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, February 22, 2011

Two events from last week.

Just a quick post about two departmental events this past week, each of which highlights in a different way the vibrancy of the work that goes on here. No pictures this time, I'm sad to say.

First, last Tuesday we held our third annual Kirkpatrick Symposium. This event--which is made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Clayton and Thelma Kirkpatrick--typically features three speakers from very different areas of the department who each present work-in-progress keyed to a single core theme. This Spring's keyword was adaptation, and attendees were treated to three fascinating papers from different disciplinary perspectives that all dealt in different ways with questions pertaining to questions of cultural adaptation (the word's evolutionary meaning was not on the front burner in the talks, but was brought forward in the Q&A afterward).

I don't want to do an injustice to my colleagues by offering clunky summaries of elegant arguments, but perhaps I can offer just a taste. Anustup Basu presented a very entertaining account, complete with movie posters, of how stories from western literature and film (from Shakespeare to Tango and Cash) had to be adapted to make sense within pre-Bollywood Indian cinema. Then Kate Vieira offered a portion of an ethnographic study she is working on concerning literacy and assimilation in two groups of Portuguese-speaking immigrants in a town in Massachusetts. Finally, Janice Harrington presented some poems that she is working on that deal with the life and art of Horace Pippin, and that foregrounded questions about his adaptation and about the kinds of adaptation and accommodation involved in the process of writing poetry inspired by such a figure. All three were fascinating, and very well-received. speaking as a literary critic myself, it is really a treat to hear smart presentations presented from withing the other disciplines--in this case, Cinema Studies, Writing Studies, and Creative Writing--that we have in English here. Thanks, too, to Susan Koshy for moderating.

I was myself unable to attend the second of the events I wanted to mention here--this is a university where there are always too many events to keep up with!--but I wanted to highlight it here nevertheless because it suggests something about the liveliness of our graduate program and about graduate student/faculty interactions in our department. On Saturday, the British Modernities Group held a graduate student conference on "New 'British' Geographies." You can see the program here (and note that this event was co-sponsored by the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory).

The Kirkpatrick Symposium plays a special role in our department's seasonal round, and happens only once a year. And though there are several faculty/grad student working groups in the department, it is not every day that one of them hosts a conference like the one last weekend. But it is by no means unusual for us to have several enticing talks and panels on offer during a given week. In fact, that is pretty much the norm here, thanks to the aforementioned Unit, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, the Trowbridge Office on American Literature (run by Gordon Hutner) and all of the myriad events run by other humanities departments on campus and other affiliated programs.

I was told, when I first visited this campus in Spring 2006, that there were always so many intellectual events on campus that nobody could even keep up. That has certainly turned out to be true, in my experience, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

1 comment:

Curtis said...

Also: it is about time Tango and Cash finally appeared on this blog.

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