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Community

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: Spring 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.
 
January 31 
2:00PM
Oral Exam Workshop
Led by Mario DiGangi and featuring students who recently passed the exam, this Workshop includes such topics as setting up a committee, understanding the exam, creating lists, and preparing for the exam.

4:00PM
Elsie Michie (Louisiana State University), “Cleverness: A Victorian Aesthetic Category”
Like the cuteness that Sianne Ngai has analyzed in relation to modern art, cleverness was for the Victorians typically opposed to a higher aesthetic category, genius, and, as Frances’s and Anthony Trollope’s novels show, linked to the evolution of capitalism, particularly of an economy in which money played an increasingly dominant role.  While repeatedly relegated to the apparently second-class status of the “clever novelist,” both Frances and Anthony embraced that position, understanding cleverness to be key to the emergence and development of the Victorian novel as a form that reflected the changing complexion of nineteenth-century social interactions. Stretching from 1832 to 1882, the combined careers of Frances and Anthony Trollope allow us to track the evolving usage of cleverness over a fifty-year period.
 
February 7
Collective Book Party
Although we often write our books in isolation, there is no reason not to celebrate their publication collectively! In that spirit, please join us for a collective book party. Faculty and students in English will present brief accounts of the academic and creative books that they have published during the past year. Following the presentations, we will have a reception to honor the accomplishments of our colleagues, students, professors, and friends.
 
February 14 
2:00PM 
Future of the English Program Panel I
A panel discussion about the English Program's future direction; students, faculty and alumni are warmly invited.
  
4:00PM
Eric Lott (University of Virginia) “Marx in Texas: CAPITAL, Slavery, and the Revolutionary 1860s”
This is a Faculty Membership talk. Karl Marx followed the progress of the American Civil War closely and wrote about it extensively in his dispatches for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune and the Viennese newspaper Die Presse. Too few have recognized, however, that the war and Marx’s dispatches not only coincide with but also enter quite broadly into the composition and text of Das Kapital, published not long after the war’s conclusion, in 1867. Lott will raise the specter of an American Marx, for U.S. conceptions of labor (slave and free), politics, and territory suffuse Marx’s complex figurations of wage work, capitalism, modes of production, and revolution itself. America’s revolutionary 1860s may be fundamental to the plot of Marx’s great Victorian masterwork.
 
February 21
RESCHEDULED FOR MARCH 21
Feisal G. Mohamed (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) “Republican Political Theology in the Age of Hobbes”
This is a Faculty Membership talk. With its doctrines of endless war, indefinite detention, and ubiquitous battlefield, the past decade has left ringing in our ears the infamous pronouncement of Carl Schmitt: “Sovereign is he who defines the exception.”  This talk shall explore the ways in which a return to Schmitt in our own moment repeats earlier debates on the legal and the political: his emphasis on the decisionism of sovereignty set itself against the thought of Hans Kelsen, a neo-Kantian arguing for supra-national norms as legitimating the legal order of the state.  Similar tensions are evident in the age of Thomas Hobbes, a historical moment to which Schmitt intermittently returns in his writings, though the English republican antidote to Hobbesean sovereignty depends not on legal proceduralism but on the decisionism of an elect few, an anti-democratic strain that persists in notions of popular sovereignty undergirding post-Enlightenment republics.
 
February 28
2:00PM
Shelly Eversly (Baruch), "Writing White, or How Particulars Become Universal"
Talk one of the New Approaches to African American Literature series. In the years surrounding the Brown decision, which promised to transform social inequality in the United States, black American writers produced an unprecedented number of novels featuring white characters.  This coincidence corresponds with biological and social scientific disagreements about new terms of what it means to be human; postwar "white novels" explain the contours of these debates about human universals by exploring how the particulars of racial and homosexual difference diminish in "white" contexts.

