Monday, March 30, 2015

A New Poetry Course with Professors Chang & Hsy

On the eve of the first day of National Poetry Month, the English Department announces a dynamic new course on poetry. This course is ideal for students curious about the relationship between literary analysis and composition practices, and it can be taken to fulfill a requirement for Creative Writing majors (see below):

The ABC’s of Poetry: How Poetry Matters

Fall 2015, T/Th 11:10am-12:35pm
Prof. Jennifer Chang and Prof. Jonathan Hsy

Clockwise from top left: Dickinson, Chaucer, & Agbabi.
How do poems make meaning? In this course, we will approach poetry as a creative practice and a provocative tool for thought, tracing a history of the symbiotic exchange between form and content from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. In asking how poetry matters, we will study poems as not only rhetorical structures and prosodic occasions, but also material objects and encounters.  Poets make poems out of language, among other things, that generates new ways of thinking about the world and new habits of mind. This class is team-taught by a poet (Prof. Chang) and literature scholar (Prof. Hsy), and the class aims to rethink the distinction between literary interpretation and creative composition.

Our class will focus on six poets: Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Wyatt, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, Anne Carson, and Patience Agbabi. As we read selected poems by these authors, we aim to understand how form and content interact and where theory and practice meet in collaboration and, sometimes, in conflict. This course will give students exposure to poetic forms (lyric, sonnet, ballad, free verse), and it will consider how the physical presentation of any poem shapes its meaning (manuscript, fascicle, printed text, textile, YouTube video, collage, etc). Assignments may include translation assignments, analytical essays, and creative adaptations.

*This course may be substituted for one of the ENGL 3210 (Techniques) requirements toward the Creative Writing major.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Graduate Seminar: Crip/Queer Theory with Professor Mitchell

Professor Mitchell Reading
Jacques Ranciere's Mute Speech
Fall 2015 Graduate Seminar: Crip/Queer Theory
Crip/Queer Theory charts out key intersections between Disability, Queer, and Critical Race Studies.  Our goal will be to mine the spaces between historically pathologized sexuality, ability, and racialized statuses. In particular we will focus on questions of "agential materialism" where one cannot only find experiences of oppression, but also alternative ethical maps for living.  How are contemporary theorists beginning to conceive of bodies beyond the limits of social constructivism's passive, culturally inscribed surfaces?  What can the artful navigation of inhospitable social terrains tell us about what crip/queer and racialized lives might offer as viable counter-cultural options outside of homogenizing norms?  Key works covered may include:  Alison Kafer's Feminist Queer Crip, Tobin Siebers's Disability Aesthetics, Asma Abbas's Liberalism and Human Suffering, Alexander G. Weheliye's Habeas Viscus, Elizabeth Grosz's The Nick of Time, Jacques Ranciere's Mute Speech, David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder's The Biopolitics of Disability, Jose Munoz's Cruising Utopia, Jack Halberstam's The Queer Art of Failure, and Robert McRuer & Anna Mollow's Sex and Disability.
Thursdays 6:10-8 PM CRN 66741; ENGL 6520.10 Ethnicity and Identity; 3 CR; Rome 771; 8/31/15-12/09-15; Professor Mitchell.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

American Poetry to WWI with Professor McAleavey

A course to consider for Fall 2015!
Walt Whitman
(Library of Congress)

ENGLISH 3620.10   FALL 2015                  American Poetry to WW I
TR 4:45-6:00                        CRN: TBA                  Room: TBA
David McAleavey     Rome 655      202-994-6515           Office Hours: TBA

This course satisfies the CCAS Oral Communication G-PAC requirement.
(Syllabus still subject to change.)

General Description:
This is the first half of a broad survey of American poetry from its beginnings to the present. In 3620, we will read from the 17th century up into the very early 20th century. (In 3621, offered in Spring 2016, we will continue forward chronologically, ending with vital living poets.) The two most important poets we’ll be examining in 3620 are Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, both of whom did crucial work from mid-century through the Civil War and in the decades after. However, we will start with earlier poets whose work has continuing artistic appeal and historical relevance, Anne Bradstreet (17th century) and Phillis Wheatley (18th century) among them. From the earlier part of the 19th-century, we will consider William Cullen Bryant, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and John Greenleaf Whittier; later poets we will read include Emma Lazarus, E. A. Robinson, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

Because this course is designed to address the CCAS oral communication requirement, students will be expected to deliver multiple brief informative presentations about specific poems throughout the semester. These presentations will be graded in terms of their effectiveness. There will be a midterm and a final (formats to be determined), as well as a documented persuasive paper (8-10 pp., prior to Thanksgiving).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kate Flint Visual Culture Events: April 16 and 17

Kate Flint presents a cultural history of
flash photography and race (April 16)
Interested in the relationship between words and images? Artsy or literary? Think of yourself as both?

