Thursday, September 26, 2013

Michael Bérubé in Residence at GW as Wang Distinguished Professor

Professor Michael Bérubé
From October 25-30, GW's English Department is pleased to host Professor Michael Bérubé as this year's Wang Distinguished Professor-in-Residence.  Michael Bérubé is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of seven books to date, including Public Access:  Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics (Verso, 1994); Life As We Know It:  A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child (Pantheon, 1996; paper, Vintage, 1998); and What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?  Classroom Politics and “ Bias” in Higher Education (W. W. Norton, 2006). Life As We Know It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 1996 and was chosen as one of the best books of the year (on a list of seven) by Maureen Corrigan of National Public Radio. He is also the editor of The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies (Blackwell, 2004) and, with Cary Nelson, of Higher Education Under Fire: Politics, Economics, and the Crisis of the Humanities (Routledge, 1995). He is the immediate past president of the Modern Language Association.

This visiting residency was created through a gift by Albert Wang and his family that has, since 2009, supported professors such as Edward P. Jones (now a member of the GW English Department) and José Esteban Muñoz.  The gift from the Wang family is one of the largest philanthropic commitments to GW's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences' Department of English.

Bérubé Residency Schedule of Events (events are free and open to the public)

Friday, October 25, 3 PM, Rome Hall 771:

Respondent: The Canon Anew (a GW MEMSI event, description below).

Monday, October 28, 6:10-8:10 PM, Rome Hall 771:

Seminar for Students and Faculty with Michael Bérubé.  Readings for this event are available, although seating is limited.  Please RSVP to Robert McRuer at to be placed on the list for this seminar.

Tuesday, October 29, 5:30 PM, Marvin Center 402-404:

GW Distinguished Lecture in Literary and Cultural Studies: "Narrative and Intellectual Disability."

Professor Bérubé asks what happens when characters with intellectual disabilities appear in fictions that experiment with the parameters of fiction.  Ranging from Don Quixote to Philip K. Dick's 1964 novel Martian Time-SlipBérubé suggests that intellectual disability takes many textual forms, opening onto the question of how we understand the difference between fact and fiction, and onto the experience of radically disorienting modes of time and narrative.


"The Canon Anew" on October 25 is a GW MEMSI event featuring GW English's own Ayanna Thompson and Cord Whitaker of the University of New Hampshire.  Michael Bérubé will begin his residency with us by responding to their presentations.

The canon wars were resolved in part by incorporating more authors and works within what is taught in literature departments as well as expanding the focus of journals and book series (and inventing many new forums). Surprisingly, however, two long revered figures continue to loom over "post-canonical" English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. Both have professional societies, journals, and a significant publishing industry behind them. Both have become something of an anomaly in progressive English departments: single author courses in an age that has mainly given up on narratives of Great Men and singular genius. This forum asks in what new ways we can approach über-canonical literature and authors, acknowledging the problems of such traditional and intense focus as well as the investigating the opportunities such endeavors yield.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

GW English Alums on the Move: Sarah Kuczynski Gets Mellon Fellowship

Recent English department grad Sarah Kuczynski, who has just started a PhD program in English at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, has been selected for a Mellon Fellowship there.  It provides a service-free first year and a service-free fifth year for dissertation writing with a stipend of $15, 200. In years two through four,  Sarah will teach one class a semester and receive the normal stipend given to teaching fellows, with an additional $7, 000 dollars per summer to conduct research.  

