English Department Faculty Summer Plans, Now Updated

As the spring semester draws the academic year to a close and the students start dispersing for home and summer jobs, the English Department’s faculty members are busy with plans and projects of their own. Many students wonder what it is that professors do in the long summer break, and what follows is a brief account of the way in which five professors will be spending this summer.


In general, faculty use the long break from teaching to conduct research and work on large writing projects. Sometimes these projects take them to far-flung places like Constantinople and Cologne, while others require long hours in the Berkeley library or the isolation of their offices in Wheeler.

For instance, Professor James Turner spent last summer tracking down clandestine art and literature in the Renaissance, the topic of his current research project. Because much of the classical sculptures that would have been known to Renaissance artists are now scatteredacross museums “from Malibu to Munich,” as he puts it, Professor Turner was led to Knidos, a beautiful site on the Aegean Sea, to investigate the site of the most famous statue of Aphrodite. This summer, he notes, will be less ambitious, however, since he is traveling only for the first half — to Fort Worth, TX to see an exhibition, entitled Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, which he helped to plan, to London for a Baroque exhibition, and then to Oxford to help his niece recover from Finals. The second half of the summer will, he says, be decidedly calmer and less interesting: he reports that he needs to file papers, organize his office and use some of his research time to work on his book and some articles.

Indeed, Professor Eric Falci plans to spend his summer cooped up in his own office on the third floor of Wheeler finishing the book on Irish poetry on which he has been working. While this kind of solitary writing will take up most of the summer months, he does plan to take a research trip to Atlanta, GA to visit what he calls “the most important archive dealing with 20th century Irish poetry after Yeats” at Emory University. In addition to coming across what he knows will be some unexpected and serendipitous documents, Professor Falci hopes to take a look at an unpublished essay by Paul Muldoon as well as some composition notebooks by the Irish poet Medbh McGuckian. Because his book is less about the cultural milieu of these Irish poets than about their poetry itself, he won’t be giving a full account of the archive, but he does hope to highlight materials and documents that could be useful for scholars working on 20th century Irish poetry.

Professor Scott Saul has similarly domestic plans this summer. He is currently working on a biography of the comedian Richard Pryor, a project, which, he says, will necessitate a trip to Los Angeles to interview some of the last living members of the LA comedic and political scenes that constituted “the epicenter of black psychedelia” in the 1960s and 1970s. This larger project overlaps somewhat with an essay he will also be finishing for a collection on black Los Angeles at the millennium to be published by UC Press. His piece will address how contemporary novelists’ understanding of the history of black LA relates to the understanding of “the ‘hood” as represented in hip-hop music. Finally, he hopes the time off from teaching over the summer will allow him to wrap up a project on the essayist and translator Eliot Weinberger, whose “creative and politically trenchant” work is best-known outside the US. UPDATE: Professor Saul has an article being published in the June 22, 2009 issue of The Nation, entitled “Off Camera: Civil Rights in the North,” but which can be found online here.

Yet, this kind of focused writing does not necessarily need to be done within the geographic bounds of Berkeley. Professor Ann Banfield will be finishing her book on Samuel Beckett, whose work belongs both to Irish and to French literature, this summer, but will do so, she says, from the apartment which she and her late partner bought near the Picasso Museum in Paris. She says that the density of a city like Paris, which was where Beckett lived and wrote most of his life, makes it easier for her to live and to work since she doesn’t drive. Paris’ proximity to the University of Reading in the UK, which contains a large Beckett archive, will also be helpful to her in finishing the last chapter of her book. Professor Banfield’s relationship with French intellectual life has also been facilitated by the France-Berkeley Fund. She organized with Prof. Gilles Philippe a conference on language from a linguistic point of view (one of
Professor’s Banfield’s main areas of expertise) that brought two French professors and one graduate student to Berkeley last spring and two Berkeley graduate students as well as Professor Kristin Hanson to Paris last June to present their work to a receptive audience. She hopes to continue this relationship in the future.

Professor Kristin Hanson looks forward to this summer as an opportunity to work on her book applying ideas about the universal grammar of linguistic rhythm to understanding English meter, research she has been pursuing since she was a graduate student, and which she hopeswill ultimately empower literary scholars to explore meter with more confidence and to consider in new ways its role in English poets’ work. She will also be speaking at an international metrics conference in Vechta, Germany at the end of July, where she has been invited to give an address surveying the contribution generative linguistics has made to thestudy of meter; in honor of being in Germany but speaking in English she plans to compare some aspects of meter in music and in poetry through Handel’s work based on Milton’s poems, “l’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,” just performed with the beautiful dance composed to it by Mark Morris at CalPerformances. On her way home she will indulge in some applied metrics, joining her sister and mother in taking her two nieces to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

As for the blog, it too will be taking a summer hiatus, so check back in mid-August when we resume our chronicle of the English Department.