Tag Archive for English Department

Crosby’s Memoir Chronicles Life with Pain, Rebuilding after Suffering

9781479833535_FullProfessor of English Christina Crosby is the author of a new book published by NYU Press in March 2016. Titled, A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, the novel chronicles her encounter with pain, which left her paralyzed.

Three miles into a 17-mile bike ride, the spokes of her bike caught a branch, pitching her forward and off the bike. With her chin taking on the full force of the blow, her head snapped back leaving her paralyzed.

This event, as she makes note of in her novel, opened her eyes to the beauty, yet fragility of all human bodies. Her memoir tells of the importance of “living on,” and rebuilding after suffering.

Chronicle Publishes Excerpt from Crosby’s New Memoir

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an excerpt from a new memoir by Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. The book, A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, is due out later this month from NYU Press.

Crosby tells the story of how her life changed after a bicycle accident in 2003, just after her 50th birthday, left her paralyzed. According to the publisher, “In A Body, Undone, Crosby puts into words a broken body that seems beyond the reach of language and understanding. She writes about a body shot through with neurological pain, disoriented in time and space, incapacitated by paralysis and deadened sensation. To address this foreign body, she calls upon the readerly pleasures of narrative, critical feminist and queer thinking, and the concentrated language of lyric poetry. Working with these resources, she recalls her 1950s tomboy ways in small-town, rural Pennsylvania, and records growing into the 1970s through radical feminism and the affirmations of gay liberation.”

Read the excerpt here.

 

Pfister Authors Book on Literary Surveyors

surveyorsJoel Pfister, the Olin Professor of English and American Studies and chair of the American Studies Department, is the author of Surveyors of Customs: American Literature as Cultural Analysis published by Oxford University Press, 2016.

Within his book, Pfister argues “that writers from Benjamin Franklin to Louise Erdrich are critical ‘surveyors’ of customs, culture, hegemony, capitalism’s emotional logic, and more. Literary surveyors have helped make possible—and can advance—cultural analysis.” While noting that cultural theory and history have influenced interpretations of literature, he asserts that, in fact, “literature can return the favor.”

The book raises many historical, but timely questions. “When and why did capitalism need to invest in the secular ‘soul-making’ business and what roles did literature play? What does literature teach about its relationship to establishing a personnel culture that moved beyond self-help incentive making and intensified Americans’ preoccupations with personal life to turn them into personnel? How did literature contribute to the reproduction of ‘classless’ class relations and what does this say about dress-down politics and class formation in our Second Gilded Age?” These surveyors wrote novels, stories, plays, poetry, essays, autobiography, journals and cultural criticism.

(article co-authored by Andrew Logan)

 

 

Collaborative Cluster Provides Perspectives in Dance, Music, English, African American Studies

Faculty Jay Hoggard, Lois Brown,  Nicole Stanton, and L’Merchie Frazier are teaching the new Collaborative Cluster Initiative Research Seminar.

Faculty Jay Hoggard, Lois Brown, Nicole Stanton, and L’Merchie Frazier are teaching the new Collaborative Cluster Initiative Research Seminar. The cluster enables faculty to develop a shared research project with a unifying theme. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
This year, four Wesleyan faculty are coordinating a year-long interdisciplinary project that enables students from an array of majors and academic disciplines to collaborate, create and work together as a learning community under the theme “Renaissance Projects: Reclaiming Memory, Movement and Migration.”

The Collaborative Clusters Initiative of the Allbritton Center enables faculty from a variety of departments and programs to develop a shared research project with a unifying theme. Cluster courses in 2015-16 provide perspectives from dance, music, English, and African American studies on the ways performance practices have engaged the past and present in the face of great migrations. The collaborative project is rooted in a multi-faceted conception of renaissance, and explores states of past and present, of vitality and decay, and of presence and absence.

Students, in collaboration with peers, faculty and visiting artist/scholars, develop original research in writing, performance or visual art around the cluster theme.

