My name is Tess Malone and I am a sophomore at GW majoring in English. This is what I have been filling out on every index card my professors pass out during our first class. Of course it really tells you nothing about me, the new Communications Liaison Intern, and definitely does not suffice for an introduction on this blog. English majors are supposed to be creative types, so let’s see what I can muster up.
As it turns out, I have not gotten over the summer slump so I will resort to a traditional and somewhat obnoxious list that will only prove how big of a dork I am and hopefully show you how I am qualified to update you on all of your English needs!
You Know You Are An English Major When:
You start a summer bookclub with your friend leading to arguments on why you could not seem to finish your first selection, Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Somehow though you did find time to read three Michael Chabon novels in the same time period.
-When you check out John Steinbeck’s East of Eden the librarian asks you if are in summer school.
- You have to read the book the movie is based on before going to see it even if this means rereading the sixth Harry Potter book only four hours prior to the midnight showing.
-You turn into the annoying friend who gives books as gifts and then pesters the recipient until they have read the book. (Case in point, I am still waiting for my roommate to finish Sheri Holman’s The Dress Lodger even though she got it last December.)
-When authors visit campus you resemble one of the screaming girls when the Beatles first arrived in the US.
Yes, sadly all of the above is true and happened this summer. Besides blogging and voraciously reading you may also find me reporting for the Hatchet Life section, working on my photography skills, cooking, and meandering around DC.
I look forward to writing for the blog this semester. Expect updates on readings and various events throughout DC, alumni and faculty interviews, etc. I will also be managing the GW English Department’s Facebook page. Please feel free to drop me an email at tmalone(at)gwmail(dot)gwu(dot)edu.
Photo by Rick Reinhard
As they perused the personal collection of one of our nation’s founding fathers, GW students took a break from their textbooks to learn another kind of literary lesson.
Stacked in the Library of Congress’ brimming bookshelves are the eclectic volumes of Thomas Jefferson, whose nearly 6,500 books—which explore everything from political philosophy to beekeeping—were purchased in 1815 to begin what has become the world’s largest library.
“Jefferson wasn’t a collector,” the docent says as students peer through the preservation glass. “He had a curious mind. He was truly interested in everything.”
Just a few miles from the Foggy Bottom campus, about a dozen GW students tapped into a uniquely Washington experience in March as they toured the Library of Congress. They strolled through the magnificent domed reading room, gazed at its art-filled halls, and examined one of its most prestigious rare book collections.
Their guide, alumnus Malcolm O’Hagan, Doctor of Engineering ’66, a docent at the library for about two years, organized the two-hour visit to share the library’s gems. A retired lobbyist for the electrical manufacturing industry, Dr. O’Hagan now audits GW English classes and says he wanted to connect an unparalleled world resource to the classroom.
“It’s such a treasure here,” Dr. O’Hagan says. In class, students may read old works, “But here they get to see rare books, they have a chance to look at the beautiful illustrations. I was hoping it would pique their interest.”
The Library of Congress, which occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill, boasts more than 138 million items on about 650 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 32 million books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 61 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings. As if that’s not impressive enough, the library’s halls and its reading room are artistically stunning. The Thomas Jefferson Building, constructed in 1897, is considered one of the most remarkable pieces of architecture in the nation’s capital.
Photo by Rick Reinhard.
When they weren’t admiring the colorful hallways and mosaic ceilings, students stepped into the reading rooms reserved for members of Congress and got an up-close look at the donated rare book collection of American businessman Lessing J. Rosenwald. In an exclusive viewing, Library of Congress curator Daniel DeSimone showed GW students some of Rosenwald’s most prized volumes, using the woodcuts, engravings, and sketches to explain the evolution of text illustration. A rare edition of a book from Dante’s Divine Comedy included original engravings by Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, while a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven displayed the artistic work of French painter Édouard Manet.
The participants—mostly undergraduate English majors, one PhD student, and one English alumna who signed up for the trip through an announcement on the English department’s blog—say the tour reminded them of their unique opportunity to explore in a resource-rich city.
“Sometimes it’s so easy to stay on campus,” senior Madeleine Starkey says, “but this was a way to connect students to the resources that D.C. offers.”
“I think a lot of people assume Washington’s resources are for international affairs or political science majors,” senior Rosemary Tonoff adds. “But this was a perfect example of what is out there for those in the humanities.”
Dr. O’Hagan, who focused on science and engineering in college and graduate work, says he is now reveling in his GW English courses, where he has deep discussions with other students about literature. After the Library of Congress tour, Professor Jeffrey Cohen, chair of the Department of English, believes the students will have even more to talk about.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity. It’s one thing to say to students, ‘Read the poems of William Blake,’” Dr. Cohen says. “It’s quite another to see the text up-close as a work of art.”
