Fordham PhD Alum Publishes Book on Piers Plowman

Fordham alum Arvind Thomas (PhD 2010) is receiving accolades for his new book (from Toronto University Press) Piers Plowman and the Reinvention of Church Law in the Late Middle Ages, which asks the question, “To what extent does the art of making poems share in the craft of making laws, and vice versa?”

Cornell English professor Andrew Galloway says, "This book offers an important excavation of how much canon law is part of the ‘dialogic’ range of discourse in and around Piers Plowman, both showing how the poem’s originality extends to how it refashions canon law and following implications that might have been treated by a prosaic canonist but that, fortunately, were instead unfolded by a brilliant poet. Arvind Thomas’ study thus also offers a new way to appreciate some of the range and depth of canon law itself."

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Arvind is grateful for his time at Fordham and for the mentorship he says that made this book possible. “I owe Wolfgang Mueller a deep debt of gratitude for encouraging me to compare the versions of the poem from the perspective of canonist thought. Wolfgang has consistently been a critical reader of this project, prompting me to engage the original canonical sources closely and to write in a language that historians would understand.”

“I am deeply grateful to Eve Keller, who served as a mentor and helped me shape the book’s conceptual methodology , clarify it in terms of the project’s ‘big picture,’ and shape the appropriate style. Her practice of form-attentive reading of premodern literature has served as a model for the book.”

“I owe a great debt to Lenny Cassuto, whose graduate mentorship enabled me to stay in academia to work on the book.”

“My thanks also go to John Bugg, whose feedback on the readers’ reports on the book manuscript was central to its revision process.”

Congratulations to Arvind on his remarkable accomplishment.

For more information, and to purchase the book, please click here: Piers Plowman and the Reinvention of Church Law in the Late Middle Ages.

Master Class on the Queer Middle Ages and Research for Social Justice 

On Thursday, April 11th, Professor Steven Kruger spoke to Fordham undergraduate and graduate students about his early career and research in medieval literature.  Dr. Kruger, visiting from CUNY Graduate Center, Queen’s College, New York, discussed his development as a scholar and his approach to writing.  Importantly, he addressed the significance of historical research that contributes meaningfully to present-day cultural issues.

The Master Class was inspired by undergraduate coursework done by this year’s Freshmen Honors cohort in the English Department. Upon reading Kruger’s article, “Claiming the Pardoner,” written in 1994, students wondered how Kruger might add to his views on Geoffrey Chaucer’s enigmatic character 25 years later.

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Dr. Kruger specializes in gender, sexuality, feminist and queer theory, and medieval literature.  Dr. Kruger's publications include many articles on these topics, as well as book-length studies including AIDS Narratives: Gender and Sexuality, Fiction and Science; Queering the Middle Ages (co-ed. with Glenn Burger); and The Spectral Jew: Conversion and Embodiment in Medieval Europe.

We are grateful for the support of Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies, the Department of English, and graduate student David Smigen-Rothkopf whose gorgeous flier artwork is featured here.

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Faculty Workshop on Doris Lessing

On Wednesday, April 10th, Fordham faculty members gathered for a workshop on the Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing (1919-2013). Professor Chris GoGwilt convened the group, and he and Professor Anne Fernald moderated the conversation.

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After short papers by Profs. Seda Arikan and Cornelius Collins, the group discussed Lessing's evolving ethical commitments over her long career.

Among other issues, the group discussed Lessing's shift from an ethics of virtue in the 1950s (as seen in the Children of Violence novel cycle) toward an ethics of self-care by the 1980s (as seen in the novel The Good Terrorist); her short story "An Old Woman and Her Cat," her wider interest in cats and the nonhuman, and how that might connect to a contemporary ethics that extends beyond the human; how Lessing's dedication to Sufism compares with Iris Murdoch's Platonism; and Lessing's often unrecognized irony, humor, and gift for satirical mimicry.

Seda Arıkan teaches at Firat University in Turkey at the Department of Western Languages and Literatures. She is at Fordham as a visiting scholar and currently working on her book about ethics in Doris Lessing's novels. 

Cornelius Collins teaches literature and writing here in the Fordham English department, and he is the outgoing president of the Doris Lessing Society and will soon take the helm as co-editor-in-chief of Doris Lessing Studies

Anne Fernald is Professor of English & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Beginning in Fall 2019, she will be co-editor-in-chief of the journal Modernism/modernity.

Students Build a Play with the Pros

On Friday, April 5, theater director Noah Himmelstein joined the students of Prof. Andrew Albin’s ENGL/THEA 4151: Performing Medieval Drama for a workshop on movement, devising, and stagecraft, to help them prepare their upcoming performance of the medieval morality play, Wisdom. Students explored the relationship between allegorical character and physical gesture, building up a bodily vocabulary for a climactic dance-off that tumbles into chaos at the center of the play. 

