Puget Sound English Department

April 19, 2011

Suzanne Warren Reading: Weds., April 20

Please join us for a reading by Suzanne Warren, Doctoral candidate at the U of Cincinnati and a candidate for the English Department’s Visiting Assistant Professorship in Creative Writing. Ms. Warren will be reading “Peachface: Short Fiction,” from her collection Nora Halpern, at 4 p.m., Weds., April 20, in Wyatt 313. In addition to the reading, there will be snacks and time for questions.


April 14, 2011

Department reading: Monday, April 18

Please join us at 4 p.m., on Monday, April 18 in Wyatt 313 to hear Renee Simms, adjunct professor at Arizona State University and candidate for Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, discuss contemporary African American literature and read from her story collection, Necessity of Wings.

April 11, 2011

Department Reading: Karin Lin-Greenberg

Please join us on Wednesday, April 13, at 4 p.m., in Wyatt 313 for a reading by Karin Lin-Greenberg, Visiting Assistant Professor at The College of Wooster and candidate for the position of Visiting Assistant Professor in Creative Writing. She will be reading “Prized Possession,” from her collection Those We Miss When They Are Gone. There will be refreshments, of course, and a chance to ask questions of our candidate.

August 8, 2010

Sure to raise hackles…

Anis Shivani has an article at The Huffington Post on “The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers.” There’s someone on the list to offend everyone: it includes critical favorites like Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, and Jonathan Safran Foer, as well as beloved figures like Amy Tan. (There’s an accompanying survey feature that allows you to defend your mislabeled favorites from Shivani’s acid-penned critique.)

Shivani’s specific nominees for over-ratedness aside, he makes a relevant and thought-provoking larger point: while we can blame, to some extent, the overrated authors of the past on the failings of a set of familiar villains (those closed-minded canonical white guys who appear to have run darn near everything, up until the point where they didn’t), the guilt for mistaking chaff for cream is collective. He notes the lack of compelling and authoritative critical voices on par with Malcolm Cowley or Edmund Wilson, and the tendency of today’s reviewers, many of them authors themselves, and graduates of the same MFA programs, to retreat from asking hard questions of a work in deference to their shared professional network (or, he suggests, in a kind of critical quid pro quo that serves the authors, but not their readers). Given the besieged status of literary fiction in general and book publishing more broadly, “reviews” have also become increasingly indistinguishable from marketing.

Shivani joins a larger debate over the nature and value of professionalizing and “academicizing” creative writing, claiming that such programs “embody a philosophy of neutered multiculturalism/political correctness” and somewhat inevitably tend to reproduce and reward the “easily imitable” over genuine originality. [See, e.g., here, or here, or even here for a very light sampling of the debates over the preponderance–and value–of MFA programs.]

While Shivani’s selections will no doubt offend many of us (I was a bit taken aback to find a few of my personal favorites on his hit list), he argues, quite convincingly, that many of today’s most acclaimed writers substitute stylistic tics for nuance, solipsism for vision, and topical superficiality for the larger questions–or a greater variety of answers thereto–that have inspired the best authors of yesterday and today. And in his attempt to be intellectually provocative, he risks reanimating the discredited notion that great literature is “universal” (whose universe?). He’s particularly strident, for example, in dismissing the work of Amy Tan. I can’t say I disagree with his overall assessment of her work (or with his unfavorable comparison of Tan to John Okada). But his criticism of her–“Flattened politics and history to private angst in depiction of minority assimilation. Empowered other immigrant writers to make mountains out of the molehills of their minor adjustment struggles”–suggests an underlying bias against stories of (racial, ethnic, cultural) particularity as inherently less valuable than those works that take on broader general questions–universal questions?–like “mortality.” One can certainly criticize Tan’s depictions of cultural assimilation, racial identity, and “minor adjustment struggles” without suggesting (as Shivani does) that the struggles themselves are trivial or unworthy of literary treatment.

And don’t despair; he promises to publish a list of the most underrated American writers, coming soon.

July 9, 2010

Countdown to _Atlas of Love_

Filed under: Publishing — ATH @ 5:16 pm
Tags: , ,

We’re very excited that the debut novel of our talented colleague Professor Laurie Frankel, The Atlas of Love (St. Martin’s Press, 23.99) will be released next month, on August 17. Advance press describes the book as “highly literate,” “insightful,” and “beautifully written”–and some of you may have been fortunate enough to have heard Professor Frankel read from it this past spring. The rest of us are eagerly awaiting it.

If, like us, you can’t wait, you can pre-order the book (or a Kindle version thereof) from amazon.com here.

Congratulations to Laurie from all of us in the department!

March 24, 2010

Reminder: Creative Writing Days–TODAY


Tonight (Weds.) 7-9 p.m., Readings and Book Signing with faculty authors Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of the novel Wench, and Ann Putnam, author of Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye. This event takes place in the Murray Boardroom and Reception Area and is open to the university community and the public.

On Thursday, March 25, there will be a reading of fiction and poetry, featuring faculty writers Beverly Conner, Erik Ellis, Laurie Frankel, Bill Kupinse, Hans Ostrom, and Lynn Sokei, from 4-6:30 p.m., in Trimble Forum. This event is open to the university community and the public.

March 5, 2010

Submissions Wanted: City Arts Magazine

(from Virginia Bunker, by way of Puget Sound’s Shirley Skeel):
City Arts Magazine is calling for submissions of original poetry, prose and visual art for “&” — a special section in our monthly Tacoma edition.

This section of City Arts is reserved for locally made art that translates well on the printed page.

If you haven’t yet checked it out, take a look at our March issue where we are pleased to feature the work of local writer J. J. Hudson.

The deadline for consideration in the “&” section of our April issue is Thursday, March 11th. Can’t make that deadline? Not to worry. There are ongoing opportunities for publication throughout 2010. We welcome your submissions at any time.

Visual artists please note: high-resolution images must be available at 300 dpi.

Submissions to virginiab@cityartsmagazine.com