mlaMany of the department’s faculty attended the Modern Language Association’s Annual Meeting in Boston in January. Catherine Ingrassia presided over “Celebrity, Fame, Notoriety” and “Open Access? ECCO, EEBO, and Digital Resources,” both organized by the Division on Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century English Literature. Joshua Eckhardt presented in the latter panel. Along with Manushag Powell, Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), Rivka Swenson organized and presided over two special sessions, “Scriblerians at Three Hundred” and “Early Women Tory Writers.” With Bernardo Piciche of VCU’s School of World Studies, Marcel Cornis-Pope presided over “Alternate Voices of the Mediterranean,” a program organized by the Division on Comparative Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature.

MA Student Publishes Article

Our congratulations go out to MA student Heather Fox whose article, “Teaching Writing Strategy for Short Essay Response:  Is It Possible to Level One of the Playing Fields?”  was accepted for publication in NOTES, A Journal of the Georgia and Carolinas College English Association.  The article is from a paper written for Elizabeth Hodges’ Writing and Rhetoric class, Fall 2011. This will be Heather’s first publication.

“First Friday” Lecture Series – Professor David Latané

The VCU Department of English hosts a lecture by Professor David Latané as a part on its ongoing “First Friday” lecture series. The lecture will take place Friday, December 7th at 3:00pm in Hibbs 308. Topic: “The London Press and the Case of Maria Foote: Privacy and the Press in 1824-25.” All First Friday events are free and open to the public.

First Friday Lecture Series — Professor Joshua Eckhardt

The VCU Department of English is pleased to host a lecture by Professor Joshua Eckhardt as a part on its ongoing “First Friday” lecture series. The lecture will take place Friday, November 2nd at 3:00pm in Hibbs 308. Topic: “The First Popular Objection to British Colonization Overseas.” All First Friday events are free and open to the public.

Interview with Katherine Bassard

Transforming Scripture: An Interview with Katherine Clay Bassard is now available as streaming audio at the Things Not Seen website.  Things Not Seen: Conversations about Faith and Culture airs on KWAM 990 am Memphis.

The following description of the interview comes from the program’s website

Katherine Clay Bassard appreciates the interpretive opportunities that come from reading the Bible when the pieces don’t quite fit together into a smooth narrative.  “After quite a few years of really studying the Bible and of living with the Bible, as a book, I have come to understand that there are both egalitarian strains in the Bible, and there are more hierarchical power dynamics, and they are laid, in some senses, side by side” .  . .

Bassard explores these frictions of reading in the history of African American interpretations of the Bible.  Both in the Christianity of ante-bellum slaves, and especially in the growing interpretive voice of African American women writers, these power dynamics of hierarchy and liberation have proved a fertile soil for deep and fruitful theological reflection.

15th Annual Levis Reading Prize – Katherine Larson for Radial Symmetry

The Department of English and the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University are pleased to host a reading by the winner of the 2012 Levis Reading Prize  Katherine Larson (Radial Symmetry).  This annual award is given in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2011. Larson will receive an honorarium of $2000 and will be brought to Richmond, all expenses paid, for a reception and public reading on September 20th, 2012 to be held at 8PM at the Grace Street Theater.  This event is free and open to the public.

Katherine Larson is the author of Radial Symmetry (Yale University Press, 2011), selected by Louise Glück as the winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Larson’s work has appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, Poetry, and Poetry Northwest, among other publications. She is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation Poetry Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. In addition to writing, she has worked as a molecular biologist and field ecologist. She lives in Arizona with her husband and daughter.

This year the Prize Committee would also like to recognize two finalists, Anthony Carelli for his collection Carnations (Princeton University Press, 2011) and Brian Barker for The Black Ocean (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011).

The Levis Reading Prize is presented on behalf of VCU’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. Sponsors include the VCU Department of English, James Branch Cabell Library Associates, VCU Friends of the Library, the VCU Libraries, the VCU Honors College, Barnes & Noble @ VCU, and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, with additional funding provided by the family of Larry Levis.

