Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois


Illinois Department of English Blog

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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 vmahaffe@illinois.edu.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Three fall books from our faculty

Just wanted to use this space to mention three terrific new faculty books that have emerged into print this Fall.

The first of these is hot off the press: it is listed as a January 2009 book at Amazon.com, but a beaming Rob Barrett brought a copy into my office this afternoon--so it officially exists. The book is Against All England: Regional Identity and Cheshire Writing, 1195-1656, printed by the University of Notre Dame Press.

This book, to quote from the press' description, "examines a diverse set of poems, plays, and chronicles produced in Cheshire and its vicinity from the 1190s to the 1650s that collectively argue for the localization of British literary history. These works, including very early monastic writing emanating from St. Werburgh's Abbey, the Chester Whitsun plays, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, seventeenth-century ceremonials, and various Stanley romances, share in the creation and revision of England's cultural tradition, demonstrating a vested interest in the intersection of landscape, language, and politics. Barrett's book grounds itself in Cestrian evidence in order to offer scholars a new, dynamic model of cultural topography, one that acknowledges the complex interlacing of regional and national identities within the longue durée extending from the post-Conquest period to the Restoration. Covering nearly five centuries of literary production within a single geographical location, the book challenges still dominant chronologies of literary history that emphasize cultural rupture and view the "Renaissance" as a sharp break from England's medieval past. "


The second book I want to trumpet is Transnational South Asians: The Making of a Neo-Diaspora (Oxford University Press), which Susan Koshy co-edited with R. Radhakrishnan, and which was released in India in July 2008, in Britain in August 2008, and the US in October 2008.

Here's the press' description: "This volume examines the interrelationship between South Asian diaspora and globalization. It shows how the international division of labor has been redrawn by labor migrations from South Asia, how paradigms of the 'brain drain' have been supplemented by new models of the 'brain circuit', and how the construction of new transnational public spheres has altered cultural flows between the developed and the developing world. The volume highlights how South Asian diaspora is of pivotal importance because the migration it encompasses spans the rise of global modernity. The essays look at the practices of political organization, civic participation, social networking, religious activity, cultural production and consumption, commemoration, celebration, marriage, sexual relationships, family organization, and economic activity through which displaced communities reconstruct themselves in displacement. They focus on diasporic subjects who have been overlooked, forgotten, misrepresented, or marginalized in the scholarship on the South Asian diaspora, such as slaves, women migrants, queer desis."


Earlier this Fall, Tony Pollock's book Gender and the Fictions of the Public Sphere, 1690-1755 was printed by Routledge.

Because of its contiguity to my own area of research, I had the privilege of reading this book from cover to cover while it was in press. It is just a beautifully argued book, lucid and learned throughout. Here is the press' capsule description: "Challenging the longstanding interpretation of the early English public sphere as polite, inclusive, and egalitarian this book re-interprets key texts by representative male authors from the period—Addison, Steele, Shaftesbury, and Richardson—as reactionary responses to the widely-consumed and surprisingly subversive work of women writers such as Mary Astell, Delarivier Manley, and Eliza Haywood, whose political and journalistic texts have up until now received little scholarly consideration. By analyzing a wide range of materials produced between the 1690s to the 1750s, Pollock exposes a literary marketplace characterized less by cool rational discourse and genial consensus than by vehement contestation and struggles for cultural authority, particularly in debates concerning the proper extent of women’s participation in English public life. Utilizing innovative methods of research and analysis the book reveals that even at its moment of inception, there was an immanent critique of the early liberal public sphere being articulated by women writers who were keenly aware of the hierarchies and techniques of exclusion that contradicted their culture’s oft-repeated appeals to the principles of equality and universality."

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