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Friday Forum

To foster communal intellectual vitality and conviviality, the English Program sponsors Friday Forums weekly. Friday Forums bring to the GC internationally recognized scholars, writers, and publishers to discuss a wide variety of literary and cultural topics. This series of lectures and readings is followed by a reception with food and wine. Forums generally take place at 4 p.m. on Fridays, but many occur in conjunction with all-day conferences and interdisciplinary events. Some Forums are devoted to special issues of student/faculty concern, such as financial aid, adjunct teaching, curricular changes, and the education job market. The first Forum of the Fall Semester is generally an orientation session for new students in the Program, and the last one in each semester, the Winter/Spring Revels, is a party not to be missed.

Friday Forum Schedule: Fall 2014

Unless otherwise noted, all events occur on Friday at 4 p.m. in the English Program lounge (room 4406). Please check back regularly for updates. All events are subject to change.
August 29
New Student Welcome

The event will include welcomes from the English Students Association, faculty and Program Officers and presentations by current English Program students on topics such as: Making the most of the First Year; Middle Years of the Program: Dissertation Years/Job Market; Balancing work and life; Getting the most from seminars; And more! Current students and faculty are encouraged to attend.

September 5
Critical Karaoke

This event is designed to showcase the different forms that meaningful intellectual work can take and celebrates the transformative power of performance, improvisation, play, failure, feeling, silence, and sound. Inspired by interdisciplinary and cross-field conversations about music and Experience Music Project’s annual “Pop Conference,” the organizers of this fall’s Critical Karaoke event—Duncan Faherty, Eric Lott, and Danica Savonick—invite brief essays that engage with a particular song. Beyond this stipulation of brevity, stylistic choices regarding format, volume, dance breaks, and dramatic pauses are up to participants. More promiscuous intellectual affair than long-term commitment, this low-stakes event encourages participants to dabble in a different field, flirt with an old fling, or linger with a guilty pleasure.

September 12
Research Workshop with Alycia Sellie

The aim of this workshop is to demonstrate research strategies and resources in practice rather than the abstract, centering on the project proposals of two students in our program: Tonya Foster and Alicia Andrzejewski (who have kindly volunteered to share drafts of their doctoral work with us at the early or pre-prospectus stage). To prepare for the workshop, attendees are asked to read the research proposals and Alycia Sellie's recommendations for these students at:

Feminism & the Archive: A Roundtable Conversation

This roundtable will bring together a variety of perspectives on feminism and the archive, broadly conceived. Participants will speak about their work about and in the archive as archivists, scholars, and feminists, as well as how archival research allows us to consider and reconceive of feminist genealogies and genres. Participants will include: Meredith Benjamin (CUNY Graduate Center), Kate Eichhorn (The New School), Margaret Galvan (CUNY Graduate Center), and Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz (CUNY Graduate Center, Lesbian Herstory Archives).

September 19
Job Workshop

Led by Professor Ammiel Alcalay, DEO of Placement, this workshop is for anyone going on the job market this year. Bring your questions!

Karl Steel (Brooklyn College, CUNY), “'A Charitable and Pitous Conscience': The Queer Prioress and Her Pets"

Faculty Membership Talk. Chaucer's Prioress is a notorious dog-lover and antisemite, reviled for the latter and pitied for the former. Her strange affections and violent exclusions, so often an embarrassment to the critics, should not be explained away or brushed aside. Rather, her attachments should be maintained in their strangeness and repugnance as a challenge both to the community established by the Canterbury pilgrims and to communities in general.

September 26 & October 3: No Friday Forum scheduled

October 10

What Is a Dissertation?  New Models, New Methods, New Media
Chair:  Cathy N. Davidson, Distinguished Professor and Director, Futures Initiative and HASTAC@CUNY
Jade E. Davis, Communications, University of North Carolina  
Dwayne Dixon,  Anthropology, Duke University
Gregory T. Donovan, Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University
Amanda Licastro, English, Graduate Center, CUNY
Nick Sousanis, Teachers College, Columbia University

