Monday Missive - February 4, 2019

Categories: Updates

African American History Month — Throughout the history of UNC Charlotte’s English Department, various members of our department have taught courses and conducted scholarship on African American literature and culture, but there are two retired faculty members who played especially important roles in this part of our department’s history:  Mary Harper and Sandra Govan.  Given that February is African American History Month, I have decided to make note of their lasting contributions to our department in today’s Monday Missive.

Mary Harper joined the English Department in 1971, and she taught in the department until her retirement in 1993.  In addition to teaching courses on African American literature, she forged lasting relationships with other academics and cultural leaders both on and off campus.  For example, she worked with Bertha Maxwell Roddey and Herman Thomas to establish the department that is now known as the Africana Studies Department.  She also played a key role in establishing the Charlotte Afro-American Cultural Center, which is now called the Harvey B. Gannt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.  For more information about her role in founding this center, please click on the following link:  http://www.ganttcenter.org/donate/harper-roddey-society/

Sandra (Sandy) Govan joined the English Department in 1983, and she taught in the department until her retirement in 2009.  During her career as an English professor, she broadened the range of courses taught on African American literature, and she expanded the types of works taught in these courses.  For example, she regularly taught works of science fiction by African American authors, such Octavia Butler.  She also developed our graduate courses in African American literature, and she served as the the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement ProgramCoordinator.  Throughout her career, however, she remain committed to teaching undergraduate students.  Her excellent record in the area of undergraduate teaching was recognized in 2001 when she was named a finalist for the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence.

The leadership of Mary Harper and Sandra Govan prepared the way for other English faculty members to teach courses in African American literature and culture.   These faculty members include Malin Pereira, Jeffrey Leak, and Janaka Lewis.  In a very real sense, the history of our English Department and African American History Month are interconnected stories.

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:

Bryn Chancellor published a short story, “The Moon, the Pyramids, the World,” in NELLE, a literary journal published through the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and deadlines:

February 7 — Grace Ocasio will participate in a poetry reading at the Waccamaw Library on Pawleys Island, SC, from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

February 8 — The English Department meeting will take place from 11-12:30, in the conference room (Fretwell 280C).

Quirky Quiz Question — Sandy Govan is widely recognized as a leading authority on the works of the science fiction author Octavia Butler.  Butler was the first science fiction writer to receive the prestigious fellowship that is unofficially known as the “Genius Grant.”  What is the official name of this fellowship?

Last week’s answer: Sarah Minslow
The keynote speaker at this year’s EGSA conference is a professor from UNC Charlotte’s Global Studies Department. Our department also has another ongoing connection with the Global Studies Department. A member of our department regularly teaches a course that is cross listed with Global Studies. Who teaches this course?

Monday Missive - January 28, 2019

Categories: Updates

Agency and the EGSA Conference — Toward the beginning of last semester, my coffee cup and I wandered into the faculty/staff lounge in search of coffee, for a coffee cup without coffee is about as bad as a bookshelf without books.  Anyway, there I ran into the officers of the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) all huddled around a table.  I asked what they were up to, and Sara Eudy, the president of the EGSA, informed me that they were discussing possible themes for their upcoming conference.  I chatted with them for a few minutes about their plans for the conference, and then my replenished coffee cup and I wandered back into my office.

At the time, I was not sure what conference theme they would settle upon, but I was very pleased to see them making the decision on their own.  In the end, they came up with the following theme:  “A World of Difference:  Re-Imagining the Global in the 21st Century.”  Over the course of last semester and into the beginning of the current semester, the members of the EGSA have been diligently organizing their annual conference, and they are now ready to go.

This year’s EGSA conference will take place on Friday, February 1, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in UNC Charlotte’s Popp Martin Student Union.   The conference will feature thirty presentations in addition to the keynote address by Emek Ergun from UNC Charlotte’s Department of Global Studies.  The presenters represent twelve different universities from across the southeast.  The EGSA conference promises to be an informative and thought-provoking event, and I urge everyone to attend for at least part of the day.

Over the past nineteen years, the members of the EGSA have taken on the challenge of organizing their annual conference.  They usually feel a bit intimidated at the beginning of the planning process, they always rise to the occasion.  They often consult with members of the faculty and staff of the English Department during the planning stages, but they make their own decisions and take responsibility for solving the logistical problems inherent in running a day-long conference.  For these graduate students, the experience of organizing this conference involves claiming and exercising agency.

Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and deadlines:

February 1 — The 2018 Faculty Recognition Event will take place on February 1, 2019, from 3:30 to 5:00 pm in the Harris Alumni Center. 

February 7 — Grace Ocasio will participate in a poetry reading at the Waccamaw Library on Pawleys Island, SC, from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Quirky Quiz Question — The keynote speaker at this year’s EGSA conference is a professor from UNC Charlotte’s Global Studies Department.  Our department also has another ongoing connection with the Global Studies Department.  A member of our department regularly teaches a course that is cross listed with Global Studies.  Who teaches this course?

Last week’s answer: Harriett Jacobs

One of the books that Janaka examines in Freedom Narratives of African American Womenis a classic autobiography titled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  This book was originally published under the pseudonym of Linda Brent.  What is the real name of the author of this autobiography? 

Monday Missive - January 21, 2019

Categories: Updates

Honoring the Foremothers of the Civil Rights Movement — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. played a pivotal role in America’s civil rights movement beginning in 1955, when he led the Montgomery bus boycott, and continuing until his death in 1968.  However, King was not a lone voice in the wilderness.  He was part of a larger movement that had its origins in the nineteenth century.   Today, as we honor King’s many contributions to the civil rights movement, I think that we should also honor the people who helped give birth to this movement, many of whom were African American women.

