Jessica Berman presents research at prominent international symposium in Sweden

Jessica BermanAt a recent symposium held at Uppsala University, Sweden featuring prominent international modernist research, Jessica Berman, director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities and professor of English, presented an invited lecture about her research on transnational movements of people in the development of twentieth century media, with a focus on global radio.

Berman’s talk “Radio Relations and Transnational Listening” examined listening in the early days of radio in India. She argued that the diverse nature of the radio environment that used several languages, particularly in programs sent out over the All India Radio airwaves, helped to create a community among the listeners that resisted the directed messages coming to them from the center of the British Empire.

The talk was part of a symposium with the theme “Intimate Modernism.” The event forms part of a collaboration between the Department of English, Uppsala University, and the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow. For more information about the symposium and other scholars who presented, visit Uppsala University’s English department website. Read more about Jessica Berman’s research.

2015-2016 English Reading Series: Reading and Book Signing by Ann Pancake (10/29)

Ann PancakeEnglish, reading and book signing
Ann Pancake, author
Thursday, October 29 | 5 p.m.
Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery 

Ann Pancake grew up in Romney and Summersville, West Virginia. Her new short story collection, Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley, was published in February 2015 with Counterpoint Press. 

Her first novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been (Counterpoint 2007), features a West Virginia family devastated by mountaintop removal mining. Based on interviews and real events, the novel was one of Kirkus Review’s Top Ten Fiction Books of 2007, won the 2007 Weatherford Award, and was a finalist for the 2008 Orion Book Award.

Pancake’s collection of short stories, Given Ground, won the 2000 Bakeless Award, and she has also received a Whiting Award, an NEA Grant, a Pushcart Prize, and creative writing fellowships from the states of Washington, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Her fiction and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies like Agni, The Georgia Review, Poets and Writers, Narrative, and New Stories from the South. She earned her BA in English at West Virginia University and a PhD. in English Literature from the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle.

Of her work, Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Burning Bright, writes: “Ann Pancake knows the ways of her people inside and out, but her stories are always linked to the universal concerns of the human heart, and they are rendered in voices that are often wildly original, always poetic. Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley, is further confirmation that Ann Pancake is one of America’s finest writers.”

And novelist Dan Chaon notes: “These are astonishing stories — tender, alive, full of heart and empathy but never sentimental, full of clenched drama and secrets and surprises, but always subtle, full of knotty, poetic language, but also remarkably naturalistic. In her unflinching and lovingly astute attention to the lives of the working poor, people who have fallen entirely beneath the radar of our literary notice, she occasionally calls to mind the haunting photographs of Walker Evans, but I don’t think there’s anyone else like Ann in American letters. She is a true original, and I urge you with all my heart to read these gorgeous stories. Ann Pancake is one of the best we have.”

Thanks to the following departments for their support of this reading: The English Department, the Dresher Center for the Humanities, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Geography and Environmental Systems.

Fall 2015 Big Prize Poetry Slam (10/9)

Poetry Slam 2015Fall 2015 Big Prize Poetry Slam
Friday, October 9, 2015
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Performing Arts & Humanities Building : Atrium

Slam BIG and win BIG at the fourth annual Poetry Slam hosted by the English Department this year on October 9 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM in the Performing Arts & Humanities Building Atrium. You will not want to miss this momentous event. A first prize of two hundred dollars will go to the winner of this dazzling, high-energy slam. There are second and third place prizes too for students and alumni sharing their original work, scored by an expert panel of judges from across campus.

To participate in the slam, submit a print and video version of original poetry no more than five minutes long to by September 21, 2015. Entries will be judged on their poetic effects, compelling content, and performance.

Last year, the atrium was packed and the seats were filled for good food, good poetry, and good conversation. So come join us for what will prove another exciting event sponsored by the English Department, UMBC’s creative arts journal Bartleby, and the UMBC Homecoming Committee.

Steph Ceraso, English, Receives the 2015 Richard Ohmann Outstanding Article in College English Award

stephceraso_webSteph Ceraso, an assistant professor of English, has been selected for the 2015 Richard Ohmann Outstanding Article in College English Award. The annual award is presented by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Ceraso received the recognition for her article “(Re)Educating the Senses: Multimodal Listening, Bodily Learning, and the Composition of Sonic Experiences.”

The award is recognition of an outstanding refereed article in the past volume year of the journal College English that makes a significant contribution to the field of English studies. It is given in the name of Richard Ohmann, landmark editor of College English from 1966 to 1978.

Ceraso’s essay aims to reimagine how listening is taught by accounting for the different sensory modes in which sound is experienced: “In response to widespread ‘plug in and tune out’ listening habits, and to the need for a more substantial listening education—particularly in relation to digital engagement and production—my article offers an expansive, explicitly embodied approach to the teaching of listening. My aim in writing this piece was to create a sonic pedagogy that allows students to capitalize on the compositional affordances of sound in digital contexts and retrains them to become more thoughtful, sensitive listener-composers of sound in any setting,” Ceraso shared.

Ceraso’s article received significant praise from the NCTE selection committee in a press release announcing the award: “The judges found Professor Ceraso’s essay fresh, timely, and engaging—a piece that will have an impact on the field for its vision and accessibility. Her essay, woven throughout with connections to pedagogy and composition, pushes the boundaries of multimodal composition as Professor Ceraso challenges us to reimagine how soundscapes can change the writing classroom—that is how we can incorporate ‘productive, quality sonic experiences’ that build on students’ past experiences.”

