The English Department prides itself on keeping a finger on the intellectual and literary pulse of our era, so we feel it is our duty to inform you that this year’s “Bad Sex” awards–for erotic writing that, er, misses the mark–have been announced. The winner, which, we hasten to mention, we have not read, is Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones (originally published in French as Les Bienveillantes.
The award, of dubious merit, was established by Auberon Waugh in 1993 to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”
For the truly brave, we provide a warning and the following link to excerpts from the award’s shortlist. Read at your own risk.
One of several great traditions in Seattle’s theater “scene” is the annual production of Langston Hughes’s Black Nativity, a gospel song-play. It is about to open again at the Intiman Theater–specifically on December 1. It is a production with wide appeal, and it blends professional actors, singers, musicians, and dancers with community performers in a distinctive if not unique ways. If you haven’t experienced Black Nativity in Seattle or elsewhere, do yourself a favor and go see it–and no, you need be of the Christian faith to enjoy it. Here is a link:
Those affiliated with the Humanities program have written us with the following information:
“In the eighteenth-century coffeehouse, critical inquiry extended to Newtonian science, social systems, and, among other things, the Bible: how reliable was it as a historical witness? Given recent developments in archival and archaeological work, what questions should we, today, bring to the collection of political, religious, and literary documents that we call the Bible? How has it influenced our thought and our literature? How does it still influence us in what is considered a post-Biblical age?
The event will take place on Weds., November 18, from 5-6 p.m., at the Humanities House (3602 N. 14th; the corner of 14th/Union). It will feature a brief, informal presentation followed by the opportunity for wide-ranging conversation with our speaker. Please join us for coffee, tea, treats, and intellectual conviviality.”
Specifically, Professor of English Florence Sandler will speak on “How Do the Ancient Texts Hold Up?”
Courtesy of the exciting new online Asian American poetry journal Lantern Review, prompt yourself to write a poem once a week.
Breaking news: According to the site Exit 133, Puget Sound’s campus radio-station, KUPS [90.1 FM], has won the mtvU Woodie Award. Congratulations to everyone who works at the station!
Ayanna Drakos, President of the Black Student Union on campus, writes to inform us about an upcoming dance-competition-and-fundraiser:
“Next Tuesday, November 17 [in Marshall Hall, starting at 6:00 p.m.], the UPS Black Student Union will be hosting a fundraising event, Jerkin in Tacoma Showcase/Competition, benefiting the 2010 Race and Pedagogy National Conference, October 28-30, and the UPS BSU. ‘Jerkin’ is a new dance movement that has become popular with much of Tacoma’s youth, especially our Black youth. In line with the Race and Pedagogy Initiative’s work for continued collaboration of the University of Puget Sound and our South Sound community, competitors featured in the showcase are high school and middle school students from schools throughout the South Sound. The planning of the event has also been a collaborative effort among our Black Student Union, the BSU at Henry Foss High School, and the African-American Club at Mt. Tahoma High School. Furthering our Black Student Union’s partnership with our greater community, contributions for prizes for the competition have come from local Black businesses and political organizations. This fundraiser will serve to honor the artistic expression of our youth, as well as introduce many of Tacoma’s high school and middle school students to a college setting, fostering their interest in and accessibility to a higher education.”
Thanks to Ayanna for sending along the news, and we’ll see you at the event that evening. Tickets are available at the Information Center.
On Monday, November 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Kilworth Chapel, several nationally known slam-poets will perform, and the event is free to Puget Sound students. We’ll see you there!
As the year’s end approaches, it’s time for the “best of” mania. Part cultural gatekeeping, part marketing ploy, the “Top X” list is an established tradition–as is taking offense at the lists’ sins of commission or omission. Our case in point is this year’s Publisher’s Weekly top ten, a list which includes not one work by a woman (although it does include books about women. Cold comfort, indeed!). To be fair, the sub-lists (best fiction, best poetry) do include works by women authors.
Here’s a case where English professors step back from the fray, rub their hands together with glee, and revel to see people talk so passionately about books, no matter what side of the debate they take. Online ‘zine salon.com has an overview of what the internet is saying about PW, which you can find here. Discuss amongst yourself. Oh, and happy reading–there are some great things on these lists!
File this one under “I’ve-got-to-get-this-book.” Academic odd couple Greil Marcus (a cultural critic known for his groundbreaking work on the intellectual antecedents of rock music) and Werner Sollors (erudite, German-born race theorist) have joined forces to bring out a “new” look at the great moments and monuments of U.S. culture. A New Literary History of America promises to offer a fresh take on the significant events in our literary past, writ large, and to unseat the stodgy, establishment approach to some of our “great works,” ranging from Gatsby to Emily Dickinson’s poetry, Jackson Pollock, and hip hop.
It’s an ambitious undertaking of nearly 1100 pages, broken down into some 200+ essays, so I expect it to be somewhat uneven in approach and idiosyncratic in its historical coverage. Still, the project of re-imagining our shared past from some new vantage points–and especially the prospect of Ishmael Reed taking on the vexed racial politics of Twain’s Huck Finn is enough to get me to add this to my bookshelf.
Here’s a review essay from the LA Times, and here’s the Harvard UP link, which includes a full table of contents.
Have your review on my desk by the end of next week.