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Department of English

News and Events

English Department Publicity Announcements
September/October 2008

Awards and Honors

Assistant Professor Matthew Frankel
was awarded the 2008 Hennig Cohen Prize by the Melville Society for best essay of the year for his essay, "Tattoo Art: The Composition of Text, Voice, and Race in Moby-Dick," published earlier this year in ESQ.

Assistant Professor Kathleen Davis was awarded a Newberry Library National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2008-09 (she declined this fellowship in order to take up her position at URI).

At a Temple University Symposium on "Premodern Sovereignties and the Discourses of Political Theology and Biopolitics" on September 5, Kathleen Davis gave a Keynote Lecture titled "Sovereignty, Secularization, Periodization." This lecture is part of Davis's current book project, which reads medieval texts together with contemporary texts as a way of examining the literary, political, and ethical implications of two overlapping historical paradigms: one that moves from the Middle Ages to Modernity, and one that moves from sacred to secular governance.

Assistant Professor Carolyn Betensky was invited to speak at the Victorian Seminar of the Humanities Center at Harvard University.  She read a paper titled "Felix Holt and the Radicalization of Feeling."

Stefanie Head, English PhD candidate is this year's joint recipient of the Mary Kelley Prize for the best paper presented by a graduate student or non-tenure track scholar at the annual Northeast American Studies Association Conference held at Yale. The title of her paper is: Framing Freedom: Nation, Empire, and the Renovation of the National Archives Building.

Claire Reynolds's
dissertation "National Crisis and the Nexus of Class, Race, and Gender in American Women's Literature" won the Best Dissertation Award for URI in 2008. Professor Josie Campbell served as director.

Professor Josie Campbell, Director of Graduate Studies, won the Graduate Student Mentor's Award for 2008.

Professor Dorothy F. Donnelly is the 2008 recipient of the University of Rhode Island Woman of the Year Award given annually by the URI Association of Academic and Professional Women (APAW) Association.  Professor Donnelly is recognized for her many contributions  during her service at URI in promoting the interests and professional needs of female faculty along with issues faced by women staff and students alike.

Jennifer Brandt has been acknowledged by MLA’s Executive Director for the substantial contribution she has made as a field bibliographer for the MLA International Bibliography.

American Literary and Cultural Studies: Presentations

On September 20, Assistant Professor Stephanie Dunson presented a paper at the 2008 New England American Studies Association Annual Conference held at Yale. In keeping with the theme of this year's conference (i.e., "Infectious Democracy: Histories and Cultures of American Politics"), Dunson's presentation "The Political Song in Nineteenth-Century Sheet Music" was a survey of the use (and misuse) of the political song in 19th-century Presidential election campaigns. As a member of the NEASA council, Dunson was also involved in the planning and coordination of the conference. On September 21, Professor Dunson also attended the NEASA Council meeting to start the planning for our 2009 conference, which will be held at UMass Lowell on the general theme of Labor.

On September 25, Stephanie Dunson offered a presentation for URI Diversity Week entitled "Margin, Mainstream, and Music: Mishearing African American Music in American History." Her talk gave participants the opportunity to critically examine representations of race in black music and to interrogate the (mis)representations of black identity that continue to resonate in American popular culture.

On October 7, Kathleen Davis presented the invited paper “Tycoon Medievalism, Corporate Philanthropy, and American Pedagogy” at a Symposium on "American Medievalism" at the University of Illinois. This paper, which focuses on the library building projects of Andrew Carnegie, traces relationships between particular strains of American medievalism, economic philosophy, and corporate funding, and will be published in a forthcoming volume on American Medievalism.

On October 24, Naomi Mandel offered a presentation at URI's Disability Summit titled "Studying and Teaching Disability in the Classroom." The presentation, which emerged from a class Mandel is teaching this semester in the Honors Program, examines the pedagogical and intellectual contributions that disability studies offer in a General Education setting.

Contemporary Literature: Publications

Associate Professor Naomi Mandel's essay, "Fiction and Fidelity: Windows on the World," appeared, in French translation, in an collection of essays titled Frédéric Beigbeder et ses doubles, edited by Professor Alain-Philippe Durand. Mandel's essay is part of her book-length project that takes as its object works of fiction and film in which representations of violence merge with representation as violence to critically investigate violence's relation to the empirical validity attributed to it -- the truism that violence is either "real" or not "really" violent.  Taking as its starting-point Beigbeder's novel about the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, "Fiction and Fidelity" examines the oft-cited claim that fictional representations of violent events must perforce be true to the facts, teasing apart the interrelation of violence and reality to revisit the alignment of fidelity ("being true") with justice ("being right") and ethics ("being good").

