Department of English at Princeton Annual Report 2019 - 20
Letter From the Chair
Who We Are & What We Do
Letter from the Associate Chair
Our Commitment to Anti-Racist Teaching and Reseach
10 Faculty Accomplishments 19 Enlarging Our Understanding
Conferences and Events
New Directions in Teaching
23 Our Intellectual Community
Humanities Council Visiting Fellows
26 Teaching and Learning
Report from Director of Undergraduate Studies
Report from Director of Graduate Studies
Prizes Awarded to students in the English Department
New and Redesigned courses in response to Racial
Justice Protests, Global Pandemic and other matters
34 Public Writing 35 Teaching Faculty and Lecturers in the English Department 2019 to 2020 36 Our Staff Community
Annual Report / 2019-20
Letter from the
Chair “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This famous line from Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” provides an apt description of the 2019-20 academic year for the English department at Princeton. Let me start with the best of times: When I took over as Chair of the Department in the fall of 2019 after a year of leave as an Old Dominion Research Professor in the Humanities Council, it seemed to be the beginning of an auspicious academic year. And since I was simultaneously serving as President of the Modern Language Association (MLA), I had a good perspective on the changes taking place in the field of literary studies across the United States. I was attuned to the crisis confronting the humanities in what has come to be defined as the age of STEM and the difficult task of making a case for a humanistic education in the brave new world of science and technology. I also had an opportunity to compare the Princeton Department of English with other leading departments in the country, and was proud to hear the department cited by our peers as a model of how to re-imagine literary studies in the 21st century. I felt energized by the group of assistant professors we had hired in recent years, their diversity and range of intellectual interests. On January 12, 2020, I returned from giving my presidential address at the MLA conference in Seattle confident that our field would eventually overcome the structural problems that had been confronting it since the financial crisis of 2008. At the beginning of March, I represented Princeton University at the annual National Humanities Conference in Washington, D.C., and spent a day lobbying the New Jersey delegation to add its weight to the funding of the National Endowment for the Arts. As we ushered in the spring semester, I was confident that nothing could derail the plans we had laid out for the future. Then the worst of times came and turned April into the cruelest month. If I may borrow a phrasing from Virginia Woolf, on or around March 13, 2020, the world changed. COVID-19 announced its arrival, leading to the scattering of our community in different directions and scuttling all the plans we had laid out for the year. This combined newsletter and annual report is a record of how the department responded to the crisis triggered by COVID-19 with a combination of commitment, care and concern for our students and faculty. It reflects our determination that even in the face of unprecedented challenges, the Department of English would continue to play its historic role as a center for the study of the humanities at Princeton and the nation at large. It is also a record of our collective ability to turn challenges into opportunities. Like other Princeton units, the Department of English moved quickly to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19 by figuring out the best ways in which we could maintain our focus on teaching, advising and faculty research, virtually and from a distance. To achieve optimal goals, we quickly galvanized our traditional strengths in innovative and collaborative teaching and drew on the expertise of many of our faculty who had been working in areas related to digital learning. In addition, we were concerned that the absence of faceto-face engagement might impair a renewed interest in English and the humanities in general. We hence embarked on an aggressive program of support for undergraduate students, setting up summer programs that are already changing how we prepare our concentrators for their senior year and induct our new concentrators. 1
Letter from the Chair
The letter from the Associate Chair, Professor Sophie Gee, outlines the many initiatives the department took in response to the pandemic and how we positioned ourselves in a transformed teaching environment. From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the major challenge faced by the department was how to meet the immense and urgent needs of our graduate students, especially those in the final years of the program whose employment and postdoctoral projects had been halted. In the absence of direct support from the Graduate School, we fell back on our internal resources and were able to provide financial support to our sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-year students. I’m grateful to the officers of the department and our colleagues who so selflessly took on the task of providing leadership and guidance at a trying moment. In June 2020, the department held a virtual Class Day to recognize a remarkable group of students
“We will continue to make the case, in the strongest terms possible, that the study of literatures and languages not only prepares students for meaningful careers, but also provides unique modes of learning and experience.”
whose rite of passage was unusual as it was unexpected. In my brief address to this group, I noted that although the pandemic had interrupted the journey of the Class of 2020, I had no doubt that having confronted the crisis, they triumphed over it. Looking back on that moment now, I feel confident that while the pandemic may have led to delays and setbacks, each member of this class, like others who have passed through the Department of English at Princeton, will go on to succeed in their chosen careers and to fulfill their desires. The pandemic will not stop them from following in the footsteps of our distinguished alumni in a range of fields ranging from journalism and communication specialists, education and law, to medicine and entertainment. I could have said the same of our graduate students who, in what appeared to be a bleak year, scrambled to complete their dissertations to remain competitive in a shrinking marketplace. I salute the many advisers who gave up their time over the summer to make sure that research projects were finished on time. Looking to the future, I think that the central issue the department faces is how to maintain its position as a leading humanities department in the face of an institutional shift toward STEM subjects. We will continue to make the case, in the strongest terms possible, that the study of literatures and languages not only prepares students for meaningful careers, but also provides unique modes of learning and experience. I believe, as do my colleagues, that the teaching of the humanities has never been more important, and we continue to do work that is both responsive to an increasingly complex world — one burdened by inequality — and attentive to the plurality of the stories that tell
us who we are. This is a great moment for the Department of English to offer stories of many different kinds and from many different perspectives. As I read the report that follows, I feel immensely proud of members of our faculty, students and alumni for their accomplishments. I celebrate the number of books, book chapters and articles published in 2019. I welcome the different platforms in which this work is being published, including public facing outlets. I also want to acknowledge the work put in by our staff in ensuring the successful completion of a year of living dangerously. Finally, I want to reach out to our alumni spread across the world. Some of my happiest moments as Chair have been seeing the names of our alumni as they occupy important positions in the world as university and college presidents, leaders in the corporate and philanthropic world, professors and teachers, journalists and media specialists, doctors and lawyers. It is my hope that this combined newsletter and annual report reaches you wherever you are in the world and serves as an invitation to reconnect.
Simon Gikandi Robert Schirmer Professor of English
Annual Report / 2019-20
The Next Chapter:
Adetobi Osarume Moses ’18 Ph.D. candidate, University of Pennsylvania
How did being an English major prepare and/or help you in the work you do now? Being an English major taught me a lot about the influence of rhetoric and messages beyond literary texts. Furthermore, applying those skills to everyday life taught me about the material impact these constructs can have on people’s lives. This framework of thinking ultimately helped me decide to pursue a Ph.D. in Communications, which I am currently working on at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Finally, my time in the English department enhanced my love of stories and words. It’s part of the reason I decided to seriously dedicate my time to writing creatively since I graduated. I recently finished writing The Mute’s Memoir — what I hope will be my first novel — the story of 13-year-old Ayo — the oldest child and only daughter of an immigrant Nigerian family living in Massachusetts. Ayo is grappling with the resurgence of her dead baby sister, who intends to get revenge on her family for her untimely death. What advice would you give yourself today if you were just starting at Princeton? I would advise myself to really take advantage of office hours and get the English distribution requirements out of the way as early as possible! I would also tell myself to take as many classes as I can in diverse subjects and departments. Lastly, I would tell myself to take the language requirement seriously and try to spend at least one summer in an immersion program or abroad if possible. What do you feel most nostalgic for about Princeton? I miss the classes, working as a baker at Murray-Dodge, and the diversity of the Princeton community! What’s the most interesting book, article, film or other English major-y text you’ve come across recently? Right now, I’m reading “PET” by Akwaeke Amezi and I think it’s a fantastic YA book that deals with a lot of important topics about identity and the world in an honest and imaginative way.
Department of English
Who We Are and What We Do We value civic engagement, and we understand reading, writing, discussion and debate to be fundamental democratic skills. We build communities that reach beyond McCosh Hall into the world and across generations. We have books in common, but our work takes in film, photography, sound studies and other media. These interdisciplinary interests are matched by a diversity of critical approaches. Our world-renowned faculty offer seminars in every major historical field of concentration, from medieval to contemporary literatures, as well as a wide range of theoretical specializations in fields such as gender and sexuality studies, performance studies, environmental humanities, critical race studies, literary theory, postcolonialism and cultural studies. The Princeton Department of English trains undergraduates and graduate students to read closely and critically, and to write persuasively and vividly. Literary study cultivates intimacy and intellectual skill with many kinds of texts, enlarges analytical and imaginative capacities, sharpens perception of inner lives and public movements, and encourages a lifelong practice of interpreting the world around us with rigor, nuance and care. Faculty and students together take up the debates that shape the field today. We balance longstanding strengths in historical fields and Anglophone texts with the knowledge and critical awareness that come from crossing languages, borders and disciplinary boundaries in fields such as Asian American, Latinx and Indigenous literatures. We are urgently committed to anti-racist teaching and research, as well as engagement with other pressing social and political problems — literature in English has always drawn strength and polemical vitality from global events, and so, as its students, do we.
Professor Tamsen Wolff, Director of Undergraduate Studies, organized Open Houses, seminars and outreach programs that introduced first- and second-year students to the diversity and breadth of texts and courses offered in the English Department.
Our Staff Community We sincerely thank our extraordinary
John Lacombe, Financial Assistant
administrative staff, who enable the
Melissa Andrie, Office Support/Events
Department of English to run so well,
who greet our many visitors on arrival at
Michael Rivera, Computing and Technical
McCosh Hall and who make our phys-
ical and organizational environment so
Special thanks to Julie Clack, Communications Strategist, and Andrew
Karen Mink, English Department Manager
Ferris, graduate student assistant, for their
Sarah Meadows, Business Manager
hard work in producing the annual report.
Kevin Mensch, Manager, Computing and Technical Support
Thanks also to designer Phil Unetic and
Pat Guglielmi, Graduate Administrator
copy editor Kelly Lorraine Andrews.
Kelly Lake, Undergraduate Administrator
Annual Report / 2019-20
Our Commitment to Anti-Racist Teaching and Research The Princeton Department of English supports and actively seeks to promote anti-racism within and beyond our teaching and research. We join with all people of conscience in the United States and across the world in condemning the police violence that has taken so many Black lives, and we mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Trayvon Martin, and many, many more.
“We strive for active anti-racism in our classrooms and our scholarship as a means of raising awareness and changing consciousness.”
We also celebrate the potential and the power of the teaching, writing and scholarship of faculty, graduate students and undergraduates to dismantle racism and challenge white supremacy past and present. As critical readers of literary texts, we confront firsthand how these values are created and defended. We also have access to a vast store of rich, moving, heartbreaking and joyful stories in which we can witness the destruction of racist practices and ideologies. We strive for active anti-racism in our classrooms and our scholarship as a means of raising awareness and changing consciousness. We seek to investigate racist beliefs and practices with rigor and compassion. We emphasize our determination to join together in this anti-racist work — work that has too often been carried mostly by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islanders and other people of color. We believe such work can be done most successfully together, in community, with freedom and shared values.
