The Department of English welcomes prospective graduate students March 13-14. Events scheduled include a reading by MFA alum authors, a discussion with current PhD students,class visits, and dinner with graduate students and faculty. We look forward to meeting you!
Professor Timothy Brennan was named the Samuel Russell Chair in the Humanities for the College of Liberal Arts for a three-year period, 2014-17. The Russell Chair is intended to promote outstanding teaching and scholarship in the humanities and involves an annual allocation of $25,000 in support. Brennan publishes Borrowed Light: Vico, Hegel, and the Colonies with Stanford University Press in March. He has also been awarded Sabbatical Leave with Supplement for the calendar year 2015. Congratulations!
The Association of Writers & Writing Programs holds its annual conference starting Thursday, February 27, in Seattle. Because the schedule is an eye-drying monument of panel and reading information, we made it easy with a quick compendium of what 16 faculty and alums are doing at the festival (which draws 10,000 some attendees). From Professor Peter Campion weighing in on John Berryman to BA alumna Cheryl Strayed addressing the rise of Rumpus.com, there's a plethora of "must see." (Plus, at the conference's book fair, student Carrie Lorig will be unveiling her new chapbook with Forklift, OH, and alumnus Josh Ostergaard his nonfiction debut with Coffee House Press.) Read on.
Third-year Creative Writing Program nonfiction student Scott F. Parker this year won the Monkey Puzzle Press' prose chapbook contest with a slim collection entitled in here--authored, provocatively, by The Synthesis. The book itself declares that its inventive texts may be read as poetry, philosophy, or fiction but seek to be memoir. Chapters include "all criticism is autobiographical," which mashes together quotes from Parker's widely published book reviews, and "unanswered questions?" which features nearly four pages of them (favorite: "Why not . . . accept that it's time that uses you?"). As Patricia Weaver Francisco notes on the back cover, this is an intimate little book that despite (because of) its challenging form effectively communicates aspects of the writer's personality and interests as much if not more than a standard "I was born in XX and did XX" narrative. Parker has also published a runner's memoir (Running After Prefontaine), two musings on musical icons (Revisited: Notes on Bob Dylan and ME | EM: One Listener's Confession), and an edited volume of writings on coffee (Coffee - Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate). Read more.
Nadia B. Hasan (BA 2002; JD 2006) braved her father's disappointment when she chose to major in English; he preferred pre-med or engineering. But her degree prepared her for the reading and analytic rigor of the University of Minnesota Law School and nine years thus far of law practice, first with Johnson & Condon, then Hinshaw & Culbertson, and since last summer in the Minneapolis office of Cozen O'Connor. These days, she notes with amusement, her dad claims he was the one who suggested English. Read more.
Assistant professor Elaine Auyoung, who joined the department this past fall, has been named a Institute of Advanced Study fall 2014 Residential Fellow. Fellows work intensively on their own research and creative projects and meet regularly to discuss their work and exchange ideas at the IAS offices. Auyoung's project is entitled "Missing Fiction: The Feeling of Realism." . . . Five English professors have received Imagine Fund Annual Faculty Awards, which support innovative research in the arts, design, and humanities. The professors and their projects are as follows: Dan Philippon, "Ideal Meals: Ecology, Morality, and Pleasure in the Sustainable Food Movement"; Paula Rabinowitz, "Lineages of the Literary Left: Essays in Honor of Alan M. Wald"; Jani Scandura, "Proximity: A Case Study"; Katherine Scheil, "The Shakespeare Circle and Anne Hathaway Shakespeare"; and John Wright, "The Worlds of James McCune Smith: Science, Race Elevation, and the Brotherhood of Chess." Congratulations to all!
How many first-time screen actors get to go to Sundance Film Festival with one of the buzziest films in competition? Naomi Ko (BA 2011) was busy January in Park City, Utah, with press interviews, brunches, luncheons, and parties around the acclaimed feature Dear White People (which was filmed on the U campus). Since graduating, Ko has acted and written for such local theaters as Mixed Blood, Theatre in the Round, Mu Performing Arts, and Bedlam. Last August, Ko heard from a theater producer she'd worked with, Jamil Jude, about movie auditions taking place the next day. Ko went, and she was the only cast member to win a principal role without an agent. The film follows four African American students at an East Coast private college. According to its director, Justin Simien, the film is "about the difference between how the mass culture responds to a person because of their race and who they understand themselves to truly be." Though the Asian American experience has been well-represented in theater, says Ko, there's as yet no Asian American film equivalent to DWP. "I'm working on one," she promises. Read more.
English professor Katherine Scheil has been named 2014 CLA Scholar of the College, an annual award celebrating outstanding achievement by faculty in the College of Liberal Arts. The award recognizes professors who have taken intellectual risks and whose work has had a significant impact on their field; Scholars of the College receive a stipend totaling $10,000 per year for three years to support their research or creative work. Scheil's most recent publication is She Hath Been Reading: Women and Shakespeare Clubs in America. She is working on a book about Shakespeare's wife Anne Hathaway. Congratulations!
