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, August 29, 2013

New Arrivals, New Promotions

One of the my favorite on-campus events is the annual New Faculty and Newly Promoted Faculty Reception organized by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This the occasion when we get to meet some of the newly hired colleagues from across the college and celebrate the accomplishments of some of those who have been around for a few years. It was very gratifying to see so many new faces joining the university—there was a healthy amount of hiring last year and we’re looking forward to more in the coming year. (I’m pleased to say that our department has two searches just getting under way—one in Writing Studies and one in Modern and Contemporary African American Literature.)

The Department of English was well represented at the reception last Tuesday at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. We had the opportunity to celebrate the promotions of three very deserving colleagues, all of whom you’ve read about before in this blog. Christopher Freeburg and Andrea Stevens were promoted to Associate Professor with tenure and Lauren Goodlad was promoted to full Professor of English. These are real landmark moments in any career. Hearty congratulations to Chris, Andrea, and Lauren!

We also had the opportunity to welcome two new tenure-stream colleagues. Kelly Ritter joins us from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as a full Professor and Director of the Undergraduate Rhetoric Program. Kelly is an accomplished scholar, a seasoned administrator, and the editor of an important journal, College English (about which I’ll have more to say soon). Also joining English is Sandra Ruiz, whose primary appointment will be in the Department of Latina/Latino Studies. Sandra received a PhD in Performance Studies from NYU in 2011 and came to Illinois last year as a postdoctoral fellow before starting as an Assistant Professor this year. We’re thrilled to have both of these scholars joining us. Welcome, Kelly and Sandra!

I didn’t see Sandra at the reception the other evening, but here’s an iPhone photo I snapped of Lauren, Chris, Andrea, and Kelly.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Greetings and ... Good News!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll notice that there’s a new name listed. It’s been exactly one week since I took over from Curtis Perry as department head. Curtis has done such a great job over the last five years—both on- and off-line—that it’s not going to be easy to live up to his example. Luckily for all of us in the department, though, he is serving this year as Interim Associate Dean for the Humanities and Interdisciplinary Programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, so we will have the opportunity to benefit directly from his wisdom and experience. He’s already been a great help to me and I know I’ll be calling on him frequently in his new role!

I plan to build on many of the positive steps Curtis has taken in the past years—working with alumni, supporting the efforts of the English Student Council, and maintaining this informative blog that he started. Like Curtis, I look forward to hearing from—and meeting—alums of the department.

I’ve been at Illinois for twelve years now and I’ve had experience directing the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory and the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, but I suspect that becoming head of English is going to be a new kind of challenge—and opportunity. After three days of orientation and five days in the office I feel like I’ve learned more about how the university works than in the previous dozen years.

Classes are about to start, there are lots of new faces around the department (and more to come), and we’re fortunate to have two searches getting underway—in Writing Studies and in African American Literature—that we hope will bring us some great new colleagues, so I think it’s going to be an exciting year.

I feel privileged to work with the faculty, staff, and students of this department. This is a department dedicated to high quality research, teaching, and service, and I’ll have plenty to report over the coming months about achievements around the English Building. To get us started I just want to mention two things:

First, the college announced this week that Ted Underwood has been named a Centennial Scholar. Ted is one of ten faculty members who have been given this prestigious, three-year named position in honor of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In the words of our interim dean, “These scholars represent the best of the liberal arts and sciences at the University of Illinois.” Congratulations, Ted, for this well deserved honor!

It’s also the time of year when the Center for Teaching Excellence announces its List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent for the previous semester. As always, the Department of English is extremely well represented. I’m very proud of the dozens of instructors from our business and technical writing, creative writing, literature, and rhetoric courses who appear on this list. Here they are:

