This Week in English | March 25 – 29, 2020

Everyone has a lot to handle right now, including even more messages in their in-boxes than usual, so this bulletin will be on the brief side. What I most want to communicate, especially to the students reading this, is that we as a department remain absolutely committed to your education and your well-being in these trying circumstances. 

Faculty began preparing for the transition to online-only instruction two weeks ago and have worked throughout the extended break to ensure that we would be ready to resume our dialog with you today. 

Your faculty advisors are available to help you along the path to successful completion of this term—including making decisions about when to change from a letter grade to the pass/fail alternative that has been made available—and to help you plan your schedule for fall 2020 (course descriptions offering more detail than can be found in MaineStreet are available here).

The Writing Center has implemented online tutoring in real time (and English major Olivia Shipsey reported on the change for the Maine Campus).

And though we’re working from home, our dedicated staff are on hand to help: Ellen Manzo is happy to field queries about the registration process, declaring a major or minor, and other administrative matters. Celeste Cota can answer questions about student employment. And any question or concern that you have about any aspect of your experience in the department, no matter how small, can and should be directed to me here.

Communication is going to be crucial as we make it to May and take it from there: if you’re in any doubt, reach out! 

Oh, and for those of you who miss visiting with Betsy Rose’s adorable Havanese on the fourth floor of Neville Hall, here’s a glimpse of Tony reclining at home and missing all the attention!

Student Support Fund 

President Ferrini-Mundy included this heartening update in her morning message to the university community: “The University of Maine Foundation launched the Student Crisis Fund last Friday and raised more $50,000 in the first three days. That amount includes a $25,000 match from the foundation. The Division of Student Life is coordinating the distribution of those funds to students in need. Please contact them at 207.581.2681 and 207.581.1406.”

Grady Awards in Creative Writing

Each winter the English Department invites external judges to select winners for the Steve Grady Awards for Creative Writing. Awards are given at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and in the genres of poetry and fiction. The prize was endowed in 1973 with a gift from Roy J. Gavin in memory of Steve Grady. This year’s judges were Stefania Heim (poetry) and Sarah Rose Etter (fiction), both of whom read in the New Writing Series in the fall of 2019. As originally announced on March 2, this year’s winners are:

Lauren Dodge received first prize for fiction at the undergraduate level for an untitled story beginning “The September sun balanced atop the firs and pines, light trickling down the vermillion sky and warm summer air dancing through the swinging arms of birches.” Joshua Majors won second prize for “The Bastard of the Eldest.”

Alika Katzenbach won first prize for poetry at the undergraduate level for “Of Lemnos” and other poems. Anthony (Nesey) Gallons won second prize for “AEIO” and other poems.

Abigail (Abbe) Adent won first prize for fiction at the graduate level for her story “The Howling Oh-Oh.” Victoria (Tori) Hood won second prize for “Homemade Soup.”

Martin Conte won first prize for poetry at the graduate level with a sequence centered on Achaemenides, who according to legend was left behind on the island of Cyclops as Odysseus and the rest of his crew escaped. Cassidy Marsh won second prize for “Love is a Kink” and other poems.

Under normal circumstances, we would have gathered as a community this Thursday afternoon to celebrate the literary talent in our midst. Since that is not possible, we’re going to be reaching out to winners to find ways to showcase their work in a digital format. Details to follow in future bulletins.

Humanities from Home

The McGillicuddy Humanities Center, directed by English professor Margo Lukens, has launched an initiative called Humanities from Home. Students are invited to share videos and photos of how you are “integrating the humanities into your homebound world.” Their hashtag is #humanitiesfromhome.


Speaking of hashtags, in our household Jennifer Moxley and I are participating in a world wide reading group devoted to War and Peace that was organized by the novelist Yiyun Li for the journal An Open Space. You can join the discussion at #TolstoyTogether.

And Deborah Rogers calls our attention to this inspiring performance of the Ode to Joy movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony performed from their homes by members of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.

Like them, let’s do what we can to keep in time and play in tune during this turbulent transition—and if you need help, do reach out!



This Week in English 81 was sent to faculty, students, and friends of the department on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. If you would rather not receive these weekly bulletins, please reply with <unsubscribe> in your subject line. Earlier installments are archived on our website.

If you would like to support the mission of the English Department, please consider a donation to the Annual Fund through this secure online portal


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