Department of English Newsletter: September 2019

in this issue

Tribute to Martha Woodmansee/Letter from the Chair/Faculty Notes/Undergrad Internships and Travel Grants/Alumni News/In Memoriam

Martha Woodmansee

After 33 years as an esteemed faculty member at Case Western Reserve University, Martha Woodmansee, Professor of English and Law, retired at the end of the spring term (June 30, 2019). Recipient of numerous fellowships (from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Foundation, to name a few), Martha has published a groundbreaking book on the eighteenth-century origins of our modern conception of art, four highly influential co-edited books, a translation, and over 30 articles and book chapters. She was executive director of the Society for Critical Exchange for 18 years and is the founding co-director of the International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property. She secured both external and internal funding to establish and run the Arts & Sciences Dissertation Seminar at CWRU, which has supported graduate students across the Humanities for over two decades. We have all benefited from Martha’s thorough historical research and theoretical acumen, and from the imaginative courses she has taught (not only at CWRU but also at Columbia, Harvard, Northwestern, and the University of Pittsburgh), all of which have made her a nationally and internationally respected scholar. She will leave a legacy of intellectual, pedagogical, and programmatic innovation in the department and the profession.

Tribute to Martha Woodmansee

By Kenneth Ledford
(Case Western Reserve University)

Other colleagues in literature and law will praise Martha Woodmansee’s scholarship over the decades.  I write to praise her professional and scholarly intellectual rigor and fundamental human kindness as they manifested themselves in the College of Arts & Sciences Dissertation Writing Seminar which she created, preserved, advanced, and bequeaths to the students and faculty of the College. I co-taught the Seminar with her four times and learned to model my own approach after hers.

The Dissertation Writing Seminar is entirely the product of Martha’s inspiration, imagination, and hard work. She perceived the need for a writing group to jump-start students in the small humanities PhD programs, and to sustain them in ways that their departments often lacked critical mass of student numbers to support. In the 1990s, she secured Mellon Foundation funding for a pilot, organized, and instituted the Seminar. But her most notable achievement was to secure sustained funding from the College after the Mellon grant expired. Through her tenacity and persuasiveness, she preserved the Seminar from the fate of so many initiatives in the College which spring forth with external funding and amply demonstrate their worth, but then expire with the external funds, as the College budget responds to other pressures. Martha simply would not let that happen, and her determination benefits us all.

Martha’s vision for the Dissertation Writing Seminar was always generous and flexible, seeking always to propel the student participants toward success, and embracing the PhD programs of the College broadly in order to do so. Initially focused on humanities PhD students, she not only incorporated faculty from other humanities departments to select the students and co-teach the course, but she also reached out to social science PhD programs. In doing so, she cultivated a fertile field for students-participants to imagine a spectrum of different audiences and professional writing conventions, and also to rethink their own audiences, and thus, career paths, for their research and writing.

To teach with Martha is to marvel at her combination of rigorous standards for thought, prose, argument, and evidence, combined with her commitment, kind and often tender, to the success of each student.  Her rigor could mean a swingeing critique; in toto, paragraph by paragraph, even line by line. But her kindness also meant that no one was exempt, and that the kindness permeated the rigor, regard, and respect of the critique and opened a door for students to examine their work and strengthen it. Every dissertation that proceeded from the Dissertation Writing Seminar was better for Martha’s critique, and she is tireless as an advocate for Seminar alumnae/i in their job searches and in their subsequent scholarly careers.

Martha has made clear to the faculty who remain that she expects us to continue the Dissertation Writing Seminar as part of her legacy. And she has taught us well and equipped us to do so, with her rigorous critiques ringing in our minds and her model of kindness ever before us.

Other Voices

When I joined the faculty in 2003, my advisors told me specifically to seek out Martha Woodmansee’s counsel as a mentor and as a scholar whose insistence on the interrelationships between reading, writing, theory, and practice would shape my own trajectory. I am deeply grateful for Martha’s vision in describing the Writing History and Theory concentration here at CWRU, and for the many hours of drafting we spent over the years on (too many!) proposals and visions for an approach to English Studies that integrates production and reception, reading and writing, history and future. Personally and professionally, I thank Martha for her engagement.

