Doctoral Student Field Report: From the School of Criticism and Theory

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This past summer, Josh Rome, a fourth-year English PhD student, attended the School of Criticism and Theory (SCT) at Cornell University. Josh participated in a six-week seminar on “Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory.” His time at SCT afforded him the chance to expand and refine his inquiry into Adorno’s aesthetic thought, which has proven particularly useful to Josh as he works on his dissertation, “Discursive Interventions: Ordinary Language Engagements in Postwar and Contemporary American Poetry.”

The SCT provides an unparalleled opportunity for students interested in intensive study in critical theory. Fordham GSAS sponsors one graduate student each summer, covering the SCT tuition and offering a cost-of-living stipend. The SCT holds four seminars each summer, each of which meets twice a week –– past seminars have focused on topics such as “Reading the Social World: Observation, Description, Interpretation,” “Intersubjective Acts: Psychoanalysis and Politics,” and “Genealogies of Memory and Perception: Literature and Photography.” In addition, the SCT hosts mini-seminars and guest lecturers throughout the session. Recent guest lectures include Homi Bhabha on “Statelessness and Death,” and Amanda Anderson on “Political Psychology: Theory and Doxa.”

In Josh’s experience, however, the intellectual life of the SCT extends far beyond the classroom or lecture hall. Students from various disciplines converge from around the world for the summer session, providing an invaluable opportunity for lively conversations among an array of fields and methodologies. Josh describes the experience as “more than just networking. It’s an ongoing conversation for six weeks about a field in which you’re deeply invested –– and this happens not just at the seminar table, but at picnics and social gatherings. It’s an experience you don’t get often.”

For more information about the STC’s upcoming 2019 session, including a list of seminars, mini-seminars, guest lecturers, and application requirements, please visit:

And click here for more information about Fordham’s Graduate English programs.

By John Miele

String Quartet to Perform Music by Prof. Lawrence Kramer

You are invited to an evening of new music for string quartet by four present-day composers: Valerie Coleman, Jeff Myers, Matthew Welch, and Lawrence Kramer, Distinguished Professor of English and Music at Fordham.

The music covers a broad spectrum of expressive possibilities, from Coleman's groove-based propulsion to Myers musical portrait of trading on Wall Street, Welch's transformation of a bagpipe melody, and Kramer's evocation of the night sky. 

Friday, November 16th at 7:30pm. Fordham Lincoln Center, 12th Floor Lounge. Admission is free.

For more information, see below.

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For more information about Professor Kramer’s music, click here:

Symposium: Waiting for Godot

You’re invited to join us for a symposium on one of the great works of world literature, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a work that is as fresh and resonant today as it was when it debuted in Paris in 1953. 

The Iconic Druid Theater Company is in town to perform Beckett’s irreverent masterpiece, and they’ll be on hand to join in the discussion with several leading Beckett scholars. Details below.

We hope to see you there!  

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I Did It Wrong: How to be a Creative Person in the World, 2018 Mary Higgins Clark Chair

This past week, we were honored to host Lev Grossman as our 2018 Mary Higgins Clark Chair. Grossman is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Magicians” trilogy, now adapted into a Syfy original series. During his time in residence, Grossman delivered a lecture, conducted craft classes, advised students 1-on-1, and attended a High Tea with students and faculty at the St. Regis.

His presentation, titled “I Did It Wrong: How to be a Creative Person in the World,” addressed what he described as the “embarrassing or near-fatal mistakes” he made over the course of his writing career, as well as how such missteps could be avoided. In particular, he emphasized the importance of rejection, community, and knowing oneself as a writer.

“As much as [writing] is about finding your voice and honing your craft, it is about rejection,” said Grossman.

He spoke on his background as a writer, including growing up in a literature-loving household and his childhood enchantment with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Later, as an undergraduate, he repeatedly failed to be published in The Harvard Advocate, and after graduation, he traveled to Maine for an unsuccessful attempt at literary isolation.

“Art is rarely made by people on their own,” Grossman said of this episode.

It wasn’t until years later that he was able to find his voice, his genre, and his form: the humorous fantasy novel, as represented by The Magicians.

