Sunday, April 20, 2014

Welcome Professor Eric De Barros!

It seems only fitting that my final blog post for the English Department be to welcome someone who will be coming in to the department as I leave:  Professor Eric De Barros. As Senior Representative to the Chair, I had the pleasure of getting to take Professor De Barros on a tour of campus with Nick, our Junior Representative to the Chair, and to have pizza with him and various graduate and undergraduate English students. I was very excited when I learned Professor De Barros would be joining the Department and even more excited when he agreed to answer some questions for the blog.

Professor De Barros

Where did you attend college?
I’m a proud graduate of the University of Virginia (UVa).

How did you decide you wanted to have a career in academia?
I decided the first month or so of college. I’d always done well enough in school and enjoyed History and English.  However, because of the very practical and materialistic understanding of education that I took to college, I assumed I would do something that made economic sense to my family and community, something like law or medicine.  As I said, that all changed early in my first year of college, when I experienced how seriously my literature and philosophy professors took their disciplines. Somehow I had no idea that someone could make a career out of studying literature or other complex ideas. I loved everything about it—the reading, the research, the interpreting, especially the argumentative writing—and just went with it. 

What is your area of research?
My area of research is early modern (mainly sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century) English literature with an emphasis in educational theory and practice.  More specifically, I examine how early modern educational theorists and literary figures variously confront the tension between the body and discourse or nature and culture to re-think categories of embodied subjectivity such as race, gender, and sexuality.  

What do you like to do when you are not teaching/researching?
When I’m not teaching/researching, I’m spending time with my wife and daughter. 

      Who has most impacted your academic life and how so?
I’d have to say the late Richard Helgerson. I had an opportunity to study with him at UC, Santa Barbara for about two years early in my graduate education. More than any other scholar-teacher, he modeled for me that a commitment to students and a love for the classroom were not incompatible with research excellence.    

What is your favorite text? Why?
I’ve enjoyed way too many texts to select one as my favorite. However, I will say that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was particularly pivotal to my early intellectual development. I read Nineteen Eighty-Four for the first time when I was about thirteen and was profoundly struck by the idea that complex, creative expression is itself a revolutionary act. After the protagonist, Winston Smith, begins his diary, a “thoughtcrime” punishable by death, he unearths the complex range of emotions and fragmented memories that the state has systematically attempted to destroy. Those emotions and memories initially come back to him in the form of a dream, during which he vaguely remembers things like familial loyalty, maternal love, and erotic desire. He wakes up from that dream with “Shakespeare” on his lips.  In other words, in an anti-intellectual, authoritarian world, the emotional richness of Shakespearean expression is nothing short of revolutionary. Though at the time I didn’t understand it as such, Nineteen Eighty-Four provided me a compelling defense of literary studies that perhaps explains the ease with which I was able to accept and follow my interest in literary studies in college.

What are you most looking forward to next semester when you will be teaching here at Clark?
I look forward to everything, but especially the teaching. Once I’m done with this semester at SUNY Oswego, I will begin to develop the two courses I’ll be teaching in the Fall: Major British Writers I and Advanced Shakespeare. In both instances, I plan to engage students in a historicist, gender studies examination of a number of texts. More specifically, in the first course, I’m thinking of having my students examine selections from a range of texts— literary, educational, medical, military, travel, etc. — in the interest of developing a nuanced understanding of and appreciation for the complex ways in which gender— specifically masculinity—gets constructed. For the Shakespeare course, I plan to focus this critical orientation on what I term “the pedagogy of sexual violence.”  As a product of a grammar school education, Shakespeare inherited a classical tradition rife with scenes of male-defining violence and specifically violence against women. As I’m thinking about it, one of the governing questions for this course will be, “Why and how did Shakespeare, the most famous product of such a tradition, variously and creatively explore and even critique 'the pedagogy of sexual violence'?” I’m still thinking through both courses, but I’m really excited to explore these types of issues with Clark students. 

What advice would you give to any college student?
I guess the most important thing is don’t reduce your education (the major you end up declaring) to an uninspired matter of technical training deemed most employable or lucrative.  Follow what you enjoy doing—what you love, what you’re passionate about, what you would do for free—and then figure out how to get paid doing it or something as close to it as possible. You may or may not get rich this way, but you will definitely increase your chances of living a happy and fulfilled life.

Welcome to Clark, Professor De Barros! We are all excited to have you here next semester!