She's stoked:
I have always had travel/research fantasies, but since I received word that I would be receiving the Mellon Fellowship, I can say that those fantasies transformed into plans. This November, I may travel to the American Studies Association meeting in Washington (in which case I would visit GWU) because several members of my class--and my professor--have decided to make a trip there. During the research for my [GW] honors thesis, I became intent on visiting the Yvor Winters archive at Stanford because there is some evidence that Winters taught the Puritan poet Philip Pain (with whom my thesis was concerned) in his poetry seminar. Winters is also just an extremely interesting person and I think reading through his correspondence and annotated mimeographs of his syllabi and his class notes would be extremely interesting and rewarding. Like the Puritan poet Pain, Winters has been stereotyped in many ways --he was, of course, eccentric and did things like tote a full-size harpoon to teach his class on Melville’s Moby Dick--that I believe diminish the power of some of the conclusions he came to as a critic. The Massachusetts Historical Society has open archives, so a trip to Boston might be a good idea. Although this may seem tangential, I would love to visit the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies.  I believe her archive and Peter Conradi’s papers are all housed at Kingston University and I have always found her philosophical writing really powerful. I also have some undeveloped plans to find out more about the printer Marmaduke Johnson, who published Pain’s poetry, so maybe, travel would be involved in that. It is good that I have a year to think through all of this.

What about the experience of graduate school in particular?

In my undergraduate study, it always felt as though I wanted to go even deeper and read even more into the history and criticism of any given text, but there was always the pressure of general course requirements and science labs to attend. Graduate school strikes me as an institutionalized version of that impulse I had in undergrad; indeed, the impulse I had to read more and more deeply and to spend sustained time with a text is, much to my enjoyment, the very business of graduate education in English. 

And Chapel Hill? 

After living on L Street in D.C., it is hard not to relish the almost absolute silence that envelops my apartment in Chapel Hill during the day; nevertheless, I don’t take much pleasure in finding disemboweled squirrels and other animals on the pavement--victims of owl and hawk attacks--when I take my dog for a walk. There are also spiders that I swear are large enough to be in Harry Potter.

Alums! Remember to send us your successes and adventures: pass them on to Professor Margaret Soltan at 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jane Shore, "This One," in The New Yorker

We're happy to share Jane Shore's new poem, "This One," now in both the print and online version of the current issue of The New Yorker!

You can access the poem at The New Yorker's website here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Calling All Aspiring Authors!

Publishing Gone APE: What Can Publishers Learn from Self Publishing 
Wednesday, September 25th at 6pm
The best part of this event? It's right on campus!
 The event will be held in Funger Hall room 108

Co-author Shawn Welch

Shawn Welch, co-author of 

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur- How to Publish a Book, will be leading a discussion about self-publishing. 

At the event, Welch will elaborate upon the self-publishing model he and Kawasaki explore in their (self-published) book.

You can find the registration link here. The first 100 attendees will receive a copy of APE for free.

Friday, September 20, 2013

British and Postcolonial Studies Cluster News

Here is some news from our British and Postcolonial Studies Cluster, where some faculty have been publishing new research and forging exciting institutional connections in the US, UK, India and Ireland.

Jenny Green-Lewis is glad to say that her essay on Victorian photography and the novel, written for the new Oxford Handbook of the Victorian Novel, is finally out in England and will be available in the US in the next month or so. During her sabbatical last year, which she spent working on her book manuscript, Jenny was invited to contribute an essay to the catalog for the Getty Museum’s 2014 exhibition A Royal Passion, which explores Queen Victoria’s interest in and use of photographs throughout her reign. The other contributor, Sophie Gordon, is senior curator of photographs at Windsor Castle. Jenny was lucky enough to view the collection privately at the castle a couple of years ago, after a chance meeting with the curator of Royal miniatures at NAVSA (ask her about it if you’re curious). The Getty’s catalogue on Queen Victoria was edited (and the exhibition curated) by Annie Lyden, who has recently left the Getty and is now serving as International Curator of Photography at the Royal Galleries of Scotland. Jenny isn’t sure whether the exhibition will travel or not, but she says that it looks wonderful. Photographs have been drawn from holdings of the Royal Collection as well as the Getty, and the exhibition will include private portraits of the Royal Family as well as prints by photographers such as Henry Talbot, Roger Fenton, and Julia Margaret Cameron. It opens February 4, and the audio-tour will include Jenny’s recorded comments on a number of the objects and images.
Other essays by Jenny that should be out later this year include a chapter from her new book manuscript, forthcoming in the journal ELN under the title “Eye to Eye with the Trilobite: Time’s Texture and the Matter of Early Photography,” as well as an essay on photography and Victorian realism written for a book on critical debates in nineteenth-century studies (Routledge 2014). You can also catch her reviews of recent critical work on Victorian photography in upcoming or recent editions of Victorians’ Institute Journal, Victorian Studies, American Historical Review, and RaVon (Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net), as well as a piece by her on this spring’s exhibition at the National Gallery (on loan from the Met), “Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop,” for CAA Reviews.