After the lecture, Grossman answered questions from the audience and signed books. Students such as Brielle Intorcia, FCLC ‘20, reacted positively to his presentation.

“I really resonated with the idea that writing is always together, with other people,” said Intorcia. “I had never thought about that before.”

Intorcia also expressed her appreciation for MHC events as an opportunity to glean insight from successful writers.

Over the two days that followed his presentation, Grossman continued offering insight in the form of craft classes and 1-on-1 advising at Rose Hill and Lincoln Center. In classes, he gave students practical tips on how to improve their writing, advising them to write like a reader, break rules, and remember that fiction isn’t rocket science.

Finally, on Wednesday, Lev Grossman attended High Tea at the St. Regis along with English department students, faculty, and prospective majors. Creative writing concentrator Ann Pekata, FCLC ‘20, enjoyed this chance to meet Grossman face-to-face after reading his novel.

“I read Lev Grossman’s book a couple years ago and thought it would be cool to meet him,” said Pekata.

She also appreciated the opportunity to network with other members of the English department, particularly in such a high-class setting.

“I gained some new friends at the table, so that was cool!” said Pekata. “I also discovered how much I love tarts.”

Going forward, the English Department and the Creative Writing Program hope to continue to provide students with opportunities to learn from accomplished writers such as Grossman, as well as the chance to come together as a department and discuss the literature that inspires us. Deep thanks to the visionary Mary Higgins Clark for making all of this possible.

Students, faculty, and the MHC Chair enjoyed tea, desserts, and each other’s company during High Tea at the St. Regis.

Students, faculty, and the MHC Chair enjoyed tea, desserts, and each other’s company during High Tea at the St. Regis.

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Lev Grossman signed copies of  The Magicians  for those in attendance of his lecture.

Lev Grossman signed copies of The Magicians for those in attendance of his lecture.

After his presentation, Grossman addressed questions from students and faculty in attendance.

After his presentation, Grossman addressed questions from students and faculty in attendance.


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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Creating a Digital Sugar-Cane at Fordham & Columbia

In the summer of 2018, Fordham English graduate students Lina Jiang and Stephen Fragano, along with Associate Professor of English Julie Chun Kim, collaborated with Columbia faculty and graduate students on a project called Digital Grainger. The Fordham-Columbia team’s goal was to build an online, accessible edition of James Grainger’s 1764 poem The Sugar-Cane

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Grainger’s poem, which describes eighteenth-century plantations in the Caribbean, has increasingly been recognized for its important insights into what is sometimes referred to as the “Sugar Revolution.” The intensive monoculture of sugar cane in the Caribbean destroyed local ecologies and required the mass exploitation of enslaved laborers, who were forcibly transported from Africa. The Sugar-Cane addresses the Sugar Revolution in detail because Grainger experienced it firsthand: he lived in the British sugar colony of St. Kitts from 1759 to 1766, and because he also married into a planter family, he had a vested interest in defending the institution of slavery. But because Grainger also was a physician and hoped that The Sugar-Cane would prove his expert knowledge of Caribbean medicinal plants, he filled his poem with lengthy footnotes that made frequent mention of Afro-Caribbean and indigenous uses of plants and interactions with nature. As a result, as Professor Kim explains, the poem “is an invaluable resource for gaining a better understanding of how oppressed subjects survived and resisted the plantation system.” 

The collaboration between Fordham and Columbia Universities on Digital Grainger was made possible by the Fordham-Columbia Research Fellow and Research Intern Program. This initiative provides funding for faculty and graduate students to work together across campuses on a shared research project. For Digital Grainger, the program provided Lina and Stephen with summer stipends so that they could dedicate time to working on the project with other team members. The Columbia team included Cristobal Silva, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature; Kimberly Takahata and Ami Yoon, PhD candidates in English and Comparative Literature; and Alex Gil, Digital Scholarship Librarian at Columbia University Libraries. Elizabeth Cornell, Director of Communications for Fordham IT, also participated in the project. 

