Shonni Enelow

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 English Senior Presents at the 9th Annual Undergraduate Research Workshop

English Department Senior Adam Fales (FCLC '17) presented a paper, "Herman Melville's Body: Archives, Absence, and Historical Literary Practice," drawn from his honors thesis research this past weekend at the 9th Annual Undergraduate Research Workshop at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.  

Established as the Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies in 1978, and renamed in honor of its benefactor Robert L. McNeil, Jr., in 1998, the McNeil Center facilitates scholarly inquiry into the histories and cultures of North America in the Atlantic world before 1850, with a particular but by no means exclusive emphasis on the mid-Atlantic region.

Adam is writing his thesis under the direction of Professor Shonni Enelow, and his visit was sponsored by Professor Jordan Stein, who serves as Fordham's liaison to the McNeil Center.  As part of the workshop, all students are paired with a graduate student mentor, and Adam worked with Fordham English Ph.D. candidate (and fellow Kansan) Christy Pottroff, who is currently a 2016-17 Andrew W. Mellon Early American Literature and Material Texts Dissertation Fellow at the McNeil Center, and who delivered a formal comment on Adam's research at the workshop.

Fordham students are eligible to apply for undergraduate workshops and dissertation fellowships because Fordham is one of more than three dozen schools and libraries that make up the McNeil Center consortium.  Students who may be interested in presenting their work at the McNeil Center in the future should contact Professor Stein (jstein10@fordham).

Shonni Enelow Wins Award for Dramatic Criticism

Method Acting.jpeg

Shonni Enelow, assistant professor of English at Fordham University, has been chosen as the winner of the 2015-2016 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for her book Method Acting and Its Discontents (Northwestern University Press, 2015).

The Nathan Award committee comprises the heads of the English departments of Cornell, Princeton and Yale universities and the award is administered by Cornell’s Department of English. According to the committee, in Method Acting Enelow offers a “forceful and timely rethinking of the American theater’s dominant acting theory. In chapters ranging across Broadway and Off Broadway plays, Hollywood and experimental films, and classroom sessions at the Actors Studio, she probes the Method’s assumptions, identifies its blindspots, and tests it against the tumultuous politics of the 1950s and 1960s.”

Enelow specializes in modern and contemporary drama and performance studies, comparative literature, and literary and cultural theory. She is the co-author, with Una Chaudhuri, of Research Theatre, Climate Change, and the Ecocide Project (2014), which includes her original play “Carla and Lewis.”  Her play “The Power of Emotion” was part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival in 2015.

The Nathan Award was endowed by George Jean Nathan (1882-1958), a prominent theater critic who published 34 books on the theater and co-edited (with H.L. Mencken) two influential magazines, The Smart Set and The American Mercury. Nathan graduated from Cornell in 1904; as a student, he served as editor of The Cornell Daily Sun and the humor magazine The Cornell Widow.

Previous winners include Jill Dolan, Randy Gener, Alisa Solomon, Charles Isherwood, Elinor Fuchs, Hilton Als, Cornell professor H. Scott McMillin, and last year’s joint winners, Brian Eugenio Herrera and Chris Jones. For more information about the Nathan Award, visit

-This article was written by Linda B. Glaser, and first appeared in Cornell Chronicle. The original article can be found here.

Enelow Discusses Acting with Martha Plimpton on WNYC

Shonni Enelow, Assistant Professor of English, was a guest on the "Please Explain" segment of The Leonard Lopate Show on New York City's public radio Station, WNYC.

The discussion was titled "Inside the Mind of an Actor," and you can listen to it here. As the station put it:

When Martha Plimpton agreed to host the Leonard Lopate Show this week, we already knew we were in for a treat. But when it came time for a Please Explain segment on the craft, psychology, and cognitive science of acting, Martha gave us all a lesson. Listen here for all of her advice and insight!

The show aired Friday January 16 at noon on 93.9 FM and AM 820, and was rebroadcast at midnight on 93.9FM. 



Enelow Reviews Stella Adler Biography

Shonni Enelow's book review of Stella! Mother of Modern Acting recently appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Enelow is an assistant professor of English at Fordham University, where she teaches courses in theater history, performance studies, and dramaturgy. She is the author of Method Acting and Its Discontents: On American Psycho-Drama, forthcoming from Northwestern University Press (2015). Enelow also recently co-authored a casebook on theater and the nonhuman with Una Chaudhuri, titled Research Theatre, Climate Change, and the Ecocide Project: A Casebook (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), which includes her one-act play, Carla and Lewis.

