Cori Winrock Book Launch

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coalition

Come celebrate National Poetry Month with a book launch for Visiting Assistant Professor of English Cori A. Winrock’s new poetry collection, This Coalition of Bones, just out from Kore Press.

When: Saturday, April 19th
Where: The Yards (50-52 Public Market, Rochester, NY)
Doors Open: 6:30 pm
Festivities begin: 7:00 pm

Admission is free! Donations are always welcome!

This will be a special event featuring readings by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon and Geneseo alum Daniel T. O’Brien.

Bring a friend! Bring three! It’s a mentor/poem-maker party! There will broadsides by the lovely Anne Royston, poem-lined tote bags, string lights and general merriment! Throw some confetti and ring in the book year!

From the website of Kore Press:

In This Coalition of Bones, the mortal lessons of the body, the unreliability of the mind, the hyperbole of suburbia, and strange intersections of reality are embroidered into a cerebral, yet evocative landscape. Cori A. Winrock’s poems move through an unforgiving, terminal world infused with science, sleight of hand, and the shock of the gross clinic. It is an unsentimental world defined by a playful, eccentric storehouse of created verbs—a place where a glowworm slinkies, girls tween, punks are bonering, people relationship their way into the car, hive their way home.

winrockProf. Winrock’s work has appeared in Best New Poets 2013, Anti-, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, From the Fishouse, The Journal, and elsewhere. Winrock won the 2012 SLS St. Petersburg Review Award, was chosen as Editor’s Choice for Mid-American Review’s James Wright Poetry Award, and is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Individual Artist Grant.

Bernardine Evaristo to read from her work April 11

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Bernardine Evaristo

Photo credit: Hayley Madden

Bernardine Evaristo returns to SUNY Geneseo on Friday, April 11 at 4 p.m. (Newton 204) to read from her work as part of the English department’s Literary Forum series. Evaristo is the author of seven books including her new novel, Mr Loverman, about a 74 year-old Caribbean London man who finally comes out of the closet (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2013 & Akashic Books, US, 2014). Evaristo’s writing, characterized by daring experimentation and subversion, playfully and humorously challenges the myths of various Afro-diasporic histories and identities. Mr Loverman dares to explore almost forbidden topics, such as the seeming prevalence of homophobia in the black community and slavery as its justification.

Since 1997 Evaristo has accepted invitations to take part in over 80 international tours as a writer. She gives readings and delivers talks, keynotes, workshops, and courses. She has held visiting fellowships and professorships. Her books are translated into several languages, including Mandarin. Her awards include the EMMA Best Book Award, Big Red Read, Orange Youth Panel Award, a NESTA Fellowship Award and an Arts Council Writer’s Award. She has won “Book of the Year” 13 times in British newspapers and magazines; The Emperor’s Babe was a Times “Book of the Decade.” Hello Mum has been chosen as one of 20 titles for World Book Night in 2014. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2006, and she received an MBE in 2009.

English major alum Nick Friedman to be Stegner Fellow

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Congratulations to poet and Geneseo alum Nick Friedman, who has been selected for a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. The Stegner Fellowship one of the most prestigious and highly-selective creative writing fellowships in the world. You can sample some of Friedman’s poetry on the website of The Poetry Foundation.

Last spring, we reported on Friedman’s 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship at the Poetry Foundation, his March 2013 appearance in the New York Times’ T-Magazine, and his April (National Poetry Month) 2013, interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition, during which he read his poem Not the Song, but After.

National literary society helps launch section of new course in English

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Miller journal coverEarly last summer Prof. Tom Greenfield began sketching out an “Influence and Legacy of Arthur Miller” course for the first semester of the English department’s new course, ENGL 203: Reader and Text.  He knew that most students would have already encountered Miller’s most famous plays, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Adding Miller’s All My Sons 

and other plays to a preliminary reading list, Greenfield began addressing the Reader and Text learning outcome of having students “demonstrate an understanding of . .  the kinds of questions that are constitutive of the discipline.” 

For a course on Miller that meant exploring such issues as:

  • the  synthesis of Greek classicism and the 19th-century European naturalistic drama of Henrik Ibsen that informs Miller’s most important work
  • the compression of 20th-century  American  drama criticism  around Miller, Eugene O’Neill, and Tennessee Williams as well as attendant debates over inclusion, diversity, and canon
  • how relatively recent modes of criticism, such as gender studies or Reader-Response theory, generate new interpretations of established works and invite reconsiderations of their aesthetic value and historical significance

During that period, in a coincidence that arose as if dramatically contrived, Greenfield received in the mail the latest volume of the Arthur Miller Journal (AMJ), the publication of the Arthur Miller Society. “I glanced at the table of contents,” Greenfield said, “and my jaw dropped ”:

All My Sons: A Play by Arthur Miller and Henrik Ibsen

Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman: The Magic Informing Both Plays

Death of a Salesman and Postwar Masculine Malaise

“Here,” thought Greenfield, “was all this new research in the field aligned perfectly with my new course outline and delivered in plenty of time for me to use it.