In this work, we confront literary study’s long history as a prop to the worst forces of imperialism and nationalism, and its role in underwriting crimes of slavery and discrimination. Such a history compels us to continually reflect on how we read and teach literature and to actively dissociate literary studies from their colonial and racist uses. With renewed urgency, we can read the long history of dissidence and free imagination that is the best legacy of books across time and tradition. In this work, we will depend upon the vast energies of writers now writing, in whose words the causes of abolition and racial justice burn with wisdom and exigency. Simon Gikandi, Chair; Sophie Gee, Associate Chair; Eduardo Cadava, Director of Graduate Studies; Jeff Dolven, Director of Undergraduate Studies; and members of the Executive Committee: Diana Fuss, Christina León, Paul Nadal and Sarah Rivett.
Department of English
Letter from the
Associate Chair What does the Associate Chair do? The A.C. plans the English department’s undergraduate and graduate teaching programs, assists the Chair in the day-to-day running of the department and coordinates the annual report you are now reading. I work closely with our remarkable administrative staff, one of the most rewarding parts of the job. If we gave this extraordinary year a theme, I wonder if it could be the finding of new possibilities amid unwelcome circumstances? When we planned out our curriculum in fall 2019, we had no idea what the 2020-21 academic year would have in store. It was a mighty effort in March for faculty and students alike to move classes online in the space of a week. Amid the sense of being lost and disoriented by the changes, faculty members and students also started pointing out that remote teaching offered the chance to connect more authentically with students and teachers, and to experiment with new ways of communicating and developing ideas. Everyone agreed that time offline, breaking the Zoom-trance, was crucial. We also realized that teaching smaller groups is essential, because we can shift away from talking at, and emphasize talking with. In April, the English department appointed an ad hoc committee on remote teaching (chaired by Bill Gleason, with Monica Huerta, Meredith Martin, Kinohi Nishikawa and Rebecca Rainof). The committee produced an extremely helpful “Best Practices for Remote Learning” handbook. This document has guided our shift to remote teaching this fall, and was widely circulated around campus as an exemplary guide. The committee’s insights may prove equally valuable once we return to in-person teaching because they focus on imaginative and flexible teaching strategies during this epoch of global turmoil. In some ways, English is an easy sell, because our students will fall in love with the books they read. But the pleasure factor can make it seem an “easy” or impractical major. We’ve focused on creating courses that welcome students into the department, and show the breadth of skills and ideas that can be studied under the designation ENG. “English” doesn’t only, or primarily, involve reading books produced in an Anglo-American tradition. As you’ll see from the short interviews with alumni and public writing by faculty and alumni, the breadth of topics we cover, combined with intimate, personal teaching, make the English major extremely versatile. Newly developed and re-imagined courses in 2020 and 2021 include introductory and upper-level classes in Asian American literature, queer- and trans-studies classes, a new introductory science fiction course, a course on medieval Africa and a course that addresses and counters the white supremacy of “Victorian studies.” Faculty who do teach the “traditional” fields (Medieval, Renaissance, 18th-century British literature, etc.)
Annual Report / 2019-20
are doing so in new ways. We offer large lecture classes that draw students across campus (like “American Cinema” and “Science Fiction”), and a menu of small courses with an intimate classroom environment (“Latinx Autobiography” and “Introduction to Indigenous Studies,” for example). Later in this report, you’ll find details of many new and re-imagined courses. This year, even more than in the past, we’re working on effective outreach among students
“We’ve focused on creating courses that welcome students into the department, and show the breadth of skills and ideas that can be studied under the designation ENG.”
on campus, as well as alumni and our broader community. We’re thrilled to have appointed an outreach officer, Rebecca Rainof, who is one of two senior research scholars in our department. Another important decision in 2019 to 2020 was to share the workload more fairly, given that some members of our department are jointly appointed with other units. Joint appointees will now have partial service roles and advising loads. Going forward, we are seeking other ways to even out the workload among faculty and support our assistant professors during the most research-intense period of their careers. In February 2020, we hired Assistant Professor Robbie Richardson, who works on 18th-century global and Indigenous studies. Prof. Richardson’s hire was also supported by the Dean of Faculty’s Target of Opportunity program. Prof. Richardson comes to Princeton from his position as senior lecturer in the School of English at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. In his well-regarded monograph titled “The Savage and the Modern Self: North American Indians in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture” (University of Toronto Press, 2018), Richardson writes about the use and meaning of material objects in Indigenous cultures during the 18th century. He shows that the material
cultures of North American Indigenous peoples were appropriated and transformed through contact with European (especially British) imperial power in the period, and that the use and meaning of “savage” people and objects are mediated by domination, exchange and the construction of strategic and diplomatic relationships between Indigenous Americans and Europeans. Prof. Richardson joins Princeton’s emerging Indigenous Studies program. He will offer classes involving museums, repatriation and the future of Indigenous objects. His new work expands beyond North America to include the Indigenous material cultures of South America, Oceana and Australia. Leaning toward, not away from, the difficulties and limitations we’re working with while acknowledging challenges to the future of the humanities, has helped define new possibilities and priorities for Princeton’s Department of English. I hope this sense of opening and growth will be apparent from the rich and deep engagements described in this report.
Sophie Gee Associate Professor
The Next Chapter:
Tao Leigh Goffe ’09 Assistant professor at Cornell How did being an English major prepare and/or help you in the work you do now? Being an English concentrator at Princeton was the most excellent training I can imagine in preparation for pursuing a Ph.D. The junior papers I wrote on British Islamic hip hop and Caribbean Chinese literature and senior thesis on Afro-Asian theatricality prepared me for the undertaking of independent research. I just found the bound copy of my thesis the other day and it reminded me of how rigorous, generative, and formative the process was. What advice would you give yourself today if you were just starting at Princeton? I had four majors (biology, art and archaeology, economics, religion) before I eventually switched and declared English as a concentration. I would have committed my intention here earlier in English if I could give myself advice today, because I found a real intellectual home in the range of courses offered by the brilliant English faculty in the mid 2000s from classes on Chinatown to Jane Austen to the ‘racial masquerade.’ I was able to take a class on literary criticism by Toni Morrison entitled “The Foreigner’s Home” on literatures of dispossession; that class changed my life. What’s the turning-point moment, choice or decision in your life after Princeton that has been most unexpected? The biggest turning-point in my life has been starting a new job as a tenure track professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I was hired to teach on queer ecologies and the Caribbean. I have never lived in a rural setting before, so it has been an adventure to consider a different set of ecologies and demographics than I am used to. Ithaca is a blue bubble, politically speaking, surrounded by an ocean of red. In response to wanting to understand my local environment, I have started a collective on Black and Indigenous theory, devoted to storytelling called the Dark Laboratory. At the crossroads of the dispossession of Native sovereignty and its entanglement, I have founded this engine against settler colonialism to investigate the underpinnings of institutions like the Ivy League. (https://www.darklaboratory.com/) What’s the most interesting book, article, film or other English major-y text you’ve come across recently? At the moment I am reading Gerard Aching’s wonderful work “Masking and Power: Carnival and Popular Culture in the Caribbean.” It is a fascinating analysis of the political language and social conduct of carnival culture, which I have had the chance to partake in recently as part of research in Trinidad and Tobago. Cultures of the street and outdoors performances of dressing up makes me think about what “the street” represented adjacent to Princeton. Especially because of this moment of global quarantine, I’m hyper aware of the rituals of sociality that we are all missing.
Annual Report / 2019-20
Department of English
Faculty Accomplishments Sarah M. Anderson
Zahid R. Chaudhary
Anne A. Cheng
I am currently working on a book-length project on medieval stargazing, part of which was published in August 2020 as an invited submission in the journal Arthuriana. In this project, I consider human acts of looking at the stars or at what were thought to be stars. I raise critical questions about Walter Benjamin’s use of “constellation,” concepts of “assembly” and figurae, and the global transmission of knowledge evidenced by the astrolabe itself and other astronomical or calculative texts. I wouldn’t mind making a simple astrolabe and learning to use the danged thing either!
a template for training and educating students to conduct interdisciplinary research using interactive digital platforms. And in my capacity as the President of the Executive Board of the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia, I have co-curated and overseen a series of recent projects: one in response to the pandemic, one in response to the recent protests after the murder of George Floyd, an election guide and a fund to support Slought staff and collaborators.
Eduardo Cadava I am one of three principal investigators for a project titled “Exposure.” The project involves a field measurement and outreach centered on environmental justice issues in the red rock desert surrounding Bears Ears and Grand StaircaseEscalante National Monuments. These lands are the ancestral home of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian Tribe. “Exposure” examines land use, extractive mining, environmental racism and their impacts on native communities in the American Southwest. Additionally, I received a grant to support a project with two graduate students and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-Santa Cruz to fund a five-month project titled “Gas Exchanges and the Right to Breathe.” This will establish
questions. “Sacrificial Citizenship: On Muslims and Assimilation in a Neoliberal Frame” was published in the journal Social Text. It analyzes the discourse concerning the assimilation of Muslim minorities in the United States and suggests that calls for assimilation are solicitations for a form of self-renunciation and sacrifice, and a part of an overlapping history of “The Jewish Question.” The article reads the discourse on Muslim assimilation in light of the psychological, political and economic realities of neoliberalism, especially its authoritarian tendencies. The article argues that sacrificial figuration allows us to think past the polarizations (West/rest; Trump supporters/Muslims) of our contemporary historical moment.
Zahid R. Chaudhary This past year I published two articles. “The Politics of Exposure: Truth after Post-Facts” appears in the journal English Literary History and grew out of a talk I gave at the English Institute’s 2018 conference. It deals with contemporary problems with discourses of truth, including the predicament of whistleblowers, the proliferation of digital disinformation, the extractive imperatives of data economies and the impossibility of exposing the truth when exposé becomes itself a game. The second article also deals with contemporary political
Anne Anlin Cheng My latest book, “Ornamentalism,” came out in January 2019 from Oxford University Press. The book has generated engaged conversation from many quarters. I discussed the book in an interview with the New Books
Annual Report / 2019-20
“Exposure differs from mere truth-telling because in its political, cultural, and economic operations, disclosure of the truth and banishment from the circle of life operate in tandem with each other.”
–Zahid Chaudhary in “The Politics of Exposure”
Network, and there has also been a significant response in the arts community. An exhibition, titled “Ghost in the Ghost,” with six contemporary installation artists paid a tribute to the book in the summer of 2019, in the gallery Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Brooklyn, New York. And in spring 2020, the book made a guest appearance in the artwork of New York artist Charles Mai.
“In attending to the artisanal, synthetic, technological, and aesthetic processes of making, Cheng offers no less than a thorough reworking of the dichotomies that have thus far structured racial thinking — self/ other, subject/object, inner/outer, surface/depth, and agency/injury. [...] Cheng asks: What if modes of objecthood were to precede and precondition any fantasy of subject, human, or person? What would happen to our politics if the redemptive pathway of liberal subject formation were, from the start, foreclosed? [...] The insights yielded by such an approach are astounding and profound.” —Sunny Xiang, “The Peculiar Objecthood of the ‘Yellow Woman’,” Los Angeles Review of Books, March 18, 2019
Sarah Chihaya I have continued to explore different ways to write together with other scholars and critics. In 2015, I started a collaborative project responding to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels at the journal Post45, and the letters and essays that emerged are now
collected in book form in “The Ferrante Letters: An Experiment in Collective Criticism” (Columbia University Press, 2020). I’ve also published in a new collective column, “Reading Room,” which appears in The Point magazine (available online), an effort that has proven especially fruitful in this time of isolation.
