Department of English Newsletter: March 2020

in this issue

Letter from the Chair/Shakespeare and Psychoanalytic Studies/Faculty Notes/The Rhetoric of Cookbooks/Alumni News

Letter from the Chair

Dear Friends of English,

I hope everyone is doing well and adjusting to the upheaval created by COVID-19. I realize how difficult this period of uncertainty is and will continue to be in the near future. I am saddened to know that the activities and people that customarily energize CWRU’s campus at the close of the academic year will not be present in the coming weeks.

But I have been deeply impressed and heartened by the willingness and collegiality with which our students, staff, and faculty have adopted remote teaching, research, and administration. Our undergraduate and graduate classes in literature, creative writing, rhetoric, linguistics, composition, film, and journalism continue in lively if reconfigured form. Dissertations continue to be soundly defended. New majors are still being declared; students are still submitting essays, poems, and stories for our departmental awards; the office staff are still fielding phone calls and emails in their dedicated service to the department’s organizational needs. Our professors, instructors, lecturers, and graduate students continue to apply the highest standards to their teaching, research, and scholarship. Even though most of our work must now be conducted remotely, we continue to be a genuinely collective enterprise.

To those of you who have sent me your concerns, support, and acknowledgment of our faculty and staff—my sincere thanks. It is vital that we remain caring and connected as we confront this season of stress and dislocation.

“This is not what I had planned; but perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin.” —Salman Rushdie

Chris Flint

Shakespeare and Psychoanalytic Studies

by James Newlin

Vera Camden

On February 28th and 29th, Case Western Reserve University hosted an interdisciplinary symposium, titled “New Directions for Shakespeare and Psychoanalytic Studies.” The purpose of our symposium was to bring literary scholars and clinicians together to consider the current status of Shakespeare in psychoanalytic studies, the place of psychoanalysis in Shakespeare studies, and the future of both disciplines.

The symposium commenced with a plenary speech delivered by Dominique Scarfone, a clinical analyst and much acclaimed psychoanalytic scholar based in Montreal. Dr. Scarfone’s talk, titled “The Readiness for Transference: Hamlet’s Lesson,” demonstrated the influence that Shakespeare’s Hamlet had not only on Freud’s conceptualization of the oedipal complex, but also the process of transference as experienced in the psychoanalytic clinic.

Our Saturday sessions included three paper panels and two plenary talks. Plenary speakers included Vera Camden, a professor of English at Kent State University and a practicing psychoanalyst associated with the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center, and Richard Burt, Professor of English at the University of Florida. Professor Camden gave a paper calling for a “literary psychoanalysis,” explaining how her work as a scholar of literature informs her clinical experiences. For instance, she shared how her reading of Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal led to new opportunities for an empathetic, transferential exchange with one of her patients. Professor Burt compared the editorial challenges faced by scholars of Shakespeare—particularly when considering corrupt texts like Timon of Athens—with the choices made by eighteenth-century novelists like Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne in their “edited” epistolary novels. An energetic conversation followed, as the conference participants and attendees debated the points of intersection between these editor figures and the analyst who makes sense of either a clinical or literary expression of meaning.

Saturday also included three two-person panels, addressing the topics of tragedy, adaptation, and gender. Panelists included: Russ Bodi of Owens Community College and the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference, Gabriel Rieger (’07) of Concord University, independent scholar Christian Smith, James Newlin of CWRU, Laura Evers of CWRU, and James Marino of Cleveland State University. These panels were chaired by Luke Reader, Denna Iammarino, and Megan Griffin, all of CWRU.

Around three to four dozen attendees cycled in and out throughout Saturday, and a number of attendees were present for the entire event. The event was attended by a number of CWRU undergraduate students, as well as students from Kent State University and Cleveland State University. A number of clinicians associated with the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center were also in attendance, thanks to that organization’s publicizing efforts. This was a successful symposium that considered Shakespeare and Freud—two of our most familiar writers—in new, and newly critical, lights.

This symposium, held in Writers House’s home on campus, Bellflower Hall, was made possible by a grant by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities. The symposium was co-sponsored by the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center, and also received support from Writers House and CWRU’s Department of English.

Gabriel Rieger (’07)

Faculty Notes

Mary Assad‘s chapter, “Gendered Risk and Responsibility in the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign,” will be published in the edited collection, Interrogating Gendered Pathologies, forthcoming June 2020 from Utah State University Press. This collection features scholarship in rhetoric, medicine, and women’s and gender studies.

Cara Byrne presided over a roundtable presentation titled “Confronting Racism and Celebrating Diversity: Cleveland’s Anisfield- Wolf Book Award” at the Modern Language Association Conference in Seattle in early January.

Michael Clune presented “Radical Epistemologies/Conservative Politics” at the Modern Language Association Conference in Seattle in early January.

Alexis Colucy is presenting at the Popular Culture Association in Philadelphia in April. The title of her presentation: “‘Your Love is too Thick’: A Historical and Literary Analysis of African-American Motherhood In Morrison’s Beloved and Jones’s An American Marriage.”

Yasmin DaSilva will present her paper, “A Spectrum of the Performative Nature of Father & Son Relationships in Contemporary Literature,” in the Fatherhood & Popular Culture panel at the Popular Culture Association conference this April.

Leah Davydov, Laura Evers, and Joseph Spieles participated in the colloquium “What Are Our Grads Researching?”on February 14th.

