Saturday, February 22, 2014

Alexa Huang Awarded ACLS Burkhardt Fellowship and Fulbright Distinguished Chair

Alexa will be spending the 2014-15 academic year in London.

Note: This post has been updated on 4/2/1014 to reflect new that Alexa has received the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Global Shakespeare.

Alexa Huang has been named the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Global Shakespeare at Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick for 2014-2015 and received the American Council of Learned Society's Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship at the Folger Library for 2015-2016. She will be working on a book entitled Shakespeare and East Asia (Oxford University Press).

The Fulbright Distinguished Chair awards are designed for eminent scholars with substantial experience and publications in their field and ambassadorial skills with evidence of cultural sensitivity. The Chair will  deliver a free public lecture at the prestigious Gresham College (est. 1597) in London. 

The Burkhardt fellowships provide leaders in their fields with the resources to pursue long-term, unusually ambitious projects. The Burkhardt Fellowships are generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They are named for Frederick Burkhardt, President Emeritus of ACLS, whose decades of work on The Correspondence of Charles Darwin constitute a signal example of dedication to a demanding and ambitious scholarly enterprise. 

Alexa's book identifies three broad themes that distinguish interpretations of local cultures and Shakespeare in modern Japan,  Korea, China, Taiwan, and Singapore from their counterparts in other parts of the world: they are leading to a more equitable globalization in artistic terms, they serve as a forum where artists and audiences can grapple with contemporary issues, and through international tour activities they are reshaping debates about the relationships between the East and the West. 

Asian interpretations of Shakespeare matter to Western readers because of their impact on American and European performance cultures,  as exemplified by the worldwide recognition of the works of Ong Keng Sen, Akira Kurosawa, and their peers. The history of East Asian Shakespeares as a body of works—as opposed to random stories about cross-cultural encounter—allows us to better understand the processes of localizing artistic ideas through transnational collaboration.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Focus on English Alums: Gabriel Muller '13

Gabriel Muller, an English minor who graduated in 2013, is working for Atlantic Media here in DC (in the Watergate building, in fact). Below, he shares his thoughts about school and after school.

 I majored in History with minors in English and Philosophy – the humanities trifecta. For the hesitant humanists out there who think that's the fast track to a Dickensian life of destitution: I am, in fact, employed, and work with many other English graduates. Have hope!

There were a number of English courses at GW that I found very absorbing.  I think they will likely remain memorable as I move forward in life.

In Aesthetics with Professor Margaret Soltan, I learned to exercise a critical eye when engaging with art and literature. Instead of passing elementary value judgments, we learned to elaborate on why certain pieces of art excite us and why certain ones fall flat – a helpful skill if going to a museum, looking at a painting, and saying: "Uh, I guess I like it because it's pretty," is starting to not cut it for you anymore. 

I also took Critical Methods with Professor Robert McRuer, who made literary theory accessible, fun, but never superficial or reductive. He challenged us to move beyond our preconceptions and explore the theoretical foundations that inform our understanding of literature. Be prepared, in his class, to talk about everything in the universe except actual novels – disability, drag performance, the nature of representation, normalcy and sex, and the meaning of language. Your brain will definitely flex, but the connections will be very enriching. I promise.

These days I'm a fellow at the Atlantic Media Company. They own The Atlantic, National Journal, and a few other editorial brands. I work for a division called Atlantic Media Strategies, and we are the creative consulting arm of the company. In other words, we work with external clients – GE, Boeing, C-SPAN, etc. – and help them to become powerful editorial entities of their own. We redesign websites, create editorial content, and develop digital strategies for the clients.

After graduation, I considered applying for graduate school in the humanities. I took my GRE, finished my writing sample, wrote a statement of purpose, and got letters of recommendation in the Fall. But as the deadlines very quickly approached, I had a bad feeling – "This application feels rushed and half-baked," I remember thinking.