Scholars Gather to Rethink Realist Acting

Tony-winning director Kenny Leon joined theater and film scholars from Fordham and around the world to discuss the prospect of “Rethinking Realist Acting” as part of a highly successful symposium in mid-September. The event was organized and hosted by Shonni Enelow and Keri Walsh, both assistant professors in the English Department at Fordham University, in partnership with Mary Luckhurst of the University of Melbourne in Australia, and administered by Callie Gallo, a doctoral student in the Fordham English department. The event, held at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus from September 18-20, was very well-attended both by members of the Fordham community (faculty, administrators, graduate students, and a large number of undergraduates) and by members of the scholarly and creative communities of New York.

One of the paradigms for “rethinking” included the temporal boundaries of the subject, which is typically dated to the late nineteenth century (and the plays of Henrik Ibsen).  Speakers at the event helped re-frame the topic as something worth pursuing further back into the 19th and even the 18th centuries.  Fordham’s Stuart Sherman explored the use of prologues and epilogues on the eighteenth century stage to complicate our understanding of the topicality of these plays, and the ways they played with the boundaries between the real and the imagined (for instance in tragic death scenes followed by lively parting epilogues).  In “Partitur: Scoring the Role,” Yale’s Joseph Roach discussed the 18th Century practice of “scoring the role,” developing the term partitur to describe these proto-subtextual scores, which he described as the beginning of realist acting.  Sharon Marcus, Orlando Harriman Professor of Humanities at Columbia University, used the career of Sarah Bernhardt to suggest that the appearance of realism emerges more from a break with the conventions of the preceding generations’ acting styles than it does with anything actually more essentially “natural” in the particular performances.  Sharon Marie Carnicke’s talk, “Acting Realism at the Moscow Art Theatre,” made a similarly relativizing claim, showing how in Chekhov’s The Seagull, scenes we recognize as bearing the hallmarks of “realism” emerge from the contrast with scenes performed in older theatrical styles, so that their realism emerges in dialectic with earlier melodramatic and declamatory styles.

In addition to reaching back further in history for the roots of realism, scholars at the conference also questioned common assumptions about the class, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality of “realism” as a genre. Rosemary Malague’s paper, “Realism and the Feminist Actress” presented the career of Stella Adler (teacher of Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and many others) in the context of the pressures on mid-century women’s lives that would be diagnosed by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique, urging us to view Adler’s transformation from actor to teacher at mid-century in the social context of nascent feminism. 

The conference featured several contributions from practitioners and original research on the process of acting. Mary Luckhurst of the University of Melbourne drew on interviews with actors including Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep to understand the process of playing “real people” (that is, historical figures like Margaret Thatcher).  Kenny Leon, Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre at Fordham for 2014-15 and director of the Tony Award-winning production of A Raisin in the Sun, performed a monologue from Fugard, Kani and Ntshona’s Sizwe Banzi is Dead and then discussed the exercises he uses in the acting classroom to help students understand the distinction between “realism” and “real life.”

Jacob Gallagher-Ross explored the relationship between acting and technology—especially audio recording technology—in Lee Strasberg’s work at the Actors Studio, demonstrating the centrality of audio recording to Strasberg’s ideas about realism and authenticitiy. To conclude the day’s talks, Cynthia Baron reflected on what constitutes realism on the screen, and studied some of the diverse realist styles to be found in American independent cinema since the 1970s.

Taken all together, the talks powerfully demonstrated what is to be gained from returning to realism to estrange or unsettle critical commonplaces about it.  The project of rethinking realism in acting benefits from new thinking about realism in literature and also recent work in feminist and queer theory, critical race theory, cultural studies, and interdisciplinary modernism.

Two related Film Studies events took place in the days leading up to the conference. September 19 featured a panel on the burgeoning field of “star studies” and the work of the British Film Institute’s (BFI) “Film Stars” series.  Students and faculty from various departments gathered to hear Fordham’s own Jacqueline Reich (Chair of Communication and Media Studies) as well as Martin Shingler of the University of Sunderland (UK) and series authors Cynthia Baron (Associate Professor of Theater and Film, Bowling Green) and Keri Walsh (Fordham), who spoke of their contributions and shared the various joys and difficulties of writing and publishing their scholarship. Martin Shingler opened the panel with a discussion of his role as the co-editor of the BFI’s film stars series.  He explained his goals to spotlight less frequently studied actors (from non-Western celebrities to animated characters like Donald Duck) and to rediscover many actors who have been largely forgotten over time.