4:00PM
American Studies Meets Postcolonial Studies: a Conversation
Over the last decade, scholars have re-imagined the interdisciplinary field of American studies through the frameworks of transnationalism, globalization, and diaspora, bringing to the field's center questions of racialization, difference, and neoliberal empire. This shift does the important work of "decolonizing" American studies itself — and indeed those literatures and cultures with which it is concerned — and of challenging postcolonial studies, which has long utilized transnational perspectives, to assess the relevance and efficacy of its methodologies. 
Moderated by students concentrating in postcolonial and transnational American studies, and featuring faculty from the Graduate Center's English and American studies programs, this forum will be an informal conversation about these fields' convergences and disagreements. 

March 7
Heather Love (University of Pennsylvania) “Ecologies of Deviance: Autism, Impersonal Sex, and the Observational Social Sciences”
This talk addresses practices of microanalysis in the observational social sciences in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on studies of interaction that adopted a “natural history” approach. I look at two cases: Niko and Elisabeth Tinbergen’s accounts of the behavior of autistic children (based on N. Tinbergen’s Nobel prize-winning work in animal ethology) and Laud Humphrey’s descriptions of public, anonymous sex in *Tearoom Trade*. I am interested in exploring the impersonal, dehumanizing quality of these studies, with their minimalist account of their subjects. I argue that the methods that these researchers employed—their use of “thin” description, their attention to visible behavior, and their analysis of social scenes without reference to the biography, identity, or interiority of their actors—were in practice destigmatizing, not objectifying—or even that they were destigmatizing insofar as they were objectifying. As part of a larger book project called Reading as a Social Science, I link these research methods to contemporary debates on interpretation in literary studies, arguing for the utility of such non-hermeneutic approaches in literary studies (as well as in queer theory, disability studies, and affect studies).

 March 14
2014 English Student Association Conference: Currents of the Black Atlantic
This interdisciplinary conference takes as its point of departure Gilroy’s ethos of looking outside of and challenging established categories (such as those determined by nationalist modes of thought). In the spirit of thinking both with and beyond the Black Atlantic paradigm this conference seeks to create a space for scholars to negotiate its theoretical limits while gesturing towards alternative frames and futures for the Black Atlantic. This interdisciplinary conference revisits the roots and routes, the genealogies and the futures, of The Black Atlantic.
 
March 21
12:30PM
Feisal G. Mohamed (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) “Republican Political Theology in the Age of Hobbes”
This is a Faculty Membership talk. With its doctrines of endless war, indefinite detention, and ubiquitous battlefield, the past decade has left ringing in our ears the infamous pronouncement of Carl Schmitt: “Sovereign is he who defines the exception.”  This talk shall explore the ways in which a return to Schmitt in our own moment repeats earlier debates on the legal and the political: his emphasis on the decisionism of sovereignty set itself against the thought of Hans Kelsen, a neo-Kantian arguing for supra-national norms as legitimating the legal order of the state.  Similar tensions are evident in the age of Thomas Hobbes, a historical moment to which Schmitt intermittently returns in his writings, though the English republican antidote to Hobbesean sovereignty depends not on legal proceduralism but on the decisionism of an elect few, an anti-democratic strain that persists in notions of popular sovereignty undergirding post-Enlightenment republics.

4:00PM
Open House for Prospective Students
This admissions event is an opportunity for students newly admitted or wait listed into the PhD Program in English to learn more about the Program; meet faculty, administrators and current students; and to ask questions about scholarship in the program. 
 
March 28
2:00PM
Nikhil Pal Singh (NYU), "Race, Crime and Police Power in the Making of US Empire"
This Mentoring Future Faculty of Color talk considers the historical importance of racialized criminality (and criminalized racial difference) within US imperial culture. It specifically examines how historical precedents of 'slave crime' and 'native crime' are foundational to the development of American legal thinking and security
regimes built upon expansive conceptions (and indeed an expansionist
blurring) of anticipatory policing and preventive war. It concludes with some
reflections upon how these practices and precedents become transferred
and translated within the post-WWII history of United States globalism and
national security discourse.

