Monday, October 26, 2015

SPRING 2016 COURSES: Professor David McAleavey's Poetry Explodes in America

Professor McAleavey’s Spring 2016 course:

This course examines important books by eleven American poets from throughout the 20th century, who collectively disrupt the continuity and traditions of English-language poetry, starting with the Georgian, even Horatian lyrics of Robert Frost (just before WW I) through the Modernist constructions of T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Langston Hughes, and on through the post-WW II socially-conscious, Confessionalist, and Postmodern poetries of Brooks, Plath, Bishop, Ammons, and Ashbery.

Here are the texts:
Robert Frost, Poems of Robert Frost: A Boy’s Will and North of Boston, Signet Classics, 160 pp.: 978-0451527875
T. S. Eliot, Early Works of T. S. Eliot, CreateSpace Ind. Pub. Platform, 60 pp.: 978-1477595534
W. C. Williams, Spring and All (Facsimile Edition), New Directions, 96 pp.: 978-0811218917
Wallace Stevens, Harmonium, Faber & Faber, 160 pp.: 978-0571207794
Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues, Knopf, 128 pp.: 978-0385352970
Gwendolyn Brooks, The Essential G. B., LOA Am. Poets Project, 200 pp.: 978-1931082877
Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems, City Lights, 57 pp.: 978-0872860179
Sylvia Plath, Ariel: Perennial Classics Edition, Harper, 128 pp.: 978- 0060931728
John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, Penguin, 96 pp.: 978-0140586688
A. R. Ammons, Selected Poems, LOA Am. Poets Project, 130 pp. : 978-1931082938
Elizabeth Bishop, Geography III, FSG Classics, 64 pp.: 978-0374530655

Friday, October 23, 2015

GW English Alums on the Move: Madeline Dennis-Yates

Madeline Dennis-Yates, BA '15
The work of Madeline Dennis-Yates, a May graduate of the English Department, was chosen for the final selection of both the Source Festival in June and the DC Shorts Film Festival which ended Sept. 20.

Maddie's play in the Source Festival was "A Bouquet a Day" a ten-minute play in which a delivery man must help an artist who  believes she will die if she is not given flowers every day.  It was  one of 6 finalists to have public readings.

Her film script "Fireworks For A Funeral" was inspired by Maddie's reading about a company that actually inserts people's ashes into fireworks.  The comedy deals with two sisters, one who is arrested for bringing fireworks into an airport.  The other arrested  as an accomplice.  Her film script was also one of six finalists.  The  play was read by actors and playwrights, some of whom came from as far away as California.

This year was the 12th year of the DC Shorts Film Festival, the largest short film festival on the East Coast. There were entries from twenty-four countries.  Moviemaker Magazine recently called it the "coolest short film festival."

Maddie is now reading scripts for the Abingdon Theatre in New York, an off-Broadway theater that produces only
new plays.

Congratulations Maddie!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Jenny McKean Moore Reading Series Presents: Scott Simon: Unforgettable

The GWU English Department & The Jenny McKean Moore Reading Series invite you to a reading by Scott Simon.

NPR's Scott Simon
The event will be held:
 Thursday, October 29th
 7:30 PM
 Gelman Library Room 702

Scott Simon is known as a broadcast journalist.  He is, after all, the award-winning host of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.  He has also hosted and co-hosted BBC World News America and "Need to Know" on PBS. What's not so widely known, however, is that Simon is also a fiction writer.  His novels are Windy City and Pretty Birds,   He's also written books of nonfiction, about adoption, war, and the integration of baseball, among other things.  His latest book is a memoir entitled Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime. a tribute to his mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman.

Unforgettable utilizes a unique format, expanding on tweets Simon posted from his mother’s bedside during her final days to create a work that encapsulates“a son's spirited, affecting, and inspiring tribute to his remarkable mother and the love between parent and child.” Simon’s work not only conveys the anguish of his mother’s death, but also pays tribute to her fascinating life.
Simon incorporates humor and sentiment in a moving reflection upon both his mother’s life, and their familial bond Simon recounts the experience of his abandonment by an alcoholic father, and the strength exhibited by his mother in the aftermath. “His mother was a glamorous woman of the Mad Men-era; she worked in nightclubs, modeled, dated mobsters and movie stars, and was a brave single parent to young Scott Simon.”

