Tag Archive for English Department

Scibona Honored with Writing, Book Publishing Award

Salvatore Scibona

Salvatore Scibona

Salvatore Scibona, the Frank B. Weeks Visiting Assistant Professor of English, is the winner of this year’s Ellen Levine Fund for Writers Award for his novel-in-progress Where In the World Is William Wurs?

The award is sponsored by the New York Community Trust and the Ellen Levine Fund for Writers. Members of the Teachers and Writers Collaborative nominated Scibona for the award, which comes with a $7,500 grant. Awards go an author who has previously published a print edition of one or two books of fiction, and who doesn’t currently have a publishing contract for a second or third book of fiction.

Scibona’s first novel, The End, was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award from the New York Public Library. The End is published or forthcoming in seven languages. A former FAWC Fellow and a graduate of St. John’s College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Scibona has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, an O. Henry Award, a Pushcart Prize and a Whiting Writers’ Award.

In 2010 he was named one of the New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” writers to watch. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space and Harper’s. Scibona also will leading seminars at the 2014 Wesleyan Writers Conference.

Ellen Levine, award-winning author, teacher, mentor and social justice advocate, died in 2012.

Cohen’s All We Know Shortlisted for PEN Award

Book by Lisa Cohen.

Book by Lisa Cohen.

Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English, was recently shortlisted for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography for her book, All We Know: Three Lives.

For more than 50 years, the PEN awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse fields as fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation and drama. With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN will confer 16 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes in 2013, awarding nearly $150,000 to writers, editors and translators.

The final winners and runners-up will be announced later this summer and will be honored at the 2013 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on Oct. 21 at CUNY Graduate Center’s Proshansky Auditorium in New York, N.Y.

“We at PEN are grateful for the work writers and scholars like Professor Cohen are doing to advance the study and appreciation of literature,” said Cameron Langford of the Membership, Literary Awards and Writers’ Fund at PEN American Center.

Cohen’s book also was nominated for a 2012 inaugural Plutarch Award for “best biography of the year” and was named a National Book Critics Circle Finalist.

5 Questions With . . . Resident Writer Kit Reed on New Books

Kit Reed (Photo by Beth Gwynn)

Kit Reed (Photo by Beth Gwynn)

In this issue of the Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Kit Reed, resident writer in the English Department. Reed recently published two new books, Son of Destruction (Severn House), in which a reporter searches for his father and winds up investigating cases of human spontaneous combustion; and The Story Until Now (Wesleyan University Press), a rich collection of 35 stories that displays the range and complexity of her work.

In a recent review of Reed’s two books in The New York Times, thriller writer Chelsea Cain wrote: “Reed finds humanity in the most fantastic places. She does it without pretension. And she does it with a sense of humor and no apologies. In my Museum of American Writers, I’d have a statue of Kit Reed in the lobby.”

Q: You’ve described yourself as “transgenred.” Would you talk about that?

A: Mother Isn’t Dead She’s Only Sleeping, my first novel, was a comic novel, set in Fort Jude, Florida. At War As Children, my second, was elegiac; both were drawn immediately from life. The third, The Better Part, was drawn from life but included one imagined detail: The narrator was the daughter of a man who ran the world’s largest correctional school for troubled teens. I’ve always been interested in dystopias, which makes some editors believe it’s SF—that is, speculative fiction, where writers can expand their imaginations beyond the seen world. The novels have, variously, been marketed accordingly, and the short fiction goes where editors who like a particular story take them, which means they’ve been in The Yale Review, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The Kenyon Review, Asimov’s SF, Missouri Review, New Haven Review, and… and… You get the idea. And I’m described as a “literary” writer (The Norton Anthology)!

George Saunders and Karen Russell came that route somewhat later. Editorial territory is less hostile now, and few reviewers have picked up on the fact that they are writing (shhh) SF, but that’s what they’re doing. It’s a friendlier climate for, OK, works that expand the imagination.

Literary, sometimes comic, always reality-based, but sometimes SF, oh right, and a couple of psychothrillers in the ’90s. In short, I’m “transgenred” because I don’t belong anywhere.

Q: What inspired your latest novel?

Novel by Kit Reed

Novel by Kit Reed

A: A spectacular instance of spontaneous human combustion in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Cohen’s Book Nominated for “Best Biography of the Year”

A book written by Assistant Professor of English Lisa Cohen was honored by the Biographers International Organization on April 22. Her book, All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) was nominated for a 2012 inaugural Plutarch Award for “best biography of the year.”

Named after the famous Ancient Greek biographer, the prize aims to be the genre’s equivalent of the Oscar, in that the winner will be determined by secret ballot from a list of nominees selected by a committee of distinguished members of the craft. The BIO nominated 10 books for the award.

