November 2008 Archives

Major Wins SEED Award

English and philosophy senior Sarah Choy was honored at the 2008 Equity and Diversity Breakfast November 20 at the McNamara Center with a $1000 Sue W. Hancock SEED of Change Award. The awards go to students engaged with issues of equity and diversity through outstanding academic achievement and activism. Choy is involved with the English Undergraduate Studies Committee, Minnesota Rainbow Alliance for the Deaf, and Mu Daiko Theater. Along with her major coursework, she has taken American Sign Language classes. "Although my main fields of study are English and Philosophy," notes Choy, "I find myself pouring a lot of my energy into the American Sign Language Department as a tutor. A few years ago, my mother found herself on her way to Deafness which drove me to learning the language; the University has given me the skill to communicate with her."

What did you miss at last week's "What Can I Do with an English Major" panel

You missed a lot! On Thursday, November 20th three Alumni came and spoke about their experience using their English major in the professional world. The panel members spoke about publishing novels, reinterpreting books into plays and creating online literary journals.

Some of the major themes include:
- The English Major prepares students for any job because it teaches critical interpretation, effective communication (verbal and textual) and creativity!
- Employers look for candidates that are effective in communication!
- Students should feel confident presenting their English Major as an asset (go into an interview proud to have studied English!)
- If you can't find your dream job make it up! Bring your skills and hobbies to your job. By adding personality to your job you'll make it more enjoyable and your boss will take notice!

The panel touched on these topics and more. If you'd like more information about the panel discussion please send an e-mail to Josh Capodarco (

Don't forget that we still have two more What Can I Do with a Major in English panels available on Tuesday, November 25th and Thursday, December 4th. We hope to see you there!

Job Market: Interview Workshop

A reminder that the next meeting will be 4:30 pm Wednesday November 19 in Lind 207A. The topic: a review of the tricks of the trade necessary to conduct the best interview ever.

Unique course offering spring semester 2009!

ENGL 3351W: Voices from the Gaps: Writing and Art by Women of Color

M, W 2:30-4:35, Lind 217

Instructor, Sara Cohen

The Spring 2008 section of Voices from the Gaps will concentrate on Latin American and Caribbean Jewish women writers of color in order to ask what each of these terms means ("Latin American," "Caribbean," "Jewish," "of color") and to look at the different ways that these diasporic identities intersect and are represented in the literature of Achy Obejas, Ana-Maurin, Lara, Alicia Kozameh, and Ana María Shua, among others. We will be reading genres ranging from memoir to magical realism in addition to theoretical works about the concepts of mestizaje, borderlands, and Diaspora. We will also think about the significance of these concepts, particularly borderlands and Diaspora, in relation to cyberspace--which is where we will publish some of our work on these writers.

This class is associated with the award-winning Web site Voices from the Gaps (, a web-based project that recognizes the work of a transnational community of women writers and artists of color maintained by the English department here at the University of Minnesota. Part of the intention of this class is to get work produced by students published on the Web site, thus satisfying the dual purposes of enriching the content of the site while showcasing the students' academic achievements. The Web site includes artists' biographies, book reviews, and interviews, all of which we will be producing as assignments for this class.

*This class Meets CLA requirements for Cultural Diversity Theme, Other
Humanities Core, and Writing Intensive.*

Cornucopia of New Faculty Books

Timothy Brennan's Secular Devotion cover imageDepartment of English faculty have produced a bounty of books this fall. Professor Timothy Brennan published Secular Devotion: Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz (Verso), which "shows how the popular music of the Americas — the music of entertainment, nightlife, and leisure — is involved in a devotion to an African religious worldview that survived the ravages of slavery and found its way into the rituals of everyday listening." Professor Andrew Elfenbein's Romanticism and the Rise of English (Stanford University Press) "points to new directions in literary criticism by arguing for the need to reconceptualize authorial agency in light of a broadened understanding of linguistic history." Professor Ray Gonzalez published his third collection of nonfiction essays, Renaming the Earth (University of Arizona Press), reflecting on the American Southwest, where he was raised. Finally, Professor Nabil Matar's Europe Through Arab Eyes, 1578-1727 (Columbia University Press) "assembles a rare history of Europe's rise to power as seen through the eyes of those who were later subjugated by it." Congratulations to all!

What Can You Do with a Major in English???

Come to one of three "What Can I Do with a Major in English" sessions to find out. This is your chance to hear from U of M alumnus talk about how their English degree gave them the edge in the professional world. Three sessions are offered with unique opportunities:

On Thursday, November 20th between 12:20 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. in Lind Hall 203 you can come and talk with Alumnus currently working in the Creative Writing Field. Participants will include published authors, a dance critic and graduates from the U of M's MFA in Creative Writing program.

On Tuesday, November 25th between 8:00 a.m. and 9:55 a.m. in Lind Hall 203 you can come and talk with Alumnus currently working in the Publishing field. If you are interested in publishing this is your chance to get the edge on the competition!

Finally, on Thursday, December 4th between 4:40 p.m amd 6:35 p.m. in Amundson Hall 124 you can come and talk with Alumnus about other career paths as an English major!

These meetings are open to the public but you are encouraged to send an e-mail to confirm your attendance. If you have questions or would like to register please contact Josh Capodarco ( We hope to see you all there!

If you missed this past Thursday Conversation...

Don't worry! We got you covered. This past Thursday, November 6th, students met with Learning Abroad Center staff, Professors and other U of M students to talk about studying abroad. They asked questions like: how do I choose a program? What do I need to do before I can go? and How much does it cost?

