Wednesday, September 20, 2017
In addition to this book, I'm working on a few other projects. I'm currently writing an essay on incarceration in Asian American literature and culture. I've also begun research for a second book-length project, which investigates the institutionalization of ethnic literature as a site of knowledge production in and around the postwar university. Across all of these projects, I'm interested in both examining contemporary "ethnic" American literary texts and developing a critical understanding of our reading practices and their institutional histories.
Friday, September 15, 2017
I am also in the early stages of a project on the university that tracks the endurance of Victorian forms of cultural authority in contemporary higher education. Studying a moment when the university first became the subject of a public discourse, the project examines periodical literature, pamphlets, essays, and college novels from the nineteenth century alongside contemporary discussions of higher education to reveal the amnesia that accompanies neoliberalism’s “time-space compression.”
Both of these projects show my interest in thinking about the afterlives of Victorian social and literary forms through diverse methodologies: postcolonial and queer theory, Irish and Victorian studies, formalist and Foucauldian theory.
Monday, November 19, 2012
|Chiji Akọma, PhD (Binghamton University—SUNY) |
My first book, Folklore in New World Black Fiction, examined the fiction of two Americans, Toni Morrison and Jean Toomer, and two Guyanese, Wilson Harris and Roy Heath, for the myriad of ways they call attention to the intersections between orality and literacy, especially in relation to African oral performance aesthetics. The book organizes the major works by these writers around a grammar of meaning that I locate within an African Diaspora sensibility. I like the dynamism of oral performance, and I’m especially grateful for the fact that Africa and parts of the Caribbean still have artists who continue to maintain and expand the creative and intellectual capacities of African oral traditions, despite the seeming dominance of the written tradition. As the Vice President of the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA), I’m privileged to have the front view of the exciting research going on in the field. I am also co-editing with Nduka Otiono a collection of essays on the subject entitled, Beyond Text: Issues in African Oral Literature and Diaspora Studies. The volume is in honor of the work of Isidore Okpewho, one of the influential scholars of African oral traditions.
I have a passing interest in African cinema, but the more I observe the wildly popular Nigerian movie industry, commonly called Nollywood, the more I more I rub my gray beard in contemplation and say, Hmmm…
My current research focuses on nineteenth-century literary representations of Johnny Appleseed, the iconic alter-ego of real-life nurseryman John Chapman. The cultural exaltation of Johnny Appleseed stands as a sustained exercise in American hagiography that since the nineteenth-century has transfigured Chapman the man (in the words of various commentators) into a “patron saint of the American orchards” and “one of America’ half-dozen favorite folk heroes.” But the legend has been mainly inscribed in children’s literature and sweetened and attenuated in the process.
My intention is to recover the irreducible strangeness of Johnny Appleseed and argue for the adult importance of the figure by examining his earliest appearances in American literature. In an essay I published earlier this year in The Journal of American Culture I examined Appleseed’s literary debut in James M’Gaw’s little-known 1858 novel Philip Seymour. I am currently working on an article about Denton J. Snider’s extensive revision of the narrative. Snider, one of the St. Louis Hegelians, recasts Appleseed as both a neo-Hegelian World Spirit and orphic poet—a “new-World fate-compeller” in Snyder’s words. I think Snider’s Appleseed might be the most ambitious (and possibly bizarre) rendering of the figure that American literature has witnessed.
These interests have led to two main projects focused on rather disparate literary materials. The first is a forthcoming book, The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution, which studies the development of English martyrological literature from the late Middle Ages to the execution of King Charles I in 1649. This book considers how the martyrological form—traditionally defined by strict paradigm repetition—attempts to reconcile the broad range of individuals, beliefs, and persecutions seeking legitimation through martyrdom during the tumultuous period of the English Reformation. My current research project focuses on Shakespeare’s English chronicle plays. This work brings together theories of performance, memory, trauma, and somatics to think about the representation of dead, dismembered, and remembered historical bodies on the early modern stage. These two projects likewise summarize my principal teaching areas: hagiography and martyrology, religious polemics of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, medieval Passion drama, Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and Shakespeare in performance.
My next project—tentatively titled The Queer Lives of Plants: Sex, Botany, Literature—takes up another popular (and popularizing) nineteenth-century discourse, botany. In my research so far, I’m finding that writers from Erasmus Darwin to Henry David Thoreau to H.D. used botany for two overlapping purposes: first, to represent gendered and sexual deviance among humans and, second, to construe ecology as a set of affectively rich exchanges between humans and other carbon-based life. My overarching aim here will be to trace a 150-year genealogy of queer ecological thought that de-naturalizes “nature” and conceptualizes intimacy beyond the interpersonal to what we might broadly call the inter-material.
