Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kiese Laymon Reads This Thursday

Don't miss the next event in our Jenny McKean Moore Reading Series: Kiese Laymon who will present this Thursday, at 7:30 PM, in the Marvin Center Amphitheater. 

Laymon is the author of the novel, Long Division, and a collection of essays entitled, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. He is Associate Professor of English, Creative Writing, and Co-director of Africana Studies at Vassar.

In the Paris Review recently, Laymon spoke about young people "who are creating incredible sentences and paragraphs" in their writing shared widely through social media:

I also want to say that there are some people, especially some younger people, who are creating some incredible paragraphs and sentences and a lot of it is being shared through social media. I think people are really creating incredible stuff now–a lot of people who have been taken for granted by the American literary enterprise. But these people are still creating dope sentences–whether it’s in the form of a tweet or Tumblr, whether it’s in the form of fan fiction, or essays–people are creating incredible stuff right now. And that’s one of the best things about the Internet, you don’t have to wait for somebody to give you some magazine article or a book, you can find great writing about everything in the country.

Check out the whole interview here.  And mark your calendars for Thursday evening!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

GW English Alums on the Move: Christina Katopodis Offers Advice to English Majors Considering Graduate School

GW English Alum
Christina Katopodis
Christina Katopodis, who recently graduated with a degree in English from GW, did a lot of thinking and planning before entering the English PhD program at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.  She taught at a community college in Florida, took editing jobs, and generally thought about whether an advanced degree in English, and a job teaching literature, meant enough to her to put up with the uncertainties of a bad job market.  Here's her advice to current GW English majors who might be drawn in the same direction:
Before you start submitting PhD applications, think first about how much you want it and what you want to do with a PhD in English, the Classics or Comparative Literature. I knew that I would be happy as long as I would be teaching somewhere, even a small college in the middle of nowhere. Not all doctoral students go into academia, some go into publishing, work at writing centers, or take administrative positions. If you love it, if it is a part of who you are and you can imagine yourself doing it anywhere and being happy, then put everything into it, don't let rejection phase you, and keep going until you're in - with funding - and you're doing what you love.

As for the nitty gritty of applying to schools:
Make it into the top 90 percent. The GRES is a dying requirement but if you must take it, I recommend reading your way through the Norton Anthologies and reviewing your notes from the British or American survey courses you took to complete the English major. I read books like Jane Austen's Persuasion and D. H. Lawrence's Rainbow for fun on the side and happened to get a relevant Jane Austen question. I still have never read a Bible from front to back but it's an important text regardless of your religious views, so in a pinch I'd recommend The Bible for Dummies to study for the GRES.

Christina was helped in all of this by her GW professors:
Dr. Gil Harris encouraged us to respond to each other in class discussion rather than interrupt the flow of conversation with a new unrelated idea. Dr. Tony Lopez made dense theory palatable and showed us how to use it and bend it to build our own arguments. Most of all, I remember the contagious enthusiasm with which Professors Jonathan Hsy, Jenny Green-Lewis, and Kim Moreland taught their subjects.

And what's life in grad school in New York City like?
The image of the bleary-eyed graduate student huddled in the library for days with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich isn't too far from the truth. It's a lot of work but with some decent time management it's doable. I go out occasionally to see an off-Broadway show or have a beer with other students in my cohort and compare notes, and I have time to train for a half marathon. Many students in Manhattan take longer to graduate due to the cost of living in the city and balancing coursework with teaching or working another job.

Christina encourages current students thinking about grad school to email her ( about the challenges of getting an advanced literature degree.  At bottom, she says, it's all about the semi-colon:

The semicolon represents the ability to stop and the will to continue. The ellipses we imagine following our graduations will one day be changed to commas in our life stories. We all grew up thinking we were special but the harsh reality is that not everyone can be special. Realizing that you have the power to turn a period into a semicolon and to make the choice to keep going in the direction of your dreams distinguishes you from others and will increase your chances of achieving your goals and becoming the person you want to be.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Catch Ryan Cordell's Recent Interview on NPR

Ryan Cordell (BA, 2004) was interviewed about the digital humanities on NPR's On the Media.  Ryan received his PhD at the University of Virginia, and is now an Assistant Professor at Northeastern University in Boston.  He was interviewed on Sunday, November 24, about his work with American newspaper articles that went viral back in the 1800s.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

GW English Alums on the Move: Jeffrey Gorsky Explores Jewish History in Spain

Jeffrey Gorsky with his daughters
Jeffrey Gorsky graduated with honors in English from GW in 1974; he went on to get a GW law degree and to pursue a varied career in the foreign service. Throughout his travels, his GW experience (especially his time in Judith Plotz's classroom) stayed with him; and indeed he's currently a participating member of GW MEMSI (Medieval and Early Modern Study Institute). 

