Scholarship

Reid-Mullarkey Research and Teaching Forum--October 24th

You are invited to the next Reid-Mullarky Reseach and Teaching Forum—Writing and Teaching in the Age of the Unspeakable. Wednesday, October 24th from 2:30pm-6:30pm at Rose Hill’s Duane Library, Room 351 and videoconference to LL309. Please plan to attend. Tea will be served. For more info see below.

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Shachar Pinsker Speaks on Urban Cafes and Modern Jewish Culture

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Shachar Pinsker (U. Michigan) presented a talk on the role of urban cafes in the development of modern Jewish culture on Thurs. April 19 at 6 pm in rm. 2-01A of the Law School.

Shachar also offered a workshop on Thursday, 2:30-4 pm in Lowenstein 906, on the collaborative work he is doing with his Michigan colleagues on diasporic Jewish cultures. Here's a paragraph describing it:

Histories of modern Jewish cultures face the challenge of how to fathom complex issues of place and space. Because Jews never conformed to the national concept of the unity of people, language and territory, modern Jewish culture developed within constantly shifting borders of empires and nation-states. Jews are a transnational people with multiple diasporas, and this project proposes to map the migration of multilingual literary and visual networks of cultures across the long 20th century. Using innovative digital tools and databases, we plan to visualize the tension between  transnational and diasporic, but also grounded in a particular place; belonging to both global and local cultures. We hope to take macro and micro views of this network of people, analyzing both the diasporic and individual levels, as well as a multimedia view, such as visual and textual analogs. Digital humanities tools will allow us to map a non-linear, multimodal narrative.

Pinsker's visit was co-sponsored by the programs in Jewish Studies and Comparative Literature. 

English Faculty Receive Fellowships

Congratulations to English Department faculty members who have been awarded Fordham Faculty Fellowships! 

Parroting Art

 Fordham English Professor Christopher GoGwilt in Central Park with a pair of starlings (Photo by Tom Stoelker. This photo and the accompanying story--also by Tom Stoelker-- originally appeared in Fordham News  on January 17, 2018)

Fordham English Professor Christopher GoGwilt in Central Park with a pair of starlings (Photo by Tom Stoelker. This photo and the accompanying story--also by Tom Stoelker--originally appeared in Fordham News on January 17, 2018)

A new book of essays published by Fordham University Press titled Mocking Bird Technologies: The Poetics of Parroting, Mimicry, and Other Starling Tropes, examines the role that starlings, parrots, and other mockingbirds play in literature, both as motifs and as metaphors. Fordham Professor of English Christopher GoGwilt, Ph.D., edited the book with Melanie D. Holm, Ph.D., assistant professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Are you a bird watcher?

I wouldn’t style myself a bird-watcher, but I am fascinated—actually I’m a bit obsessed—with one particular bird: the starling.

What intrigues you about them?

They’re pretty much the common birds that you see all around the city, iridescent with speckles. But they’re not natural to the Americas. In the late nineteenth century, a man called Eugene Schieffelin took it as his project to populate the United States with all the birds in Shakespeare. In the early 1890s he released two flocks of European starlings in Central Park and now you find them all across North America. Starlings, like parrots, can be trained to talk; but in the wild they imitate whatever sounds are going on in the environment and use the bits and pieces of what they hear to make up parts of their song.

Like the sounds of the city?

You may think you’re hearing the squeaking wheel of a cab, but it might well be a starling in a tree or on a lamppost.

How did the book come about? 

Professor Holm and I put together a seminar on the topic of bird mimicry for the American Comparative Literature Association. Many of the people who have essays in this volume were part of that seminar. One of the fun discoveries for me was how deep and wide the historical scope of the pairing of parrot and starling is in literature.

Besides being a trope, how else do the parrot and starling relate to literature?

The person who has written the coda for this book, Sarah Kay (professor of French literature at New York University) focuses on medieval lyric and is an expert on troubadour poets. She’s written about two sides of troubadour poetry – the parrot’s way and the nightingale’s way. The parrot evokes parody, imitation, plagiarism, while the nightingale is associated with lyric originality. Kay argues that the troubadours made use of both mimicry and originality.

The troubadour is a rather Eurocentric figure. Is mimicry universal in art?

Our pairing of parrot and starling opens the whole question of bird mimicry to an even broader comparative and global perspective, reaching back to Sanskrit and Chinese literature. The Chinese novel, Dream of the Red Chamber(one of China’s four great original novels) features a parrot and a starling (or crested mynah). As with other traditions, birds are associated with the making of poetry, but also with the quoting of poetry, the parroting of poetry. In Sanskrit traditions, going back even further historically, you have parrots and starlings often linked together, and that’s the template for the book.

If everything is parroted, where’s the art? Is anything original?

Art usually requires both original creation and copying — like the starling, stealing bits from elsewhere.

Wouldn’t modernism represent a total break from tradition?

No, modernist art just returns to the terms of ancient questions about originality— explicitly so in the canonical American and British modernists, like Pound, Eliot, and Joyce. The break may create fragments, but they are still fragments of tradition. A collage, or mocking bird, technology.

Professionalization Fellowship for English Ph.D. Students

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English doctoral students in their final year of funding will receive, in addition to their regular fellowships, a GSAS professionalization fellowship of $4500 to help offset the cost of the job search process. “This is particularly helpful,” commented John Bugg, Director of Graduate Studies, “since we don’t want our students to restrict their job searches because of the various and accumulating expenses involved. We would like them to cast a broad net, and explore as many options as they can.” Two years ago Fordham English joined a handful of other doctoral programs in the country that offer students a six-year funding package. The professionalization fellowship is designed to supplement this package, and is part of a broader effort to address some of the financial burdens that students face. “Last year we received the highest number of applications to our Ph.D. program in over a decade,” Prof. Bugg noted, adding that “there is a growing awareness that we’re doing as much as we can to improve the experiences of our students and to help them thrive professionally.” For more information about the English Ph.D. program, please click here.

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!