In Other Words
A Defense of Paraphrase
“[T]he indefinite potential of paraphrase is also a commitment to abiding in language,” Dolven writes.
on the text. The pamphlet, in keeping with the original 16th-century Flugschriften, or flying writings, is meant to travel and is free for download.
Sophie Gee “Stitched together, the letters give you the impression of being a fly on the wall at a top-notch slow book club,” Ellen Wiles in the Times Literary Supplement, April 24, 2020.
I signed a contract with Princeton University Press for my next book, “The Barbarous Feast: Sacrifice, Migration and Eating in the Eighteenth-Century World.” The
Jeff Dolven Last fall, I was talking about the impeachment hearings with a friend of mine who runs a small press, and he suggested I write something for his Flugschriften series. I had been following with attention the way that Trump and others responded to Adam Schiff’s paraphrase of the Ukraine call. It got me thinking about the public and poetic functions of paraphrase, and the result was a pamphlet called In Other Words. I worked with an illustrator and designer, Felipe Mancheno, whose images provide an amazing running commentary
Theodore de Bry’s 1613 engraving of Indigenous “cannibals,” for a Latin translation of Girolamo Benzoni’s 1565 “Historia del Mundo Nuovo.”
William A. Gleason
book is about the many meanings that surround ritual eating in the 18th century, when the Protestant Lord’s Supper collided with ceremonial eating practices from North America, the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere. Prompted by the pandemic, I began a teaching initiative focused on mindfulness and the humanities. The Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön wrote: “when things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test for each of us is to stay on that brink.” I’m asking how practices in mindfulness can reveal new directions for literary criticism by leading us to our “brink.” What happens at our (personal and collective) edges: the places where secure knowledge fades away, and we understand not-knowing as productive?
William A. Gleason
My essay “The Missing Window: Caroline Emmerton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and The House of the Seven Gables,” first published in 2019 in the Nathaniel Hawthorne Review is being republished in the new Norton Critical Edition of “The House of the Seven Gables.”
Simon Gikandi In addition to chairing the English department, I served as President of the MLA from January 2019 to January 2020. During this period, I chaired an MLA Task Force on Ethical Practices in Graduate Education, and I’m currently chairing the search committee for a new editor of the PMLA. I had substantive papers on Chinua Achebe published in the Wiley-Blackwell “Companion to World Literature” and “Research in African Literatures,” and I completed a chapter for “How Literatures Begin: A Global History,” a collection of essays edited by Denis Feeney and Joel Lande forthcoming from Princeton University Press, and an essay on Blackness and European modernism to be published in “Black Modernisms,” edited by Steven Nelson and Huey Copeland from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Monica Huerta My book, “Magical Habits,” officially went into production and will be released August 3, 2021. The book is part of a new series with Duke University Press called Writing Matters!, edited by Lauren Berlant, Saidiya Hartman, Erica
Rand and Kathleen Stewart. I’ve also published a piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books, titled “Anti-Racism and the Problem of the Soul,” and an essay about teaching, “Expanding the Sayable: Listening, Teaching,” on the website Teaching c19.
“Manifestly, characters in Austen’s novels have sex,” Johnson and Tuite observe wryly.
Claudia L. Johnson My latest work, “30 Great Myths about Jane Austen,” co-written with Clara Tuite was published by Wiley-Blackwell. Aimed at a diverse audience of scholars and readers, the book examines the accepted beliefs — both true and untrue — that influence our reading of Austen. It takes on questions that are both historical
“ ‘The House of the Seven Gables’ actively resists the idealization of an American past through the vainglory of its old homes, or old residents,” Gleason argues.
“[T]his moment in Black-led organizing, anti-racist conversations, and abolitionist visioning was getting shrunken into another opportunity for personal enrichment; structural White supremacy-endorsed self-obsession was getting yet another life in fever-pitch clamoring to “learn to be an anti-racist.”
Annual Report / 2019-20
(Myth 15: Jane Austen never mentions the war) and conceptual (Myth 22: Jane Austen was a feminist/Jane Austen was not a feminist). We treat these myths as ideas about Austen that did a lot of cultural work that readers yearned for. Josh Kotin
“The exchanges between Elizabeth and Darcy grow less polite, more intimate, and their composure less assured —they argue, they taunt, they insult each other, they expose each other’s faults, pain, and weakness ... One would have to be willfully unimaginative, or insensate, not to recognize such exchanges as passionate, even vehement.”
–Johnson and Tuite, “30 Myths About Jane Austen”
Joshua Kotin Along with Professor Effie Rentzou from the Department of French and Italian, I organized the “Paris, Modern” workshop series. The workshops brought together international scholars and the Princeton community, generating a new and compelling portrait of art and culture in interwar Paris. Presenters included Professors Roman Utkin (Wesleyan University), Brent Hayes Edwards (Columbia University), Patricia Allmer (University of Edinburgh) and Meredith TenHoor (Pratt Institute). I’ve also been working on my ongoing Shakespeare and Company Project, an expansive digital humanities project that uses sources from the Beach Papers at Princeton University to explore the Shakespeare and Company lending library,
The Next Chapter:
Peter Giovine ’14 Fordham University School of Law, after acting How did being an English major prepare and/or help you in the work you do now? I just started my 1L year of law school. I am spending most of my days reading cases — some of them from the 18th century. Studying English gave me a good sense of structure and vocabulary which helps very much when analyzing a case. Additionally, as an English major, I gained experience forming arguments which is an essential part of legal writing. What advice would you give yourself today if you were just starting at Princeton? I would tell myself that every moment is a learning experience. I learned from running my Russian pronunciations for class by my friend who was a native speaker, from helping my hallmate with a paper, and from debates about philosophy and Shakespeare in the dining hall. I also met some of the kindest people I know at Princeton. Getting to know them was a privilege. What do you feel most nostalgic for about Princeton? I feel most nostalgic for my junior seminar at 7pm in McCosh. One of my favorite memories is coming out of that class, my mind racing with new thoughts. What’s the most interesting book, article, film or other English major-y text you’ve come across recently? Recently, I read “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton. It was a very enjoyable read — and part of it takes place in a law office.
The Paris, Modern workshops examined the literature and culture of Paris from 1905 to 1940 by studying the avant-garde, French modernists, American and British expatriates, and Russian emigres — and their connections to each other.
patrons of which included Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Aimé Césaire, Simone de Beauvoir, Jacques Lacan and Walter Benjamin. After digitizing the records, the project team began developing a new interactive website that will allow the public to explore the lending library membership and track the circulation of books. The next phase of the project will involve coordinating feedback and questions from scholars around the world, developing a global and virtual conversation about the Shakespeare and Company bookshop of interwar Paris. This work looks forward to a 2022 conference honoring the centenary of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
“There are so many treasures left to be discovered. If you stack all the papers in the archive, it would be a 78-foot tower,” [Kotin] said. “I’m still finding treasures – for example, just before the pandemic hit, I found a manuscript for George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique (1924), which Antheil gave to Beach.” —The Guardian on the Shakespeare and Co. Project, directed by Josh Kotin
“[In Cuba], I found myself strewn between the need to hold myself together as an adult, a queer, and a feminist, to pursue my own research interests, to wrestle with my family’s fraught past there, and to maintain my role as a teacher.”
and Ethical Relation in Latina/o Aesthetics,” which appears in “Curiosity Studies: A New Ecology of Knowledge.” My “Curious Entanglements” article is accompanied by an interview on Lynn Borton’s Choose to Be Curious podcast.
Rhodri Lewis I have been continuing work on my new book about Shakespearean tragedy, one chapter of which appeared as “Polychronic Macbeth” in the April 2020 edition of Modern Philology. I have also spent more time than I intended to writing public-facing book reviews. Some of the longer ones were for Prospect (Emma
Christina León This year I published several articles, including “Trace Alignment: Object Relations after Mendieta,” in Post45’s “Someone Else’s Object” series; “Of Face and Forest: Tricky Textures in the Work of Anna Jane MacIntyre,” which was an invited contribution to “VLoSA: The Visual Life of Social Affliction,” edited by David Scott, Erica Moiah James, Nijah Cunningham and Juliet Ali for The Small Axe Project; and “Curious Entanglements: Opacity
Smith’s “This is Shakespeare” and Richard Ovenden’s “Burning the Books” — both excellent), the Times Literary Supplement (James Shapiro’s “Shakespeare in a Divided America” — polished enough, but politically/critically complacent) and the Los Angeles Review of Books (Jonathan Bate’s “How the Classics Made Shakespeare” — which I really didn’t like); I was pleasantly surprised that the Times Literary Supplement and Los Angeles Review of Books let me keep the titles I dreamed up (“Shax Americana” and “The Vanilla of Magical Thinking”). Online, I remain unsure whether the benefits of Twitter outweigh the costs, but I can often be found holding forth about reading, writing, parenting or anything else that comes into my head at @profrhodrilewis.
In the Times Literary Supplement, Lewis examines the widespread conviction “that Shakespeare matters when trying to comprehend the shifting American present.”
The Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) celebrated its fifth year during the 2019-20 academic year, and our theme was “Research and Development.” Our theme in the 2020-21 academic year is “Working,” and we’re launching a series called “How We Work” focused on invisible labor and new directions for humanities doctoral students
Annual Report / 2019-20
across campus. We welcomed back Grant Wythoff, Ph.D. ’13, as our digital humanities strategist this past year, so it’s felt a bit like getting the team together. We’re engaged in several campus-wide initiatives, including working to build a humanities, computing and social justice certificate program and advocating for more community-engaged scholarship via our support of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, which we began sponsoring in 2018. My own work in digital humanities is ongoing. I presented at the annual digital humanities conference in the Netherlands in June 2019, on a program called “The Sonnet Stretcher” and will talk about it at the 2021 MLA virtual conference. I have an essay forthcoming in
the new “Debates in the Digital Humanities” volume on project management for graduate students. The Princeton Prosody Archive continues to expand; two English Ph.D. students — Project Manager Mary Naydan and Yan Che — and I are sorting thousands of books and articles from Eighteenth Century Collections Online in our new collaboration with Cengage. Catie Crandell is our research assistant, working through archives in the history of music that relate to the study of
poetry and writing an essay for the editorial feature of the site. The Historical Poetics reading group held a second conference at University of Texas-Austin in November 2019, where graduate student members of the Historical Poetics reading group read papers and participated in the graduate student caucus.
Paul Nadal This past year I offered “Model Minority Fictions,” a new course that I’ve wanted to teach for some time now. In my own research, I’ve been investigating whether we might locate an alternative genealogy of the model minority myth. My investigation into early American neoliberalism explores how Chicago economists of the late 1950s helped to introduce a different representational schema to the model minority myth, one that helps to explain the specifically economic salience of contemporary model minoritism. I was also invited to submit an article to an upcoming special issue of American Studies on the politics of language. Titled “Cold War Remittance Economy: U.S. Creative Writing and the Importation of New Criticism into the Philippines,” the essay reconstructs a literary genealogy of the impact of U.S. creative writing on Philippine literature in English during the early Cold War period. It addresses the ways in which migrant writers translated the New Criticism they learned in the United States into socially useful literature by engaging a concept of translation as economic exchange.
