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Volume 21, Issue 5

From (Under) The Chair’s Desk

State budget prospects continue to look a little unpromising for the university. A Faculty Senate meeting before the break with local state legislators made clear that tax incentives for Iowa businesses have left the state with few funds for supporting education. While it is a relief to see that the budget for K-12 education has now been settled, the relatively small increase probably augurs a tight budget for higher education, which should get settled soon. The chair of the appropriations committee sounded sympathetic to hearing all the great things the University of Iowa does for the state but keen to give a sense that expectations for state funding should remain modest. State Appropriations to the Regent University’s General Fund have gone from 63.7% of the budget in 2001 to 34.3% of the budget this year, and it seems unlikely that trend has reached its end.

Also before the break, the new University President gave us his sense of the university’s prospects, even as some folks were keen to articulate continuing concerns about the President’s appointment. The broad picture painted by the President was one of slow decline in ratings and in comparison with the university’s peer-group, perhaps relatable to the decline in state funding. In that context, the President was suggesting the importance of a kind of strategic planning that cultivated the particular strengths of the University (with the Writers’ Workshop and the Hospitals and Clinics named as examples of such strengths). At a more pragmatic level, the president spoke of arriving at and executing those plans by committee, although his term of choice is team, with an Operations Team working on short-term institutional initiatives and a Strategy Implementation Team for longer term implementation strategies. In addition to those, there will be a Strategic Plan Development Group charged with developing the next five-year strategic plan by June 2016. The 16 members of this committee were named, including Lena Hill alongside three other representatives of CLAS (David Cunning, Russell Ganim, and David Gier).

In one further round of data reporting, the official count of Student Credit Hours for Spring courses shows English providing 10,193 SCH in Spring 2016, down a smidgen from the 10,443 SCH that we taught in Spring 2015 (a drop of 2%). In that same period, Rhetoric saw an increase of 748 SCH, presumably reflecting increasing total undergraduate enrollment, while four other departments saw increases of more than 500 SCH (Chemistry, Communication Studies, Sociology, and Statistics and Actuarial Science). Our drop is modest compared with what some Big Ten English Departments have faced. While the proposed new degree in English and Creative Writing (approved by English faculty in our meeting of November 2014 but still not yet considered by the Board of Regents) is likely to have ramifications for enrollment, our undergraduate recruitment committee (led by Phil Round and Kate Torno) continues to reveal to applicants the merits of coming to Iowa to study English.

Meanwhile, honors students have been busily submitting final first drafts of their theses (with thanks to Marie Kruger for all that organization), Ph.D. and MFA applicants are considering the virtues of graduate study in our department (with thanks to Kevin Kopelson and John D’Agata and their respective admissions committees and Claire Sponsler organizing finances), the new-look General Catalog has been proofed (expect the web-friendlier format coming soon), summer classes have almost filled, Fall registration begins April 11, and Spring course details will be getting asked of everyone soon (with thanks to Hannah Rounds for supporting the complexity of curriculum choreography). Research and teaching continue apace, and, as the end of semester begins to appear visible on the horizon, see Upcoming Matters below for some of the exciting events as we approach the end.

Faculty Matters

Congratulations to Florence Boos on the release of History and Poetics in the Early Writings of William Morris, 1855-1870, recently published by The Ohio State University Press.

Jen Buckley has been involved in a couple of high-profile visit by performance artists. At the end of last semester, she was talking with Taylor Mac on stage at Film Scene. Currently she is one of the lead organizers of the Ida Beam visit by Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Felicia Rice (see the department’s listing of News and Events for details). 

Bravo to John D’Agata, whose recent publication of The Making of the American Essay (a substantial volume itself at some 798 pages) has allowed his publisher, Graywolf Press, to release his trilogy of anthologies in a handsome boxed set (just too late for Christmas, alas), titled A New History of the Essay, and prefaced with a slim additional volume featuring a foreword by James Wood, along with John’s own Note to the Reader.

Barbara Eckstein's The Peoples’ Weather Map (PWM) digital project has been chosen as an exhibit for the UI Mobile Museum for 2016. PWM is a country-searchable map of severe weather stories in Iowa, and an inquiry-based opportunity for users to learn about weather hazards and climate change. With trips planned to RAGBRAI, the state fair, and some fifty other locations, the Mobile Museum will enable PWM to show off what participants have done so far and to invite additional participation from members of the public. PWM is a partnership between Mark NeuCollins an intermedia artist from the Studio, Eric Tate, a geography professor, and Barbara Eckstein. With funding from the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, EPSCoR, and ICRU, this year PWM has added to its team Christina Zinkgraf, a graduate RA from Science Education, and six undergraduate interns: Amanda Lund, Jeff Lehman, Anna Walker, Kat Perdock, Jessica Rusick, and Emma Husar. 