This year, faculty members Nicole Stanton, Jay Hoggard, Lois Brown,  and L’Merchie Frazier are teaching courses in the Collaborative Cluster Initiative Research Seminar.

Bria Grant ’17, an African American studies and dance double major, was ecstatic to take classes in the new cluster because it addressed both her interest in the arts and black people in America in one initiative. She’s enrolled in Stanton’s and Hoggard’s class this fall.

“The discussions we have each week, coupled with the nurturing aspect of breaking bread and eating dinner together, create a familial and intellectual space that both comforts and stimulates my mind simultaneously,” Grant said. “Furthermore, the research seminar itself gives me the space to immerse myself within the subject matter in a way I personally see fit, and explore specific aspects without the heavy burden of a strict curriculum.”

Professor Emerita Annie Dillard to Receive National Humanities Medal

02_ADAnnie Dillard, who taught writing at Wesleyan for more than 20 years, will receive the 2014 National Humanities Medal, the White House announced on Sept. 3. President Barack Obama will confer the medal on Dillard and nine others at a ceremony at the White House on Sept. 10 (which will be live-streamed at 3 p.m. here).

The National Humanities Medal honors an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizen’ engagement with history and literature or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources. The medal was first awarded in 1996. This year’s awardees include historians, writers, a philosopher, scholar, preservationist, food activist, and an education course. Learn more in the National Endowment for the Humanities’ announcement.

The official citation for the National Humanities Medal states that Dillard is being honored “for her profound reflections on human life and nature. In poetry and in prose, Ms. Dillard has invited us to stand humbly before the stark beauty of creation.”

Dillard retired from Wesleyan in 2001 as an adjunct professor of English, emerita. During her two decades at the university, she taught courses such as introduction to creative writing, poetry writing and reading, and non-fiction narrative writing.

She is the author of more than a dozen books of fiction, poetry, nonfiction narrative, short essays, and a memoir, as well as a prodigious number of short stories, poems, articles, musical compositions, art exhibits, and plays. She is also the recipient of several prestigious awards. She received a John Simon Guggenheim Grant in 1985-86, and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters beginning in 1999. Her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 1975. And her book, An American Childhood, was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in 1987. Learn more about Dillard in this biography from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

New Short Story by Scibona Published in Harper’s

Salvatore Scibona, the Frank B. Weeks Visiting Assistant Professor of English, is the author of a new short story published in the September 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Titled, “Tremendous Machine,” the story follows Fjóla Neergaard, a failed fashion model, lacking direction, and living in seclusion at her wealthy parents’ vacant Polish country house. She sets out to purchase a sofa for the house, which contains almost no other furniture, and finds herself in an odd store full of pianos. She purchases a piano and signs up for lessons with an elderly, once famous pianist.

Scibona shared some thoughts about the inspiration of his new story from the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H., where he was a fellow this summer.

“A few years ago, never having played an instrument before, I bought a piano and started taking lessons. This became an obsession to an unhealthy degree. I got tendonitis and had to stop playing for a while. Then I started again with a new teacher who became an inspiration. When I first started teaching at Wesleyan, I plotted my movements on campus to hit the practice studios in the basement of the CFA between classes.

“Around the same time, I took a trip to Poland, principally to the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow, a place that now has become a tourist destination, but that in the early ’90s when the story takes place bore little public acknowledgment of its history.

“The story is about a young Danish woman who has failed as a fashion model and is living in spartan desperation at a Polish estate her wealthy parents have purchased as an investment, with no intention that anyone should ever live there. In the ruins of her hopes, she happens on a piano warehouse and has one of those grace-bitten moments in life when something that feels like your true calling clubs you in the back of the head.

“The central mystery of the story, to my understanding, is that once Fjóla (that’s her name) starts playing she discovers a stamina, a talent, and a will that seems to come from nowhere at all. But nothing comes from nothing. And the story wants to know where this came from, this hidden gift.

She has superpowers. She discovers them by accident, and they save her. But where did they come from?”