I teach and do research in the areas of post-1945 American and global Anglophone fiction, apocalyptic literature, feminist fiction and theory, postmodern theory, science fiction, and contemporary film. I’ve recently taught courses on the question of whether fiction since 2000 meets the criteria of the “postmodern;” 20th century science fiction; recent feminist fiction (yes, it exists!); and an undergraduate course on apocalyptic literature from pre-history to the present day.
In my scholarship, I’m interested in literature about various forms of contemporary crisis. My most recent book, The Post-Apocalyptic Novel in the Twenty-First Century: Modernity Beyond Salvage (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), analyzes how major novelists since 2000 have imagined the fate of modernity in the wake of global catastrophe. My first book, The Culture of Soft Work: Labor, Gender, and Race in Postmodern American Narrative (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), examined the ways that a wide range of cultural texts from comic strips to films to major novels responded to the changing nature of the American workplace (and American workers) after World War Two. I’ve recently become interested in a more transhistorical approach to literary study, and I’m working on a new book on the history of apocalyptic fiction, covering the evolution of this genre from the early 18th century to the present. I’m especially interested in how depictions of gender and race have figured in this fascinating body of literature.
|Hunter undertakes the typical peregrina (pilgrim) activity of washing clothing at the end of a day of walking while on the 500 mile traditional medieval pilgrimage to Compostela de Santiago this summer.|
Chaucer; Medieval Romance; Literature of Heaven and Hell; The Fabulous Middle Ages; British Tradition, I.
“Remenants of Things Past: Memory and the Knight’ s Tale” Exemplaria 23.2 (2011)
Ph.D. from University of Texas at Austin in 2010.
In my next project, I plan to think about the surprising resonance between the lyric poem and epistolary writing over a period which spans the distance, roughly, between the introduction of airmail (and modernism’s global imagination) at the beginning of the twentieth-century, and of email, Facebook, and Twitter (and our culture’s anxiety about the loss of solitude) a century later.
My work has appeared so far in The Yale Review and Arizona Quarterly.
|Joseph Lennon, Director, Irish Studies Program |
Associate Professor, Department of English
My work on Irish Orientalism has led me to investigate the origins of the ideas and practices of cross-colonial hunger striking in Ireland, Britain, and India. My current book project focuses on the first modern hunger strike by the Scottish artist Marion Wallace-Dunlop in London's Holloway Prison in 1909. After discovering her diaries and letters in a London attic, the book project was born; it closely reads texts of the day—plays, novels, newspapers, histories—situating her own writing, paintings, and protests within the intellectual moment of 1909. I am especially interested in how these texts, like the protests of the time, articulate matrices of power. This work, as well as my work on hunger representations in Ireland and India, examines how the cultural production of desire, hunger, and gender impinge on modern consumer culture.
I also write poems and have an interest in contemporary poetry and drama, particularly that of Ireland.
While my teaching range is somewhat broad, my research interests are focused on the narrative and cultural productions of black women preachers. My current book project, On the Threshing Floor: African American Women’s Piety in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, seeks to trace the image of the pious black woman, whom I define as dedicated to enacting and promoting the tenets of Protestant Christianity, as both an historical and a cultural figure from her appearance in autobiographical and expository writing and visual images of the nineteenth century through her reinvention in American literary and popular cultural forms of the early- to mid- twentieth century. The study posits that fictionalized representations of black women’s piety often contradict the documented histories of black pious women as respected members of their civic and religious communities and as important contributors to the progression of the black church during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. From the 1830s to the 1890s, the black pious woman was most often identified as an itinerant preacher, public speaker and leader of her enslaved brothers and sisters in the narrative productions of a black women’s intellectual tradition. As the century progressed and transitioned into the next, however, popular representations of black women’s piety replaced the women’s own narrative depictions of themselves within an American cultural imagination. The pious black woman of the 1890’s through the 1950’s reemerged in hyper-sexualized, emotional, irrational, and blindly devoted iterations in fiction, film and visual images. Such representations belied the women’s earlier descriptions of themselves as clear-thinking, intelligent, faithful, and adhering to socially conservative middle-class deportment. Ultimately, I wish to draw conclusions about how black women's piety has functioned in American culture and how it has gained considerable capital in contemporary society.
