Thirst. If I were only able to prescribe a single word to reflect upon her being, “thirst”
would extend beyond all others. Professor Jennifer Jones perspires a thirst to engage the minds of all who stand before her. With such a profound desire to excite imagination and intellect, it comes as no surprise that Professor Jones was recently honored with the 2014 URI Foundation Teaching Excellence Award.
Whether you’ve had the opportunity to study with her or not, my hope is that through reading the following, readers may collectively engage with and be inspired by Professor Jennifer Jones’ thirst.
Q: What do you believe is foundational to produce and maintain seminars that are beneficial to both student and professor?
JJ: The English graduate seminar is an occasion for the dynamic interplay between research and pedagogy. This cooperation between professor and students is best supported by a course design that reflects two mutually reinforcing, but nevertheless different, concerns. As a first priority, I take it as my responsibility to introduce a topic, an archive, and a set of concerns, and then lead students through this course of study. The second priority is to give students the inspiration and tools to analyze how and why a given course has been put together in a particular way, and to what purpose(s). By the conclusion of a seminar, students should not only gain a sense of mastery over a particular set of texts and ideas, but also a meta-critical sense of their value within a field, multiple fields, the discipline of English Studies, and other disciplines…To my mind, a seminar reaches an ideal state when a professor can serve as an intellectual guide whose skills as both speaker and listener are equally deft. It is in this context that professor and students ultimately use a core set of texts and concerns not only to master canonical knowledge, but also to create new knowledge…
I had a chance to catch up with Anna Brecke, a Ph.D. candidate focusing on Victorian Studies. Anna has recently co-founded the Mary Elizabeth Braddon Association and I wanted to hear more about how this organization came into being. Here’s the result of our interview.
Q: Congratulations on co-founding the Mary Elizabeth Braddon Association! How many members do you currently have and where are they from?
AB: When Dr. Janine Hatter and I launched the organization last year, it was what you would call a soft launch. We started with just a concept, an email address, and a twitter feed. So right now, I think we have around 20-25 interested parties, mostly from the US, UK and Australia, who’ve joined a mailing list and are getting involved with the organization. This July we held an inaugural meeting at the Victorian Popular Fiction Association conference.
Visitors to CFPList.com, the call for papers website run by URI English Ph.D. students Derick Ariyam and Michael Becker, will find a clean, innovative way to search calls for papers, conference information, writing awards, and calls for chapters and articles. The site’s organization and streamlined, user-friendly interface distinguishes it from other CFP sites. On it, scholars can search by the three criteria Becker and Ariyam use to structure the site: time (date), location, and topic. Ariyam and Becker saw the need for an easily navigable CFP database that was designed differently. As for that clean look, Ariyam explains, “To begin, I wanted a minimalist aesthetic that would allow people to see key things, like dates, right away. I wanted it to be responsive and quick.” Becker adds that he was blown away by the prototype’s clean style because he “had this idea of what the tools could be like, but hadn’t yet given much thought to the minimalist, organized, readable structure of the site. We talked about the color choices—green, purple, and orange—for the color-coding of the standardization of the site.”
Few things strike fear into the hearts of many graduate students quite like the prospect of entering into the academic job market. People tend to cope with the looming future in their own unique ways: denial, anger, depression—really any of the five stages of grief apply here. However, one of our own success stories, Tim Amidon, has conquered the job market quite handily, recently landing his dream position at Colorado State University. Tim generously agreed to pass some of his wisdom and advice on to us.
Create a marketable identity: Tim urges graduate students to strive to be both well rounded AND specialized. We all know that our work must be stellar and conferencing is a must, but to enhance future marketability Tim stresses the importance of getting involved here on campus through service and organizations. Also, consider how you can shape your professional identity on a national scale through workshops, publishing, and other professional opportunities. These experiences will boost your marketability and they will also offer the chance to forge vital connections. According to Tim, “Do everything you do well, but do something exceptionally.”
