As the spring semester draws the academic year to a close and the students start dispersing for home and summer jobs, the English Department’s faculty members are busy with plans and projects of their own. Many students wonder what it is that professors do in the long summer break, and what follows is a brief account of the way in which five professors will be spending this summer.
In general, faculty use the long break from teaching to conduct research and work on large writing projects. Sometimes these projects take them to far-flung places like Constantinople and Cologne, while others require long hours in the Berkeley library or the isolation of their offices in Wheeler.
For instance, Professor James Turner spent [...]
Nuruddin Farah—among the foremost of contemporary African writers, author of numerous novels including the trilogies Variations on the Theme of An African Dictatorship and Blood in the Sun, and recipient of the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for Literature—delivered this year’s English Department commencement address at the Greek Theatre on May 16. You’ll find the text below the fold.
Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his earlier life in Paris, was actually pieced together after his suicide by his then-wife Mary, and as Christopher Hitchens points out in a review of the newly published “restored” version, what was eventually redacted or included presumably had a lot to do with what his final wife thought about what he had written about his earlier spouses (which was quite a lot). So there’s something attractive in the prospect of a new version with all the stuff that was cut out put back in, even if it isn’t clear how different the book is; Hitchens seems to imply that it’s basically the same book, except perhaps even more so.Despite all the ironies [...]
Professor Lyn Hejinian recently delivered this year’s Gayley Lecture, an annual English Department event which showcases the current research of a distinguished faculty member. The text of Professor Hejinian’s lecture, which we’re delighted to reproduce below, continues her extensive body of celebrated poetic and scholarly work. Its particular style, linking poetic diction with critical analysis, might ring some bells with students who have taken one of Hejinian’s twentieth-century literature courses and encountered those writers she has most extensively studied, virtuosos in poetry and prose alike: William Carlos Williams, for one, or the subject of this lecture, Gertrude Stein.
Stein is a writer whose status as cultural icon—symbol of Parisian cosmopolitanism and open homosexuality, standard-bearer for difficult modernist writing, target of relentless parody—tends to overshadow her actual work. Hejinian admits that she doesn’t expect anyone in her audience to have read Lucy Church Amiably, the 1927 text which is the lecture’s centerpiece. In Stein’s own lifetime the situation was little different; she feared, Hejinian tells us, that her “identity,” the fixed public self that accompanied her celebrity, might overwhelm her “human mind,” the fluid, less definable self of everyday life. Yet Hejinian contends that Stein is important precisely because she is not alone in this predicament, and that Stein’s study of the relations between time and identity, labor and freedom, has much bearing on our own age. Her lecture recovers for us a bit of Stein’s human mind and offers a fine example of what literary scholarship can be.
The English Department is delighted to announce that Professor Scott Saul is this year’s recipient of The American Cultures Innovation in Teaching Award. This campus-wide award, given by the American Cultures Center, “recognizes the use of pedagogical developments to enhance the students’ learning experience in the American Cultures classroom.” Professor Saul was awarded this distinction for the ENGL 166AC course he taught this past Fall, “Race and Performance in the 20th c. U.S.”
As the end of the semester approaches, the English Department blog is looking back at the past year. Since one of our first posts announced the new faculty who had arrived at Berkeley this year, we checked back in with Professor Emily Thornbury and Professor Namwali Serpell to see what their first years had been like. In what follows, Professors Thornbury and Serpell give two brief accounts of their experience settling in at Berkeley. Oddly enough, as you will see, spiders are the linking theme.
Professor Namwali Serpell: “Students and Spiders”
As of yesterday, one academic year has passed since I made my way across the continent to begin my time as an assistant professor in the Berkeley English Department. My office, [...]
In what follows, Professor Kevis Goodman — usually a silent partner in the composition of blog postings — recounts the English Undergraduate Association’s recent staging of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.
Kyle Binkowski (Class of 2009) is drawn to plays that have never or have rarely been performed. This attraction started during the Spring term of 2008, when Kyle and a number of his classmates, who had just completed a semester of the English Department’s upper-division lecture course on John Milton, decided to produce the dramatic poem Samson Agonistes—a work that Milton insisted “never was intended” for the stage. It culminated last weekend (April 24-26) with a splendid production of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, perhaps the least frequently staged of Shakespeare’s plays.
The full cast of the EUA’s production of Troilus and Cressida
In the Guardian, Martin Amis remembers J.G. Ballard, musing on how so orderly a life could produce work so unpredictable, savage, and sinister. In the New Statesman, John Gray writes that these two sides of the author were not unrelated, that “after experiencing the sudden disappearance of conventional existence he was never able to take the pretensions of civilised humanity terribly seriously,” but that his work’s exultant lyricism and macabre comedy represented “the transmutation of senseless dross into visions of beauty.” Ballard passed away April 19th, best known for his fictional autobiographies, Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women.A new anthology of Graham Greene’s letters has been published, including a trove of family correspondance that had hitherto not [...]