Puget Sound English Department

September 28, 2010

On campus this week: Fahad Al Naser

Tonight (Tuesday, September 28) at 6 p.m. in Trimble Forum: Fulbright Faculty visitor
Fahad Al Naser of Kuwait University will speak on issues of family in Muslim Culture.

Professor Al Naser will also be featured at a screening of “Abraham’s Children,”, a documentary about Muslim children in the New York area living out the promise of the American Dream. That event will also take place in Trimble Forum at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 30.

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Crosscurrents now accepting submissions

Filed under: Auditions,Events on Campus,Press/Publications — ATH @ 10:29 am
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One of the quickest–albeit in no way the easiest–routes to fame and fortune is through publication in Crosscurrents, our outstanding student literary and arts magazine. You can find out more by checking out their Facebook page, or by emailing them at ccr@pugetsound.edu

Selection is competitive and anonymous; you may submit “3 art, 3 poems, 2 prose, 1 other” for the Fall issue.

September 24, 2010

National Punctuation Day (!)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ATH @ 7:54 am
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Who knew that there even was such an event? Now that you are cognizant, please celebrate with us by sprinkling your prose liberally with correctly used punctuation: a colon to set off a list; a semi-colon to divide independent clauses and/or to subdivide listed elements that themselves contain commas; and, of course, a liberal dose of exclamation points! (Okay, the last one was a joke)

Remember, grammar is best practiced among good friends–the kind of friends who can correctly identify a noun phrase appositive, and appreciate the proper use of a dash (never a hyphen!) to set it off.

September 21, 2010

Reminders: Two Thursday evening events with our faculty!

Two essential reminders for your calendars:

1. This Thursday, September 23, please join us in Trimble Forum, where Professor Laurie Frankel will be featured at our informal coffeehouse event. Rumor has it she will be leading a conversation about the publication of her novel, The Atlas of Love, in light of recent media attention on the perhaps unconscious biases toward male authors. Bring your questions and comments, buy a copy of her book and have it signed, nibble a brownie or two. 5:30-7 p.m.

2. The following Thursday, September 30, at 7 p.m., Professor Bill Kupinse will read his work at
Gig Harbor Library (4423 Point Fosdick Dr NW, Gig Harbor, 253-851-3793) as part of the Peninsula Library Poetry Series. Professor Kupinse says, “I’ll be reading older poems from my book Fallow, but also sharing some new work from an in-process verse reinterpretation of The Tower Treasure, the first book in the Hardy Boys series. As anyone who has read the 1927 adventure book knows, The Tower Treasure really is a poem trapped in novel form; my goal is to let it out. Yes, I have my fingers crossed that I’ll attract an eventual lawsuit from Hardy Boys publishers Grosset and Dunlap, now a subsidiary of Pearson; it’s always nice to be noticed.”

Looking ahead, Professor Julie Christoph will be featured at the next “Coffeehouse” Conversation: Monday, October 7, 2010. We’ll keep you updated.

September 12, 2010

More lists! We love the lists!

Filed under: Internet/Digital Technology,Literature — ATH @ 1:14 pm
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There’s something about the simultaneously reductive and celebratory nature of the “essential list”–of great books, popular celebrities, essential items to have on hand for the apocalypse, most repulsive recipes involving jello, etc.–that makes it eternally popular. We can discuss endlessly how any literary “best of” list is inevitably fraught with outrageous omissions and ludicrous inclusions, how its criteria are too broad, too narrow, too historically specific, too self-consciously universal. This list, for example, from Nashville Public Television, titles itself (ironically?) a list of “The thirteen novels every American should read,” although with a very few notable exceptions (Michael Chabon? Colum McCann? Sir Thomas Mallory?), it looks much more like a list of “the thirteen novels a bunch of Americans educated in public high schools in the 1960s and 70s remember and are proud of themselves for having read.”* It’s heavy on political allegory, fictionalized history, and civil rights era-fueled critique of the status quo. All of those are good things, indeed, but they reinforce my point: what any individual, generation, or set of readers identifies as “great” or “essential” literature likely has far more to do with its own historical moment, and its collective self-image, and what was being taught widely in high school, than with any sort of universal aesthetic criteria or pure literary merit. This is not, by any means, a suggestion that such lists are inaccurate, ill-intentioned, or useless; in fact, they are fascinating not only for the books they remind us to (re)read (I’ve not yet read Let the Great World Spin, and can’t even remember where my copy of Gulliver’s Travels has got to), but for the insight they provide into how we understand ourselves, our nation, our era.

