Letter From the Chair

Author: Valerie Sayers

Valerie Sayers

In recent years, the English Department has made several superb appointments and has extended into fruitful new areas of research. This year, we have been buoyed by the presence of assistant professors Z'étoile Imma (African and Caribbean literature), and Jesús Costantino (20th-century representations of race, ethnicity, gender, and class). Next year, world-renowned Milton scholar Laura Knoppers will join our splendid Early Modern area, and the innovative Americanist scholar Nan Da will help expand our understanding of the interconnections between American and Chinese literature and culture. The distinguished Medievalist Susanna Fein will also be in residence in fall 2014.

We continue to delight in the classroom. Next fall, department faculty will celebrate John Sitter, the Mary Lee Duda Chair, who has been named winner of the 2014 Sheedy Award from the College of Arts and Letters, the highest award for teaching the college bestows. John Sitter's wide-ranging work explores 18th-century poetry, satire from Swift to Jon Stewart, and sustainability studies, and continues to enlighten, challenge, and tickle his students and his colleagues.

We have been gifted with a wealth of conferences, lectures, and colloquia this year. In October, the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Conference, organized by the William P. and Hazel B. White Chair Laura Walls, convened on campus with a spectacular array of interdisciplinary panels and multimedia explorations. In February, to celebrate the Hesburgh Library's exhibition “Robert Creeley’s Library: The Poet’s Books as Art Museum and Network of Communications,” Professor Steve Fredman arranged a symposium, including presentations by Penelope Creeley, Ph.D. alumnus Kaplan Harris, and publisher Steve Clay. In April, Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood delivered the Yusko Ward-Phillips lecture, “We Are What We Tell: Stories as Human” to a standing-room-only crowd, and then joined a group of M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. students for a seminar on four of her dystopian novels, led by Assistant Professor Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi. We are deeply grateful to the benefactors who made all these gatherings possible.

Our Ph.D. students continue to bring honor to the department: on the heels of Tim Miller's Mellon/ACLS Fellowship, we celebrate word of an AAUW dissertation fellowship for Jessica Hughes. Our alumni and undergraduate majors also shine: English and Arabic major Molly Hayes (Class of ’08) was awarded the 2014 Mitchell Scholarship for study in Ireland, and junior Vienna Wagner has just been awarded a prestigious Beinecke Fellowship for graduate study.

All year, our website has featured the sparkling and often surprising accomplishments of former majors, including Metropolitan Opera star Paul Appleby, playwright and novelist Teresa Rebeck, screenwriter Stephen McFeely, writer/producer Linda Gase, and physician and public policy expert Joseph Shonkwiler. They all affirm our belief that English is superb training for a multitude of exciting fields.

The entire department sends best retirement wishes to Dolores Frese and Tom Werge, who have contributed so much to the intellectual and collegial life of the department. With this issue of NexText, I send warm thanks to the delightful colleagues who have made my term as chair so satisfying. In July, we will welcome John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C. Professor of Humanities Steve Fallon as interim chair, in anticipation of Jesse Lander's chairmanship the following year.

Happy reading to all,

Valerie Sayers