When Shae Moloney (BA) graduated in 2012, she was aiming for a career as an editor and writer, but she hadn't explored where she might find such work. Within three months she had secured a job that included editing and writing. The field was unexpected: human resources. She admits to nervously anticipating beastly labor-management brawls. But these days you can find her waxing cheerfully (and knowledgeably) about Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy, surrounded by snarling and growling beasts of the actual, not figurative sort. Read more.
When Jamie Millard (right) and Meghan Murphy (both BA 2009) joined Lars Leafblad in publishing his civic-minded, leadership-promoting newsletter Pollen in 2012, they already had a great history of networking across borders with their celebrated art and literary magazine Paper Darts and its intensely attended local music and literature events. Millard and Murphy took Leafblad's digital newsletter and made it bloom on a colorful new website, bepollen.com. The website and bi-monthly newsletter draw on the stories, ideas, and job listings of members to "create positive impact and personal and professional growth." Beginning last spring, Leafblad left Pollen in the two women's capable hands. And this fall, they received a substantial grant from the Bush Foundation to combine their digital platform with the regional organization OTA's event series and create a network of "individuals, organizations, communities, and ideas" to transform Minnesota and the two Dakotas. Read more.
"Writing and justice work go hand in hand," says MFA candidate Lalinne Bell. Bell would know: She was already at work on a memoir that confronted the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia when she won the Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship last summer. A collaboration of the Creative Writing and the Human Rights programs, the Scribe fellowship encourages writers to pursue human rights themes in their work: It allowed her to research the testimony of other Cambodian refugees to the United States and write a specific piece about the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, as well as better understand and frame her own family's story as survivors of the genocide. "I want to tell the stories of genocide because they need and deserve to be told," Bell declares. "Writers are the voices of the world, and that is a great power to have." Read more.
This fall, doctoral student Jessica Apolloni was chosen to be one of ten participants in an inaugural fellowship from the Academy for Advanced Study in the Renaissance (another doctoral candidate, Caitlin McHugh, also was selected). The fellows will spend five weeks next spring working with a distinguished group of senior Renaissance scholars, first in Oxford, England, then in Rome, and finally Chicago. Each receives a stipend of $10,000 in addition to room, board, and airfare. Apolloni, who received her BA in English at Minnesota, also won a fellowship in her first year of doctoral studies--a Fulbright to spend a semester in Italy. It was then she developed a fascination with early modern stories of criminal activity, which is now the subject of her dissertation. Read on.
Ever hear of a "blog tour"? That's what young adult novelist Swati Avasthi (MFA 2010) is on, as she celebrates the publication of her second book, Chasing Shadows (Knopf). Young adult fiction has spawned a thriving world of bloggers, who for a blog tour review the author's book, ask her questions, and/or invite her to guest post. Avasthi's book has received a lot of interest, online and off, for its fresh combination of prose and comic-styled graphics: it was a November 2013 Junior Library Guild selection, and Publishers Weekly called it a "superb novel about grief, friendship, and mental illness." Check out some highlights from Avasthi's blog tour.
The new director of our nationally ranked Creative Writing Program this month published his third collection of poetry with the University of Chicago Press, El Dorado. (You can hear him read the title poem at Slate.) Professor Campion launches the book at the Sixth Annual Hunger Relief Benefit Reading 7 pm Tuesday, October 29, at McNamara Alumni Center. He will be joined by Graywolf Press novelist Robert Boswell, who has a new book himself, Tumbledown. (Plus, of course, host Charles Baxter.) "I wanted to get more voices into these newer poems," Campion relates of El Dorado; "some of them are more ventriloquial than previous poems of mine." For more about the rewards and challenges of directing and teaching Creative Writing, why he doesn't tweet, and the impact of technology on poetry criticism, read on.
When Kate Hopper (MFA 2005) reads from her new memoir Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood 7 pm October 23 at Subtext Bookstore, she'll be marking not only the book's publication but the 10-year anniversary of her daughter's premature birth in the fall of 2003. Both her daughter, Stella, and this memoir have thrived under Hopper's decade of care, with important assists from others (not forgetting husband). Hopper was able to work with her agent, Amy Burkhardt, twice--on this book and on her 2012 writing guide Use Your Words--before Burkhardt left that career. "Amy is a writer herself with an MFA in fiction, so she's a really smart reader," Hopper relates. "She helped me see that I had front-loaded back-story, and asked questions like, 'If the book is really about...do you need this?' I'm going to miss her!" Hopper's MFA student cohort and professors encouraged her as the manuscript was just beginning, in the years just after Stella was born. Read on.