Hi twitter coverage began on July 16th, 2013:

After a series of tweets chronicling his mother’s decline, the last update was a beautiful tribute:

In an interview with NPR, Simon describes the experience of recounting his mother’s final days in the ICU:
“I think I can say now it was pretty wonderful. They were, along with having our children, and marrying my wife, the sweetest moments of my life to be able to share that with my mother, to be able to spend that time with her knowing, after a while, that this would be our last time together. To be able to tell each other how much we, not only loved each other, but how much the rest of my life will be in a sense a continuation of what she left inside of me.
It made me really understand ... that mothers and fathers pour everything they are into us. And they stand us on our own. And they understand that we don't fully grow up until some day we lose them. There are some lessons that only grief and responsibility can teach us. And to be able to go through that with my mother and have us both feel that inside our souls, really, that's, that's a blessing.” (NPR)

 Praise for Unforgettable, Amazon “Best Book of the Month” and
Morning Joe “Book Club Pick”

“Deeply affecting… Mr. Simon’s cocktail of humor, honesty and compassion, is a powerful tonic…If not being quiet about death is becoming the new normal, Mr. Simon’s Unforgettable is one of its cornerstones.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jack-O-Lit Returns! Mon Oct 26

[Click banner image to enlarge]
It's pumpkin carving season! So it's time for... Jack-O-Lit!

Jack-O-Lit is our annual literary pumpkin carving event that is your opportunity to socialize with GW English faculty and librarians. Take a break from your studies and enjoy some food and good company.

Date: Monday, October 26
Location: Kogan Plaza
Time: 3-4:30pm (judging begins at 4pm)
Twitter hashtag: #JackOLit

Prizes will be awarded for best pumpkins (across multiple categories)!

There will also be snacks and drinks.

This event is BYOP [Bring Your Own Pumpkin] but carving and craft supplies will be supplied. 

Costumes are not required but encouraged.

This event is co-organized by English, GW Libraries, the GW Bardians, and the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Program. For more information, visit the Gelman Library page (with links to photos from last year's event). You can also check out a photo album from last year at GW Today and an article in the Hatchet. See you there!

For your contemplation: a delightfully horrifying Beowulf-themed pumpkin (2014).

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Professor Holly Dugan's Shakespearean London 2015

Professor Holly Dugan reports on Shakespearean London, a short-term study abroad course that GW English will run again in the coming semester!

Last March, my students and I travelled to London and Stratford as part of English 3446: Shakespearean London. We had the opportunity to study Shakespeare in some of the locations that defined his career in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century and to see many of the plays on our syllabus brought to life by the Globe Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company (as well as few other plays and musicals because, well, it’s London!)

From his humble upbringing as the son of a glover in Stratford-upon-Avon to his successful career as a playwright in London, Shakespeare and his plays provided a unique itinerary for our trip to England. Our first few days in London concentrated on its famous sites. We stood in awe of the great works of English literature—including five quartos of Shakespeare’s works and a first Folio—on display at the British LibraryWe could almost imagine Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men, performing in the great hall of Hampton Court while we were there. And we were appropriately haunted by tale young princes, imprisoned and (allegedly) killed by Richard, Duke of Gloucester to become Richard III during our twilight tour of the Tower of London. After high tea, we visited Millais’ Ophelia at the Tate Britain, his famous image of her corpse more beautiful and disturbing in person than in reproductions (especially the goldfish in the bottom left hand corner, which I had never noticed before this trip). At the National Gallery, we crouched next to Holbein’s Ambassadors, squinting to achieve the necessary perspectival shift that renders its famous memento mori image of a skull visible.  From there, we headed to the Thames for a riverboat to Greenwich to study early modern seafaring at the National Maritime Museum (and stand on the meridian line).  By the time we returned to zone 1, the tide had risen, emphasizing how much the river defines the metropolis, then and now.