Intending to upload the volume to myCourses, Greenfield sought permission from Dr. Stephen Marino of St. Francis College, founding editor of the journal and a co-founder of the Arthur Miller Society. “On a whim,” Greenfield recalls, “I also asked him if he happened to have 25 additional copies our bookstore could purchase at a discount for re-sale to students as a course text.”  Marino was so delighted to learn that a class on Arthur Miller was serving as an introduction to the formal study of English, he donated 25 copies of the journal: “We can’t have your students paying $12.50 each for these volumes,” he said.  “They’re yours.”

Prof. Greenfield's class Fast forward to January 2014.  Greenfield’s students take the journals in hand (literally) and put them right to work.  Prof. Susan Abbotson’s published review of a recent production of All My Sons provided students with an early opportunity to debate who really owns the meaning of a play’s performed text:  the writer or the director (the latter being, first and foremost, a reader).  As Teaching Assistant Megan Nolan (English ’14) explains, “Miller opens All My Sons with stage directions to cloister the one-set, modest suburban backyard   ‘(with) tall, closely planted poplars which lend the yard a secluded atmosphere.’  Yet, as explained by Abbotson in  “Performance Reviews: All My Sons” (The Arthur Miller Journal, vol 8. no. 1, 2013) , ‘There are no poplars and no privacy’” in director Julianne Boyd’s staging of the play.

A 1940′s play about a prosperous manufacturer’s efforts to hide his war-time crimes, All My Sons’ newspaper-era text demands that his secluded yard visually represent the illusion that we can stave off, perhaps forever, public discovery of our secret sins.  The 2012 viral video-era production, however, will have none of that.

The students went right at the argument raised by Abbotson’s review.   Some contended that by removing the poplars and exposing the protagonist’s yard to full view, a production could shatter the false promise of private life in post-war America while maintaining the integrity of textual interpretation. Others asserted that keeping the poplars both holds faith with the author’s words and establishes the play’s visual landscape from the manufacturer’s compelling but false vision of his home as an inviolate sanctuary from public exposure and moral accountability.

In addition, the AMJ articles provided excellent models for writing literary criticism. Early on, Greenfield had the students  read through one opening paragraph after another in class.  “As the openings to these articles demonstrated,” Greenfield noted, “critical writing ‘gets down to business’ very quickly.  The specificity and sharp analytical focus of the initial paragraphs — even the first sentences — came as a surprise to many students.”

Greenfield is still discovering ways to apply the students’ journals for the class. Besides scholarly writings, the journal posts notices on Society business, information on upcoming “Miller-related” conferences and events, and other cues as to how literary associations support the professional study of literature.  “I recall from my own undergraduate and even graduate studies how remote and strange scholarly societies seemed,” Greenfield said.  “Having students in possession of their own journals should bridge some of the gaps between the classroom and the profession itself — both of which, after all, are comprised of readers and texts.”


Applications for Creative Writing track due March 14

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It’s that time of the semester again: if you’re a student and would like to enroll in ENGL 301/303, 302/304, or 305/307 for fall 2014, you’ll need to submit a sample of your work together with this cover sheet to the English department office by 4 p.m. on March 14. If you’ve been previously admitted to the creative writing track, you won’t be denied admission to any 300-level workshop in which space is available, provided that you submit the completed cover sheet by the deadline and attach the required writing sample. Students interested in the prose workshops should submit 5-10 pages of work in the genre to which they’re applying.  Students interested in the poetry workshop should submit 3 to 5 poems. It’s also possible to apply for admission to a workshop without applying for admission to the track. Go here to learn more about creative writing workshops and the creative writing track. Visit the department website to see a full description of the creative writing curriculum.

