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Volume 20, Issue 1, Sep 26, 2014

From (Under) The Chair’s Desk

With apologies for a late start to Reading Matters, let me welcome everyone to a fully-established a-little-on-the-busy-side rapidly-speeding-by fall semester.

By now, the new formula for funding the state of Iowa’s three universities is probably familiar to everyone, along with the budget anxieties that the formula is generating. While this feels irksome in so many ways, it perhaps also gives us the chance to improve our systems in some positive ways. The department’s new caring-sharing approach to prospective students is surely one of those. Thanks to Kate Torno for taking a lead in the visits by prospective students, thanks to the faculty team (Robyn Schiff, chair, Linda Bolton, Lori Branch, Brooks Landon, Tom Simmons, Harry Stecopoulos) for establishing a welcoming faculty presence, and thanks to the student ambassadors (Christine Crowley, Manuch Khoshnood, Nathan Kooker, Catherine Shook) for giving a student perspective on what we can offer.

While our systems for welcoming prospective students are becoming better honed, the PROD committee (Publicity, Recruitment, Outreach, Donors; Loren Glass, chair, Blaine Greteman, Robyn Schiff, Harry Stecopoulos, Stephen Voyce, Doris Witt, with Kate Torno and Hannah Rounds) has also been active in other aspects of outreach. If you go to our webpage, you will be greeted by a slightly revised blurb and look and more changes on the way. And as we become ever more involved in recruitment, we are beginning to develop a little swag to send the message home. Expect pens and bookmarks that itemize the joys of reading and writing in Iowa and, at a slightly more ambitious level, my personal favorite, the literary tote bags, Li(t)Totes, with a slogan for us less pushy types that isn’t half bad.

If the flood of potential students is one center of attention, the late-breaking consequences of the summer’s flood on the building have been another. Mold in the basement offices certainly relates to an excess of moisture down there, even if the cause of that moisture is hard to pin down, as we learned in a sequence of meetings this week. Multiple culprits are suspected – the heavy downpour at the end of the summer combined with a malfunctioning storm drain, a possible faulty valve in the basement pumping system; and bad HVAC in the basement area. Extensive air sampling indicates no danger of mold moving from the basement offices to elsewhere in the building. Professional safe cleaners from Service Master are currently cleaning up the potential areas of mold, and long-term remediation will address the root problems. Meanwhile, 60 displaced Rhetoric and General Education Literature TAs have been given temporary office space on the sixth floor of Seashore Hall. The recent meetings clarified that the remediation work is a priority but may take months, and that the TAs will not be asked to move back until the end of semester to minimize disruption. More information, including the results of all testing, are available for anyone interested.

While recruitment and mold remediation began the semester with a jolt, regular activities continue. The pedagogical luncheon series got off to a good start with discussions of the nature of the existing major and possibilities for revision as we consider the implications for a proposed English Department creative writing degree. The undergraduate steering committee (Doris Witt, chair, Loren Glass, Mariam Thaggert, Jeff Porter, Anne Stapleton, Bonnie Sunstein, along with Kate Torno as appropriate) is energetically working on such proposals as well as formulating policy around the Foundations of the English Major course for consideration at the next faculty meetings.

Other functions of the department continue apace, dispersed among our multiple committeees. This year’s continuation of the search for a nonfiction writer is in full force (with thanks to the search committee of John D’Agata, chair, Patricia Foster, Judith Pascoe, Bonnie Sunstein, MFA students Rachel Arndt and Andrew Bratcher, and supported by Scarlet Linn). Review committees are now in full spate, formulating the case for Blaine Greteman’s promotion to associate professor with tenure and for Bluford Adams’ and John D’Agata’s promotion to full professor, with DCG meetings scheduled for later in the semester. Curriculum committee (Barbara Eckstein, chair, Blaine Greteman, Phil Round, Alvin Snider, and myself) has responded with furious action to the CLAS’s charge for us to shape up our curriculum for next year earlier than ever before. And Alvin Snider is busily presiding over a Graduate Steering Committee attentive to the various stages in the formation of our MFA and Ph.D. students.

