Professor Lyn Hejinian’s “Positions of the Sun: Latitudes and Lucy Church Amiably”

Professor Lyn Hejinian recently delivered this year’s Gayley Lecture, an annual English Department event which showcases the current research of a distinguished faculty member. The text of Professor Hejinian’s lecture, which we’re delighted to reproduce below, continues her extensive body of celebrated poetic and scholarly work. Its particular style, linking poetic diction with critical analysis, might ring some bells with students who have taken one of Hejinian’s twentieth-century literature courses and encountered those writers she has most extensively studied, virtuosos in poetry and prose alike: William Carlos Williams, for one, or the subject of this lecture, Gertrude Stein.

Stein is a writer whose status as cultural icon—symbol of Parisian cosmopolitanism and open homosexuality, standard-bearer for difficult modernist writing, target of relentless parody—tends to overshadow her actual work. Hejinian admits that she doesn’t expect anyone in her audience to have read Lucy Church Amiably, the 1927 text which is the lecture’s centerpiece. In Stein’s own lifetime the situation was little different; she feared, Hejinian tells us, that her “identity,” the fixed public self that accompanied her celebrity, might overwhelm her “human mind,” the fluid, less definable self of everyday life. Yet Hejinian contends that Stein is important precisely because she is not alone in this predicament, and that Stein’s study of the relations between time and identity, labor and freedom, has much bearing on our own age. Her lecture recovers for us a bit of Stein’s human mind and offers a fine example of what literary scholarship can be.

Professor Scott Saul Wins American Cultures Teaching Award

The English Department is delighted to announce that Professor Scott Saul is this year’s recipient of The American Cultures Innovation in Teaching Award. This campus-wide award, given by the American Cultures Center, “recognizes the use of pedagogical developments to enhance the students’ learning experience in the American Cultures classroom.” Professor Saul was awarded this distinction for the ENGL 166AC course he taught this past Fall, “Race and Performance in the 20th c. U.S.”

The EUA Production of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida

In what follows, Professor Kevis Goodman — usually a silent partner in the composition of blog postings — recounts the English Undergraduate Association’s recent staging of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.

Kyle Binkowski (Class of 2009) is drawn to plays that have never or have rarely been performed. This attraction started during the Spring term of 2008, when Kyle and a number of his classmates, who had just completed a semester of the English Department’s upper-division lecture course on John Milton, decided to produce the dramatic poem Samson Agonistes—a work that Milton insisted “never was intended” for the stage. It culminated last weekend (April 24-26) with a splendid production of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, perhaps the least frequently staged of Shakespeare’s plays.

The full cast of the EUA’s production of Troilus and Cressida

Graduate Student’s Literary Journalism

The issue of “relevance” is a constant concern among Humanities departments today, especially in these troubled economic times. How do you make literature interesting and important to a population that seems to be increasingly indifferent to, or perhaps simply too busy for, it? Third-year graduate student Dimiter Kenarov has some very strong opinions about questions like this one, and, as a freelance journalist and contributing editor to the Virginia Quarterly Review, he has put his thoughts into action. He has published an article on Milosevic’s Serbia (Summer 2006) which was the co-winner of the Staige D. Blackford Prize for Nonfiction, a piece on the Roma in Bulgaria (Summer 2008), which was recently selected for the Best American Travel Writing of 2009, and an account of the double identity of Radovan Karadzic, the “Butcher of Bosnia” (Winter 2009). The blog recently sat down with Dimiter to find out more about the relationship between his academic work and his journalistic pursuits.

Professor Mitch Breitwieser wins Campus’s Highest Teaching Honor, the 2009 Distinguished Teaching Award

“When teaching, it’s tempting to make it seem as if one’s ideas came effortlessly, and to hide the truth, which is that coming up to a blind wall is a permanent feature of everyone’s intellectual life,” writes the English Department’s latest winner of the campus-wide Distinguished Teaching Award in his teaching philosophy. But,” as Mitch Breitwieser reflects, “such an apparent facility on the teacher’s part can reinforce a student’s feeling that, because he or she is struggling when those around seem not to be, there must be some intrinsic personal deficiency. And feeling that way greatly reduces the chance that the intellectual problem will be solved.” He therefore tells his students, both in class and in office hours, that “academic success depends upon properly understanding that encounter with difficulty”—because failure “most often comes not from a lack of intelligence or preparation, but from a wrong choice concerning how to respond to having come up against that wall.”