Some of the major themes of the meeting focused on two great opportunities for students:
Are you thinking of studying abroad but don't want to spend an entire semester? Then May Session Global Seminars are great for you. This May the English Department is offering a special Global Seminar in Montpellier, France. This is a 3 week, 3-credit program where students will:
- Trace the steps of authors that wrote in southern France. Readings will include R.L. Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, Tracy Chevalier and more.
- Write your own Travel Memoir,
-Participate in Excursions around Montpellier and to busy port city of Marseille, Aigues Mortes, and the Cevennes.
No knowledge of French is required! Please contact April Knutson with more information. You can also find more information by visiting:

Also, SPAN (Student Project for Amity Among Nations) is offering unique options for going abroad. This year SPAN is offering unique study abroad programs to The European Union and Greece. SPAN is a program designed for students that are interested in conducting independent research. SPAN helps you develop an understanding of the host country, prepare your thesis and conduct your research while in country. You can recieve up to 8 University of Minnesota semester credits for your participation.
For more information contact: or call 612-626-1083.

Finally, if you still haven't found what you are looking for please visit the Learning Abroad Center's website ( LAC staff can help you find a program, give you advice about financial aid and help you with any questions. You can stop by 230 Heller Hall and begin your search!

If you have any further questions or want to know more about this meeting in the English Department please contact Josh Capodarco ( Thank you to all the participants for making another Thursday Conversation possible.

Faculty in the News

Mpls St Paul Magazine coverThe cover story of the November Mpls St. Paul Magazine lists the 75 "Best Brains" in the Twin Cities, one of which belongs to English professor and poet Maria Damon. Editors Brian Lambert and Bill Swanson talk about the feature. . . . English professor and Creative Writing Program director Julie Schumacher visited the Today Show on October 28, updating her New York Times "Modern Love" article about the mothers support group she found when her family battled a daughter's clinical depression. Schumacher has received excellent notices (starred review in Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, etc.) for her latest book for younger readers, Black Box, about a girl whose sister is hospitalized for depression.

FUSE and Ivory Tower pair up for a Writing Workshop

The Fellowship of Undergraduate Students of English (FUSE) and Ivory Tower, the U of M's Undergraduate literary magazine, will be paring up this semester to bring you a writing workshop! This workshop is designed to help you workshop your creative work in preparation for a Ivory Tower submission deadline of December 1st. This is your chance to hear what Ivory Tower thinks of your piece before you submit it!

The workshop will be lead by a guest speaker and a current U of M MFA student in creative writing. Come to Nolte Lounge on November 13th between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Free cookies and ice cream will be provided!

This is a great chance to meet fellow creative writers and get feedback on your writing. Also, this is your chance to get published by submitting your work to Ivory Tower!

More information can be found by visiting:

If you have questions please contact

November's Engaged English Scholar of the month:

Congratulations to Emily L. for being nominated as November's Engaged English Scholar of the month! We would like to thank Emily for her commitment to excellence during her Undergraduate experience. Emily is a senior English Major. She has been involved with student research and community work. Along with her different learning experiences through HECUA and UROP, Emily has volunteered at a local high school.

Here's what Emily has to say about getting involved:

• Why is it important to you to get involved?

Getting involved and campus and in the community is important for two reasons. First, I think it's all too easy, when you're in college and on a campus and large and comprehensive as ours, to forget that there is bigger picture. Which brings me to the second reason for getting involved: it brings a whole new aspect to you education. Using my knowledge and skills to run an organization, to influence my peers, to better my community has helped me understand my classroom experiences in new ways. It has provided a context for my education-- I know that I am not just going to school of the sake of a degree, but that research in literature can be socially responsible, an act of social change.

• How has getting involved changed your education?

Getting involved in other educational pursuits, including HECUA ( and UROP ( ; on campus with my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega; and in the community, volunteering in a high school classroom, for example, has helped me understand how my academic interests can mean in the world. It helped me decide to pursue graduate school and also just to have more fun while I'm here.

• Has getting involved changed your career path?

I came to the U planning to become a high school English teacher. Through my involvement on campus, I began to realize that this career path was not going to be enough to satisfy me. I started to think about a career in the nonprofit sector. Through my experience with HECUA's Metro Urban Studies Term, however, I came to realize that this was not the right plan for me either. I began to think about a career in academia, and the UROP program reinforced my love of research, and helped me understand how I could combine my passion for literature with my commitment to social justice by pursuing socially relevant and responsible research.

• What suggestions do you have for other students that are interested in getting involved?

Read your English newsletter! There is so much going on at this campus, so many opportunities for involvement-- so many that it's easy to miss them. Try out some student groups and network with people who share your passions and goals.

Thanks to Emily for her hard work. We hope she continues her in-class excellence and community work. Are you interested in being nominated as the Engaged English Scholar in December? Talk to one of your professors about your current community work and see if they'll nominate you. All nominations and other questions can be sent to Josh Capodarco (

In Memoriam: Peter Firchow

Peter Firchow imageEnglish Professor Emeritus Peter Firchow died October 18, 2008. A member of the Department for 40 years, Professor Firchow focused on British literature in his teaching and extensive writing. In the last year he published two books, Modern Utopian Fictions from Wells to Murdoch and Strange Meetings: Anglo-German Literary Encounters from 1910 to 1960 (both Catholic University of America Press). "Above all, he was a tremendous scholar," notes Professor Emeritus Peter Reed, in a Star Tribune obituary. He is survived by his wife Evelyn, a professor of German at the University, and daughter Pamina.

Debra Blake Publishes New Book

Debra Blake book cover imageAdjunct Assistant Professor Debra Blake published her first book Chicana Sexuality and Gender: Cultural Refiguring in Literature, Oral History and Art with Duke University Press in October. Blake is currently teaching the second Survey of American Literatures and Cultures class and Literacy and American Cultural Diversity for the Department of English.


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