In her book titled Freedom Narratives of African American Women:  A Study of 19th Century Writings, Janaka Lewis examines the writings of several African American women who wrote about the meaning and importance of freedom.  The writers that Janaka covers in her book include Harriet Jacobs, Ellen Craft, Charlotte Forten, Elizabeth Keckley, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Anna Julia Cooper, and Lucy Craft Laney.  As Janaka points out in her book, these women writers actively participated the national discourse about the changing definitions of freedom and citizenship.  In the process, these women helped set the stage for the rise of the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century.

Janaka will talk about Freedom Narratives of African American Women later this month as part of the Personally Speaking Series.  Her presentation will take place on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at UNC Charlotte Center City.  The presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m.  A book signing and reception will follow her presentation. For more information and to RSVP, please click on the following link:  https://exchange.uncc.edu/how-early-womens-writings-led-to-civil-rights-discourse/

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:

Bryn Chancellor recently published an essay titled “String, Too Short” in Brevity: A Concise Journal of Nonfiction.

Juan Meneses recently introduced the Irish Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Mulhall, who gave a talk titled “A Virtuous Circle:  Ireland, the E.U. and the U.S.” as part of the UNC Charlotte International Speakers Series.

Jen Munroe‘s co-edited volume titled Ecological Approaches to Early Modern Texts: A Field Guide to Reading and Teaching was reviewed in the most recent volume of Sixteenth Century Journal.

Lara Vetter‘s A Curious Peril: H.D.’s Late Modernist Prose was reviewed in the most recent volume of the Modern Language Review.

Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and deadlines:

February 1 — The 2018 Faculty Recognition Event will take place on February 1, 2019, from 3:30 to 5:00 pm in the Harris Alumni Center. 

February 7 — Grace Ocasio will participate in a poetry reading at the Waccamaw Library on Pawleys Island, SC, from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Quirky Quiz Question — One of the books that Janaka examines in Freedom Narratives of African American Women is a classic autobiography titled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  This book was originally published under the pseudonym of Linda Brent.  What is the real name of the author of this autobiography?

Last week’s answer: deepest Peru
The CLGO’s “Celebration of Paddington Bear” brings to mind Paddington Bear’s origin story.  According to this story, in what country was Paddington Bear living before he moved to London? 

Monday Missive - January 14, 2019

Categories: Updates

Coming of Age Day — Today is Coming of Age Day in Japan.  Celebrated on the second Monday in January, Coming of Age Day is a national holiday honoring all young adults who reach the age of 20 at any point during the year.  In Japan, 20 is considered the age of majority, which means that young people gain the right to vote and drink alcoholic beverages on their 20th birthday.  Throughout Japan, local governments hold a ceremony called Seijin-shiki on Coming of Age Day.   During this ceremony, young people are introduced to the rights and responsibilities associated with adulthood.

Although the United States does not have a national holiday that is comparable to Japan’s Coming of Age Day, the process of transitioning from childhood to adulthood is still an important aspect of American society and culture.  This transition is reflected in several of the courses that the English Department is offering this semester.  Henry Doss, for example, is teaching a topics course titled “Southern Childhood in Films, Stories, and Performances” in which he is exploring the coming-of-age experience for young people growing up in the South.  Janaka Lewis is offering an upper-level course on “Black Girlhood.”  In this course, she is covering several texts that deal with coming-of-age themes, including Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.  Like Janaka, Balaka Basu is also teaching a course that deals with the experience of growing up female.  Balaka is teaching a graduate-level course titled “Books for Girls and Other Young People” in which she encourages her students to examine what “girlhood studies has to do with women’s studies.”

Japan’s Coming of Age Day underscores the important role that culture plays in helping young people navigate the transitions associated with growing up.  In Childhood and Society, Erik Erikson argues that the process of maturing involves going through eight different stages, six of which take place before one reaches full adulthood.  As Erikson points out, the experience of progressing through these stages is shaped in part by one’s culture.  All societies have rituals and stories associated with coming of age, but they vary depending on each society’s cultural values and traditions.  I am pleased that our English Department provides our students with many opportunities to ponder the cultural significance of such coming-of-age rituals and stories.

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:

Allison Hutchcraft has published her poem “Among the Graves” in The Gettysburg Review.

Maya Socolovsky recently published an article titled “Material Literacies:  Migration and Border Crossings in Chicana/o Children’s Picture Books” in MELUS:  Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S.  

Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and deadlines:

January 16 — Last day for students to add or drop a course with no grade.

January 19 — The Children’s Literature Graduate Organization (CLGO) and the Myers Park Library are co-sponsoring a “Celebration of Paddington Bear.”  This event will take place at the Myers Park Library (1361 Queens Road) on Saturday, January 19, from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

January 29 — The Personally Speaking presentation featuring Janaka Bowman Lewis will take place on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at UNC Charlotte Center City.  Janaka’s presentation on her book Freedom Narratives of African American Women will begin at 6:30 p.m.  A book signing and reception will follow her presentation. For more information and to RSVP, please click on the following link:  https://exchange.uncc.edu/how-early-womens-writings-led-to-civil-rights-discourse/

February 7 — Grace Ocasio will participate in a poetry reading at the Waccamaw Library on Pawleys Island, SC, from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Quirky Quiz Question — The CLGO’s “Celebration of Paddington Bear” brings to mind Paddington Bear’s origin story.  According to this story, in what country was Paddington Bear living before he moved to London?

Last week’s answer: Heather Vorhies
This Monday Missive spotlights six faculty members who incorporate science in their English courses, but these faculty members are by no means the only English faculty members who draw on the sciences in their teaching. For example, another faculty member is teaching a course this semester on the “Rhetoric of Science.” What is the name of the professor who is teaching this course?