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Department of English

News and Events

Publicity Announcements:
October 2003


Creative Writing: Publications

A chapter entitled, “Conjuring,” from Professor Mary Cappello’s manuscript, My Commie Sweetheart: Scenes from a Queer Friendship, has been accepted for publication at Quarterly West and will appear in their Spring 2004 issue. The chapter is indebted to a book-length prose poem by New York School poet and painter, Joe Brainerd entitled I Remember, and to L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poet, Lyn Hejinian’s experimental memoir, My Life. Cappello calls her work a discursive double portrait; she was attempting in prose what is achieved in the musical form of the Two-Part Invention. Recent issues of Quarterly West feature such writers as Stephen Dunn, Albert Goldbarth, Ewa Lipska, Sherod Santos, Lynn McMahon, Gary Soto, James Tate, and Valerie Miner.


Cultural Studies: Publications

Assistant Professor Naomi Mandel has two pieces forthcoming in distinguished journals: a review essay, entitled, “Ethics After Auschwitz: The Holocaust in History and Representation” will appear in an upcoming issue of Criticism, and her review of Loss: The Politics of Mourning. David L. Eng and David Kazanjian, eds. With an Afterword by Judith Butler. Berkeley: University of California Press, is appearing in Substance, 102:32.3 (2003) 11-15.

Graduate Student Rebecca Romanow’s chapter, "Release from 'Immaturity': Remapping Postcolonial Ethics in Kureishia’s Sammy and Rosie Get Laid," will be included in a collection entitled Postcolonial Ethics, edited by Jean Pickering & Suzanne Kehde, forthcoming from Peter Lang Publishers.

Assistant Professor Mathew Frankel is currently preparing,“Thomas Jefferson and the Rhetoric of Revolution” for The Literary Encyclopedia, ed. Robert Clark, an on-line project which will be published out of Cambridge Univ. Press


Shakespeare Studies: Publications

Associate Professor Katherine Scheil has recently reviewed Robert Thomas Fallon's book A Theatergoer's Guide to Shakespeare (Ivan R. Dee, 2003) for Shakespeare Bulletin.


Cultural Studies: Invitations and Presentations--International

Professor John Leo has been invited to participate in the forthcoming Polish Association for American Studies Conference, "America: The Natural and the Artificial" to be held in Poznan on October 19-21, 2003. Leo will deliver a paper on Isadora Duncan and the emergence of dance as a modern art form. The paper is based on the chapter that is just now appearing (U of Amsterdam Press) on New York City, 1890s-1920s. Leo has also been invited to travel to Bratislava where he will interview Fulbright candidates to the United States.

Associate Professor Stephen Barber delivered a paper, "Woolf's Queer Enlightenment," at the Modern Studies Association conference in Birmingham, England, held September 25-28. Barber also delivered two invited papers atMcMasterUniversity first before the English Department on "Queer Matters" and then to the graduate students on the significance of Deleuze to contemporary thought.

In December, Graduate Student Sarah White will be giving a paper in Viennaat the Conference on Transformations in Politics, Culture, and Society entitled, "A Rhetorician Reads Violence: Baudrillard and Bowling For Columbine." The paper will be published in a conference-themed book following the conference.


Cultural Studies: Invitations

Assistant Professor Valerie Karno gave an invited talk at USC on the state of the profession.


Shakespeare Studies: Invitations

Associate Professor Katherine Scheil has been invited to review Frederick Kiefer's book Shakespeare's Visual Theatre: Staging the Personified Characters ( Cambridge University Press, 2003) for Modern Language Review. Katherine Scheil has also been invited tocontribute an essay to a collection in honor of Alexander Leggatt, and in commemoration of his seminal book on Shakespearian comedy, Shakespeare's Comedy of Love ( Methuen, 1974).


Pedagogy: Invitations

Mary Cappello has been invited and has agreed to be a reader for the journal, Transformations: A Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy.


Cultural Studies: Presentations

Associate Professor Nancy Cook will be presenting a paper, "'To Market, to Market': Fast Food, Slow Food and the Edible West," at the annual meeting of the Western Literature Association, this year October 29-Nov 1. Cook has also organized a tribute to American Indian author, James Welch, and will be introducing the speakers for that event, on Friday, Oct 31 at the conference.

Assistant Professor Naomi Mandel organized a panel on “Violence and Ethics” for the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), Michigan 2004. Mandel’s new work in this area will inform new courses that she is designing for the Spring 2004 semester on violence and literature.

Assistant Professor Mathew Frankel is presenting a paper based on the Rumowicz course on literature and the sea that he is teaching next semester entitled, "Imaginative Privation and Aesthetic Production in American Literature of the Sea," for the PCA/ACA convention at San Antonio, April 7-10, 2004.

