Tag Archive for English Department

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.”

Two Professors Receive Prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships

Magda Teter

Magda Teter, Chair of Medieval Studies, Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, professor of history, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and Elizabeth Willis, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, professor of English, have been awarded 2012 fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

According to the Guggenheim Foundation, the prestigious academic honor is presented to scholars “who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” This year, the 87th annual competition recognized 180 scholars, artists and scientists from across the U.S. and Canada. They were selected from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants, range in age from 27 to 84, and represent 62 disciplines and 74 different academic institutions. Through their fellowship projects, they will travel to all parts of the globe.

Teter also was recently awarded a Harry Frank Guggenheim fellowship. Both fellowships will allow her to take a full year sabbatical and support her travel and research expenses to the Vatican and Poland as she works on a new book, The Pope’s Dilemma: Blood Libel and the Boundaries of Papal Power.

The Pope’s Dilemma takes the familiar story of blood libel against Jews to tell a much broader story of religion and politics in Europe, demonstrating that the persistence of the ‘blood libel’ illuminates the reach, and also the limits, of papal authority in coping with local powers – a topic of significant interest even today, in light of the sex abuse scandals,” Teter says.

According to her biography on the Foundation web site, Teter specializes in early modern religious and cultural history, with an emphasis on Jewish-Christian relations in Eastern Europe, the politics of religion, and the transmission of culture among Jews and Christians across Europe in the early modern period. She is the author of Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland (Cambridge University Press, 2006), Sinners on Trial (Harvard University Press, 2011), and a co-editor of and contributor to Social and Cultural Boundaries in Pre-modern Poland (Littman, 2010). She has also published numerous articles in English, Polish and Hebrew. Teter serves on the editorial boards of Polin, the Sixteenth Century Journal, and the AJS Review, and is co-founder and editor of the Early Modern Workshop, an open source site with historical texts and videos of scholars discussing them.

Elizabeth Willis

Willis, who specializes in poetry, is the author of Address (Wesleyan University Press, 2011), which won the PEN New England Winship Award for Poetry. Her other books include Meteoric Flowers (Wesleyan University Press, 2006), Turneresque (Burning Deck, 2003), and The Human Abstract (Penguin, 1995), which won the National Poetry Series. Her biography on the Foundation web site notes: “Her most recent projects are investigative in spirit, shifting increasingly toward hybrid genres and explicitly questioning the boundaries of literary representation.” Willis has been awarded fellowships in poetry from the California Arts Council and the Howard Foundation. She has held residencies at Brown University, University of Denver, Naropa University, the MacDowell Colony, and the Centre International de Poésie, Marseille, and was a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Mills College.

With her Guggenheim fellowship, Willis will travel to Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, New York and California to conduct research for a new project. She explains, “I’ll be working on a new project that involves American religious, cultural and political history. It’s a book-length poem, not a history, but along the way it is thinking about theater, film and improvised family structures. I’m interested in what constitutes a sovereign body within America’s evolving concept of itself as a nation. And for me, poetry always brings up interesting questions about representation and voice.”

Willis adds, “I’m thrilled. The fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime honor, and the timing couldn’t be better for me. The work I’m doing now involves a good deal of research and travel, so I’m immensely grateful that I’ll have the chance to focus on it more completely.”

Pfister Invited to Teach American Literature in China

Joel Pfister

Joel Pfister, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, chair of the English Department, is invited to serve as one of two American faculty members in the West-China Faculty Enhancement Program in American Studies.

The program, which will take place in July in Xi’an, China, is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and China Association for the Study of American Literature.

Pfister will present 10 intensive, two-hour lectures on American literature to faculty from universities in western China that have poor rural students. He’ll also conduct a seminar session on American studies pedagogy.

“The aim is to better equip these university teachers to teach American literature and American history within a wide-ranging and theoretically sophisticated American studies context,” Pfister says.

Olin Unferth’s Revolution National Book Critics Finalist

Book by Deb Olin Unferth

A book written by Deb Olin Unferth, assistant professor of English, was named a 2011 finalist in the National Book Critics Circle.

