Tuesday, July 9, 2013

GW English Alums on the Move: LTJG Courtney Wang, "English Gives You a Disciplined Imagination"

Courtney Wang (BA, '07),
second from left
Lieutenant Junior Grade Courtney Wang, US Navy, has been deployed to conduct counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and in the Somali Basin; her work as a Surface Warfare Officer has taught her how to drive and fight warships and has taken her all over the world.  Now stationed in San Diego during her ship's extended maintenance period, Courtney reflected recently on her English major at GW (she graduated in 2007) and its connection to her 2011 Navy commission.

  "On his blog, Professor Jeffrey Cohen once wrote about how English is one of the few intellectual subjects whose pursuit is pure understanding, like philosophy or math.  English for me was about learning how to appreciate beauty.  And in some respects, my pull toward the Navy had similar motives.  As a child, I read Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea countless times, and I was drawn to naval poetry like 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.' The Navy appealed to me as an aesthete and a romantic scientist:  it is the art of ship driving, and the science of naval warfare.  I'm a mariner now."

  Courtney's academic background in English has also helped her adjust to the enormous government organization of which she's now part.  "The scope and depth of the Navy's missions and chasmic obstacles can be unfathomably difficult to plumb sometimes," she says, "but the English major gives you the long perspective that enables you to be part of real change.  English gives you a disciplined imagination which lets you think with long hard determination about all kinds of problems, macro and micro.  English also trains you in subtext, and there are subtexts everywhere in the Navy."

  There are more immediate advantages to Courtney's English major as well.  "My writing skills have been put to work by people many ranks above me."

Friday, July 5, 2013

GW English Alums on the Move: Ryan Cordell: From Scroll to Scroll

Photo Credit:
Brooks Canaday/Northeastern University
Ryan Cordell graduated from GW in 2004 and went on to the University of Virginia for graduate school in English.  His interest in the digital humanities brought him to his current position, Assistant Professor of English at Boston's Northeastern University, where he and various colleagues just won a grant from the NEH Office of Digital Humanities to use computational linguistics to trace the reprinting of poetry and short stories in nineteenth century American newspapers.

As a Northeastern news article about Ryan's work explains:

By scan­ning enor­mous data sets of dig­i­tized infor­ma­tion, researchers can now iden­tify rep­e­ti­tion in the global con­ver­sa­tion, uncov­ering the fea­tures of media ranging from viral videos to out­ra­geously pop­ular blog posts.

Part of the core faculty of the NU Lab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, Ryan is interested in the technologies of all texts, from the oldest to the newest -- or, as he puts it, from "scroll to scroll."

We're thrilled that Ryan has already begun to distinguish himself as a cutting-edge theorist of the production and dissemination of literary texts, and we look forward to following his work as one of the important new voices in the emerging field of digital humanities.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

150 Scholars Gather for "Melville and Whitman in Washington: The Civil War Years and After,” June 4-7, 2013

Abraham Lincoln's 1861 Inauguration
Library of Congress - Civil War photos - Item 96511712
More than 150 scholars and students from a dozen countries assembled last month on the George Washington University campus for the Melville Society’s Ninth International Conference, focusing on the Civil War poetry of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, two giants of the nineteenth century who traveled to Washington, witnessed the war, and wrote about the trauma of the American nation in conflict.  Sponsored by the Melville Society, the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman, the English and History Departments, the University Writing Program, as well as the Mickle Street Review at Rutgers University-Camden, and the Literature Section at MIT, the conference was timed to coincide with the ongoing Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War (1861-1865).   The conference featured plenary talks by internationally recognized Melville and Whitman scholars, Elizabeth Renker (Ohio State University), Ed Folsom (University of Iowa), Kenneth Price (University of Nebraska), and John Bryant (Hofstra University), and the work of nearly a hundred other experts, teachers, and graduate students writing on a wide variety of topics related to the Civil War, including slavery, race, and trauma; nationalism, division, and union; hospitals and military medicine; gender and class, women of the war; sexuality, bodies, and the wounds of war; mourning and memory; and such important historical figures as Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson.  Participants were treated to a gala opening night reception hosted by Dean Peg Barratt; a special showing of Walt Whitman manuscripts and memorabilia at the Library of Congress; an art exhibit at the Luther Brady Art Gallery featuring contemporary art by Matt Kish and Douglas Paisley inspired by the writings of Melville and Whitman; a walking tour of Walt Whitman’s Washington; and a concluding banquet and choral program based on poems by the two authors at the nearby Arts Club of Washington.  GW organizers of the conference included Joe Fruscione, a GW Ph.D. currently teaching in the University Writing Program, and Christopher Sten, Professor of English and American Literature and a former President of the Melville Society.