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Guest Speaker Carl Keyes

"Disperse thousands ... in every direction or point of the compass":
Advertisements, Marketing Networks, and Late Eighteenth-Century Literary Magazines
Presented by Carl Robert Keyes

Friday, April 18, 3:00
Fuller Music Room
4th floor, Goddard Library

Advertisements printed on the wrappers that accompanied magazines in the late eighteenth century transformed  those periodicals devoted to poetry and historical and literary essays into utilitarian instruments for stimulating consumer demand for a variety of goods and services, thereby expanding commercial markets and maximizing profits for the publishers and advertisers.

Carl Robert Keyes is Assistant Professor of History at Assumption College. He is currently revising Early American Advertising:  Marketing and Consumer Culture in Eighteenth-Century America.  He is the author of "A Revolution in Advertising: 'Buy American' Campaigns in the Late Eighteenth Century<>," included in a three-volume anthology of essays exploring the history of advertising in America. His "History Prints, Newspaper Advertisement, and Cultivating Citizen Consumers:  Patriotism and Partisanship in Marketing Campaigns in the Era of the Revolution" will appear in the Fall 2014 issue of American Periodicals, the journal of the Research Society for American Periodicals.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spree Day 2014

As a transfer student, I had never heard of Spree Day before last week. I only learned of the event, and what it entailed, when there were rumors circulating that it would be occurring on the coming Wednesday. I was told by experts on the subject that Spree Day involves being woken up at 6 a.m. by seniors rampaging through residence halls announcing the event with shouts and ultimately being surrounded by spectacularly drunk people for the entire day.

These things turned out to be undoubtedly true. However, there were a number of other things of which I was not informed ahead of time, such as what there actually is to do on Spree Day. It surprised me when I went outside (having slept another several hours after being woken up exactly at 6 by what sounded in my half-asleep state like a very angry invading army) and saw the green looking more or less like a local carnival. There were inflatables blown up on the grass, a stage constructed in Red Square, tables set up near the UC for an outdoor barbecue lunch, and plenty of little stations at which one could participate in activities, traditions, and overeating.

I partook in some of it, racing a friend up and down the slides, being willingly beaten up by a large, rotating sausage-like inflatable, watching guys and girls alike being flung off the mechanical bull in increasingly entertaining variations, and eating unhealthy amounts of fried dough and ice cream. The atmosphere was lively throughout the day, which culminated in an outdoors showing of Despicable Me, the movie which lent Spree Day its theme this year.

All in all, despite the (not-too-unexpected) insanity, I discovered that Spree Day is a fun event that gives us a much-needed, if brief, respite between spring and summer breaks. I look forward to being “surprised” by it again next year.   

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Guest Speaker Jonathan Senchyne

           On Friday April 4th, a special guest speaker will be on campus as a part of Professor Neuman’s American Print Culture : 1700-1900 seminar.  These talks are open to the Clark community and sponsored by Higgins through the faculty collaborative EMU (Early Modernist United).

           In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson famously remarked on the ability of print periodicals to create a sense of communal affiliation among readers. But book historians and periodical printers know that a number of processes have to take place before a newspaper can be circulated, including papermaking. This talk explores how paper emerged as an important material and symbol for figuring community during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, with emphasis on the role of women and domestic labor in print production.

           Jonathan Senchyne is an Assistant Professor of Library and Information Studies and Associate Director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently researching his first book, a study of the resonant materiality of paper in early and nineteenth-century America, with the generous support of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society. Part of this project was published in Early African American Print Culture (Penn 2012).

-Edward Peluso

Friday, March 28, 2014

Leroy Allston Ames Essay Contest!

The English Department would like to announce the Leroy Allston Ames Essay Contest  for the best essay on literature and/or history of England from 1750 to 1900 (limit one entry per student). Submissions are due Monday, April 28, 2014 at noon in the English Department Main Office at Anderson House! We encourage all undergraduates, including matriculated COPACE students to apply! Best of luck to all!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Robert Karockai's conference experience

Recently many of the graduate students at Clark’s English Department have been attending conferences to showcase their work. Robert Karockai, a graduate student at the English Department, has been kind enough to give us an account of his experience attending the HERA conference in Washington D.C. All of us at the English Department would like to offer a hearty congratulations to Robert, as well as all of the other Graduate students who were able to present at conferences.