Graduate Student Andrea Yates delivered two papers at conferences this month: at the Central New York Conference on Language and Literature, a paper entitled, "Silent Power: Confession and Coming Out in Robert Musil's Confusions of Young Torless," and at the New York College English Association a paper entitled, "Paranoid Knowing; Narrative and Knowledge in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow."

Graduate StudentRebecca Romanow attended the New York Conference on Language and Literature at SUNY Cortland on October 25 where she delivered a paper entitled, "Arthur Nortje: The Body of the Poet in Exile" on the Exile in Postcolonial Literature panel.


Creative Writing: Presentations

Graduate Student Sarah White has had a piece of creative non-fiction entitled “My New York,” accepted for Florida Atlantic University's Graduate Writing Symposium, "Writing Place."


Feminist Studies: Presentations

On Wednesday, October 15 th, Professor Karen Stein gave a presentation on Herland: A Feminist Utopia by Charlotte Perkins Gilman at the Kingston Free Library. Professor Stein also presented “Girl’s Culture in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye” at Rocky Mountain MLA, Missoula, Montana, October 9 th.


Pedagogy: New Courses

Assistant Professor Naomi Mandel has designed two new courses with a focus on “violence” that will be offered next semester in the English department and in the Honors Program. English 350 will focus next semester on Violence and Representation. The course will ground itself in work by Nietzsche (The Genealogy of Morals), Marx (The Communist Manifesto) and Freud (Civilization and its Discontents) in order to see how these fundamental texts establish a theory of representation as something that does not passively reflect reality, but rather helps produce it. The course will focus on question such as: who gets to represent whose reality to whom? how do we negotiate conflicting representations, which are, in essence, conflicting realities? what do we do when one person's reality deprives another's of fundamental human rights? Students will study a range of theoretical, literary, and film texts in pursuit of answers to these questions and toward new formulations of the relationship between violence and representation. The Honors version of the course will focus on Violence and The Novel.

Assistant Professor Valerie Karno has designed a new course that will be offered next semester both in the English department and in the Honors Program. “Law and Literature" will explore the ways in which legal and literary narratives work in tandem to perpetuate cultural ideas. Rather than looking at "law in literature" or "literature in law," this class will enable students to view both disciplines as cultural products influencing each other. Reading historic and contemporary American legal cases, Law Review articles, a variety of literary genres, film, and television, students will examine the ways in which reason, madness, and incarceration have been construed. Students will explore the history and impact of race-based citizenship criteria; they will study the ways in which law has affected bodies. The course will also consider how varying forms of evidence and differing kinds of testimony are granted value, and the ways in which television impacts our vision of legitimate narratives.

Assistant Professor Mathew Frankel will offer the Rumowicz Seminar next semester in Literature of the Sea with the title, "American Fiction and the Sea: Towards a Definition of Literary Knowledge." He will also offer a graduate seminar titled "The American Renaissance Revisited: A Study in Canon Formation." Thorough-going course descriptions follow:

American Fiction and the Sea: Towards a Definition of Literary Knowledge

The sea continues to serve as a subject of research for a variety of institutional departments and scholarly disciplines. Oceanography, Biology, Marine Archeology, Naval History, and Public Policy (to name just a few) all seek to produce and present new knowledge about the sea, and each proceed according to specific methods and criteria of verification. At the same time, American literary studies finds itself confronted with its own related area of investigation: a tradition of fiction about the sea. Yet this field of inquiry seems to lack the same kinds of orienting procedures and explicit expectations shared by these other discourses. We might ask: What type of information does a sea narrative give us? How might American fiction offer a sense of truth about the sea? Does it implicitly challenge a conception of national borders and boundaries? Is there even a discrete domain of knowledge called literature of the sea? And what would this definition of literary knowledge look like? This course takes these questions as starting points for an exploration of a group of fictional narratives about the sea produced in the United States over the last two centuries. Our reading will include Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat,” Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, John Casey’s Spartina, and Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage. We will consider whether these fictions have anything deeper in common beyond their basic topic; how they frame the relationship between knowledge, imagination, and suffering; and the extent to which they constitute a sub-genre of American literature with distinctive features, concerns, and patterns of thought.

