Welcome to the blog for the Villanova English department! Visit often for updates on department events, guest speakers, faculty and student accomplishments, and reviews and musings from professors and undergraduates alike.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ryan Costella ('04) in Congress

Ryan Costella, an English and Political Science major who graduated in 2004, testified today on April 25 in Congress before the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce (a subcommittee of the Committee on Small Business).  The hearing was titled, "Help Wanted: The Small Business STEM Workforce Shortage and Immigration Reform."  Click here to watch the hearing;  Ryan starts at 24:57.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

TLS Review of The Tempest for iPad

Click here to read the Times Literary Supplement's review of The Tempest for iPad.  Villanova English professor Lauren Shohet worked on The Tempest iPad project, particularly the section on "Shakespeare's Literary Forms."

Frank Bruni on the Mission of College

English majors might be interested in Frank Bruni's recent article, "Questioning the Mission of College," for the New York Times. Bruni has an interesting exchange in the article with Hunter Rawlings, the president of the Association of American Universities:

“You just don’t know what your education is going to result in,” Rawlings told me by phone last week. “Many of the kids graduating from college these days are going to hold a number of different jobs in their lives, and many of those jobs have not yet been invented. For a world like that, what’s the best education? Seems to me it’s a very general education that enables you to think critically.” For precisely that reason, he said, the push in China now is for more young people to study humanities, even as the new emphasis here is vocational.

Click here to read the entire article.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Merchant of Venice Live!

The English department's "Shakespeare and Performance" course, taught by Dr. Alice Dailey (English department) and Dr. Shawn Kairschner (Theatre department), has been a semester-long study of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.  The class' literary and dramatic exploration of the play culminates in an hour-and-twenty-minute production that features eleven student actors, original music, and a post-show talk by the cast.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Prof. Megan Quigley: Adventures in the Archive

Megan Quigley, an assistant professor in the English department, is on sabbatical 2012-13.  She is working on several projects, including a book manuscript, Modernist Fiction and Vagueness, and an article on Wallace Stevens, analytic philosophy, and the alphabet.  Prof. Quigley will be teaching a class on the modern British novel this fall.

From Prof. Quigley:
I always get in trouble in the archives.  Maybe this is slightly paranoid, but whenever I’m doing archival research, looking through an author’s manuscripts, correspondence, and personal library at a rare book’s library, I can feel the eyes on me.  For a while, I’m good.  I diligently look through correspondence, take fastidious notes, photograph only when and where I’m directed.  But then, then my appetite grows.  My curiosity soars.  I am elated, inexhaustible.  I am suddenly in 1927 evaluating Vanessa Bell’s cover drawing for the first edition of her sister’s To The Lighthouse; or I’m holding Wyndham Lewis’s drawings in my hand, wondering when and why Ezra Pound looked like that; or it’s 1950 and I’m reading a letter, not collected in Wallace Stevens’s published letters, where he’s told that on the night the eminent critic F. O. Matthiessen committed suicide, the only topic that brought light to his eyes was discussing Stevens’s poems.  How did Stevens feel when he read this?  What can the handwriting show me?  What does that double underline mean?

Then I begin to push the limits.  I stop making eye contact with the kind librarians behind the desk as I drop off my manuscript call slips.  My materials grow and I persevere.  The bell that rings at 11:45 seems earlier and earlier.  I hurry to drop off slips before everyone heads to lunch.  I’m sure I need to see Henry James’s letters too.  And W. H. Auden—his drafts are here too?  I find non-rare books that I’m allowed to keep at lunchtime when the room is empty and quiet.   I chug my bottle of water near the lockers (I’m not sure that I’m not allowed any liquids in the building) and hurry back to my assigned desk.

Later, when a door from an inner sanctum opens behind the counter, I think myself invisible.  I am absorbed in the first edition of Eliot’s Poems in front of me, the woven blue Hogarth cover at odds with the harsh lines within.

“Miss Quigley?”
I can’t pretend I don’t see the figure next to me anymore.
“Can you come talk to me up in my office?”
I visualize myself as a wise old man in a three-piece suit, with thick glasses, a purposeful, heavy step, and thinning white hair, as I walk up the stairs.
“Miss Quigley, you seem to be ordering up a lot of Wallace Stevens personal library, is this correct?”
“Yes.”  (I’m glad I didn’t ask to see the Gutenberg bible or that first edition of Goethe.)
“Do you need to see his first edition of Ulysses?”  The voice is friendly so I venture to look over from the bookcase where I’ve been staring.
“Yes, well, you see, yes.  I think there’s a chance that Stevens took notes in it, so you see, yes, I really thought it best if I see it.”
“And how many more books from Stevens’s library do you intend to call up?”
“Well, actually, you see, um, I’ve really just gotten started.  I have several more call slips filled out already.” (Actually I have forty-three more, I filled them out in my hotel room last night.)
“Why don’t you come with me?”

As we exit through a small back door in his office into a dark corridor, I wonder if my fellowship is about to be revoked.  It smells like an old school gymnasium back here.  We take a small elevator down, down, down and enter a vault, after he swipes his security card several times.  In the vault we are briefly in total darkness.  He’s not actually going to kill me?

“Oh dear,” he exclaims, “Let me just get the switch, it’s over here.”
The sudden brightness reveals a kind of bibliophile’s heaven.  Stack upon stack, row upon row, of rare books.  Jane Austen, in twenty different early versions?
“Dude!” I shout.  (Seriously, that’s what I said.)
 I briefly lose my guide as he heads rapidly over to the Stevens section.
“Here,” he says.  He is pointing to several shelves.  “It’s much easier for us if you find what you need and call it up all I once.”
I nod eagerly.
“Oh, and much of this is actually not catalogued yet, from a recent library purchase, so you might find something here you didn’t know you wanted.  You can have about ten minutes here, then I have a lunch meeting.”
New, uncatalogued, books from Stevens’s library?
We smile at each other.  And I get back to work.