This Forum showcases recent and current doctoral students whose dissertations exemplify innovative, experimental formats--Scalar, video, websites, comics, multimedia inter actives. The Forum is co-sponsored by the Futures Initiative, HASTAC@CUNY, CUNY DHI (CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative), as well as by distance partners:  the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge at Duke University, HASTAC Scholars (an international graduate student network), and the online journal Hybrid Pedagogy, and a growing list of programs at the GC and beyond.  The event will be webcast and live tweeted by Futures Initiative and CUNY DHI fellows who will leading collaboration on an open public Google Doc designed to model successful institutional change.-

October 17
Admissions Workshop
Interested in Doctoral Studies in English?:  The Program will host an information session on pursuing doctorial studies in English for interested students.  We especially welcome African-American, Latino/a students but are eager to meet with any and all students considering graduate school.  The event will include a welcome from faculty members, a panel discussion of different paths to graduate study, and workshops on the application process.  Faculty members, current PhD. candidates, and representatives of the admissions committee will be on hand to answer questions.

October 24
Pedagogies of Embodiment: Diversity in Practice
This event is designed to draw attention to the relationship among pedagogy, curriculum, and the ways in which race, gender, sexuality, and other axes of analysis inform the design and implementation of courses.  Panelists, drawn from English Program faculty, will offer brief remarks designed to elicit conversation that addresses questions as these: How do pedagogical and curricular practices advance and/or hinder the epistemological transformations at the heart of critical race, gender, and sexuality theories, as well as those that provide insight from the standpoints of class, disability, and indigeneity?  In what ways may such practices further our understanding of "diversity" and its relationship to the humanities and the academy broadly?

October 31
Critical Visualities

While empirical evidence suggests that the average museum visitor spends only 27.2 seconds looking at a painting, the organizers of “Critical Visualities”—Wendy Tronrud, Danica Savonick, Hilarie Ashton, Duncan Faherty, and Eric Lott—have curated a constellation of longer reflections on visual artifacts or experiences. Catalyzed, in part, by a summer of public art in NYC, from Kara Walker’s A Subtlety to Danh Vo’s We the People, this event will seek to fall into even more aesthetic encounters with the visual—encounters that can trouble and are so often troubled themselves.

November 7
Ewan Jones (Thole Research Fellow, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge), "Hegel, Patmore and the Turn of Rhythm"

This paper seeks to provide one specific justification for the general claim that the concept of rhythm as we today understand it came into being across the period 1770–1880. The case in question is the simultaneous ‘discovery’ of rhythm by contemporaneous German philosophers and poets ranging from Schelling to Fichte to Hölderlin to Hegel. Such ideas, I contend, are in turn taken up by Anglophone culture in surprising ways—one of which being the overlooked verse and aphoristic writings of Coventry Patmore. Where Patmore is commonly seen to subscribe to an abstract conception of poetic ‘Law’, I contend that his career instead reveals a complex form of embodied rhythmic life.

November 14
Miles Parks Grier (Queens College, CUNY), "Reading Black Characters: Othello and the Staging of Literacy, 1604-1785"

I would like to pursue the proposition that, for the first two centuries of its stage life, Othello’s audiences considered it a play about ink and paper. This grounding in overlooked but prominent metaphors and stage properties of the play takes us inside Britain’s “empire of letters,” wherein learning to read entailed declaring mastery of alphabetical as well as human characters. Accordingly, my title, “Reading Black Characters,” has a double valence. On the one hand, it refers to the act of assessing black and blackened characters—in this case, literal letters and the stained bodies of the painted stage Moor and his wife, Desdemona.  On the other hand, it focuses on two centuries of engagements with Othello that produce black and Amerindian characters as bad readers, arguing that their incapacities establish a character difference fundamental to Atlantic racial hierarchies. In contextualized readings of three episodes from the first two centuries of Othello’s Mediterranean and Atlantic career, I will argue that the play provided enduring figures for the Anglo imperial imagination—namely, submissive black moors, tarnished white women, and financially incompetent Indians. My hope is that, in moving to the media that produce character, we can consider literature and theatre a popular engine of racial thought with conventions and contradictions that do not always merely reflect racist projects happening in law, economy, or science.