Associate Professor Valerie Karno's essay, "Ed Fagan and the Ethics of Causes: Who Stole Identity Politics,"  appeared in the collection The Cultural Lives of Cause Lawyers, edited by Austin Sarat and Stuart Scheingold. (Cambridge UP 2008).  The article examines the ways Ed Fagan represents a larger phenomenon in the cultural representations of cause lawyers--demonstrating the modes in which representative standards are often already crumbling at the time they are depicted. 
Ph.D. candidate Aaron Tillman's essay "Dreaming with the Dead: Convergent Spaces in Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony and Aimee Bender's 'Dreaming in Polish,'" will be published in the forthcoming critical anthology American Gods: Fantasy and Native America, Mythopoeic Press, 2009. This essay explores connections between Jewish American and Native American experiences, demonstrating how Silko and Bender use "dream-spaces" in analogous ways to portray anomalous cultural positions. 

Contemporary Literature: Presentations

Ph.D. candidate Jennifer Joyce Kissko was selected as the keynote speaker for Villanova University’s Parents’ Weekend dinner on September 12th. Her presentation on Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle served as the commencement for the annual Villanova One Book Program.

 British Romanticism: Presentations

Graduate student Stefanie Head presented a paper at the 2008 International Conference on Romanticism, held at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. This year the ICR considered 'The Work of Romanticism,' a theme that Stefanie explored in her paper, 'Work(ed) Surfaces, Restless Texts,' by focusing on William Wordsworth's efforts to describe and perform a mode of education and textual work that makes surfaces "work like a sea." Stefanie was also awarded a travel grant from the Richard Beaupre Hope and Heritage Fund to enable her to attend the conference.

Creative Writing: Publications


Peter Covino’s “Tell It To My Heart” will appear in the collection Divas, University of Wisconsin Press, 2009; “Woman, Car Accident, Sleepless Night” and “Montecassino” in Italian Americana, scheduled for Winter 2008-09, and “Broken Kingdom”  forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Oklahoma State University in 2009.  

Literary Nonfiction

Mary Cappello’s essay, “The Mystery of My Tears,” appears in Waterstone. This year the nonfiction section of the literary annual features the writing of Paul Lisicky, Lia Purpura, Sven Birkets, and Suzanne Paola.

Creative Writing: Editions and Translations

A special 10th Annivesary double issue of the poetry journal Assistant Professor Peter Covino edits, Barrow Street will soon be available later this Fall 2008. 

In April of 2008, Graywolf Press published Modern European Poetry (1968-2008), whose Italian section Assistant Professor Peter Covino edited along with two other regional editors. The anthology includes nine of his translations from the Italian of four poets of varying styles: Patrizia Cavalli, Maurizio Cucchi, Vivian Lamarque, and Dario Bellezza.  In the Winter 2008 Issue, four translations of the poetry of Livia De Stefani will appear in the Journal of Italian Translation.

Creative Writing: Readings and Presentations

Mary Cappello will be attending this year’s American Italian Historical Association in New Haven, Connecticut in the first week of November in order to: attend a presentation on her first book, Night Bloom; to serve as a respondent to the work of New York performance artist, Annie Lanzillotto; and to give a reading from her book, Called Back for the panel, “City as Memory and Community: Perspectives by Italian/American Women Memoirists” moderated by Edvige Giunta. Cappello’s mother, Rosemary Petracca Cappello, founder and editor of Philadelphia Poets and one of Philadelphia’s best known poetry activists, will also be giving a reading at the conference.

Earlier this semester, Cappello participated in a panel that brought together Faculty Writers and Student Writers for URI’s Diversity Week. "Out of Diversity: Women Speak," chaired by Womens Studies Director, Jody Lisberger. Cappello read with URI alum, Lia Ottaviano.