Kim Emmons (Case Western Reserve University)

Professor Woodmansee has had a profound effect on the direction of my scholarship and career. I took Dr. Woodmansee’s Fair Use course during the fall 2011 semester. In this class—which was made up of a mix of law students, English graduate students, and undergraduate students—Dr. Woodmansee pushed all of us to study copyright law, adaptation, and parody with a critical lens that few of us had previously applied. She allowed us to explore areas that we were interested in, and she helped us craft strong research projects. The essay I wrote for this class went on to be published in a leading journal in my field, which lead me to winning the Children’s Literature Association’s Emerging Scholar award in 2018. Professor Woodmansee not only supported my work in this class, but she also advocated for my work and cared about my progress as a student – even though she was not on my dissertation committee. As children’s literature is an emerging field, I was met with a great deal of hesitancy when I wanted to pursue a dissertation about picture books. Dr. Woodmansee never looked down on my work, and through her support, I was able to make a number of interdisciplinary connections which have transformed—and greatly improved—the scholarly contributions I am making. I am so grateful to have had such a strong role model early in my career.

Cara Byrne (Case Western Reserve University)

We are three researchers working in the field of English Literature and Culture at three different German Universites. In September 2017, we hosted a conference section on “The Value of Economic Criticism Reconsidered” in the framework of the yearly ‘Anglistentag’ in Regensburg. Given Martha Woodmansee’s expertise in this field of research, we were delighted and honoured that she accepted our invitation to give a plenary speech related to Economic Criticism—a field that she helped to establish. As co-editor and co-author of the foundational and fascinating anthology on “New Economic Criticism” (that was quoted throughout by nearly all speakers at the conference) and in view of her continuous research at the intersections of literature, culture, and economics, she proved an inspiring contributor to the interesting discussion we had. In the aftermath of the conference, we began to set up a network of mostly Germany-based scholars of English exploring methodologies of Economic Criticism. Martha’s pioneering thoughts proved an inspiration here as well. We wish you all the best, dear Martha, and thank you once again for your help and input!

Ellen Gruenkemeier (University of Hannover)
Nora Plesske (University of Magdeburg)
Joanna Rostek (University of Giessen)

Martha Woodmansee is a radical intellectual. For years she has collaborated with others, and with them built platforms to support collaborative projects, notably The Society for Critical Exchange. The university in ruins has little interest in collaboration of any sort, for how then can merit be evaluated? Martha has been deeply concerned with this problem of metrics and knowledge, as her work with Mark Osteen on the “new economic criticism” project makes clear. Together they organized and directed conferences to study the intersections of literature and economics. That’s how I first met Martha, when she invited me to participate. Literature and economics are, of course, now radically divided. The study of literature values the qualities of language and is part of the humanities, while economics is one of the social sciences, and measures value as a quantity expressed by curves of supply and demand intersecting on a chart. Many of us were curious about what we could learn by bringing these polar opposites into contact. Martha’s radical idea was to study where literature and economics intersected before each became a solitary discipline, fortified by disciplinary boundaries. She thought the intellectual energy thereby released could create a charge strong enough to short out disciplinary assumptions and explode received ideas. So it did.

I admire Martha’s work, her formidable intelligence, and equally formidable energy. It seems to me that her enthusiasm went far toward creating a force field in which all kinds of work were generated. One result was a collection of essays that she and Mark Osteen collaboratively edited titled The New Economic Criticism. I’m proud that I have an essay in the volume, but what I really value is Martha’s radical vision of intellectual work organized not according to lines on a vita, but as a collective project.