Prof. Kavita Daiya has been working on her second book Peripheral Secularisms over the summer, which gained much shape from the Mellon Regional faculty Fellowship she held at the Penn Humanities Center at the University of Pennsylvania 2013-2014.  She was delighted that, in Spring 2013, her first book Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender and National Culture in Postcolonial India was published in an Indian edition (2013) by Yoda Press; a recent review of this book called it “"one of the most exhaustive and brilliant works on Partition, gender and nation." As an Associate Editor, Kavita is also helping put together a special issue on the Indian author Salman Rushdie for the South Asian Review.  In addition, her encyclopedia entry on “Partition” for the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Colonial and Postcolonial Studies and an article on the cultural representation of refugees in South Asia for an interdisciplinary essay collection (Routledge) are forthcoming early next year.  Kavita continues to gather interviews with Partition survivors and their descendants for her Digital Humanities project.

Prof. Maria Frawley directs GW’s Honors Program, but has kept her vital scholarship ongoing: most recently, she will be writing for a new British Library site aimed at a providing contextual (historical, political, and social) information to augment understanding of key library holdings. The Romantics and Victorians site will digitize both literary sources (manuscripts, first editions, original monthly parts) and contextual material (newspapers, letters, chapbooks, pamphlets, broadsides, maps and other forms of ephemera). Bringing together high resolution images, interactives (such as maps and timelines), film, audio and interpretation provided by experts, the British Library hopes to create a cutting-edge site that can bring a unique contribution to the study of English literature. Her first contribution will be on serialization. 

Prof. Daniel DeWispelare is delighted to be beginning his second year as an Assistant professor at GWU English and to be teaching a BPC graduate seminar this fall on the functions of the English language in facilitating the early history of British imperial expansion.  He is currently at work one two manuscript projects.  The first, which develops and departs from the work done in his doctoral dissertation, tries to sketch out the parameters of how a concept of emergent eighteenth-century anglophony, by which he means a transnational English linguistic sphere, contributed to the aesthetic developments with associate with cultural authenticity as it was construed and propagated by Romantic writers.  His second manuscript project revolves around dialect writing and the construction and then adjudication of criminality during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Recently, Dr. DeWispelare won a substantial grant from the Columbia College Facilitating Fund for research on these two projects and for the creation of a digital database of dialect writing.  Consequently, he spent the summer of 2013 in Dublin at work on the archival part of these projects.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Introducing Jenny McKean Moore Writer-In-Residence: Molly McCloskey

The Jenny McKean Moore Fund was established in honor of the late Jenny Moore, who was a playwrighting student at GW and who left in trust a fund that has, for almost forty years, encouraged the teaching and study of Creative Writing in the English Department, allowing us to bring a poet, novelist, playwright, or creative non-fiction writer to campus each year. While in residence, the writer brings a unique experience to the GW community, teaching a free community workshop for adults along with Creative Writing classes for GW students..  

This year we are especially proud to host Molly McCloskey, who has served as Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin and is the author of two short story collections, a novel, and a work of non-fiction. Professor McCloskey let us pick her brain and shared what she's working on, challenges she's faced, and books that are sitting on her nightstand!

What attracted you to the position at GW, and as Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington?

One of the things that attracted me was the community workshop aspect. I like the fact that the position was set up to work both within and outside of the university, which relates to the rest of my answer. I really appreciated the fact that the position allowed for applicants who don’t have ‘conventional academic credentials’. I have a Master’s in philosophy, but I don’t have an MFA in writing, nor do many, many of the writers I admire – especially those over forty.

