Negrita the dog

From the Chair's Desk

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone is looking forward to the new semester. It’s my great privilege to spend time reading, discussing, and writing about literature. At times I find myself in my office or at home reading a book, working on a manuscript, or preparing class, pausing for a moment, and thinking, “Thank you God! This is my job!” My dog—many of you know her—thinks I’m nuts, but that’s okay—she may have a point.

I have several developments to report. First, our job search for an assistant professor of transatlantic romanticism is nearing the interview stage. I’ll describe the process in some detail since most of our graduate students will experience a form of it in the future. Last November we posted a job ad in the Modern Language Association Job Information List and established an account with Interfolio, through which people submit their application materials. Candidates have until January 15th to apply. Over the next two weeks the search committee (professors Baker, Gregory, Okuma, and I) will select a handful of candidates to interview via Skype. We will have sifted through all the candidates’ applications, which consist of a cover letter, vita, an article length writing sample, and letters of recommendation. From this group we’ll select a small cadre of finalists—usually three—to bring on campus for interviews. We ask relatively new PhDs among this group to send us their entire dissertations and any publications they might have, and ask candidates who are further along in their careers to send us all their publications and any work-in-progress that’s nearing submission for publication. All finalists also submit a written response to the University’s Mission Statement. When they come to campus, the candidates meet with faculty individually, are interviewed by the entire faculty, give a presentation open to faculty and students, attend a reception with our graduate students (with no faculty present), and chat with the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Then I solicit confidential responses from everyone and share them with the faculty without including the respondents’ names. After all the finalists have undergone this process, the faculty meets to discuss and rank the candidates, and I take that ranking to the Dean before we make an offer. The job will only be offered to a candidate we’re enthusiastic about. If we have to search again for the same position next year (which I don’t anticipate), so be it. A faculty position is a precious thing, and it’s important to get it right.

I’m also pleased to announce that our department, the ALSCW, and the English Department at the University of Maryland are launching an annual spring lecture. Mark Edmundson, University Professor at the University of Virginia, will speak on Walt Whitman on the afternoon of March 25th. Mark is an amazing and versatile writer who publishes in academic and popular venues and an award-winning teacher. I’ll provide more details in the coming weeks. I know that several of our students have taken advantage of the DC area Consortium of Universities, and have enjoyed their courses at the University of Maryland. I have certainly enjoyed having UMD students in my courses and lecturing in its English department. I hope we can have a strong showing of Catholic U. faculty and students at Mark’s lecture. In the spring of 2021 Michael Gorra, Mary Augusta Professor of English Language & Literature at Smith College, will speak at Catholic University on William Faulkner for the second installment of our series. Faculty and students from all DC area universities and colleges will be invited to attend these events.

Finally, expect to see the Call for Papers for the twenty-fifth annual conference of the ALSCW in early February. The conference will be at Yale University from October 22-25. David Bromwich of Yale University, Rosanna Warren of the University of Chicago, and I have been planning the event since last October, and are confident it will be another spectacular, intellectually invigorating, and collegial ALSCW conference—and I’m confident that our students and faculty will shine there!

Ernest Suarez
David M. O'Connell Professor of English
Executive Director, Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers
Chair, Department of English