March 5th, 2010
JEWISH LITERATURE LIVE
There is a running joke in Jewish Literature Live that despite the course title no author will admit they are a Jewish writer. Typically most authors frown when posed the question of authorship and spend the next five minutes refuting the Jewish label. However yesterday’s afternoon with Gabriel Brownstein marked a turning point in the course. Brownstein lit up when asked the fundamental question, “Are you a Jewish writer?” “It’s a very good question. I like that question. It’s a very Jewish question. Judaism was the in for me,” he said.
The protagonist of Brownstein’s fascinating and fun novel The Man from Beyond, Molly Goodman, is a young Jewish newspaper reporter in New York City in the 1920s working on a story about the feud between Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini over spiritualism. Naturally the story of the friendship between the two men was a goldmine for fiction, but how to approach this story was another question. Brownstein admitted that the first draft of the novel did not even include Molly, but soon she became a crucial element to explain the uncertain time period that was the 1920s. Writing a female protagonist was a stretch for Brownstein, who joked he is still a twelve year old boy at heart, but by making her Jewish, a world he knew, he was able to have a closer understanding of her. Brownstein noted that his protagonist needed to be, “put in the the most unstable time period, to put her in the most unstable time period she had to be a woman, and to be an assimilated Jewish woman- there’s no path for that,” he said. “There is nowhere for her, she was unmoored in the same way Houdini and Doyle were. The world was changing and there was no place for them.”
Brownstein found the process of writing historical fiction “complicated.” Yet when he stumbled upon the subject of the novel there was no turning back. “I was at a book sale in a church basement in Vermont and I saw a book with Houdini on it. I was totally transported by it. I was possessed.” There was no question that he write the novel. He said, “Writing a book is like falling in love, no one wants it to be but you. I had to write it.” Read more→
March 2nd, 2010
When you talk to most professors in the English department they profess that reading became an obsessive hobby from an early age. However Ramola D could not stop at reading books, she had to write them too. “I couldn’t read for long without itching to put the book down and write my own stories and poems,” she said. However, throughout much of her life in India she could not pursue this interest directly and instead found reading and writing a hobby. “Reading was always an impassioned experience, it kept me going through my degrees in science and business—libraries were my escape route to freedom and the other worlds in books,” she said. ” I remember all the hidden-away armchairs, open windows, drawn blinds, scratched-up desks, dim lighting, slants of sun and musty stacks in libraries I have loved–reading helped situate me mentally as a writer.”
Ramola found herself informed in some way by every author she ever read. She said, “I’ve learned syntactic effect from Hemingway, the power of voice and image from Joyce, fluidity in narrative from Scott Fitzgerald.” Today she cites the works of Marguerite Duras, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, William Faulkner, Janet Frame, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison, Kate Braverman, and Carole Maso as particularly illuminating.
Ramola’s recent interests have coincided directly with the creative writing courses she teaches. As a writer of fiction reflecting on “the bicultural aspects of immigration” and “historical characters within a colonial setting battling a pervasive imperialism,” she is currently in dialogue with authors who discuss the same topics. She said, “I’ve been drawn to exploring strongly-voiced narratives of difference, from characters who experience dislocation of sorts, often by way of migration or by way of being in a statistical minority in a given cultural setting, I am drawn to the work of writers tackling these issues.” Ramola has been interviewing Lan Samantha Chang, Junot Diaz, and Sandra Cisneros. She has brought these transcripts to class and gained thought provoking discussion from it. Read more→
March 2nd, 2010
What are you doing this summer? Avoid the boring internship or ice cream parlor job and travel to Italy for a poetry workshop instead! Professor Jane Shore will be teaching a poetry workshop this summer at Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival. The workshop runs from July 18-25 in Vietri sul Mare, Italy! You can learn more here and register here.
March 1st, 2010
This Friday from 2-4 p.m. in the Marvin Center Amphitheatre, GW MEMSI will be sponsoring a spring symposium titled “Race?” Presenters include English Department faculty Jennifer James and Tony López. This is a chance to participate in an interdisciplinary discussion about race that crosses over traditional lines of literary periodization and national tradition.
Race is a term fraught with contradiction and incoherence. Is race skin color? Physiology? Susceptibility to certain diseases? Geographic origin? Genetic variation? The impress of climate on body? Born or made? A bodily, ethical, legal, cultural or moral state? An inheritance? A performance?
Scientifically speaking, race does not exist … and yet race endures.
Please join us for a GW MEMSI symposium examining the long history of race. Our guest speakers will map the changes in how race has been understood, as well as its surprising constants, from the medieval period to the modern. Short presentations will be followed by a lively conversation.
- Jennifer James (English and Africana Studies, GW). Jennifer is the author of A Freedom Bought with Blood: African-American Literature of War, the Civil War-World War II and has published essays in the African American Review and other venues. Her next book explores black Catholicism and post-Reformation sectarianism in the early Americas.
- Thomas Guglielmo (American Studies, GW). Tom received his PhD in history from the University of Michigan in 2000. His book White on Arrival won the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians and the Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians. He is presently at work on a second book tentatively entitled Race War: World War II and the Crisis of American Democracy.
- Andrew Zimmerman (History, GW). Andrew is the author of Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany and Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South.
- Antonio López (English, GW). Tony teaches Latino Studies and critical theory. His work has appeared in Latino Studies and the The Afro-Latin Reader. He is writing a book on the diaspora cultures of Afro-Cuban America.
- Ayanna Thompson (English, Arizona State University). Ayanna is the author of Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage. She edited Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance.
The symposium takes place on Friday March 5 in the GW Marvin Center 3rd floor Amphitheatre from 2-4 PM.
The event is free and welcomes all who would like to attend.
March 1st, 2010
Would you like to learn more about the early modern period and to do research in one of the world’s best collections of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books? The Folger-GW Undergraduate Seminar on “Books and Early Modern Culture” is a rare opportunity to study at the Folger Shakespeare Library with experts in the field of book history and with texts that are unavailable anywhere else.
Please come to an information session on the Folger-GW Undergraduate Seminar to learn more about the seminar and how you can be part of it. Speakers will include Sarah Werner, Director of the Undergraduate Program, and four students who took the seminar in the fall: Elizabeth Dent (French and Art History), Emma Martin (English and Classics), Sean Mooney (English), and Tim Pickert (History). You’ll learn about the course, the workload, the subject, and the application requirements, as well as be able to ask questions.
Wednesday, March 10th, 4:30 to 5:30, Rome 771
Please join us for all or part of the session.
Applications for the Fall 2010 seminar are due March 31st; more information about the program and the application process can be found by visiting www.folger.edu/undergraduates or by contacting Dr Werner at email@example.com. You can also learn more about early modern books and book history at wynkendeworde.blogspot.com. Or by clicking here to see the flyer.