I went with my gut – as I tend to do – and held off on submitting the application. This gave me time to let my application cook, so to speak, and really reflect on why I want to do grad school. I learned that applying to grad school should not be a hasty or emotional decision. It's a long commitment and rushing it will not help you in the long run. If you are leaning toward grad school, I recommend preparing your application, doing your best, but letting it sit for a while. You'll know when it's ready to send off.

Interview by Prof. Margaret Soltan

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Guest Post: Global Shakespeares Symposium, a Recap

Global Shakespeares Symposium, a Recap

by Jason Demeter (originally published in The Shakespeare Standard)

Global Shakespeares Symposium was held in January 2014 at George Washington University. Presenters considered the intersections of Shakespearean scholarship and globalization by exploring polyglot, multicultural, and marginalized portrayals of Shakespeare in the global market and international (digital) archives. Jason Demeter, a PhD candidate at George Washington University, offers his summary of the symposium’s proceedings. 

Global Shakespeares Symposium FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2014

Opening Remarks by Ayanna Thompson and Alexa Huang

Methodologies and Media, Part 1 // Chair: Holly Dugan

Amanda Bailey (University of Maryland), “Early Modern Planet Thought”

Bailey’s talk concerned early modern astrological thinking (“planet thought”). She explored how planetary and astrological tropes within Romeo and Juliet articulate “a collective fantasy of global intimacy” that was characteristic of theories of planetary influence operant within the period. She argued that planet thought functioned as “a framework for understanding oneself as a denizen of an emerging world power and as a member of an interconnected cosmic collective.” Bailey offered a particularly interesting thread running throughout the analysis involved putting early modern planet thought in dialogue with contemporary discourses of globalization.

Kendra Leonard (independent scholar), “The Past is a Foreign Country: World Musics Signifying History in/and Elizabethan Drama”

Leonard presented an analysis of the way global musics are used within four films: Twelfth Night (2003, Dir. Tim Supple), Ur-Hamlet (2006), The Virgin Queen (2005, TV miniseries), and Elizabeth: the Golden Age (2007, Dir. Shekhar Kapur). Leonard’s analysis provides four cases in which “the musical traditions, materials, or sounds of British colonies or other so-called exotic locals are used to signify the past and difference in adaptations of early modern dramatic works or biopics set in the Elizabethan period.” Leonard also argued: “Based on a reading of the shared practices of the scores surveyed here, the grittier aspects of life and the dangers of the past are scored by sounds that many modern day western audiences will still find foreign, while the glories of early modern England are broadly signified by the sound of western art music”

Jeff Butcher (GWU), “Comrade Fortinbras and Bourgeois Hamlet: Global Leftist Hamletism”

Butcher gave an overview of Marxist-Leninist appropriations of Hamlet from the American left in the early twentieth century. His argument centered largely on the way that the term “Hamlets” was used within leftist discourse to signify a wavering commitment to the cause among so-called “fellow travelers.”Q and A: was centered on Hamlet/Hamlet’s political signification within the 20th century. His construction as both a “revolutionary skeptic” on one hand, and as a “dithering liberal” on the other.

Methodologies and Media, Part 2 // Chair: Patrick Cook

Alexa Huang (GWU), “Global Shakespeares as Methodology: World Maps and Archival Silence”

As the title suggests, Huang argues for global Shakespeares as a methodology. “From a scholarly point of view, the archival silence constitutes productive negative evidence in the archeological and anthropological sense. Archival silence is useful because it compels us to rethink our criteria and frame of reference.” She added, “The absence of a coherent, constructed Shakespeare tradition in a certain place does not mean that there are no local engagements with Shakespeare.” Continuing with the concept of localized global Shakespeare, she continued: “Global Shakespeare, in fact, reveals how intensely local all performances are. The ideological encodings of all performances, including Anglo-American ones, should be studied within, rather than in isolation from, this global context.” Huang concluded that “the field of global Shakespeares may never have one single theory that all critics agree upon because publications about global Shakespeares emphasize different aspects for different cultural worlds and for different audiences.”

