Category: People

Remembering Rebecca Munson

Rebecca Munson passed away on Friday, August 13th. Rebecca was a recent (2015) graduate of our PhD program, and had been working as Assistant Director for Interdisciplinary Education at Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities. The Center has published a memorial notice, https://cdh.princeton.edu/updates/2021/08/15/rebecca-munson/.   A contribution from James G. Turner. After hearing the shocking news I looked through hundreds of Rebecca’s...

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An Interview with Susan Schweik

Classically academic jobs are few and far between. At a place like Berkeley, you have to be trained to be a professor (and actually be one) before you are in a position to be an assistant or associate dean. At some other schools, it might be a career path of its own, separately. But I believe you should understand the work of faculty from inside before you move into this level of administration. Working on the administrative side….

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An Interview with Kathleen Donegan

Don’t be afraid to commit yourself to visions that are much bigger than you could ever realize by yourself. Your sustained commitment to the idea will have the effect of bringing other people along, and they will dedicate their own skills and resources to the project. When you see gaps or problems or absences, always ask “What if…” and allow yourself to imagine a solution that will reach out to people and offer them….

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An Interview with Hertha D. Sweet Wong

I think the appropriate reason to go into administration is from a desire to make something (e.g., experiences, processes, functionality) better. I see it as a mode of service. I would encourage undergraduate women who are interested in higher education administration, to get involved early (as a volunteer, intern, or committee member) in organizations or institutions where they can both contribute their insights and gain experience….

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Student Series: An essay by English major Davis Mendez

Davis Mendez Jesse Nathan English 166   Wallace Stevens’ “The Motive of Metaphor”   Wallace Stevens’ “The Motive of Metaphor” is a collection of signs, which at least for this essay is a better description of the poem. Its reading is a confluence of its reader, the text, and the poet. In this confluence, the imagination navigates the ground and...

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In memory of Professor John Bishop

Headnote by Professor Eric Falci, followed by a tribute written by Mitch Breitwieser and Eric Falci upon John’s retirement in 2011. Former students and colleagues have organized a virtual celebration to be held on June 16th, 2020. Details and Zoom link included below, and on our Events page.  Celebration of the Life of John Bishop June 16th (Bloomsday) 10 AM...

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The Zambian-American Perspective: an Interview with Namwali Serpell

By Lucia Salazar and Francesca Hodges Professor Namwali Serpell’s debut novel, The Old Drift (2019), demonstrates her prowess as a fiction writer. It was an immediate success: a New York Times bestseller and recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction. The Old Drift discloses Serpell’s Zambian-American perspective and the multiplicity of her environments. “It is about Zambia”, she told us,...

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An Interview with Poet and Professor Lyn Hejinian

Students Emma Campbell, Kahyun Koh, and Anya Vertanessian asked Lyn Hejinian a series of questions about her career and life in the English Department. Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in poetry? How would you describe your poetic style? LH: I think the first inspiration was my father’s typewriter. On weekdays he worked in the administration at...

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Maxine Hong Kingston: The Spearhead of Asian American Studies and Literature

By Lucia Salazar Maxine Hong Kingston, the critically acclaimed author of The Woman Warrior (1976), China Men (1980), and Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1989), graduated from UC Berkeley with an English degree in 1962 and returned as an English department faculty member in 1990. Her work has garnered a number of high-profile awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, a Guggenheim...

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Joan Didion: A Unique Sensibility in a Time of Gender Conformity

By Julia Cunningham Joan Didion, a writer who first garnered great attention and praise for her literary essays about American subcultures of the 1960s, is one of many acclaimed authors to have started their careers at Berkeley. Sprinkled among fashion articles and makeup advertisements, much of Didion’s early writing originally appeared on the pages of the “women’s magazines” of her...

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Alumna and writer Kim Chernin remembers Dorothee Finkelstein

by Kim Chernin The perennial question about memory: how much should we trust it?  I’ve been asked to write about my favorite English teacher at Berkeley in the early 1960s, but after fifty-six years I know my memory might play tricks, might even make things up in an effort to be true to what happened. Memory is probably the original...

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Forgotten Chapters of Department History: #2 Professor Dorothee Finkelstein

by Natalie Stone Although adversity is often considered a routine condition of human life, rarely does it forge an academic and personal strength as resolute as that of Professor Dorothee Finkelstein, the second woman to be tenured in the English Department. Escaping the Russian Revolution as a young child and later immigrating to Britain to escape the threat of Nazi-dominated...

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Josephine Miles: Poet and First Tenured Professor in English

By Emma Campbell, Kahyun Koh, and Anya Vertanessian Born in Chicago on June 11th, 1911, Josephine Miles was an acclaimed poet, professor, literary critic, and a vital part of the Berkeley community. In 1947, she became the first woman to be awarded tenure in the English Department, eighty years after its founding, and she was the sole tenured woman for...

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Professor Catherine Flynn reflects on Ella Young and the history of Irish Studies

by Catherine Flynn Ella Young was a complex character and central to the building up of Celtic Studies at Berkeley. During her ten years as James D. Phelan Lecturer in Irish Myth and Lore, she gave lectures at Columbia, Smith, Vassar and Mills. As a woman holding a prestigious lectureship, she was exceptional for her time. However, she emerged at...

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Forgotten Chapters of Department History:  #1 Ella Young’s Lectureship

by Kamila Kaminska-Palarczyk The first woman to hold an endowed lectureship in the English Department was a celebrity. She entered the department through the Celtic Studies program, the first degree-granting program of its kind in the country, created in 1911. Two decades later the program appointed Irish writer Ella Young as the Phelan Memorial Lecturer in Celtic Mythology and Literature....

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