Siraj Ahmed (Lehman College, CUNY), "Lost Language"

Faculty Membership Talk. In the decades immediately after the East India Company conquered Bengal in 1765, colonial scholars pioneered an approach to language and literature that enabled the Company to seize authority over native traditions and, as a consequence, to consolidate its rule. This approach—which reduced traditions to printed texts and used historical method to define their meaning—remains the tacit framework of our own scholarship. This talk proposes that until we understand how print technology and historical thought served colonial rule, we will have difficulty even addressing the question of a properly post-colonial literary study, much less answering it. Such answers may depend on our capacity to re-imagine the different uses of language and literature our methods were designed to efface.

November 21
E. Gordon Whatley Retirement Event
details tba

November 28
No Friday Forum scheduled.

December 5
Miriam Nichols (University of the Fraser Valley) "Editing Archival Materials: Robin Blaser's Astonishment Tapes"
Miriam Nichols, author of Radical Affections: Essays on the Poetics of Outside, and editor of Robin Blaser's collected poems and collected essays, will discuss the work behind her publication of Blaser's Astonishment Tapes, an 800+ page transcript of 20 audiotapes. Following her presentation, she will be joined by Ammiel Alcalay & several Lost & Found editors for a round table discussion on archival and editing issues in contemporary materials.
Co-sponsered by the Center for the Humanities

December 12


Interest Groups

English Student Association (ESA)

The ESA is a student-run organization that seeks to improve living and working conditions of students in the Program by representing the interests of the students in the Graduate Center English Department. Representation includes expressing the concerns of the students to the faculty and administration as well as relaying information back to the students. The primary tasks of the ESA are to provide a forum for student concerns, sponsor a network of student mentors, oversee course evaluations, and run the student election process. In addition, the ESA runs an annual conference (with faculty participation) open to ESA members as well as students form other institutions.

For more information about the ESA, visit the English Program Student Site.

Doctoral Student's Council (DSC)

Students in all programs at the GC have formed the DSC, which brings their concerns to the administration; lobbies for their interests before the University Student Senate, the CUNY Board of Trustees, the Mayor's Office, and the State Legislature; supports intra- and interprogram student organizations; and provides legal services and funding for cultural activities. The DSC subsidizes the Advocate, a newspaper published six times annually. The English Program has three representatives on the council.

For more information about the DSC, visit the DSC website.

Cultivating Diversity

Similar to the urban environment in which it resides, the City University of New York has a long history of diversity and, in fact, a continued legacy of including underrepresented communities in its educational forum.  In that tradition, the Graduate Center has a strong commitment to representing the vitality of New York City’s historically diverse and constantly changing intellectual population. While the undergraduate student body at CUNY represents a remarkable and rich mix of backgrounds, the Graduate Center Ph.D. Program in English acknowledges that this same rich array of representation does not yet exist in equivalent numbers at the graduate level. Still, the importance of diversifying our student body  remains a concerted effort of the English Ph.D. program.

With a distinguished faculty of scholars and writers, a dynamic cohort of graduate students, and an abundance of cultural resources in New York City, our graduate program has all of the appeal to attract outstanding applicants with a broad range of viewpoints from around the world. We strive to recruit minority applicants and then nurture their academic concerns, providing them with an environment in which their intellectual interests can thrive and grow.  We work hard to create an intellectual environment where all culturally diverse values are respected and where divergent perspectives can find a voice. Moreover, while the program respects the wealth of personal characteristics informed by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, and linguistic difference, it further wants individuals to explore the nuanced and complex intersectionalities that occur when these aspects of identity are experienced in real life.

As a means of achieving these goals, the Ph.D. Program in English has established a Committee on English Program Diversity, with the aim of addressing the particular absence of racial diversity among the  program's student body.  Amplifying some already existing practices, the program plans focused outreach to historically Black and Hispanic-serving academic institutions to familiarize prospective applicants with the program and the Graduate Center, thus expanding the diversity of the applicant pool. Beyond these outreach initiatives, the program will establish even stronger mentoring relationships with all students but with particular mindfulness to the issues that may arise for minority populations in education. We remain devoted to enhancing our profile as a program committed precisely to the just and equal access to education for all people.  The Graduate Center Ph.D. Program in English bases its success on the inclusion of all people from different backgrounds and with divergent insights as a contribution to our intellectual vitality and development.