For further information about the Levis Reading Prize, see

Victorians Institute at VCU 19-20 October

Victorian Mixed Media

Victorians Institute Annual Conference

19-20 October 2012

The conference will feature papers presented by 70+ scholars from around the country and abroad. The plenary speaker will be W. J. T. Mitchell, the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. Professor Mitchell’s talk is titled “Seeing Madness:  Insanity, Media, and Visual Culture.” He is the author most recently of Seeing through Race (Harvard University Press, 2012); earlier books from the University of Chicago Press include What do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images (2005) and The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon (1998). He is the editor of the journal Critical Inquiry.

The conference will also feature a celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Robert Browning, with three panels of papers devoted to his work, followed by a plenary address by Herbert F. Tucker, the John C. Coleman Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Professor Tucker’s lecture is titled, “Unsettled Scores: Structure and Play in Browning’s Music Poems.” He is the author of Epic: Britain’s Heroic Muse 1790-1910 (Oxford 2008) as well as Tennyson and the Doom of Romanticism, and Browning’s Beginnings. He is also editor of the Blackwell Companion to Victorian Literature and (along with Dorothy Mermin) Victorian Literature: 1830-1900.

As part of the conference, “Robert Browning, 1812-1889—The First Modern Media Poet: A Bicentenary Selection from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection” will be on display in VCU Cabell Library Special Collections Department from the start of the conference until the end of the semester.

There will also be a musical and a theatrical performance.

More information can be found at the conference web page.

GSWS Brown Bag Lunches Begin

The Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies announces their monthly fall brown-bag luncheon series. The first lunch will be on September 10th at 12:00 pm in Crenshaw House. Cristina Stanciu, Assistant Professor in the Department of English will discuss “An Indian Woman of Many Hats: Laura Cornelius Kellogg’s Embattled Search for an Indigenous Voice.” Upcoming dates and topics can be found on the CHS blog.

Our Entering MA Class

Lesley Brooks is from Chester, Virginia. She is twenty-two years old and recently graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in English and in Anthropology. At UVA, Lesley worked as a Resident Advisor for first-year students and as the Head Program Director of Madison House Medical Services. She finds English Literature fascinating, believing that it allows readers to be transported into different eras, different cultures, and into fantasies. This love of the transformative power of the written word and of history led Lesley to her academic love of novels, biographies, and autobiographies. Besides reading and writing, her hobbies include camping, kayaking, painting, and playing the piano.

Joshua Katz
is a Richmond native, mostly; he was born in Maine, and the conditions of his parents’ respective employments necessitated a four-year stay in South Florida, but since December of 1995, his permanent residence has been in the West End district just outside the city.  Thus, he guesses that, technically, he might not be a native (if one defines “nativeness” as having spent one’s whole life in one place), but he’s lived here longer than he has lived any place else, so Joshua thinks that comes pretty close to the designation.  After high school, Joshua spent eighteen months as a Film/TV major at Emerson College before transferring back to Richmond, where he received his English BA at the University of Richmond.  Graduation led to a series of odd jobs: a stage hand at UR’s Modlin Center for the Arts; a bank teller at a credit union in Portland, Maine; a closed captioner for the National Captioning Institute, which is located in the historic district of beautiful Chantilly, Virginia (note: Chantilly is not beautiful, nor does it have a historic district, unless strip malls built in the early 1980’s constitute “historic”).  Currently, he serves as the head news editor for and writes movie reviews for the Culture Mob Blog.  His hobbies include movies (or film, if you’d prefer), jogging, and American Literature post-1800, with a particular interest in the transformative purposes of literary violence.

Melissa Lawhorn
will always consider Richmond, Virginia her home–regardless if one day she decides to settle down again outside of her small city limits. The adventurous spirit within her soul aspires to travel, discover the unknown, and grasp the beauty she has yet to see with her own eyes. After 23 years, the evolution of one’s self has hardly begun, and although Melissa feels she has taken many steps and crossed several bridges in her lifetime, she has found that the train on which she’s aboard is far from its final destination. In December of 2010, when she graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, she felt she had come to know herself fairly well. However, Ms. Lawhorn is still on the journey of finding exactly who she is and where she’s going.  Nevertheless, there’s no question that she has purposely chosen to seek the path that leads to becoming an educator. At a young age, Melissa knew that one day she would be a teacher. And in time, she also learned of her desire to express her love for one of her greatest passions: the marriage of the mind and paper. In the past year, she has come closer to discovering where her train will end up in the long haul. Starting graduate school this fall will be the fuel needed to keep this train headed in the direction she feels it should be. Melissa is excited for this opportunity because it will complement many great experiences from her past (graduating from high school and college, living in Prague and earning a TEFL certificate, and encompassing a love for the English language) and prepare her for future experiences to come.