4:00PM
Kenneth Gross (University of Rochester), "Angus Fletcher's Precious Idiosyncracy: Humming with Mind"
Event honoring Angus Fletcher's ongoing career. From his early work on the theory of allegory to more recent studies of American poetry and Renaissance drama, Angus Fletcher displays an uncanny power in describing the conceptual work of literature, how it shapes our knowledge of the world, the forms of life it gives to our thinking. Fletcher looks at what is most plain and most strangely hidden in poetry and fiction; his concern with the largest, most ancient orders of the literary imagination is fed by a sense of the mutable and unpredictable worthy of Laurence Sterne.  Kenneth Gross’s talk will reflect on some of the central questions that animate Fletcher’s writing, in an attempt to illuminate this masterful body of work and its continuing gifts.
 
April 4 
2:30PM
Future of the English Program Panel II
A panel discussion about the English Program's future direction; students, faculty and alumni are warmly invited.

4:00PM
Lucy Munro (King's College, London) “’Sblood! Playing with Bad Language in Shakespeare’s Tragedies” A Shakespeare Birthday Lecture
Why do Iago and Hamlet use bad language, and what were its potential effects on early modern spectators?  Why do editors often seem uneasy with swearing in Shakespeare’s tragedies, and how is this unease reflected on the twenty-first century stage and screen?  This talk explores the aesthetic, social, and affective impact of blasphemous oaths in Othello and Hamlet, attempting to recover some of their original force and examining their implications for our understanding of these plays. 

April 11
All Day
Celebration of David Greetham on the Occasion of his Retirement
(click link above for details)

April 25
2:00PM
Tyler T. Schmidt (Lehman), "Finding Frank: Black Queer Expression and the Midwestern Archive"
Talk three of New Approaches to African American Literature series. Examining a collection of dissonant artifacts from Midwestern archives, this talk centers on Frank Harriott, a forgotten black writer of the 1950s, and the vibrant, cross-disciplinary world in which he created, and argues that more critical attention should be paid to regional queer cultural production (despite archival stumbling blocks) as rewarding detours from the habitual blind spots in our largely still segregated approaches to American literary studies. Specifically, how do racially conscribed concepts like the Black Chicago Renaissance diminish the desegregated cultural terrain that post-WWII African American visual artists and writers labored to form? Equally, how do our increasingly routine narratives of Cold War culture and Post Expressionism simplify, if not erase, the importance of black artists to these key aesthetic moments? This talk, in part, tells an interracial (queer) love story and considers literary critics’ reluctance to engage such narratives.

4:00PM
Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman (Brandeis University) “Against the Closet: Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race”
Part of the Mentoring Future Faculty of Color series. Considering genres from the slave narrative to science fiction, Abdur-Rahman's book analyzes African American literary depictions of transgressive sexualities in order to illuminate the ways in which race, politics, and sexuality intersect in the social/racial ordering of United States culture and in the making of African American literature.
 
May 2
All Day, Segal Theater
Annual Victorian Conference: Bad Victorians
Keynote: Catherine Gallagher (University of California at Berkeley).
Speakers: Rachel Ablow (SUNY Buffalo), Deborah Lutz (Long Island
University), Andrew Mangham (University of Reading, U.K.), Helena Michie (Rice University), Alex Murray (University of Exeter, U.K),James Najarian (Boston College), and Sharon Weltman (Louisiana State University).

2:00PM
Comprehensive Exam Workshop
 
4:00PM
Varieties of the Enlightenment Experience, A Panel Discussion
Featuring English Program students Andrew Dicus, “Modes of Social Legitimacy in Fiction and in Theory”; Heather Zuber, “Occupational Mobility and the British Empire”; Kristina Huang, “Afro-British Writers and the Enlightenment”; Shang-yu Sheng, “Published Letters in Eighteenth-Century England”. Respondents Professors David Richter and Nancy Yousef
With the emergence of postmodern theory and revisionist historiography, the unitary and progressivist understanding of the Enlightenment has become an object of critical inquiry. “The Enlightenment” is no longer a monolithic thing, but a short-hand label for a complex of experiences that change and are interrelated in historically specific ways. This panel features four PhD students whose current projects complicate our understanding of the Enlightenment by exploring it in the context of some of its different experiential dimensions: legitimation (Dicus), professionalization (Zuber), blackness and slavery (Huang), and communication in print (Sheng).
 
May 9
Final Forum: Open Executive Committee Meeting, Poetry & Revels

 

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.