Tag: Faculty

“I have never seen myself teach before”: Maura Nolan on Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley

Renowned documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley aired on PBS in January 2014, clocking in at 4 hours and 4 minutes long. The documentary centers on extended, intimate looks inside Berkeley classrooms and administrative meetings. Of these classrooms, two happened to hold classes being conducted by English Department professors: one by Professor Mitch Breitwieser and another by Professor Maura Nolan. Here,...

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…]


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

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.”

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.”