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.


February 18, 2010

Tempest in an (Antique) Teapot

PBS is promoting a new edition of “American Masters” featuring The American Novel. Great, no? You’d think that your dedicated English Department members would be ecstatic.

And we are, sort of. Because if you poke around the site a bit, something quite strange begins to emerge. Take the Timeline feature. Nifty, no? Scroll to the left…all…the…way…back…to……1826.

Yes, folks; apparently the PBS “Experts” have decreed that 1826 is the year of origin for the American novel, during a period known as “Romanticism.” (Perhaps the fact that they are celebrating “200 years” with a timeline that includes only 186 years should have alerted me to potential problems). Presumably, the outpouring of novels that succeeded the Revolution is unworthy of critical–or popular–attention. Sorry, Charles Brockden Brown, Susanna Rowson, Hannah Foster, Royall Tyler. You don’t count. James Fenimore Cooper makes it into the series, but just barely, and in a clearly subordinate role as precursor to the good stuff.

Clearly the earlier works are far less well known, and yes, we English profs are always happy to see programs that encourage, feature, or acknowledge books.

But still, it concerns me that a series presumably interested in exploring the substance and breadth of a rich American literary tradition so closely resembles the reading list I had in my AP literature course, lo these many, many years ago.

To be fair, it is obvious from the website that the producers have made an important and necessary effort to acknowledge the tremendous influence writers of color have had on the American novel, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries; Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Gish Jen, Zora Neale Hurston, Sandra Cisneros, Maxine Hong Kingston, Louise Erdrich, and Ralph Ellison are there alongside predictable figures like Kurt Vonnegut, Ayn Rand (!), Faulkner, Hemingway, Salinger, Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck. And, of course, no series can or should try to do all things; I appreciate both the limits of the genre and the need to create a coherent and engaging set of programs, rather than attempt an impossible comprehensiveness.

But in its conception, the series appears to hew pretty closely to the party line established by F.O. Mathiessen’s The American Renaissance (1941), which canonized the writings of a select group of male authors (Thoreau, Melville, Emerson, Hawthorne, Whitman) at the expense of far more popular women writers of the era. His book articulated the values that dominated the study of American literature for decades: the notion of the great writer as a brooding, alienated, masculine genius, whose work dramatized the individual’s psychological turmoil set against a backdrop of nattering, unappreciative, stultifying (feminine) society.

For those of us who spend most of our time trying to draw attention to the rich, complex, multi-faceted novels that emerged in the eighteenth century, the PBS series looks like a disappointment in the making, reinforcing curricular biases that neglect an important part of the story of the American novel. I’m hoping, however, to be pleasantly surprised. You can check for local airings of the episodes here.

November 13, 2009

KUPS Wins Award

Filed under: Events on Campus,Film and Video — O. @ 10:58 pm

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!

September 29, 2009

Tacoma Film Festival Starts This Week

Filed under: Film and Video — O. @ 6:34 pm

grandThe Tacoma Film Festival begins at the Grand Cinema this week and will run through October 8.  Here is a link to more information:


September 28, 2009

Award-Winning Animator (and Alum) to Visit Campus

Puget Sound alum Scott Bateman (class of 1986) will visit campus on October 5 (Monday).  He will discuss “The Life and Art of an Animator” at 4:00 p.m. in Wyatt 109, and he will also screen some of his animations.  The presentation is free and open to the public, and it’s sponsored by the Writers’ Guild and the Dolliver NEH Professorship.

Scott’s first animated feature film, Atom Age Vampire, is screening as an Official Selection at the Tacoma Film Festival on Sunday, October 4 at 4:30 PM at Grand Cinema. More info at http://www.grandcinema.com/page.php?id=43 and http://www.atomagevampire.org
Links to other animations by Scott may be found at


Incidentally, Scott used to draw cartoons for The Trail.

September 13, 2009

A Reading of Philip Larkin’s Poem, “Toads”

Filed under: Film and Video,Literature,Poetry Readings — O. @ 8:49 pm

amtoadHere is a link to a reading of Philip Larkin‘s poem, “Toads,”  along with images of the printed text:


Denise Levertov Reading

Filed under: Film and Video,Poetry Readings — O. @ 3:54 am

levertov2Here is a link to  a video of Denise Levertov reading several poems:


September 1, 2009

“Where The Wild Things Are”: Preview and Fundraiser

Writer, professor, and Puget Sound alum Jared Leising has sent along information about a preview screening of the film (based on the famous children’s book), Where the Wild Things Are. Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze co-wrote the screenplay, and Eggers will participate in a brief Q&A before the screening, which takes place on October 7 (7:00 p.m.) at the Cinerama in Seattle.

The screening will help raise money for 826 Seattle, a non-profit group that provides workshops and tutorials to students (age 6-18) on creative and expository writing and on acquiring English–free of charge.  826 Seattle is always interested in hearing from potential volunteers, as well. A link:


Poet and fiction-writer Jared Leising earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Houston after graduating from Puget Sound and before teaching in the Seattle area.

August 29, 2009

The “Favorite Poem” Project

Below  is a link to the Favorite Poem Project, a collection of videos that capture people reading their favorite poems. Some of the readers are famous (Bill and Hillary Clinton, for example), some are academicians (professors of law and anthropology), and some are more or less just plain folks (students, government workers, and so on).  Many of the videos have been featured on Bill Moyers‘ PBS programs.


July 22, 2009

A History of World Cinema

charlie_chaplinThe Oxford History of World Cinema, by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, recently turned ten years old. Here is a link to a description of the book:


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