Thanks to a generous gift by Sharyn Rosenblum to the English Department, as well as to the generosity of the Department of Fine Arts & Art History, as well as the Visiting Artist and Scholars Committee, we are delighted to announce two upcoming events designed specifically for you!

“Light Skinned: Flash Photography and the Representation of Race.”
*A talk by Kate Flint (Thursday, April 16, 6.15 pm; Smith Hall, Room 114)

“Dickens and the intersection of literary and visual culture.”
*A seminar with Kate Flint (Friday, April 17, 10am; Rome Hall, 771)

Kate Flint is Provost Professor of English and Art History at the University of Southern California, where she is currently Chair of the Department of Art History. Prior to this, she taught at Bristol, Oxford, and Rutgers. Her research spans the C19th and C20th, and is both interdisciplinary and transatlantic.

Professor Flint’s areas of specialization include Victorian and early twentieth-century cultural and literary history, visual culture, women's writing, gender studies, and transatlantic studies. Most recently, she has published The Transatlantic Indian 1776-1930 (Princeton University Press, 2008), which looks at the two-way relations between Native Americans and the British in the long C19th, and explores the intersections of modernity, nationhood, performance, and popular culture. Her previous works include The Victorians and The Visual Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and The Woman Reader, 1837-1914 (Oxford University Press, 1993), both of which won the British Academy’s Rose Mary Crawshay prize, as well as Dickens (Harvester, 1985). She is General Editor of the Cambridge History of Victorian Literature (2012) and has co-edited Culture, Landscape and the Environment (Oxford University Press, 2000), and edited Victorian Love Stories (Oxford University Press, 1996) as well as a number of works by Dickens, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence and Anthony Trollope for Penguin Classics and OUP World's Classics.

Professor Flint’s talk at GW will be from her current book-in-progress, Flash! Photography, Writing, and Surprising Illumination. According to Professor Flint, “This is a cultural history of flash photography, and is about technology, change, and what it means to make something – or someone – visible. I discuss paparazzi, documentary and news photographers and sleazy, violent, invasive uses of flash, and balance these with examples of wonder, beauty, and aesthetic experimentation. I ask questions about duration – how long is that “flash” in which something happens?  I show, too, how poets and novelists borrow flash’s associations - not least, as the words and images I'll talk about demonstrate - when dealing with the sudden illumination of black skin.”

Following Thursday’s talk, on Friday morning, April 17th, at 10am in Rome 771, Professor Flint will teach a seminar open to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as interested faculty, on the intersection of literary history and visual culture. She’ll do this through discussion of Dickens's "Somebody's Luggage." Here's a Project Gutenberg link to that document:

Anyone interested in connections between written and visual works is encouraged to attend this event. Students--and faculty--who work outside their own disciplinary boundaries will be able to ask Professor Flint about the trajectory of her own career in English and Art History departments.

Coffee and muffins will be served at the morning seminar. Please come!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trey Ellis at GW: Friday, March 27

Trey Ellis
The GW English Department is pleased to welcome Trey Ellis as part of the Jenny McKean Moore Reading Series. Ellis, currently an associate professor in the Graduate School of the Arts at Columbia University, is a novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and essayist. He is the author of several novels, Platitudes, Home Repairs, Bedtime Stories: Adventures in the Land of Single-Fatherhood, and Right Here, Right Now, which received an American Book Award. His work with films includes the 1995 film The Tuskegee Airmen, which won the Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy, and the 2003 TV movie Good Fences, which was shortlisted for the PEN award and nominated for a Black Reel award. Ellis is a prolific essayist, primarily known for his piece titled New Black Aesthetic in which he coined the term “cultural mulatto” and discussed racial characterizations and their relationship to a new aesthetic movement. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post. The discussion will be held on Friday, March 27 in Gelman Library, Room 702 beginning at 7:30pm.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gayle Wald's New Book: It's Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television

Professor Wald's latest book is
available from Duke University Press

GW English and American Studies are very excited to announce that Professor Gayle Wald's new book, It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television (Duke University Press), has just been released. The book examines Soul!, the first African American black variety television show on public television, which between 1968 and 1973 was instrumental in expressing the diversity of black popular culture, thought and politics, as well as helping to create the notion of black community.