The Plutarch Award will be presented at a gala ceremony in New York City on May 18.

Brown Panelist at National Youth Summit on Abolition

Lois Brown

Lois Brown

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History hosted the National Youth Summit on Abolition on Feb. 11.

Lois Brown, the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of African American Studies and English, joined a team of experts, scholars and activists in a moderated panel discussion to reflect upon the abolition movement of the 19th century and explore its legacy on modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

The event was webcast live to more than 2,000 students and adults from 31 states and to schools in Kenya, Pakistan and the Republic of Suriname in South America.

The program featured excerpts from the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentary The Abolitionists, which weaves together the stories of five of the abolition movement’s leading figures: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimke, Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown. Lois Brown was on the film’s advisory board.

Brown’s fellow panelists included Kenneth Morris, founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation and the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington; Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large in the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; and Ana Alarcon, a high school student in Hartford, Conn., who is president of the organization Student Abolitionists Stopping Slavery. Allison Stewart, an award-winning journalist, moderated the event.

The National Youth Summit on Abolition will be broadcast live to students and adults all over the world.

The National Youth Summit on Abolition will be broadcast live on Feb. 11.

Brown, whose teaching and research focuses on 19th Century African American and American literature, history, and culture, as well as and race and memory in colonial and antebellum America, is the author of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution and The Harlem Literary Renaissance: An Encyclopedia. She edited the first modern edition of Memoir of James Jackson, The Attentive and Obedient Scholar, the pioneering 1835 biography by Bostonian Susan Paul that is the earliest known biography of a free child of color and the first biography published by an African American woman.

Brown has held research fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. A 2000 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Award recipient, she has been affiliated with the Harvard University Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research where she also has been a visiting fellow. Brown has lectured widely and published articles on African American literature, women’s writing, early American education, and African American history and religion. The Museum of African American History in Boston recognized her work with one of its first African American History Awards and lauded her for her “extraordinary commitment to American history” and her “obvious commitment to education and equality.” Her passion for African American history has led to successful curatorial experiences that have included exhibitions at the Museum of Afro-American History in Boston and at the Boston Public Library. Since 2003, she has curated and co-curated five exhibitions including two major exhibitions honoring William Lloyd Garrison: Words of Thunder: William Lloyd Garrison and The Ambassadors of Abolition and of Words of Thunder: The Life and Times of William Lloyd Garrison.

 

5 Questions With . . . Ashraf Rushdy on Lynching in America

In his new book, Professor Ashraf Rushdy explains how lynching became a form of spectacle in the late 19th Century until the 1930s.

In his new book, Professor Ashraf Rushdy explains why lynching became a form of spectacle in the late 19th Century until the 1930s. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

(Story contributed by Jim H. Smith)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask “5 Questions” of Ashraf Rushdy, professor of English, professor of African American Studies and chair of the African American Studies Program. Rushdy is the author of American Lynching, a meticulously researched interpretive history of how lynching became a uniquely American phenomenon and how it has endured, evolved and changed over the course of three centuries. The book was published by Yale University Press in October 2012.

American Lynching by Ashraf Rushdy

American Lynching by Ashraf Rushdy

Q: Scholars have been writing about lynching for more than a century now. There is a significant body of extant literature. What did you aim to achieve with American Lynching? How is it different from other books on the subject?

A: There are, indeed, many books about lynching, and I’m beholden to that body of scholarship. Many of the books that have been written are about specific cases of lynching. There are fewer books that attempt to interpret the phenomenon generally. That’s what I have attempted to do with my book.

Lynching has been part of the American fabric for a long time, but the term has not consistently described the same thing over that time. I wanted to understand how lynching had taken root in America and how one practice, widely referred to as lynching, could develop into something quite different. And I wanted to offer a strong interpretation.

It’s interesting to note that lynching was not always a racially motivated act. The relative absence of lynchings in slaveholding Northern states and the occurrence of lynching in non-slaveholding western states is explained by the extent to which the mores and established precedents that emerged from those original slave laws took hold of the imagination of the residents of those states.

Q: Is lynching a uniquely American phenomenon, or is there a uniquely American “style” of lynching?

A: Well, the term “lynching” is certainly uniquely American. It derives from Colonel Charles Lynch,

Cohen’s Book Named a National Book Critics Circle Finalist

Book by Lisa Cohen.

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) named Assistant Professor of English Lisa Cohen’s book, All We Know: Three Lives, a “2012 Finalist” in the biography category. Founded in 1974 in New York City, the NBCC is the sole award bestowed by working critics and book-review editors.

A finalists’ reading will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium. Winners of the National Book Critics Circle book awards will be announced on Feb. 28.