As a follow up to Kim Wickham’s interview with Donna Bickford that appeared on our blog on February 26th, we have learned that Dr. Bickford was recently honored with an Award for the Advancement of Women. Dr. Bickford’s achievement is featured in the article “Three receive University Award for Advancement of Women,” available on The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s website. We offer her our congratulations!
The reverie of adolescence and precocious little girls fills the artistic and
Cassie (Shelby Mackenzie Flynn) plays with her food in Red Sneakers.
Photo by Geoff Meek
scholarly world of Michele Meek, filmmaker, teacher, and English Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rhode Island. Michele’s creative talents can be seen through her writing, directing, and editing of her films, including Conversations With Women: Masturbation, Bubble Gum Ice Cream, and Red Sneakers. Red Sneakers won the 2nd Place Children’s Film Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and has gone on to screen across the country. In 1997, Michele founded the website NewEnglandFilm.com, a site that remains devoted to keeping New England up-to-date with the local film scene, as well as provides avenues for cast, crew, and film companies to engage with one another.
Recently, I sat down with Michele to discuss film distribution, future projects, and her research.
Q: How did you first become involved in the filmmaking community?
MM: While working on my master’s thesis in screenwriting, I worked at Where Magazine, which is a publication for tourists in Boston. I started to wonder, “Why isn’t there a publication for filmmakers to stay in touch with what’s happening in the local community?” So, I launched NewEnglandFilm.com thinking that I’d eventually move it to a print magazine. Then, of course, it just made sense as a website. I realized it was more interactive and up-to-date, so it just grew from there.
If the term “alt-ac” is unfamiliar to you, it won’t be for long. The 2013 Modern Language Association Conference held a special session “How did I get here? Our ‘Altac’ jobs”; searching for “alt-ac” in the Chronicle of Higher Education returns around 60 results; and, the term is quickly becoming commonplace in academic departments. Alt-ac is short for “alternative academic,” referring to careers held by scholars in the academy that are outside of the traditional tenure track, often in administration. Those in alt-ac careers are generally Ph.D.-holding staff members, who not only work in administration, but also research, write, and teach. While these “administrator scholars” are valuable assets to the university, the lack of a clear support system and lingering hierarchical tensions still needs to be addressed in order for universities, departments, and students to benefit fully from this resource. Attention has, therefore, turned to the need, at departmental- and university-levels, for further discussion of alt-ac careers and an array of related issues, including the growing use of adjuncts, digital humanities, and graduate/professional student preparation. While alt-ac careers do not “solve” the myriad hiring issues within the humanities, they are fast becoming recognized as legitimate and attractive options for those who do not see themselves in tenure-track positions, but who still have much to offer to the academy.
I was fortunate enough to conduct an e-interview with Donna Bickford, one of the leading voices in the alt-ac community, and an alum of the University of Rhode Island, having earned her Ph.D. in English. Links to her two Chronicle articles, co-written with Anne Mitchell Whisnant, can be found below, along with other pertinent writings on the present and future conditions of alt-ac careers.
Dr. Carolyn Betensky’s talk based on her recent article “Envying the Poor: Contemporary and Nineteenth-Century Fantasies of Vulnerability” examines the envy of vulnerability as an underlying tension that structures relations between 19th-century bourgeois readers and literary representations of the working poor. What makes Dr. Betensky’s argument especially illuminating is its transhistorical significance; she offers a unique pairing between the nineteenth-century novel and the right-wing rhetoric of the 2012 presidential campaigns, highlighting “resentment from above” and “fantasies of mastery.” The contemporary relevance is grounded in Mitt Romney’s avowal that the discontent of the “99%” with the “1%” betrays “a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach.” At issue in both the nineteenth century and our present moment is the vulnerable poor’s alleged special power, as perceived by the rich, derived from the sympathy aroused by the “precarity” of their situation.
The weekend of Nov. 1-2 was hectic yet exhilarating for Beth Anish, a PhD student in English at URI and an Assistant Professor at CCRI. Beth hosted the 2013 New England Regional Meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies, which drew scholars from the entire eastern seaboard to the CCRI venue in Warwick, RI. As the conference theme Beth chose “the hybridity of Irish culture in Ireland or in diaspora.”