Richard Burt (University of Florida), “’Reading Madness’ in the Archive: Shakespeare’s Contagious Cu(n)t”

Burt’s talk was certainly a highlight of the Symposium, a highly animated performance. He began the talk by announcing that he was in the “post-professional phase of his career.” He then asked the audience to applaud his performance before he delivered his paper – most in attendance obliged. He then proceeded to deliver his paper by reading it from an overhead projector so that the audience might apprehend the numerous linguistic puns throughout. The whole talk was disjointed, digressive, and utterly brilliant. At some point he mimicked doing lines off of the podium, an apparent visual accompaniment to his essay’s pharmacological conceit. A sample: “What if we imagine a Shakespearean impression of the archive? If we grant that when we are reading Shakespeare we are always reading Shakespeare on drugs? That we are contracting a virus that gives us a very high fever, a fever that just doesn’t break?”

Eric Johnson (Folger Library), “Shakespeare’s Digital Global Marketplace”

Most of Johnson’s fascinating analysis involved how various users from around the globe  interacted and searched Open Source Shakespeare. As he stated in his paper abstract: “This data will include web page view counts, as well search datafrom Open Source  Shakespeare (for example, “Most Searched Keywords” and “Most Searched Works”). This data collection will give an idea of which countries are most interested in Shakespeare, relative to the rest of the world. It will also show which countries are underrepresented in the “market,” and thus represent potential growth areas for Shakespearean pedagogy and scholarship. This paper will pay particular attention to why developing countries with large English-speaking populations, particularly India, do not seem to make as much use of Shakespearean resources as might be expected.”

Christy Desmet (University of Georgia), “The Art of Curation: Searching for Global Shakespeares in the Digital Archives”

Desmet contrasted three heavily curated digital archives devoted to global Shakespeares (Bardbox (now defunct), CASP (Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project); and the Global Shakespeares Video & Performance Archive (MIT) with the more anarchic YouTube (described as both a “wild archive” and an “insane collection”).
Q and A: There was some discussion of the pharmacological and pathological metaphors that several of the papers deployed in reference to the archive. An unknown questioner made the observations that, as humanists, it was our role to “capture how incomprehensible things are.” There was a great deal of enthusiastic agreement.   


Performing Global Shakespeares // Chair: Jeffrey Cohen 

Sujata Iyengar (University of Georgia), “Beds and Handkerchiefs: Moving Objects in International Othellos”

Iyengar’s talk consisted primarily of an analysis of three filmic adaptations of OthelloKaliyattam (1997), a South Indian art film;Omkara (2006), a North Indian “Bollywood” movie, and Iago, an Italian teen adaptation. Most interesting was her methodological approach to the investigation of these global adaptations; because Iyengar purposely watched each film without subtitles (despite the fact that they were in languages she did not understand), she felt that she was able to pay close attention to the ways specific objects (particularly Desdemona’s famous handkerchief and the couple’s marriage bed) exert agency within their respective narratives. Drawing heavily on Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, she looked at the way objects served within each of films as agentive actors capable of influencing a contingent network comprised of both human and nonhuman elements. Much of her talk also engaged with Bennett’s notion of “distributive blame” in which causality is seen to exist not as a matter of individual agency but rather as a broadly-distributed set of circumstances spread throughout a network, all of which contribute to a particular action or event.

Tom Cartelli (Muhlenberg College), “‘High-Tech Shakespeare in a Mediatized Globe”

Cartelli analyzed Ivo van Hove’s The Roman Tragedies, a sustained, single-set production of CoriolanusJulius Caesar, andAntony and Cleopatra. He concentrated on the highly mediatized, experimental nature of the production, in which audience members were permitted to sit on stage in front of a host of video monitors and encouraged to engage with social media as the narrative unfolded around them. Cartelli explained, “The Roman Tragedies may also demonstrate the extent to which serious theatrical practice has become colonized by the entertainment industry, the marriage of global media, political and economic elites, and celebrity culture.” While Cartelli praised much about the production, so too did he express misgivings regarding the way that theatre is made to occupy the role of “society’s secretary,” simply recording the social problems that surround us. Cartelli concluded, “Instead of intervening in some decisive way in the corporate mediatized dominance of political culture, this production merely represents it, in the process effectively serving as its enabler.”

