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

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Democracy of Ghosts

No, this post isn't about the English Building, late in the afternoon, during the summer. It is about the publication of John Griswold's new novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, just published by Wordcraft of oregon, LLC (itself an interesting publishing venue, worth checking out).

Here is the press-supplied book description: "A DEMOCRACY OF GHOSTS is the love story of four couples, set against the backdrop of the Herrin Massacre of 1922. This clash of miners and strikebreakers in Bloody Williamson County, in Southern Illinois, resulted in the deaths of 21 men -- 19 of them the "scabs" tortured and murdered by average men, women, and even children in what was once the most radical community in America. John Griswold has drawn from contemporary eyewitnesses and news accounts, an ethnography of the area, histories, and his own grandfather's letters to create the lives of four fictional couples whose ambitions, self-doubts, and social and sexual jealousies contribute to this great American violence that still echoes down through time."

You can find out more by clicking through to John's own website here.

Late update #1: there is a recent interview with John--about his novel and the chunk of Southern Illinois history it deals with--in The Southern Illinoisan, here.

Late update #2 (and counting): John is being honored with the Delta Award, which has been given annually by the Morris Library at the University of Southern Illinois since 1976 for distinguished writing about Southern Illinois.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ninth Letter

Volume 6.1 of Ninth Letter is now available: get 'em while they're hot off the press!

I got my copy today and am happy to report: the format has been completely redesigned (smaller pages, cool inserts, a different kind of interaction between writing and graphic design) but the quality of the writing is as compelling as ever. But don't take my word for it: read it for yourself! I'd also urge you to read the nice story about Jodee Stanley and the other creators of Ninth Letter that was printed in the most recent edition of Inside Illinois (the UIUC faculty news weekly), and to check out the website associated with the magazine (psst -- they even have their own blog: I guess my sending you there would be an example of blog-rolling).

You can subscribe by following the link from the main Ninth Letter site or directly from the link provided here. If anyone is interested in making a contribution to help support the production of future issues, you can do that from the Ninth Letter site or, again, here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Peter Garrett

The end of this Spring semester brings the retirement of Peter Garrett, a much-admired member of our department who first came to Champaign-Urbana in 1975. Professor Garrett, a specialist in narrative theory and 19th century British fiction, is the author of (among other things) several important studies of narrative structure and form including his 2003 book Gothic Reflections: Narrative Force in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Cornell UP). He is also a former director of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory here at Illinois, and was co-editor (with Michael Rothberg) of the book Cary Nelson and the Struggle for the University which was published by SUNY Press this past Winter.

The pictures pasted into this post (of Peter being toasted by Cary Nelson and presented by yours truly with a gift on behalf of the department) are from a retirement party that we held in Peter's honor a week or so ago. You can't really see it in the photos (which were taken from the part of the room where most people were standing), but the the event was crowded and very, very convivial--evidence, I'd say, of the generally-held admiration for Peter's achievements as well as of a shared appreciation for his level-headed good sense. Peter is teaching this summer and will almost certainly teach for us again as an emeritus faculty member. And he will definitely continue to write and publish. So, I'm happy to say, he's pretty clearly going to remain active, as a member of our departmental community and as a trusted colleague. He'll just have more time for things like skiing and martial arts! Still, in an era when faculty members in English departments have become increasingly peripatetic, it is great to have a chance to pause over and celebrate a career like Peter's, one during which he has made such a deep and sustained contribution to everything our department is and does.

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