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.
This past spring, Regents Professor of English Patricia Hampl was honored with the Dr. Matthew Stark Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Faculty Award from the College of Liberal Arts. The award recognizes Professor Hampl's distinguished writing, teaching, and service in this area, including her work with the University's Human Rights Program establishing the Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship. In 2011, Hampl co-organized an international conference devoted to the relationship between the personal narrative voice and human rights, "My Letter to the World: Narrating Human Rights." Hampl, of course, is the author of six celebrated memoirs, and she's working on a seventh. What's it about? Read on. . . .
This fall, the Department of English welcomes Dr. Elaine Auyoung as a new assistant professor here at Minnesota. Professor Auyoung received her BA from Stanford in 2005, followed by a PhD in English from Harvard in 2011. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Associate 2011-13 at Rutgers University, where she taught Victorian literature and modern fiction. Auyoung is working on a book about, as she describes, "the surprising way in which nineteenth-century novels cue readers to feel as if vibrant, expansive fictional worlds exist beyond the printed page." At the same time, she notes, readers know that "nothing in the novel exists at all"--resulting in a cognitive dissonance that writers such as Dickens acknowledge and even encourage. More. . .
In his new memoir, Leaving Rollingstone, Kevin Fenton (MFA 2005) offers a summary of his story of growing up in a village outside Winona: "I liked those humans. I am sad they are gone." But of course the book covers so much more: the impact of pop culture in the 1960s and '70s (he's the little brother of dancing fiends); the unique nurturance of a Catholic education for rural kids not drawn to farming; the richness of families (nuclear and affective); the tricky weight of inheritance; and the discovery of vocation. In Fenton's case, it's clear the latter is writing--which he's committed to as both a creative writer and an advertising creative. He'll be launching the memoir with the help of local literati Sept 12 at Common Good Books; for now he's got answers to our five questions. . . .
"The [English] major provided for a deep analysis of written work for every detail, from words to punctuation," declares English honors alum Sukanya Momsen (BA '13), in an interview featured on the University of Minnesota home web page. "This will be especially helpful to me in law school," she continues. Momsen is entering the University of Minnesota Law School this fall, after completing her BA in two years. Her favorite place on campus? Yup, Lind Hall.
Alex Mueller (PhD '07) wants you--specifically you, potential graduate student--to know that he wasn't accepted the first time he applied for English graduate study at Minnesota. Maybe it was because he was a nontraditional candidate, a high school English teacher (in Colorado), or maybe because he got his MA in Classics, focusing on Latin literature. But he persevered. He applied again, got in, and eventually won a Ruth Drake Dissertation Fellowship--which gave him a teaching-free semester to finish and successfully defend his dissertation. When he entered the job market, that dissertation won him a tenure-track position at University of Massachusetts Boston and, six years later, his first book publication. More. . .
Charles Dickens did it. And last year Jennifer "Goon Squad" Egan gave it a modern spin by presenting a short story via The New Yorker's fiction Twitter feed. Fiction serialization lives again this summer, thanks to BA alumna Mary Logue, who agreed to have her novel Giving Up the Ghost printed in chunks by The Star Tribune every day from June 9 to July 28 (it's also available as an e-book). "I just wanted to write a ghost story," Logue notes in an interview with Star Tribune books editor Laurie Hertzel. Logue is a Minnesota Book Award-winning author of mysteries, young adult fiction, and poetry.
This spring Caitlin McHugh won the Graduate School Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, which allows her to take a break from teaching in 2013-14 to focus on finishing her dissertation. "I have two more chapters left to write," she explains. "I also need to travel to the Folger Shakespeare Library [in Washington D.C.] to look at a seventeenth-century prompt book, and the fellowship gives the time and the funds that I need to do so." A "prompt book" is a copy of a play production script that includes cues for speech, sound, and light; stage directions; and drawings of the set, among other essential information. McHugh's dissertation focuses on adaptations of Shakespeare in the Restoration era, which she feels have been unfairly maligned. This July, she'll be presenting her paper "The Linguistic Adaptation of Nahum Tate's King Lear," in Ann Arbor, Michigan, thanks to a travel grant she was awarded through the Association for Documentary Editing. More . . . .
Between March and May, nine PhD candidates successfully defended their dissertations. Congratulations to Tai Coleman, Renee DeLong, Will Kanyusik, Eun Joo Kim, Chris Larkin, Heather McNeff, John Pistelli, Adam Schrag, Maurits van Bever Donker, and Jewon Woo!
"English professors now study everything except English," argues Professor Andrew Elfenbein in his 2009 book Romanticism and the Rise of English (2009). By "English" he means the history of the English language--and how its particular forms at any one time influence how writers write. That volume, which won Outstanding Academic Book Award from Choice, sets out to brush off contemporary literary criticism's blind spot, specifically looking at how literary authors responded to new usage rules in the 18th century. In the book's afterward, Elfenbein confesses that his examinations of Romantic English are leading him into psychology "as a means of investigating language production, reading comprehension, and writing strategies." Sure enough, this spring he won an American Council of Leaned Societies Fellowship for 2013-14 to work on a project that brings together cognitive science and literary criticism. (Elfenbein also received a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry & Scholarship this spring from the U's Office of the Vice President for Research.) How did he get interested in that topic? Where does he see literary criticism going? What does he love about teaching large survey courses? Read on. . . .
Ellen Boschwitz may have taken the long road to a BA in English, starting out at Brown University, with stops at Barnard in New York City and Lawrence in Wisconsin, but she met an important deadline: She earned her degree before any of her four kids got to college (in 1976, the same year her oldest graduated from high school). Her favorite teacher at the U? Political science professor Mulford Q. Sibley, a controversial pacifist and socialist--and a surprising choice for the wife of former U.S. Senator (and Republican) Rudy Boschwitz. But Ellen has led an extraordinary life: from World War II refugee to early activist for children with learning disabilities to business manager and marketer. Read on . . . .
The Department of English is pleased to announce the promotion of two of our faculty members: Peter Campion to Associate Professor with tenure, and Katherine Scheil to Professor. Campion will publish his third collection of poetry, El Dorado, this October with the University of Chicago Press. Scheil published her second monograph, She Hath Been Reading: Women and Shakespeare Clubs in America (Cornell University Press) last fall, and has a third, The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway, in progress. Congratulations!