This Week in English | November 9-15, 2020

“You’ve got to be realistic, and you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.” — Anthony Fauci, March 26, 2020

Greetings after a long silence, friends! We suspended the bulletin in mid-April in response to the increased volume of administrative email everyone was receiving, but have lately heard from numerous sources that its return would be welcome—so here is a fresh installment. If you have news you’d like to see included in the next one, please do not hesitate to pass it along. We are all hungry for connectedness and company and things to do, so don’t be shy!  

English Department Drop-By 

About two dozen students and faculty members found time to connect via Zoom last Friday afternoon to talk about their experiences in the first two thirds of a fall semester unlike any other. In addition to discovering a widespread admiration of the Roman poet Catullus among those in attendance, the easy and wide-ranging conversation touched upon ideas of fostering community among students, especially among the many creative writers in the major and minor; on strategies for structuring one’s time in these months of “mostly remote” instruction; on how we’re all coping with Covid; plus a whole heap of much appreciated musical recommendations ranging from bluegrass to the new Springsteen. 

It was enthusiastically agreed that we should make the “drop bys” a more regular thing, so we’ll host another one this Friday between 3:30-5pm (Zoom link here). Drop by for a few minutes or settle in for the duration! 

Internship Event This Friday at 11am

Want to gain some on-the-job experience using your English skills? Need to fulfill your capstone requirement? An internship can help you to do both! Internships are just as important and available now more than ever.

This Friday, November 13, from 11:00-noon, join Dr. Katie Swacha for an info session about internships for the spring semester (Zoom link here). We will discuss how to find an internship during the pandemic, how to maximize your internship experience, and how taking ENG 496 can help you earn college credit for your internship or count as your capstone. You can also ask any other questions you might have about internships. 

Laura Cowan Wins Faculty Research Award

The McGillicuddy Humanities Center recently awarded Laura Cowan a grant for her “MHC Climate Change Symposium Read” project, in which she will “cultivate an intellectual community among MHC patrons and audiences by creating a group that reads Entangled: People and Ecological Change in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay (2018), a contemporary book about climate change, ecosystems, loss, and displacement,” and invite author Marilyn Sigman to lead discussion. Congratulations to Professor Cowan!

English 440 with Margo Lukens

Margo Lukens writes with this welcome update about a cool experience in her senior-level seminar on American literature: 

My students began the semester reading a contemporary novel about the Underground Railroad, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Water Dancer. We are traveling back in time, considering the theme of life in the US after the first Abolition. I also asked the students to listen to the new oratorio “Sanctuary Road,” composed by Paul Moravec, who is an old friend of mine. When I contacted the agency representing his work to arrange permission for my students to get a PDF of the libretto, Mark Campbell the librettist and the composer (both Pulitzer Prize winners) volunteered to Zoom in to class, no fee! In preparation for the class, my students also read extracts from William Still’s 1872 Underground Railroad Records, on which the oratorio is based. September 24 was really a great class, and the students had so many excellent questions for them, the composer offered to answer after class via email.

Enough! Poets for Human Rights Event Today at 4:30pm

The Honors College is hosting a poetry reading this afternoon to celebrate the publication of a new anthology from Littoral Books entitled Enough! Poems of Resistance and Protest. Host Kathleen Ellis will be joined by the anthology’s editors Claire Millikin and Agnes Bushell, as well as current and former students and faculty members in English. 

Remembering Virginia Nees-Hatlen

As many of you know, our long-time and much-beloved colleague Virginia Nees-Hatlen passed away on October 11. English Major Megan Ashe wrote about her for the Maine Campus on October 26 and the BDN ran an obituary as well. My hunch is that the anecdote recounted by former Dean and Provost Jeff Hecker in Ashe’s article will make many of you smile in recognition:  

“Virginia was the consummate professional — soft spoken, polite and tough. She was passionate in her support of students and at the same time held them accountable for their decisions,” colleague Jeff Hecker said. “Given her quiet manner, people would sometimes underestimate her resolve and were caught off guard by her wicked sense of humor. One time she was chairing a college committee meeting and asked for a volunteer to take on a specific task. When no one responded, she quietly stood up, walked to the door, spread her arms and legs so that her small frame blocked the exit, smiled at the group and politely stated: ‘no one leaves until I have a volunteer.’ Everyone laughed and she got her volunteer.”

The Department, in coordination with her daughters, plans a public remembrance of Virginia in late November or early December via Zoom.

Covid Reminder

If you or people you know in the UMaine community have concerns about COVID-19 symptoms, close contact or a positive test, call the COVID-19 info line at 207-581-2681 or fill out the online self-reporting form or email


This Week in English 84 was sent to faculty, students, and friends of the department on Tuesday, November 10, 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.

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