Kinohi Nishikawa I earned tenure from the University’s Board of Trustees
“As a crucial contribution to Black pulp scholarship and broadly instructive case study, Street Players is certain to be useful to scholars of race and popular culture,” writes Zachary Manditch-Prottas in The Black Scholar.
over the summer. Though I couldn’t celebrate with colleagues in person, I received hearty virtual congratulations from every corner of the department. I presented a portion of my current research project, on African American literature and book design, as part of the Rare Book School’s summer lecture series in bibliography and book history. The lecture, “From Poet to Publisher: Reading Gwendolyn Brooks by Design,” may be listened to on your favorite podcasting app.
Rob Nixon The 25th anniversary celebrations of the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) last fall were a highlight of the year for me. As someone whose appointment is split between English and PEI, I was delighted by the strong representation of the environmental humanities at the event, which attracted hundreds of alumni, faculty, students and visitors from the general public. We have recently added a highly popular environmental
humanities track for undergraduates taking the ENV certificate. We have doubled the number of courses offered in environmental literature, film and ethics. Our undergraduates are clearly finding these new offerings exciting. And finding in these courses challenges that resonate with their ethical principles, their political priorities and their imaginative passions.
I am working on a project about liberalism. I know my mom and others of her generation who are still around are bewildered by the contemporary cultural and political landscape. Old-fashioned liberals like her don’t know what to say to their grandchildren. Mothers and fathers don’t know what to say about how an old planetary system of “universal” values may “still move” (Galileo) an infinitely suspicious and sectarian new one. Is there something left for a mid-century liberalism to say today that doesn’t sound like a particular interest, or identity mantling itself in a language of universalism? I don’t know, but this book is written in the hope that it might be more than that.
I have been contributing to the burgeoning growth of Indigenous Studies at Princeton. My new course, “Introduction to American Literatures” is cross-listed Esther Schor, “Life As We Know It,” Artwork, design and printing by David Sellers, Pied Oxen Printers.
with American Studies and was supported by both a 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education grant and the Program for CommunityEngaged Scholarship. Additionally, I worked with the Program in American Studies and a team of undergraduates to put together an Indigenous Studies website that launched this fall: https:// indigenous.princeton.edu. And I am currently planning a Lenape/ Lunaape language symposium with Professor Suzanne Conklin Akbari of the University of Toronto (and currently at the Institute for Advanced Study). I was featured on the BBC Radio 3 program “The Verb” in a discussion about Native American writing.
Robert Sandberg This past year my play “Zabel in Exile” had a stage reading in Boston. Additionally, along with Princeton faculty’s Vince di Mura, I am in talks with Broadway actor and producer Adam Hyndman about “Mad Dreams,” a musical re-imagining of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Humanities, and was also invited to be the Phi Beta Kappa poet. The poem, “Life As We Know It,” was beautifully designed and hand-printed by David Sellers, but because of the pandemic, I had to record it for the students, rather than read it aloud at the Phi Beta Kappa induction. I also co-taught (with RL Goldberg) a course on autobiography at East Jersey State Prison last fall and hope to return to prison teaching as soon as I can. And as co-director of the Migration Lab of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (along with Patricia Fernández-Kelly), I organized a major international conference on language and migration with keynote addresses by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Prof. Sarah Dryden-Peterson (Harvard Graduate School of Education), as well as a reading by Princeton creative writing faculty Jhumpa Lahiri, Yiyun Li and Aleksandar Hemon. Unfortunately, the conference was postponed, but we plan to offer it either virtually or as a hybrid conference next spring.
Nigel Smith Esther Schor I received the Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the
This past year, I continued to push my book manuscript, “Polyglot Poetics: Transnational Early
Annual Report / 2019-20
D. Vance Smith
Susan J. Wolfson
Modern Literature” to conclusion, which included further research trips to the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Leiden, Kampen) and London. The book charts interaction between different European literatures in the 16th and 17th centuries and decenters our customary notions of literary centers of activity (e.g., London, Paris, Rome, and Florence). I rarely or if ever go to American literary studies events, but just before the lockdown I spoke in Washington, D.C., about the relationship between words and music, which is probably how the largest number of people in America experience the literary most days. This is part of another book I have on the way, based on 11 years of writing songs with Paul Muldoon. In addition to these two projects, I have published articles in Shakespeare Studies, “The Oxford Handbook of Andrew Marvell,” and several edited collections, as well as giving the keynote address at the second “Spiritualism/Freethinkers Symposium” in Amsterdam.
“[L]iterature fills the impossible space between the two convictions, between the faith that language reached the dead, and the logic that denied that it could.”
D. Vance Smith My book, “Arts of Dying: Literature and Finitude in Medieval England,” is out this spring from the University of Chicago Press. I’ve given talks on pandemics related to it, and written a piece (translated into Greek) for a collection on pandemics. I’m wrapping up a book called “Black Silence, White Noise: Race and the Erasure of Africa,” and I’m starting work on a book called “Blood Flowers,” on colonialism, wildlife conservation and flower farming. I gave an Old Dominion lecture from that project in March.
“an admirably researched and beautifully produced volume” written with “poetic grace.” —Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth in The Washington Post
Susan J. Wolfson
of Dying: Literature and Finitude in Medieval England”
“A prescient, disquieting book,” writes Barbara Newman in the London Review of Books.
“Stewart’s exploration of ruins is a nuanced and often surprising study of what she calls ‘human techne.’ She is interested in how visual and verbal artists shape matter into meaningful forms and how those forms—even or especially as they fall apart— provide the matter for further acts of fabrication.” —Robyn Creswell, New York Review of Books
“Their very appearance depends on an act of translation between the past and the present.” Stewart on ruins.
–D. Vance Smith, “Arts
current crisis, have appeared and will be featured in “Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic,” edited by Alice Quinn from Penguin Random House.
My book, “The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture,” was published by the University of Chicago Press. The book has received critical interest and praise both in and outside of the academy. I also completed my extended interview series with Italian poet Antonella Anedda. The interview will appear in the fall issue of The Paris Review’s “Writers at Work Series.” Additionally, several of my poems, octets based upon the
I have published several articles this year on topics including mountain climbing and letter writing in Wordsworth, race and ethics in “Frankenstein,” Byron and Keats. I was also commissioned to write an essay appearing in the program for Mark Grey’s opera “Frankenstein,” which appeared last fall in Brussels. Looking forward, I have been named an Old Dominion Senior Research Fellow and will be working on my latest project, “Romanticism’s Generative Reading.” Additionally, over the past year, several of my poems were published, including “Why should the old cat come to me?”, “Keats hair,” and “John Quincy Adams Seduced by Ottava Rima.”
Department of English
The Next Chapter:
Dr. Benjamin D. Sommers ’00 Health Economist and Assistant Professor at Harvard University
How did being an English major prepare and/or help you in the work you do now? My job requires me to be able to write and communicate with a really diverse set of audiences. I write academic papers for other physicians and for other health economists, but I’m also writing lot of op-eds in newspapers and I do regular media interviews on different policy issues. Being able to express that in a way that isn’t necessarily the standard technical economics jargon is really important. Yesterday I was invited to do my first ever congressional testimony. And that was a situation where I was trying to figure out how to put together the science, and the evidence, and the research that my team’s been doing over the past decade, but also make it understandable to the public and to all of the representatives and their staff. And it really is about persuasiveness. And finally, the other biggest impact of being an English major is that I love literature. What do you feel most nostalgic for about Princeton? My senior thesis experience was this bizarre social experiment on top of the great advising. Starry Schor was my advisor and there were four of us, some of the quirkiest, funniest folks I worked with. I could not believe the email exchanges that we exposed Starry to and that she took in good humor. We would wear costumes to our thesis meetings. We made her a 400-page anthology of all the emails we sent her and she bore it with great grace and a smile. What’s the most interesting book, article, film or other English major-y text you’ve come across recently? A few months ago, we watched the latest adaptation of Little Women and loved it. And I was thinking to myself, I never read this book. I somehow got through high school and four years of college as an English major and never read this. So I started to read it and at some point my son said to me, “you know you’ve been reading that for a while.” And I laughed and thought to myself that this is the kind of very long novel that I used to have read in 48 hours for Jeff Nunokawa’s class. It brought me back, I could imagine being a class with a variety of my professors and discussing that book.
Annual Report / 2019-20
Enlarging Our Understanding Conferences and Events Organized by English Department Faculty “Literature in the Time of Covid,” June-August 2020 Organized by Professors Rebecca Rainof and Tamsen Wolff and funded by a Rapid Response David A. Gardner ’69 Magic MiniGrants for innovation, this community-building initiative in the Department of English offered a program of readings for a summer book club and technical training for student interns for a literary review/podcast. Events included seven book club colloquia, four writing workshops and three podcast workshops.
“Pacific and Atlantic Worlds: Encounters, Ecologies, Epistemologies,” November 21, 2020 This one-day symposium coordinated by Sophie Gee was funded with additional
support from the Humanities Council and the Department of History. It focused on imperial and Indigenous histories of the Atlantic and Pacific worlds in the 18th century. The event featured a lecture about Sir Joshua Reynolds’ portraits of the Cherokee warrior Ostenaco and the Raiatean voyager Mai from the Tahitian archipelago (presented by Kate Fullagar, Macquarie University, Sydney), followed by roundtable discussions by literary scholars and historians: Profs. Julie Kim (Fordham University), Greta Lafleur (Yale University and Institute for Advanced Study), Sarah Rivett (Princeton University), David Armitage (Harvard University), Linda Colley (Princeton University) and Kathleen Wilson (Stony Brook State University of New York).
“The Poetics of Material Life,” November 15-16, 2019 “The Poetics of Material Life” was a symposium convened by Professors Monica Huerta and Carolyn N. Biltoft of The Graduate Institute Geneva. The symposium began with a master class on Aristotle’s “Poetics” by Professor Andrew Ford (Classics) and culminated with a keynote by Professor Martin Jay (Emeritus, University of California-Berkeley), titled “Adorno and the Vicissitudes of Sublimation.” The collective project that evolved over the weekend proposed an interpretation of the “Poetics” that began as a question: What if the “Poetics” was not designed strictly as a commentary on the literary, but rather as a companion to the “Politics”?
“Strange Life: Beauty, Race, & War,” American Studies Collaboratory, October 15-16, 2019 “Strange Life: Beauty, Race, & War” was an interdisciplinary American Studies Collaboratory led by Professor Anne Anlin Cheng along with Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Lynn Loo, Brooklyn-based artist Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin, and Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies Thuy Linh Tu of New York University. The Collaboratory
included a walk-through of Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin’s “Universal Skin Salvation,” a solo installation exhibition in the Lewis Center for the Arts, with the artist, and a one-time “pharma-cosmetic laboratory.” Part of the Program in American Studies’ series on “Strange Life,” the Collaboratory explores the connections between beauty, sensorial delight and the multimillion dollar industry of American cosmetics and the science of medicine and the business of war — in particular, U.S. war in Asia.
“A Single Drop of Ink for a Mirror: A Symposium on Nineteenth-Century Literature and the Visual Arts,” October 4-5, 2019 An interdisciplinary conference organized by Professors Deborah Nord, Rebecca Rainof and Bridget Alsdorf (Art and Archaeology), invited scholars in diverse fields to come together to address new directions in
(University of Chicago), Jonah Siegel (Rutgers University) and Rachel Teukolsky (Vanderbilt University).