Mary Cappello and Jean Walton put together a program of literature and film for CousCous at Tazza Café on September 30th in downtown Providence, an evening of music and poetry hosted by RISD’s poet, Mairead Byrne. Cappello read passages from her new book-in-progress, SWALLOW (forthcoming from The New Press) alongside experimental films made by Walton. Walton also premiered a film on the animal/human divide that may go down in the city’s performance history. Cappello and Walton also used the opportunity to showcase the work of the daughter of colleagues Russell Potter and Karen Carr-Potter of RIC, fifteen year old Caeli Carr-Potter who is a composer of sonnets and graphic novels.

Peter Covino was a featured poet at the Delaware Valley Poetry Festival this October 2008 and he will be giving two poetry readings at this year's American Italian Historical Association in New Haven, in early November.    

Creative Writing: Interviews

In March 2008, Mary Cappello was interviewed about her book, Awkward: A Detour, by telephone by students in English Professor Patrick Madden’s Advanced Creative Writing class at Brigham Young University. Answers to each of the student’s 15 questions will appear this November at, a forum for discussing the history of the essay and its contemporary practitioners. In this interview, Cappello talks about the detour as a literary genre, aphorisms and pause, the writer as architect and archivist, Emily Dickinson’s Vital words, “word auras,” the importance of making mistakes, the difference between ideas and opinions, writing and becoming, writing at the border of poetry and prose, the space between the author and the writer, nonfiction as a form of anti-truth, awkward quests, and more.

Cultural Studies: Presentations: International

Professor Jean Walton (currently on research sabbatical) presented a paper titled "The Time of Peristalsis" on October 7th as part of the Center for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Seminar Series at the University of Manchester, U.K. The paper was part of a longer project on the emergence, in the early 1900s, of the modern “peristaltic subject”—more specifically, a study of how our relation to the world or environment was (and continues to be) defined in terms of what and how we ingest, process, and expel within larger circuits of peristaltic movement (such as consumer capitalism, with phases of production, consumption, and waste; streamlined architectural and industrial systems designed for efficient movement of bodies and products; social systems organized around circuits of kinship, sexuality, reproduction, and affiliation).  The paper explored the discovery in the early 20th century of the enteric nervous system, also termed the “second brain,” and how it offers a suggestive way to revisit the question of “unconscious processes,” particularly with regard to the body's experience of time. The CHSTM Seminar features invited speakers from institutions across Britain and the world, ranging from well-known senior figures to promising younger members of the profession. Its  aim is to foster an interdisciplinary atmosphere, bringing together scholars whose institutional backgrounds have included science studies, cultural history, social anthropology, museums work and many other fields.

Professor John Leo was one of a half dozen invited keynote speakers at an international conference on “Multiplicities: World Cinema, Globalised Cultures and Cosmopolitan Cultures,” organized by the Research Institute for Cosmopolitan  Cultures,  Manchester University (UK), June 16-17, 2008. His topic was on  “Homeland, Heimat, Cosmopolitan Biopolitics: Notes on Two Films in 1989." This project draws from several inter- and intra-cultural dialogues centering on gender, popular film, and Cold War "aesthetics" and "cosmopolitanism" manifested in two films released in 1989—Coming Out (DDR; dir. Heiner Carow) and Tongues Untied (USA; dir. Marlon Riggs). Carow's film indirectly but unmistakably aligns "queer" with West German "cosmopolitanism" the better to stage conflicts within East German heteronormative discourses of/on sex, gender, thereby problematizing the very notion of  “Heimat.” Riggs’s documentary project similarly explores the conditions for the articulation of new subjectivities—in this instance around communal "cosmopolitan" African American gayness in the context of HIV/AIDS and its harsh condemnations from straight black men and the church. Both films, coming from different historical aesthetics and purposes, pose crucially pertinent questions for the making of representations: how is "the human" narrated or situated (and what is not?)? who is the "citizen"? what are the biopolitical dynamics marking queer subjects as “not-home”? And how does film both raise these questions and constitute possible responses? Finally, the paper poses the (“security”) question: What is the postnational “homeland,” and the function of transnational cinema?

Medieval Studies: Publications

Assistant Professor Kathleen Davis's book, Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time, was published in April 2008 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. By examining medieval/modern periodization together with the two controversial categories of feudalism and secularization, this book exposes the relationship between the constitution of "the Middle Ages" and the history of sovereignty, slavery, and colonialism.

A review by Kathleen Davis of Catherine A. M. Clarke's Literary Landscapes and the Idea of England, 700-1400. was published in the journal Speculum 83:4 (2008).

Departmental News Archive