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Volume 24, Issue 1

From Planet English

Welcome, everyone, to fall semester and academic year 18-19! I would like to extend special greetings to the Visiting Assistant Professors and Provost Visiting Writers and to the incoming cohorts of Nonfiction Writing MFA and English Literary Studies PhD students. Thank you for joining us and for all of your contributions to the Department.

Other new arrivals in English include approximately 100 more English & Creative Writing majors than we had at this time last year(!), bringing the total number of English & Creative Writing majors to approximately 620. Meanwhile English literary studies holds steady at around 300 majors, and the Literary Publishing Track, now entering its second year, has nearly doubled in size to 122 students from both majors. I look forward to sharing further data about our programs in the next issue of Reading Matters.

Given the increasing size of our undergraduate programs, we strive to create a place for all of our majors in the English Department through specialized courses and research opportunities, extracurricular activities, internships, and high-impact learning experiences. Last year as I left work in the evening, I often saw members of the English Honors Society (ATI) and the English Society holding their meetings in the third-floor hallway. Now, thanks to Professor Eric Gidal generously relocating his PQ office, the Department’s expanding student organizations have a dedicated meeting space of their own in 311 EPB. Sometimes finding a place in English means leaving EPB, as improbable as that might sound! As we welcome back students who participated in the annual summer Irish Writing Program, a group of majors are preparing to travel to New York to see the Broadway play based on Professor John D’Agata’s The Lifespan of a Fact, and others are looking forward to participating in the creative writing program in Greece directed by Professor D’Agata over winter break. Last week undergraduate advisor Kate Torno held a lunchtime information session to showcase these and other opportunities for our students, a valuable event that I hope will recur each fall.

We are feeling growth in the department in other ways, too. Literary studies courses have higher than usual enrollments this fall, with particular demand for British literature--all periods, all topics—as well as multiethnic literatures. Creative writing courses continue to draw waitlists for both seminars and workshops. In the language of most of my birthday horoscopes, this is an “ideal year for planning, strategizing, and adjusting,” as we confront the growth of our programs and decrease in faculty numbers, the new budget model and its impact on the Department, and changes in University administration. The self-study that we will conduct this spring in anticipation of next year’s external review will offer the Department the chance to reflect on where we are and where we would like to be headed in the near future.

A couple of literary milestones speak to us especially this year, and they’re predicting a better future for English than my natal chart does for me: the two hundredth anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is inspiring a host of events in October, including panels for this year’s Iowa City Book Festival featuring Professors Eric Gidal, Blaine Greteman, and Corey Creekmur. Professor Ed Folsom is preparing for a busy year, as a key participant in global celebrations in honor of the two hundred-year anniversary of Walt Whitman’s birth. Many happy returns of the day!

We have been gathering information all summer to share with you in this news-filled first issue of RM. While you’re here, please take a moment to look at all the amazing events on the departmental calendar, and keep checking back for event details in connection with the TIR Lecture Series (this week!), the Freedman Lecture (this week!), the Krause Series in Contemporary Nonfiction, and three Ida Beam Fellow visits!


Faculty Matters

Congratulations to Lori Branch who has received a $105,000 NEH grant to organize a Seminar for College Teachers on Religion, Secularism, and the Novel. The grant provides for a three-week seminar for 16 college and university faculty examining the history of the novel as it relates to theses about the secularization of society or the continuing hold of religion on society, to be held at the University of Iowa. 

Matt Brown has been named to the Editorial Board of Textual Cultures: Texts, Contexts, Intepretation, the journal of the Society for Textual Scholarship.

Jen Buckley is curating Seeing Feeling Sensing Reading: Granary Booksan exhibition in the Main Library Gallery, which will run February 1-March 15, 2019. She is also co-organzing the Spring 2019 residency of Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Cecilia Vicuña, a poet, performer, installation artist, filmmaker, and activist based in Santiago and New York City. With Joyce Tsai (Stanley Museum of Art curator and Clinical Associate Professor of Education), Buckley is planning the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies' 2020 Symposium, What Can the Museum Become? One of Buckley's review essays is published in the Fall 2018 issue of TDR: The Drama Review, and another will appear in Theatre Journal's December issue.

John D’Agata’s co-authored book with Jim Fingal, The Lifespan of a Fact has been adapted as a play that will be opening on Broadway in the fall. For more on the production, see the New York Times article here.

Ed Folsom received a grant from the National Archives through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to continue their support of the Walt Whitman Archives’ correspondence project—an ongoing project to transcribe, encode, edit, and annotate all of Whitman’s correspondence, both the letters to and from Whitman. NHPRC has been supporting the Archive since 2010 with annual grants. This year, he was awarded $105,000, an increase of $40,000 over previous years. Stephanie Blalock is the project manager for the grant, and Blake Bronson-Bartlett, James O’Neil, Alex Ashland, Ryan Furlong, and Ian Faith will be working on the project this year.

Marie Kruger received an International Programs Travel Award in order to conduct research at the South African History Archive in Johannesburg, South Africa, in summer 2018.

Robyn Schiff worked with youth writing instructors, including fiction writer Monica Bergers (MFA 2007) and poet Mary Hickman (MFA 2006) during the Summer Writing Residency, a partnership between English & Creative Writing and the Belin-Blank Center which brings talented high school students from across the country to the UI campus for writing workshops.

Congratulations to Phil Round who received an International Programs travel grant to participate in a conference in Spain.

Inara Verzemnieks was featured in an Iowa Now article, “Inara Verzemnieks Returns to UI’s Nonfiction Writing Program.” 

