Fordham Students Experience the Camino

Buen Camino! This greeting is passed along the trail to the pilgrimage site, Santiago de Compostella, in Galicia, Spain. A popular shrine with medieval promotional literatures spanning genres of romance, ethnography, hagiography, and liturgical sources, the relics of St. James had a booming career in the twelfth century, and again in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

On September 29th, 2017, both of Dr. Suzanne Yeager’s course sections of Medieval Traveler heard first-hand about pilgrim experience from recent peregrinas, Dr. Christina Carlson and Rachel Podd. Dr. Carlson, a professor of Literature at Iona College, NY, graduate of Fordham University’s Doctoral Program in English, and recipient of Fordham’s Doctoral Certificate in Medieval Studies, shared her experiences of the trail, alongside Rachel Podd, a current advanced student in Fordham’s Doctoral program in History. “If making the pilgrimage is this gruelling today, even with all of our modern conveniences,” one student mused, “then this presentation gave me much more respect for the undertaking it was for medieval pilgrims.” Students were interested to learn of the intersections of medieval and modern, secular and spiritual aspects which both scholars presented. For Dr. Carlson, this was a first-time pilgrimage to Compostella, but she is a long-time traveler to the island of Iona, where she takes her undergraduate students on pilgrimage on a routine basis. For Ms. Podd, the journey was the third time she had made the trek, assisting Fordham students on their pilgrimages.

Clearly both scholars have a lifetime of medieval literature, history, and travel in their futures. Podd spoke of the rare scent of glacial mountains, when the wind was blowing just right. “I wish I could bottle the air!” she reflected. We were grateful for these Fordham scholars for offering us a vicarious taste or their pilgrimages. 

Lawrence Kramer's *Thought of Music* Wins Virgil Thomson Award

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The ASCAP Foundation just announced that the 2017 Virgil Thomson Award for Outstanding Music Criticism in the concert music field will go to The Thought of Music, by Distinguished Professor of English and Music at Fordham Lawrence Kramer. Published by University of California Press, the book, according to the citation, "grapples with the understanding of humanity through music." "What, exactly, is knowledge of music?" Kramer asks.  "And what does it tell us about humanistic knowledge in general? 

The Thought of Music grapples directly with these fundamental questions—questions especially compelling at a time when humanistic knowledge is enmeshed in debates about its character and future. In this third volume in a trilogy on musical understanding that includes Interpreting Music and Expression and Truth, Kramer seeks answers in both thought about music and thought in music—thinking in tones. He skillfully assesses musical scholarship in the aftermath of critical musicology and musical hermeneutics and in view of more recent concerns with embodiment, affect, and performance. This authoritative and timely work challenges the prevailing conceptions of every topic it addresses: language, context, and culture; pleasure and performance; and, through music, the foundations of understanding in the humanities.

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The Virgil Thomson Award, named for one of the leading American composers and critics of the 20th Century, is part of the ASCAP Foundation's annual Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Awards, which is in its 49th year. Thus The Thought of Music this year appears alongside the foundation's announcement of awards to books on topics as various as The Beatles,  Mozart, The Replacements, 19th-Century American orchestras, and Buddy Guy, as well as liner notes for Big Star--Complete Third, a four-hour documentary film on The Grateful Dead,  and a radio/internet show hosting the keyboard world’s greatest luminaries for themed discussion and performances.

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Congratulations to Professor Kramer!  

Sharon Harris Awarded Predoctoral Fellowship

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Sharon Harris, a PhD candidate in Early Modern literature, has been awarded a Predoctoral Fellowship from the UCLA Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies to conduct research at the William Andrews Clark Library. In her dissertation, “Moving Music: Theory and Practice in Early Modern English Drama and Poetry,” Harris studies the power of music to move physically and otherwise as represented in early modern literature. This temporary residential fellowship helps Harris research songbook and poetry manuscripts at the Clark Library for the final chapter of her project, “Publics, Performances, and Publications: From a Musico-Literary Coterie to a Public Music Market in the Mid-Seventeenth Century.”

In this chapter Harris illustrates music’s power to move physically and socially in response to political pressures and economic opportunities. It explores poetry originally produced by musico-literary coteries that became popularized in musical performances to public or semi-public audiences in the mid-seventeenth century. The chapter investigates to what extent the rise of these semi-public and public performances of songs relate to the enormous increase in music publications beginning in the 1650s. Harris writes,

These works come from a turbulent time in English history during the English Civil War when the court dispersed and, consequently, court musicians found themselves without work. These musicians collaborated with poets to produce several songs, and this trend preceded an explosive growth in musical publications, especially from the publisher John Playford. Despite scant written accounts of this trend and very little scholarship on it, Mary Chan, Stacey Jocoy, and others have made a persuasive case that these performances helped create a public market and customer base for John Playford’s numerous musical publications beginning in the 1650s.

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The Predoctoral Fellowship allows Harris to study manuscripts from this period that contain songs that circulated decades before they first appeared in printed songbooks in the 1650s. The manuscript holdings at the Clark Library are among the highlights of their collection.

Congratulations, Sharon!

Apply Now: English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration

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The Creative Writing Program at Fordham University is accepting applications for the English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration.

