Christopher Corbett, English, Presents the Story of the Pony Express at the Western Writers of America Convention

Christopher Corbett, professor of the practice in the English Department, spoke June 25 at the Western Writers of America annual convention on the story of the Pony Express. Western Writers of America, Inc. was founded in 1953 to promote the literature of the American West and currently has more than 650 members including historians, fiction and nonfiction authors, and authors interested in regional history, among other genres.

Corbett is the author of Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express and The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West. This year’s Western Writers of America convention was held in Sacramento, California from June 24-28.

Video: Shakespeare Sonnets Recited in More Than 30 Languages at UMBC

On April 23, 2014, UMBC students, faculty and staff recited Shakespeare sonnets in more than 30 languages. The event was held to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday and UMBC’s diverse voices. It took place at the end of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD), and it was sponsored by the Dresher Center for the Humanities, the Office of Undergraduate Education and the English and Theatre Departments. The above video is a sample of some of the readings.

Jessica Berman, English, Elected Second Vice President of the Modernist Studies Association

Jessica Berman, Director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities and Professor of English, has been elected to be the Second Vice President of the Modernist Studies Association (MSA). She is set to take office in fall 2014, succeed to be First Vice President in fall 2015 and then become the President of the MSA for the 2016-17 year.

The MSA is a 1000-member organization in its 15th year of existence. It was begun to provide an interdisciplinary and international venue for research in what has since been called “the new modernist studies” – modernist studies that question the canon and works to break down disciplinary silos. The MSA hosts an annual conference and also sponsors the journal Modernism/Modernity, which has become the journal of record in the field. As an allied organization of the MLA, it also hosts an annual MLA conference panel and participates in other MLA organization initiatives. For more information on the MSA, click here.

Jessica Berman, English, Gives Keynote Address at the French Modernist Studies Association Inaugural Conference

keynote modernist communitiesOn Thursday, April 24, Jessica Berman gave the opening keynote address at the French Modernist Studies Association inaugural conference, held at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris 3. Berman, Director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities and Professor of English, presented, “Re-Routing Community: Radio, Colonial Voices, and Transnational Listening,” which explored the intersections and interactions among writers from India and the Caribbean, developing an alternative version of modernist community that is transnational, transmedial and often inter-linguistic.

The conference explored the notion of community in the modernist period, honoring Berman’s book, Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Community (2001) as a significant event in the scholarship of modernism and a point of departure for current work. As the conference organizers put it, “more than a decade after Jessica Berman’s landmark work on ‘the politics of community’ in modernist fiction, we seek to explore the various ways in which communities were configured across genres and artistic media, but also to acknowledge the grounds of their historical and cultural specificity. We hope that this will lead us to distinguish various versions of the communal, from the ideal to the empirical, from the utopian to the everyday, from consensus to dissensus.”


In her address, Berman argued that the development of radio in colonial spaces such as the British Caribbean and colonial India shows us new lines of literary influence as well as important correlations, linkages and waves of transmission that move not only from colony to metropole and back again, but also between and among colonies in an often overlooked, multidirectional way.

Piotr Gwiazda, English, Publishes a Review in The Times Literary Supplement

Piotr Gwiazda, Associate Professor of English, has published a review of Beautiful Twentysomethings by Polish writer Marek Hłasko (1934-1969) in the April 4, 2014 issue of The Times Literary Supplement.

Professor Gwiazda describes Beautiful Twentysomethings as “primarily a literary memoir. Hłasko adeptly recreates the world of his fellow writers, poets, critics, actors, film directors — the ‘beautiful twentysomethings’ of his title who, despite the repressive political climate of the 1950s, ‘kept faith that the moment would come when it would be possible to say: ‘No.’” He also notes that the book “shines a spotlight on emigration as a major theme in Polish literature.”

Jessica Berman, English, Appointed to the Modern Language Association’s Publications Committee

Jessica Berman, Director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities and Professor of English, has been appointed to a three-year term to serve on the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) Publications Committee.

The committee oversees all of MLA’s book publication programs, including its “Approaches to Teaching World Literature” and “Teaching Languages Literatures and Cultures” series. It assesses prospectuses and approves final manuscripts and it’s also charged with consulting on priorities and policies for the scholarly communication program and assisting with new initiatives in scholarly communication. Congratulations, Dr. Berman!

Lia Purpura, English, in City Paper

Lia Purpura, English writer in residence, was featured in a Q&A in City Paper about her participation in Baltimore’s CityLit Festival and commented on the creative, artistic community at UMBC.

Lia Purpura

“It’s a completely vibrant, alive place and diverse in every possible way—students from all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds,” Purpura said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had more rigorous or engaged discussions on complex issues with undergraduate classes. My students are curious, brave, unselfconsciously creative, eager to learn, prepared to discuss.”

Purpura is reading at CityLit with colleagues Michael Fallon and Holly Sneeringer, along with three UMBC English majors covering all genres.

“CityLit is a totally unique, homegrown, but in no way provincial event—it presents nationally known authors alongside emerging voices and local talent, and it represents writers of all genres,” Purpura added.

To read the full article in City Paper, click here.

UMBC to Participate in Baltimore CityLit Festival (4/12)

The 11th annual CityLit Festival takes place Saturday, April 12 at Pratt Central Library in Baltimore. Sponsored by the Enoch Pratt Free Library and CityLit Project, the annual event is a spring celebration of the literary arts in Baltimore.

From 12-12:50 p.m., UMBC will have three English department faculty writers participate in a reading. Lia Purpura (Rough Likeness), writer in residence, Michael Fallon (The Great Before and After), senior lecturer, and Holly Sneeringer (“Under Water”), lecturer, will all present readings along with student winners of the English department’s literary contest.

The CityLit Festival runs from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and is headlined by National Book Award winner James McBride and singer-songwriter/novelist Wesley Stace. For more information and a complete schedule of events, click here.

Remembering Sparrows Point (4/10)

The Creative Alliance is hosting “Remembering Sparrows Point” on April 10, an event that features film screenings and discussions exploring the importance of the Sparrows Point Steel Mill. Recently closed, the mill played a vital role in the lives of hundreds of thousands steelworkers and personnel for more than 125 years.

To keep the mill’s memory alive, Creative Alliance will screen Mill Stories and Life After Steel, presented by Bill Shewbridge, media and communication studies professor of the practice, and Michelle Stefano, folklorist in residence. Deborah Rudacille, author of Roots of Steel: Boom and Bust in an American Mill Town and English professor of the practice, will present a reading followed by a discussion with former Sparrows Point workers.

The event takes place Thursday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Creative Alliance and is sponsored by the BreakingGround initiative. For more information and a complete list of speakers and presentations, click here.

Michele Osherow, English, in Folger Theatre Production Diary

Folger Theatre announced on its “Production Diary” blog last week that Richard III has been extended and will now run at the theatre through March 16. English Associate Professor Michele Osherow worked closely on the production of Richard III as dramaturg and sat down for an interview to discuss her role.

Michele Osherow

In a Q&A published on the Folger Theatre blog, Osherow notes the role of dramaturg can vary depending on the production. “In a general sense, the dramaturg is thought of as ‘the scholar in the rehearsal room,’” Osherow said. “The scholarship I’ll bring to a Folger project can range from literary criticism to historical information.”

Osherow further discussed her role as always focusing on what makes the play stronger by discussing concepts with the director, mastering the history of the play and providing materials to help artists involved in the production.

“Listening carefully and being open-minded is very important. At the same time, it’s my job, I think, to ask a lot of questions about choices and concepts, to interrogate how they serve the play,” she added.

You can read the full interview in Folger Theatre’s blog here.