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Spotlight on Faculty Books Spring 2024

By Jessica Schumaker

This spring semester, the renewing floral and fauna aren’t the only new arrivals at the University of Georgia. Here are three books faculty members of the English Department have published. 

Pilgrim 2.0 Book CoverDr. Lindsay Harding has published her long-awaited novel, Pilgrims 2.0. She was inspired by Chaucer (which she read in Dr. Iyengar’s 2011 course during her Ph.D.) to create a modern version of his tales. “It seems almost as if I’ve always had this idea: to write a book set on a plastic surgery cruise,” she says. Some of her favorite parts of the book came from years of revisions, such as a graduate school friend who suggested the cruise ship could be artificially intelligent. Integral to her writing process was the Rivendell Writers’ Colony writing retreat, where she wrote and revised about 70,000 words over the course of two weeks. The cycles of writing and revision continued for about ten years, but it was her relentless determination and discipline that led to her publication offer. In fall 2020, she began revising Pilgrims 2.0 with Acre Books, and in fall 2021, she wrote every single day to finish the major revisions. Through these moments, Dr. Harding was able to flesh out the questions she asks about technology -- how it increasingly defines us -- and the expectation and exploration of loss and grief. By learning to navigate these difficult topics, she wants to have a conversation about what it means to age in this digital world, and what peace looks like within that. In the future, Dr. Harding wants to write another book “faster and better,” and I have no doubt she will.

Syndrome Book Cover

Dr. Morales-Franceschini’s Syndrome -- selected by US Poet Laureate emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera for the 2022 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry -- was recently published by Anhinga Press. In Syndrome, he addresses the complexities of the “Boricua (Puerto Rican) condition,” especially the historical and contemporary legacy of harm left by the United States in Puerto Rico. The myriad of traumas Dr. Morales-Franceschini studies have both an academic and creative purpose in his writing of Syndrome, creating an “ensemble of storytelling etymological inquiry, incantatory prayer, rebellious hymnals, historical polemics, and speculative theory, all trying to make sense of a visceral, complex reality.” Despite the richness of this ensemble, he states that he wrote Syndrome in two sprints. What began as a memoir project became, after revisions, a collection that shouldered immense historical and political heft. There were months where he read no literature and wrote no poetry, instead devoting himself to the “history, economics, geopolitics, psychoanalysis and the like.” The title of the collection does not only function as a metaphor; “Puerto Rican Syndrome'' is documented in medical literature as a culturally unique nervous system disorder, one which psychoanalyst Patricia Gherovici argues is “best understood as an idiom of protest against a psychologically unbearable situation, namely the coloniality of power.” Syndrome also reckons with imposter syndrome, Stockholm syndrome, and cultural movements such as West Side Story and Hamilton. Through exploring these topics, the collection reiterates its final line: “Our work here is not done.” As beautifully stated by Dr. Morales-Franceschini, “we stand no chance if we don’t conjure and vindicate emancipatory desire, not only ours but that of our ancestors and our colonized kin the world over.”

Reading Character After Calvin CoverLast but most certainly not least, Dr. David Diamond published his first book, Reading Character After CalvinSecularization, Empire, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel with the University of Virginia Press. After reading Pilgrim’s Progress, he was struck by the “strangeness” of the fictional personas. Though the characters have allegorical personifications in their names, such as “Mr. Honest,” these ostensibly flat characters become complex in a myriad of ways as they attempt to embody the “nature of the name.” They are not complex as characters encountered in Jane Austen and the 19th century novel are; they resist straightforward reading. After exploring this problem in Pilgrim’s Progress, Dr. Diamond became interested in more characters who functioned similarly in other English novels, from the late 17th century through the Romantic Era. Because Dr. Diamond read John Bunyan for his research with Calvinist Protestantism, he then related this “formal weirdness,” to religious genealogy and the formation of race in the age of the English Empire. Dr. Diamond argues that “two-dimensionality reproduces through form a model of interpretation that originates in Calvinist Protestant theology.” The character of Calvin “migrates” through 18th century fiction, becoming more and more detached from orthodoxy and increasingly bound to imperial race making. What began as a dissertation slowly morphed into a book during the “atmospheric dread” of the pandemic through incremental progress between work obligations and family fun. Because of the structure of academic publishing, there were stretches of downtime, followed by bursts of productivity for edits, indexing, etc. This fluid timeline forced him to reconsider his research and writing methods, but eventually made him capable of writing (and thinking about writing) anywhere, anytime. 

Congratulations to these wonderful authors! You can buy their books here (Pilgrims 2.0), here (Syndrome) and here (Reading Character After Calvin).   

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