Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And more!

I just received notification that our own Martha Althea Webber has received a 2008-09 Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement. As the notification letter from Chancellor Herman says, "this campus award is an important recognigtion of the extraordinary contributions of faculty, staff, and students to connect the University with the broader community on issues of critical social impact." Ms. Webber is one of two graduate student winners for the entire campus. So: hooray and congrats!

Monday, November 17, 2008

More awards

I quote the following from an email sent by the aforementioned Rob Barrett to the English Department today:

I'm pleased to announce the following results of the Undergraduate Teaching Awards Committee's deliberations:

1. Gillen Wood will be the department's faculty nominee for the LAS Dean's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

2. Sandy Camargo and Amy Doherty Mohr are this year's winners of the English Department's Outstanding Teaching Award for NTTs. John Griswold will be the department's NTT nominee for the LAS Dean's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by Instructional Staff.

3. T.J. Boynton, Samantha Looker, and Mary Unger are this year's winners of the English Department's Outstanding Teaching Award for Graduate Students. Samantha will also be the department's graduate student nominee for the LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by Graduate Teaching Assistants.

Please join me in congratulating the winners of the departmental awards and the nominees for LAS honors!
Rob Barrett

Deb Stauffer wins LAS Staff Award!

Rob Barrett--the department's Associate Head and the person who compiles our nomination packets for LAS awards--tells me that he's learned that Deb Stauffer will win one of this year's LAS Staff awards. This is terrific news and well-deserved: congratulations, Deb! If you've had any contact at all with the main office of the English Department in recent years, the chances are good that Deb helped you out or pointed you in just the right direction. We all owe her our thanks for helping make sure that things run smoothly in the main office.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grad studies

Yesterday evening I attended a session of our department's Early Modern Workshop (a.k.a. EMW, or, if you're a fan of animal mascots, the emu)—a regular forum in which graduate students and faculty in English working in the many sub-fields of early modern studies meet to discuss work in progress. Last night we discussed a graduate student's paper on Jacobean Lord Mayor's pageants, and in a few weeks we will meet again to discuss a faculty member's work in progress on Milton's Areopagitica. Then, a week or two later we'll assemble once more for an end-of-semester potluck that'll be hosted this time by Lori Newcomb (thanks, Lori!).

As an early modernist, I'm especially involved in the EMW, but this is only one of many departmental forums in which graduate students and faculty exchange ideas—you can find information on the British Modernities working group on our webpage and if you look at the Center for Writing Studies site you will see that they too have active colloquia and work-in-progress forums in which graduate students and faculty share their work. Our grad student association (EGSA) likewise has an ongoing colloquium series. This series will hold a meeting this week at which (quoting from the announcement) a number of graduate students will be "discussing how their dissertations theorize and analyze imperialism, empire and colonial narratives in British and U.S. Literature" and which "English grads at all stages in their coursework and research are encouraged to attend!" This is necessarily a partial list, since there are all kinds of formal and informal intellectual exchange going on all the time here, both in the English department and under the aegis of other units, centers, and interdisciplinary humanities departments. Because the University of Illinois has a critical mass of superb scholars in English and in the humanities in general, and because we all live and work in relatively close proximity to one another in a comfortable little city, there is always (at least in my experience) more going on than one can manage to take in.

I say all this for a simple pragmatic reason: this is the time of year when prospective graduate students are deciding where to apply, putting their application packets together, and reading through departmental webpages looking for places that might be especially hospitable or stimulating. My point, in a nutshell, is that we are both.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Some Alums

Last week, I received a nice email from Kavita Daiya, who received her MA at Illinois in 1995. She said she had noticed this blog and so was writing in reminiscence of her time here (and her work with Zohreh Sullivan, in particular) and to announce, in the spirit of alumni newsletters and so forth, the recent publication of her book Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender and National Culture in Postcolonial India by Temple University Press. Congratulations!