“Japanese/America: Transpacific and Hemispheric,” Symposium, February 15, 2019
interdisciplinary studies of literature and the visual arts. A keynote address was given by Caroline Arscott of The Courtauld Institute of Art and speakers included Tim Barringer (Yale University), Kate Flint (University of Southern California-Dornsife), Elizabeth Helsinger
“Japanese/America: Transpacific and Hemispheric” brought together scholars and artists and included lectures, discussions and a musical performance. Professor Anne Anlin Cheng explained that the symposium “explore[d] ‘Japanese/America’ as both a hyphenated and fractured identity whose complexity requires not only a transpacific but also a hemispheric lens.” Presentations included a keynote address by creative writing professor and novelist Karen Tei Yamashita (University of California-Santa Cruz) titled, “Japanese America and the Character of War,” and presentations by Andrew Way Leong (University of California-Berkeley), Iyko Day (Mount Holyoke College) and Karen Umemoto (University of California-Los Angeles) and a panel discussion moderated by symposium organizer Paul Nadal, as well as a musical/ multimedia performance by No-No Boy.
Letters written by T.S. Eliot to Emily Hale Unsealed in 2020
New Directions in Teaching Awards Given by the 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education Sarah M. Anderson ENG 310 / MED 310 “The Old English Period” The concepts of “Anglo-Saxon” — as well as of “England” and “English” — have histories set in motion by and implicated through the dynamic of language and of all that English writes and records. The very earliest stages of this language reflect a knowing construction of a single identity, which effaced a diversity of peoples and languages living in the British Isles in its earliest historical period. A language standard emerges before 1000 CE, and that standard reflects, enforces and is designed to produce a charged, paradigmatic monoculture (e.g., the Old English word “Welsh” means both enslaved and dark). Though “AngloSaxon” identity became more emphatically racialized in modern times, some of its roots
In 2020, Princeton’s library unsealed over 1,000 letters written by T.S. Eliot to Emily Hale, his confidante and lover. Shedding light on their complicated relationship, Professors Susan Stewart and Joshua Kotin interviewed Sally Foss, a student of Hale’s who spent time with Eliot and Hale. Hoss fondly remembers Eliot’s affectionate connection to Hale, his love of wading in streams, and the pleasure he took playing games with children: [Eliot] just loved it. He didn’t want to stop. He said, “I don’t know your names, but I can give you names of cats. Would you want a cat name?” I mean that’s how much fun it was. Right off the bat... didn’t surprise me, in a way. He fell right into it, exactly. Just like something he probably always wanted to do.
Annual Report / 2019-20
grow from the Old English Period, as well as in subsequent histories of and ideas about it. Princeton University, as the holder of the Thomas Jefferson Papers, in some of which President Jefferson theorizes about “AngloSaxon” attitudes and our nation’s Anglophonic kinships, is uniquely able to take up that topic for our times here.
Eduardo Cadava ENG 411 “Mourning America: Emerson and Douglass” Professor Cadava developed a new “practicum” component for this seminar in which students built a collaboratively curated virtual exhibition that focuses on the writings of Emerson and Douglass. Both writers offer models of resistance for the often violent struggles for freedom and justice both inside and outside America — resistances and struggles to realize the promise of an America that to this day still does not exist — which is why it must always be mourned.
Monica Huerta LAO 218 / ENG 258 / AMS 218 “Latinx Autobiography” This course began from the disjoint and relation between the narrated autobiography and the lived life. In reading works by authors including Myriam Gurba, Wendy C. Ortiz, Carmen Maria Machado, Richard Rodriguez and Junot Díaz, we explored not only how writers experiment with the project of narrating a life that contends with the structures and strictures of racial matrices, gender binaries and traumatic abuse — but also how writers test the boundaries of what autobiographies more generally are and are for.
Christina León ENG 408 / GSS 415 / AMS 418 “Queer Literatures: Theory, Narrative, and Aesthetics” Co-taught with RL Goldberg This course read from various trajectories of queer literature and engaged “reading queerly” across race, gender, ability, class and geography. We considered the etymology of queer and think through its affiliate terms: lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans. How are
The Next Chapter:
Hollis Robbins, Ph.D. ’03 Dean of Arts and Humanities at Sonoma State University
How did being an English major prepare and/or help you in the work you do now? If I had to do my doctoral work over again I would go to more late afternoon talks! I had two small children at home and felt I should meet them at the bus stop but they told me much later that they loved playing with their friends in the afterschool program and I could have let them do that and spent a few hours learning from the many scholars who came to give talks in McCosh. What advice would you give yourself today if you were just starting at Princeton? The first turning point moment in my scholarly career came in 2002, in my fourth year of the PhD program, when I met and began collaborating with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and switched my scholarly focus from 19th C British and American literature to African American literature. Everyone told me this was a bad idea and perhaps they are right. I never published my dissertation and initially failed on the job market, though I published my first edited book with Gates in 2004, “In Search of Hannah Crafts: Essays” on The Bondwoman’s Narrative. I finally landed a tenure track job at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, which, after Hurricane Katrina, put a strain on my marriage and led to divorce. I’m now a full professor and Dean of the School of Arts & Humanities at Sonoma State University and just published my sixth book, Forms of Contention: Influence and the African American Sonnet Tradition. I learned the art of closereading poetry from Princeton faculty members Doug Mao, Susan Wolfson, Esther Schor, and Diana Fuss. What do you feel most nostalgic for about Princeton? Firestone Library! I’m still in touch with many fellow former Princeton graduate students on social media. We’re all nostalgic for the era of typing our papers in the room with the computer terminals. What’s the most interesting book, article, film or other English major-y text you’ve come across recently? I’ve been teaching the first decade of W.E.B. Du Bois’s “The Crisis” magazine, which is readily available online. Students are both startled and impressed by its sophistication and relevance and wonder why they haven’t encountered it before. I recommend reading issues cover to cover, including the ads for typewriters and higher education.
such narratives encounters with power that are historically situated in relation to the national formations, carceral states and racial capitalism?
Meredith Martin ENG 346 “19th-Century Poetry” Professor Martin redesigned this course (and changed its title from “Victorian Poetry”) to emphasize the global circulation of poetry in the Anglophone world, to teach how the poetry produced in England by canonical poets both engaged with and promoted white supremacy, and to engage the online format. Martin and her students collaboratively built an alternate history of 19th-century poetry.
Paul Nadal ENG 300 “World Scale” Professor Nadal designed a new junior seminar in critical writing that examines the relationship between narrative perspective and power. The primary goal of the class was to teach students critical modes of reading and writing about literature that will empower them to probe further into the globalizing frameworks that shape the way we talk about race, belonging, climate change and globalization. Although “World Scale” was taught remotely, the course emphasized a highly interactive workshop-style of learning.
Sarah Rivett ENG 229 / AMS 229 “Introduction to Indigenous Literatures” This course read Indigenous literatures to reflect on, critique and contest settler colonialism, or the dispossession of land and waters and the attempt to eliminate Indigenous people. Students engaged in projects that impact Indigenous Studies initiatives at Princeton by building partnerships with Indigenous communities — locally, nationally and internationally. Community-engaged projects and readings by Native American and Aboriginal Canadian authors connected Indigenous histories across time and space to invite new ways of thinking about the past, present and future of the Americas and the world.
Vance Smith HUM 352 / ENG 352 / URB 352 / THR 350: “Arts and the Invisible City: Race, Policy, Performance” This course will study the role that the arts can play in the modern urban experience, focusing on Trenton, New Jersey’s burgeoning artistic scene. Trenton is a so-called “invisible city,” one of the poorest parts of the state situated in the same county as some of the wealthiest parts. It will examine the historical reasons that this is so, focusing especially on the role that historical and contemporary racisms have played — and still play. Onsite or virtual investigations will include art galleries, theaters and music venues. The course will meet with activists, policymakers, artistic directors, politicians and artists. This course is also intended as an introduction to a career in arts administration and arts policy, especially from the perspective of communities of color and both community organizations and nonprofit enterprises.
Autumn Womack AAS/ENG 353 “African American Literature, Origins to 1900” Professor Womack redesigned this course to spotlight Black literary engagements with resistance, revolt and revolution. In addition to revising lectures and incorporating new readings to illuminate the history of Black activism and political expression, Womack created new learning opportunities that are specific to an online environment, allowing students to critically interrogate contemporary expressions of anti-racism and revolution.
Humanities Council “Magic” Grant for 2020 to 2021: “Language To Be Looked At” Joshua Kotin (English); Irene Small (Art and Archaeology) This seminar focuses on the intersection of language and visual art in the 20th century. We begin by examining modernist and avantgarde experiments in word and image and then investigate the global rise of concrete and visual poetry and text-based art movements after World War II.
2020 Rapid Response Grants: Faculty and Research Staff Projects: “Literature in the Time of Covid” Rebecca Rainof (English) and Tamsen Wolff (English) This community-building initiative in the Department of English offers readings for a summer book club and technical training for student interns for a literary review/podcast. The podcast will feature pieces honed in a writing workshop for the Princeton University community.
New Phase of “Shakespeare and Company Project” Joshua Kotin (English) A graduate student research assistant will coordinate feedback and questions from scholars around the world, developing a global and virtual conversation about the Shakespeare and Company bookshop of interwar Paris. The project helps prepare for a 2022 conference honoring the centenary of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which Shakespeare and Company published in 1922.
“Gas Exchanges and the Right to Breathe” Eduardo Cadava (English), Jonathan Aguirre (Spanish and Portuguese), Zulaikha Ayub (Architecture), Daniela Gandorfer (Comparative Literature) Research assistants will support the inaugural investigation of the Loφ Lab, founded by Princeton University scholars to tackle challenges posed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studying the historical, legal, sociopolitical and scientific conditions that enable or prohibit breathing, the team will produce multimedia for the general public on topics like gendered and racialized inequalities surrounding air pollution, the choking of Eric Garner and George Floyd and the extractivist history of artificial gases.
Annual Report / 2019-20
Our Intellectual Community Humanities Council Visiting Fellows Amanda Anderson, Andrew W. Mellon
Kirsten Silva Gruesz, Professor of
Professor of Humanities and English, Brown University Visiting Whitney J. Oates Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Department of English
Literature, University of California- Santa Cruz Visiting Whitney J. Oates Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Department of English
Professor Anderson’s work spans from Victorian literature to expansive questions of the interactions between theory, morality, politics and literature. At Princeton, she presented new work in a lecture on “Moral Thought in the Age of Therapy.” This talk explored the ascendance of psychology in the 20th century and its consequential effects on our frameworks for understanding the moral life.
Elizabeth A. Wilson, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Emory University Visiting Whitney J. Oates Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Department of English Professor Wilson’s work in queer theory and affect theory draws on psychology, historical methodologies and cognitive science. While at Princeton, she offered an interdisciplinary graduate seminar, “Introduction to Critical Theory: Feminism, Queer, Deconstruction.”
