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, March 25, 2010

Nations of Nothing But Poetry

Matt Hart's new book--Nations of Nothing But Poetry: Modernism, Transnationalism, and Synthetic Vernacular Writing--has just been published by Oxford University Press.

Apologies for the tininess of the photograph, which I'm simply pasting in from the OUP site:

Here is the book description, also from the OUP website:

"Modernism is typically associated with novelty and urbanity. So what happens when poets identify small communities and local languages with the spirit of transnational modernity? Are vernacular poetries inherently provincial or implicitly xenophobic? How did modernist poets use vernacular language to re-imagine the relations between people, their languages, and the communities in which they live?

Nations of Nothing But Poetry answers these questions through case studies of British, Caribbean, and American poetries from the 1920s through the 1990s. With a combination of fresh insights and attentive close readings, Matthew Hart presents a new theory of a "synthetic vernacular"-writing that explores the aesthetic and ideological tensions within modernism's dual commitments to the local and the global. The result is an invigorating contribution to the field of transnational modernist studies. Chapters focus on a mixture of canonical and non-canonical writers, combining new literary histories--such as the story of how Melvin B. Tolson, while a resident of Oklahoma, was appointed Poet Laureate of Liberia--with analyses of poems by Gertrude Stein, W. H. Auden, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot.

More broadly, the book reveals how the language of modernist poetry was shaped by the incompletely globalized nature of a world in which the nation-state continued to be a primary mediator of cultural and political identity, even as its authority was challenged as never before. Through deft juxtaposition, Hart develops a new interpretation of modernist poetry in English-one that disrupts the critical opposition between nationalism and the transnational, paving the way for a political history of modernist cosmopolitanism."

Matt has accepted a position at Columbia University and will be starting there next Fall. We are very sorry to see him go, but proud nevertheless of what he's been able to accomplish as a member of the faculty here at Illinois.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain

I ran into Gillen Wood today--or rather, we crossed paths in the lovely Spring sunshine in front of the English building--and was pleased to learn that the first copies of his new book--Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840: Virtue and Virtuosity--have arrived.

Here is a b
rief book description pasted in from the Cambridge University Press website: "Music was central to everyday life and expression in late Georgian Britain, and this is the first interdisciplinary study of its impact on Romantic literature. Focussing on the public fascination with virtuoso performance, Gillen D'Arcy Wood documents a struggle between sober ‘literary' virtue and luxurious, effeminate virtuosity that staged deep anxieties over class, cosmopolitanism, machine technology, and the professionalization of culture. A remarkable synthesis of cultural history and literary criticism, this book opens new perspectives on key Romantic authors – including Burney, Wordsworth, Austen and Byron – and their relationship to definitive debates in late Georgian culture."

Gillen will also be presenting the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' 2010 Humanities Lecture in the Spurlock Museum lecture hall on Thursday, April 1st at 4:30 p.m. His lecture will be called "Climate Denial and the Philosopher-King of Java: Rewriting History through an Ecological Lens," and I hope to see many colleagues and area alumni there. I consider it a huge and well-deserved honor for him to have been asked to give this lecture, and feather in the department's proverbial cap as well.

Congratulations on both counts, Gillen!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Incomplete List nouveau est arrivé!

The Center for Teaching Excellence has just released a draft version of the Fall 2009 List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students. The finalized list will be published in the Daily Illini on March 12. But I thought I'd jump the gun and post my own list here of English Department instructors who have made the so-called Incomplete List this time for their work in English, Creative Writing, Rhetoric, and Business and Technical Writing Classes. Several of the people listed here are in fact listed twice because they appear on the list for different kinds of classes (say, classes listed as English and Rhetoric). We teach a wide variety of things under different rubrics, and we teach them all well. That's just how we roll.

This list is based on student evaluation data, and that's only one way to look at the question of what makes great teaching. There are plenty of people--in English and across the university every semester--who work very hard at teaching and who by other measures do a terrific job but who for whatever reason do not receive the highest possible student evaluation scores. I'd never feel comfortable saying that one person was a better teacher than another based on a small difference in student evaluations. But at the same time, as a department head, I'm very glad that so many people in my department show up on this list every semester because it means that our students are feeling very well-served. That's one of the reasons I post the list each semester here: not (only) to celebrate those English Department teachers who made it, but also to celebrate the impressive number of our classes that students were very happy with last semester. It is also notable that the teachers being honored here include tenure stream faculty, emeritus faculty-members who still teach, graduate student TAs, Instructors, Lecturers, and even one Academic Professional. There are a lot of very good teachers working here in all capacities--I feel very proud and lucky to represent a department at which this is so. Here is our Fall 2009 list:

Melissa Bailes, Jessica Bannon, Claire Barber, Iryce Baron, Rob Barrett, Manisha Basu, Rebeccah Bechtold, Michael Behrens, Michael Black, Lauren Bowen, T.J. Boynton, Anne Brubaker, Michael Burns, Jodi Byrd, Martin Camargo, Sandy Camargo, Alexandra Cavallaro, Megan Condis, Bethany Cooper, Mary Rose Cottingham, Eleanor Courtemanche, Leslie Crowell, Steve Davenport, Sarah Dennis, Brian Dolinar, Lindsey Drager, Jonathan Fadely, Chris Freeburg, Melissa Girard, Lauren Goodlad, Philip Graham, Catharine Gray, John Griswold, Baron Haber, Jim Hansen, Gail Hapke, Janice Harrington, Matt Hart, Mary Hays, Ashley Hetrick, Marilyn Holguin, LeAnne Howe, Ann Hubert, Anna Ivy, Brigit Kelly, Daniel Kelly, Kimberly Koch, Brian Kornell, Eileen Lagman, Carl Lehnen, Mary Lindsey, Melissa Littlefield, Samantha Looker, Trish Loughran, Tania Lown-Hecht, Sara Luttfring, Mike Madonick, Vicki Mahaffey, Bob Markley, Heather McLeer, Matthew Minicucci, Hina Nazar, Cary Nelson, Tim Newcomb, Matthew O’Brien, Michael Odom, Lisa Oliverio, Kimberly O’Neill, Robert Dale Parker, Paul Pedroza, Audrey Petty, Julie Price, Thierry Ramais, Franklin Ridgway, Micah Riecker, Jenica Roberts, Michael Rothberg, John Rubins, Kerstin Rudolph, Heather Salus, John Sanders, Christina Scheuer, E. Jordan Sellers, Frank Sheets, Christopher Simeone, Carol Spindel, Clint Stevens, Bradley Stiles, Eric Tanyavutti, Jessica Thom, Renée Trilling, Ted Underwood, Mary Unger, Jason Vredenburg, Gale Walden, Kathryn Walkiewicz, Jeremy Wear, Rebecca Weber, Kirstin Wilcox, Kyle Williams, Daniel Wong, Elaine Wood, Charlie Wright, David Wright, Amanda Zink

Congratulations to all and thanks to everyone in the department as always for your conscientious work in the classroom.

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