“I could write a book on the subject”: Words of advice from Pat Morgan, ’10

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Editor’s Note: Geneseo English major alum Patrick Morgan (2010), currently a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature at Duke University, recently posted a profile of himself on the Geneseo English department’s alumni profile page. But he had a few more things to say than the space there would allow. In particular, he wanted to share seven points of advice for our undergraduate English majors. He asked for some space here to provide them, and we were more than happy to provide it. Below are his complete profile and his advice for undergrads.
English major alum Pat MorganThe hardest thing about connecting the skills I learned as a Geneseo English major with my life after graduation is knowing where to stop.  I could write a book on the subject.  Geneseo English gave me the synthesizing tools I needed when, immediately after graduating in 2010, I wrote for the National Park Service in Acadia National Park, distilling fifty-page science reports into two-page public-friendly versions.  Geneseo English gave me the expertise in clear, concise writing and proofreading that I used as a contributing writer and editorial intern for The American Gardener magazine, shouldering the responsibility for organizing several sections of the publication, such as Gardener’s Notebook and Regional Happenings.  Geneseo English gave me the multi-modal writing experiences that prepared me to work for DISCOVER magazine, writing four articles daily for the in-house blogs, 80beats and Discoblog.  Geneseo English gave me the public speaking skills necessary to interview geochemists, geophysicists, and geologists for my freelance science journalism articles for EARTH magazine.  And Geneseo English gave me the research experience, writing feedback, and encouragement I needed to apply to—and get accepted into—a slew of highly competitive English graduate programs, such as Duke, Northwestern, Oxford, and Cambridge.  I am now working toward a PhD in English at Duke University, where I have used the scholarly skills I learned from Geneseo English to co-author with Priscilla Wald a preface for American Literature’s Thoreau Symposium and to construct a collaborative book with Cathy Davidson about digital literacies in the classroom.  When I say that “Geneseo English” taught me these skills, I am of course referring to the many Geneseo English professors I had the privilege of taking classes with, as well as those I interacted with beyond the classroom—the professors who are so generous with their time, who challenge you to excel in school and in life, and who stay connected with you years after graduation.

Knowledge, Skills, and Tools

With regard to reading and writing skills, it’s easy to talk about generalities, like how the high expectations of Geneseo English professors forced me to learn proofreading and fact checking methods that I still use to this day; how researching and writing on a deadline was good practice for science journalism; and how the many blog posts I wrote for Beth McCoy, Maria Lima, and Alice Rutkowski prepared me for my journalistic blog posts for DISCOVER magazine.  But there are reading and writing skills I learned at Geneseo that are simultaneously more specific and more difficult to articulate.  Geneseo English, for example, gave me a sensitivity to different writing genres and to what I like to call “writing climates.”  Every Geneseo English professor has high writing expectations.  But to say that each professor has high expectations isn’t the same as saying that each professor has the same expectations.  Part of the tacit knowledge one gains as a successful English major is the ability to quickly assess the subtly different expectations each English professor has for what exactly an essay should accomplish.  The kind of essay I wrote for Rob Doggett wasn’t precisely the kind of essay I would write for Gillian Paku, or Ken Cooper, or Ron Herzman—through pre-essay meetings and discussions, each professor brings out and allows you to discover a different part of your writing voice, based on distinct conceptions regarding the kind of work an essay should accomplish.  These subtly different expectations are what I mean by “writing climates,” and it’s this sense of different writing climates that’s so useful after graduation because different publications—even within the narrow field of science journalism—constitute different writing climates.  Indeed, each section of each magazine is like a different writing climate: a DISCOVER blog has different expectations than a DISCOVER front-of-the-book print article; EARTH magazine’s News Notes section is different from its Benchmarks section; and there’s a difference between research, resource, and program briefs for the National Park Service—each part of a publication is looking for a different kind of voice, just as each Geneseo English professor brings out a different dimension to your voice.

There are three other specific-yet-hard-to-articulate reading and writing tools that I would like to briefly cover.  One tool is the organizational abilities one needs to juggle the medley of high-stakes (conference papers, seminar papers, etc.) and low-stakes (blog posts, presentations. etc.) writing one undertakes as an English major.  You’re keeping track of different genres, different writing climates, different due-dates, instructions, and expectations.  It’s this type of intensive interpretive task-juggling—characteristic of being a Geneseo English major—that prepared me for the multiple roles I fulfilled, for example, at DISCOVER magazine: in addition to writing four blogs each day, I created photogalleries for the website, helped proofread certain sections of the print magazine, prepared magazine content for online publication, contributed stories to the print magazine, responded to subscribers’ emails regarding the website, and managed DISCOVER’s Facebook page.  Another closely-related tool, or experience, includes the presentations and alternative writing projects Geneseo English professors expect from students.  For example, I remember the challenging project Caroline Woidat assigned in her Native American Literature survey course, in which we had to integrate the standard academic essay with a creative nonfiction account of a personal family story.  The science writing world is likewise full of the kinds of writing projects that force you to meet new expectations—that is, in which you dive into a project that’s unfamiliar to you, and yet you use the skills you’ve built up to tackle the unfamiliar with the familiar.  Thus I knew that I could write the text for and design a poster for the National Park Service informing visitors about the vital characteristics of specific invasive insects because I’d successfully accomplished similarly unfamiliar writing projects for Geneseo’s English professors.  The last specific-yet-hard-to-articulate reading and writing tool is the practice Geneseo English professors have of providing choices for term papers: you can respond to a specific prompt or you can meet with the professor to propose your own essay idea.  Taking advantage of the latter option prepared me for the daily article pitches I gave to DISCOVER magazine editors—going from the idea stage to the I-need-to-convince-this-person-that-my-idea-is-viable stage.

