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, January 25, 2012

Critical Theory Reader

I was happy, earlier today, to see a copy of Robert Dale Parker's newly-printed collection Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies (Oxford University Press). Looks like a great collection (including, among a great wealth of exemplary theoretical writing, an essay by the great Susan Koshy). This is a book intended for classroom use in theory classes, and so it is possibly a companion to Parker's How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies (OUP, second edition in July 2011).

Here is the book description, pasted in as is my wont: "A wide-ranging and refreshingly up-to-date anthology of primary readings, Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies, edited by Robert Dale Parker, presents a provocative mix of contemporary and classic essays in critical theory.

From the foundational ideas of Marx and Freud to key writings by Fanon and Foucault, the essays in this collection represent the most influential ideas in modern critical thought and in the contemporary interpretation of literature and culture.

Ideal as a stand-alone reader or as a companion to a critical theory survey--including How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies, also by Robert Dale Parker--this collection of seminal readings invites students to join in the ongoing debates and controversies of critical discussion, reading, writing, and interpretation.

* Provides a comprehensive selection of key works that speak to students' needs and interests without overwhelming them with too many selections
* Offers clear, brief, and engaging headnotes at the beginning of each selection that place the essay in context (i.e., what the essay responds to or what responds to it) and elucidate its key arguments
* Includes key pieces from cultural studies critics not always well known in literary studies, including selections on youth culture by Dick Hebdige, Angela McRobbie, and Tricia Rose
* Provides a glossary of critical terms, giving students a quick and reliable in-text resource
* Covers a variety of theoretical schools--from New Criticism, Structuralism, and Deconstruction to Feminism, Queer Studies, and Postcolonial and Race Studies--weaving connections among chapters to show how these different movements respond to and build on each other
* Organizes selections by theoretical school, unfolding chronologically and matching the organization of Parker's popular How to Interpret Literature
* Features "see also" recommendations that connect different essays and critical movements from across the volume."

Congrats, Bob! I find I can hardly keep up with your pace of publication these days.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

9L! 9L!

Here, in all its sparkly, slightly Andy Kauffamnesque glory, is the cover of the latest issue of Ninth Letter. I saw the editor, Jodee Stanley, earlier today hauling a big batch of them packaged for mailing, so if you are a far-flung subscriber you should be getting your copy relatively shortly. If you are not a subscriber, now's your chance! After all, how can you say no that face up there on the cover?

You can find more information on the new issue at the Ninth Letter website, here. Get 'em while they're hot!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Greetings from Seattle

I have been remiss of late about updating this site, largely because of a wave of end-of-semester administrative work and then holiday-season travel. But I'm writing now to wish all of you the best of good fortune in 2012!

As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room in downtown Seattle, where the annual conference of the Modern Language Association (MLA) is being held this year. Our department is conducting two Assistant Professor searches this year, and (as is customary for English departments) that means interviewing candidates at MLA. I'll be sitting in on one set of interviews for much of the next three days. These are long days, but I'm very excited that we have the opportunity to hire. When I think of the impact our new hires can have--on the scholarship in their respective fields and on the intellectual lives of generations of future students--it seems very momentous indeed. These are important days, in other words, not just for a good 2012 but for the long-term future of our department.

In the meantime, let me take this moment to thank everyone--students, faculty, staff-members, alums--for your contributions to a successful 2011 for the department. And, again, happy new year!

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