Marilynne Robinson delivered an OVPRED-sponsored lecture “The American Scholar Now” in the OVPRED series Creative Matters on 12/9/15. Coverage of her address included extensive commentary by Ed Folsom, and her talk was introduced and moderated by Chris Merrill. A summary can be read here.

Eric Gidal's article, "Ossianic Telegraphy: Bardic Networks and Imperial Relays" has just been published in Studies in Scottish Literature, vol. 41 (2015). It is available as open access and can be read here.

Loren Glass was featured in an article on The City of Literature course, published by IOWA Alumni Magazine, and can be read here.

Blaine Greteman was the first recipient of an Iowa Digital Bridges Collaborative Grant, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded initiative supporting a variety of collaborative practices in the humanities for faculty members at Grinnell College and the University of Iowa.  For a story about his project, click here.

Lena Hill published an essay, "A New Stage of Laughter for Zora Neale Hurston and Theodore Browne: Lysistrata and the Negro Units of the Federal Theatre Project," in the The Oxford Handbook of Greek Drama in the Americas which can be read here.

Bravo to Michael Hill, who was selected for a Diversity Catalyst Award by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. Michael, who is currently participating in the CIC Academic Leadership Program, will be honored at the Diversity Catalyst Awards Reception, April 28 in the IMU. 

Selling Shakespeare: Biography, Bibliography and the Book Trade by Adam Hooks was recently released by Cambridge University Press. Bravo, Adam. 

Mark Isham spoke at a recent Iowa Retail Association meeting (a student group in the Business College) on elevator pitches, Linkedin, resumes, and standing out at the career fair.   

Brooks Landon extolled the strengths of graduate teachers in the English Department in the course of an editorial in the Press-Citizen. Click here for further reading.

Congratulations to Robyn Schiff, whose new volume of poetry, A Woman of Property, published by Penguin Books, is getting attention even before some of us have seen the book.  Especially impressive is an extensive and sympathetic review by Dan Chiasson, “The Tenderness Trap,” published in the March 21 issue of The New Yorker, available here.

Garrett Stewart will serve as one of the keynote speakers at this summer's 2016 Annual Dickens Conference. Further, he brings the pedagogical and the honorary into a discussion of recent presidential affairs in his editorial in the Iowa City Press Citizen available here.

Stephen Voyce was mentioned in story about open records in the Daily Iowan, which can be read here.

Equity Matters

Judith Pascoe and UI Digital Scholarship Librarian Wendy Robertson, in collaboration with library staff, have spent Women’s History Month exploring open data found in the Iowa State Employee Salary book. Each day they paired a digital photo from the Iowa Women’s Archive or the University Archives with a bar chart or graph that makes visible gender difference in professional status and salary allocation. The project was featured in a Little Village magazine article and Pascoe and Robertson will have an op-ed piece in the March 30 Cedar Rapids Gazette. The English department has been featured in postings on UI’s first female professor Phebe Sudlow, on her successor Susan F. Smith, and on salary data. The project’s current home is It can be followed on Twitter (@equityatiowa), and will soon be featured on the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio’s giant screen just inside the library’s north entrance.

Building Matters

Thanks to the Daily Iowan, click here for a story featuring our building's latest makeover.

Upcoming Matters

Click here to visit the News and Events on the English Department website for more details.

Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Felicia Rice presents,“DOC/UNDOC: Collaboration and Metamorphosis,” followed by a conversation with Guillermo Gómez-Peña, March 30, 2016 - 5:00pm, Special Collections Reading Room, Main Library

Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Guillermo Gómez-Peña presents: “Multiple Journeys: The Life of Gómez-Peña," March 31, 2016, 204 Art Building West

Pedagogical Luncheon: Pondering Undergraduate Certificates, March 30, 12:00 pm, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

16th Annual Craft Critique Culture Conference: Bridging Divides, April 8-9, University of Iowa

Renee Trilling lecture, "New Materialisms, Old Texts: How Bodies Matter in Premodernity," April 13, 2016, 3:30-5:00 pm, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Department meeting: undergraduate outcomes assessment, Thurs, April 14, 3:30 pm, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Celebration of Faculty Book Publications, Monday, April 18, 5:00-6:00 pm, Prairie Lights

Faculty Colloquium with Garrett Stewart, “Surveillancinema: Critique or Capitulation?” April 22, 2016, 4:00 pm, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Celebration of Graduate Student Achievement, April 27, 5:00-7:00 pm, Atlas, 127 Iowa Ave

Faculty Colloquium: Florence Boos, "'Truth,' Fiction, and Oral Narrative in a Working-Class Woman's Memoir: The Autobiography of a Charwoman," April 28, 2016, 4:00 pm, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Celebration of Undergraduate Achievement, Friday, Apr. 29, 3:30-5:00 pm, Old Capitol Senate Chamber:

Celebration of Mary Lou Emery, Friday, May 6, 12:00 pm

"Cistercians, Chronologies, and Communities: The Legacies of Constance Hoffman Berman," May 20-21, 2016, Old Capitol Senate Chambers