I am now working on a book about mass print culture, emotionality, and women’s narratives in early twentieth-century America, when dramatic changes in the literary marketplace and in women’s social roles helped to make the question of how women really felt seem especially pressing. At the same time, the terrain of feeling was itself being redefined by the immensely powerful engine of mass print culture. The psychic interiority upon which sentimental narratives relied was, in effect, turned inside out by the explosion of cheap newsprint, which allowed newspapers to circulate intimate details in a form that was accessible to far more readers than even the most widely read novel. The first part of the book examines three influential modes of mass-market journalism that were associated with intense emotion: syndicated advice columns, lynching reports, and sensational murder-trial coverage. The second part of the book examines how novelists responded to the new centrality of emotional style.
As co-director of the Gender and Women’s Studies program at Villanova, I seek to honor and nurture the interdisciplinary work of feminist scholarship, which has shaped my own research interests in profound ways. I regularly review manuscript submissions for scholarly journals, and I have served on the editorial boards of Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and Legacy: Journal of American Women Writers. Recently I have taught graduate courses on queer theory, emotion and mass culture in American literature, and modernist style in the American novel.
|Shopping at the Piazza Santo Spirito|
food market in Florence, Italy.
Ever since, this fascinating misbegotten Gallic creed has informed, and malformed, my own conceits and conceptions. A brace of books (Fools of Fiction, Hey Presto!), a gaggle of essays, and sundry scribbles on themes so diverse, but not discrete, as Jonathan Swift, William Trevor, metaphor and madness, Prague structuralism, Rosicrucian linguistics, secret societies and esoteric codes, early modern medicine and quackery, Quaker shibboleths and apocalypticism, seventeenth-century cargo cults, eighteenth-century pornography, popular culture and parlary, freak shows and monster-theory, medicine shows, transatlantic studies, colonial Philadelphia, London’s psychogeography, Gnosticism, universal languages, Russian Futurism, the ethnography of communication, Alan Moore, Doctor Who (two Villanova MAs dedicated their excellent book The Greatest Show in the Galaxy  to me as “Time Lord Emeritus”), the starts and ends of new religions, film history and theory (once upon a time in Philadelphia, I made a movie Basic Training) have left none of my classrooms untouched. I still sweat, with savage indignation, over Jonathan Swift (fresh essays are currently moving from back- to front-burners) and I shall have more to say, world and time amenable, about eighteenth-century literature and Anglo-Irish authors. On a third book--provisionally entitled Mankind’s Epitome: Jonathan Swift and Benjamin Franklin--I continue to moil.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
My classes at Villanova focus on literary modernism, 20th-century British and Irish Fiction, and the relationship between philosophy and fiction. I am currently fascinated by the fact that James Joyce thought it was a good idea to translate a section of Finnegans Wake into Basic English, C. K. Ogden's 'simplified' English language, and the translation actually appeared in 1932. How could a language with only 850 words, mostly nouns, designed to facilitate international communication and favored by Winston Churchill and Henry Ford, possibly translate Joyce's puns and word-play? My book, entitled Modernist Fiction & Vagueness, grapples with this translation as one of many works where philosophical and literary ideas about language's possible precision collide. I focus on the general modernist dream of precision in figures such as Bertrand Russell, Ezra Pound and James Joyce as well as its converse, the praise of the 'vague,' the blur, and the fuzzy, in writers stretching from William and Henry James, to Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and T. S. Eliot.
My work has appeared in The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism, Modernism / Modernity, Philosophy and Literature, and the James Joyce Quarterly. In 2011-12, I was at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin to look at the James Joyce Papers. and in Spring 2013 I was a fellow at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles. In July 2013, I lectured at the T. S. Eliot International Summer School in London.
|Evan Radcliffe reading the Times Literary Supplement while |
traveling in Brazil, where he grew up.
Much of my scholarship considers questions of narrative, questions that are also becoming more important in my teaching. Along with Romantic literature I teach Greek classical literature, and my interest in literature in relation to moral philosophy has (together with the collaboration between the English department and Villanova Law School in hosting two Law and Literature conferences) resulted in my regularly teaching a session on literature, narrative, and ethics in a course at the Law School.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
I have also published two full-length collections and a chapbook of poetry, which won the Keystone Award. My poems have appeared in journals such as the Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, Paris Review and most recently, Harvard Review and Drunken Boat (an on-line journal). I have also received grants and awards for my work, including a Leeway Foundation grant and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. I just completed the manuscript for my third book of poems and hope to begin work on two more projects in the coming months: a collection of poems about endangered species and a mixed-genre memoir.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Having studied harpsichord performance and comparative literature as an undergraduate (Oberlin College BA 1986, B.Mus. 1987), I received my graduate degrees in English from Brown University (MA 1992, Ph.D. 1995). My work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Shakespeare Association of America, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Huntington Library, the Bogliasco Foundation for Humanistic Study, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. I’m the first holder of Villanova’s endowed Luckow Family Professorship in English.