Along with eight other students, Rajiv Menon was awarded a George Gamow Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
Rajiv Menon, a junior from Kingwood, Texas, is a double-major in international affairs and English. Working with Judith Plotz, professor of English, he will spend the summer of 2009 completing research for the project: “Imagined Dravidistans: Regionalism and South Indian Literature in English.”
Readers of this blog will remember that Rajiv was our Communications Liaison in the fall semester. Well done, Rajiv, and best of luck with your research.
Engl. 172.10 Freud, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky Elective
English 172.11 Medieval Drama pre-1800; or pre-1700
Engl. 172.12 American Coming of Age Literature 20th Century
Engl. 172.10 Central European Modernism Elective
Engl. 172.11 19th Century British Novel & Empire 19th Cent; or 1700-1900
Engl. 172.12 Disability & Literature Minority; or Theory/Cult. Studies.
Engl. 172.80 Holocaust in Literature & Film Minority; or 20th Century
Engl. 172W.10 Literature & Film of American Suburbia 20th Century
Engl. 172W.11 Jewish Literature Live Minority, or 20th Century
Most 179s may count as Theory/Cultural Studies
Engl. 179, History of the English Language pre-1800, pre-1700, or Theory/Cultural Studies.
Most 171s don’t fulfill a period requirement.
We love it all.
That’s why the GW English Department is pleased to announce our first annual Student Poetry Contest. Anyone can enter, and the prize (generously donated by a departmental supporter) is an astonishing $500.
RULES: Poems are judged anonymously. Students should submit one poem, no more than 200 lines long. A separate cover sheet should include the author’s name, the title of the poem, GW ID number, and contact information (e-mail and phone). The student’s name should appear only on the cover sheet.
The English Department administers a biannual essay contest open to current GW freshmen, sophomores and juniors interested in parliamentary procedure. To enter, you must compose an essay of three to four hundred words on some aspect of parliamentary procedure as taught in Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.
The essay should be submitted under a nom de plume with a cover letter identifying its author, with contact information. The essay should be placed in an envelope labeled “Kilgore Competition” and delivered to the English Department main office (Rome 760) by noon on Thursday March 12.
The contest is judged by a small faculty panel. The author of the winning essay is awarded the Kilgore scholarship for up to two years.
by Tess Malone
Senior Liz Bettinger never knew that a chance course she applied for after its deadline would turn into her thesis.
This past semester, Bettinger and a handful of other girls woke up early and took the Metro to Capitol Hill every Friday morning so that they could experience, as Bettinger puts it, the “once in a lifetime opportunity” of studying at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
The Folger holds the world’s largest collection of Shakespearean and Renaissance books, manuscripts and art. Students in the seminar had full access to the Folger, which has a partnership with GW. The students used antique books and manuscripts, many of which were handwritten, as primary sources for their research projects. Some students, such as Bettinger, continue to visit the library this semester, taking advantage of their extended six-month membership.
The program is a highly competitive senior seminar with its own special application process. This fall marked its second term.
The partnership between the Folger and GW began after professor Gail Kern Paster, a famous Shakespeare expert, left GW several years ago to work at the Folger. Many members of the English faculty use the Folger collections to conduct research.
For faculty, “it’s usually a place go to once a week, or spend a summer there. Professor Jonathan Gil Harris is spending an entire year there,” said Jeffrey Cohen, chair of the English department. “We wanted to make sure we could share this with the students.”
Harris introduced senior Christina Katopodis to the seminar. Katopodis said her time at the Folger turned out to be one of her most fulfilling experiences as an English major.
“To work with books that old means that they were special in history because they had survived. It indicates they were valued,” she said.
With the help of Folger scholar Sarah Werner, Katopodis worked specifically with a 1605 book by Thomas Haywood, a famous Elizabethan writer and actor. “If You Know Not Me You Know Not Nobody” was written on vellum – a type of paper made of animal skin – and Katopodis discovered more than just archaic spellings. She also found “little hairs mixed in.”
Bettinger, a history major, had more ambiguities with her book on Richard III, whose title is too long to say, let alone print.
“It was a mysterious little book with no author. My project was on how the book came to be,” Bettinger said.
But as she sat and studied for four months in the Elizabethan style reading room, she realized the project could turn into her senior thesis, which analyzes the literary character of Richard III.
To finish work on her thesis, Bettinger plans on going back to the Folger to do more research later this semester.
“I was touching a piece of history,” she said.
The English department plans on making the program permanent, said Jeffrey Cohen, chair of the English department. The only obstacle is the cost, he said.
“The problem is it’s an extensive course to run. Hopefully we will find a donor, but it’s worth every penny,” Cohen said.
Katopodis said the program has made her respect books more and that when she goes into a bookstore, she is more inclined to “subconsciously think about how books are made.”
