From the Chair
Over the past three decades I have been lucky to witness the department grow to become a research-intensive unit that has produced many fine scholarly books and essays, as well as much excellent creative work. We are proud that we have not lost our focus on the classroom and on the extraordinary students we are fortunate to have—English majors, graduate students, and many others who are drawn to the literatures we teach.
Our goal is the pursuit of excellence in the creative arts, literature, criticism and linguistics, community engagement and service learning, technology and new media. As our mission statement reads: “As scholar-teachers, the English faculty are committed to balancing teaching, mentoring, and research as mutually beneficial endeavors. Through research and teaching, our faculty work to expand knowledge of language, literature, and various expressive media in local, national, and global contexts.”
Some highlights of the 2015-16 academic year:
- In April 2016 we celebrated the BA Program’s 50th anniversary with an alumni reception and reunion. Our current undergraduates read from their creative work, and alum Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award Finalist The Yellow Birds, read from his work-in-progress. Approximately 80 alums, faculty members and friends were on hand to enjoy the lovely late-afternoon spring event.
- After national searches that produced scores of highly qualified applicants, we are happy to welcome new Assistant Professors Hanna Pylvӓinen (creative writing, fiction) and Sonja Livingston (creative writing, nonfiction), and postdoctoral fellow Jason Price (African and post-colonial literature).
- English department faculty were the recipients of several awards. Kathy Bassard was named the College’s Distinguished Scholar, Nick Frankel was awarded the Harry Ransom Center Research Fellowship in the Humanities in support of archival research, Cristina Stanciu was awarded an AAUW Fellowship, and Catherine Ingrassia was a winner of the ASECS Innovative Course Design Competition as well as the Percy G. Adams Prize for the best article on an 18th century subject published in a scholarly journal. Harrison Fletcher’s Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams won the 2015 Autumn House Press Nonfiction Prize. Shermaine Jones was accepted into Duke University’s Summer Institute for Tenure and Professional Advancement, Jennifer Rhee attended Pennsylvania State University’s First Book Institute, and Marcel Cornis-Pope delivered the Elske v.P. Smith lecture in April.
- Our advising team received well-deserved recognition this past year. Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising Dale Smith won not only the College’s Distinguished Advisor Award but also the Burnside Watstein LGBTQ award, which recognizes individuals who enrich the sense of community at VCU and make a significant difference in the lives of LGBTQ faculty, staff and students. Graduate Programs Advisor Thom Didato won the President’s Service Excellence award in recognition of the high level of service he provides to our students with respect, integrity, responsiveness and initiative.
- Leaving us for a well-deserved retirement, Liz Hodges taught her last class this past Spring semester. Liz, who has been a member of the VCU community for 27 years, gave the commencement speech at the department’s spring graduation ceremony. Her speech, titled “Reflection,” was a fitting conclusion to a busy year.
- We are saddened to report that Professor Emeritus James J. (Jim) Kinney passed away on September 28th. Jim joined the department in 1976 where he taught American Literature, served as Director of the now-defunct Composition and Rhetoric Program, and as Chair. Jim had retired in 2010 after 33 years of teaching at VCU.
- Faculty continued to produce scholarship across many areas of English studies: in 2015-16 (doing the numbers): 13 books or book chapters, 27 articles, 7 essays, 12 reviews, and 17 poems, fiction, nonfiction and short stories.
Elsewhere on the website, please explore information about our MA, MFA and MATX graduate programs; Levis, Cabell First Novelist, and Tarumoto Short Fiction literary prizes; Visiting Writers, First Friday, and Cornis-Pope lecture series; and our online literary journal Blackbird.
David Latané, Chair
24 August 2016