Poets Out Loud Event Wednesday February 10

On Wednesday, February 10 at 7 pm Poets Out Loud will kick off its spring semester of poetry with readings by two exciting new poets: Melissa Range and Javier Zamora.

Melissa Range’s first book of poetry—Horse and Rider: Poems (Texas Tech University Press, 2010)—won the Walt McDonald Prize in Poetry. Her second book Scriptorium, inspired by medieval scholarship, was selected by Tracy K. Smith for the National Poetry Series competition and will be published by Beacon Press in the fall. Range is the recipient of the 2011 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, among other honors. She is an assistant professor at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Javier Zamora is also the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. An immigrant from El Salvador, Zamora is intrigued by borders. His first book will be published in 2017 by Copper Canyon Press and his chapbook Nine Immigrant Years won the 2011 Organic Weapon Arts Contest. His poems have been published in Ploughshares, Narrative, New Border, Poet Lore and other journals. Zamora is currently participating in a Yaddo writing retreat in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The reading starts at 7 pm in the 12th floor lounge at the Leon Lowenstein building of Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus (113 West 60th Street). It is free and open to the public; refreshments will be served.

This event is funded in part by Poets & Writers with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. 

Pottroff Awarded Mercantile Library Fellowship

English PhD candidate Christy Pottroff has been awarded the Mercantile Library Fellowship in North American Bibliography from the Bibliographical Society of America. The award supports researchers who shed new light on the production and distribution of North American books. Christy will use this award to research and write two publications stemming from her dissertation. First, she will write a scholarly article that reanimates a little known practice of book distribution by mail coach in the United States between 1800 and 1835. Second, she will conduct another phase of archival research at the National Archives for her digital mapping project, "The U.S. Goes Postal," which tracks the growth of the postal service between 1778 and 1878.

Thursday, Feb. 4: Lecture by Heather Love, PhD

Please join the Fordham LGBTQ Graduate Group and GSAS Futures for a co-sponsored lecture by Professor Heather K. Love (University of Pennsylvania). The event will take place on Thursday, February 4th from 5-7 p.m. in Hill Faculty 7-119 (Law School, Lincoln Center campus). Love’s research examines twentieth-century literature and culture from the intersections of myriad discourses including queer theory, affect theory, sociology, disability studies, and film theory. Thursday’s presentation, “A Queer Method? Samuel Delany’s Empiricism and the Uses of the Literary,” reflects Love’s new book project. Love reveals how ethical commitments and humanist values inform the humanities’ adherence to close reading, despite the fields’ appeal to “post-humanism.” Love demonstrates how “surface readings” and “flat” descriptions can, in fact, permit anti-humanist interpretations.

Fenton Highlights Sherman's Aural Method of Composition

PhD candidate William Fenton has published a piece about Professor Stuart Sherman’s aural approach to composition in his biweekly column for PCMag.com. An excerpt is below.

Teaching by Ear: How a Professor Uses an iPhone to Tune Up Composition
By William Fenton

Forget beauty. Stuart Sherman aspires to clarity. As a professor of English at Fordham University, Sherman uses literature classes like “Shakespeare’s History Plays” and “Comedies, Tragedies, Musicals, and Melodrama” to teach a different kind of writing process—one that caters to the ear rather than the eye.

Sherman argues that the ear is the “halfway house” for clarity because the ear is the more vulnerable sense. Whereas the eye can navigate time and space to disentangle complicated sentences, the ear lacks those affordances. If a sentence does not make explicitly clear how one word or phrase follows the last, the ear cannot travel back in space to straighten it out. If it returns to anything, it returns to memory, which depletes attention and creates a sort of cascading effect. “If the sentences are unclear, then the ear jettisons sentence after sentence,” Sherman explains. “All that the ear will know is that it’s bewildered.”

This is not to suggest that bewilderment does not have a place in writing. One of the most memorable lines of Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno is also one of its most syntactically baroque: “Not Captain Delano, but Don Benito, the black, in leaping into the boat, had intended to stab” (238). But what works for nineteenth century fiction might not serve today’s cover letter, professional email, or PCMag column. In the genres in which we write daily, clarity is king, and Sherman argues that the best way to pursue clarity is to write for the ear. This week I take a closer look at his writing philosophy, teaching method, and the digital tools with which he promotes ear-training.

Read Fenton’s full article here.

A Reading with Carl Hancock Rux

Fordham undergraduates and professors enjoyed a reading by award-winning poet, playwright, novelist, essayist and recording artist Carl Hancock Rux on January 26th. A native New Yorker, Rux prefaced his works by explaining how his experiences in the city — from the first years of his life spent in East Harlem to growing up in foster care in the South Bronx — inform his work. 

Rux began the reading with three excerpts from his first collection of poetry, Pagan Operetta. The poetic memoir details much of Rux's early life and the pieces he chose to read recounted raw memories from his childhood. In "Blue Candy" Rux recalls his grandmother's death through the simple language of his four-year-old self. In a letter to a friend, Rux details his first experience of leaving the United States, his travels to Ghana and Paris, and his attempts to avoid a dying childhood friend.

Both readings from Pagan Operetta proved Rux's interdisciplinary talents as his voice shifted between verse and song to fit the tone of each different piece.