Then, last Thursday, I attended a conference on John Milton held at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities that was organized by my colleague Feisal Mohamed. There I heard (among other papers) a terrific paper from Christopher Kendrick on the Paradise of Fools section in book 2 of Paradise Lost. I’ve known and admired Professor Kendrick’s work for years, so I was delighted to meet him, and even more delighted to learn that he had done his undergrad work here at Illinois.

Since I myself am relatively new to Illinois (I joined the faculty in 2006), I love these reminders about the history and tradition of our department. English at Illinois has meant a lot to a lot of people for a long time, and it is very moving to be reminded of that.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Incomplete List

Every semester the Center for Teaching Excellence on campus publishes a list of faculty whose student evaluation numbers rank in the upper 30% of all classes on campus for both the quality of the teaching and the quality of the class. This used to be known as "The Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent By Their Students," and it is still referred to in conversation as "The Incomplete List" even though CTE dropped the "incomplete" in 2007. English is always heavily represented, and the local custom is that the department head sends a letter to those faculty members who appear on each semester's list thanking them for their efforts and congratulating them on their classroom success. I forgot to do that this semester (d'oh!), despite the usual departmental success on the Spring 2008 list. To those of you who appear there, you will be getting a letter from me soon. But I thought I might publish your names here as well. Congratulations are overdue to the following English department teachers for their appearance on the Spring 2008 List:

Sarah Alderfer, Melissa Bailes, Iryce Baron, Rob Barrett, Michael Behrens, Hannah Bellwoar, T.J. Boynton, Bart Brinkman, Anne Brubaker, Jaime Brunton, Martin Camargo, Nancy Castro, John Claborn, Stephen Claverie, Bethany Cooper, Eleanor Courtemanche, Leslie Crowell, Carrie Dickison, Caroline Duda, Rebecca Eggenschwiler, A. Ervin, Jed Esty, Russell Evatt, D. Fratz, Lori Garner, Melissa Girard, Zia Gluhbegovic, Philip Graham, Catharine Gray, Sarah Gray, John Griswold, Jim Hansen, Gail Hapke, Marilyn Holguin, Ann Hubert, Anna Ivy, Brandon Jernigan, Amy Rowan Kaplan, David Kay, Brigit Kelly, Kimberly Koch, Susan Koshy, Mary Lindsey, Melissa Littlefield, Samantha Looker, Trish Loughran, Tania Lown-Hecht, Tara Lyons, Mike Madonick, Lara Mann, Bob Markley, John Marsh, Kristin McCann, Erin McQuiston, Ellen McWhorter, Allison Meyer, Amy Doherty Mohr, David Morris, Lori Newcomb, Michael Odom, Chaeyoon Park, Bob Parker, Tony Pollock, Paul Prior, Amity Reading, Franklin Ridgway, Austin Riede, Micah Rieker, David Roark, Jenica Roberts-Stanley, Ricky Rodriguez, Michael Rothberg, John Rubins, Julia Saville, Spencer Schaffner, Christina Scheuer, Edward Sellers, Christopher Simeone, Kathy Skwarczek, Spencer Snow, Andrea Stevens, Bradley Stiles, Jonathan Stone, Renée Trilling, Ted Underwood, Mary Unger, Joe Valente, C. Van Linthout, Michael Verderame, Jonathan Vincent, Jason Vredenburg, Terra Walston, Gregory Wilson, Daniel Wong.

I happen to like the obsolete term "Incomplete List" -- because student evaluations are only one component of evaluating teaching and because no one semester's list fully captures the overall depth of superior teaching in our department. On the whole, we are a department that works extremely hard on our teaching and that does an extraordinarily good job of it. I believe that classroom teaching is the very heart of what we do here, and that our faculty embody the idea that intense, focused research and committed teaching should, can, and do inform one another.

Congrats to all.

Late edit: I've now added people in the English Department who appeared on the Spring 08 Incomplete List and who were teaching under Creative Writing, Rhetoric and Composition, and Business and Technical Writing rubrics. So now my own list is (ahem) a bit less incomplete!

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