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, April 16, 2014

Prendergast and Harjo Win Guggenheims!

Last week I received the very exciting news that two English department colleagues—Catherine Prendergast and Joy Harjo—have been named Fellows of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. They are two of an unprecedented five Illinois faculty members who won this year—Asef Bayat in Sociology, Stephen Taylor in Music, and Deke Weaver in Art and Design are the others. Guggenheim fellowships are about as prestigious as things get in the humanities and they recognize not just a particular project but the shape of a career—these are very impressive and significant awards.

Cathy Prendergast is a long-time member of our department and a leading figure in Writing Studies. Her first book, Literacy and Racial Justice: The Politics of Learning after Brown v. Board of Education, won multiple national awards from the likes of the MLA and the NCTE. Her second book, Buying into English: Language and Investment in the Capitalist New World, was a prominently reviewed study of the efforts of Slovaks to learn English in the wake of the Cold War and in a moment of European unification. Her new book project, which she’ll be working on during the tenure of her Guggenheim fellowship, is a study of writers’ and artists’ colonies like Yaddo and Carmel-by-the Sea. Writer, Painter, Banker, Thief will be an institutional history that brings culture and economics together—it’s an exciting and timely project and I can’t wait to see what Cathy comes up with!

Joy Harjo is a brilliant new addition to the Illinois campus. With a primary appointment in American Indian Studies and an affiliation with English, Joy is a member of the Mvskoke Nation and is one of our most prominent poets. She is the author of numerous award-winning poetry collections, including She Had Some Horses and How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems. But her Guggenheim is actually for nonfiction—a sign of her versatility as a writer. I had the opportunity to hear her read from her very powerful recent memoir Crazy Brave last fall on campus, and I am very much looking forward to the follow-up. Crazy Brave won the PEN USA Literary Award for best creative nonfiction. I should mention that Joy is also an accomplished musician who plays saxophone and tours with a band.

Congratulations, Cathy and Joy—and Asef, Stephen, and Deke! These awards are just one more sign of how vibrant the humanities, arts, and social sciences are on our campus.

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