Cynthia Baron, Keri Walsh, and Jacqueline Reich then each highlighted their work on one specific actor, beginning with Baron, who explored the difficulties of reconciling divergent opinions on Denzel Washington.  Walsh then described her Mickey Rourke “obsession” and the groundbreaking scholarship of Richard Dyer, which influenced Walsh not only by focusing on celebrity in a scholarly forum but also by writing in the “confessional” tone of a fan, with which Walsh immediately identified.  Lastly, describing her work on the prolific Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni, Reich recounted the deceptively difficult task of writing about a celebrity as well as the insights Mastroianni’s work provides into notions of masculinity in early-twentieth-century Italy. Following these talks was an engaging question and answer period, which included questions about the changing legacies of deceased celebrities and the extension of star studies to include “low-culture” celebrities like Kim Kardashian. 

On Thursday, September 18 Martin Shingler delivered a lecture in Walsh Library entitled “The Acting Prince: John Barrymore at Warner Bros., 1924-1931” in which he explored the continuities between Classicism, Neo-romanticism and Realism, acting styles which Barrymore employed not in succession (ie. leaving one behind to embrace another) but rather, in perpetual rotation as the various roles he took demanded. Following Shingler’s talk, graduate students and faculty (Eve Keller, Corey McEleney) joined together for a discussion of Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet, a 1991 comedy about an actor visited by the ghost of John Barrymore while preparing to play the role of Hamlet in Central Park, and a work its author described as a “tribute to actors.” 


Sharon Marie Carnicke, Shonni Enelow, Cynthia Baron, Mary Luckhurst, and  Rose Malague

Sharon Marie Carnicke, Shonni Enelow, Cynthia Baron, Mary Luckhurst, and  Rose Malague

Sponsorship for all events came from Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, the English Department, Theatre Department, the Programs in Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies, and the University of Melbourne.

Mullarkey Forum Highlights English Faculty Research


Following is a snapshot of the 2013 Mullarkey Forum that featured six talks on a wide range of subjects. 

The event began with a generous introduction by the holder of the Thomas F. X. and Theresa Mullarkey Chair in Literature, Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, who was applauded for her efforts in organizing this event each year. Wogan-Browne argued eloquently that true innovation takes place in humanities research--not just in science--and the Forum proved her point.  

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne

Edward Cahill

Edward Cahill

The first of the afternoon's two panels was introduced and chaired by Frank Boyle, and began with Edward Cahill's talk "Colonial Rising: Narratives of Upward Mobility in British America." Cahill's exhaustive research on these narratives is showing that much of what we think we understand about upward mobility is historically wrong: for instance, that what we call "the American dream" really originated in Britain. 



Daniel Contreras

Daniel Contreras


Next up was  Daniel Contreras, who spoke about his project “Falling in Love with Love: Latino Literary Studies and the History of Love.” Contreras argued for the cultural specificity of even the most basic forms of emotion, such as love, and drew on Sandra Cisneros's novel Caramelo to illustrate his point.  



Sarah Gamibto

Sarah Gamibto

Sarah Gambito's “Second Born:  Writing Race and Belonging" concluded the first panel.  Gambito, poet and Creative Writing Director, linked her poetry with her work on the nonprofit group Kundiman, and shared the video recently created for the organization as well as a video of one of its recent projects. 



The second panel, chaired by Eve Keller, opened with Susan Greenfield speaking about her op-ed writing on the Huffington Post. Her talk was titled “Vlog and Blog: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Public Exposure." Next came two faculty members who are working on the history and theory of Method Acting, and are planning a major conference on the topic for Fall 2014 at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus. First Shonni Enelow gave a talk titled “Identifying the Method,” which touched on several examples of how Method Acting has figured in popular culture, including at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner. Then Keri Walsh's talk, “Acting Like a Hustler: The Films of Paul Newman," centered on a reading of a scene from the 1961 film 

The Hustler, featuring Paul Newman and Piper Laurie. 

From left to right, Keri Walsh, Shonni Enelow and Susan Greenfield

From left to right, Keri Walsh, Shonni Enelow and Susan Greenfield

Each panel resulted in lively discussion with the audience and everyone enjoyed the festive reception in between. Audience members and participants alike agreed that--as with the previous two Mullarkey events--the forum highlighted the strength, depth, and breadth of faculty research in Fordham University's English Department.