Without further ado, here is what Robert had to say about his experience:

              A few weeks ago, I presented a paper at the HERA (humanities education research association) conference in Washington D.C. This was my first academic conference, first airplane ride, and first time out of New England. Full of anxiety and self-doubt, I arrived in Washington and took a train to the most luxurious hotel I've ever seen. Immediately upon entering the Fairfax  on Embassy Row (which I learned later was the childhood residence of Al Gore and Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite place to have a cocktail during the "Camelot" years ), I was greeted by a HERA representative, given a schedule of events, and invited to an informal cocktail reception in the hotel lounge.  Within forty-five minutes I found myself in the midst of an absolute Bacchanalia populated by academics. I learned much at that conference, perhaps foremost among them the absolute joy of being in the presence of seventy-five drunken P.h.d.'s. This first evening, sans drunkenness, set the tone for much of the rest of the conference. Simply put, I met an untold number of scholars whom I had become comfortable with and exchanged ideas with them. The conference became the perfect marriage of academia and blooming friendships as it progressed. My presentation went extremely well, in part because I suspect a number in the audience enjoyed my Worcester accent, which I employed without restraint. I left four days later feeling genuinely sad. My experience was so overwhelmingly​ positive that I plan to search for another conference in another part of the country as soon as I can afford to attend one. Thanks to Prof. Lisa Kasmer for teaching me to write and present a conference paper; Prof. Meredith Neuman for her almost supernatural ability to point out the exact sources I needed to add to improve my paper, and Prof. Peggy Korcoras for introducing me to the beauty and complexity I found within Hawthorne's short stories.


                                                  Robert Karockai  M.A. candidate


Friday, March 21, 2014

Featuring...My Honors Thesis

Like Lauren Cyr, I also have been working on an Honors Thesis this year. While I could give tips and tricks on navigating the process of very-long paper writing, I think Lauren already put it best (follow this link to see her post: Instead what I would really like to do is just to tell you about how I came to my topic and what I have so far learned about it. Because for the first time in a while, I have found a topic for which I cannot exhaust my enthusiasm.

I knew I wanted write an honors thesis basically since declaring my major. To me, it had always been a part of my plan. However, when it came time to start thinking of a topic, I was 100% burnt out. My junior year beat me down and I found that during that summer I didn't want to think of anything academic at all. Furthermore, I knew I was tired of all the topics I had explored before. I never wanted to read Jane Eyre or Evelina again; no longer was I interested in the gendered advertising techniques employed by Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola or any other company; I would not want to look at another colophon in the confines of Clark's archives; I did not want to read another autobiography. I wanted to take everything I had read and done and throw it across my room in a fit of childish catharsis. But more practically and reasonably, I knew I wanted to be excited about what I was going to do for a whole year, and I thought in order to do that, I needed to find something new.

It wasn't until I went to see The Great Gatsby movie--which I hated--that my thesis began to take shape. Nick, to me, is an iconic narrator. Yet in that movie, I felt he barely even needed to exist. He was just a vehicle for reporting the plot of the book and means through which the morality of the text could be interpreted. Looking deeper into Nick and narrative style, I began to realize that Nick's distance and possible objectivity allowed him to become a moral authority within his text. Furthermore, I saw this pattern in other narrators throughout the literary cannon:  Walton in Frankenstein, Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes. As I accumulated more examples, I began to find one major gap emerging. There were no female narrators of this type, no female authors writing this type.

Skipping forward a bit, I, with the help of Professor Huang found Jazz. Written by Toni Morrison and voiced by a complicated, implicitly female character, the novel happens to focus upon the same time period as The Great Gatsby, the Jazz Age in the United States. However Jazz focuses upon the Blacks of Harlem who barely enter the world of Gatsby's moneyed elite. Using these two books as my texts, I began to explore the world of narrative voice and narrative ethics, gossip and claims to knowledge, gender and canon-building.

I am not going to give you a huge summary of my paper. If you want a sense, look at the word cloud.
Word Cloud of my Thesis courtesy of Word it Out
No, instead I want to tell you what I learned. What I learned, topic-wise, is that Toni Morrison is a literary genius and a wizard. I learned that Fitzgerald's Nick is way more interesting than I or that dumb movie gave him credit for. More seriously though, I learned that gender still matters, especially in terms of what is taught and what books/characters become iconic. In excluding female authors and female narrators from the canon, female experience is discredited and erased. I also learned that reliability and objectivity are not intrinsically linked. There is truth in subjectivity, and there is reliability in acknowledging one's own subjectivity.
The most important things I learned, however, had nothing to do with my topic. I learned that I can sustain a project for a long period of time. I can do research, make deadlines, write pages I did not know how I was going to fill. I learned that I can be ambitious and push the limits of my own analysis. My topic was often messy and seemingly full of holes, and I was able to push past that.
I'm immensely proud of the work I have done. When I started this academic year, I really did not understand the word "Capstone". How could any one thing have been the pinnacle of achievement in my education? But this project/paper is my capstone, my crowning glory. I may not have worked on it through out my years at Clark, but my years at Clark lead me here and I am so glad they did.