I find it unfortunate that the MFA has become a prerequisite for practically every creative writing teaching job in America. It devalues other sorts of life experiences and paths that can go with writing in incredibly fruitful ways – living in strange places, for instance, or having the kind of weird jobs writers used to have and from which they learned a great deal about the world – and that can give writers much of value to share with students. MFA programs can be great, but I certainly don’t think they should be regarded as the only route to becoming a writer, or as the make-or-break qualification for teaching writing. So the fact that this position operated outside of that equation spoke of an ethos that very much appeals to me. 

You are one of the first writers in the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington position to write in both creative non-fiction and fiction.  What are some of the challenges of moving between the two genres?

I worked on nonfiction almost exclusively from 2006-2011 – personal essays and memoir. Nonfiction spoils a writer in some ways, because one of the greatest challenges of fiction writing, plotting, is more or less taken care of. You do a certain amount of ‘plotting’, in the way you decide to structure the story you’re going to tell, but it’s nothing like laying out a work of fiction, that being in charge all the time of what happens next and whether it’s plausible. 

And, if a true story has captured your imagination as a writer, it means you’re probably not, halfway through writing the book, going to be gripped by the fear that it isn’t going anywhere; it’s already happened, and the story brings you along. Finally, I found working on the memoir, which was as much a biography as it was a memoir, a far less lonely experience than I find fiction-writing to be. The writing of the memoir involved other people – real ones – in a way fiction can’t, even when it’s fiction based on real people; the memoir actually relied on other people’s input and involvement; it was something I could talk about easily as I worked on it without feeling superstitious or seeing people’s eyes glaze over. For all these reasons, I find fiction more difficult, which is not to say that nonfiction is a lesser art. I don’t believe that. Nonfiction can be as moving, as intelligent, as beautifully crafted as the best novels.

On the other hand, working on nonfiction – because I wasn’t worried about plotting and all that – I really began to focus on language. Your main job is to do justice to the things that have happened by telling those true stories in the most evocative, precise, emotionally honest and intelligent way that you can – and that depends of course on how you use language. So I like to think it will help my fiction writing; I’ve become much more aware of rhythm, for instance, and what an enormous difference a very small change in a sentence can make. 

Tell us what you’ve been working on.  Will you be presenting some of you new work when you read on September 26?

I’m working on a novel. It is generally unwise to talk about a novel-in-progress, as well as incredibly boring for the listener – it is like listening to someone recount last night’s dream. So the less said about that the better. I’ll read from the memoir, Circles Around the Sun, and maybe a bit of fiction.

Have you taught a community workshop before?  What are some of the opportunities that come from teaching students who come from outside a university context?

I’ve taught a lot of community workshops in Ireland, where I’ve been living for the last 24 years. I love teaching outside of an academic setting to what they call in Ireland ‘mature students’, especially teaching memoir, because people have the most amazing stories to tell; often they’re painful stories, but to watch someone working to transform painful events into a piece of prose that is disciplined and crafted and unsentimental – that’s inspiring to me, as is witnessing the generosity and sensitivity with which students help one another to navigate that challenge.

And, I enjoy meeting people who’ve come to writing through idiosyncratic routes – or what are now seen as idiosyncratic. They may be starting to write relatively late in life, but they’ve been reading, and they’ve got a lot of other interesting experiences and accumulated wisdom behind them, and it makes the workshop a really rich environment. 

Who are some of the writers of creative non-fiction you have been reading lately?     

There is so much great nonfiction out there. Rachel Cusk is wonderful memoirist, and I read her book Aftermath recently. I admire Geoff Dyer’s nonfiction. Over the summer, I read A Sorrow Beyond Dreams by the Austrian writer Peter Handke, about his mother’s suicide, which was a powerful and difficult book. I read Christopher Hitchen’s Mortality. I went back to some of Emerson’s essays, which I love – for their cadence, their richness, that ecstatic quality, the largeness of their concerns, and their great generous spirit.
But one thing I’m really interested in are those books that are harder to define as either fiction or nonfiction, books that are being slippery about those labels. Lauren Slater’s Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir was interesting. Renata Adler’s ‘novels’ were recently reissued and I loved both Speedboat and Pitch Dark. I’m two-thirds of the way through JM Coetzee’s trilogy of autobiographical novels – or fictionalized memoirs. I read Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye To Berlin over the summer. And Edmund White’s trilogy of autobiographical novels is always worth mentioning as a major achievement in post-war American writing – a single life embedded in the cultural, political, and social shifts over several decades, as we witness White creating himself as an artist. 

