This Week in English | Oct 23 – 29, 2017

Advising for Winter Session and Spring 2018 Semester

Graduate students and seniors who have earned 84 credits or more will be able to enroll for the spring 2018 semester beginning this week. Enrollment for the winter term opens at the same time. Faculty advisors will want to acquaint themselves with the course description pamphlet prepared by Ellen Manzo based on faculty input. This booklet provides more specific guidance than do the generic MaineStreet catalog descriptions. The CLAS Advising and Student Services Center also maintains a helpful resource page for faculty.

Please note that Deborah Rogers’s Eng 460: Major Authors will feature three Eighteenth century novelists and therefore satisfies both the British and pre-1800 distribution requirements at the 300- and 400-level. Naomi Jacobs’s ENG 490 offers a research seminar approach to Dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. We encourage majors to take two four hundred level courses as part of their five-course literature sequence. At the 300-level, the department offers courses this spring on Native American Literature (ENG 342 with William Yellow Robe, Jr.), Nineteenth Century Literature (ENG 357 with Naomi Jacobs), Contemporary Literature (ENG 364 with David Kress) and Writing the Self (ENG 381 with Caroline Bicks).

Advising files are located in the cabinet behind Ellen’s desk in Neville 304. If you pull a file to prepare for a meeting with an advisee, please be sure to return it promptly and to include clear notes regarding any waivers or exemptions that were discussed and/or granted.

Because Ellen is on vacation this week, certain routine questions frequently fielded here in the office will have to be tackled by faculty. Thanks for your patience and your commitment to the advising process!

Carla Billitteri at Thinking Its Presence 

On Saturday, October 21, Associate Professor of English Carla Billitteri presented at Thinking Its Presence: A Conference on Race, Creative Writing, and Art, hosted by the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Billitteri was featured on the panel Writing / Talking / Teaching the Racial Ephemera along with Charles Alexander, Will Alexander, Janice Lee, and Tyrone Williams. Founder and president of the Thinking Its Presence conference board Prageeta Sharma was a featured poet at the Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s conference this June and  last read in the New Writing Series in March of 2016.

Damon Krukowski on Local Radio

On October 16, Damon Krukowski spoke by phone with hosts Rich Kimball and Carey Haskell of local AM station WZON’s program Downtown. At the eight-minute mark, Krukowski recalls his recent visit to the University of Maine: “I enjoyed being with the students so much, and they were so eager to hear some new information. I thought that was just a simple, wonderful exchange. But that’s an exchange that’s hard to do online. If you think about it, when you go Googling, generally you find the answers to the questions you posed, but nobody says to you, ‘why did you ask that question,’ or ‘maybe there’s a better question to ask in the first place.’ That’s the kind of thing a friend can say to you, or someone with more knowledge of the subject that you’re looking into, but it’s not the thing the machine says back to you.” Krukowski, an alum of the New Writing Series (F’2001), spoke about his book The New Analog and his podcast Ways of Hearing with Jennifer Moxley at a September 28, 2017 event hosted by the McGillicuddy Humanities Center.

LA Times Opinion Piece on English

Philosophy professor and Associate Dean of CLAS Jessica Miller calls our attention to Rohan Maitzen’s op ed piece in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times taking issue with the idea that one ought to “study English Lit to acquire ‘marketable skills.’”

Rohan, an associate professor at Dalhousie University who also blogs at Novel Readings, asserts that “Literature is not just a means to other ends. Like all art, it deserves attention for its own sake—and also for ours. Literature is the record of the many stories we have told about ourselves and our world, and of the many ways we have found to use language artfully and beautifully, but also cruelly and obtusely. It both reflects us and shapes us. We don’t need any excuses for taking it seriously.”

She concludes with this advice: “Don’t major in English if your goal is to acquire marketable skills. Or at any rate, don’t take my class on the Victorian novel for that reason. Take it because you’ve heard that Middlemarch may be the greatest 19th-century English novel and you want to experience it for yourself. You’ll probably end up a better thinker because of it, but Middlemarch itself is reason enough to be there. It will be my job and my pleasure to help you understand why.”

What do you think of Rohan’s “no excuses” argument regarding the value of literature? As with other items circulated in these bulletins (like Harpham’s “New Mission for English” or the Robinson article below), the intention is to stimulate reflection and conversation within departmental culture, not necessarily to endorse this or that viewpoint.

Marilyn Robinson on the Humanities

On a similar theme, but with a much more expansive word count (nearer to six thousand than six hundred words), novelist Marilyn Robinson addresses the question of “What are we doing here?“—where “here” means “the humanities,” including English—in the November 9 issue of The New York Review of Books. A paragraph toward the close hints at the flavor of her meditation:

If the rise of humanism was a sunrise, then in this present time we are seeing an eclipse. I take it to be a merely transient gloom, because the work of those old scholars and translators and printers, the poets and philosophers they recovered and the poets and philosophers who came after them, the habit of literacy and the profound interest in the actual world and the present time, have all taken hold, more profoundly than we know. We have not lost them. We have only forgotten what they mean. We have forgotten to understand them for what they are, a spectacular demonstration of the capacities of the human mind, always renewed in our own experience, igniting possibilities no one could have foreseen. Tocqueville may be no more than conventional in speaking of them as “gifts which heaven shares out by chance.”

Back issues of the print edition of the NYROB can be found, along with issues of the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, in the Wicks Room.

Departmental Committees: Policy Advisory Committee to Meet Thursday

The Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) meets in the Hatlen Room (NV 406) on Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 2pm to discuss a hiring opportunity for fall 2018. Meetings of the PAC are open to all members of the department.

Draft minutes for the October 19 meeting of the Undergraduate Studies Committee are attached. Please direct corrections and suggestions for revision to Benjamin Friedlander.

Flickr Albums for Recent New Writing Series Events

We’ve updated the New Writing Series Flickr page with new albums of photographs taken by Kathy Rice at readings by Joanna Ruocco (September 14), Mark Tardi (September 21), and Claire Donato (October 6).

You’re Invited to Be a Part of The Happenings Series

Writers, performers, artists, and scholars interested in sharing their work are invited to participate in a student-organized series of “Happenings” hosted at the Franco-American Center. The series presents “multidisciplinary and collaborative events” that are, in co-organizers Brendan Allen and Katherine Dubois’ words, “as dynamic as the content presented—poetry and fiction readings in tandem with visual art, integrated music and dramatic performances, table readings, workshops and more.” If you want to be involved, drop the organizers a line at <> or check out their Participant Questionnaire.


Have a great week, everyone!

Steve Evans, English Department Chair


This Week in English 008 circulated to faculty and friends of the department on Monday, October 23, 2017. If you would rather not receive these weekly bulletins, please reply with <unsubscribe> in your subject line.