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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Next of Kin wins NACCS book award!

I am very, very, very pleased to be able to announce here that Ricky Rodriguez's book Next of Kin: The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics has won the 2011 National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Book Award.

This, dear reader, is a Big Deal. If you think about it, to win a book award given out by a major scholarly organization like the NACCS is about as clear-cut an indicator of academic distinction in a given field as one can imagine.

I am really happy about this on a professional level because this sort of book award is a great honor for Professor Rodriguez and--by extension--for all of us. But even more than that, I'm pleased on a personal level because (as anyone who knows Ricky would agree), this simply couldn't have happened to a kinder or more conscientious person.

The award will be announced officially at an NACCS luncheon on April 2 in Pasadena. But I'm told that we're allowed to spill the beans early, and I wanted to share this piece of good news with absolutely everyone as soon as possible.

Monday, March 14, 2011

More good news about teaching excellence in English

A little over a month ago, dear reader, you will recall that I used this forum to kvell about about Catharine Gray, John Rubins, and Mary Unger, all of whom had just been awarded LAS teaching awards.

Well, now I'm happy to redouble the fanfare: all three of them have also been awarded campus-level teaching awards for excellence in undergraduate education!

With so much good news on the teaching front to report, a blogger like me needs some new adjectives and exclamations to liven things up. Otherwise we might start suffering from congratulations fatigue syndrome. So here's a little something I recently learned to say by listening to my pre-teen son and his classmates: "that's beast!"

Or, for the older set: well done, people, and congratulations!


Meanwhile, there is a nice story in the most recent LAS News about the Center for Writing Studies (a center with close ties to Writing Studies in English) that readers of this blog may also find interesting.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Incomplete List for Fall 2010

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Every semester, when our campus's Center for Teaching Excellence releases its "List of Faculty Ranked as Excellent by their Students" for the previous semester, I post here a list of the instructional faculty in English who show up on it. The CTE's lists are compiled on the basis of student evaluation data, and though this is only one way of measuring instructional excellence they serve as a traditional campus benchmark for effective teaching. These lists used to be called "The Incomplete List" by the CTE in acknowledgment that there are some classes for which student data may not be available. That is no longer the official name, but it is still the local lingo.

Student evaluation data tells you something, but it obviously doesn't tell you everything about an instructor. Think about it: being the most popular teacher is not necessarily the same thing as being the best at sparking thought or at getting students to advance their thinking about complex topics. Still, this has become one of my favorite posts to compile each semester. It inevitably contains graduate students, Instructors, Lecturers, and tenure-stream faculty of all ranks, and it features people who have taught Business and Technical Writing, Creative Writing, English, and Rhetoric classes. What I like about my own incomplete list, in short, is its inevitable heterogeneity, which I think of (each time I compile one) as a testimony to the depth and breadth of good teaching that goes on here each and every semester.

So, without further ado... Here are the English instructors listed on the so-called Incomplete list for Fall 2010:

Sarah Alderfer, Claire Barber, Iryce Baron, Ben Bascom, Anustup Basu, Manisha Basu, T.J. Boynton, Stephanie Brabant, Aaron Burch, Martin Camargo, J. B. Capino, Sarah Cassinelli, Cody Caudill, Alexandra Cavallaro, Debojoy Chanda, Megan Condis, Bethany Cooper, Mary Rose Cottingham, Eleanor Courtemanche, Steve Davenport, Sarah Dennis, Carrie Dickison, Lindsey Drager, Dennis Dullea, J. Patrick Fadely, Jill Fitzgerald, Sara Gelston, Shawn Gilmore, Philip Graham, Catharine Gray, Sarah Gray, John Griswold, Baron Haber, Jill Hamilton, Jim Hansen, Gail Hapke, Gail Hawisher, Ashley Hetrick, Marilyn Holguin, Ann Hubert, Terra Joseph, Melissa Larabee, Linda Larsen, Jennifer Lieberman, Mary Lindsey, Tania Lown-Hecht, Michael Madonick, Vicki Mahaffey, Kaitlin Marks-Dubbs, Julie McCormick, Erin McQuiston, David Morris, Andrew Moss, Justine Murison, Esther Nadolski, Cary Nelson, Andrea Olinger, Lisa Oliverio, Robert Dale Parker, Julie Price, Franklin Ridgway, Jenica Roberts, Ricky Rodriguez, Michael Rothberg, Vanessa Rouillon, John Rubins, Julia Saville, E. Jordan Sellers, Frank Sheets, Katherine Skwarczek, Siobhan Somerville, Crystal Thomas, Renee Trilling, Kate Vieira, Jonathan Vincent, Jason Vradenburg, Kathryn Walkiewicz, Rebecca Weber, Kyle Williams, Daniel Wong, Elaine Wood.

Congratulations, everyone, and (on behalf of our students) thanks!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hot Links

I wanted to quickly post two links here.

The first is to a news story written by our University's news bureau about Robert Dale Parker's book Changing is Not Vanishing. I posted an announcement about the book in this space a month or so ago, but I'd recommend that you take a look at this story too: in addition to an interesting account of the book's generation, it has a very handsome picture of Bob.

The second link is to the American Council of Learned Societies website, and in particular to their page announcing the Collaborative Research Fellowships awarded for 2011. There you will find an abstract of the project that our own Michael Rothberg will be working on next year along with two collaborators. Or you could just click here for abstract of the project. ACLS funding is highly competitive, so I'm proud on behalf of the department to be able to post this information here.

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