This Week in English | Nov 20 – 26, 2017

Celebrating the Poetry of John Ashbery on November 30

When John Ashbery died at the age of ninety on September 3, just as the fall semester was getting underway here in Orono, we immediately began planning a celebration of this major poet’s long life and prolific body of work. On Thursday, November 30, that celebration will commence with a presentation on Ashbery by scholar of the New York School Andrew Epstein at 4:30pm and continue at 8pm with readings from Ashbery’s work by faculty, students, and members of the community. Both events will be in the Allen & Sally Fernald APPE Space (Stewart Commons 104) and are free and open to the public. If you’d like to participate in the evening event, please write to english.chair@maine.edu with a short list of the Ashbery poems (or other texts) you’d like to read. 

New chapbook by Kathleen Ellis

Long-time lecturer in English Kathleen Ellis has a new chapbook, Outer-Body Travel, published this month by Finishing Line Press. She is the author of four previous poetry collections, and she is currently teaching Intro to Creative Writing and Reading Poems for the department. Poet and art critic Carl Little wrote the blurb for the new volume:

“How brazenly we curve the world to our selves,” Kathleen Ellis writes in “The Square-shouldered Man Supporting the Heavens.” Her poems engage us in the here-and-now and the way-out-there, the mythical and the scientific. “Venus envy,” Eve and Lucy (of fossil fame), Tai Chi, swimming pools (via David Hockney) and swimmers, space travel—Ellis’s universe is ever-expanding and full of revelations. My kind of traveling companion.

On December 6 at 4 p.m. in the University Bookstore, Ellis will host the 11th Annual Emily Dickinson Birthday Reading, co-sponsored by the Dept. of English and the Honors College. All faculty and students are welcome to read a poem or letter of Dickinson’s.

Naomi Jacobs Presents at Utopian Studies Conference

Professor and former department chair Naomi Jacobs was in Memphis earlier this month to present a paper on “Enchanted Castles at the End of the World: Shadows of Domesticity in Post-Apocalypse” at the 42nd annual meeting of the Society for Utopian Studies. She also chaired a panel. In 2008, Jacobs received the Larry E. Hough Distinguished Service Award from the Society in recognition of her “immense” contributions to the field of Utopian Studies. “She has been an encouraging colleague in the discipline and a sage advisor to peers and junior colleagues alike. Naomi is known for her warmth, generosity, and compassion.” In the spring of 2018, Professor Jacobs will lead a senior-level seminar on “dystopia.” The course description for English 490 reads, in part:

The origins of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction can be traced back to ancient myths of the underworld and later iterations in Christian and Islamic traditions, vividly depicting the miseries of hell that await the unbeliever. These tropes gained new political valence in the anti-totalitarian visions of “hell on earth” created by 20th century novelists such as Zamyatin, Burdekin, Huxley and Orwell. Recent decades have seen an upsurge of dystopian and anti-apocalyptic fiction responding to contemporary issues such as religious fundamentalism, climate change, the global refugee crisis, genetic engineering, and the neo-liberal economy. This course will consider both classic and contemporary texts to arrive at an understanding of the functions and impact of the nightmare vision in literature.

All English majors are strongly encouraged to take at least two literature courses at the four hundred level. As of this writing, there are seats available in both Jacobs’s seminar and in ENG 460: Major Authors with Professor Deborah Rogers, where the focus will be on eighteenth-century British novelists.

Have a great Thanksgiving week, everyone!

Steve Evans, English Department Chair