Rux also read from his debut novel, Asphalt. The novel tells the story of Racine, a DJ who returns from abroad to a war-stricken, post-apocylptic New York City. Along with other squatters, Racine transforms a Brooklyn brownstone into a dance club. The excerpt from which Rux read confronted the issues of poverty, despair, and urban decay in Racine's Brooklyn neighborhood and the futility of the city's efforts to preserve Manhattan for "when the rich people return."

After the reading, Rux answered questions from creative writing students and professors.

One student asked, "How often do you feel self doubt when you're writing?"

Rux explained that he doesn't feel self doubt, exactly, but that writing Pagan Operetta was "cathartic, emotional, and painful" because of its autobiographical nature. "I could see my life literally on page," he told the student. Rux passed on advice from a friend that helped him to overcome the guilt he felt for exposing family secrets: "You reserve the right to invade your own privacy, always."

He added that the feelings of self doubt or writer's block are always something else, a question that can drive your work but that you're momentarily having trouble answering. "Remove the doubt and embrace the question," he advised.

Another student asked, "Do you ever write work that you don't want or don't need to share?"

"No," Rux responded quickly. "Not necessarily published, read by me, or or heard by others in my lifetime — but shared — absolutely."

Picking up on the tone of students' questions, Director of Creative Writing Sarah Gambito asked Rux to share his top three gifts to young writers.

"I love that," Rux smiled before offering his parting advice to creative writing students.

Rux's first gift is one he once received from social activist and a cappella performer Bernice Johnson Reagon: "Tap into what is incomplete in yourself and allow it to be a gift."

His second gift was a dose of confidence to young writers.

"You know more about what you're trying to do than anyone else does. Embrace what you think you know about now and convince everyone else."

His last gift echoed earlier sentiments about writing as a process of reading and learning.

"Constantly return to history. Constantly read. Everything has been written before, but not by you."



English Major Eng Selected for Prestigious Writing Internship

Caroline Eng, a junior English major at Fordham, has been selected for the highly competitive Phi Beta Kappa Writing Internship.

Established in 1776, The Phi Beta Kappa Society is both the oldest and most recognized academic honor society in the United States. Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression.

Comprised of 286 chapters and over half a million members, the society selects no more than 15 students for its biannual writing internship.

Juniors and seniors who major in the liberal arts or sciences and who belong to a society chapter may apply for the internship. Interns make a five-month commitment to the program and prepare at least six publishable articles for The Key Reporter, the society’s publication for news and alumni relations.

Eng is from Winchester, Massachusetts. In addition to majoring in English, she minors in theater. She has been involved with the Fordham University Emerging Leaders program, with the Fordham University Women’s Choir, and with theatrical productions at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. After graduation, she wishes to work in the publishing industry.

Eng’s internship begins this month and continues through May.

The English department congratulates her and wishes her luck!

Sabalis on Museum Education and Public Speaking

English PhD candidate Samantha Sabalis discusses her pedagogical tactic of using museum education to improve students' public speaking. Sabalis will discuss her findings at the College English Association Annual Conference in Denver in March.

Creating the Museum Experience: Using Museum Education to Teach Oral Presentation Skills in the Composition Classroom
By Samantha Sabalis

One of the biggest challenges I face in the Composition and Rhetoric classroom is teaching students to give the same level of attention to their oral presentations as they do to their written assignments. In the past, many student presentations have been disjointed, confusing, or monotonous, with presenters who were crippled by shyness or showed no evidence of practicing their material beforehand. I tackled these issues through a new final project: a series of readings and written assignments that culminated in an oral presentation on a work of art, given on-site at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In this project, I wanted to combine my experience as a teacher of Composition and Rhetoric at Fordham with my training in museum education, first as a docent at the Morgan Library and Museum and later as an intern at the Rubin Museum of Art. Focusing as much on engaging a diverse community of visitors as it does on teaching scholarly content, museum education offers many techniques for creating presentations that are both informative and engaging. Most notably, its focus on object-based learning can be easily adapted to teach students how to better integrate evidence and visual aids like Powerpoint into presentations. By using museum resources, I also wanted to expand my classroom to include the cultural landscape of New York City, drawing on Fordham’s motto that “New York is my campus.”

As well as training my students as apprentice museum educators who did not simply memorize their research but instead made it comprehensible and engaging to a diverse group of listeners, I also encouraged them use their experiences as audience members to prepare their presentations. On a class trip to hear a museum tour, students considered not only the content but the rhetoric of the tour, reflecting on how the docent increased their interest in the objects on display or how she confused or alienated them, and developing their own techniques based on their experiences.

In their final presentations, my students rose to the challenge of the new public setting, tailoring their material to suit their audiences and giving confident and fluent interpretations of objects that included an Yves St. Laurent jumpsuit, a Colt Revolver, a Chinese Buddhist mural, and an Etruscan chariot, alongside the more conventional Monet paintings and Classical sculptures. Though initially daunted by new space and by the prospect of strangers listening to them, they all thrived in the museum setting and said the additional listeners only increased their confidence.

In March, I will introduce fellow Composition teachers to my project at the College English Association Annual Conference in Denver. Through my description of my project and through students’ reflections on their experiences, I hope to show how incorporating museum education and using a museum as a class location can enliven and enrich students’ oral presentations, improving their skill and their confidence as presenters.