Fall Faculty Colloquium: October 2, 2015 (12:00-1:00)

Join us at 12 PM in Donovan Lounge on Friday, October 2, for informal talks and Q&A with Christopher Armitage, Laura Halperin, and Heidi Kim. Feel free to bring a brown bag lunch. Graduate students are warmly invited as well. 


Christopher Mead Armitage, who joined the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty in 1967, specializes in seventeenth- and twentieth-century English and Canadian literature. His lively style and personal interest in his students have earned him several awards for excellent teaching. Since 1970 he has returned annually to England to conduct a six-week study program on "Shakespeare in Performance" for students and alumni. In addition, Armitage lectures frequently for the Carolina Speakers program. He appeared on horseback and in eighteenth-century costume to represent William R. Davie at UNC's Bicentennial and on later occasions. His recent publications include The Poetry of Piety: An Annotated Anthology of Christian Poetry which he compiled with UNC alumnus Rev. Dr. Ben Witherington; and "Blue China and Blue Moods: Oscar Fashioning Himself at Oxford," Oscar Wilde: The Man, His Writings and His World, ed. Robert N. Keane.


Laura Halperin: My research interests focus on contemporary Latina/o literatures and cultures. My current book project focuses on representations of harm in late twentieth century Latina novels and memoirs. It examines the gendered, racialized, and ethnicized pathologization of Latinas in works by Julia Alvarez, Ana Castillo, Cristina García, Loida Maritza Pérez, and Irene Vilar. The manuscript drawsconnections among psychological, physical, environmental, and geopolitical harm, and it posits links between Latina deviance and defiance. My budding research interests lie in the arena of Latinas/os and education. I am interested in what it means to grow up Latina/o. To this end, I am investigating connections among Latina/o coming of age narratives, curricular policies that affect Latinas/os, governmental policies that impair or facilitate Latinas/os’ access to an education, debates surrounding English-Only policies and bilingual or multilingual education, and censorship of Latina/o texts in school libraries and classrooms.


Heidi Kim: My work ranges through nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature and Asian American studies. In my book project, Invisible Subjects: Asian Americans in Postwar Literature (Oxford UP, 2016), I study texts by twentieth-century canonical American authors of different ethnicities through recent advances in Asian American studies and historiography. This critical lens allows me to interpret overlooked subtleties in the depiction of race in the American literary canon. Building on Ralph Ellison’s theories of invisibility in his famous novel Invisible Man, I show that Asian Americans demonstrate the fluidity and limitations of their available legal and social roles. I resituate several major authors (Ellison, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck) amid the Asian American presence in their works and the dialogue of liberal individualism. I have also recently published an edition of a memoir and correspondence of a Japanese American family from Hawai'i incarcerated during World War II (Taken from the Paradise Isle, UP Colorado, 2015) and have published essays on other aspects of the incarceration.


Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture to be given by UNC English Professor Philip Gura

On November 5 2015 Professor Philip Gura will deliver the annual Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture at the University of Kansas. His topic is, "'I' or 'We': Placing the Self in Antebellum Literature and Culture."

Previous speakers have included Fredric Jameson, Marjorie Garber, J. Hillis Miller,  Bill Brown, and Janice Radway, among others. 

Professor Jessica Wolfe Studies Pseudodoxia Epidemica on NEH Fellowship

Professor Jessica Wolfe has just returned to the UNC classroom after a eight-month fellowship funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities. Wolfe, who teaches both classical and Renaissance literature in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, spent six months at the Newberry Library in Chicago, followed by two months in Germany at the Herzog Augusta Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, working in both archives on a new scholarly edition of Thomas Browne's Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646; 1672) for Oxford University Press. This edition also features the work of her UNC colleague and husband Reid Barbour, who is editing Browne's Religio Medici.