Martha’s skepticism about how value is evaluated and distributed is driven by curiosity, not cynicism. She is a person of great enthusiasm, for whom new pleasures were an occasion to celebrate. I learned to smoke this year when I was in Europe, she said, gleefully lighting a cigarette. But I’m giving it up – this last said without bitterness or resignation. Whether taking up smoking only to resign it, or analyzing the inescapable contradictions of so-called artistic autonomy and copyright law, there’s an imp of perversity that animates Martha’s undertakings. Given the bureaucratic rationalization of academic life, the contrariness of Martha’s work, especially her commitment to collaboration, runs counter to common sense. All of us who labor in the academy are in her debt, I think, for her work as the Director of the Society for Critical Exchange, and for the energies she has so liberally expended to envision and support intellectual possibility. She and I have not been in touch in a very long time, so I’m particularly happy to have this chance to say thank you, again, for your refusal to fall in line. I’m very grateful for your work on behalf of us all.

Christina Crosby (Wesleyan University)

Link to Tribute to Martha Woodmansee

Letter from the Chair

As this will be my last letter, I want to thank all of the departmental alumni and past and present faculty who have made my five years as chair as smooth as could be in such troubled times. In my first letter in this position I noted how distressed the Humanities were both locally and globally. In many respects the situation has only worsened. This last year, as many of you no doubt noticed, was a very challenging one, and I expect the next few years will present equally taxing difficulties. But one thing I have learned—we are a resilient group. It’s been a pleasure to work with and for you all. And as Zadie Smith says, “The past is always tense, the future perfect.”

Despite the turmoil, we accomplished a great deal in 2018-19. We saw a fifth consecutive year of growth in declared majors and credit hours taught in ENGL courses. Our literature, film, and creative-writing programs are on very sure footing, and we are planning to add a journalism minor. Participation of our Lecturers in SAGES, Engineering, and English as a Second Language continues to be a crucial component of our curricular efforts at the University. Our Colloquium series has again expanded, hosting exciting speakers—such as Jesse Sheidlower, former Editor at Large of the Oxford English Dictionary, and poet Toi Derricotte—and drawing larger and larger audiences. Eight of our majors received funding through the Tim O’Brien English Scholarships for Unpaid Internships for summer jobs ranging from working as a stage management intern for Cain Park to tutoring at a juvenile corrections facility. Guilford House was, in other words, a center of lively teaching, creativity, and critical engagement.

Our second home, Bellflower Hall, continues to blossom as the site of the Writing Resource Center and as the location of Writers House (our university-wide hub centered on the act of writing in all its variety), both of which are crucial parts of our departmental identity. This fall, we’re continuing to schedule events that are student-focused, including several creative writing workshops (the first of which is about writing the persona poem), as well as those welcoming community attendance, in particular “Black Women Writing Cleveland” which will be co-sponsored by the South Euclid/Lyndhurst Library. Our occupation of the entire building is now complete, as the offices on the third floor are finally habitable.

And, as always, there is our academic productivity: in 2018-19 four of us published books (Thrity Umrigar’s The Secrets Between Us, and Maggie Vinter’s Last Acts: The Art of Dying on the Early Modern Stage were single-author works while Joshua Hoeynck’s Staying Open: Charles Olson’s Sources and Influences and Brad Ricca’s The Artificial Man and Other Stories were edited collections). We have at least four more books pending this year. Collectively, over the last 12 months we published more than 30 essays, short stories, and works of poetry and drama with publishers such as The New Yorker, ELH, Poetry, The Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Paradoxa, Jewish Culture and History, Public Medievalist, Ariel, Shakespeare, and the Shakespeare Bulletin. We gave over 40 presentations at institutions and conferences ranging from the CEA, ALA, MLA, ASECS, MELUS, the Modernist Studies Association, the Asian EFL Journal, the University of Michigan, the National University of Ireland, and Colby College. It was an especially good year for awards and prizes: Michael Clune received a Guggenheim Fellowship; Kim Emmons the CWRU Outstanding Faculty Award for Student Development; Sarah Gridley the Green Rose Prize and The Emily Dickinson Award; and Maggie Vinter the Diekhoff Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching. Michael Householder and Martha Schaffer were named Freedman Faculty Fellows, Eric Chilton and Kristine Kelly received the SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award, and Anthony Wexler The WRC Excellence in Consulting Award. Leah Davydov, Philip Derbesy, Daniel Lutrull, Melissa Pompili, Camila Ring, and Brita Thielen won either Adrian-Salomon Fellowships or Timothy Calhoun Prizes, and Daniel Lutrull was the recipient of the 2018 Neil MacIntyre Prize.