Geneseo’s English professors allowed me to discover my writing voice, and yet there’s so much more than writing skills that I learned from these professors.  In each class, they modeled the mind of a literary scholar—a discerning, critical reader, and interpreter of signs who is likewise mindful of social concerns.  They generously gave up their valuable time to mentor me, whether it was in working as a teaching assistant for Rob Doggett, or participating in the slew of directed study opportunities I had with Ken Cooper, Gillian Paku, and Richard Finkelstein.  The collegiality between the professors gave me a microcosm of the wider academic community—a microcosm that only expanded when Rob Doggett brought me and a bunch of other students to Sligo, Ireland, to participate in the Yeats International Summer School.  The introduction to feminist criticism that Beth McCoy, Caroline Woidat, Rob Doggett, Alice Rutkowski, and Maria Lima gave me serves me well now as I complete Duke’s graduate certificate in Women’s Studies.  I was introduced to Henry David Thoreau in Alice Rutkowski’s American Romanticism class, Ed Gillin’s Humanities II, and Ken Cooper’s guidance during my honors thesis—an introduction that has directly facilitated my own Thoreau scholarship, such as my 2010 article in The Concord Saunterer, “Aesthetic Inflections: Thoreau, Gender, and Geology.”  And extending my interpretive skills beyond the written word—to film—through Jun Okada’s Film Classics has given me the confidence to do the same in my own classroom practices.

Advice for Geneseo English Students

There are indeed many ways to succeed as a Geneseo English student, and as a graduate of the Geneseo English program.  Here are seven points of advice I learned in the process of moving and growing through the program and navigated my way in the world after Geneseo English:

  1. Find ways to connect your learning in the English classroom to the wider Geneseo academic community and beyond, and find ways to connect your extra-curricular activities back to the English department as a form of service.  An example of the former, for me, was when I participated in a book discussion with the Trappist monks at the nearby Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, New York.  This participation allowed me to enter into dialogue with a different interpretive community, and to learn the ancient art of transcendental reading called shared lectio divina.  An example of the latter (i.e. connecting your activities back to the English department), for me, was through my leadership role in MiNT magazine, which tended at the time to publish well-researched op-ed articles.  When the English Annual essay contest ceased publishing the winning scholarly essays, I decided that for as long as I was in charge of MiNT, I was going to make sure that we published these winning essays, disseminating the best student writing from Geneseo’s English department.  Use whatever means of service you have to mobilize the skills you learned from Geneseo English to then give back to the department.
  2. Consider taking on an academic minor that complements your career goals and intellectual interests.  My academic time at Geneseo was divided between three domains: my primary major in English, my secondary major in geological sciences, and my minor in the honors program.  Although I didn’t know that I would go into science journalism, I knew early on that I wanted to write about science in some capacity: Geneseo English gave me the writing background; Geneseo geology gave me the science background.  I learned later that I had a significant advantage when applying to science journalism internships because of my major in English and my complimentary knowledge in geological sciences.  Internship hiring committees know that you’re in English because you have a passion for beautiful and precise language, and critical reading—an editor once told me that magazines prize these characteristics much more than, say, the characteristics of someone from another school who majors in “science journalism,” which has the reputation for being passionlessly professionalizing.
  3. Nurture your specific interests in literary studies, whether that’s a particular author, a literary movement, a type of critical theory, or a genre.  You should do this for the sake of doing it, but I’ve also learned that it can help you after graduation.  The reason I was asked to write a preface for the top journal in my field—American Literature, published by Duke University Press—about a spontaneous symposium of Thoreau scholarship was because I built up, with the help of Geneseo English professors, an expertise in Thoreau studies.
  4. Make good use of the Geneseo library resources for as long as you have access to them.  The moment I grew up as a scholar was the moment I realized that I had the same resources at my disposal as all of my professors, who were actively publishing articles, books, and presenting at national and international conferences.  I realized that I had more resources at my disposal than that most devout of Thoreau scholars, Geneseo’s very own Walter Harding.  Follow your intellectual bliss, dig into the books, and do something with your research.
  5. If you’re interested in journalism in general or science journalism in particular, actively search for internships starting in the summer before your senior year.  There are many methods for finding internships: go to Career Services, find the many internships advertised online, and actively contact any magazine you could see yourself working for and ask them if they need an intern.  If you want to make life easier on yourself, do a “study abroad” internship—I didn’t realize this was an option until after I graduated, but many magazines will allow college students to intern for a semester, and colleges sometimes give course credit for these career-related experiences.  The key characteristic when applying to internships is persistence—don’t get discouraged if a publication tells you that they’re looking for someone with more experience; get the experience and reapply. When I first applied to work for DISCOVER, they told me just that: “we’re looking for someone with more experience.”  So I started freelancing with EARTH magazine, and then interned for the National Park Service, and wrote for The American Gardener magazine, and then, reapplying to DISCOVER, they accepted my application.
  6. And don’t get discouraged if a publication has you write for their website at first.  There’s still, unfortunately, a science journalism status difference between writing online and writing in print, with the in-print writers having the cultural capital of high status.  EARTH magazine started me out writing online, and I wrote one online article before they realized that my writing abilities were so good—thanks to Geneseo English—that I needed to start writing for their print publication.  These freelanced articles then allowed me to build up the writing samples I needed to successfully apply to work for DISCOVER.
  7. The best advice I can give you—and which you can implement this very moment—is to keep a freewriting journal.  Go out right now, buy a journal, and write at least three pages each day: the front of one page, the back of another, and another front page.  Find the time to sit down (or stand up) and reflect on your day.  This isn’t a time to be critical of your writing (that’s how novels don’t get written)—it’s a time to write whatever comes to mind, and spend at least ten minutes each day with your pen on paper.  This freewriting exercise might not seem like much at the time, but it will improve your writing—it’ll make you a better English major, and after graduation, it will keep your writing skills honed.  I started a freewriting journal when I was eighteen, at the recommendation of a professor, and I can say that this writing exercise has helped me in more ways than I can articulate.  I draft essays in my journal, I make sense of life in my journal, and I make decisions about the future using my journal.  Currently nearing on my 9,000th journal page, I can say with confidence that undertaking a daily freewriting exercise is the single best habit I created at Geneseo.