Spring 2020 Stephen Michael Best, Professor of English, University of California-Berkeley Visiting Edward T. Cone Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Department of English Professor Best’s work encompasses American and African American literature and culture, rhetoric and the law, and film and
Professor Gruesz specializes in the study of Chicano/Latino/a/x literary cultures and in the history of print culture from the colonial period to the present. During her time at Princeton, Professor Gruesz offered a series of events, including “Archiving América: A Hemispheric Approach,” a faculty/grad lunch conversation; “Framing Latinx and Migration Narratives,” a graduate workshop; a public lecture titled “From the Puritan Errand to the Errant Latin(x): Language, Race, and American Memory”; and a lunch talk in conjunction with the Program in Latino Studies on “Conducting Research on Latino/a/x People.”
photo credit: Jason DeCaires Taylor
EBERHARD L. FABER CLASS OF 1915 MEMORIAL LECTURE IN LITERATURE
contemporary art. At Princeton, Professor Best offered “African-American Literature: James/ Baldwin,” a graduate seminar exploring the complex literary connections between Henry James and James Baldwin.
MELVILLE ON MINDS AND ISLANDS
FEBRUARY 10, 2020
English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Corals are everywhere in Melville’s work. His obsession with them started with Typee and Omoo, where corals were the phenomenon of a predominantly geological nature; then it intensified in Mardi and Moby-Dick, where they were promoted into a primary metaphysical concept. As of Mardi, corals provide the starting point for how Melville understands the functioning of individuation, generating an ontology attentive to embodiment, and finally leading him to posit the existence of the utterly incarnated, porous, and affective minds that I call “coral” or “ambient” psyches. This talk narrates that development: starting from Melville’s early interest in the natural sciences, it moves to discuss the ontology of life suggested by corals, and finally examines his belief in embodied thoughts and volitions.
EAST PYNE 010
Charles & Lynn Zhang Professor
SPONSORED BY THE EBERHARD L. FABER 1915 MEMORIAL FUND IN THE HUMANITIES COUNCIL AND THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT
Special Lectures Branka Arsić, Charles and Lynn Zhang Professor of English and Comparative Literature,Columbia University “Coral Psyches: Melville on Minds and Islands” February 10, 2020 Professor Arsić’s talk tracked the evolution of the representation of coral in Herman Melville’s writing. From purely geological and natural phenomena to metaphysical entities that exhibit “ambient” psyches, Professor Arsić put coral at the center of Melville’s explorations of embodiment and ontology.
Michael Hardt, Professor of Literature, Duke University Gauss Seminars in Criticism October 15-16, 2019 Professor Hardt’s visit, under the general title of “Globalization and Resistance,” began with “Empire, 20 years on,” a public lecture reflecting on his landmark book, co-written by Antonio Negri, and concluded with a seminar addressed to the question, “What is a movement?”
Department of English
The Next Chapter:
Kathy Zhao ’17 Marketing at a software company in New York
How did being an English major prepare and/or help you in the work you do now? Having good communication skills is important in the work world. I’d say 90% of my job involves writing in some form— emails to my team, creating our social media content, communicating with vendors. Conveying a message effectively, creative writing, editing, all translate pretty well to marketing, which is my main role now. As a marketer, I write and edit our company’s monthly newsletters, I edit our engineers’ articles that go on our website and blog, and I put together our case studies and create marketing material for the sales team. In addition to developing strong writing skills, knowing how to read and learn from a text has been really helpful on the job. I read a lot of business books, and continue self education through reading. An English major can read any book and learn anything - that’s a valuable skill to have in the workplace, especially in a fast paced field like technology. What’s the turning-point moment, choice or decision in your life after Princeton that has been most unexpected? Doing something less traditional for an English major, like going into a technology company and the business world. It was something I didn’t hear of many English majors doing. The company I work at was 4 years old when I joined. It’s a more entrepreneurial role when you join a younger company- I wore many hats, performing different roles and functions. Through my tenure at my first job, I was invoicing our customers, interviewing candidates for our openings, and running our social media, blog and newsletter. What do you feel most nostalgic for about Princeton? • Being part of a community and living within walking distance to my friends • Having access to classes on so many different subjects • Producing shows with East West Theater, the Asian American theater company my best friend Nathan and I co-founded What’s the most interesting book, article, film or other English major-y text you’ve come across recently? I recently read “Asian American Dreams” by Helen Zia!
Annual Report / 2019-20
Department of English
Teaching and Learning Letter from the Director of Undergraduate Studies This year we managed the major disruptions and policy changes brought about by COVID-19 and remote learning this spring term and summer. At the same time that we proposed, accepted and carried out a number of significant curricular and outreach changes within the department. And, despite the many challenges of this year, we were delighted to support and graduate all our seniors, many of whom completed exceptional work in the department in the face of considerable odds. The seniors received many awards for their ambitious theses from within and beyond the department. Within the department, 15 theses were nominated for prizes and 12 received them. Additionally, seven English majors received prizes in recognition of their theses from other departments and programs, including the Program in American Studies, the Center for Human Values, the Program in Theater, and the Creative Writing Program. Three seniors received Project 55 grants, two received Fulbright Scholarships, and one won a Luce Scholarship this year. Six are entering graduate programs at Harvard University, Columbia University, Cambridge University (2), Rutgers University and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. This year, the Committee on Departmental Students (CDS) focused on refreshing the role and format of our Senior Comprehensive Exam. We came up with a new examination in “Common Works.” The Common Works Exam is a new way to understand the purpose, process and practice of holding exams at the end of the students’ senior year. The exam is based on 10 works — a mix of novels, drama, poetry, nonfiction, film and theory — particular to each class of English majors and introduced to them when they sign in to the department. These are the class’s reading in common, works the faculty in the English department value and teach and want students to know. Ideally, the process of proposing, choosing, reading, discussing, debating, teaching and investigating the works over each class’s two years will build community and shared learning among all members of the department. Our hope is to make not just a reading list but also a community of conversation across a diverse major. With the department’s approval of the proposal, and the approval of the Committee on the Course of Study in January, I solicited works from every faculty member for the Class of 2022 Common Exam, and each faculty member proposed a work (or works) that he/she/they felt was important for the study of English, and that he/ she/they plan to teach at least once over the course of the next two years. From this long list, CDS chose 10 selections for the inaugural Common Works, looking for a representative diversity of genre, authorship, origin and period, and keeping in mind as well the new distribution requirements. The first 10 works were presented to the department in May, and mailed to the students in August: The first 10 works were presented to the department in May, and mailed to the students in August: Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Canterbury Tales”; William Shakespeare, “King Lear”; John Milton, “Paradise Lost”; Jane Austen, “Emma”; William Blake, “Songs of Innocence and of Experience”; Emily Dickinson, “Selected Poetry”;
Annual Report / 2019-20
Wole Soyinka, “Death and the King’s Horseman”; Toni Morrison, “The Bluest Eye”; Amitav Ghosh, “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable”; and Justin Torres, “We the Animals.” The list will be updated annually, with faculty members’ assigning the work a teaching term in the following two years and any distribution requirement(s). The list is driven by teaching, but faculty additionally associate themselves with any work/author proposed by other faculty, which they might consider teaching and about which they would be happy to talk to students. Over junior and senior year, each class of majors will have ample opportunity to read and think about the 10 works for their class, in several different contexts. The works will be taught in courses, at least once, and often twice, in the two years. (Majors do not need to take the courses in which the works are taught; the class sessions in which the works are taught will be recorded and available to watch.) There will be panels, conversations and other events organized around the works. If any students would like to initiate a particular event or discussion, we want to encourage them to approach faculty and other students, and to let the Director of Undergraduate Studies know. Students are also encouraged to visit the office hours of the faculty who are attached to the individual works to speak to them at any time in the next two years. As Undergraduate Administrator, Tara Broderick took a very active role in cultivating the social life of the undergraduates in the department. This year the Undergraduate Advisory Council helped plan several thesis and junior paper boot camp sessions, which were very well attended. Tara allocated the undergraduate budget each year for a wide range of programming and events. Sadly, we had to cancel the Majors Colloquium, and all our usual spring events. We nonetheless completed a Class Day presentation, with enormous assistance from Kevin Mensch. It felt particularly important this spring to celebrate the seniors, who were thrown for such a loop and rallied, and the whole department. If the coming year continues to be at least partly virtual, it’s likely that it will be equally important to the Class of 2021 to be recognized in this way. Finally, in the fall of 2019, we began to think about putting together an internship program for majors, in conjunction with the University’s November decision to create the Internship Milestone Credit. Ideally, the department would establish partnerships with 8-10 organizations/companies in diverse fields at which our students would be given priority for a handful of coveted internships, or at which a spot would be reserved for a Princeton English major. We should be able to advertise this to new and prospective majors (and their parents) and we should be able to offer support for these internships, since most, if not all, are likely to be unpaid. We identified 10 different professions and spoke to seven different organizations that might be in a position to hold an internship for a Princeton English major. The department approved Internship Milestone Credit, and Anna Yang ’21 is completing the first internship for Milestone Credit this summer 2020. Then in the wake of the pandemic in the spring, we put together a rapid plan for internship and summer opportunities for our majors. This wound up being: two competitive internships in the Center for Digital Humanities; six internships with the Shakespeare and Company Project through the English department and the Center for Digital Humanities; a Social Media Manager for Poetry at Princeton, a Poetry at Princeton Archival Assistant, a Princeton Prosody Archive Research Assistant, and a Princeton Prosody Archive Social Media Intern through the Bain-Swiggett Fund; four outreach assistant internships in the department; and faculty asked at least four
Teaching and Learning
students to work as Research Assistants. Additionally, we offered a competitive Independent Research Seminar for the Class of ’21 with Professor Womack in place of the Bread Loaf program, which could not run (the three initial recipients of the Bread Loaf Fellowship, and three more students are participating). And we awarded four students as Berg Fellows from the Class of ’21. All in all, the department created 30 titled positions, all funded with small and large sums, for our current, former and future majors. We also created opportunities for play and continued community in the summer, with the invaluable industry and creativity of Rebecca Rainof, our new Outreach Coordinator, who organized a faculty book club, and extended her “Writing About Family” workshop to majors and prospective majors, as well as helped to curate a site with writing on and related to COVID-19 from faculty, alumni and students. Finally, Tara Broderick completed her third year as the official Undergraduate Administrator (UA). Broderick has worked tirelessly and inventively, to put all aspects of the administrative system online and to make the existing systems as accessible and efficient as possible; to create, organize and run undergraduate and alumni events; and to address all the issues that come with curricular changes, either long term — like the Common Works exam, or the new distribution requirements — or short term — like those created by this past spring’s remote challenges. She left the department as of July 1, and we bid her the fondest farewell, even as we welcome Kelly Lake as our new UA, and Jeff Dolven as the acting DUS for what looks to be another year of exciting improvisations.