Lina Jiang, Julie Kim, and Stephen Fragano

Lina Jiang, Julie Kim, and Stephen Fragano

In addition to giving participants from both universities the opportunity to expand their scholarly networks, the Digital Grainger project has resulted in the creation of a digital edition of The Sugar-Cane that contains multiple versions of the poem. First, the team created a “Full Text” edition that contains all 2561 lines of the original poem along with Grainger’s footnotes. It is accompanied by over 700 editorial footnotes co-written by the Digital Grainger team. Second, the edition features a scanned a copy of the 1764 poem in its “Page by Page” version, allowing readers ready access to the original edition. 

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Finally, each team member created what might be called a “thematic excerpt” of the poem: each excerpt contains a selection of passages from The Sugar-Cane, prefaced by a headnote that explains why they were chosen for inclusion. These excerpts, grouped under the heading “The Counter-Plantation,” are meant to help readers access the parts of the poem that describe survival, resistance, and rebellion on the plantation. Stephen focused his excerpt on “Animals,” which explores Grainger’s fearful troping of animals, including rats, as threats to the sugar cane crop.

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Lina focused her excerpts on the themes of “Fire” and “Sugar Work”: the former shows Grainger’s worries about enslaved laborers setting fire to cane fields, while the latter highlights both the mistreatment of enslaved workers and their extensive agricultural and technical knowledge of sugar refining (knowledge that planters relied upon). Lina first noticed these passages when she read The Sugar-Cane for Professor Kim’s fall 2017 graduate seminar, “Natural History and Ecology.” “I tried to provide deeper explanations for new readers of the poem,” Lina explains of her goal for the excerpts, “and ones that would help them challenge the poem’s support of the plantation system.” Digital Grainger demonstrates the English Department’s interest in continuing to pursue innovative scholarship: building on her experience with the project, Lina intends to include a digital project in her dissertation. 


Digital Grainger is almost complete and will go live later this semester. Meanwhile, scholarly collaboration between Fordham and Columbia continues to grow and develop. This semester, Lina is taking a course with Professor Silva at Columbia through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium (IUDC), which allows PhD students at Fordham to take courses at Columbia, CUNY, NYU, Princeton, and Rutgers. Furthermore, members of the team will be presenting the results of their work at several conferences this coming year. In December 2018, Professor Kim will co-present a paper on the creation of Digital Grainger at the Caribbean Digital V conference at the University of the West Indies-St. Augustine. Together with Stephen, Professors Kim and Silva also have proposed a roundtable on using and teaching The Sugar-Canefor the February 2019 biennial meeting of the Society of Early Americanists. Just as their online edition of The Sugar-Cane will continue to inspire valuable new scholarship and rewarding experiences in classrooms, so the team’s work remains ongoing and productive, serving as a prime example of the kinds of exchanges that Fordham’s Graduate English students participate in on a regular basis. Click here for more information about Fordham’s Graduate English programs. 


By John Miele 

Professor's Music Performed at National Opera Center

Distinguished Professor of English and Music Lawrence Kramer's composition "Two Impressions" was featured in a violin concert by Claudia Schaer and Helen Lin at the National Opera Center on October 2.

Lin and Schaer with Professor Kramer

Lin and Schaer with Professor Kramer

“Two Impressions” is comprised of two compositions — “Ripple and Gleam” and “Clowd Shadows.” About the latter, Professor Kramer explains, “Cloud shadows are best seen from the air. Travelers on the window seats of planes can often descend from a visual blank slate above the cloud cover to observe clouds drifting and casting their shadows over the landscape, revealing their shapes and producing a perfect mirror effect wedding light to darkness at a distance. The same phenomenon is occasionally visible from high ground--I'm thinking particularly of a hill with a panoramic view of the countryside a few miles from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley--when the clouds find the right shapes and the sun the right position and above and below once again mirror each other. The music gradually evolves toward such a moment, with its rich array of metaphorical suggestions, over the course of about ten minutes.”

Professor Kramer has won several music competitions, and his compositions have been performed all over the world. In addition to his work as a composer, Professor Kramer is the author of several volumes of music criticism, including The Thought of Music (2016), which won the 2017 ASCAP Virgil Thomson Award, and the forthcoming The Hum of the World: A Philosophy of Listening (2019).

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