The American Renaissance Revisited: A Study in Canon Formation

F.O. Matthiessen’s groundbreaking book, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman(1941), did much to establish the “method and scope” of criticism of nineteenth-century American literature for the Cold War era. The work is both a fascinating and, at times, frustrating mixture of formalist poetics and democratic populism, and the approach it advanced has become synonymous with what now is considered the traditionalist defense of classic American literature. This course will revisit Mathiessen’s seminal study, locating in its latent tensions and overt contradictions many of the terms with which its formulation of a national literary canon has been recently challenged. We will examine how contemporary critics of American literature (Eric Sundquist, Henry Louis Gates, John Carlos Rowe, David Reynolds, Sacvan Bercovitch, Betsy Erkkila, Donald Pease, Jane Tompkins, Gregg Crane, William Cain, among others) have sought to reconstruct the relationship between criticism and politics, ideology and evaluation, professional scholarship and participation in the public sphere, pedagogy and social activism, as well as normative interpretive models and private sexual practice–all issues central to Matthiessen’s self-fashioned version of the “American Scholar.” Finally, we will ask what has been gained critically in the years since the publication of American Renaissance, as well as what remains to be recovered.

In addition to those works and authors discussed at length in American Renaissance–Emerson’s Representative Men, Thoreau’s Walden, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Melville’s Moby-Dick, and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass–we will look at texts ostensibly outside Matthiessen’s criteria of consideration–Emerson’s antislavery speeches, Fuller’s “The Great Lawsuit,” Douglass’s Narrative, Poe’s Pym, Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” and Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (time permitting). Assignments will include a short presentation, a review of a recent critical study, and a final research paper.

Professor Mary Cappello will be offering a new version of Literature and Medicine next semester with an emphasis on the ethics of care. Who cares? Whom do you care for, and what do you care about? Who gets cared for in a culture and who doesn’t? Is it possible for a literary text to encourage an ethics of care? What are the institutional constraints on “delivering care”? What are the representational constraints on articulating pain? In a world where violence has come more and more to characterize the order of the day, this course will focus on the forms that human care can take in the realms of medicine and literature. How does literature in concert with medical practice produce an ethics of care? In this course, students will read a range of theoretical and literary texts in order to learn more about the political and aesthetic aims of fiction, nonfiction, and film that treats medical themes. We will study the idea of illness as a “discourse” (e.g., Todd Haynes’ phenomenal film, Safe). We’ll consider the implications of fiction in which the caregiver, the doctor appears not as a healer, but as an uncanny presence (e.g., Franz Kafka’s, “A Country Doctor”); we’ll plumb the political depths of fiction in which nurses appear as subversives (e.g., Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches). We’ll read nonfiction by people who have cared for loved ones with AIDS (Amy Hoffman’s Hospital Time, Jamaica Kincaid’s My Brother), and narratives by people who themselves have suffered grave illness (e.g., Gillian Rose’s Love’s Work, and Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face). Finally, we’ll read literature by doctors attempting to represent their art (e.g., Rafael Campo’s, The Healing Art: A Doctor’s Black Bag of Poetry, and Danielle Ofri’s, Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue. Theoretical context will be provided by the work of Michel Foucault whose theorization of disciplinary regimes and whose genealogies of the clinic, the prison, and the author enabled the field of Literature and Medicine to begin with. We may also read theoretical texts on the x-ray by Lisa Cartwright, and on “the body in pain” by Elaine Scarry.


Community Service

As Curriculum Development Parent for the South Kingstown Farm School (High School Level), Associate Professor Celest Martin reports that URI is now affiliated with the Farm School, and the Farm School is now apparently going to have a permanent home with URI.



On Thursday, October 23 rd, poet and songwriter for “The Crystal Zoo,” and editor of The Asheville Poetry Review, Keith Flynn, ran a workshop for students on the relationship between music and poetry, and gave a reading/performance of his work. Both events were attended by graduate students, undergrads, faculty members, and members of the Rhode Island community. The reading was followed by a lively Q and A in which our undergraduate students impressively engaged (and challenged) the poet on issues ranging from postmodern irony, to the relation between the personal and political in literature, the question of how one comes to write poetry, the question of whether poetry should implicitly lend itself to dramatic performance, the difference between poetry sung and read, the limits and possibilities of the New Formalism, and the assumptions readers bring to the aesthetics of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Faculty in attendance were especially interested in an anthology that Flynn edited and that they might use in future classes at URI: Ten Great Neglected Poets of the 20 th Centuryfeatures the work of Mina Loy, Pierre Reverdy, Yvan Goll, Lorine Niedecker, Kenneth Patchen, George Scarbrough, Jack Spicer, Bob Kaufman, Amon Liner, and Frank Stanford. A follow-up to the reading appeared in the October 24 th issue of The Cigar. Both of the day’s events were made possible by the generous contributions of the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


Remarkable Accomplishments of Special Note

Assistant Professor Mathew Frankel reports that he has finally figured out how to change the clock settings in his car.