Prof. Megan Quigley and daughter at the Huntington.

The Invisible War

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Prof. Joseph Lennon Reads at LIU

Peter Naccarato: Culinary Capital

Former Villanova English major Peter Naccarato, now Professor of English and Chair of the Humanities division at Marymount Manhattan College, has recently published (with Kathleen LeBesco), Culinary Capital.

TV cookery shows hosted by celebrity chefs. Meal prep kitchens. Online grocers and restaurant review sites. Competitive eating contests, carnivals and fairs, and junk food websites and blogs. What do all of them have in common? According to Naccarato and LeBesco, they serve as productive sites for understanding the role of culinary capital in shaping individual and group identities in contemporary culture.  Beyond providing sustenance, food and food practices play an important social role, offering status to individuals who conform to their culture's culinary norms and expectations while also providing a means of resisting them. Culinary Capital analyzes this phenomenon in action across the landscape of contemporary culture. The authors examine how each of the sites listed above promises viewers and consumers status through the acquisition of culinary capital and, as they do so, intersect with a range of cultural values and ideologies, particularly those of gender and economic class.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Colin Keane ('13) on visiting the American Shakespeare Center

Students of this semester’s “Shakespeare in Performance” class recently ventured to Staunton, Virginia, for a weekend at the American Shakespeare Center, a trip made possible by the generous support of the Honors Program.  The students were treated to four plays performed in ASC’s 300-seat Blackfriar’s Playhouse – the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s original indoor playhouse – and took part in multiple performance-oriented workshops.

Our trip to Staunton has been a defining experience in a course founded on the principle that Shakespeare is best understood via both textual and performative exploration.  Students in “Shakespeare in Performance,” team-taught by Dr. Shawn Kairschner in Theater and Dr. Alice Dailey in English, dedicate the first half of the semester to close study of a single play and its critical tradition.  Then, armed with a robust understanding of the play, we work on staging our own production in the latter half of the course.  The adventure to ASC falls between both processes, and having taken part in this recent trip, I can attest to its brilliance.

Set against an entertainment world increasingly embellished with 21st century technology and all that accompanies it, the plays we watched inside the Blackfriar’s served as a refreshing reminder that the heart of performance art still beats to human interaction.  The Playhouse is fully lit in accordance with original Elizabethan staging practices so that all performers and audience members are in full view of one another and in close proximity.  There is even seating provided onstage; my classmates and I each took a go on these stools and often found ourselves integrated into the performance!  My classmate, Mary Bohrer, remarked that she attained a “new view of Shakespeare's plays by getting up close and personal with all the action on stage and becoming a part of the play.”  Janine Perri added that “the trip definitely made what we are learning in class come alive. It was amazing to see such diverse performances and get a sense of what the theater in Shakespeare's time was really like.”

The "Shakespeare in Performance" class at the American Shakespeare Center.
Our visit fell in the middle of the ASC’s Actor’s Renaissance Season, during which its twelve performers are tasked with staging directorless productions in a matter of days, each actor given merely his or her own lines and cues to prepare with.  The Renaissance Season is an attempt to recreate the conditions under which Shakespeare’s actors staged the plays.  The result is a performance environment of heightened intensity and immediacy unattainable through modern, extended preparation.  There was a palpable aura of risk involved for actors and audience members alike, and yet a rewarding, ever-accepting sense of freedom pervaded the theatre.

The energy spilled out beyond the theatre; my classmates and I bonded with one another during our first few hours in Staunton.  We spent our downtime exploring the town shops together, conversing with some of the actors at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, and even enjoying some fine Mediterranean cuisine on a lovely Saturday evening.

The most insightful moments of the weekend, however, occurred during the workshops we attended as a class.  The recurring theme throughout was interpretation: how should one interpret a line of iambic pentameter, for example, and then go about delivering this interpretation clearly?  We learned that a successful delivery depends largely on rhetoric.  Choosing what to emphasize and when, how loudly or softly, is a science down to each syllable and imperative to the performance of the Shakespearean text.  Of course, this lesson was on full display during the performances we witnessed.  As my classmate Charlie Gill expressed, "It was fascinating to watch the performances after studying the conventions of verse and rhetoric that inform the work.  Consistently, the actors who were most faithful to the structure and rhythm that those elements outline in their performance were also the most compelling to watch. It really drove home the point that the blueprint for successful performance is woven into the language of the plays themselves.”

Our class also discovered how influential body positioning and movements on stage can be and how to process these choices as actors.  Given the interpretive richness of The Merchant of Venice, the play we’re studying and staging this semester, my classmates and I are faced with many choices as we develop our production.  Our trip to Staunton did much to offer practical ways to approach staging challenges.  We look forward to presenting our finished production to the Villanova community at the end of the semester.

NY Ad Day

The deadline to RSVP is April 9.  There is no cost for attending.

In preparation for NY Ad Day, consider attending Practice with the Pros: Advertising/Marketing Mock Interviews on 4/5 in Garey Hall between 12:30-4:30 p.m.  Register for a great opportunity to gain face time w/ professionals during a 30-min. practice interview.  An employer will ask industry-specific interview questions & provide feedback on your performance.  Practice your interviewing skills, ask questions & learn from the best in the business!
Sign-up via GoNOVA Jobs;  search by "Employer" on "Practice with the Pros."