Congratulations to Jon Wilcox has been named a Collegiate Fellow. This award recognizes senior faculty whose distinction in teaching and scholarship is matched by exceptional leadership in service to the University, the College, and their departments. Professor Wilcox also received a travel award from International Programs to present a paper at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, UK over the summer.


Staff Matters

Congratulations to Corey Campbell, who was awarded an Isobel English Scholarship this summer, covering full tuition for the Fiction Program of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.


Alumni Matters

Assistant Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma Amit Baishya (PhD 2010) published an English-language translation of the Assamese novel Jangam by Debendranath Acharya with Vitasta Press. Baishya’s monograph Contemporary Literature from Northeast India: Deathworlds, Terror and Survival was also just published by Routledge.

PhD candidate Lydia Maunz-Breese and Jacob Bender (PhD 2017) have published a co-authored article in the most recent issue of American Indian Quarterly.

Jacob Bender also published a review of The Kimball Challenge at Fifty: Mormon Arts Center Essays in Dialogue (Spring 2018).

Shuhita Bhattacharjee (PhD 2015) signed a contract with Routledge USA to produce a book related to her dissertation, which was titled “The 'Crisis' Cornucopia: Anxieties of Religion and 'Secularism' in Victorian Fiction of Colony and Gender, 1880-1900.”

Douglas Dowland (PhD 2010) received the 2018 Professor of the Year Award from the Getty College of Arts and Sciences, Ohio Northern University.

Micah Fields (MFA 2018) was selected as the 2018 Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writers Fellow. More here.

Kelly Franklin’s (PhD 2014) edited collection of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tales, The Shattered Fountain, was recently released by Cluny Media.

Michael Goldberg (English Ed MA 2018) was accepted into the fall 2018 class at The New School in NYC for a two year master’s program in sociology.

Marty Gould (PhD 2005) associate professor of English at the University of South Florida received his third NEH seminar for high school teachers, and he is also completing a multi-year Brunell Fellowship:

Emily Maloney’s (BA 2009) essay collection, Cost of Living, sold at auction to Flatiron Books and is forthcoming soon.

Nate Otjen’s (BA 2016) article on Mexican railroad workers in Iowa City won an award from the State of Iowa this spring. Otjen also has a forthcoming piece in Resilience (based on his presentation at the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment last year).

Clinton Crockett Peters (MFA 2013) accepted a three-year VAP position at Berry College in Georgia.

Eliza Sanders’ (PhD 2015) book, Genres of Doubt, was shortlisted for the 2018 Mythopoeic Society's Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies.

Elisabeth Shane (PhD 2012) graduated cum laude from NYU School of Law May 2018 and accepted an associate position at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (New York office).

Jennifer Shook (PhD 2016) has accepted a Visiting Assistant Professor position in English at Oklahoma State.

Michelle Taylor (PhD, 2018) was just named a Vanderbilt Postdoctoral Fellow via the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning (VIDL). 

Natalie Vicchio (BA 2015) was accepted into the fall 2018 entering class at University of Michigan Law School. They accept 300 out of 6000 applicants.


Emeritus Matters

Kevin Kopelson gave a lecture about Grant Wood at the Whitney Museum in New York ( 

Bill Kupersmith’s new novel, The Chaplain of Blackburne House, was recently published and is available on Amazon.


In Memoriam

The English Department is saddened to learn recently of the passing of Gary Martin Levine (PhD 1999), Professor of English at Ashland University in Ohio.


Upcoming Matters

Chris Abani, Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor - September 19-21, 2018

Roundtable with IWP Residents From Africa (Chris Abani) - September 19, 2018 | 12:00-2:00 pm | S401 John Pappajohn Business Bldg

"Wondering the City: Urban Forms in Contemporary Fiction," Aku Ammah-Tagoe, Stanford University - September 20, 2018 | 3:30-5:00 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Rebecca Walkowitz, Rutgers - September 20, 2018 | 5:00-6:30 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

"Working-in-Progress" Panel with IWP Residents (Chris Abani) - September 21, 2018 | 12:00-1:00 pm | Iowa City Publish Library, Meeting Room A, 123 S. Linn St.

Public Reading at Shambaugh House (Chris Abani) - September 21, 2018 | 5:00-6:00 pm | 430 N. Clinton St., Iowa City

"What Happens When Robots Write?" Bill Hart-Davidson, Michigan State University - September 24, 2018 | 4:00-5:30 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

The Krause Series in Contemporary Nonfiction: Shawn Wen, Winner of the 2018 Krause Essay Prize - September 27, 2018 | 7:30-9:00 pm | Old Capitol Senate Chamber

Fall Reception - September 30, 2018 | 3:00-5:00 pm | Brix Cheese Shop & Wine Bar

Catastrophic Reading: A Creaturely Library - October 3, 2018 | 7:00-8:30 pm | Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St.

The Monster in the Machine: Frankenstein and Film - October 3, 2018 | 9:00-10:00 pm | FilmScene, 118 E. College St.

"Latinx Literature Unbound: Undoing Ethnic Expectation," Ralph Rodriguez, Departments of American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and English, Brown University - October 4, 2018 | 3:30 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

EC Meeting (tbc): Hiring Plan - October 11, 2018 | 3:30-5:00 pm | 331 EPB

Horace Porter Retirement Celebration - October 12, 2018 | Ceremony 4:30-5:30 pm @ 101 BCSB | Reception 5:30-7:00 pm @ VUE Rooftop

Matthew Rubery, University of London - October 18, 2019 | 4:00 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB







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