Scibona, who in entering his third year teaching at Wesleyan, spent about a year working on the story. He wrote most of it in his apartment at Lawn Avenue and Brainerd Road. A recent Wesleyan graduate inspired the first name for the protagonist’s father in the story.

Scibona teaches fiction writing (Techniques, Intermediate, Advanced) and a First Year Seminar called Three Big Novels, an occasion for frosh to cut their teeth on some grand good novels. This year they will be reading Moby Dick, Anna Karenina and A House for Mr. Biswas.

Scibona’s other stories include “The Hidden Person,” which appeared in Harper’s, and “The Kid,” which was published in The New Yorker. His novel The End was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Conference Teaches Participants about New Media, Fiction Writing, Journalism

Conference participants had time to write and reflect, in addition to attending seminars, workshops, readings, panel discussions, and manuscript consultations.

Wesleyan Writers Conference participants took time to write and reflect, in addition to attending seminars, workshops, readings, panel discussions and manuscript consultations. (Photos by Laurie Kenney)

The Wesleyan Writers Conference celebrated its 59th year by welcoming more than 60 new and seasoned writers and others interested in the writer’s craft to the Wesleyan campus June 10-14.

The Wesleyan Writers Conference has been useful to writers at different stages of their careers.

The Wesleyan Writers Conference has been useful to writers at different stages of their careers.

Headed by Wesleyan Writers Conference Director Anne Greene, adjunct professor of English and director of Writing Programs, the conference featured seminars, workshops, readings, panel discussions and manuscript consultations led by Wesleyan faculty and other nationally known writers, editors and agents.

Conference topics included the novel, short story, poetry, nonfiction, memoir, biography, journalism, writing for film and TV, new media, writing about food and travel, writing about science and medicine, preparing your work for publication, and how to sell your work.

New Volume of Elizabeth Willis’ Poetry Published

Elizabeth Willis

Elizabeth Willis

Alive: New and Selected Poemsa new volume of poetry by Elizabeth Willis, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, professor of English, was recently published by New York Review Books. The book contains poems spanning more than 20 years.

According to the publisher’s website, with these poems, Willis “draws us into intricate patterns of thought and feeling. The intimate and civic address of these poems is laced with subterranean affinities among painters, botanists, politicians, witches and agitators. Coursing through this work is the clarity and resistance of a world that asks the poem to rise to this, to speak its fury.

Willis is also the author of Address (2011), which received the PEN New England/L. L. Winship Prize, and four previous books of poetry.

Faculty, Distinguished Guest Discuss Tragedy and Revolution

davidscott4

Matthew Garrett, David Scott and Lily Saint led a discussion on “Tragedy and Revolution” in the Russell House.

On March 5, the Certificate in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory supported a discussion on “Tragedy and Revolution.” Matthew Garrett, assistant professor of English, assistant professor American studies and director of the Certificate, moderated the discussion.

Assistant Professor Matthew Garrett, visiting distinguished guest David Scott and Assistant Professor Lily Saint led a discussion on “Tragedy and Revolution” March 5 in the Russell House.

David Scott, professor of anthropology at Columbia University and editor of the journal Small Axe, spoke about his recent book, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice (Duke University Press, 2014). Lily Saint, assistant professor of English, provided a response to Professor Scott’s book.

Omens of Adversity

Crosby Honored at Barnard College Event

Crosby

Christina Crosby, at right, was honored at Barnard College on March 10. She’s pictured here with her partner Janet Jakobsen, formerly a Wesleyan faculty member and fellow at the Center for the Humanities.

Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, was honored at an event March 10 at Barnard College. Several Wesleyan faculty and alumnae participated in the discussion.

Panelists Laura Grappo '01, assistant professor of American Studies, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies; Maggie Nelson '94, teaches at California Institute of the Arts; and Gayle Pemberton, former Wesleyan professor of English, currently professor of English at Mt. Holyoke College.

