This Week in English | September 18, 2023

Welcome Back, Everyone

The new academic year successfully got underway on August 28, and as we head into the fourth week of the fall semester, the English Department is offering instruction to just under 2250 students across 130 different class sections. Neville Hall classrooms and first floor common spaces, including the lobby outside the large auditoriums, look a little spiffier thanks to a second consecutive summer of renovations. And after a near-miss hurricane over the weekend, some autumn weather seems finally to be settling in.

Our English Majors currently number about a hundred and they are taking “core requirements” with Sarah Harlan-Haughey and Greg Howard (ENG 170: Foundation of Literary Analysis); Jennifer Moxley, Benjamin Friedlander, and Jonathan Barron (ENG 222: Reading Poems); and Steve Evans (ENG 271: Act of Interpretation). A fourth core requirement will come into the rotation this spring, when Heather Falconer offers ENG 215: Theories and Practices of Writing for the first time.

Sarah Harlan-Haughey, Deborah Rogers, Rosalie Purvis, and Jennifer Moxley are offering 300-level literature courses spanning from antiquity to the present. Greg Howard is leading a 400-level seminar on “the Uncanny in Literature and Film” and Jonathan Barron is devoting a seminar to Robert Frost and Environmental Poetry.

Our creative writing faculty, including Morgan Talty, Hollie Adams, Jennifer Moxley, Jeremy Parker, and Margery Irvine are leading workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

And our Writing Studies faculty are offering a wide range of courses, from “stretch” sections of College Composition led by Mary Plymale Larlee to advanced seminars in technical editing and document design led by Heather Falconer.

Paige Mitchell has welcomed a new group of Writing Center tutors to the fourth-floor space, and Katie Swacha is supervising a variety of internship experiences on campus and out in the community.

This is just a bird’s-eye view of the semester. As the year progresses, this bulletin will offer glimpses into specific classes along with announcements of recent accomplishments and upcoming events. Updates from faculty, students, and alumni are always welcome!

Caroline Bicks Co-Hosts New Shakespeare Podcast

Caroline Bicks just wrapped up the first season of her Everyday Shakespeare podcast, co-hosted with Michelle Ephraim. In each episode, they go back to Shakespeare’s day to bring you interesting factoids about life back then and to offer fresh, funny insights into our everyday problems. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts. The two were recently featured on Ellen DeGeneres’ Instagram page.

Creative Writing Faculty, Alumni, and Students Read This Thursday

Hollie Adams, Gregory Howard, Morghen Tidd, Andy Mallory, Z Lavway, Victoria Hood, Paige McHatten, and Ava Bloom will be reading at a Local Authors Book Reading hosted by the Orono Brewing Company on 61 Margin Street in Orono this Thursday, September 21, at 5pm. McHatten is an Undergraduate Fellow of the McGillicuddy Humanities Center and co-editor of The Open Field, the undergraduate literary journal of the University of Maine. Adams and Howard serve on the MHC faculty advisory group. Tidd and Hood are alums of both the BA and MA programs.

Carla Billitteri Presents at International Conference

Last week, Carla Billitteri presented her paper “The Long Controversy: Laura (Riding) Jackson and Analytic Philosophy” at the Logic and Modern Literature Conference hosted by the University of Lausanne on September 14-15, 2023. Billitteri’s virtual presentation grew from research she has recently conducted with support from a faculty grant awarded by the McGillicuddy Humanities Center last April. Here is the abstract:

In this paper, I want to discuss Laura (Riding) Jackson’s antinomian relation to logicism and to analytic philosophy, an engagement couched in allegory in her early poetic production, but which becomes openly contentious in her later critical writing.

Prior to her repudiation of poetry in 1941, (Riding) Jackson strenuously argued that poetry alone can disclose and secure the logical foundations of linguistic meaning. Indeed, this was poetry’s epistemic and moral mandate: to dismantle the opacity of ordinary language, achieving thereby an ultimate capacity for meaning-exactitude and truth-telling. This position altered with her later renunciation of poetry, but that change was in keeping with her overall philosophical trajectory. Already in the 1930s, she had signaled her adherence to Spinoza’s natura naturans: the belief that human experience is but an expression of divine intelligence. Adopting Spinoza’s immanentist perspective, she viewed the logic of linguistic meaning as an expression of divine reason. This position remains intact in her post-poetic production, and is especially crucial for her posthumously published masterwork, A Rational Meaning. There, her advocacy of “natural” language fuels a moral condemnation of analytic philosophy and symbolic logic.

Although (Riding) Jackson’s project sometimes echoes the logicism of Frege and the early Russell, her philosophical orientation was antithetical to theirs. This is already apparent in her early allegorical text Though Gently, a playfully sharp appropriation of Russell’s thought that can also be read as a meditation on Russell’s paradox. Later, in A Rational Meaning, (Riding) Jackson will target Russell more directly. In this sense, the continuity in (Riding) Jackson’s work can be seen in her repudiation of logicism, a long controversy with analytic philosophy, first in the name of poetry, then in the name of language itself.

Falconer, Neiman, Plymale Larlee, and Swacha Present Collaborative Work at National Conference

Four CLAS faculty members—Elizabeth Neiman in WGS and English, and Katie Swacha, Mary Plymale Larlee, Heather Falconer in English—will co-present a paper this Saturday, September 23,  in Charleston, South Carolina, at the annual Technical, Professional and Scientific Communications meeting. Their paper focuses on their ongoing collaboration at UMaine between technical and professional writing and the WGS program. Their trip is funded by the English department and the Stephen E. King Chair in Literature.

MA Alum Jayson Heim Joins Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center Team 

Recent Masters’ Degree graduate Jayson Heim writes in with this welcome update:

I participated in the English Department’s internship program during my graduate studies which has now landed me a full-time job since I graduated in May. I’m currently supervising an intern myself, Nicole Leblanc, who is currently a sophomore in the English Department. So far she has helped launch Season 4 of Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center’s official podcast, Maine Policy Matters, by attending an event and conducting a few interviews. She also helps with transcription, script writing, and team meetings. The first episode of the season is about the Maine Government Summer Internship Program, which is hosted by the Center. The program puts students in full-time paid internships over the summer, and we got the opportunity to talk with interns and their supervisors about their experiences.

King Chair Hosts Graphic Fiction Workshop on October 13

A Graphic Fiction Workshop is scheduled for Friday, October 13th, 1:00pm-2:00pm in the Writing Center. Robin Furth, a long-time researcher for Stephen King and author of the Dark Tower comic series for Marvel, will be offering a workshop on how to transform a book or story into graphic fiction. Space is limited, so email Prof. Caroline Bicks if you’d like to reserve a spot ( This event is free and open to all members of the UMaine community, although preference will be given to students.

Professors Run Labor Day Race

Hollie Adams, Brian Jansen, and Elizabeth Neiman all took part in the sixtieth annual Labor Day five mile race in Bangor the first weekend after classes started. Neiman (#41 in the photo below) took the Robin Emery Trophy for top female finisher, Jansen (#24) placed eighth overall, and Adams (#27) took second place in her age group. Jansen was also among the participants interviewed in this local news segment.

This Week in English 129 was sent to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the department on September 18, 2023. 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’re on Facebook, please consider joining the English Department Group.

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