Gusztav Demeter presented on “Using Corpus Linguistics in Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum or in Specific Disciplines” at the “Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching: Making Connections” Conference in Perth, Australia, on November 27th.

Philip Derbesy’s article, “Reading Cinematic Allusions in the Novels of Jack Kerouac,” will appear this year in The Journal of American Culture.

On November 22nd, Susan Dominguez presented a lecture at the American Indian Studies Colloquium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, entitled “The ‘tiny horrors’ of Cultural Genocide: Indigenous Children in American Indian and Canadian Residential Schools, 1860-1970.”

Kimberly Emmons and Martha Schaffer presented at the 2019 Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference on writing program mentorship on November 16th. Their presentation was titled “WPA Mentorship Sites for Feminist Activism and Agency.”

Sarah Gridley‘s book Insofar is available for order.

Mary Grimm will be one of the 2020 Artists in Residence at Headlands Center for the Arts.

Caitlin Kelly has been selected to participate in the Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting here in Cleveland in October 2020. She will be co-leading a breakout session, “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History: Jane Austen, Women Historians, and Histories,” with Dr. Misty Krueger of the University of Maine-Farmington.

Amber Kidd‘s paper, “‘A Strong Mind, Soft Heart’: The Radical Empathy in the Life Writings of Sophie Scholl” that she presented at Southern Atlantic Modern Language Association last autumn, was nominated for their Graduate Student Essay Award.

Kurt Koenigsberger presented a paper at the International Conference on Narrative in March in New Orleans titled “Wonderful Windows: Frames, Aspiration, Allegory.”

Dave Lucas has an essay in Cleveland magazine: “When the Lake Freezes.”

Daniel Luttrull’s poem, “The View From a Cafe in Ethiopia,” came out in America.

Marilyn Mobley gave the Sojourner Truth Lecture at George Mason University.

Caitlin O’Brien was accepted to the Pop Culture Association Conference in Philadelphia this coming April.

In December, James Sheeler visited mass communications classes and English classes at Troy High School.

Robert Spadoni has published “The Machine in the Ghost: Writing Women in Supernaturalin The Quarterly Review of Film and Video.

Brita Thielen gave a lecture, “Consuming the Past: Food Metaphors in the Intergenerational Food Memoir,” as part of the Graduate Student Work-In-Progress Series at the Baker Nord Center on January 30th.

Hayley Verdi will co-lead a reading seminar on the Anisfield-Wolf Awards sponsored by the Baker Nord Center, Kelvin Smith Library, and the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee. The seminar meets monthly during the semester to discuss recent winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and is free and open to the public.

Anthony Wexler has an essay in CWRU’s First Year.

Allyson Wierenga will deliver a presentation titled “‘I pray Dad / won’t get arrested’: Challenging Racial Stereotypes with Middle Grade Verse Novels” for a Children’s Literature Society panel at the American Literature Association Conference in San Diego in May.

Invitation to the Unknown: Reframing the Rhetoric of Cookbooks

by Brita Thielen

If cookbooks are primarily oriented around pleasure, can they also give voice to painful truths and histories?

This is the question at the heart of Carrie Helms Tippen’s new book project, The Urgency of Pleasure: Theorizing a Rhetoric of Pleasure in Contemporary Cookbooks. However, Tippen posed additional questions to the audience at her February 7th colloquium lecture: how can I consider this question with the richness it deserves? What other, smaller, questions do I need to consider? Whose ideas or theories—what perspectives—am I missing?

What struck me most about Tippen’s lecture was her willingness to invite us into the unknown. Her talk was less of a lecture than a proposal: she began by outlining her book project, then led us through what is currently the book’s rough introduction. After 30 minutes, the audience was invited to ask questions, make suggestions, and point out weak spots in her framing. While listening to a scholar’s work-in-progress is not anything new to our colloquium, Tippen went further than any other scholar I have seen in inviting the audience to think through her difficult question with her. The result was a vibrant and intellectually stimulating Q&A, ranging from reading and theorist suggestions to links between food and pain in religious traditions. For over 40 minutes, English graduate students and Tippen energetically exchanged ideas, transforming Q&A into what better resembled a symposium. At the risk of sounding sappy, I think everyone in the room felt we were truly building—rather than performing—knowledge together.

As scholars-in-training, graduate students are advised to grapple with difficult questions. Yet so often in academic presentations, what we observe is the defense of answers. While I’m not claiming that we should abandon the practice of sharing what we know, it can be illuminating to watch someone sit with their difficult question. Scholarship always begins in the unknown, but part of the process is uncomfortable, messy, and vulnerable.

I, for one, am still thinking about her difficult question weeks after her talk, and I look forward to reading her book to see what answers we helped shape.

Carrie Helms Tippen is Assistant Professor of English and Director of First Year Writing at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her 2018 book, Inventing Authenticity: How Cookbook Writers Redefine Southern Identity (University of Arkansas Press), examines the rhetorical strategies that writers use to prove the authenticity of their recipes in the narrative headnotes of contemporary cookbooks. Carrie is a host of the podcast New Books in Food from the New Books Network.


Nicole Emmelhainz-Carney (’14 ) has two poems published in Pidgeonholes.

Marie Lathers (’15) has been offered the Maxwell C. Weiner Distinguished Visiting Professorship in the Humanities for AY 2020-21 at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Jamie McDaniel (’10) has been been invited to give the 37th Annual Jack & Ruth Gribben English Lecture for college writing teachers this October.


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