Tamsen Wolff Associate Professor of English
Letter from the Director of Graduate Studies While this last academic year has been a rather unprecedented one on several fronts, our graduate program has remained robust, vibrant and accommodating as we all work together to ensure that our students can continue to move through our program successfully. With guidance from the Graduate School and with a determination to use whatever resources we could — from our endowment, from different funding streams within the department and with different forms of cooperation with the Graduate School — we have been able to support our students quite remarkably, especially given the constraints within which we are all working. Our courses and program in the fall of 2019, of course, proceeded as usual, with our courses, advising, general exams and dissertation proposals, and the beginning of our admissions process, as did the first half of our spring semester. From mid-March, we believe we managed to make the transition to remote teaching as smoothly as possible and, given that our faculty already had worked with their students for the first half of the semester and already had relationships with them, this transition moved forward with great collaboration. In the end, we recruited seven incoming graduate students. Our target was eight and we believe that we would have even exceeded this number if prospective students had been able to visit the campus at the end
Annual Report / 2019-20
of March. We’re very happy with the seven students who are coming, and they represent the most diverse group of incoming graduate students we have ever had (we were commended by the Graduate School by our success on this front). We also decided, as a department, to reduce our cohort size for the fall of 2021 by one — in order to continue our support for sixth-year students and also to permit us to support the fall semester of seventh-year students. At a time when students are particularly, and understandably, concerned about their futures, this was an easy decision to make, and we don’t believe it will impact our program at all. I think a priority, however, would be to continue to diversify our incoming classes. In response to the effects of the pandemic on our graduate students and on their capacity to do their work, we made the following decisions: We are providing a stipend for sixth-year graduate students in the amount of $35,500 for years 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022, without any benchmarks because of what we understand to be the interruption of research resulting from COVID-19. This simply continues a practice we had established a few years ago, with the exception of our not considering benchmarks temporarily in light of the pandemic. By reducing our cohort size by one for the 2021-22 academic year, we are also able to cover the Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) fees for these students. We will revisit these decisions in two years to determine what may be necessary then and what can be sustained. We have agreed to provide support for seventh-year students, again because of the interruption of research resulting from COVID-19. We have offered them one semester of support (in the fall only) of $15,000 for 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022 only. We also will cover their DCE fees for this semester. We also decided to reallocate faculty programming funds, reduce our graduate colloquium budget by 50%, and reduce our contribution (co-sponsorship) budget by 50%. We also followed the Graduate School’s guidance on issues related to flexibility that might be extended to students in regard to exams, incompletes, defenses, for up to one semester. Despite all the challenges, and the vicissitudes of the recent job market, our students did remarkably well. We have four students who secured tenure-track positions (Tufts University, University of Notre Dame, Dartmouth University and California State University-Bakersfield), one student who secured a visiting assistant position (Sewanee), two students who received postdoctoral fellowships (California Institute of Technology and University of Southern California), and six students who received either alternative academic positions (at Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning and Center for Digital Humanities, and Princeton-based fellowships), K-12 teaching positions or positions in industry. This is a remarkable outcome, given the current pandemic circumstances within the academy. We also continue to take seriously the need for active mentorship for those who may be considering non-academic positions. We have been working in this regard with Career Services and the Graduate School, who helped us plan several innovative professional development events for academic and non-academic job seekers this past year.
Eduardo Cadava Professor of English
Teaching and Learning
Prizes Awarded to Students in the English Department, Class Day, June 2020: Prizes Awarded to Senior English Majors:
Alexander Blazar Paternostro
Sakura Price: Francis Biddle Sophomore
Earl R. Miner Thesis Prize — co-winner: Death in Broom (1921-1924): Suicide and the Escape of Art after the Great War
Sydney Reynolds Isidore and Helen Sacks Memorial Prize — co-winner: Mothering Modernism: Edith Wharton’s New Generation of Women
Rasheeda Adenike Saka
Edward H. Tumin Memorial Prize — co-winner: Female Emancipation: The “Slave Narratives” of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Jane Eyre, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”
Charles William Kennedy Prize: Fugitive Yearnings: Stillness and Migration in Literatures of the Black Diaspora
Tessa Rose Bernstein Albertson
Thomas H. Maren English Department Senior Thesis Prize: A Mirror on Terror: Interrogation in Dorfman, Pinter and the CIA
Alan S. Downer Prize: Feminine Products: A Theatrical Exploration on Feminism, Post-feminism, and the Ultimate Quest Towards True Womanhood
Susan Caroline Bailey Senior Comprehensive Prize — co-winner Class of 1870 Old English Prize: The Dark Imaginary: Tracing the Use of Constructed Languages in Fantastic Depictions of Evil
Sebastian Benzecry Earl R. Miner Thesis Prize — co-winner: TRUE STORIES: An Exploration of Human Agency in the Films of the Coen Brothers
Liana Tsang Cohen Ward Mathis Prize — second place winner: The Osprey
Todd S. Gilman Thomas B. Wanamaker English Language Prize: Ioannes Miltonus: Poeta Romanus Rei Publicae Anglicae
Sylvie Marie Thode Senior Comprehensive Prize — co-winner Class of 1859 Prize: Up in Arms: Poetries of Resistance from the Northern Irish Troubles and the American AIDS Crisis
Ben Weissenbach Lee M. Elman Class of 1958 Hemingway Prize: On the Frontier of Climate Change: Science and Adventure in Alaska
Alice Xu Edward H. Tumin Memorial Prize — co-winner: The Promises and Compromises of Happiness: Idealism, Realism and Choice in Jane Austen’s Novels
Prizes Awarded by the Department to Graduate Students, First-year Students, Sophomores, Juniors and Nondepartmental Seniors:
Kate Thorpe (Ph.D. student): McCosh Teaching
Walter C. Hughes Memorial Prize: Factors in Play: A Deep, Literary Perspective on the Development of American Playgrounds
Eunice Lee Isidore and Helen Sacks Memorial Prize — co-winner: Othering in Others: Orientalism and Intersectionality in the Modernist Little Magazine Poems by Kim Myeong-sun
Connie Xu: Class of 1883 English Prize for Academic Freshmen in Engineering Abigail Anthony: Class of 1883 English Prize for Academic First-year students — co-winner Eleanor Bauer: Class of 1883 English Prize for Academic First-year students — co-winner Silma Berrada: Academy of American Poets — E. E. Cummings Prize; Morris W. Croll Poetry Prize
Sean Horton: Class of 1870 Sophomore Prize — co-winner
Ellen Whiteside: Bain-Swiggett Poetry Prize — co-winner
Soo Young Yun: Class of 1870 Sophomore Prize — co-winner Tess Solomon: Class of 1870 Junior Prize
Simone Wallk: Emily Ebert Prize –– co-winner (Junior)
Julia Walton: Emily Ebert Prize –– co-winner (Junior)
David Babikian: Bain-Swiggett Poetry Prize — co-winner (Senior)
Kevin Zou: Ward Mathis Prize — first place winner (Senior)
New and Redesigned Courses in Response to Racial Justice Protests, the Global Pandemic and Other Matters ENG 244 “Model Minority Fictions,” Paul Nadal Where did the stereotype of Asian Americans as model minorities — overachieving whiz kids, industrious workers, “tiger mothers,” “crazy rich” Asians — come from? What accounts for the model minority myth’s persistence today? Reading across fiction, visual culture and economic history, “Model Minority Fictions” (ASA 324/ENG 244) pursues these questions by tracing the changing definitions of Asians in the United States from “yellow peril” to model minorities: from the myth’s wartime origins, to the birth of American neoliberalism, and onward to the global rise of Asia in the 21st century. “I’ve been wanting to teach this course for a long time now because the continued dominance of the model minority myth today — which informs everything from
Annual Report / 2019-20
Hollywood, social welfare, college admission debates to the popularity of Asian American self-help genre — requires a renewed critical investigation. More specifically, I’ve been curious whether the model minority that circulates today bears the same visual grammar and racial form as prior articulations.”
ENG 573, AAS 572 “The Present Moment,” Sarah A. Chihaya/Kinohi Nishikawa How do critics, writers and readers approach the work of the present moment? By examining literary and cultural objects produced over the last year, this seminar will interrogate two foci: first, the field of 21st-century literature and culture in English; and second, the contemporary role of critique in both academic and popular culture. We will read and watch primary texts that undertake their own projects of social, political and formal critique, alongside experiments in critical and theoretical writing from writers both in and out of the academy. Discussions and assignments will take up questions that animate debates about the role of the humanities in our present moment: who are we writing for? What forms can that writing take? “We taught the first version of this class in the aftermath of the 2016 election, so naturally, it seemed like this would be the right time to teach a new iteration of “The Present Moment.” Of course, when we proposed the class a year ago, we could not have known what 2020 had in store; now, it’s clear that the course’s goal, of asking students to critically examine how they inhabit and respond to the contemporary world, grows more urgent by the day.”
ENG 408 “Queer Literatures,” Christina León/RL Goldberg What makes a text queer? “Queer Literatures” will read from various trajectories of LGBTQIA* literatures and engage texts across race, gender, ability, class and geography. In designing our course, we wanted to focus on queer texts that are not often considered to be “canonical.” Our guiding question was: how
The Next Chapter:
Evelyn Giovine ’16 Actress in New York How did being an English major prepare and/or help you in the work you do now? I often think back to all of the English lectures, precepts, seminars, papers and out-of-class discussions with classmates at Princeton and am filled with gratitude, gratitude for the ability to close read a literary work, but more significantly, to have a unique point of view on it and communicate that point of view with clarity and confidence. Professors at Princeton taught me that there was no wrong interpretation, as long as it was born from the text and I fully believed in it. This kind of preparation, of mind-set training, is a large part of why I believe I was admitted to Yale School of Drama, where the actors’ battle cry is: “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be interesting?” While at Princeton, my development as an English major was directly impacting my development as an actor, so when I approached character work, whether it was in shows, or my YSD audition, I approached the characters from a totally unique and true place, an interesting place. I say this with complete honestly, every audition, I think how grateful I am for my education. What advice would you give yourself today if you were just starting at Princeton? I would be afraid to give my starting-Princeton self any advice, as I wouldn’t want to undo any of the “mistakes” that I made, because I believe they were perhaps even more educational than the “non-mistakes.” So, I suppose that would be my advice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be messy and ugly sometimes. It’s healthy. What do you feel most nostalgic for about Princeton? When I think specifically about my four years at Princeton, I am nostalgic for the smell of the Matthews Acting Studio, the marathon dining hall and eating club dinner conversations, Professor Bob Sandberg’s smirk when a student is “onto something,” and the general energy of kindness that the students share. What’s the most interesting book, article, film or other English major-y text you’ve come across recently? I recently watched the new Mark Duplass indie film “Blue Jay” on Netflix starring Duplass and Sarah Paulson. It is a beautifully made, primarily two-person film. I won’t spoil it for you by revealing anything, so all I’ll say is that I highly recommend it.
