This Week in English | Sept 18 – 24, 2017

Welcome to the third installment of “This Week in English,” a weekly bulletin meant to help keep us all informed about the many exciting classes, projects, and events that the English Department offers to the members of the UMaine community and beyond.

First off, it’s nice to see Google celebrating the 308th birthday of Samuel Johnson in today’s search bar graphic! 

A Glimpse Into What Our Students And Colleagues Are Up To This Week

Students in Clinton Spaulding’s Nature and Literature class (Eng 238) begin reading Fire on the Mountain by Edward Abbey and submit their first short papers. Sanford Phippen, Patricia Ranzoni, and Leo Connellan are on the syllabus for Jody Crouse’s course on Writers of Maine (Eng 244). In The Act of Interpretation (Eng 271), students take up the question “what is language?” in relation to texts by Ferdinand de Saussure, Stephane Mallarmé, and Roman Jakobson. They also read Freud’s famous analysis of “the dream of Irma’s injection.” In Ken Norris’s class on Bob Dylan (Eng 229), students will be listening to the Nobel laureate’s 1963 Carnegie Hall concert on Monday and discussing his groundbreaking album Bringing It All Back Home on Wednesday and Friday. Students in Dylan Dryer’s section of Research Writing in the Disciplines (Eng 315) start the week with “challenging summaries” and end it with “exceptionally challenging summaries.” In Aliza Davner’s section of Business and Technical Writing (Eng 317), students begin a segment on written correspondence and “create a hand-out/flyer that communicates the ethical code for [their] field[s].” In Deb Roger’s course on Restoration and Eighteenth Century Literature (Eng 355), students will be reading essays by Addison and Steele. In Sex, Gender, and the Body in Early Modern England (Eng 471), students finish the play The Changeling on Tuesday and take up Judith Butler’s “Performance Acts and Gender Constitution” on Thursday. And in Ben Friedlander’s Short Course in American Poetry (Eng 440), students will read “Lines Occasioned by a Visit to an Old Indian Burying Ground” by Philip Freneau on Tuesday and “The Origin of Evil. An Elegy” by Royall Tyler on Thursday.

Each week we’ll try to provide similar glimpses into the intellectual and artistic work of the department. If you have something on the horizon that you’d like us to include, drop a note to <>. And be sure to file a copy of your syllabus for the semester with <>. The deadline for doing so was Friday, September 15th.

A Way to Get More Students Involved? Introducing Engaged Black Bear Humanities Digital Badge

Despite the many wonderful Humanities events on campus, students often opt out unless they are required to attend for a class. “Opting out” may lead to social isolation, especially when students can’t find what interests them on campus or friends with whom to share new experiences. The digital badge, which at the first level gives undergraduates a way to earn “credit” just for trying new things, could be a powerful tool in enhancing student participation and therefore retention. With this in mind, the McGillicuddy Humanities Center is proud to announce the launch of a brand new Humanities Digital Badge. Director Jennifer Moxley worked with students (including English majors Maddy Jackson, Kim Crowley, and Creative Writing minor Steven Hooke) to design this new Humanities Badge as part of the Engaged Black Bear Initiative. In order to earn a Level One Humanities Badge, all students have to do is register, attend three events listed on the Clement and Linda McGillicuddy Humanities Center calendar, and provide appropriate evidence. Digital badges, once earned, can be shared on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The goal is to encourage as many English students as possible to earn a Level One badge. Those who like the program may then be inspired to earn a Level Two (sustained involvement) or even Level Three (leadership in the Humanities).

Standing Committees Meet This Week

The Graduate Studies Committee, chaired by Greg Howard, is scheduled to meet at 1pm on Tuesday. A priority for the committee this fall is the implementation of the portfolio process adopted last year. Undergraduate Studies, chaired by Ben Friedlander, is on the calendar for Thursday at 2pm. Here’s how Ben describes the work of the committee this year: “Our overall goal for this year is to identify issues and develop talking points about them for the department as a whole, though this does not preclude us from coming up with actual proposals. But I thought we could use thismeeting to generate an initial list. Some of the issues are obvious and of longstanding concern (the capstone), some were on the verge of discussions last year (the 100- and 200-level courses for non-majors), and some will involve coordination with other committees (the writing tracks). But just getting it all down on paper will be useful. What are the less obvious issues? The never discussed?”

The pattern for meetings of the department’s standing committees will be revised after this week to enable Undergraduate Studies and the Analytical, Professional, Technical Writing (APTW) Committee to meet in joint session when desirable. Check the department website and Google calendar for updates.

Poet & Translator Mark Tardi in NWS Thursday at 4:30 

Mark Tardi grew up in Chicago and earned his MFA in creative writing from Brown University. His collections of poetry include the chapbooks Part First—Chopin’s Feet (2005) and Airport Music (2005), as well as the full length collections Euclid Shudders (2003) and Airport Music (2013). Tardi’s Polish heritage led him to an early interest in Polish poetry, and he was a 2008–2009 Fulbright Senior Lecturer in American Literature and Culture at the University of Łódź. He has translated work from Polish and, as an editor of the journal Aufgabe, devoted a special issue in 2010 to Polish poetry and poetics. He currently lives with his wife and two dogs in a village in central Poland and is on faculty at the University of Łódź. His newest book, The Circus of Trust, was published by Dalkey Archive Press in August 2017.

All Faculty, but especially those teaching creative writing workshops this semester, are encouraged to find ways of recognizing and rewarding student participation in the Series. Undergraduate attendance at Joanna Ruocco’s reading last Thursday was fairly weak, which is a shame since she gave a dazzling reading!

NWS S16 Alum Emily Fridlund Shortlisted for 2017 Man Booker Prize

In April of 2016, Elizabeth Neiman introduced her friend Emily Fridlund to a New Writing Series audience of approximately sixty people (photographs archived here). Fridlund read, for the first time in public, from proofs of her novel The History of Wolves, which we learned this week has been short-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize. The winner will be announced on October 17, 2017. The New York Times covered the shortlist, as did many other major publications.

A New Mission for English? 

In correspondence with Ryan Dippre and myself concerning the English Integration and Innovation processes at the system level, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Robert Neely wondered what we thought about the article by Geoffrey Galt Harpham published in the Chronicle on September 7th and attached here as a PDF. Since the emphasis is on “interpretation,” I invited Neely to come discuss the ideas advanced in the article with students in Eng 271: The Act of Interpretation, which he agreed to do on Friday, October 6th. In the meantime, we invite discussion of the article by all members of the department.

If you have an item you’d like to see included in a bulletin, please send it along to <> by 5pm on Friday. We’ll time most bulletins for Monday mornings.


Have a great week, everyone!

Steve Evans

English Department Chair