“Robert Burns, 1759-2009: A Colloquium”

Graduate student Catherine Cronquist Browning attended the colloquium the English Department hosted to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the poet Robert Burns’ birth. What follows is a short summary of the day.

Five leading scholars in the field of Scottish Romanticism, Leith Davis, Janet Sorensen, Steve Newman, Ian Duncan, and Carol McGuirk, delivered current work on Burns to an audience of assorted faculty, graduate students, undergradutes, and other members of the department community. In fact, Wheeler 300 was packed full of eager listeners, with those who came later finding seats on tables and the floor to enjoy the rich program!

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Professor Ian Duncan Returns from Sabbatical

Our first blog post of this year detailed some reading recommendations which members of our department had read over the summer. Having just recently returned from a year-long sabbatical, Professor Ian Duncan supplied a wonderful list as well. What follows is a brief account of Professor Duncan’s doings in Turkey interspersed with a bevy of titles which might catch your eye. [Read full post…]

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The view looking out over the Bosphorus and our local Greek Orthodox church from the house where Professor Duncan stayed in Istanbul

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Professor Namwali Serpell Included in Best American Short Stories 2009

9780618792245The English Department proudly congratulates Professor Namwali Serpell on her inclusion in this year’s edition of Best American Short Stories. In what follows, Professor Serpell discusses her story, entitled “Muzungu,” as well as the relationship between her creative writing endeavors and her work as a literary critic.

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English Major Links Theory and Practice in Service Trip

What follows is a redaction of a report which recent English major graduate Caitlin O’Donnell wrote describing her experiences working on poverty issues in the Caribbean. Caitlin addresses the relationship between the “theoretical” study of literature and the “praxis” of the fight against global poverty.


Caitlin with two participants of the Barbados YWCA day camp

Caitlin with two participants of the Barbados YWCA day camp

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As an English major with a minor in Global Poverty and Practices, I am on a quest to achieve the kind of praxis emphasized in my study of Global Poverty and Practices in conjunction with the study of English literature. I know that the longer I study and practice the two together, the more linkages I will be able to make and the closer I will […]

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Commencement Address by Nuruddin Farah: “A Fork in the Fork of the Footpath”

farahNuruddin Farah—among the foremost of contemporary African writers, author of numerous novels including the trilogies Variations on the Theme of An African Dictatorship and Blood in the Sun, and recipient of the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for Literature—delivered this year’s English Department commencement address at the Greek Theatre on May 16. You’ll find the text below the fold.

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Literary Links

Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his earlier life in Paris, was actually pieced together after his suicide by his then-wife Mary, and as Christopher Hitchens points out in a review of the newly published “restored” version, what was eventually redacted or included presumably had a lot to do with what his final wife thought about what he had...

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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.

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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.”

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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

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Literary Links

In the Guardian, Martin Amis remembers J.G. Ballard, musing on how so orderly a life could produce work so unpredictable, savage, and sinister. In the New Statesman, John Gray writes that these two sides of the author were not unrelated, that “after experiencing the sudden disappearance of conventional existence he was never able to take the pretensions of civilised humanity...

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