Three Acts — The English Department was a busy place last Friday. In between the classes and committee meetings, three department-wide events took place over the course of the day: the English Department meeting, Janaka Lewis’s presentation on her current research project, and the annual Halloween party organized by our various student groups. As I scurried from event to event, I started thinking about these events as three acts in a larger play about community.
In act one, the players gathered in the conference room to consider a series of proposals related to the department’s graduate program. What impressed me the most about this opening act was the sense of camaraderie that ran throughout the deliberations. Each proposal received careful consideration, but everyone took a constructive and positive approach when asking questions and requesting clarifications. With the close of the first act, I came away feeling pleased with the department’s commitment to faculty governance and to offering a high-quality and diverse graduate program.
Act two opened shortly after the close of act one, and it starred Janaka Lewis. Janaka delivered a soliloquy titled “Black Girlhood and Radical Creativity.” Based on the research project she did during her residency at the National Humanities Center this past summer, her presentation spanned African American literature, women’s and gender studies, and childhood studies. While act two focused on Janaka, the people who came to her presentation also contributed to its success. Many members of the English Department came, and they were joined by several other attendees from other departments. I enjoyed the lively discussion following Janaka’s presentation. People asked thoughtful questions and offered their own insights into the portrayal of black girlhood in literary works. Act two underscored for me the department’s commitment to creating and sharing new knowledge.
The third act–the Halloween Party–brought our play to a festive close. With the opening of act three, a major scene shift occurred. Instead of taking place in one room, act three expanded to include every public space in the English Department. New players also made their appearance in act three. These new players represented every student organization in the English Department. These students filled the department with energy, creativity, and a communal sense of fun.
As is the case with most three-act plays, each of Friday’s three acts contributed to a larger story. For me, the theme of this larger story is the importance of community. Each act showed a different side of the community that is the English Department, but combined they showed a department that shares a commitment to teaching, scholarship, and good cheer.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Paula Martinac received a 2019-2020 North Carolina Arts Council Literature Fellowship. This is the second major fellowship that Paula has received in two years, and it is an indication of her prominence as a North Carolina fiction writer. Here’s the link with the artist statements for all the recipients: https://www.ncarts.org/meet-north-carolina-arts-council%E2%80%99s-artist-fellowship-recipients?fbclid=IwAR3pTxY8Ege3kDBhiJr9pTpP57H2NC_I8y_zcHiIPVnC1XkDho5cIzCB2mk
Quirky Quiz Question — The title of Paula Martinac’s most recent novel makes reference to the muse of history from Greek mythology. What is the title of this novel?
Last week’s answer: France
The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from another country. What country gave this famous statue to the United States?