*Edited, with thanks to our commenter, who reminds me that it’s unwise to write and post while under analgesia. I want to acknowledge that this list is very clearly introduced as personal and idiosyncratic–something not properly acknowledged in my original entry, which moved to reflecting about the nature of making such lists without clearly developing the context of this particular one. As Joe notes, such lists inevitably provoke reactions, and usually, outrage, over their omissions, unexamined biases. As with almost any contemporary discussions about literature and culture, they too often devolve into simplistic accusations–charges of “elitism” on one side, and “political correctness” on the other.

September 8, 2010

Jonathan Franzen at Benaroya: September 14

Professor Bev Conner alerts us that there are still single tickets available for American novelist Jonathan Franzen, the lead speaker in the popular and esteemed “Seattle Arts and Lectures” series for this year. Franzen will be speaking “On Autobiography and Fiction-Writing.” Best known for his ambitious 2001 novel The Corrections, which he claimed would–or should–reinvigorate the tradition of the Great American Literary Novel, and for the dust-up in which he rejected his selection by Oprah’s book club (and, presumably, his chance to earn the literary equivalent of the Platinum Record), Franzen is a controversial but undeniably talented author, and his most recent novel, Freedom (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010, $28) has garnered some impressive reviews (see, for example, the ubiquitous Michiko Kakutani’s review in The New York Times, here).

Tickets appear to start at $15, and can be purchased from the online Box Office.

September 7, 2010

Tacoma: Destination for the Arts

Part of Tacoma’s ongoing renaissance involves a strong commitment to the arts–especially efforts to promote and attract independent artists of all kinds to this area. Tacoma’s affordable rents, vibrant youth culture, and a city government that actively endorses arts endeavors, all add up to a city increasingly noteworthy for its growing art scene. To name only a very few bright spots among many, we have the third Thursday Artwalk with free museum admission and open galleries, the recent Spaceworks exhibits, which make use of empty storefronts, TAM’s outstanding programming, and small independent art and letterpresses like Beautiful Angle and Anagram Press.

Many of our faculty are leaders in local arts culture, including Professor and former Tacoma Poet Laureate Bill Kupinse, who send us this update about his not-for-profit literary press, Exquisite Disarray Publishing, created in 2009.

Professor Kupinse writes,

Initially created to publish In Tahoma’s Shadow, an anthology of Tacoma-area poets, Exquisite Disarray is in the process of judging the entries for its first-book contest. (Sorry poets: our reading period for the contest is now closed, though we do hope to run it again next year). Supported by a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission, the first book contest will allow a previously unpublished Washington State poet to see his or her first book in print. We’ll host a book launch Monday November 15, 2010 at 7 p.m. at the downtown branch of the Tacoma Public library, which will feature a reading and book signing by the winning poet; there will also be an award given for “best Tacoma poem” and some free book giveaways. For more details about Exquisite Disarray, check out our website (www.exquisitedisarray.org) or join our Facebook group.

We’re eager to see the results of this contest, and wish Exquisite Disarray and long and productive existence. And if we’ve inadvertently overlooked your favorite Tacoma arts organization, larger or small, feel free to email us an update for inclusion here!

September 2, 2010

You may have seen The Tacoma News Tribune’s recent story (Tuesday, August 31) on our very own Tyler Vlasak, Loggers inside linebacker, team captain, and English (and Philosophy) major. The article notes that Tyler parlays his rhetorical gifts into success not only in the classroom, but also in the locker-room, where he rallies his teammates. New Loggers Coach Jeff Thomas attributes Tyler’s leadership to his “eloquent way of wording things,” and praises his communication skills, including what are described as “lengthy essays”–“both informative and inspiring”–he provides on the team’s online forum. We congratulate Tyler, and we’re happy that he proves, yet again, that majoring in English provides the kinds of skills you can use in any realm of life. Best wishes for a great season!