Adele Seeff (University of Maryland), “Race, Post-Race, Shakespeare, and South Africa”

Seeff’s analysis considered two South African versions of Macbeth: the mini-series Entabeni and Death of a Queen. Seeff argued, “The broadcaster’s mandate in South African, like the African storyteller, is to educate and inform….Shakespeare is decidedly neither Africa’s contemporary nor Africa’s kinsman, but in these renditions, Shakespeare’s play is refashioned as relevant and accessible to a temporally and geographically distant location through a process of cultural translation and the adoption of a particular poetics that allows the text to speak ideologically yet again. These programs speak in several directions at once. They call attention to South Africa’s recent past, the advent of democracy, and they offer a utopian vision of equality, the eradication of race as a category, and the establishment of a rainbow nation. But they also remind the careful viewer in dystopic ways that old inequalities persist.”

Julie Taymor’s Shakespeare in the Global Marketplace // Chair: Ayanna Thompson

 Ayanna Thompson in conversation with Julie Taymor and Harry Lennix

This was clearly the highlight of the Symposium, and there was a ton of interesting stuff throughout the conversation. The panelists ended up talking for at least two hours and taking a ton of questions from the audience, who were generally very receptive.
In terms of its broad structure, the conversation moved from Titus to The Tempest to Midsummer Night’s Dream. Since Taymor had directed both Titus and The Tempest on stage before directing them as films, she discussed how she negotiated the transfer between mediums while still adhering to the spirit of her earlier stage version. She noted that she would not want to direct Shakespeare on film without first working it up as a stage production. The talk began also with a discussion of marketing and how difficult it is to get major studios to back Shakespeare on film.
Unsurprisingly, Taymor said that studios view Shakespeare as unprofitable and that it is therefore important to have big-name actors attached to the project. Nevertheless, she also expressed interest in creating some type of filmic release of her recent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while also being apprehensive about its marketability. Taymor stated: “I want it to be in a movie theatre, but I don’t want it to be in competition and running alongside normal movies because I think it will fail.” At some point, Taymor even mentioned she had an idea for a film version of The Taming of the Shrew (!).

She noted that contemporary violence in America (Columbine shootings, Menendez brothers) was a significant impetus behindTitus. She said that she knew then that the    play’s time had come. Taymor remarked on Sir Anthony Hopkins’ commitment to the  role of Titus: “Titus takes a toll on actors; it just requires so much.” Hopkins was concerned about the scene where Aaron cuts off his hand, Taymor recalled Hopkins saying, “If I do it more than once, I’ll have a heart attack.” (They were able to get the    shot in a single take.) On the overall violence within this revenge tragedy, Taymor defends her choices: “I basically put on film or on stage what Shakespeare did. There’s no more than twelve acts of violence….It’s the kind of violence. It’s the psychological violence that has a lot to do with the female, the violence to the female.”

Taymor recounted a conversation she had with Djimon Hounsou (Cailiban in her Tempest) regarding his comfort with Helen Mirren as Prospera: “I said ‘How do you feel about Prospera being a mid-60s English white lady? Um…how does that…how…how will you play this part with that?’ He said, ‘Well, in my country [Benin], all the women have the power, and in my country the only sorcerers who have the power are the women, and so, for me, I believe in that completely.’”