Browne, a 17th c. English physician and essayist best known for lyrical prose works such as Religio and Urn-Buriall, composed the Pseudodoxia as a kind of Renaissance 'Mythbusters' -- an encyclopedia of legends, myths, and "vulgar errors" about subjects ranging from unicorns, curative stones, and mandrakes to pygmies, gypsies, and whether the participants of the Last Supper should be depicted sitting up or reclining at that meal. At the Newberry Library, Wolfe benefited from that archive's world-class holdings of early modern maps and atlases to research topics including the colour of the Red Sea, the mysterious source of the Nile, and the fantastical sea monsters of Renaissance cartography, which Browne dismisses as non-existent 'crotescoes' used to fill up empty space in maps.

Olaus Magnus, Carta Marina, 1539

Both there and at the Herzog Augusta Bibliothek (see below), a collection first assembled by the 16th and 17th c. dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneberg, Wolfe studied early modern medical texts, works on magnetism, electricity, and lunar observation, commentaries on classical philosophers such as Aristotle, Galen, and Dioscorides, and -- her favorite new genres of early modern scholarship -- works on calendrical matters and biblical chronology, which grapple with questions such as whether the creation took place in spring or autumn (Browne refuses to decide conclusively) and what effects, if any, are associated with the so-called dies caniculares, or 'dog days' of summer.

Herzog Augusta Bibliothek, Main Library

While in Wolfenbüttel, the picturesque town in Lower Saxony that houses the Herzog Augusta Bibliothek, Prof. Wolfe had the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of a German summer and to travel widely throughout the country, including brief trips to Hamburg, Goslar, and Regensburg. Despite its appearance of a tranquil market town (see below), Wolfenbüttel has long been a center of scholarly and cultural activity: Leibniz and Lessing both served turns as librarians of the H.A.B., and the town's many half-timbered houses boast signs marking illustrious inhabitants of centuries past, including the organist Michael Praetorius and (in the 1620s) an entire troupe of English travelling players.  Wolfe was delighted to discover that Thomas Browne's own son, Edward, reports in his travel journal about hearing local legends about a "spirit" that supposedly inhabits silver mines a few miles from Wolfenbüttel -- the 1,000-year-old Rammelsburg mines that tourists (Wolfe included) still visit, just as Edward may have done in the 1660s.

Wolfenbüttel, Cornmarket square


Statement in Support of Professor Neel Ahuja

The faculty of the Department of English & Comparative Literature at UNC, Chapel Hill declare our support for our colleague, Professor Neel Ahuja. In light of recent criticisms over his first-year seminar, ENGL 72: Literature of 9/11, we offer these observations: First, the criticisms of the course originated with individuals who have no first-hand knowledge of the class. The student who wrote the first piece condemning the class for having an ostensibly slanted perspective had neither taken the course nor read any of the course texts. In actuality, ENGL 72 requires that students study and write about literature and art that memorializes the victims of 9/11.  Second, we recognize that Dr. Ahuja has a strong record of teaching, mentoring, and scholarship, which makes him an excellent instructor for this particular course material. Finally, we believe absolutely in academic freedom for all our faculty.  Discouraging faculty members from presenting controversial or dissenting viewpoints in class compromises the critical thinking and free speech essential to genuine education. Our department faculty share commitment to the foundational principle of open intellectual inquiry, which we promote in our classes by challenging students to engage with a variety of perspectives, controversies, and tensions. We reaffirmed commitment to such productive pedagogical inquiry in our recent self-study report:

The Department’s course offerings present a diversity of approaches to the study, production, and appreciation of literary and nonliterary texts. We pursue a four-fold mission to 1) explore the history and significance of American, British, and world literatures; 2) promote interdisciplinary connections and incorporate the study of culture, theory, and history; 3) offer training in rigorous thinking, precise analysis, and critical reading; and 4) foster practical skills in rhetoric, composition, and expression in written genres, creative pieces, and digital media. These emphases resonate well with the UNC Academic Plan through their interdisciplinary and global nature. Further, we reap the benefit of our highly recognized and engaged faculty, particularly as they provide transformative experiences for our students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

We are very proud of the articulate explanations of Professor Ahuja’s course on Literature of 9/11 recently published in a variety of forums by his former students, who from direct personal experience attest to its value as a learning experience that sharpened their critical analytical skills, enabled them to achieve nuanced command of complex issues, and increased their understanding of one of the seminal events in recent American experience.


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