Jeffrey became interested in the history of Jews in Spain while serving as US Vice Consul in Bilbao and as an intelligence analyst for the State Department in Iberia. From this interest grew the comprehensive history book he is working on titled Exiles in Sepharad: The Jewish Millennium in Spain

We asked him to talk a bit about his project:

"The book is a big history (I’m capped at 125,000 words, and I’m cutting back).  It  has a large focus on literature.  I’ve just finished my research and writing, on 11th Century Hebrew poets.  There's a chapter on the 15th century poet Anton de Montoro, as well as a chapter on how “conversos” in the 16th century helped establish the foundations for the modern novel.  I discuss  La Celestina, Lozana the Lusty Andalusian Woman (a pornographic account of prostitutes in Rome written by a converso priest in 1520), Lazarillo El Tormes, Guzman El Alfarache, and Cervantes.  I also cover the Visigoths, the rise and fall of the Muslim Caliphate, Maimonides, the Kabala, and the Spanish Inquisition."

The book is an expansive project. Jeffrey commented:

"Had I not been an English major at GW I probably would not have had the confidence to engage in extensive discussions of literature. About fifteen percent of the book deals with literature."

Do you have any ideas for future projects?

"God forbid. This took almost ten years. If I ever get any readers, I might reconsider."

Jeffrey's book will be published by The Jewish Publication Society/ University of Nebraska Press next year.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jody Bolz to read at Politics & Prose

Former GW English Creative Writing Professor Jody Bolz has a new book of poetry out and will be reading at Politics & Prose on Sunday, January 12th, at 1:00Shadow Play will be published by Turning Point Books in mid-December:

Shadow Play, a novella in verse by Jody Bolz
Hypnotic and provocative by turns, Shadow Play retraces a journey across Asia in search of the marriage that faltered in its wake. Part love poem, part elegy, Jody Bolz's new book enacts the conflict between memory and estrangement. In his introduction, novelist Vikram Chandra writes: "an extraordinary act of literary ventriloquism...a conversation among the many selves that were once bound up in love. The poem, in all its formal inventiveness and variety, is an incarnation of the ineluctable passage of time itself."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

GW English Alums on the Move: "Everyone always asks me if I was a journalism major ..."

... writes Chloe Rome, a recent GW English major who's now working at CNN in Atlanta.  "Most people are surprised when I say I was an English major.  But my English degree gave me the shape and structure I needed to succeed in journalism.  I learned how to read something and think critically about it, and how to apply a different lens of thought to a concept. It made me a better writer and a more well-rounded individual; I personally see my English degree as a benefit in this industry."
Chloe Rome at CNN

Chloe's currently a Video Journalist.

Video Journalists (or VJs as we are called) perform a variety of function across numerous networks. I primarily work in CNN domestic and CNN International as a floor director, in which I provide direction and assistance to anchors during live shows on the studio floor. I also work as an Editorial Assistant in the newsroom, where I assist different show teams by creating slideshows, working with guests, and cutting soundbites and video to post to the website. 

Each of us gets to tailor our experience to our own specific goals. Not only do we have the opportunity to shadow people in other departments, but we also are able to apply for rotations in other departments such as We also have access to CNN's "Best University", where we can take classes on different internal systems, programs, as well classes that focus on a variety of leadership and career development skills. Most VJs are promoted to another position at CNN within 2 years.   

My long terms goals at CNN are to work out of the DC Bureau, either on a show team or the political unit, as a writer. I would also love to work for a show team here in Atlanta as an Associate Producer. 

Chloe singles out Robert McRuer among her professors in the English department.  He "has the ability to connect with his students and extend the boundaries of what they believe to be true. The classes I took with Robert dramatically altered the way I thought about literature, and culture itself. My mind was opened up to so many different schools of thought, all of which have shaped the way I view the world around me. He was also my Honors Thesis advisor, and he really pushed me to my potential as a writer and cultural scholar, both of which have prepared me to do well here at CNN."

Chloe has some job advice for current students in our department:
Be aggressive. The greatest compliment I have ever received was from an executive producer during an interview who told me I was "aggressive in a good way". This is a tough field to get into, but that is by no means a reason not to. Don't take no for an answer and be persistent in going after what you want. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Discussion with Andy Chih-Ming Wang

The East Asian Humanities Lecture Series Hosts Andy Chih-Ming Wang

November 15th at 12:30 in the 
Lindner Family Commons 
(1957 E St NW, Rm 602)

Author Andy Chih-Ming Wang
Wang is the author of the groundbreaking work Transpacific Articulations: Student Migration and the Remaking of Asian America. In his first book,Wang explores the impact of study abroad for Chinese students in terms of an attachment to Ivy leagues schools in their search for modernity and the impact their presence has on the Asian American community. 

Mari Yoshihara, professor, Department of American Studies, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa comments:

"Wang’s incisive scholarship urges us to rethink the contours of ‘Asian America’ through a sophisticated analysis of ‘foreign students’ as transpacific subjects. By examining the transnational subjectivities and alliances that have been at the center of Asian America since its beginnings, Wang’s analysis helps to move beyond a dichotomous view of diasporism and nationalism. With a historian’s hand reaching deep into the archives and a literary scholar’s sophisticated eyes and ears for language, Wang presents a nuanced analysis of various forms of ‘translation’—linguistic, cultural, psychosocial, political—by foreign students that in turn shaped the ideals and struggles of the Asian American movement."

Wang's lecture is sure to be a promising event you won't want to miss!

This event is co-sponsored by the department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Department of English.