Olin Unferth’s Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War (Henry Holt) is one of five finalists in the autobiography category. In the memoir, Unferth describes the year she ran away from college with her Christian boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas.

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards will be announced at the awards ceremony on March 8 at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium in New York.

Read more about the finalists online here.

Millett Visiting Writer Edwidge Danticat to Speak Feb. 8

Edwidge Danticat is the 2012 Millett VIsiting Writer. (Photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation)

MacArthur Fellow and award-winning author Edwidge Danticat will deliver a reading at 8 p.m. Feb. 8 in Memorial Chapel. Danticat, a Haitian-American writer, is the 2012 Fred B. Millett Visiting Writer.

Danticat, a 2011 recipient of the Langston Hughes medal, is the author of Breath, Eyes, Memory (an Oprah Book Club selection), the story collection Krik? Krak! (a National Book Award finalist), The Farming of Bones (an American Book Award winner), and the novel-in-stories, The Dew Breaker. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. Create Dangerously, her most recent book, is a collection of essays.

She also is the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and Haiti Noir.

Danticat received a B.A. from Barnard College and an M.F.A. from Brown University. She worked as a visiting professor of creative writing at New York University and the University of Miami.

“I am absolutely thrilled that we are finally able to bring Edwidge to Wesleyan especially in this particular manner as the Fred B. Millet visiting writer— given Millet’s defense of free speech,” says Gina Athena Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of African-American Studies, director of Center for African-American Studies. “Besides her numerous accomplishments and personal lost, she continues to work tirelessly exercising such graceful restraint in her work as she gives voice to experiences that are often erased. Since the 2010 earthquake, she remains a devoted soldier in Haiti’s non-ending battle for humanity.”

The Millett Visiting Writer event is held annually in honor of the late Fred Millett, professor of English, emeritus. Cynthia and George Willauer ’57 are two of the initial donors.

The English Department, African American Studies, Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Office of Diversity, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and Academic Affairs are co-sponsoring the event.

Danticat’s visit is part of the Spring 2012 Writing at Wesleyan Russell House Series on Prose and Poetry.  To view the upcoming speakers, see: http://www.wesleyan.edu/writing/community/writing-events.html

Reed Authors New Story Collection

Book by Kit Reed.

Kit Reed, resident writer in the English Department, is the author of the book, What Wolves Know, published in spring 2011.

The collection of stories includes tales of mothers who are monstrous in their maternalness, families on the brink of implosion, children mutated by parental pressure in every dream home a dystopia. The title story is about a boy raised by wolves who struggles to adapt to the modern world.

Read more about this story collection and others at http://www.kitreed.net/.

Bachner Authors Book on Violence in Fiction

Book by Sally Bachner

Sally Bachner, assistant professor of English, is the author of The Prestige of Violence: American Fiction. 1962-2007, published by the University of Georgia Press in 2011.

In The Prestige of Violence, Bachner argues that, starting in the 1960s, American fiction laid claim to the status of serious literature by placing violence at the heart of its mission and then insisting that this violence could not be represented.

Bachner demonstrates how many of the most influential novels of this period are united by the dramatic opposition they draw between a debased and untrustworthy conventional language, on the one hand, and a violence that appears to be prelinguistic and unquestionable, on the other. Genocide, terrorism, war, torture, slavery, rape, and murder are major themes, yet the writers insist that such events are unspeakable. Bachner takes issue with the claim made within trauma studies that history is the site of violent trauma inaccessible to ordinary representation. Instead, she argues, both trauma studies and the fiction to which it responds institutionalize an inability to address violence.

More information on the book is online here.

5 Questions With . . . Natasha Korda on “the Women Behind the Scenes”

Professor Natasha Korda, pictured here in London, is an expert on the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Natasha Korda, professor of English, professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality studies. Korda’s book, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in September 2011. She also co-edited a book, Working Subjects in Early Modern English Drama, published by Ashgate in February 2011.

Q: Professor Korda, you’ve taught English and gender studies at Wesleyan since 1995, and you were promoted to full professor in 2010. What courses do you teach and what are your scholarship interests?