As another well-known writer says, “What’s past is prologue.”

–Christopher Flint


Cara Byrne presented a paper, “Reading Cleveland is a Warm, Fuzzy Place in Tamir Rice’s Cleveland: Regionalism, Activism & Response in Picture Books,” at the annual ChLA conference in June.

Michael Clune‘s “The Fear of Judgment” appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Susan Dominguez served as consultant on Zitkala-Sa (1876-1938) for the documentary UNLADYLIKE2020 — a documentary series featuring 26 extraordinary and unsung American women from the turn of the twentieth century, which will launch in 2020, in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

The Daily features Sarah Gridley.

Mary Grimm‘s story, “Back Then,” is online at the New Yorker website.

Denna Iammarino, Caitlin Kelly, and Kristine Kelly led an interactive workshop on digital writing at the Digital Pedagogy Institute 2019 hosted by the University of Waterloo.

Megan Jewell presented a paper titled,”Writing Centres, Human Capabilities, and Collaborative Well-being” at the Writing & Well-Being Symposium at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in April.

Wei Jiang presented a poster titled “The Effects of Using Social Media for Collaborative Academic Writing in an EFL Writing Classroom” at the Second Language Research Forum 2019 Conference in East Language, MI and won the 2nd place in the conference poster competition.

Kurt Koenigsberger gave a presentation on outcomes and assessment in humanities partnerships at the University of Michigan/Henry Ford College 2019 Transfer Bridges May Institute in Ypsilanti.

Shaofei Lu presented at the CWRU 3rd Annual Student Success Summit with Yuening Zhang from KSL Their presentation was titled “From ‘novice’ to ‘expert’: Enhancing international students’ learning experience.”

Dave Lucas read at the Poetry Showcase at the Ohio State Fair.

William Marling was the keynote speaker at the “World Editors” Conference on July 1 at Schloss Herrenhausen, Hanover, Germany. Scholars, editors, and agents from three continents discussed “gatekeeping,” the paradigm of Marling’s award-winning 2016 book Gatekeepers: The Emergence of World Literature and the 1960s (Oxford UP). Marling spoke on “Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Carmen Balcells: Prospect Theory on the Field of Literature.”

Marilyn Mobley wrote a piece honoring the life of author Toni Morrison.

James Newlin‘s article “Excellent at Faults: The Experience of Twelfth Night and History of Madness” appears in Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 33.2 (Spring 2019): 27-44.

On August 23rd, Brad Ricca read from and discussed his recent edited volume, The Artificial Man and Other Stories (Belt Publishing), a collection of stories from the 1920s and ’30s, by “forgotten,” Cleveland-based writer Claire Winger Harris.

Martha Schaffer and Michael Householder have been named 2019-2020 Freedman Faculty Fellows.

Robert Spadoni has published “What is Film Atmosphere?” in the Quarterly Review of Film and Video.

Thrity Umrigar will talk about the inspiration for her new novel and the challenges of writing a sequel, The Secrets Between Us, on October 7th. Tinkham Veale University Center. 5:00 p.m.

Hayley Verdi participated in the summer seminar, “Reading Social Justice: The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards,” sponsored by the Cleveland Humanities Collaborative (CHC), Writers House at CWRU, and Cuyahoga Community College.

Maggie Vinter‘s book, Last Acts:The Art of Dying on the Early Modern Stage, has been published by Fordham University Press..

Garret Waugh presented a paper entitled “The Presence of Narrative as Protest” at the Marxist Literary Group’s Institute on Culture and Society.

Anthony Wexler delivered a public lecture in August as part of the Eastside Conversations Program. The title of the lecture was “Israel in Jewish American Literature.” The program is run by the Siegal Lifelong Learning Center. .

