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, February 25, 2010

Some early Spring news updates (because we're all ready for it to feel like Spring)

Our Creative Writing program is gearing up to host, on March 15-17, an Early Spring Literary Festival, three glorious days of readings and panels (all held at the Author's Corner, on the second floor of the Illini Bookstore) featuring several members of our faculty and some distinguished guests. Please click through the link above for a complete schedule. I hope to see you there.


Robert Warrior, Professor of English and also Director of UIUC's outstanding American Indian Studies Program, has been elected by the Osage Nation Congress to serve on the Editorial Board of the Osage News. One of the many things I admire about Warrior is his distinguished record as a public intellectual, and his tireless dedication to the combination of scholarly excellence and public education/outreach that this role entails. This new appointment is very much in keeping with his record of past commitments in this regard.


LeAnne Howe's novel Miko King: An Indian Baseball Story has been selected by Hampton University as the text for a campus-wide Read-In in late March. This is quite an honor, and it means that the English Department at Hampton will make Miko Kings the center of a series of activities intended to foster discussion and community throughout their entire campus. For perspective, last year's Read-In novel was Toni Morrison's A Mercy. If you're a writer, and you're keeping company with Toni Morrison, you're obviously doing something right! Howe will travel to Hampton in late March to participate in readings and a master lecture.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Departmental teaching awards

Continuing on with the theme of departmental teaching excellence from my last post, please join me in congratulating the following people, who have won this year's English Department teaching awards for Graduate Student TAs and for non-tenure-track instructional staff. The process for determining these award winners begins with student nominations, so each of these teachers is to be congratulated not only on the award but for having made a real, positive impact upon the intellectual lives of their students.

Without further ado, congratulations to Michael Black, Ezra Claverie, Mark Dahlquist, Lisa Dunick, Mike Odom, and Amity Reading.

(Pssst: no hyperlinks to people who have never updated their page on the departmental website).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tony Award

I am very pleased to announce that Tony Pollock has been selected as the recipient of a 2010 LAS Dean's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. I'm pleased, first and foremost, because this award recognizes a colleague who I know to be a really superb teacher: Tony's students rave about him, and he routinely gets near-perfect student evaluation scores for upper division undergraduate classes in his field of 18th-Century British literature and culture. I consider myself to be a good teacher--I work hard at it and I've been doing it for a while--but I've thought about asking to sit in on Tony's classes to see if I could learn a thing or two. So: congratulations, Tony, on an award that is clearly well-deserved.

I'm also pleased because this award continues our remarkable run of success as a department in these college-wide teaching award competitions. If you scroll through the lists of past winners of LAS awards, you'll see that English has had a lot of winners in all instructional categories. We are a big department--with Graduate Student TAs, Instructors, Lecturers, and tenure stream faculty--and a remarkably strong one, top to bottom, when it comes to classroom instruction. This is reflected in our success in college-wide teaching awards (we always have more excellent teachers than we can even nominate), but even more so in the long lists of English faculty who show up on the Lists of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students every semester and in our consistently strong showing on questions about teaching in the senior surveys conducted each year by the chancellor's office and the campus's Center For Teaching Excellence.

Of course, The University of Illinois is one of the country's top research universities too, and we are also an exceptionally strong department of research scholars and creative writers. In a department like ours, the basic structuring idea is that leading-edge research and creative activity informs classroom instruction and vice versa. I'm very proud to represent a department where that important idea is so clearly being put into practice every day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy birthday to Hughes.

I spent a lovely hour yesterday afternoon at an informal group reading of Langston Hughes's writings organized, in honor of his birthday (Feb 1, 1902), by Alice Deck. It was a treat to hear friends and colleagues read from Hughes's work (mostly poetry, but one memorable piece of prose), and to participate in an event that drew faculty, grad students, undergrads, and some people from the local community.

The event was kicked off with a lovely, unaffected reading of "Let America Be America Again," and then featured all the different kinds of Hughes poem: the politically intense, the vernacular and comic, the musical, the deftly satirical, and so on. Oh and: if you are ever have the chance to hear Janice Harrington read aloud, just do it. Seriously. You can thank me later.

Thanks, Alice, for taking the initiative to make this happen!

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