English Faculty Forum 

The English Faculty Forum is a lecture series that showcases the work of the faculty of the VCU Department of English. This new series coordinated by Associate Professor Rivka Swenson carries on the collegial tradition – across ranks, subfields, and communities – of First Friday, the department’s previous lecture series, which was organized by Professor Bryant Mangum for many years. Acknowledging its place in recent history, English Faculty Forum, which first commenced in spring of 2017, gets its euphony of ffs from Mangum’s former First Friday series, and takes its ultimate word, forum, from his subtitle: like First Friday, the English Faculty Forum is “A Forum for Ideas on Research, Teaching, and Writing.” Meanwhile, by way of its penultimate word, faculty, the English Faculty Forum also recognizes the department’s longer continuum of scholarly public discourse that extends first to Professor Terry Oggel’s Faculty Symposium talk series, which immediately preceded First Friday. Like its forerunners, English Faculty Forum hopes to spur fresh work while building community through the exchange of ideas.

There will be three talks each semester, in the departmental conference room (Hibbs 308), on Wednesdays at noon. All members of the department are welcome to contact the organizer about giving a presentation, and everyone in the community – the department, the university, the community at large – is invited to attend these brown bag events.

Rivka Swenson
Faculty Coordinator of the English Faculty Forum 

2019-2020 Forum Dates

Wednesday, September 25, 2019, 12:00 noon, Hibbs 308

English 203 “British Literature I” survey gets a new pedagogical perspective in this lecture by Dr. Joshua Eckhardt. The survey course includes texts by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, and Behn, as expected; however, Eckhardt’s class reads only facsimiles of manuscripts and printed books that were collected by a single family: The Egertons of Bridgewater. Eckhardt will show how he uses the Egertons’ collection, together with legal records, to teach a contextualized survey of British literature.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019, 12:00 noon, Hibbs 308
Dr. Mary Caton Lingold will explore the life and work of a man named Mr. Baptiste who lived in Jamaica in the late seventeenth century. Mr. Baptiste composed music portraying three different African traditions as they were performed by enslaved people at the time. Lingold will present her research that argues Mr. Baptiste may have been one of the earliest known Black American composers, while also addressing larger issues concerning questions of identity and race in colonial archives.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019, 12:00 noon, Hibbs 308
"What is the post-postmodern, and has it passed?" Kathleen Graber offers a sample of recent poems that reveal what feels like an outsized preoccupation with conversation: with new media, various histories and, notably, other texts. If political discourse is occupied with borders, the porous practice of poets speak back to the illusion of isolation.

History of the Forums

English Faculty Forum carries forward the department’s longstanding practice of scholarly intradepartmental exchange that extends all the way back to VCU’s earliest years. In 1969, a year after VCU was created with the merger of RPI and MCV, Ann Woodlief started a germinal departmental newsletter – called, appropriately, The English Exchange. Thus began the department’s convention of public exchanges about research, writing, and teaching.

In 1973, Richard Priebe brought the charge forward when he began an informal series under the banner of Brown Bag Lunches. The series was as long-lasting as it was active, eventually growing in scope to encompass a larger body (as the College of Humanities and Sciences Symposium) while retaining English participation until the end. Indeed, when the CHS Symposium had run its course, a themed annual version continued informally for some time.

In the late 1980s, a group of colleagues in the department added to the departmental tradition with Composition Theory symposium. Later, from 1990 to 1994, Professors Marcel Cornis-Pope and Claudius “Bill” Griffin organized a faculty discussion group entitled Theory across the Curriculum. In 1994, Professor Terry Oggel initiated (and convened for more than a decade), the Faculty Symposium, with lunchtime presentations, open-to-the-public, of faculty research and writing; and, last but not least, Professor Bryant Mangum’s similarly successful First Friday forum continued to encourage the work of dozens of English faculty while ably fostering the exchange of ideas across subfields, ranks, and communities.