Tim O’Brien Internships and Travel Grants

Funded through generous donations from English Department alumnus Tim O’Brien (‘74), two new competitive financial awards for undergraduate English majors were established in 2018. The Tim O’Brien English Scholarship for Unpaid Internships supports undergraduate English Majors who are participating in an unpaid internship at CWRU or elsewhere. The Tim O’Brien English Research Travel Support Fund offers travel awards to undergraduate English Majors for research projects relating to an English class (such as presenting a conference paper, conducting archival research for a capstone project, visiting a distant museum, etc.).

Adam Benjamin:

I worked on the Stage Management team for Ragtime the Musical at Cain Park. I consider the internship divided into two very distinct phases: rehearsal and performance. Rehearsal occurred throughout most of May and was specifically challenging given my skillset before this summer. The tasks delegated to me were ones I was unfamiliar with, managerial and secretarial tasks to which I was unaccustomed: filing paperwork and actor medical forms, coordinating the set-up and strike of the rehearsal hall each day, learning and applying movement and choreographic notation into our scripts, learning and maintaining actor safety and occupational standards mandated by Actor’s Equity Association. The second phase was performance. This is an ongoing process that presents its own specific challenges to organize and repeatedly facilitate the completion of Ragtime’s performances. I attribute my comprehension of my stage management duties to the guidance of my Stage Manager, Tom Humes. However, there were times I was faced with specific actor-related issues that I was inclined to solve myself, as there was often little room for deference. Usually issues like this are injury related, benign or severe. One of the most important things I have learned is something that was always intrinsically mine; I have found that I possess an innate quality that enables me to be adamantly calm in the face of extreme stress. Theatre as a process is riddled with mistakes. It is what makes it so evocative, even spiritual. This perspective has expanded the lens through which I view Theatre, elucidating for me how precious calm and calculative action is in stressful situations.

Aimee Wiencek:

While working at Behrman Communications, I learned and practiced a variety of different skills essential to the success of a public relations firm. These skills included daily monitoring, press clippings and placement emails, mailing send-outs, putting together briefing books, writing inventory emails, as well as writing pitches and emails to be sent to magazine editors and influencers. For instance, each week, we look at all of the mentions of our clients or brands from our daily monitoring lists and these links/articles in the press are “clipped” and put into our placement email for each client. For press clippings, we go to the site linked and screen shot different sections of the article. We place all of the info we gather into one Word document and then write the placement email about it. In the email we include: the link to the article, the article title, the product mentioned, the image and blurb about the product, the retailer listed to purchase the product, and the UMV (unique monthly visitors) of the site. The placement emails are sent off to our clients. Also, a PR agency will send out a pitch to different influencers, editors, and bloggers in the hopes that they will want to try out our clients’ products and post about it. A pitch is usually somewhat witty, with an alluring subject line that pulls the person in wanting to know more. The inside of the message itself can also be playful, but essentially explains the product in more detail, the price, where to buy it, and asks if they would like to receive the product for no cost. My time at Behrman Communications was incredibly rewarding and insightful. I was able to see the ins and outs of a public relations agency as well as what makes a business successful, especially since the CEO of the company came into the office each day and was very involved with the daily work. During my time at Behrman, I was exposed to many exciting opportunities. For starters, I was able to sit in on many client calls and meetings. This was beneficial in seeing exactly what we were doing for the clients, as well as hearing any problems and the solutions that were going to be used in order to fix them. During my last week, I was given more responsibility related to writing creative pitches as well as writing important emails directly to influencers.

Jack McDonald:

This summer, I was able to intern at Little Lake Theatre in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a small community theatre focused on bringing drama and live performance to those for whom it may otherwise be inaccessible or too expensive. As well as putting on shows for kids, adults, and families, Little Lake Theatre also has specific programs in place to help those with sensory overload issues and hearing disabilities enjoy theatre as well. There was a lot of taking ticket sales and interacting with customers, but my supervisor made sure to keep me busy with all kinds of special projects and learning experiences. I did a lot of work with the ticketing database, searching through it, exporting data, and arranging the data in meaningful ways, such as to target specific groups of customers. There was also a lot of advertising work: I wrote articles for local papers and magazines advertising the shows, descriptions of different shows and events, and even researched and wrote about locations for a charity bike trip the theatre was raising money for. There was never a dull day and always something new to do. Overall, my English classes really helped me over the course of the summer, just in the realm of communicating with other people, whether it be directly on the phone or through written advertisements. CWRU’s English classes have taught me to make sure every word I put out there has purpose, and how to persuade people with the power of language.

