Graduate

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.

Boyd Day, Poetry, and Pizza

Tomorrow, November 7th, from 12:15-2:00 in McGinley 234, all are invited to read aloud poetry and listen to others. Come in for, "a slice of pizza and a slice of sonnet," even if you can't stay long! Tomorrow will be the 8th anniversary of John Boyd Day and it will include some of Father Boyd's favorite poets.

Father Boyd taught at Fordham for over three decades. He was born in the Bronx, and earned his PhD at Harvard University. Poetry was his main focus and passion throughout his career. In 1968, he published The Function of Mimesis and Its Decline with Harvard University Press. In this book, he focused on the ways in which poetry should be engaged with the world. After father Boyd passed away, the Boyd Chair was established in his honor. 

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Class and the Creation of the Professoriate

James M. Van Wyck engages with Lynn Arner in a conversation about class and the creation of the professoriate.

Not too long ago over a cup of coffee, a friend described a difference in his reception on the academic job market after he secured an Ivy League postdoc. He told me that, while his middle-tier institutional affiliation cracked a few doors, sending out applications on Ivy League letterhead busted them open.

That’s when it struck me: he’d laundered his degree. His credentials hadn’t changed, really. (He’d published over a half dozen articles before going on the job market the first time.) But he’d overcome a prestige deficit by switching letterheads.

This story shouldn’t surprise anyone with a stake in the tenure-track job market. Prestige, after all, is the hemoglobin in the bloodstream of academic value. We’re all familiar with a version of the academic placement truism that “universities don’t hire down.” Highly ranked programs hire their own, those aspiring to be highly ranked hire from the ranks of those already on top and so on.

But academe’s prestige problem isn’t just about reifying the top 40 Ph.D. programs in a particular field. In fact, we’re still unpacking the ways that prestige chasing connects with a classed professoriate.

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Lynn Arner -- a medievalist and gender-studies scholar by training and currently an associate professor at Brock University in Ontario, Canada -- studies how socioeconomic backgrounds and gender shape the careers of English professors. One of Arner’s central arguments is that most academics disavow the extent to which prestige-chasing practices link up with assumptions about class to shape hiring practices in higher education.

Arner’s work complements a growing body of research examining the clunky apparatuses by which higher education seeks to diversify the professoriate. Many well-intentioned efforts are hampered by homophily as well as the inability to recognize how certain value systems have produced a professoriate laden with professors drawn from the middle and upper classes.

Arner has confronted the phenomenon firsthand. When she was on the job market in the 2000s, she interviewed for several tenure-track jobs at research universities and says she kept losing to candidates with doctorates from the same universities: Yale, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. She taught as a visiting faculty member at a research university in an English department “where working-class female faculty members were relegated to the temp pool,” she recalls. In contrast, women hired into tenure-track positions were solidly middle class and had Ivy League pedigrees. “While I taught there, the department had a tenure-track search in my area, but a middle-class woman with an Ivy League doctorate blocked me from being interviewed at the Modern Language Association, pronouncing me ‘not well enough connected,’” she notes. “I was simultaneously appalled and fascinated by the fierce classism in this department that served large numbers of working-class students in a city with a celebrated working-class history.”

It’s clear that recruiting and hiring a professoriate as diverse as the student population it serves requires intentional, systemic change. One area in need of a revamp is graduate admissions: we can’t hope for a diverse professoriate if we continue to recruit and admit students just as we have in the past.

Assumptions about the living conditions of prospective graduate students must also be challenged. As Christienna D. Fryar put it on Twitter, “U.S. academia is structured around assumption that you (grad student, adjunct/full-time professor) have constant access to family wealth.” A break in financial support for students moving from undergraduate to graduate education, for example, presumes quite a bit about the class of those students.

Moreover, Arner’s work shows how implicit, unacknowledged biases shape who gets interviews for tenure-track jobs, and especially who gets job offers. Her research instructs us to look to the MLA interview for clues to this embedded problem. Drawing on insights from a range of disciplines (including feminist theory and sociology) Arner argues that the structure of the interview process (short interviews) privileges certain demographics over others.

In 2014, she published “Working-Class Women at the MLA Interview.” The keyword here is “at.” That’s because the study shows how the physical presence of interviewees -- and the ways interviewers implicitly judge these presences -- effectively work to bar certain groups (in this case working-class women) from the tenure track at highly ranked universities and colleges.

To read the conversation between James and Lynn, check out the entire article at Inside Higher Ed, https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2017/08/10/conversation-about-class-and-professoriate-essay

Will Fenton and the Digital Paxton Archive

In the latest issue of Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life (17.4), Fordham English doctoral candidate Will Fenton discusses his digital humanities project, the Digital Paxton (digitalpaxton.org), a digital archive, scholarly edition, and teaching platform dedicated to Pennsylvania's first major pamphlet.

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Framing his project in terms of the print edition on which scholars have relied for almost 60 years (John Raine Dunbar's The Paxton Papers), Will discusses how the digital supports a more capacious--and less definitive--critical edition: "Tallying 400 pages, The Paxton Papers is already a formidable print edition, and one which continues to support research. But what else might we choose to include in twenty-first-century Paxton Papers? What if we weren’t bound, as Dunbar was, by the constraints of the codex format? The answer may not be a definitive edition for the Paxton event, so much as a tool with which contributors may magnify and telescope records, juxtapose them against one another, read them against contexts, and discover new ways of looking at—and beyond—the 1764 pamphlet war." Visit Common-place to read the piece, accompanied by various images from the Digital Paxton archive.

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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!

Fordham Hosts June 2017 Conrad Conference

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During the opening keynote lecture of “Conradian Crosscurrents: Creativity and Critique,” organized by the Joseph Conrad Society of America, Italian philosopher Adriana Cavarero asserted that Heart of Darkness “vibrates and hangs on the reader’s doors of perception.” In the audience, scholars and students of Conrad were already finding that the conference, too, was providing them with pieces of knowledge that would hang on their minds long after its conclusion.

 Held at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, at the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York, and at the Kościuszko Foundation on June 1-3, 2017, the conference sought to reassess Conrad’s position at the cross-currents of contemporary creative and critical work of all kinds. Distinguished and emerging scholars presented papers on topics such as sound studies, race, science, history, politics, and biography. Along with Cavarero, James Clifford, J. Hillis Miller, and the novelist Margaret Cezair-Thompson gave keynote addresses. Co-sponsored by Fordham's Comparative Literature program and the English department, and with funding from the Dean of Arts & Sciences Faculty and the GSAS Dean, the conference was organized by Chris GoGwilt, Professor of English and Comparative Literature.

The steering committee for the Joseph Conrad conference. 

The steering committee for the Joseph Conrad conference. 

Three recent graduates of Fordham’s English MA program – Ryan Gilligan, John Miele, and Lindsey Pelucacci – also presented papers. Speaking on Heart of Darkness, Ryan argued for Marlow’s configuration as an incomplete Buddha who emerges as a fool at several points throughout his narration. Focusing on The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus,’ John Miele discussed the white liberal voice that commands the text, and Lindsey Pelucacci addressed the logical contradictions within the narrator’s sense of truth as a racialized construction.

For more on the conference, including photographs of events and accounts of keynote lectures, please visit the website.

Thanks to Lindsey Pelucacci for writing up this story