Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends of the Department:
This has been an amazing few weeks for the English department, with more events than anyone could possibly attend. But I wanted to point out some that seem to me exemplars of the range and excitement of the study of English Literature. Early last week, the amazing storyteller Clare Murphy presented Inisfàil: Island of Destiny, a series of interwoven Irish tales of how the gods came first to Ireland; then this week, the incredible Irish poet Eavan Boland read poems that continued that story into the contemporary moment by exploring the complexity of place and mobility and connection. Our first year PhD students presented a daylong conference highlighting their excellent work, with topics ranging from John Donne's poetry to Nabokov's last novel, from queries about thingness and personhood to digital modernism, from Frantz Fanon to William Shakespeare. Our first year MFA creative writers had an evening of reading poetry and fiction. Tiffany Stern, visiting from Oxford as this year's Drake Fellow, presented an enchanting paper on early modern fairs and the theater, while our own Writer in Residence Amanda Little moderated a remarkable panel, "Changing the Story: Evolution of Media in Print, TV, and Internet,” featuring Nick Thompson, online editor for The New Yorker, Willie Geist, from NBC and Vanderbilt alumnus, and David Plotz, editor of Slate. And I’m sure I omitted some other fantastic events, but what was so edifying about these gatherings was the mixture of students, faculty, and both Vanderbilt and Nashville community members who attended them.
These two weeks, with this terrific set of programs, are a snapshot of the great energy in our classrooms as well as a glimpse of the ever increasing range of the field of English literary study. So I think this is a particularly apt moment to introduce our new curriculum—for which students can sign up in Fall 2014—which strives to give students a wide and adventurous exploration of literature, guided by their own interests as well as the department’s expertise. Current students, of course, can choose between the older and the new curriculum, but whichever way you decide, I urge you to consider English 199, Foundations of Literary Studies (which counts in both programs as a 200-level course; we just ran out of numbers. :)
I would like to wish everyone the best as we move into the final weeks of the semester, and especially tip my hat to those graduating seniors who have shared my last four as English Department Chair. While I look forward to getting more time in the classroom and in the library, it has been an honor to serve this community of amazing students and faculty.