Happy New Year!
In my message to the Department of English a year ago, I mentioned the pandemic, the riot at the United States Capitol on January 6th, the falsely contested presidential election, and stressed how literature and the humanities could help people think about and deal with such difficulties. In 2022 we’re still dealing with the pandemic and other challenges, but it’s important to point out that we’re moving forward. We’re coming off a successful fall semester of in person teaching, the three sections of the first Teagle Foundation course we’re piloting—“Transformative Texts: Citizens and Communities”—are filled to capacity, and we’re applying for a much larger grant after our successful initial application. We’re also planning to resume our long tradition of bringing gifted outside speakers to campus. On February16, Mark Edmundson, University Professor at the University of Virginia, will lecture on Walt Whitman. On April 12, Mary Jo Salter, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor at Johns Hopkins University, will lecture on the creative process and read from her new book of poetry.
Professors Edmundson and Salter are active members of the ALSCW, and the organization will help sponsor their talks. As many of you know, the ALSCW continues to provide us with great advantages: two major journals that our faculty help edit and in which our faculty and graduate students publish—the new issue of Literary Matters features Ryan Wilson’s interview with Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer, Dion; Emily Grace’s interview with Stephen Cushman; Fletcher Bonin’s review of William Andrew’s Slavery and Class in the American South; and Amanda Auerbach’s suite of poems and reflections on her poems. Ryan edits Literary Matters and, as usual, the issue contains writing by a host of luminaries, including Yusef Komunyakka, Rachel Hadas, Mary Jo Salter, Maxine Hong Kinston, Stanley Moss, Victor Strandberg, and many others. The fall issue of Literary Imagination, which Rosanna Warren and I edited, is dedicated to how to write about race while also addressing literature’s aesthetic dimensions. The first printing sold out. Oxford University Press had to print more copies to meet demand. And we’re already making plans for next year. David Bromwich of Yale University, Rosanna Warren of the University of Chicago, and I are moving forward with plans to host the annual conference of the ALSCW at Yale in October of 2022. A healthy handful of our faculty and graduate students usually present their work at the conference, and I’ve secured funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities to help graduate students attend. We’ll circulate the Call for Papers this spring. I’ll also mention that in March of 2023 the ALSCW and the Joseph Conrad Society will host a two day conference on Conrad’s life and work at Catholic University. I hope that many of you will attend and participate.
Let me close by congratulating Taryn Okuma on receiving the inaugural John Convey Award for Excellence in Service from the School of Arts and Sciences. I can’t imagine anyone more deserving. Taryn is a fabulous example of what makes our department successful and resilient. I’m so thankful for her, our other colleagues, and students!
All my very best,
David M. O'Connell Professor of English
Executive Director, Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers
Chair, Department of English