Premised on the belief that the study of literature and the practice of writing are mutually enforcing, the English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration emphasizes the inter-relations among creative writing, digital media, criticism, and scholarship. As a concentration with a dual focus on literature and creative work, fully integrated within the English department, this degree offering combines literature courses, small writing workshops, and practical industry training to prepare students for advanced study or careers in writing, media, and publishing. In addition, students benefit from the resources provided by New York City, a worldwide center for literary publishing.

To learn more about the application process, course requirements, and program please visit bit.ly/cwmajor.

Applications are due Wednesday, November 1st.

 

Fordham Welcomes 2017 Mary Higgins Clark Chair, A.S. King

On October 2nd, the Department of English and the Creative Writing Program celebrated the Mary Higgins Clark Chair in Creative Writing and Fordham LitFest 2017.

Preceding this year’s Mary Higgins Clark chair address by celebrated surrealist YA author A.S. King, English majors, minor, and prospective majors gathered in McNally Amphitheater for LitFest 2017. A celebration of the discipline of literary study and excellence in writing, LitFest gave students the opportunity to learn about the value of the English major from department faculty, enjoy the premiere of the new English department short film Real Talk: Fordham English Alums starring recent English major graduates, and discuss literary and professional interests within specialized caucuses. 

Student gather in the Publishing Caucus to discuss building a portfolio, pitching to editors, and becoming a self-disciplined writer

Student gather in the Publishing Caucus to discuss building a portfolio, pitching to editors, and becoming a self-disciplined writer

 

At the conclusion of LitFest, King, took to the stage to deliver her address, titled “Writing Novels - Trust the Process, Work Often, Die Happy.” King’s address focused on her spontaneous writing process known as pantsing.

Pantsing, explained King, is the process of writing without an outline—diving right into a story without knowing where it will lead. For King, this writing begins with a character: “My characters tell me things, and I listen.”

This method seems like a crazy approach to writing a novel, and it is, King promised. She admitted her dive-right-in process requires trust in a way plotted writing does not. "I trust in a very untrustworthy world,” she explained. “I always have, and I always will. That's why I write the way I do.”

“You write the best book you possibly can, and then you write another one. And then you write another one. Repeat.”

“You write the best book you possibly can, and then you write another one. And then you write another one. Repeat.”

 

The author also discussed her challenges as a woman writing in a predominantly male genre. “As a surrealist writer, being female isn’t always a picnic,” confessed King. She reflected on years of being mislabeled by publishers, undervalued, and rejected for being too strange or not romantic enough for a female writer: “Apparently my work wouldn’t be as hard to shelve if I thought like women are supposed to think, as if the marriage of my brain and my hands is somehow rerouted through my glands.”

After fifteen years of rejection, King was finally published. Though praise has followed, King insists financial success and glory have never been her motivators. “This is a hard business, but the goal is ultimately to write more books, to make more art, to stay focused on what’s important, to continue to meet my own goals, to reach out," she explained. "And encourage people to share their stories too—that’s a big one.”

King's advice to young writers in the audience was simple: make writing a priority. "I am always writing," said King. "Writing makes me happy," she explained. "I’m a better mother, a better friend, a better writer, and a better person when I’m happy."

Write often, encouraged the celebrated author. Pantsing is one way to do it, said King, but it doesn't work for everyone. "No one writes a book the same way as anybody else," she maintained. "Find what works for you, and write."

King closed her address by revealing what inspires her: “I want to give people a part of myself. I want to write books that come to me. I want to help other people." She put it simply: "That’s what makes me happy.”

FCLC '19 Cat Reynolds presents FCLC '79 Mary Higgins Clark with a gift from Fordham University.

FCLC '19 Cat Reynolds presents FCLC '79 Mary Higgins Clark with a gift from Fordham University.

“Queen of Suspense” and graduate of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, Class of 1979, Mary Higgins Clark took to the stage after King, and praised King for her inspiring and entertaining address. The bestselling author especially identified with the joy King found in proving her critics wrong. She reflected on a particularly harsh rejection slip: “It read, ‘Mrs. Clark, your stories are light, slight, and trite,’ and I thought, ‘I’ll show you,’ and I did.” 

“You’ve proved them right fifty-seven times now, correct?” asked Fordham’s president Father McShane upon the event’s closing. “That’s how many novels you’ve written?” Clark nodded. McShane ended the evening with expressing his gratitude for Mary Higgins Clark and her generosity towards Fordham University, as well as his gratitude for King: “You have liberated some minds in here tonight with your words, and for that we are grateful.”

[To see the Fordham News story on this event, click here. Their story includes even more fun photos!]

Audience members have their books signed by A.S. King and Mary Higgins Clark following the address. 

Audience members have their books signed by A.S. King and Mary Higgins Clark following the address. 

 

 

Poet Melissa Castillo-Garsow Reads “El Barrio”

Melissa Castillo-Garsow

Melissa Castillo-Garsow

This week’s New York City Planning Commission’s approval of rezoning East Harlem is expected to usher in sweeping changes to the neighborhood known as El Barrio for its mostly Spanish-speaking residents. Poet Melissa Castillo-Garsow, Ph.D., GSAS ’11, foresaw the change and portrayed it in her poem “El Barrio,” which she performed at the Sept. 25 Poets Out Loud reading.

Castillo-Garsow said she wrote the poem while living in the area as a M.A. student in English at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and at the Latin American and Latino Studies Institute.

This story is reprinted from Fordham News, which also includes a recording of Castillo-Garsow's reading.