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, October 10, 2012

Introducing our new Assistant Professors

Our department was fortunate this past year to hire two terrific new tenure-track faculty members, each via national search.  We as a department take special pride in our ability to identify scholarly talent and thus to hire really superb faculty members when we are given the opportunity to recruit.  Basically, my message today is this: we've done it again!

For those unfamiliar with the job market for faculty in English, here's what that means: we get approval to search in a given area, and put out an ad calling for application materials.  Then we get somewhere between 150-350 applications, most of them from highly qualified applicants with PhDs in the relevant scholarly field.  From there, it is an arduous process for everyone involved: faculty hiring committees look at all the CVs, pour over substantial writing samples from many promising applicants, solicit and consider letters of recommendation, conduct interviews, schedule campus visits, etc., etc., etc.  And as you might expect, given the numbers involved, we are usually able to identify several candidates per search who would be great additions to any department.  The individuals to whom we do wind up extending offers are truly outstanding, therefore, and it is with considerable pleasure and pride that we welcome them into the department and that I introduce them here.

Lindsay Rose Russell joins our faculty this year as an Assistant Professor in Writing Studies. Russell, who earned her PhD at the University of Washington, brings to our faculty expertise in several subfields related to Writing Studies, including linguistics, rhetoric, and feminist rhetorical traditions. Her faculty page at The Center for Writing Studies lists the following as areas of research expertise: "Histories and theories of the English language, rhetorical theory and practice, genre studies, language and gender, rhetorics of reference, and feminist historiography." Russell's current research recovers and analyzes the role of women—as both readers and writers—in the development of English language dictionaries. This work is literally path-breaking: in analyzing what she calls "the rhetorics of reference," Russell's work opens up productive new areas inquiry for rhetorical analysis. She also comes to us as a seasoned teacher, with experience and expertise to teach a wide range of classes that will be appreciated by students in English, English Education, and Writing Studies at a variety of levels.

Derrick Spires, our other new tenure-track Assistant Professor this Fall, received his PhD from Vanderbilt University.  Since I've already been quoted describing his work in a recent Inside Illinois write-up he received, I'll just quote myself here: "Spires’ current work centers around an archival recovery project focusing on theories of citizenship developed and tested in a range of documents representing early African-American print culture: pamphlets, periodical literature, convention proceedings and the like. His research is meticulous and thorough, representative of the best kind of historical, archival research that our field has to offer. But Spires is not only an archival cultural historian, he is also an acute critical reader of these documents, able to demonstrate how the literary or symbolic qualities of these texts and documents carried the weight of generative political thought about the nature of citizenship and belonging. It is clear that his project has the potential to reshape the way we think of early African-American culture."

We knew that both Russell and Spires were scholars of exceptional achievement and promise, and also that they both had strong graduate-school teaching records and exciting ideas for course development.  Now that they've been around for a few months, I can add this too: they are both terrific colleagues to be around!

I hope and trust that they've already felt welcomed in a million other ways already, but for blogging purposes: welcome, Lindsay and Derrick!

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