Teaching and Learning
Investigating Racism and the Class of 1859 Prize We are the past three recipients of the English department’s Class of 1859 Prize, given annually to a senior for overall excellence in the study of literature. In spring 2020, we wrote to the University administration, expressing our discomfort with a reference to the Confederacy contained in the prize description: The Class of 1859 established the prize in 1869 on the occasion of their tenth reunion. Of the seventy-three members of the Class of ’59, thirty-five served in the Civil War after graduation. Fifteen fought for the Union, twenty for the Confederacy. The prize was meant to honor those who died in the war and restore the bonds of friendship that had been suspended by it. Under a seemingly innocuous narrative of bipartisan friendship, the description unequivocally memorialized the Confederacy by forging a simple equivalence between pro-slavery Confederate soldiers and their abolitionist Union counterparts. An archival investigation prompted by our query revealed that the description was erroneous. Dan Linke, the University archivist, found that the 1859 Class Fund had not mentioned the Civil War in its original description for the prize. Instead, this language was mysteriously added to the prize’s description in the 1970s or later, taken directly from an essay on the “patriotism and friendship” of the “Princeton men of 1859” written by then University archivist Edith James Blendon. Like many confederate monuments built during a 20th-century era of historical revisionism, this written and monetary memorial went unquestioned for decades. The University restored the description to its original language: the prize “shall be publicly awarded to a member of the Senior Class who shall be adjudged to be worthy thereof after an examination in English literature and Essay writing. Our venture into the archive yielded additional surprising discoveries. Letters, diaries, commencement addresses, photographs and class records reveal that 1859 was a flashpoint in the development of Princeton “patriotism” and the consolidation of a Princeton “identity”: the year in which “Old Nassau” was written and the first class-specific reunion event was held. The origins of some of the University’s most cherished traditions stem directly from an effort to consolidate a sense of institutional loyalty in order to smooth over wartime tensions between students that posed a particular danger to the “Southern Ivy” with longstanding ties to the institution of slavery. With the support of the English department, we are now writing an article for the Princeton and Slavery Project about the story of the Class of 1859. Our research seeks to uncover what is elided in the rhetoric of bipartisan friendship that has historically been mobilized in times of division. Such rhetoric is frequently revived today as an ostensive antidote to our hyper-partisan era. Annabel Barry ’19 Sara Krolewski ’18 Sylvie Thode ’20
Left: Illustration accompanying Edith James Blendon’s “Patriotism and Friendship: The Princeton Men of 1859,” from which the racist citation was drawn.
Annual Report / 2019-20
are queer authors and texts reckoning with the most critical injustices of our lifetime: anti-Black violence, U.S. imperialism, racial capitalism, global pandemics, poverty and incarceration? And, crucially, how are they able to envision a better world? “Queer Literatures” is generously supported by a grant from the 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education. We will feature guest lectures from artists, writers, activists and scholars including: Cassils, Jules Gill-Peterson, Tommy Pico, Raquel Salas Rivera, Dora Santana and Perry Zurn.
ENG 238 “Privacy and Publicity,” Grant Wythoff This seminar will explore how we negotiate the distance between ourselves and others through text messages. Texts sustain an ambient intimacy that is increasingly redefining borders that range from the interpersonal — via anonymous mental health support — to the international — via reporting platforms for immigrant communities. What technical and social expectations of privacy do we operate with when sending a point-to-point message? How do novelists incorporate text messages into works of fiction? What does it mean that Frank Ocean can sing, “you text nothing like you look”? Students will apply methods from literary theory to text messages. They will learn about the technical standards of SMS, now 20 years old. Readings on epistolary novels, postal networks and textual criticism will be paired with practica on telegraphy, T9 and community mesh networks. As a class that takes place remotely, we will explore what is needed to maintain our connections during a pandemic, both as individuals and as communities. To that end, we will also have the opportunity to work with the Philly Community Wireless Project, an organization devoted to digital equity and internet accessibility.
AAS 326, ENG 286 (LA) “Topics in African American Culture & Life: Early African American Literature,” Autumn Womack This introductory course focuses on African American literature and literary production from the mid-18th century to the early 20th. In readings, assignments and discussions, we will explore the unique cultural contexts, aesthetic debates and sociopolitical forces surrounding the production of an early African American literary tradition. Over the course of the semester, we will investigate the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Paul L. Dunbar, the political oratory of Sojourner Truth and David Walker, slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson, nonfiction writing by W.E.B. Du Bois, and fiction by Frances Harper.
AAS 392, ENG 392 (LA) “Topics in African American Literature: Reading Toni Morrison,” Autumn Womack In this course, we will undertake the deceptively simple question: how do we read Toni Morrison? In taking up this task, we will devote our attention to various scenes and sites of reading across Morrison’s oeuvre, asking how Morrison is encouraging us to read history, slavery, violence, geography, time, space, gender and friendship. We will also engage with Morrison’s own status as a reader by considering her work as an editor and literary critic. Through regular engagement with the Toni Morrison Papers housed at Firestone, we will consider what it means to be able to read Morrison in such close proximity to these archival materials.
their plays? How have their relationships to race, power and colonial structures influenced their works? In what ways have they shaped, subverted and advanced theatrical forms? This course will survey plays written by Black playwrights in the 20th and 21st century. We will explore dramatic works of writers from Africa, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and the United States.
ENG 387 “Writing About Family,” Rebecca Rainof Family is where we all begin. It is a world, a language, a home, a cast of characters. People write about family to escape it, return to it, remember it, make sense of it, memorialize it. “Writing About Family” is about the different places we come from, the ways we define and create our own sense of “family,” how ideas about family change over time, and about how the creative act of writing opens experience to understanding. We will read a range of family writing, including essays, memoirs, fiction and poems. The readings are all chosen to help you develop your own skills in discussing literature as well as writing analytical papers and creative nonfiction. Authors featured this term include Justin Torres, Jesmyn Ward, Alison Bechdel, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Virginia Woolf, Karen Tei Yamashita, Hilton Als, Shirley Jackson, Joan Didion, Jhumpa Lahiri, Scaachi Koul, Erica Sánchez and Briallen Hopper.
ENG 354, AAS 354 (LA) “Black Dramatists in the English-Speaking World,” Nathan Davis The language of a play intermingles thought and dramatic action to epitomize an unreconciled social conflict, intended to manifest within and between human bodies in real time. What have English-language dramatists of African descent identified as the central conflicts of
Department of English
Public Writing in the Midst of Crisis
of English, Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality “Seeing Race in a Pandemic,” Foreign Policy, July 1, 2020
Rob Nixon, Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Family Professor in Humanities and the Environment. Professor of English and the Princeton Environmental Institute: “All Tomorrow’s Warnings,” at Public Books.org. August 13, 2020
The vogue for histories of tomorrow is driven primarily by climate breakdown and the Anthropocene. Such anticipatory histories seek to counter a disastrous temporal parochialism unequal to the demands of the warmer, more insecure world. Nonfictional forays into the future, on the one hand, tend to warn us of coming disasters, and on the other, urge us to take action today.
And yet what’s also needed is the space to dig into uncomfortable questions, building from the answers new and daily rituals, even new kinds of gatherings and languages, for living differently and on purpose towards more just relations in every sense, more equitable structures in every context. These have to be fumbled towards earnestly and with humility, if what we want, collectively, is to stop the momentum of racist and genocidal history from becoming, once again, the future.
Anne Anlin Cheng,
either the suffocating good mother upholding patriarchy or the disruptive bad mother unleashing your wildest magical powers, then I’d rather be a witch than a warrior.
Adrienne Brown, Ph.D. ’11, Associate Professor, The University of Chicago, Department
Protocols for perceiving race are difficult to disrupt, especially since habits for racial assessment and meaning are generally learned informally rather than through explicit pedagogy. But the growing emphasis on apprehending structures of systemic racism—as opposed to thinking we can teach ourselves to ignore race or override our own biases—may be the beginning of a larger shift in how and where we think and see race.
Joshua Bennett, Ph.D. ’16, Mellon Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College “Dad Poem (Ultrasound #2),” Poem-a-Day on June 24, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets
Months into the plague now, I am disallowed entry even into the waiting room with Mom, escorted outside instead by men armed with guns & bottles of hand sanitizer, their entire countenance its own American metaphor.
Professor of English and Director of the American Studies Program: “I’d Rather Be a Witch Than a Warrior”
If the warrior is but the witch who answers to a master; if the Asian woman in the Western cultural imagination is the cyborg par excellence — that always curious assemblage of fleshly fantasies and projected inanimate objectness; and, finally, if the mother is
“Anti-racism and the Problem of the Soul,” Los Angeles Review of Books, June 24, 2020
Monica Huerta, Assistant Professor, Department of English and American Studies
Autumn Womack, Assistant Professor, Department of English and African American Studies “Can You Be Black and Listen to This?” Los Angeles Review of Books, June 1, 2020
... words like “I can’t breathe” operate as a synecdoche for the black body and voice. They circulate freely on social media and as part of attention-grabbing headlines. They aim to remind viewers and listeners that George Floyd could speak, that he was a man, that his life mattered, that his was a life worth accounting for.
Annual Report / 2019-20
Teaching Faculty and Lecturers in the English Department, 2019 to 2020 Sarah M. Anderson Lecturer in English
Lee Clark Mitchell Holmes Professor of Belles-Lettres
Eduardo Cadava Professor of English
Paul Nadal Assistant Professor of English and American Studies
Zahid Chaudhary Associate Professor of English
Kinohi Nishikawa Associate Professor of English and African American Studies
Anne Anlin Cheng Professor of English and American Studies
Rob Nixon Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Family Professor in Humanities and the Environment
Sarah Chihaya Assistant Professor of English Andrew Cole Professor of English Bradin Cormack Professor of English Maria DiBattista Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English Jill Dolan Annan Professor of English Jeff Dolven Professor of English Diana Fuss Louis W. Fairchild Class of ‘24 Professor of English Sophie Gee Associate Professor of English Simon Gikandi Robert Schirmer Professor of English William Gleason Hughes-Rogers Professor of English and American Studies Monica Huerta Assistant Professor of English and American Studies Claudia L. Johnson Murray Professor of English Literature Joshua Kotin Associate Professor of English Russ Leo Associate Professor of English Christina León Assistant Professor of English Rhodri Lewis Senior Research Scholar/Lecturer with Rank of Professor Meredith Martin Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Digital Humanities
Deborah Nord Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature Jeff Nunokawa Professor of English Natalie Prizel Lecturer in the Council of Humanities, English and Humanistic Studies Rebecca Rainof Research Scholar in English Sarah Rivett Professor of English and American Studies Jocelyn Rodal Associate Research Scholar Gayle Salamon Professor of English Robert Sandberg Lecturer in English Esther Schor Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Professor of American Jewish Studies and Professor of English D. Vance Smith Professor of English Nigel Smith William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature Susan Stewart Avalon Foundation University Professor of the Humanities Tamsen Wolff Associate Professor of English Susan J. Wolfson Professor of English Autumn Womack Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies
Department of English
Our Staff Community
We sincerely thank our extraordinary administrative staff, who enable the Department of English to run so well, who greet our many visitors on arrival at McCosh Hall and who make our physical and organizational environment so welcoming. Karen Mink English Department Manager Sarah Meadows Business Manager Kevin Mensch Manager, Computing and Technical Support Pat Guglielmi Graduate Administrator Kelly Lake Undergraduate Administrator John Lacombe Financial Assistant Melissa Andrie Office Support/Events Coordinator Michael Rivera Computing and Technical Support Specialist Â Special thanks to Andrew Ferris, graduate student assistant, and Julie Clack, Communications Strategist, for their hard work in producing the annual report.Â
Editor Sophie Gee Copy Editor Kelly Lorraine Andrews Design Phillip Unetic, UneticDesign.com Printing Brilliant, Exton, PA Photography Princeton University English Department; Sameer Khan (pp. 10-17); Erin Cadigan-stock.adobe.com (pp. 3, 8-9, and back cover); David Sellers (p. 16)
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