All Upcoming Events
Friday, August 21 12:15 PM

Creative Writing Program: graduate student welcome session

New graduate students to the Creative Writing Program are invited to meet with CWP faculty and current students, who will welcome them, make brief presentations about campus and community life, and answer questions. Please feel free to bring a lunch. The session will last 45 minutes. Venue to be announced.

Friday, August 28 7:00 PM

Creative Writing Program new student reading

New graduate students in the Creative Writing Program will read from their work. To be held 7-9 p.m. in the Lab Room at Ciné, 234 West Hancock, Athens. Free and open to the public.

Park Hall Monitor

Park Hall Monitor

Greetings, Park Hall alumni and friends!

Campus has a different look in early May, the presence of more parents than students (and the students conspicuous for their black gowns and mortarboard caps) announcing the end of another school year. On May 7th, we celebrated our undergraduate and graduate Class of 2015 in a ceremony that also highlighted annual awards for students and faculty.

The awards, both internal and external, are numerous, covering everything from research accomplishments to excellence in teaching. The Department of English has much to be proud of, but success in the classroom is surely at some kind of peak. At least that’s the impression I got earlier this year when I compiled the faculty reports of accomplishments for 2014. Reading the teaching evaluations of the faculty, I was reminded of the line in Garrison Keillor’s long-running radio broadcast, A Prairie Home Companion, about the fictional town of Lake Woebegone, “where all the children are above average.” But there’s nothing fictional about teaching in Park Hall, a place where it can truthfully be said that most of the professors are not just “above average,” but wayabove. Over the moon, out of the ballpark, however you want to put it. 

Student comments are far more revealing than the numerical indicators (but the numbers are astounding in themselves: with 5 being a perfect score, I estimate that the department average is about 4.7). Comments say a lot about the different ways successful teaching makes an impact. Many students are impressed by the preparation their professors bring to the classroom, especially when it means the teacher is prepared to make discussion thrive. It’s easy, of course, for professors to come across as knowledgeable, but students value a certain generosity when it comes to dispensing it, making it accessible to them. Students also appreciate the personal touch, the consideration for their own needs and inclinations. Some professors are prized for the way they come across as fully rounded human beings — the way they impart a quality of “keeping it real,” as it’s sometimes put in the evaluations.

A familiar stereotype in the mass media portrays English professors as self-absorbed, bookish types, barely able to get through a day in the “real world,” aided only by their endearing cluelessness. It’s a stereotype that has distant roots in fact. Until the big boom in postwar education after the Second World War, being an English professor was generally a prerogative of the leisure class, a sinecure for unworldly souls disinclined (or unfit) to run the family business. Those days are long gone, and the typical professor today would be up to the task of selling cars, trading stocks, or strategizing troop movements. Student evaluations are vivid reminders that successful teachers don’t teach a subject; they begin with a subject and spiral out from there. Evaluations consistently acknowledge that impassioned professors inspire intellectual curiosity: they convey the sense that one thing leads to another and another and another, until you find you started with a sonnet and ended up, not on that “silent peak in Darien” imagined by a dreamy English youth, but somewhere else altogether — crossing a bridge into Birmingham from a contested start in Selma, coming to terms with the slaughter of French cartoonists, or discovering how mercantile trade routes established centuries ago set in motion the frantic world of globalized interconnectivity we now straddle.

What makes a great teacher? Dedication and practice help, along with commitment to the students. But I think the secret is that all good teachers are themselves students: lifelong learning is a deep instinct. That’s the gravitational force you feel in the classroom — when it becomes apparent that everyone’s in it together, learning and teaching and learning until, to paraphrase an Irish poet, there’s no distinguishing the dancer from the dance.

 

Jed Rasula

Department Head

For more, please read the latest version of the Park Hall Monitor, the department's newsletter.

Destruction Was My Beatrice
Destruction Was My Beatrice

This June, Dr. Rasula is publishing a book on the history of the Dada movement with Basic Books.  Titled Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century, it explores the little understood, yet enormously influential, Dada movement and its relationship to art, writing, and culture. Marjorie Perloff, former president of the Modern Language Association and author of The Futurist Moment, calls Destruction Was My Beatrice “a genuinely delightful book!” Dr. Perloff writes, “The great feat of Jed Rasula’s extraordinarily lively and compelling narrative is to defamiliarize Dada, from its origins in the Cabaret Voltaire to its afterlife in contemporary photomontage or Punk Rock, so that we ‘see’ Dada as if for the first time.” Take a look at Destruction Was My Beatrice to see how Dr. Rasula “brings the Dadaists to life,” in the words of Timothy O. Benson, curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

 

Anglo-Saxon Saints’ Lives as History Writing in Late Medieval England
Anglo-Saxon Saints’ Lives as History Writing in Late Medieval England

Dr. Cynthia Turner Camp’s new monograph, Anglo-Saxon Saints’ Lives as History Writing in Late Medieval England, considers the way late medieval individuals thought about their shared pasts. Specifically, she examines how Middle English poets wrote history through the lives of early English (Anglo-Saxon) saints, especially those deemed “incorrupt.” Because saints were thought to exist differently in time than other humans – belonging both to their time-bound earthly lives and an eternal heavenly stasis – they had special history-writing potential, an ability to link past with present despite massive fissures like the Norman Conquest. This perceived power was particularly strong when a saint was incorrupt – that is, when his or her body remained miraculously undecayed after death. The body of an incorrupt saint was treasured by its monastic community as both a sign of the saint’s now-heavenly authority and a direct figurative link to the community’s ancient past. Capitalizing on their communities’ incorrupt saints, fifteenth-century monk-poets like John Lydgate and Henry Bradshaw wrote long saints’ lives as a form of monastic history, striving to demonstrate their institutions’ continuous spiritual legitimacy and perpetual political authority in an age when monasteries were increasingly criticized.