Christopher Corbett, English, in Vox

Orphans PreferredMore than 150 years after the first mail was delivered via the Pony Express, Vox published an article examining the service that lasted for only 18 months. Christopher Corbett, professor of the practice in the English department, was quoted in the article. He is author of Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express.

“In the American memory, that man is still riding across the country,” said Corbett when reflecting on the Pony Express. He also discussed how the mail service’s business model played a major role in its undoing.

The business was always doomed. “It hemorrhaged money from the first day,” Corbett said. “It was a bit of a madcap idea from the get-go … the structure of the business was deeply flawed.”

In the article, he also described the legacy of the Pony Express in American memory: Corbett says the appeal of the Pony Express is obvious: it’s an American myth without American tragedy. The bloodshed, suffering, and seediness of the Wild West aren’t part of the myth of the short-lived delivery service. “It’s a benign memory of the Old West,” he says. “It’s a powerfully romantic figure on the back of a fast horse.”

To read the full article in Vox, click here.

Lia Purpura, English, to Present Reading at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (4/10)

Lia PurpuraEnglish Writer in Residence Lia Purpura is scheduled to present readings from her new book It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts on Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m. The reading will be part of an event with the Poulenc Trio, a Baltimore-based wind trio that has been presenting virtuosic performances for over a decade.

Purpura, whose work frequently appears in New Yorker magazine, will pair excerpts from her forthcoming book with a new arrangement for the Trio of Alfred Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style. For more information on the event, click here.

Update: On the day of the performance, Purpura appeared on WYPR’s Maryland Morning with the trio to discuss her work. To listen to the full segment, click here.

Marion Elizabeth Rodgers (3/31)

For more than a quarter of a century, Marion Elizabeth Rodgers has been considered the foremost authority on the American critic and journalist H.L. Mencken as well as the editor of his works.

Marion Elizabeth RodgersMencken was born and lived his entire life in Baltimore where he was long associated with the Baltimore Sun papers along with editing two of the nation’s most distinguished literary magazines – The American Mercury and The Smart Set.  He was also the author of The American Language.

Ms. Rodgers is the author of a critically acclaimed biography – “Mencken: The American Iconoclast” – published by Oxford University Press in 2007. She also edited “Mencken and Sara: A Life in Letters: The Private Correspondence of H.L. Mencken and Sara Haardt.” In addition, she edited Mencken’s six-part “Prejudices” series in their most recent and definitive edition (Library of America). She is also the editor of “The Impossible H.L. Mencken: A Selection of His Best Newspaper Stories” published in 1991.

Most recently, Ms. Rodgers edited the definitive “H. L. Mencken: The Days Trilogy, Expanded Edition: (Library of America)” published last year. Mencken’s memoirs, which began in the 1940s as installments in The New Yorker, included more than 200 never-before-published pages of his notes.  There is no single American writer and critic more knowledgeable about “the sage of Baltimore.”

Marion Elizabeth Rodgers will speak on March 31 at 8:30 a.m. in PAHB 428 (Advanced Journalism Seminar).  Visitors are welcome.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, and Michele Osherow, English, Reflect on Experience Performing “The Mathematics of Being Human”

ManilSuriHeadShotIn an article in the March 6 edition of India Abroad magazine, Mathematics professor Manil Suri discussed the play he performed and co-wrote with English associate professor Michele Osherow, “The Mathematics of Being Human.” The play is an outgrowth of a seminar that the two professors jointly taught that bridged their areas of expertise. In the article, Suri participated in a Q&A about the play and his experience teaching with Osherow. To read the full article, click here.

Michele OsherowSuri and Osherow, both alumni of Carnegie Mellon University, were also interviewed for a recent news article on the university’s website about the play. In the story, they discussed the value of teaching a course that combined study of math and literature. “We’re trying to suggest that interdisciplinary teaching is extremely hard — there’s something to pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone,” Osherow said.

On March 8, the “Mathematics of Being Human” will make its New York City premiere at the National Museum of Mathematics. For more information, click here. In addition, Suri and Osherow will be performing an excerpt of the play on math and King Lear at the National Academy of Science’s DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) on March 19 in Washington, D.C. The performance will be held to celebrate the Man Ray exhibit “A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare” at the Phillips. For more information, click here

March 19 update: to read a Washington Post article about “The Mathematics of Being Human, click here.    

Christopher Corbett, English, in Baltimore Style

Christopher Corbett, English, recently penned an essay reflecting on the harsh winter months in Baltimore Style.

In the piece, Corbett decries January as the most unloved month, calling it the season of remorse. He writes, “January is really about winter, the bleak midwinter spoken of in the poem and hymn… I do not believe anyone enjoys January. We endure it.”

Click here to read “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

Lia Purpura, English, in The New Yorker

Lia PurpuraIn its January 19th issue, The New Yorker published a poem by English Writer in Residence Lia Purpura. The text of Purpura’s poem “Probability” is below. An audio recording of Purpura reading her poem can be found here. A link to previous poems by Purpura published in The New Yorker can be found here.


Most coincidents are not
miraculous, but way more
common than we think—
it’s the shiver
of noticing being
central in a sequence
of events
that makes so much
seem wild and rare—
because what if it wasn’t?
Astonishment’s nothing
without your consent.

Piotr Gwiazda, English, Publishes New Book

Piotr Gwiazda, English, has published a new book US Poetry in the Age of Empire, 1979-2012 (Palgrave Macmillan).

Examining poetry by Robert Pinsky, Adrienne Rich, and Amiri Baraka, among others, this book shows that leading US poets since 1979 have performed the role of public intellectuals through their poetic rhetoric.

Piotr Gwiazda’s argument aims to revitalize the art of poetry and reaffirm its social value in an era of global politics and culture.