Molly McCloskey will give her first reading 
September 26th at 7:30pm 
in the Honors Townhouse.

Monday, September 9, 2013

On the Road: Professor DeWispelare in Ireland and Scotland

A view of Dublin
Our first Academic Year 2013-2014 entry in our On the Road series comes from Assistant Professor Daniel DeWispelare:

Research archives exist in diverse forms: some actual, some digital, others museal, or microfilmic, etc.  And for a certain species of literary scholar, of which I am one, the physical archive is a sweet spot, an institutional locus amoenus, or “pleasant place,” that inimitable space where discoveries await the diligent and curious fan of textual arcana.   

A library in Scotland
As with most things, of course, curiosity and diligence alone rarely ensure access.  For this reason, I am tremendously fortunate and thankful to be the recipient of a generous research support grant from the Columbian College Facilitating Fund, a grant that quite literally “grants” me the time and financial support necessary for traveling to, dwelling in, and interacting with some of my field’s most exciting archives.  Specifically, I spent most of the summer of 2013 consulting and transcribing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts at the National Library of Ireland, with a short detour to the National Library of Scotland. 

These institutions house documents relating to—among many other things!—long-standing research interests I have in geographies of provincial publishing, nonnormative anglophone writing practices, English language pedagogy, and the history of literacy.  Not only was consultation these texts essential for one of my current manuscript projects, provisionally entitled The Artistry of Authenticity, but I spent a great deal of time personally digitizing (and paying through the nose for professionally digitized) documents that will form the primary nucleus of a digital database I will be developing over the course of the next few years. 

In fact, digitization is a key element of my grant proposal and will remain central to my archival practices at the NLI and the NLS over the coming years.  While the digital revolution has brought approximately 180,000 texts from the eighteenth-century online in forums like ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collections Online and Google Books), roughly 220,000 of the period’s texts (as listed in the English Short Title Catalogue) remain inaccessible to scholars except onsite.  Archival work thus has the potential, especially given today’s technology, to reformulate the very contours of the archive, which is another way of saying that the researcher can act on and alter the research object in ways that enable new questions and new answers.  Acting on the archive as research object is to change what exactly is taken to be representative or emblematic of the archive’s contents, and so when scholars speak of an archival discovery, often they are speaking about some new way of assembling the texts that reveals cultural or intellectual patterns previously deemphasized. Hence, being in the archive can be very fulfilling and can feel full of potential.  The National Library of Ireland is special in that they charge very few fees for access and reproduction relative to peer institutions in the British Isles and Europe.   

The openness of the National Library of Ireland derives, insofar as I can tell, at least partially from Irish educational culture, which places a great value on the wide accessibility of texts that are seen to be part of national patrimony.  And make no mistake, the reading room is often filled to the gills with Irish college students engaged in their own or assigned projects.  Furthermore, the NLI seems--more so than other national libraries I have visited—to be successful at encouraging and assisting domestic and foreign researchers in taking full advantage of the trove of texts they have on offer. This is perhaps fitting, as the history of written culture in Ireland is one of Europe’s longest and most well preserved, all of which I mention merely to suggest that undergraduates and potential Luther Rice fellows from the English department who are looking for an open and inviting institutional archive might keep the NLI in mind. 

Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin

It is of course no secret that Dublin is a wonderful and dynamic city to spend time in.  This was certainly my experience, although being some one who is naturally allergic to late nights and volume, I spent most of my leisure time visiting museums, biking, or spending time with friends.  That is to say that I didn’t see much of the famed Irish pub life, and my oft planned and postponed trip to the Guinness brewery tourist trap never really materialized. 