Zachary Marson
was born in California, only to move to New Jersey when he was four.  After ten years of living the guido life, he moved to Richmond, Virginia.  In 2008, Zach attended VCU as an English Major where he discovered his desire to read everything in modern and contemporary literature’s catalogue. Zach graduated with his BA in May 2012 only to reapply to VCU as a grad student.  He is excited to continue his studies in the fall and even more thrilled to meet his fellow graduate scholars.

Nancy McPherson
is living, breathing and walking proof that when George Eliot said “It’s never too late to become what you might have been,” she was right.  At the inception, or very nearly there, of her third expedition through academia, Nancy was irretrievably grabbed by literature.  What had always been an interest soon became an obsession.  The reading of texts, and the resultant writing in response, analysis or criticism of them became an irresistible siren’s call.  But the road to this end had been neither simple nor easy.  She had gone to college at the usually prescribed age because that was the family expectation, even though what she was mostly interested in was ballet.  After a couple of years or so, the ballet siren’s call was becoming increasingly insistent.  So, Nancy became a ballet teacher.  Many years later she found herself in the VCU School of the Arts at night, nibbling away at courses there for three years, and interestingly enough, that was, by now, nearly thirty years ago.  The English Department here has given Nancy the loving support that enabled her, not only to finish her BA, but also to be welcomed into the MA program.

Zoya Mirza grew up in Lahore, Pakistan where she completed an undergraduate honors degree in Humanities and Social Sciences with a focus in Literature in 2010. The nebulous cluster of her research interests includes magical realism, self-conscious fiction, and post-colonial and post-modern literary theory. Zoya is also interested in art, photography, and visual culture. Some of the ideas that inspire her study of literature are the fashioning of narrative voice, the place and value of aesthetic pleasure, and the relationship between visual and literary forms and the cultural traditions that produce and inhabit them. Most simply though, her study is inspired by the joy of luxuriating in language, and the hope to become firmly grounded in the discipline so as to address these nebulous concerns through literature in English, Urdu, and Punjabi.

Kenneth Rebello
is originally from Rhode Island but has been in Jacksonville, FL for the past 6 years and graduated from the University of North Florida. VCU’s program caught his eye, and upon visiting campus won his heart. He’s heard great things about Richmond and is looking forward to exploring it more. Kenneth was an English major, with a minor in mass communications theory. He also edited for a literary journal known as Fiction Fix and is known for his creative and analytic editing skills. His passion is words, and he loves to write as much as he loves to read. Kenneth currently owns his own pressure washing business to pay the bills and get him through college. He is a seeded long-distance runner, as it helps him think. That’s just Kenneth compressed. He’s incredibly excited to meet everyone and start the program. He just graduated in December and already misses the stimulation and fulfillment of academia compounded by other sharp minds.

Olivia Sanchez
is 24 years old and the oldest of four children.  She is originally from California, but was raised in Spokane, WA.  She enjoys outdoor activities such as snow skiing, hiking and rock climbing. She also enjoys playing volleyball and tennis. Olivia attended Eastern Washington University for her undergrad. Her degree was in English (Literary Studies) and she also had a minor in Government. In the MA program, Olivia want to pursue Literature as her focus.

VCU First Friday Lecture Series – Gretchen Soderlund

The VCU Department of English hosts a lecture by Professor Gretchen Soderlund as a part on its ongoing “First Friday” lecture series. The lecture will take place Friday, March 2nd at 3:00pm in Hibbs 308. Topic: “Sensationalism, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and Journalism Reform after 1885.” All First Friday events are free and open to the public.