transformation of genres, manipulation of ideas, and linguistic translation. Cultural translation is one of the most significant modes of textual and cultural transmission from medieval to modern times. Estrangement and transnational cultural flows continue to define the afterlife of narratives. Translation, or translatio, signifying “the figure of transport," was a common rhetorical trope in early modern Europe that referred to the conveyance of ideas from one geo-cultural location to another, from one historical period to another, and from one artistic form to another.

Over the past decade "translation" as an expansive critical concept has greatly enriched literary and cultural studies. In response to these exciting new developments, this one-day symposium brings together leading scholars from the fields of medieval and early modern studies, history, film, English, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and comparative literary studies to engage in transhistorical and interdisciplinary explorations of post/colonial travel, globalization, and the transformation of texts, ideas, and genres.

Schedule: Sunday March 25, 2012
Venue: TBA
9:20 - 9:30 am Coffee and Tea
Chair: Jonathan Hsy (GW, English)
9:30-9:50 am Suzanne Conklin Akbari (Toronto, English and Medieval Studies): Translating the Past: World Literature in the Medieval Mediterranean
9:50-10:10 am Marcy Norton (GW, History): Parrots in Translation: The Amerindian Contribution to the European Pet
10:10-10:50 am Discussion
10:50-11:10 am Coffee

Early Modern
Chair: Lowell Duckert (GW, English)
11:10-11:30 am Barbara Fuchs (UCLA, English and Spanish & Portuguese): Return to Sender: "Hispanicizing" Cardenio
11:30-11:50 am Christina Lee (Princeton, Spanish & Portuguese): Imagining China in a Golden Age Spanish Epic
11:50 am -12:30 pm Discussion
12:30 - 1:30 pm Lunch

Chair: Alexa Huang (GW, English)
1:30 - 1:50 pm Peter Donaldson (MIT, Literature): The King's Speech: Shakespeare, Empire and Global Media
1:50 - 2:10 pm Margaret Litvin (Boston, Arabic and Comparative Literature): What Can Arab Shakespeares Teach the Field of World Literature?
2:10 - 2:50 pm Discussion
2:50 - 3:00 pm Coffee

Chair: Lynn Westwater (GW, Italian)
3:00 - 4:00 pm Roundtable on Cultural Translations
Suzanne Miller (GW, History)
Peter Donaldson (MIT)
Barbara Fuchs (UCLA)
Suzanne Conklin Akbari (Toronto)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

10 Things I Love About GW English

Thursday, February 9, 2012

GW Today on Tom Mallon's "Watergate"

The trompe-l'oeil cover of Tom Mallon's new novel.

GW Today published a lovely piece about Thomas Mallon's new novel Watergate, which also recently got a stellar review in Washingtonian. And more enthusiastic press is sure to follow.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nadia Kalman Reads Thursday Night in "Jewish Literature Live" Series

Novelist Nadia Kalman reads Thursday at 7 p.m.
Nadia Kalman, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, currently works with Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York City. 
Her first novel, The Cosmopolitans, won the Emerging Writer Award from Moment magazine and was a finalist for the Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature. Kalman also received a 2012 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Cosmopolitans tells the story of a Russian family living in the suburbs of America. Kalman's witty prose and vivid character descriptions keep the novel fresh and interesting with each short segment.
Kalman's reading is on Thursday, Feb. 9 in Marvin Center 308 at 7pm. Jewish Literature Live is made possible by David Bruce Smith and all of the events are free and open to the public.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Q&A with English Work-Study Student Elisa Valero

A couple of weeks ago, I received the following email:

"Dear Employers," it reads. "As we plan for National Student Employment Week (April 9 - 13, 2012) we'd like to hear what your office has done in the past to recognize your student employees. We'll organize and publish what we learn."

So ... in honor of National Student Employment Week, the GWEnglish blog offers a profile of work-study student Elisa Valero. (Previously, we featured work-study student Tori Kerr.)


English work-study student Elisa Valero
Elisa Valero, an English major/ history minor, originally hails from DC, although she grew up in Miami. She is currently enrolled in the English dual-degree program, which allows students to earn their MA in as little as one year (instead of the more typical two). Students who enroll in this program usually come from English Honors.