Austerity Protests in Ireland

But Dublin and Ireland in general are in many ways ailing in the present.  The financial crisis of 2008 continues in Ireland, where unemployment is high and austerity rules they day.  A housing crisis continues to roil the economy and, as in certain parts of the US, a large number of mortgage holders are in default with no relief in sight.  Though an outsider and often unable to comprehend the details, one of the things I most admired about Irish civic life was the spirit of popular and democratic protest that seemed alive in the population.  In my time there, I witnessed no less then three austerity marches, a virulent standoff between pro- and anti-abortion protestors, and a staged protest against planned cuts in disability support staff in elementary and high schools.  It is quite invigorating to see a public that seems so little marred by complacency, but then again an outsider often misreads cultural signs and signals, seeing what he wants to and remaining blind to what’s really what.  

Murals in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Outside of Dublin, I got a chance to drive with a friend up to Belfast and tour the peace walls that divide Catholic and Protestant parts of the city.  These walls attempt to keep the not infrequent outbursts of sectarian violence from spilling too far or injuring too many, and this was all at once fascinating and disheartening.  I spent time looking at both Loyalist and Republican murals, and I even tromped out to Stormont, the Northern Irish Parliament for a weekend picnic.  Belfast seemed to me a vibrant and booming city, although recent reading suggests that the economic downturn is starting to wear on off some of the shine of the boom since peace was signed in 1998.  

All in all, I had a tremendous and productive summer on the road! I hope you will enjoy reading this post, and should you have any questions about planning or executing archival research, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fall Sneak Peek
Now that we're all settled in for the semester, and following the great turnout for the Inaugural Digital Humanities/Dean's Scholar in Shakespeare lecture (delivered by Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library) we want to let you know a bit more about this blog and the upcoming semester.

Samantha Yakas with Bruce Jay Friedman
Jewish Literature Live- Spring 2013

First, Samantha Yakas will continue to be our communications liaison this semester, helping to keep this blog, our Facebook page, and Twitter active. She will be completing her final year at GW and you may see her lurking around as a TA if you are taking Intro to Criminal Justice. Please feel free to contact her, especially with ideas for what you'd like to see more of here, at

Second, Be on the lookout for an exclusive interview with our Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Residence, Molly McCloskey! Her first reading will be Thursday September 26th at 7:30pm in the Honors Townhouse.  As with all our events, you can find details in the calendar on the right.

Third, We especially want to hear from some of our fantastic undergrads this semester. What internships did you hold over the summer? How have you progressed in your writing career? Did you succeed at being published?  What amazing things are happening with your semester?

It's going to be another great year for GW English!

Monday, September 2, 2013

MK Asante in Conversation with Lisa Page

MK Asante
Don't miss our Acting Director of Creative Writing, Professor Lisa Page, in conversation with MK Asante this month (September 17 at 7 PM) at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.  This conversation is part of PEN/Faulkner's Fall 2013 Literary Reading Series.  Professor Page is former President of PEN/Faulkner and is on the Board of Directors.  Her conversation with Asante will focus on Asante's recent memoir BUCK (the evening will also include a reading from BUCK).  According to the PEN/Faulkner site:

"MK Asante was born in Zimbabwe to American parents: a mother who led the new nation’s dance company and a father who would soon become the revered pioneer in Black Studies. A little more than a decade later MK found himself alone in North Philadelphia — his mother in a mental hospital, his father gone, his older brother locked up in a prison — forced to find his own way to survive physically, mentally, and spiritually, by any means necessary.

A teenager lost in a fog of drugs, sex, and violence on the streets of Killadelphia, Asante sought refuge in the poetry of hip-hop giants — from Tupac, to Jay-Z, to Nas — and later, in the words of Kerouac, Whitman, Orwell, and even the diary of his own mother. BUCK is the unforgettable story of Asante’s rise from dealer and delinquent to writer, filmmaker, poet, and professor. It is a powerful memoir of how a precocious kid educated himself with the most unconventional of teachers — outlaws and eccentrics, rappers and mystic strangers, ghetto philosophers and strippers, and, eventually, an alternative school that transformed his life with a single blank sheet of paper."
Professor Lisa Page

Join Professor Page in the conversation on September 17! You can read more and register for this free event here.