Laura Adamczyk, Iryce Baron, Rob Barrett, Jensen Beach, Michael Behrens, Michael Burns, Jodi Byrd, Martin Camargo, JB Capino, Alexandra Cavallaro, Erin Chandler, Kendra Chapman, Mary Rose Cottingham, Esteher Dettmar, Carrie Dickison, Dennis Dullea, Patrick Fadely, Jill Fitzgerald, Stephanie Foote, Shawn Gilmore, Lauren Goodlad, Catharine Gray, Joe Grohens, Andrew Hall, Jim Hansen, Gail Hapke, Mary Hays, Erin Heath, Marilyn Holguin, LeAnne Howe, DeAvery Irons, David Kay, Susan Koshy, Mary Lindsey, Michael Madonick, Vicki Mahaffey, Robert Markley, Kaitlin Marks-Dubbs, Calgary Martin, Michelle Martinez, Heather McLeer, Erin McQuiston, Erica Melko, Jessica Mercado, Natalie Mesnard, Matthew Minicucci, John Moore, Dave Morris, Andrew Moss, Justine Murison, John Musser, Katherine Norcross, Valerie O’Brien, Michael Odom, Robert Dale Parker, Alexandra Paterson, Curtis Perry, Julie Price, Thierry Ramais, Scott Ricketts, Ricky Rodriguez, Michael Rothberg, John Rubins, Stephen Runkle, Lindsay Rose Russell, Sarah Sahn, Ted Sanders, Jordon Sellers, Alex Shakar, Michael Shetina, Siobhan Somerville, Carol Spindel, Derrick Spires, Andrea Stevens, Eric Thomas, Debora Tienou, Wendy Truran, Jason Vredenburg, Jeremy Wear, Rebecca Weber, Sara Weisweaver, Timothy Wetter, Zack Williams, Gregory Wilson, Jessica Wong, Elaine Wood, Charlie Wright, David Wright, Amanda Zink.

Have a great semester, everybody, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any news for this blog!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

News , news, and more news

My time in this office is running low, and I have several BIG news items that I need to post about here.  Normally, these are the sort of things to which I would dedicated individual posts--because each is pretty significant in its own right--but I'm hearing time's winged chariot coming up rather quickly behind me and I do want to make sure I get all this posted!  So here goes.


The first item is that Bruce Michelson, who has been a wonderful teacher and scholar for many years here--and who is also a supremely generous colleague--is retiring in a week or so.  As you can see from his profile page, Michelson has been a highly productive scholar for a long time.  He has also been Director of our wonderful Campus Honors Program, and if you look here you can see his own brief statement about retirement.

Bruce has published in a number of areas--including poetry, humor studies, and cognitive approaches to criticism--but he is best known for his work on Mark Twain.  He was, for instance, just named as the inaugural recipient of the Louis J. Budd Certificate of Merit given at the recent International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies. And since Twain is probably the US writer most strongly identified in the popular imagination with the Midwest, that means a steady round of invited and public lectures in the area and beyond.  This means that--in addition to all of the accolades and productivity and so on, Bruce has been a terrific ambassador for our program.  

Bruce just received a Fulbright, and so he will be in Europe for much of the upcoming year.  But I know we all hope that he will still be part of our departmental community in the years to come.  Speaking personally, I cannot think of anyone in the department who has been more readily willing to lend a hand or contribute his time and talent to worthwhile efforts: he hosts departmental events, he steps in to help relive overburdened colleagues, he organizes scholarly working groups etc. etc.  One of the great privileges of being a department head is that you are allowed to be privy to the  extraordinary generosity with which some colleagues handle everything, and I have to say that there is nobody who is kinder or more generous than Bruce.


A second BIG news item deserving its own post (not to mention a a rousing fanfare) is that our department's candidates for promotion and tenure have all been successfully promoted.  

As of August 16, Christopher Freeburg will be an Associate Professor with tenure.  Chris works in 19th and 20th century US literature and in African American literature, and his recent book Melville and the Idea of Blackness was published by Cambridge University Press. 

Likewise, Andrea Stevens is about to become Associate Professor with tenure.  Andrea  is a scholar of early modern drama and performance studies with an emphasis on Shakespeare, and her recent book Inventions of the Skin was published by Edinburgh University Press.

Last but not least, I am pleased to be able to announce that Lauren M. E. Goodlad has been promoted from Associate Professor to Professor.  Lauren is a Victorianist by scholarly training, and a leading one at that, but she has also developed a strong scholarly publication record concerning various aspects of contemporary cultural production that she comes to out of a deep engagement with Victorian studies.  For instance, her shaping role in the development and publication of  Man Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style, and the 1960s (Duke University Press) stems in part from an interest in serial forms of storytelling popular in the Victorian period.  In addition to being a Professor in English, Goodlad is Director of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, where you can find a more detailed academic bio for her than on the English page.  You can also read more from Lauren herself on Kritik, the Unit's blog, which she also moderates

Congrats all around!


Finally, I am delighted to be able to announce here that José B. Capino has been awarded one of LAS's Conrad Humanities Scholar Awards in this year's competition. The Conrad Humanities Scholar program (made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Arlys Streitmatter Conrad) provides recognition and research support for outstanding humanities scholars in the college if Liberal Arts and Sciences over a five year period.  

This is a highly competitive award, since there are a great many deserving faculty members in the various humanities departments in LAS.  So I'm very pleased.  But I'm not surprised: JB is an award-winning scholar and a terrific teacher, and he is richly deserving of this recognition.  

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