Faculty

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

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!  

Heather Dubrow's ‘Menu of Unsavory Crepes’

Professor Heather Dubrow's recent Letter to the Editor of the New York Times had an unusual format. "To the Editor," it begins: "The Trump name has appeared on steaks, water, wine and vodka. In anticipation of our president’s trying to brand crepes, too — for himself, his cronies and foreign leaders — here is a 'Menu of Unsavory Crepes.'" And what follows is....a menu!

Whether you find individual items appetizing or not may depend on your political views...but you may find the letter amusing regardless of your opinions on the current U.S. president. To order from Professor Dubrow's menu, click here

Atlantic Magazine Calls Enelow's Essay "Exceptional"

The Atlantic magazine recently placed Fordham English Professor Shonni Enelow's article on contemporary styles of film acting on its list of "exceptional works of journalism" from 2016.

Published in October of that year in Film Comment,  Enelow's essay discusses performances by Jennifer Lawrence (in Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games); Rooney Mara (in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Carol); Oscar Isaac (in Inside Llewyn DavisA Most Violent Year, and even Star Wars); and Michael B. Jordan (in Fruitvale Station and Creed), arguing that while "it’s notoriously difficult to analyze film acting," even so "acting styles, taken in the aggregate, are...unusually good barometers of cultural modes, themes, and ideas."

Taken together, Enelow argues,  "the ambivalence about the trustworthiness of emotional expression" visible in these performances can tell us things about our present moment--the essay is titled "The Great Recession"--and its differences from the historical moments when Method Acting was prevalent or when the classical Hollywood styles of Greta Garbo and Cary Grant held sway in movies. For Enelow, "these performances make visible what cultural critic Lauren Berlant calls 'crisis ordinariness': the mundanity of trauma in a world of unexceptional violence."

Shonni Enelow

Shonni Enelow

“While cooler styles have always been with us, from Greta Garbo and Cary Grant to Steve McQueen and Charlotte Rampling, those actors communicate that they are above or outside of emotion, either aristocratically detached or winningly unflappable. In contrast, the thread of resistance to and evasion of spectacular emotionality among many in today’s new generation of stars doesn’t evoke emotional detachment or indifference but rather a tortured mistrust of expression itself—one that, in its understated way, clearly forms its own kind of emotional appeal to the audience at the same time as it dramatizes why the actor must resist making one.”

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

More from Susan Greenfield on Jane Austen (but this time, also on health care!)

Professor Susan Greenfield published "Postmortem: Jane Austen and Repealing the Affordable Care Act" in the August 9. 2017 Los Angeles Review of Books blog.



POSTMORTEM: JANE AUSTEN AND REPEALING THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

For now, it appears the Republican Senators’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead. But key provisions (like cost-sharing reductions for insurers) remain in doubt, Vice President Pence has said, “We won’t rest until we end […] ObamaCare,” and Trump still wants to sabotage the law.  In July, the vast majority of Republican Senators were prepared to do just that.

At about the same time that Republicans were busy attacking the ACA, Austen fans throughout America (and the world) were celebrating the author’s bicentenary. Few people, I suspect, saw any connection between the subjects..... [Click here to read the full article]