Sarah Parr:

I was a public relations intern with AGW Group this summer in the Brooklyn, New York, office. This internship included researching and compiling media outreach lists, pitching ideas, cold-communicating, writing press releases and more. I learned how to find potential media outlets and journalists, as well as their contact information, and timely stories and angles to pitch them. I practiced differentiating public relations writing from journalistic coverage, which is a skill I learned I needed during my journalism internship last year. In addition to my daily tasks, my bosses asked my fellow interns and me to take on projects ranging from the company’s social media enhancement to PR for the company. We researched conferences, awards, and “best-of” lists tirelessly, as AGW’s primary focus is on its own clients, not its own PR. Researching online was a big part of this internship, as well as synthesizing information to form short and sweet, yet effective, pitches and press releases. My bosses at AGW were really into the idea of interns playing an integral role in the company, so in addition to doing my own work, I would sit in on weekly calls, consultations, and media preps with clients. It was so funny listening to PR experts advise presidents of companies on what to say when being interviewed by reporters.

Halle Rose:

Interning for Exploradio wove together several of my interests across different fields, namely those in journalism and science. The material I interviewed professors about and produced content on generally revolved around deeply technical topics with extensive scientific implications, many of which occurred within the medical field. In an effort to make the content I would be writing about more accessible to a general audience (i.e. one that may not have a background in science), I conducted my interviews in a manner that would allow me to learn not only about the technical research itself, but also about the real-life applications of the work each professor was doing. Having a background in science myself, but being fairly comfortable catering the information I communicate to different audiences, I felt as though I was in a position to act as a liaison between the scientific community, a journalistic medium, and the general public. More specifically, I was able to use an accessible medium to produce accessible content that was not restricted to a particular interested community on account of medium, vernacular and semantics. This internship has provided an excellent opportunity for me to apply the skills I have thus far been cultivating in the classroom, including generating original ideas for journalistic pieces, contacting and arranging to meet with interviewees, both planning for -and improvising during – interviews, organizing and distilling information I collect, creative problem-solving when need be, and meeting deadlines.

Josiah Smith:

Volunteering at the Correctional Facility was a unique and unprecedented exploration into my educational journey. When I first met with the program’s director, Brittany Miller, she described to me the scope of the program. Several of the students did not have a solid grounding in sentence structure, diction, or basic grammatical practices. We needed to get the students up-to-speed on these core rudiments of writing. I suggested that we begin our studies with poetry—specifically within the context of lyric and rap. I had Brittany collect all of the favorite songs of our students. In preparing my lesson plans, I went through all of their songs and noted various rudimentary techniques that are traditionally used with the context of the poem. Since our first meeting was just trying to understand the bare-bones of the genre, we focused on items such as form, sound, imagery, and metaphor. This lesson was critical because it allowed me to understand the pace of learning. I also got a solid understanding of the environment that we would be learning in as well as any challenges that I could foresee. We quickly transitioned to the next portion of poetry writing where we explored composing poetry instead of simply interpreting. Their poems were incredible. They were so very insightful and encompassed a broad range of topics. Some featured the incredible loss in their lives, lovers that had betrayed, or simply the things they’d done that day. I felt that we had achieved something great by begging of their creativity rather than constricting it within constraints that weren’t complimentary to the topics.


Iris Jamahl Dunkle (’10) has a poem in Whale Road Review.

The Robert E. Howard-related podcast, “The Cromcast,” hosted Nicole Emmelhainz-Carney (’14) and Jason Ray Carney (’15) for an episode.

Melissa Pompili (’19) had an article published in the Journal of Medical Humanities.

Jess Slentz (’17) will return to campus as a CWRU Alumni Board Member. Her first term willl commence in November, 2019.

Brei Tinsley (’19) is going to teach at Jungan Middle School in Gongju, South Korea.

