In Rachel May’s courses, students don’t just learn about writers’ work, they meet writers.
Over the past few years as a graduate student instructor in URI’s Department of English, May has arranged to have her literature and creative writing students speak with Jody Lisberger about her short stories; with Kristin Prevallet, David McGlynn, and Nancy Caronia about their nonfiction; and with M. NourbeSe Philip about her poetry.
This pedagogical practice brings her students in touch with writers, a choice that is important to her because, she says, students “don’t always see writers as real people and then when they speak with the writer they have a new perception of the work and what it means to be a writer. This is a regular person who wrote that book and that could be them.”
If the job market for tenure-track positions seems daunting, that’s because it is. I am not saying landing a job is impossible– I am saying we all know what the reality is, and it is a bit scary. But that does not mean the nay-sayers, the “what are you going to do with that?” crowd, can go on feeling smug about post-graduate degrees in the humanities. Of course, being in a graduate program in English means there is a good chance you have heard this all before, that you have done the research, that you have plugged your ears against the doubters and made the choice to follow your passion anyway. A degree in English is worth a lot more than just a job at the end of the line. But it is nice to eat, too. So, maybe there is a way to reconcile your passion with reality. I am definitely not saying there isn’t the chance for a tenure-track teaching position at the institution of your dreams; I am saying, do not be afraid to keep all options open.
On Wednesday, February 19th Rhetoric & Composition Ph.D. Candidate Gavin Hurley delivered his “job talk” to Writing & Rhetoric department faculty and fellow students. The “job talk” is practice for graduating Ph.D. students who are getting ready for the job market. This was Gavin’s opportunity to deliver research from his dissertation, as well as field questions about his work in preparation for upcoming job interviews. During the presentation, titled “Inclusive Transcendence: Rhetorical Dissociation Within Contemporary Discourse of Spirituality,” Gavin shared the research and results from one chapter of his near-complete dissertation. [br] Continue reading “A Job Talk by Gavin Hurley: “Inclusive Transcendence: Rhetorical Dissociation Within Contemporary Discourse of Spirituality””
In a presentation titled “The Rhetoric of Activism: Afro-Cuban Women Tweeting, Blogging, Tracking the Finish of the 59-year-old Castro Regime,” Writing & Rhetoric Ph.D. candidate Clarissa Walker joined American and international scholars to share work that explores the harrowing experiences and celebrated contributions of women from across the globe. On February 28th, the University of Rhode Island held its second annual International Women’s Day Conference, featuring Italian writer Dacia Maraini and a distinguished list of scholars from URI and other universities, including Fordham, Harvard, Texas at Austin, Vermont, and Mount Holyoke College. Clarissa presented her work as part of a panel focused on women’s issues in the U.S., Cuba, North Africa, and Italy.
On February 12th, faculty and students were treated to an eloquent and thought-provoking talk from Ph.D. candidate, Kim Evelyn, at an event hosted by the English Graduate Colloquium. Kim’s presentation, titled “Speaking Home and History: Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Narratives of National Belonging,” highlighted a paradox central to British colonial identity– the incongruity between a British Caribbean individual’s sense of national belonging and the feeling of exclusion. The multigenerational Caribbean characters of Smith’s White Teeth struggle with the difficult idea of “home,” recounting family histories in order to create a narrative of identity foundational to their experiences of diaspora.
Following her talk, I asked Kim to elaborate on what it was like to participate in the Graduate Colloquium.
Q: Can you briefly tell us how your talk fits into your larger project?
On Tuesday, January 28th, the English department, Gender and Women’s Studies and the URI LGBTQ Center kicked off our spring speaking series with a presentation by Dr. Laura Doan. Doan is professor of cultural history and sexuality studies, focusing on modernism World War I and queer historiography at the University of Manchester in England; she is also co-director for the center of sexuality and culture. Her publications include The Lesbian Postmodern, Sexology Uncensored: the Documents of Sexual Science, Sexology and Culture: Labelling Bodies and Desires, Palatable Poison: Critical Perspectives on the Well of Loneliness, Fashioning Sapphism: the Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture, Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality and Women’s Experience of Modern War.
Professor Doan was introduced by University of Rhode Island’s Jean Walton, Professor of English, Women’s Studies, Film Media and Comparative Literature. Doan’s visit was a key event for Professor Walton’s course in Feminism, Gender and the Body. After the talk, Professor Doan visited with the students of ENG 560 to discuss her work and answer questions regarding her most recent book, Disturbing Practices.
On December 6th, Tim Amidon (PhD candidate, Rhetoric and Composition) gave a Brown Bag talk in which he presented work from his dissertation, “‘You Can’t Just Learn That Knowledge—That Unspoken Knowledge’: Firefighters’ Multi-modal Literacies.”
Tim, who has been a firefighter for fifteen years, began his talk by explaining that firefighters are too often considered to be “people who do, not people who think.” The research he conducted—which included interviews and field observations—challenges that assumption, and it also challenges our understanding of literacy practices and knowledge work.
What is cool? Used so frequently in everyday vernacular, the “cool” has acquired various ambiguous shades of meaning. In a talk on December 4, Beazley Kanost (PhD candidate, English) challenged our ordinary notions of the cool, taking up and carefully theorizing both the idea of the “cool” in 60s counter culture and the implications of the political stance that lies behind our assumptions about the “cool.” Kanost’s “Whose Cool? The Direction Truth Takes in Portrait of Jason” draws from her work on experimental film of the 60s, particularly material from her visit to the Shirley Clarke Papers archive at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in Madison, Wisconsin, funded by a graduate research grant from the University of Rhode Island Center for the Humanities. Central to Kanost’s argument is the way in which the subject of Clarke’s film projects is often the “cool man.”
Comedy is no laughing matter, or at least, it’s not just a laughing matter. This year scholars and students at URI set out to afford humor the attention and respect it deserves through a series of events that will culminate in an all-day, interdisciplinary symposium on Saturday, March 22nd entitled “Open Mic, Open Minds: An Exploration of Social Issues Through Stand-up.” Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Dr. Jeremiah Dyehouse is the faculty advisor to the committee, which includes Writing and Rhetoric Ph.D. students Krysten Manke and Jillian Belanger.
On December 12th, 2013, students from Professor Peter Covino’s creative writing class held a public poetry reading at the Wickford Art Association. Students delighted a packed room of listeners as they read from chapbooks they created during the semester. The nine graduate students participating in the reading (calling themselves The Thunder Room Collective) were: Jenna Morton-Aiken, Derick Ariyam, Jessica Brigges, Julie Hassett, Mark Hinkley, Charles Kell, Danielle Sanfilippo, Rhiannon Sorrell, and Hillary Trimbach.