Research continues apace, of course, amidst all this industry. Some recent publications are listed below, and please do remember to report to me or Justin every time you get an essay, article, or book published. English faculty are actively pursuing internal and external research funding, and for both Ann Knudson is a valuable resource for helping with the paperwork (further details below). The English Department also continues to blossom at a kind of publicly engaged scholarship. Congratulations to Claire Fox, who helped lay the groundwork for the upcoming visit by Reyna Grande, the Human Rights one-book visitor, with a talk at the public library. Congratulations, too, to Anne Stapleton for two such talks laying the groundwork for a particularly exciting scholarly/community crossover around Waverley (further details below).  Meanwhile, Hope Edelman did the department proud as a CLAS alumni fellow, reflecting on the importance of Carl Klaus in the formation of her most famous book. Jen Buckley shared her research at the recent faculty colloquium "The Living Books of The Living Theatre: Collective Creation and Phototextual Performance." Thanks to Jen, too, for organizing the recent screenings and discussion of The Ivory Tower, reflecting on the changing role of the university in a public forum.

Faculty Matters

Brooks Landon was cited in a recent story in the New York Times on the death of author Thomas Berger.

Jonathan Wilcox’s seminar, “The Materiality of Medieval Manuscripts: Interpretation through Production,” highlighting what the UI Center for the Book can offer to medievalist scholars, was selected for funding by the NEH as a Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers 2015.

Publication Matters

Peter Nazareth’s book, Re-Membering Singapore, has been republished in e-book version by Goa 1556, a publishing house in Goa, incorporating new commentary in coming form by Li Sui Gwee.

Congratulations to Anne Stapleton, whose book, Pointed Encounters: Dance in Post-Culloden Scottish Literature, was recently published by Rodopi Press as part of the Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature series.


Skiffle Matters

Among his many other achievements, Peter Nazareth proves to be something of a longstanding expert at explaining popular music, as witness the April 1958 edition of The Undergraduate: The Magazine of the Makerere College Students’ Guild, reproduced in its entirety here, which includes an essay by Peter (his inaugural publication?), “Introducing Skiffle to Makarere.” Peter dusted off the copy to share with Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who is writing the third volume of his memoirs, and who went to Makerere University in 1959.

Research Grant Routing Matters

As we continue to push both the excellence in teaching and the excellence in research of the English Department, let me warmly encourage you to apply for outside funding to support your research projects. NEH, ACLS, and Guggenheim Fellowships can be helpful to many of our academic enterprises, as can a slew of more specialist grants. As you apply for any of these outside grants, you will need to both fill out a UIRIS routing form and also apply for a stipend supplement from CLAS. Initial information for the latter is here.

This application process is somewhat complicated, and so I strongly encourage you to work with Ann Knudson, our CLAS grants administrator, who is a specialist in this routing in all its complexity, and who will even be so kind as to fill out the forms. Here is additional information from Ann, along with her contact info.

Ann Knudson is a grant administrator established to support faculty in the Arts and Humanities and International Programs. Examples of the support she can provide you and our departmental staff are set out below. Please feel free to contact her anytime.

Support for Fellowship Applications:
Review guidelines
Proof application materials
Initiate the required internal UIRIS Routing Form. -- This form is required for all fellowship and grant applications. This form can be confusing, so it often saves you and departmental staff time and headache to have Ann assist you with this form.

Support for External Grant Applications:
Funding searches
Review guidelines
Proof application materials
Assist with grant writing where appropriate
This includes finding standard language that is typical to institutional grants.
Develop grant budgets
Initiate the required internal UIRIS Routing Form
Grant Submission
Liaison with Division of Sponsored Programs

Ann Knudson, Grant Administrator
International Programs
CLAS – Arts & Humanities
1111 UCC, The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242
Tel: (319) 335-0374

One Book Matters

Reyna Grande, author of the memoir The Distance Between Us, the 2014 selection in the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights' One Community One Book project, will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 4, in room C20 of the Pomerantz Center on the UI campus.

Scotland Matters

Celebrating Scotland and the writings of Sir Walter Scott

Though the world’s attention has been on Scotland in recent days, few Midwesterners realize Scotland’s influence close to home. Sir Walter Scott never visited the United States yet left a lasting legacy on the landscape. From the states of Ohio to Nebraska, towns christened Waverly (named for a fascination with Scott’s best-selling Waverley novels) burgeoned forth between 1830 and 1880, including Waverly, Iowa. The New York Times noted last year that these novels were more influential than those by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Herman Melville.