Critically-acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni has this to say about Professor Wald's project:

"The next step should have been, needed to be, had to be a strut. And no one strutted like Ellis Haizlip. We on the radical side of Civil Rights needed someone to listen; those on the more traditional side needed a platform from which to explain their views. Soul! brought it all together. Opera to Rap; Muslim to Christian; men to women; straights to gays. Soul! didn’t back off of any aspect of our community. Brave, Bold and downright Simply Wonderful.  Haizlip led all the shows that followed: Blacks on national television shows doing news; doing entertainment; from Tony Brown’s Journal to Don Cornelius’s signature “Peace, Love and Soul!” Ellis was the leader. Now his story and the story of that great show can be told. Excellent job, Gayle Wald. Ellis would be proud.”

For more information, visit the Duke website for the book here.

And some really great news: to save 30% on the paperback edition of It’s Been Beautiful, call Duke University Press at 888-651-0122 and give them the coupon code E15WALD.

Friday, March 13, 2015

GW English Alums on the Move: Amanda Panitch Publishes Damage Done

Amanda Panitch
GW English BA '11
"My Honor's Thesis Played a Fundamental Role in the Development of My Writing" - GW English Grad Amanda Panitch, interviewed by Professor Margaret Soltan.

MS: Let's start this interview with a link to your website, which announces the exciting news that a young adult novel of yours, Damage Done, has just been picked up by Random House.  Congratulations!  Tell us about its plot.

Damage Done will be available
July 21, 2015

AP: Thank you! In short, DAMAGE DONE is about Julia Vann, whose twin brother commits a school shooting that causes her to lose everything and everyone she loved - including him - and start anew. A year later, she's finally starting to heal when her brother's old psychologist shows up with an agenda of his own. Neither Julia nor the psychologist is telling the whole truth, and the story twists and turns from there. Bustle and Barnes & Noble have compared it to GONE GIRL and E. Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS. DAMAGE DONE will officially hit shelves on July 21st, 2015.

Of course I remember working with you on your excellent honors thesis here at GW.  Could you talk a bit about your experience in the department?  Were there particular courses/professors you found valuable, especially in terms of your current job as an associate literary agent, and in your own writing?

My honors thesis (and you, Professor Soltan!) actually played a fundamental role in the development of my writing. In my thesis, I wrote about the trope of The Chosen One and the development of The Chosen One through time, drawing upon Joseph Campbell's universal hero's journey from THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. I used Campbell's hero's journey as a guideline when I was learning how to plot, and I still draw on it when I'm outlining. In addition to my work with you on the thesis, Professor Alcorn's honors seminar was instrumental in helping me workshop and develop my theory and ideas.
Outside my thesis, I enjoyed my experience in the GW English Department. I especially enjoyed my classes on medieval literature with Professors Hsy and Dugan, and the Jewish Lit Live class with Professor Moskowitz. Professor Willis (in the Creative Writing Program) told me I could be a writer - her pep talk has returned to me many times as I've made my way through the brutal publishing world and helped keep me going. And I can't talk about favorite professors and courses without naming Professor Cheryl Vann in the Honors Program, whose courses on world literature and history and culture not only strengthened my reading and writing skills but gave me so many sparks of inspiration (along with her last name, which I borrowed for my main character).

Was it difficult to go to New York City and try to make it in the literary world?  Did you consider other options?  What would you say to current GW students thinking of this path?

I came to New York to work in book publishing, most of which is located here - NYC is expensive, and if it weren't for my job at the agency, I'd probably live somewhere else! I'd always wanted to write, but I knew better than to count on it as a career path (at least at first). So I got an internship and then a job at a literary agency and wrote on the side, though I actually didn't tell any of my colleagues that I was a writer until I'd signed with an agent myself. 

I would advise current GW students who want to write not to depend entirely on that - often it takes several years of writing before it pays enough where you can live on it, if it ever does. Find a career you enjoy - for me, it was/is working in publishing - and write as you're working. It was a huge comfort to me to know that, should the writing thing never actually work out, I still had a career I loved anyway, and that took a lot of the stress and the pressure off. 