In Stratford-upon-Avon, we visited the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and saw two performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company—Love’s Labours’ Lost and Love’s Labours’ Won (known to most of us as Much Ado About Nothing). We were lucky enough to get to chat in-depth with David Horovitz, the actor who played Leonato in the RSC’s production, and he shared his sense of the character and his motivation. We also worked with the famous theater company’s vocal trainer and learned how to embody the words of Shakespeare in powerful ways. (Some of us, ahem, were meant to be scholars…)

From there we headed back to London to tour the Globe Theater and to take in John Ford’s Broken Heart (1633). Ford’s play was staged at their Wanamaker theater, the Globe’s new indoor theater that creates an experience of seeing a Renaissance play not unlike the private indoor theaters that defined Jacobean and Caroline drama. Lit by candles, the wooden O of the Wanamaker was the perfect setting for this Caroline tale of ravishment, revenge, and heartbreak.  The sensations were overwhelming (one member of the audience fainted from all the blood!) and the topic was difficult, but the performance was by far (most of) our favorite, an experience we’re not likely to forget any time soon.  Our last day in London was a time to catch up with friends, explore neighborhoods, shop independent bookshops, and visit the many museums. (Yes, some of us really did pack more than four actual, real books with us and then spent most of our free time scouring the city for more! We’re English majors!)

It was, by far, my favorite trip to London. We arrive as a group of peers and left as friends. Best. Squad. Ever. If this sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to look for English 3446 next year. The course is offered each spring as part of the Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare Program, a two year living and learning community for first and second year students in CCAS. The trip (besides airfare and meals) is free for those in the program. For other students, the additional costs of the trip are approximately $3000.

Please contact me if you’re interested in the course or for more information about the Dean’s scholars in Shakespeare Program. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

British Romantic Period Students Visit National Gallery of Art

ENGL 3530 group examines a painting.
The National Gallery of Art—one of the finest institutions of its kind on the globe—is a mile and a half away from the George Washington University Campus.  The gallery’s physical and financial accessibility (it’s free!), peacefulness, and gorgeous collection demand a visit, which is one of several reasons that ENGL 3530: The British Romantic Period (taught by Professor Daniel DeWispelare) always takes a class trip to this important institution in order to survey and discuss the collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art.

John Martin, "Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon," 1816. 
 The logistics for this class journey are simple: over one weekend, we divide the total group of 25-30 people into smaller groups of five or six students and meet for 1.5-hour tours of the relevant galleries.  Students are afforded the opportunity to visit the French neo-classical galleries and then progress through the museum’s collection of British Romantic art, as exemplified by stunning examples of landscape and portraiture by artists like J.M.W Turner, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Martin, and Benjamin West, among others.  The American collection corresponding to the same period has pieces of equivalent art historical value, especially the remarkable work “Watson and the Shark” by John Singleton Copley.  
John Singleton Copley, "Watson and the Shark," 1778. 
 One of the most category-shattering experiences occurs when students visit what the National Gallery refers to as “Naïve Painting,” which is a strange term that corresponds to the more common designation “Outsider Art” or “Art Brut.”  When in this gallery, and when looking at examples of brilliant artists who were never trained in any particular school of representative painting but who still managed to create gorgeous images (irrespective of whether they are accurate in terms of geometric perspective), students are able to see the productions of late-eighteenth- and  early-nineteenth-century art as the truly are: a series of studied conventions and genera that create the very conceptions of beauty for which they are celebrated. 
Edward Hicks, "The Peaceable Kingdom," 1826.
 The tour ends with a visit to a small gallery that displays the American painter Thomas Cole’s four-painting series “The Voyage of Life.”  These four paintings—entitled “Childhood,” “Youth,” “Manhood,” “Old Age”—allegorize an individual’s progression through various stages of life by depicting the ways in which visions of the natural environment metaphorize the mental experience of certain stages of life.  In “Youth,” for example, a bright and fecund landscape echoes the painted figure’s optimistic view of the future, a view rigorously contradicted in “Manhood,” a painting wherein the central figure prays to a God occupying a dark and stormy sky in order to ensure that he will survive his passage down a series of dangerous riverine rapids.  A Romantic interest in the lifecycle is palpable in these gorgeous creations, as is the sense that life (like history) progresses in discrete stages. 
Thomas Cole, "Manhood," Image #3 of "The Voyage of Life," 1842.  
 More than anything else, ENGL 3530’s visit to the National Gallery is an opportunity to trade impressions of visual art while building an intellectual community using the resources that Washington, DC, makes available.  Though not all students have visited the museum before—sometimes this group includes even those seniors who have been living in our nation’s capital for three years or more!—most students report that the weekend time they devote to this activity is well spent.  Many also report that they would like to visit the museum again soon.  
ENGL 3530 after gallery visit, September 2015.