Katie Kudcey, Peri Rohl, Alesha Kilayko, Noah Himmelstein, and Charles Laboy (L-R) take a selfie after a medieval drama workshop and conversation.

Katie Kudcey, Peri Rohl, Alesha Kilayko, Noah Himmelstein, and Charles Laboy (L-R) take a selfie after a medieval drama workshop and conversation.

Afterward, students had the chance to talk informally with Himmelstein about his work and career. “He was very honest,” said Katie Kudcey (Music ’19), who plays Lucifer in Wisdom. “We would ask him a question and he wouldn’t beat around the bush.” Peri Rohl (English ’20), playing Anima, agreed: “‘[Theater] is something you do, it’s not who you are,’ he told us, and both our worlds kind of exploded!” 

Himmelstein’s emphasis on improvisation and intuition left a strong impression. “Connecting your physical actions to your character is really important for medieval work, where intention and motivation matter less,” said Savanah Manos (English ’20), who plays the role of Will. Rohl agreed, adding, “We can play around with our characters, play around with the scene, be spontaneous, and we’ll still get good results.”

Wisdom will be performed on Saturday, April 27 at 10:30am, at the entrance to FCLC’s Lowenstein Building on the corner of 60th and 9th. All are invited to come see this inventive, dynamic, and very funny medieval play come to life on the streets of New York! For more information, check out the Fordham Medieval Dramatists’ Facebook page and website.

Kindred: A Summit for Students & Faculty of Color

On April 15th, the English department, Kundiman, and the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer co-sponsored Kindred: A Summit for Students & Faculty of Color at Fordham. The distinguished speaker for the night was Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and a leading voice for the human rights of undocumented immigrants. The event also featured readings from Ama Codjoe, a poet from Cave Canem, a home for Black poetry, and professor of social justice and inclusion at The New School, and Deborah Paredez, co-founder of CantoMundo, a nonprofit for Latinx literature.

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 The event created a space for students to meet and hear from POC clubs and organizations, as well as to discuss goals for increasing the visibility of POC communities at Fordham.

Vargas, author of Dear America: Notes of An Undocumented Citizen, spoke on the history of immigration and assimilation in the United States, the presence of immigrants in our families and nation, and his own status as undocumented. He also addressed his experiences as a person of color outside of the dominant black/white paradigm in the United States.

2019 Reid Writers of Color Reading Series featuring Kiese Laymon

On Wednesday, April 3rd, the English Department hosted Kiese Laymon for the 2019 Reid Writers of Color Reading Series. Laymon is the acclaimed author of Heavy: An American Memoir, as well as How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and the novel Long Division. Almost 500 students and faculty members attended.

Laymon advised students to write to a specific person rather than attempting to write to the universal and cautioned them that authorial intention does not always translate to compelling work. He also spoke on the unique demands of memoir-writing, such as background interviews and obligatory name changes.

The reading began with an introduction by the English department’s Dr. Scott Poulson-Bryant. Laymon then took the stage to read a chapter titled “Meager,” which centered on his experience as a black child at a predominately white Catholic school.

“I was finally understanding, for all that bouncy talk of ignorance and how they didn’t really know, that white folk, especially grown white folk, knew exactly what they were doing,” he read. “And if they didn’t, they should have.”

Anne Marie Ward, FCRH ‘19, expressed her enjoyment of the craft class and reading.

“It was an unbelievable and surreal experience hearing Kiese speak to us about his work, and I feel so privileged that I had this opportunity as a creative writer,” she said.

Since 2008, the Reid Family Writers of Color Reading Series has brought some of the most celebrated writers of color to Fordham. Events have included readings, master classes and panel discussions. The English Department at Fordham is deeply grateful to the Reid Family for their continuing generosity.  

English Major Claire Kim '16 Profiled on Art History Blog

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Here’s a bit of interdepartmental and cross-disciplinary intertextuality! Over at the #FordhamArtHistory blog, Art Ramblings, there’s a nice profile of Claire Kim, who graduated from Fordham in 2016 “with a major in English and a minor in Art History, and has been building a successful career in the arts ever since. By day, she is the Special Assistant to the President of BRIC, the Brooklyn arts powerhouse that fosters the creativity of Brooklyn arts and media. Outside of BRIC, Claire is hard at work on her independent curatorial practice, creating exhibitions in unexpected and thought-provoking spaces, and focusing on creating an access point into various art forms for a wider audience.”

To read the rest of the profile—written by Julie Hamon, Art History Media Intern, FCLC ’19—go to Art Ramblings.