Panelists Laura Grappo ’01, assistant professor of American studies, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies; Maggie Nelson ’94, teaches at California Institute of the Arts; and Professor of English and African American Studies, Emerita Gayle Pemberton.

The event, titled “Body Undone: A Salon Honoring Christina Crosby,” was hosted by the Barnard Center for Research on Women and NYU’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies. It focused on Crosby’s forthcoming memoir of living with disability, Body Undone: Living on After Great Pain. The memoir will be published by NYU Press in the “Sexual Cultures” series.

In 2003, Professor Crosby broke her neck in a bicycle accident.

“Spinal cord injury has cast me into a surreal neurological wasteland that I traverse day and night,” she wrote. “This account is an effort to describe the terrain. I want you to know, and I, myself, want better to understand, a daily venture of living that requires considerable fortitude on my part and a great dependency on others, without whose help my life would be quite literally unlivable.”

According to the event description, in her book, “Crosby grapples directly with the physical deficits of quadriplegia suddenly encountered at age 50 and refuses to look away from the rawness of grief over the loss of her active, athletic life. The book is an exploration of embodiment that reaches back to the author’s childhood as a tomboy in small-town in Pennsylvania, her brother’s life with (and death from) multiple sclerosis, and the feminist and gay liberation movements of the 1970s that were for her thrilling life-affirmations. In the end, queer commitments create life-sustaining possibility, and open to an unknown future, lived in an undone body.”

The event featured a reading by Crosby, followed by a panel discussion featuring, among others, Wesleyan’s Associate Professor of English Lisa Cohen; Professor of English and African American Studies Emerita Gayle Pemberton; Assistant Professor of American Studies Laura Grappo ’01; and Maggie Nelson ’94, a professor at the California Institute for the Arts.

Watch a video of the event here.

Willis’s Poem Published in The New Yorker

Elizabeth Willis

Elizabeth Willis

A poem by Elizabeth Willis, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, professor of English, is published in the Jan. 12 edition of The New Yorker.

Willis, a 2012-13 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Alive: New and Selected Poems, which will be published this spring. She is an expert on 20th century American poetry and poetics, poetry and visual culture, 19th century poetry and poetics, modernism, post-modernism, poetry and political history and the prose poem.

The published poem is titled “About the Author.”

Professor Emeritus Creeger Remembered for Teaching Romantic Poetry

(Photos courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

George Creeger. (Photos courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

George Creeger, professor of English, emeritus, died Nov. 1 at the age of 89.

Creeger joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1951 after receiving his BA at DePauw University, and his MA and Ph.D. at Yale. He taught American literature in the English Department for nearly 50 years. He was an expert on romantic poetry — particularly Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Keats, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, and on the works of Herman Melville. Creeger also brought some of his other passions into the classroom through courses on Early Connecticut Houses and Opera as Myth and Literature. He served as dean of the college from 1971-1973 as well as chair of the faculty from 1991-1992.

He was the first recipient of the Binswanger Award for Excellence in Teaching when it was inaugurated in 1993.

George Creeger lecturing.

George Creeger lecturing.

In an all-campus e-mail, Ruth Striegel Weissman, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences, professor of psychology, said “[Creeger] was a brilliant teacher whose deep resonant voice was instantly recognizable, and he was much beloved by a devoted following of students.”

Creeger was the son of a Methodist minister in Middletown, and lived part of his young life in the area. He met Elva, the daughter of Professor of Astronomy Carl Stearns, and they were married in Middletown.

Creeger is survived by his son, Kit (Christopher) Creeger, his daughter, Katie, of Ithaca, New York, and two grandsons, Ethan and Josh, both sons of Kit. He is predeceased by his wife, Elva, and by a son, Carl, who lived in Austin, Texas.

Memorial contributions in his name may be made to the Center For Faculty Career Development at Wesleyan as follows: note “CFCD in memory of Professor George Creeger” when contributing at give.wesleyan.edu or on a check mailed to Wesleyan University, 164 Mount Vernon Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

A memorial service is being planned for the spring at Wesleyan.