The award will be presented in November at the NCTE Annual Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ceraso’s teaching and research interests include rhetoric and composition, sound studies, digital media production, and pedagogy. Read more about her work on the English department website.

Orianne Smith, English, Wins Inaugural British Association of Romantic Studies First Book Prize

Orianne Smith bookOrianne Smith, associate professor and chair of English, has won the prestigious biennial First Book Prize from the British Association of Romantic Studies (BARS). Smith’s book Romantic Women Writers, Revolution, and Prophecy: Rebellious Daughters, 1786–1826 (Cambridge University Press, 2013) was selected from a strong shortlist of finalists for the inaugural prize.

Professor Smith traveled to Cardiff, Wales to accept the award. In an announcement posted on the BARS blog, the judges stated during the award ceremony that her book “corrects the gender imbalance of previous work on literary enthusiasm by shedding light on the previously obscured role of women writers in apocalyptic discourse…a tremendously fluent and incisive study, making surprising and productive use of speech-act theory to bring out the performative dimension of prophetic writing.”

Dr. Smith participated in a detailed and wide-ranging Q&A posted on the BARS blog about her research process in writing her award-winning book. She said the idea for the project first came to her when writing the conclusion for her final paper on the “wild, wacky and truly wonderful Civil War prophetesses” in her seventeenth-century sectarian writers class during her second year of graduate school.

Orianne Smith with Professor Emma Clery, the Chair of the First Book Prize Committee, giving her acceptance speech.

Orianne Smith with Professor Emma Clery, the Chair of the First Book Prize Committee, giving her acceptance speech.

“It occurred to me that there could be an interesting connection between these seventeenth-century women who claimed the authority of God during a period of revolution and Romantic women writers who also assumed the mantle of the female prophet in the wake of the French Revolution,” she said. “I wrapped up the paper with this thought, but the idea of a British tradition of female prophecy stuck with me.”

Also in the Q&A, Smith discussed how the project evolved, the benefit of placing religious discourses at center of cultural debates and literary studies, and her future research, among other topics.

Dr. Smith’s teaching and research interests include gender and Romanticism, the Gothic, and the connections between religion, superstition, and magic in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and she has published widely in these fields. Read more about her work on the English department website.

Michele Osherow, English, and Manil Suri, Mathematics, Explore “The Mathematics of Being Human” on WYPR

On Thursday, July 16, Michele Osherow, associate professor of English, and Manil Suri, professor of mathematics, were guests on WYPR’s Humanities Connection to discuss their play “The Mathematics of Being Human,” which debuted at UMBC last fall. The play explores how mathematics and the humanities offer valuable perspectives on what it means to be human, perspectives that at first glance are highly distinct, but that create entry points for conversation and shared understanding over time.

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

“The idea of pairing mathematics with humanities subjects like literature may seem odd. But, we found that there are many exciting opportunities for joint exploration. The humanities can help put mathematical inquiry into a human, accessible context and allow people to relate to a subject that too often seems obscure,” Osherow explained.

“For example, creative works like film and literature can generate real curiosity about mathematical ideas. Movies like Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, plays like Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and books like Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time expose non-mathematicians to the mystery and complex beauty of mathematics,” Suri added.

Suri was also recently interviewed by SPAN Magazine about the play, which is scheduled to be performed at the Bridges Conference in Baltimore on July 29. Suri and Osherow have previously performed the play in New York City and San Antonio, with plans to bring the production to Mumbai and New Delhi early next year in partnership with the U.S. Embassy. Read “From STEM to STEAM” in SPAN Magazine.  

Lia Purpura and Deborah Rudacille, English, Reflect on Freddie Gray’s Death in the Baltimore Sun and American Short Fiction

English Writer in Residence Lia Purpura and English Professor of the Practice Deborah Rudacille recently published their thoughts and reflections on the death of Freddie Gray in American Short Fiction. Their powerful commentaries focused on the problematic use of cliches in how the Baltimore riots were described and the tactics of police in certain neighborhoods in the city.

Lia PurpuraIn “Baltimore, April 2015: Some Thoughts on Thugs and Clichés,” Purpura wrote about some of the words that were surrounding descriptions of the riots (thugs, criminals, etc.) and the need to listen and reflect to fully understand the complexity of the situation: “What can done to accurately communicate the complexity of Baltimore, April 2015? Slow the language way down. Occupy the space clichés have claimed—clichés want to buddy up, cozy up, shut the door and flip the lock. Set up, in place of clichés, language that searches, creates friction, challenges sensibilities. Restless language. Language arrived at after listening hard. Refuse the ease of rant and cant—the power gained by repeating words that have come before yours, and that no longer work.” An excerpt of Purpura’s commentary was also published in the Baltimore Sun.

DeborahRudacilleIn “Our Depraved Hearts,” Deborah Rudacille wrote about her observations of different police tactics in certain areas of Baltimore City: “We may not have administered the beating, we may not have loaded Gray into the van, but like the subjects of [Sidney] Milgram’s experiment…we acquiesce to the authorities who tell us we will not be held responsible for the state of our city or for the fate of young men like Freddie Gray… Last week white Baltimore joined black Baltimore in rejecting the experiment. The protests and marches around the city have been remarkable for their diversity. I attended one of the rallies at City Hall and saw old people and young, black and white, similarly outraged by Gray’s death.”

To read complete versions of both articles in American Short Fiction, click here.