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, May 23, 2013

Ninth Letter: roostery goodness!

Here's something to crow about.

Pictured to your left is the latest issue of Ninth Letter, the literary magazine that we produce in conjunction with the good people over at UIUC's School of Art + Design.  It is stuffed, as always, with the best in new writing, for which we can thank the general editor, Jodee Stanley, and Creative Writing faculty Janice Harrington, Philip Graham, and Mike Madonick, who all worked on this issue as genre-specific lead editors.

You can find more information on this particular issue here.  Don't you think it would be better, though, to just go ahead and order a copy?  You can do that here.  Alternatively, if you are feeling like a patron of the arts today (or if you happen to be a billionaire philanthropist superhero*), then you might want to click directly through to this page, where you can make a gift to support Ninth Letter.

*Note: I am neither linking to a picture of Tony Stark nor or to a picture of Bruce Wayne, despite our department's close personal connection with the latter. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Convocation and...Ted Underwood.

We held our annual departmental convocation this past Saturday--lovely, as always, and my last one as department head!  The weather cooperated, too, so we were all able to mingle on the quad in brisk sunshine after the ceremony was over.

Congratulations to all of our graduating students (including the new PhDs)!  I should get some pictures to post in a couple of weeks and then I'll have put up another post here, including the text of the remarks offered by distinguished departmental alum Darrell Nance.

In the meantime, the University's News Bureau today posted a really nice story today about Ted Underwood, whose innovative, computer-aided analyses of large sets of literary texts have been attracting a lot of scholarly attention recently.  As the article points out, Underwood's successes of late have included both scholarly publications (which are not unusual in a strong English department like ours) and grants (which are rarer for us): Underwood's recent findings "will be included in his book, 'Why Literary Periods Mattered: Historical Contrast and the Prestige of English Studies', to be published this summer by Stanford University Press." And he has also recently been awarded "an $85,000 Digital Innovation fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and a $57,000 digital humanities startup grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which he is using to expand his research to 470,000 volumes."

Anyway, I strongly urge you to click through above (or here) to read the article in it entirety.  Also, it features a nice photo of the article's subject!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lindsey Rose Russell wins RSA award!

Lindsay Rose Russell, who joined our faculty as an Assistant Professor in August, has just been honored by the Rhetoric Society of America with this year's Rhetoric Society of America Dissertation Award, recognizing it as the best of last year's doctoral dissertations in the field of rhetoric and rhetorical studies.

Here is a lovely paragraph about Russell and the award, pasted in from the RSA's own webpage:

The committee awards the 2013 Rhetoric Society of America Dissertation Award to Lindsay Rose Russell for “Women in the English Language Dictionary” (University of Washington, co-chairs Anis Bawarshi and Colette Moore). This ambitious project, vast in historical scope and rich in historiographical significance, examines women’s participation in the English language dictionary from the early modern period to the present. Committee members variously described it as an “elegant study with astounding historical depth…fascinating and timely, impeccably researched, well theorized, and…beautifully written.” Dr. Russell does not merely recover women’s participation in the history of the dictionary; she asks us to rethink how we conceptualize dictionaries as a rhetorical genre, calling particular attention to both their historical gendering as well as a longstanding but heretofore hidden history of women’s rhetorical critique, from contributions as readers, writers, and patrons of the emerging dictionary genre in the early modern period to contemporary feminist dictionary projects. Applying both feminist and genre theory to a careful archival recovery project, and displaying a deep knowledge of English language history, “Women in the English Language Dictionary” makes a significant contribution to rhetorical studies. 

The Rhetoric Society of America is a large and significant scholarly association, a member of the American Council of Learned Societies, and an organization whose membership spans the whole multi-disciplinary gamut of rhetorical studies.  To win an award like this is therefore a really significant honor.

Congratulations, Lindsay!    

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