June 19-21 marked the 8th annual Ocean State Summer Writing Conference. Annually, the University of Rhode Island’s Department of English brings together writers from across the spectrum of place and profession for three electric days of learning, networking and practice. From Harvard to UPenn, from RIC to Brown, from California to Florida, from Providence to Bristol, writers of all walks of life enjoy workshops, craft sessions and readings.
Besides the tremendously popular keynotes at this year’s gathering, from Alison Bechdel, Charles Bernstein and Percival Everett, certain events stood out as participant favorites.
Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar returned to the conference (after being a keynote speaker at the 2013 conference) and was met with great enthusiasm. One of his events was a conversation with Guggenheim Fellow and Professor Mary Cappello, where they addressed the “turning points” of their careers, their drive and their practice–to a standing room-only group of attendees. Of his former professor from his time as an undergraduate at SUNY/Buffalo, Akhtar has said that Cappello played a key role in shaping him as a writer.
Elaine Sexton and Kristin Prevallet also made a tremendous impact on their attendees. A conversation between the two during the penultimate time slot of the conference addressed a subject on the mind of anyone who has attended a conference before: “What now?” Sexton and Prevallet conversed on subjects like community building, networking, getting published, being employed–important questions, especially to poets. Their insight impacted the group as they both have worked extensively in a variety of fields.
National Book Award nominee and Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, Jody Lisberger had one of the most well-attended events. Her craft session, “Writing or Wanting to Write a Novel or Book-Length Memoir–Strategies for Success” was held in the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium to a group of more than 70.
There were many talented and accomplished writers at the conference in June, and whether they were familiar with the conference from previous years or new to the University of Rhode Island, they contributed to a terrific experience for many of Rhode Island’s writers.
A capstone event for the Department of English this summer was the 2014 Ocean State Summer Writing Conference, hosted from June 19-21. Regional and national writers, both novice and seasoned, gathered at URI to study writing and to share their own works with fellow scholars.
On the morning of the first day, attendees found themselves in two-hour-long, rigorous workshop sessions. From beginning fiction to advanced poetry, memoir writing to screen writing, OSSWC offered workshops in various genres, giving participants the chance to work closely with experienced workshop leaders and fellow writers. In the afternoon, conference-goers attended a welcome reception in Green Hall. After remarks by URI creative writing faculty Professor Peter Covino and URI English alumnus, Thomas Barkman, participants enjoyed readings by brilliant writers. Continue reading “OSSWC in Three Words: Eclectic, Professional, and Friendly”
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.”