A: My area of expertise is Renaissance literature and culture, particularly the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and my scholarship focuses on the subjects of labor and property, especially women’s labor and property, in Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatic literature and theater history. At Wesleyan, in addition to the Shakespeare lecture and introductory courses like “Shakespeare on Film” and “Renaissance Drama,” I have taught advanced seminars cross-listed with the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, including “Historicizing Early Modern Sexualities” and “Staging Race in Early Modern England.” This spring, while on sabbatical, I will be teaching a graduate seminar at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., on “Mastering Research Methods at the Folger.”

Book by Natasha Korda

Q: You’re the author/editor of more than 20 articles and four books including Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies: Gender and Property in Early Modern England (2002) and Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama (2002). Your newest book, Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage (2011) argues that the purportedly “all-male” stage of Shakespeare’s time relied on the labor, capital and ingenuity of women behind the scenes of theatrical production. In what ways did women contribute, and how were they acknowledged?

A: The rise of the professional stage in England relied on women of all stripes, including ordinary crafts- and tradeswomen who supplied costumes, properties and comestibles; wealthy heiresses and widows who provided much-needed capital and credit; wives, daughters and widows of theater people who worked actively alongside their male kin; and immigrant women who fueled the fashion-driven stage with a range of newfangled skills and commodities. The work of female seamstresses, laundresses, dressers (known as “tirewomen”), wigmakers and head-dressers, among others, was woven into the very fabric of player’s costumes, congealed in the folds of their starched ruffs, set into the curls of their perukes, and arranged in the petticoats of boy-actors, while the terms of female moneylenders were calculated in the playing-companies’ balance sheets and inscribed in the terms of their bonds. Female “gatherers” collected entrance fees at the doors and galleries of theaters, while the cries of female hawkers echoed inside and outside their walls and the wares they sold were consumed in the “pit,” galleries, and on the stage.

Korda Authors Book on Working Women’s Role in Theatrical Production

Book by Natasha Korda

Natasha Korda, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, is the author of Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in September 2011.

Labors Lost offers a fascinating and wide-ranging account of working women’s behind-the-scenes and hitherto unacknowledged contributions to theatrical production in Shakespeare’s time. Korda reveals that the purportedly all-male professional stage relied on the labor, wares, ingenuity, and capital of women of all stripes, including ordinary crafts- and tradeswomen who supplied costumes, props and comestibles; wealthy heiresses and widows who provided much-needed capital and credit; wives, daughters and widows of theater people who worked actively alongside their male kin; and immigrant women who fueled the fashion-driven stage with a range of newfangled skills and commodities.

Korda also is the co-editor of Working Subjects in Early Modern Europe, published by Ashgate Press in 2011.

In addition, Korda received a one-month International Visiting Fellowship at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom in 2012.

Nisse Receives ACLS Fellowship

Ruth Nisse, associate professor of English, associate professor of medieval studies, received a $40,000 fellowship grant from the American Council of Learned Societies for 2011-12. During the fellowship, she will complete her book Jacob’s Shipwreck. The study focuses on the “co-emergence” of Christians and Jews in12th and 13th century England and Northern France. She argues that the the two communities mediated their relations through the reception, translation and rewriting of ancient texts.

Tölölyan Delivers Inaugural Lecture at Oxford’s Diasporas Programme Launch

Khachig Tölölyan

Khachig Tölölyan, professor of letters, professor of English, has been actively involved in the launching of the University of Oxford’s Diasporas Programme in June. Tölölyan is the editor/founder of Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies and an internationally known expert on diasporas and transnationalism.

On June 2, Tölölyan delivered the inaugural lecture titled “Diaspora Studies: Past, Present and Promise” at the program’s launch. He is a scholar in residence at Wolfson College (one of the 40 colleges and halls that make up the university), where he is a tutor and consultant to various graduate students, postdoctoral faculty and researchers at several programs, all of which deal with diasporas, migration, transnationalism and globalization in some way.

In addition, Tölölyan delivered the keynote lecture at the University of Mainz in Germany at a conference on “Trends and Tensions in Contemporary Diaspora Studies” on May 19. He also guest lectured at the University of Toronto on “The Trajectories of Contemporary Diaspora Studies,” on March 25.