Some of these points of advice might be useful for you, some might be obvious, and some you might want to forget.  These are just the seven points I would tell my freshman self if I went back in time.

Looking back on my time at Geneseo, I realize that I made the right choice by majoring in English.  The skills I learned from Geneseo’s English professors are the skills that have brought me around the U.S. writing, from the National Park Service in Maine to The American Gardener in D.C. to DISCOVER magazine in New York City.  Although Geneseo English gave me the tools I needed to accomplish my career goals, I didn’t become an English major to become a science journalist because, at the time I declared my major, I didn’t even know that I was interested in science journalism.  But it was an English professor who first sparked the idea in my head that I could be a science journalist—who believed in me and my writing, and gave me the encouragement I needed to succeed after graduation.  Somewhere in that mentoring experience lies the ineffable quality of being a Geneseo English major because, in the end, the only limit is your imagination.

Links

“It’s terrific. Just terrific.”

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Check out this blog post by Rod Dreher at The American Conservative on “Beatrice as Teacher and Icon.”

“Last night,” Dreher writes,”I spent a wonderful two hours with a group of teachers in Baton Rouge, whose group had read The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, and were talking about it. On the drive back to St. Francisville, I listened to the Teaching Company’s course on the Divine Comedy taught by Prof. William Cook and Prof. Ronald Herzman, loaned to me by a reader. It’s terrific, just terrific. It’s a shame I didn’t have hours to drive, and had to stop listening when I got home.”

The praise doesn’t end there. Give it a look.

McCoy essay to be reprinted in book history anthology

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broadviewDistinguished Teaching Professor Beth McCoy’s 2006 PMLA article “Race and the (Para)textual Condition” will be reprinted in a new anthology on the history of the book due out in May 2014 from Broadview Press.

The Broadview Reader in Book History is edited by Michelle Levy and Tom Mole.

From the publisher’s website:

Book History has emerged as one of the most exciting new interdisciplinary fields of study in the humanities. By focusing on the production, circulation, and reception of the book in all its forms, it has transformed the study of history, literature and culture. The Broadview Reader in Book History is the most complete and up-to-date introduction available to this area of study.

The reader reprints edited versions of key essays in the field, grouped conceptually and provided with headnotes, explanatory footnotes, an introduction, a chronology and a glossary of terms.

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