In recognition of the bicentennial of Waverley, the first of these wildly popular novels, poet and academic Alan Riach will be in Iowa City, Oct. 1-5, as an Ida Cordelia Beam Visiting Professor. Professor of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow, Alan has been an active participant in debates for Scottish independence, both on BBC Radio and in numerous publications, and his recent book Arts of Independence argues why Scottish culture should be at the heart of the independence debate.

Please join Alan, who will give a series of lectures and narrate a literary and literary-musical program, Oct. 5 (see below). “Celebrating Sir Walter Scott’s Legacy in Iowa,” held in conjunction with the UNESCO Iowa City Book Festival, also features Scottish fiddling, bagpipe music, and song by renowned musicians—including professional Scottish piper Robert Gray and master fiddler Jeremy Kittel—and Highland dance by performers from Iowa and Kansas.  

Wednesday, October 1
Lecture for undergraduates, open to the public: "Why Scottish Literature Matters"
3:30-4:45, 304 English-Philosophy Building

Thursday, October 2
Lunchtime program with the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council: "Reflections on Scottish Literature, Nationalism, and the Recent Referendum and Elections" 12:00-1:15, Congregational Church, Jefferson and Clinton St.
For more details click here.

Thursday, October 2
Public lecture: "Scottish Poetry and Paintings: Politics and the Arts of Resistance"
3:30-4:45, 304 English-Philosophy Building

Friday, October 3
Brown-bag discussion with graduate students: "How Poems Work: A Reading of a Selection of Poems and Reflections on Their Purpose and Power"
1:00-2:30, 304 English-Philosophy Building

Sunday, October 5
Free literary and musical performance, open to the public: "Celebrating Sir Walter Scott's Legacy in Iowa"
3:00-4:30, The Englert Theatre, 221 E Washington St, Iowa City

Supported by the University of Iowa Ida Cordelia Beam Visiting Professorship Program, Department of English, International Programs, and Scottish Highlanders Alumni and Friends; Hawkeye Area Grand Gaelic Isle Society (H.A.G.G.I.S.); and Preucil School of Music 

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the English Department in advance at 319-335-0454.


Upcoming Matters

Reading by NWP Visitor Tim Denevi. Sep 30, 2014 at 7:00pm. The Englert Theatre.

Lecture by Alan Riach: "Why Scottish Literature Matters." Oct 01, 2014 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.
Reading by NWP Visitor Merritt Tierce. Oct 01, 2014 at 7:00pm. Prairie Lights.

Iowa City Book Panel with International Writing Program Fall Residents: World Novel Today. Oct. 2, 2014 at 12:00pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Lecture by Alan Riach: "Scottish Poetry and Paintings: Politics and the Arts of Resistance." Oct 02, 2014 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.
Reading by NWP Visitor James Ellroy. Oct 02, 2014 at 7:30pm. Old Brick.

Grad Student Lunchtime Discussion with Alan Riach: "How Poems Work: A Reading of a Selection of Poems and Reflections on Their Purpose and Power." Oct 03, 2014 at 1:00pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.
Reading by NWP Visitor Marilynne Robinson. Oct 03, 2014 at 7:30pm. The Englert Theatre.

Literary and musical performance free and open to the public: "Celebrating Sir Walter Scott's Legacy in Iowa." Oct 05, 2014 at 3:00pm. The Englert Theatre.

Reading by NWP Visitor Jane Smiley. Oct 05, 2014 at 7:00pm. The Englert Theatre.

Executive Committee Meeting. Oct 09, 2014 at 3:30pm. 331 EPB.

Reading by NWP Visitors Julie Joosten and Caroline Manring. Oct 10, 2014 at 7:00pm

Creative Writing Track Informational Session. Oct 13, 2014 at 2:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Faculty Colloquium with Lori Branch titled “Postsecular Studies.” Oct 14, 2014 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Faculty Meeting. Oct 16, 2014 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

English @ Work Presents: Law and Careers. Oct 16, 2014 at 6:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.