Media Credit: Chris Gregory/Hatchet photographer
From David McAleavey:
Now is the time to apply to the English and Creative Writing major – for juniors — i.e., ONLY for those who are to graduate in Fall ‘09 or Spring ‘10. The application consists of 2 hard copies of both a 1-p. statement explaining your interest, and a writing sample (10-15 pp. if poetry, 15-20 if fiction or play; the writing samples may be longer if need be). [Note that students who are studying abroad may submit their application electronically, as a Word.doc attachment.] Also you need 2 letters of recommendation, sent to me (David McAleavey) at firstname.lastname@example.org — or, if by snail mail, to me at the English Department, GWU, Washington DC 20052. (These recommendations are usually brief e-mails from those who have taught you in Creative Writing courses at GW, but you may ask other professors, both here at GW or elsewhere, if you think that would be better for you. Please note that you may apply in more than one genre, but each application should be include two copies of both the statement and the pertinent writing sample. (No need to ask your professors to send their recommendations more than once, however!)
If you have questions, please contact me (email@example.com, 202-994-6515).
The announced deadline is Feb. 16, but if you need more time, let me know that too, and I’ll see what we can do. If you are admitted, you’ll be able to write a senior Creative Writing thesis, in a supervised independent study (ENGL 194).
Professor Evelyn Schreiber and Undergraduate Nicole Welsh attended the Fifth Biennial Conference of the Toni Morrison Society this past summer. The event, which was hosted from July 24th-27th, took place in Charleston, South Carolina, which is an important site of the American slave trade. At this conference, Nicole presented a paper entitled “Can the Center Hold: A Modernist Look at Milkman and Hagar in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon”. Nicole is the first undergraduate to ever present at this conference, an incredible accomplishment! Nicole was able to travel with the support of the Writing Center and the Dean’s Office. After she graduates, Nicole will be working with Teach For America, teaching secondary English in Prince George’s County.
Professor Schreiber, who is the secretary of the Toni Morrison Society, presented a paper entitled “Jazz’s Riff and Refrain: Re-creating Self and Community in Diasporic Spaces”. She was also in charge of the conference’s Authors Awards Luncheon, at which prizes were awarded to the top edited and individually written books on Morrison, 2006-2008. In 2003, Professor Schreiber won this award for her book Subversive Voices: Eroticizing the Other in William Faulkner and Toni Morrison. Professor Schreiber’s next book, Bodies of Trauma: Race, Home, and Healing in Toni Morrison’s Novels, is under reader review at LSU Press. For any interested students, Professor Schreiber is teaching English 171W.11, “Toni Morrison and William Faulkner” next semester.
The Toni Morrison Society Conference also installed the first bench of the “Bench by the Road” project, which was established in response to Morrison’s comment regarding the absence of a suitable place to discuss slaves and their history. Morrison stated, “There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath or wall, or park or skyscraper lobby…There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road.” In response to this comment, the Toni Morrison Society is establishing a series of benches at important sites of African American History. This first bench, to be maintained by the US Park Service on Sullivan’s Island, commemorates the point of entry for 40% of all slaves entering the United States. Professor Morrison was quite moved by this ceremony, which she attended along with other events at the conference. Professor Schreiber and Nicole also attended to a particularly moving speech by Professor Joseph Opala of James Madison University, who discussed the importance of Bunce Island, an island off the coast of Sierra Leone that was the site of a large fortress that housed slaves before their transport to other parts of the world. Conference attendants were also able to hear Toni Morrison read from her newest novel, A Mercy.
The New York Times covered the event and Nicole’s paper is even mentioned in the article! This sounds like it was an amazing conference and congratulations to Professor Schreiber and Nicole on this great accomplishment!
The GW English Blog will keep you up-to-date on news, events, and publications from the English Department of the George Washington University.
Your generosity directly supports the English Department's research, teaching, and public events. Contributions from alumni and friends have enabled us to sponsor workshops for our students, host esteemed lecturers, and hold public readings by creative writers. Faculty have used funds from department supporters to complete books and bring new research into the classroom. Click here to donate, and be sure to specify "English Department."
The English Department is only as strong as its community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Whether you are an undeclared freshman, a current English major, a graduate of the department, or simply an interested reader, we would love to hear from you. We're always looking for feedback -- and volunteers. Have an interesting story about the GW English Department? Share it with us. Have a question or suggestion? Don't hesitate to ask. Proud of your accomplishments as an alumni? We'll feature you in a post. Always wanted to work on a blog? Let us know.
The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is the cornerstone of The George Washington University's academic program, with over 40 departments and programs, from biology to dance, sociology to anthropology, museum studies to forensic sciences.
Columbian College Blogs are meant to showcase the people behind the College and their doings.