Did you know about National Student Employment Week? How do you feel about being recognized?

I had no idea there was a Student Employment Week, so I'm really surprised and pleased! It's really wonderful to be recognized as a part of the department and made to feel like the work I do is appreciated by my professors and fellow students. I guess I really feel like part of the team now.

What's the best thing about working in the English department?
Oh, definitely the company. We usually don't take ourselves too seriously in the English department. Every time I go into work I know I'm going to be laughing hysterically for a significant portion of the day. Everyone in the department is so sharp and witty, and it's great to get to joke around and learn so much at the same time. Getting to see my professors out of class and establish a less formal relationship with them has also made me appreciate their intelligence even more.

What's the oddest thing you've been asked to do or the oddest phone call you've answered?

I think the oddest thing I've been asked to do was go buy flowers. I walked into the office one morning last semester and the first thing I was asked, before I sat down or anything, was "How's your taste in flowers?" I was still waking up, so I was just like, "Am I hearing this right?" But as it turns out, the department wanted to congratulate a professor on an event she'd organized the night before, so I went on a little journey to pick out pretty flowers and bring them back. I was actually really nervous about it the whole time because I was terrified I would pick something I thought looked nice and return with them only to discover my taste in flowers was horrible and tacky, but they got a lot of compliments over the day, so I was feeling pretty smug that day.

On a more serious note: How does work-study fit into your experience at GW? What are your thoughts about affording college--not necessarily GW specifically, but private colleges and universities generally? Students elsewhere (in California, for example) have been protesting student debt. Are you and your friends also concerned about student debt?
Definitely. Because I am about to graduate, my debt is really weighing on me right now (I've been content to ignore the problem for the last three years). It's a big concern. I do think that student debt is a huge problem, like everything else economically right now, it's got to change or something is going to break. It's not fair that so many bright students are forced to spend decades of their lives paying off loans because they wanted the best possible education. I have been very lucky with GW, however. The financial aid I get from work study helps me save up a little for when the interest starts piling on my loans, and the tuition benefits I get from my father's time at GW helps a lot, as well.

Are there particular courses/professors/areas of literary or cultural study that you've particularly enjoyed at GW?

I took two Shakespeare classes with Professor Harris last year, and I think those were the ones that have stuck with me the most. He had a perfect balance between making classes absolutely brilliant and thought-provoking and making them hilarious and enjoyable, too. He pushed us to think so much harder, but he did it in a way where it didn't feel like work. He also always made us go a step further, and I definitely think a lot more critically now than I did before those classes. They are a huge part of why I am going to go on and do grad school in English next year.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Lounge Is Space for Students & Faculty

A student enjoying the new space.

Upon their return from winter break, English department students and faculty  were greeted with a new lounge designed by Interior Design MA students Elise Katzif Walker and Laura Van Biber.

Having never been to the previous lounge, and without any knowledge that there ever was one, I wasn’t sure where to begin looking for the new one once it was completed. So I ventured off to the Rome Hall assuming that it would be tucked away in an inconspicuous corner of the English Department. On my way through the hallways, I glanced into a room right outside the central office and said to myself, “Oh, that’s a nice room.” About 2 seconds later I realized it was the new department lounge. Needless to say, I was impressed to see what looked like one half of my ideal future studio apartment. 

The space combines a seemingly impossible mixture of mature and childish design elements fitting for both faculty members who are young at heart and students who are 21 going on 81, and everyone in between. Blue and green walls as well as small green and blue ottomans are married with white leather lounge chairs and a 1960’s inspired silver floor lamp, creating a middle ground in maturity reminiscent of a university environment. The homey vibe that results exudes comfort and ensures its utilitarian intent. This is not your typical lounge that you run into to get your coffee and run out as quickly as possible.

The chalkboard wall. Note new coffee maker. Coffee pods are $1 in the Main Office. Cheaper than Gelbucks!

By far the most exciting feature of the new lounge is the chalkboard wall where students can write down their favorite quotes or write notes to their favorite faculty members. Katzif and Van Biber have created a space that by all means should be as well-received and popular among students as it is among faculty. One thing is certain, however: I will be a frequent visitor. Come say hey.  

- Posted by Kevin Callahan