Were you ever tempted to go on for a PhD in literature?  Why or why not?
I never thought seriously about getting my PhD - I didn't think I wanted to work in academia. 

Do you have future writing projects in mind?  Could you describe some of them?

Yes! The deal with Random House was actually for two books, so I have DAMAGE DONE coming out this summer and then another young adult psychological thriller coming out in 2016. I'm currently working on a third.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page in Conversation

Join Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Residence Brando Skyhorse and Acting Director of Creative Writing Lisa Page in a discussion to be held this Monday at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital.  Presented by Hill Center & PEN/Faulkner.

921 Pennsylvania Ave SE, at 7:00 PM. Free and Open to the Public.

EXTENDED DEADLINE: Shakespeare in the Mediterranean

There's still a chance to follow Shakespeare to Italy and Croatia.  Read our original blog post here.

The deadline for Shakespeare in the Mediterranean (HIST 3001/ENGL 3450) has been EXTENDED until March 20th.  Please go to the Study Abroad web page or contact the faculty directors Suzanne Miller - and Katherine Keller - for more information.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

GW English Alums on the Move: The Poetry of Andrew Kozma

Andrew Kozma
"GW was the place where I first dreamed myself as a writer."
GW English and Dramatic Literature Alum and poet Andrew Kozma recently had one of his poems selected for inclusion this year in The Best American Poetry.  Professor Margaret Soltan caught up with Andrew to talk about poetry and pedagogy, and about his time at GW.  The poem of Andrew's that Professor Soltan mentions is reproduced at the bottom of the interview.
First, congratulations on having one of your poems selected, by Sherman Alexie and David Lehman, for this year's edition of The Best American Poetry.  I look forward to reading it. 

Meanwhile, I love your poem, "Ode to the Love Bug," which concludes O Tiny Fuckers, teach us to let the world consume us.  I find your 'ode to bugs' series of poems wonderful, the work of a postmodern John Donne.  Tell me something about your approach to poetry, your influences, etc.
First, thank you so much for the comparison to Donne. Though he’s not a direct influence of my poetry in the past, he was definitely an inspiration for the insect odes. Part of what I wanted to do was combine the highest diction with the lowest possible subject, which is in Donne’s line of conflating the spiritual with the sexual.
 My approach to poetry is very language-oriented, the sound of a phrase calling forth another series of words. Ideally, in successful poems, the meaning of the whole poem is constructing itself as I write.
 One aspect of my writing which helps my free-wheeling composing style is that I’m somewhat addicted to form. While I think this attachment to symmetry has always been in me, William Logan at the University of Florida really brought it out completely. The benefit to being fluent in the sonnet and relatively comfortable with various poetic meters is that I can let my mind focus on the form, which then frees up my unconscious to reveal the metaphors and poetic ideas I didn’t even know I wanted to talk about.
 I’m not sure I have poets who influence me in the way that I feel like I’m emulating them, but there are a number of poets whose work I admire. Anne Carson. John Berryman. Anthony Hecht. In some ways, it’s easier to point out younger poets who I feel I’m writing like, who seem like kin. Lisa Olstein and her book Radio Crackling, Radio Gone, for example.
You've written in a number of prose as well as poetry modes.  Talk a little about the other kinds of writing you do.  
I like writing every genre except that of academic essays: non-fiction, plays, novels, stories, flash fiction, and poetry. In every case, the mode of writing does something different for me, allows me to tell a specific kind of story or create a specific effect. For example, the difference between fiction and drama: in fiction I’m often trying to make the unreal seem real, while in drama I’m twisting the real so it seems unreal.
 I’m also interested in storytelling through unconventional means. I did a Kickstarter a few years ago (The Postcard Story) which told a single story through four postcards, each postcard being a picture (taken by a photographer friend of mine) meant to comment on the story obliquely, almost like images in a poem.
Do you enjoy teaching writing?
 Currently, I’m teaching technical writing, essentially the bare bones of professionally-oriented writing. Strangely, being skilled in poetry is useful for this task since both technical writing and poetry deal in compact forms, saying the most in the smallest amount of space possible. Granted, poetry focuses on allusiveness while technical writing (business letters and the like) concerns itself with facts and the manipulation of the facts—the more I talk about both, the more similar they seem. 
What did your experience at GW mean to you?  Were there particular professors who made an impression on you?
 GW was the place where I first dreamed myself as a writer. I ended up taking a creative writing course every semester and majored in Dramatic Literature partly because the required courses allowed me to focus on what I wanted (writing) while avoiding what I didn’t want (everything else). My interests have always been varied, so in the first few years I dabbled in Physics (which would’ve stolen me except for the math involved) and Philosophy (which spit me out) before simply settling on English mostly because in studying literature I could study everything else as well.
The professors who made the most impact on me were Patricia Griffith and Faye Moskowitz. Patricia was so supportive with my playwriting and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted within the form—as a fan of the absurdists and Eugene Ionesco in particular, this encouragement was very welcome. Faye, on the other hand, was encouraging more simply by who she was and is. She gave me the sense that I could do anything, and that if obstacles showed up in my path, I should simply push against them until they gave way.
 Where did you study after GW?  What sort of degrees did you pursue? 
 After GW, I took a few years off and then went to the University of Florida for an MFA in Poetry, directly followed by heading to the University of Houston for a Ph.D. in English Literature and Creative Writing.
 For our current students who may be thinking about doing similar things, could you talk about the decision to pursue higher study in literature, in creative writing?  Was it difficult to make the choice to do this?  Why or why not?
 1. I’ve always enjoyed school, and never been in a hurry to leave it.
 2. After my experiences at GW, I was pretty sure that writing was what I wanted to do. As far as I could tell, the best way to do more writing—while learning about writing and studying literature—was an MFA program. After I completed my MFA, I was still hungry, and so looked at Ph.D. programs.
 3. The choice wasn’t difficult to make, but I had a lot of things going for me. I had no debt (due to lucky scholarships and generous parents) and no other obligations. Also, I only applied to schools which provided funding so that I didn’t have to pay for any of my post-graduate studies. 
4. Finally, there was no job I was itching to get out into the world to do. I wanted to write, and if you can go to a graduate program that pays you for being there, then it is sort of like having a fellowship specifically to write. I didn’t go into higher education expecting a job to be there waiting at the end of it, and you shouldn’t either if you are studying writing. Writing itself is the end point, and whatever you can do to make that happen is what you should do, whether that’s taking a job that allows you freedom outside of the job to focus on writing or going on to get your MFA.
 What, if anything, do you miss about GW, Foggy Bottom, the east coast?  Does where you're located make any difference to the sort of writing you do? 
I miss the city a lot. I miss being able to walk across the breadth of D.C. in a day through sidewalks crowded with people. I miss the way the city empties out at night to become its own ghost.

