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, January 31, 2013

Jill Hamilton Clements wins LAS teaching award

Just a quick note here to announce that Jill Hamilton Clements, a superb graduate student in our department who works in the sub-field of Medieval studies, has been named as a recipient of one of this year's LAS Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by Graduate Teaching Assistants. 

 If memory serves, there have 2-3 such awards given out in previous years.  Since there are approximately 1,500 Teaching Assistants in LAS, winning one of them is a Big Deal.  

Congratulations, Jill!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Iceman Cometh

I sometimes like to use this space is to draw attention to the many wonderful extra-departmental venues and resources that contribute to scholarly life here at UIUC.  Especially when somebody in English is doing something that gives me an opportunity and an excuse.  One amazing and essential resource is our library, and within than we also have a fantastic, world-class rare book and manuscript library (RBML)

Anyway, a week from tomorrow, on Friday, January 25th at 3:00, our own Gillen Wood will be giving a public lecture in the RBML to kick off an exhibition they are running called "Names Swallowed by the Cold: Hidden Histories of Arctic Exploration."  Wood's lecture will be called "The Icemen Cometh: Forgotten Pioneers of British Arctic Exploration."

The event will take place in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 346 Library.

To find out more about the exhibition--which runs from Jan 25, 2013 to Apr 8, 2013--you could click on the link above.  Or, you know, visit the exhibition!

Here is what the good people at the RBML say about it (pasted in from the link above):  

Curated by Adam Doskey, Rare Book & Manuscript Library

This two-part exhibition of unique materials about Arctic exploration commemorates the centenary of the Crocker Land Expedition, an Arctic expedition co-sponsored by the University of Illinois, that included young University of Illinois graduates W. Elmer Ekblaw and Maurice Tanquary.

The exhibition features manuscript materials from Arctic explorers Sir William Parry, Sir John Franklin, and Sir John Richardson, and many association copies of works by important explorers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the Anglo-American contribution to Arctic exploration. The exhibit items belong to the Palmer-Parry Collection, the Sir John Richardson Collection, the Schwatka Arctic Library, and the Mercanton Polar Library. A companion exhibition in the Library's first floor North-South Hallway will include a pictorial timeline of Arctic exploration and highlight the connections between the European Arctic explorers that are also represented in these collections.

The opening reception on 25 January at 3 p.m. in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library will feature a lecture by Gillen Wood, Professor of English Literature at the University of Illinois. The lecture will detail the contributions made by Bernard O’Reilly and William Scoresby Jr. to the British search for the Northwest Passage in the early nineteenth century.

On 7 February at 3 p.m., the Rare Book & Manuscript Library will celebrate Charles Dickens’s birthday with a staged reading of Wilkie Collins’s play, The Frozen Deep. This play was based on Sir John Franklin’s expedition to discover the Northwest Passage and was written by Collins in collaboration with Charles Dickens. Both authors acted in the original performances.
Exhibition curator Adam Doskey will give a guided tour of the exhibition at the February No. 44 Society meeting, 13 February at 3 p.m.

A closing lecture by Dr. Dag Avango of the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) at Stockholm will be held on 8 April at 3 p.m., also in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Dr. Avango studies the history of technology in the polar regions and has written about industrial archaeology on Svalbard and South Georgia Island.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy new year!

I have not posted here for a few weeks, so it is time to catch up!  This past weekend, many faculty members (including me!) and grad students in our department were in Boston for the annual Modern Language Association conference, a huge conference that combines thousands of scholarly presentations and roundtable discussions with professional business of other kinds pertaining to teaching and scholarship in modern language fields and the inevitable socializing that happens around the edges of any large conference.  Exhausting, stimulating, etc., etc.  

As it happens, the current president of the Modern Language Association (and former faculty member in our department), Michael Bérubé, also published this piece on the value of a humanistic degree over at CNN on January 4th.  I strongly encourage you to click through and give it a read.  Then come right back, of course--I have other things to share with you here as well.  


Welcome back!  Here's item #2.  Our wonderful, award-winning, innovative literary magazine Ninth Letter is now supplementing its print edition (which I posted about a few weeks ago) with a separate online edition that you can find here.  If you click through that link you will find the "first-ever complete online issue of 9L" showcasing "our favorite poetry and fiction by creative writing students across the continent."  How can you pass that up, eh?  I'll wait.


 Last but not least, subscribers to the Chronicle of Higher Education may have already seen this profile of Gordon Hutner, entitled "The Editor as Power Broker."  That link requires a subscription, so you may not be able to get to the full profile. The piece does a nice job of describing the work that a journal like American Literary History, which Hutner edits, does to shape a scholarly field.  Check it out if you can.

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