In All We Know: Three Lives, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Cohen revives the forgotten lives of three women. Esther Murphy, an heiress whose conversation was renowned for its brilliance; Madge Garland, a pioneering fashion editor; and Mercedes de Acosta, a collector and “quintessential fan,” had much in common: as lesbians and as women perceived to be failures. Cohen’s work rescues their reputations and confronts the reader with a fundamental question of biography: whose lives do we choose to remember, and why?

 

Cohen’s Book Named Top, Most Notable in 2012 by Publishers Weekly, NYT

Book by Lisa Cohen.

Publishers Weekly named Assistant Professor of English Lisa Cohen’s book, All We Know: Three Lives, as one of the “Best Books of 2012.” In All We KnowPublishers Weekly says “Cohen … fully delineates the conventional biographical matters of ancestry, parents, schooling, marriages, affairs, friendships, breakups, work, and death. This well-researched, gossipy, informative, and entertaining biographical triptych is also a thoughtful, three-part inquiry into the meaning of failure, style, and sexual identity.”

The New York Times also named the book one of the “100 Notable books of 2012.” In a book review, the NYT says “Cohen’s own idiosyncratic hybrid doesn’t disappoint. She builds a rich picture of a lost world — and three women who dared to inhabit it on their own terms.”

 

Willis Speaks on Assemblage Artist Joseph Cornell in New York

Elizabeth Willis, professor of English, Shapiro-Silverberg professor, was a part of a talk commemorating Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York on Nov. 16. Cornell was an American artist, sculptor, and experimental filmmaker. He was also one of the pioneers of an art form known as assemblage, which involves compositions of various 2-D and 3-D objects. In this distinctive event, Willis joined other contemporary poets and filmmakers and shared poetry readings inspired by Cornell’s unique creations.

Reed’s Son of Destruction Published

Book by Kit Reed.

Book by Kit Reed.

Kit Reed, resident writer in the English Department, is the author of Son of Destruction, published by Severn House (U.K.) in October 2012. The U.S. version will be released in March 2013.

When his mother dies, Dan Carteret has only two leads to the identity of his father: a photograph of four young men, and a newspaper cutting showing the remains of a victim of spontaneous human combustion. Carteret travels to his mother’s hometown of Fort Jude and discovers that three cases of spontaneous combustion have occurred there in the recent past. In the search for his father, he confronts an affluent, insular society that closes ranks and refuses to give up the secret of what happened to Carteret’s mother at a fateful beach party in her youth. A fragmented narrative, using half a dozen different viewpoints, tells the story of the “thin line between an organised society and raw nature,” and presents a compelling account of people torn by clan loyalty and made desperate by love, hate and loneliness.

More information on the book is online here.The book is reviewed in The Financial Times.

Cohen Author of All We Know: Three Lives

Book by Lisa Cohen.

Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English, is the author of All We Know: Three Lives, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in July 2012. The book is 448 pages and includes 52 illustrations and notes.

In All We Know, Cohen describes three women’s glamorous choices, complicated failures, and controversial personal lives with lyricism and empathy.

Esther Murphy was a brilliant New York intellectual who dazzled friends and strangers with an unstoppable flow of conversation. But she never finished the books she was contracted to write—a painful failure and yet a kind of achievement.

The quintessential fan, Mercedes de Acosta had intimate friendships with the legendary actresses and dancers of the twentieth century. Her ephemeral legacy lies in the thousands of objects she collected to preserve the memory of those performers and to honor the feelings they inspired.

An icon of haute couture and a fashion editor of British Vogue, Madge Garland held bracing views on dress that drew on her feminism, her ideas about modernity, and her love of women. Existing both vividly and invisibly at the center of cultural life, she—like Murphy and de Acosta—is now almost completely forgotten.

At once a series of intimate portraits and a startling investigation into style, celebrity, sexuality, and the genre of biography itself, All We Know explores a hidden history of modernism and pays tribute to three compelling lives.

For more information on the book and to read book excerpts and reviews, go here.

Cohen’s New Book Reviewed in The New Yorker

A new book by Lisa Cohen, assistant professor of English, was given an enthusiastic early review in The New Yorker’s book blog on March 12. Her book, All We Know, will be published in July 2012.

“Cohen’s remarkable, sui generis study about three modernist figures—Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland, for many years a fashion editor at British Vogue—is, in part, about dread, which is to say failure and fear of self-exposure, and how we accommodate our lives to suit the various shadows splashed by the sun of occasional triumph…

By servicing Murphy and, in the book’s shattering final section about Madge Garland, a fashion star who reimagined her life out of the detritus of family neglect, English snobbism, and sartorial surface, Cohen services her subjects while merging and emerging from them. She extends them every loving courtesy, such as the human desire to identify with other humans, while exercising her right as a major writer: to make of her subjects and, to a certain degree, herself, what she will.”