Where I write definitely influences the sort of writing I do—or, more specifically, what I end up writing about. The writing itself has a lag time, though, in that even after having lived in Houston for thirteen years now, I feel that it’s only just becoming a major force in my writing. It’s a city that’s constantly changing, reinventing itself, re-constructing, not its ideals, but its body, the roads, the buildings, the parks, all of it ever in flux.

What are some of your future writing projects?

I have been working on young adult novels recently, mostly science-fiction and fantasy. Though I never think of myself as a horror writer—though my poems might disagree—each novel is strewn with horrific elements. To return to an earlier question, one of the benefits of writing in multiple genres is that you learn things about your own writing you might not otherwise, in the same way you learn more about your native language by studying other languages.

On the poetry front, I have a new manuscript consisting of the bug poems plus songs—more persona-esque poems sparked by states of being or, more concretely, how someone might be identified. A couple of the latter, to give an example, are the “Song of the Starving” and the “Song of the Psychopath.”

Sometime this year I’ll be doing another postcard-based Kickstarter called Mailpocalypse that, if funded, will tell the story of the end of the world via alternate futures described in letters by those experiencing it. This will happen over the course of a year with one postcard being written each day, and then collected into an on-line repository (so that everyone can read all the postcards) that might then be further collected into a book.

Ode to the Love Bug

O Unthreatening Sex Fiend, climb your gendered body-twin
and strive to futurize. Four days alive (a little more

if male) is barely time enough for love, or even death.
But, O Fragile Gloves, how you throw your bodies into it!

In smokes of thousands, you dress the baking highway
and declare your passion to every passing glass. Do you see

yourself eternal? Even as you die, your angel-self in air
declares another love affair, and those two, too,

are crushed against the grill of this fine day. O girl, come with me
and love as only insects can. Let us be reborn

a hundred times an hour to fresh our faces to each other’s lips.
O Tiny Fuckers, teach us to let the world consume us.

("Ode to the Love Bug" originally appeared in Kenyon Review.)