Tag Archive for English Department

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)

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


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


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.

Gilvarry Named “5 Under 35″ Award Winner from National Book Foundation

Alex Gilvarry, visiting writer in English

Alex Gilvarry, visiting writer in English.

Alex Gilvarry, visiting writer in English, was named a “5 Under 35″ award recipient from the National Book Foundation.

Gilvarry is the author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, published by Viking/Penguin Group in January 2012. He was selected for the award by 1993 National Book Award Finalist Amy Bloom, the Distinguished University Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing.

Gilvarry was born in Staten Island, N.Y. in 1981. He holds an MFA from Hunter College and has been a Norman Mailer Fellow and a visiting scholar at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin. His first novel, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, won the Hornblower Award at the 2012 New York City Book Awards. He is an artist-in-residence at Monmouth University and teaches the course, Techniques of Fiction at Wesleyan.

Gilvarry will receive the award during the National Book Foundations’ Ninth Annual Celebration of Emerging Fiction Writers. The “5 Under 35″ authors will be honored at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 17.

The Mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America.

Garrett Offers First Literary-Historical Analysis of the Episode in New Book

Matthew Garrett

New book by Matthew Garrett.

Matthew Garrett, assistant professor of English, is the author of Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution, published by Oxford University Press in April 2014.

In Episodic Poetics, Garrett merges narrative theory with social and political history to explain the early American fascination with the episodic, piecemeal plot.

Since Aristotle’s Poetics, the episode has been a vexed category of literary analysis, troubling any easy view of the subsumption of unwieldy narrative parts into well-plotted wholes. Episodic Poeticsproposes a new method of reading and a new way of conceiving of literary history. The book combines theoretical reflection and historical rigor with careful readings of texts from the early American canon such as The Federalist, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, along with hitherto understudied texts and ephemera such as Washington Irving’s Salmagundi, Susanna Rowson’s Trials of the Human Heart and the memoirs of the metalworker and failed entrepreneur John Fitch. Garrett recounts literary history not as the easy victory of grand nationalist ambitions, but rather as a series of social struggles expressed through writers’ recurring engagement with incompletely integrated forms.

Read more about Garrett in this past Wesleyan Connection article.

Cohen, Hornstein, Nakamura, Shusterman Awarded Tenure

Newly tenured faculty are, from left, Lisa Cohen, Abigail Hornstein, Miri Nakamura and Anna Shusterman.

Newly tenured faculty are, from left, Lisa Cohen, Abigail Hornstein, Miri Nakamura and Anna Shusterman.

The Board of Trustees recently conferred tenure to four Wesleyan faculty. Their promotions take effect July 1.

They are: Lisa Cohen, associate professor of English; Abigail Hornstein, associate professor of economics; Miri Nakamura, associate professor of Asian languages and literatures; and Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology. Other tenure announcements may be released after the Board’s May meeting.

“Please join us in congratulating them on their impressive records of accomplishment,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth.

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching are below:

Lisa Cohen joined the English Department’s creative writing faculty in Fall 2007. Her courses are focused on nonfiction writing, the literature of fact, modernism, and gender and sexuality studies. She has published a wide range of essays and the critically acclaimed book, All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2012). In this work, she presents the biographies of three 20th-century women whose significance in modernist culture in England and the United States is equaled only by their absence from previous historical investigations. Critics have widely recognized the stylistic achievement of her writing, as well as the innovations of her archival project and her reframing of the genre of biography.

Abigail Hornstein teaches courses in a variety of areas, including corporate finance, investment finance, and econometrics. She has a particular interest in multinational strategy and China, and her work addresses such questions as how corporate characteristics affect the quality of corporate capital budgeting decisions, and how corporate and country-level governance mechanisms affect both foreign direct investment in China and the stock listing patterns abroad of Chinese firms.

Miri Nakamura teaches courses on literary and filmic approaches to Japanese modernity. More particularly, she works on Japanese literature from the Meiji era to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 – with a focus on fantastic fiction, including robot literature and gender theory. In her forthcoming book, Monstrous Bodies: The Rise of the Uncanny in Modern Japan, she brings methodologies from literary studies, cultural history, and critical theory to bear on understanding the link between monstrosity and femininity in the modern Japanese imagination.

Anna Shusterman offers courses in developmental psychology and on relations between language and thought. Always interested in building bridges between laboratory-based findings and real-world interventions, she focuses on the cognitive development of young children and that of populations with varied linguistic backgrounds. Her research has shown multiple ways that humans become more effective at spatial and numerical reasoning once they master the relevant language, such as “left” and “right” in the domain of space or the natural numbers in the domain of mathematics.