In Memoriam

Lee K. Abbott passed away on April 29, 2019. For those of you who did not know him, Lee received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Mexico State University. After studying at Columbia College, he earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas in 1977. He served on the faculty of the English department of Case Western Reserve University from 1976 to 1989, during which period he won one of his two O. Henry Awards and all three of his Pushcart Prizes. Lee was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize for Literature in 1982. His collection, The Heart Never Fits Its Wanting, won the 1980 St. Lawrence Award for Fiction; he has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories and other anthologies. At CWRU, he earned tenure and was promoted to associate professor in 1983, then full professor in 1987, and in 1988 was named The Samuel B. and Virginia C. Knight Professor of Humanities. In 1989 he became a professor of English at Ohio State University, where he taught until his retirement in 2012 and was recipient of the 2004 Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award. In 2007 OSU promoted him to Humanities Distinguished Professor. Lee took several leaves to teach elsewhere, including Colorado College, Washington University, and Rice University. He also taught as a writer-in-residence or as visiting faculty in many programs, including The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, The Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and the University of Central Oklahoma.

Lee was the author of Dreams of Distant Lives, Strangers in Paradise, Love is the Crooked Thing, The Heart Never Fits Its Wanting, Living After Midnight, Wet Places at Noon, and All Things, All at Once: New & Selected Stories, all collections of stories. His many short stories and reviews, as well as articles on American literature, appeared in such journals and magazines as Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, The New York Times Book Review, The Southern Review, Epoch, Boulevard, and The North American Review. His fiction has been reprinted in The Best American Short Stories and The Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. He twice won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was awarded a Major Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council in 1991.

Lee was married to Pamela Jo (Dennis) Abbott, who died of cancer in 2014. At the time of his death, his wife was Natalie (Walston) Abbott, a writer and public relations professional. The two were married on November 25, 2017. Lee had two sons with Pamela: Kelly and Noel and multiple grandchildren. Natalie has one son, Tyler Walston, who lives in Denver.


Professor James Griffith Taaffe passed away at age 86 on July 3, 2019. A Professor of English at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) from 1964 until 1990, he specialized in seventeenth-century English literature and was a noted Milton scholar. A National Scholar recipient, he earned his BA (1954) and MA (1956) in English from Columbia College, and his PhD in English (1960) from The University of Indiana, Bloomington. His distinguished half-century academic career began at Williams College (1959-62) and Vassar College (1962-64). At CWRU, Jim served in several important capacities, including Department Chair of English, Assistant to the President, Dean of Graduate Studies, Vice President for Undergraduate and Graduate Studies, and University Vice President for Academic Affairs, and was subsequently named Professor Emeritus of English and University Vice President Emeritus of Academic Affairs. In 1990, Jim joined The University of Alabama as Professor of English and as Academic Vice President and then Provost, a position he maintained from 1990 until 1996. He retired from the University of Alabama in 2005 as Professor Emeritus of English.

Jim authored or co-authored six books on seventeenth-century poetry and numerous articles on Milton, Donne, and Jonson, among others. His courses on seventeenth-century English literature at CWRU and Alabama were famous for their precision and thoroughness. Between the two schools, he directed over twenty dissertations and an even greater number of MA theses. To this day, alumni from our department reminisce about how he introduced them to the wonders and rewarding difficulties of classic literature. As a representative of the College Board, Jim also chaired the Advanced Placement English Exam from 1967-73, and served as a consultant for several Ohio Boards of Education. The many awards he received over the course of his career included the New York State Fellowship in Oriental Literature, Newberry Library Fellowship, and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

Jim was married to Donna Kay Click until her death in 1986. They had two children, Lauren Taaffe and Patrick Taaffe. In 1987, Dr. Taaffe married Allison Scott Blair of Cleveland, Ohio, becoming stepfather to Michael Taaffe, who sadly passed away in 2008. Jim is survived by Allison; his children, Lauren and Patrick and their children; his nieces Mary Jane Stuart and Karen Thomas Griffith and their children; and his nephew Bill Thomas and his children.


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