Thursday, February 13, 2014

An Alyssa Hard Event: Perfumed Letters

Perfumed Letters: 
a roundtable discussion of 
perfume & literature
Author Alyssa Harad

Friday, February 21st

11-1 pm

Marvin Center Rm. 301

The event will be host to:

Emily Friedman, Associate Professor of 18th Century English Literature (Auburn University)

Alyssa Harad, author of Coming to My Senses: a Story of Perfume, Pleasure & an Unlikely Bride

Colleen Kennedy, Ph.D. candidate at the Ohio State University

Cheryl Krueger, Associate Professor of 19th Century French literature (University of Virginia)

and our very own

Jane Shore, Professor of English & poet (George Washington University)

This event is sponsored by the Wang Endowed Fund for Literature and Literary Studies, the department of English, the French Program in the Department of Romance, Germanic, and Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Program in American Studies at GWU.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The PhD Job Search

#Altac / #Postac: 
Rethinking the PhD Job Search in the Humanities
Thursday, February 20th from 4-6pm
in Rome Hall room 771

With graduation just around the bend undergraduate and graduate students alike are asking themselves the same question: What do I do with a humanities degree? Come to this roundtable discussion and find out! Whether you're interested in pursuing a PhD in the humanities, recently obtained one, or you're simply interested in what doors a PhD in humanities can open for you this event is not to be missed!

The Discussion will feature:

Alyssa Harad
Alyssa Harad, PhD in English & Author

Meredith Hindley, PhD in History; Writer/Editor/Historian at Humanities, the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Miriam Posner

Miriam Posner, PhD in American Studies/Film Studies and Coordinator and Core Faculty of the Digital Humanities Program at UCLA

Evan Rhodes, PhD in English and Executive Adviser, Corporate Executive Board


Sarah Werner, PhD in English and Digital Media Strategist at the Folger Shakespeare Library

This event is sponsored by the GWU department of English, the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, the Digital Humanities Institute, and the Office of the Graduate Dean of Columbia College

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Post-ing: A Symposium on What Comes After

Don't miss out on the EGSA's 4th Graduate Symposium Friday, February 7th, 2014!
This year the topic is "Posting: A Symposium on What Comes Next"

This year's EGSA symposium focuses on scholarly work that explores the “post”: of race, space, nationality, humanism, and queerness. We will attempt to answer difficult questions such as, What are we trying so desperately to escape in our attempt to “post”? What type of painful processes must take place in order to exist beyond that which we are “post-ing”? What, indeed, comes after, if anything at all? In this symposium, we hope to further the conversation between presenters and participants across concentrations and disciplines through the intersections of current graduate student work that explores the notion of “post-ing.”

Below are a few of the panels taking place Friday (February 7th):

“Losing Sight of Race: Past, Present, Future” co-organized by English PhD student Molly Lewis and American Studies PhD student Justin Mann, which will explore the proliferation of color-blindness aspirations within American culture and Americans’ protestations for equal opportunity that “reveal the following affective investment in race-neutrality: the hope for a post-racial world.” This panel will explore the ways in which the desire for a “post-racial” world has been a persistent one throughout history, and how such desires have been represented as “remembered” and/or “imagined” in contemporary discourse. Ultimately, this panel asks: What is so important about losing sight of race? 

“Harrowing Transformations,” a co-organized panel by English PhD students Haylie Swenson and Alan Montroso, will investigate narratives of transformation from an ecological and/or posthuman orientation, asking: “How might narratives of transformation and becoming challenge our beliefs about a stable and harmonious universe? Are the processes by which we aestheticize breaks and ruptures determined by humanistic ways of thinking?”

There are many other wonderful panels taking place during the symposium, such as English PhD student’s Patrick Thomas Henry and Shyama Rajendran’s “‘The Time is Out of Joint’: Post-Temporal,” and Leigha McReynolds’ “What Comes After the Conference Paper: A Series of Ignite Talks on ‘Post-ing.’” 

Roderick Ferguson

As a way to conclude our symposium, Roderick Ferguson, professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, will giving the plenary talk, titled, “To ‘Post’ the Nation: Race, Gender, Sexuality, and the Not-Yet-Imagined.”

These events are free and open to the public. Please make sure to RSVP to Maia Gil’Adi ( as seating is limited, or visit the symposium website for more details!