Department News

Roger Reeves won an NEA fellowship and a Pushcart Prize for his poem “The Field Museum”; Scott McFarland, won the 1913 1st-Book Prize (judged by Rae Armantrout) for O Human Microphone, which will be published later this year; Gerald Graff was appointed a Phi Beta Kappa Lecturer; Luis Urrea was named an LAS Distinguished Professor and Rachel Havrelock was selected as 2012 Rising Star Humanities Researcher of the Year.

It was an active year for faculty publication.  In fact, it would be impossible in this post to list (as the new website will) all the articles, stories and poems – in languages including French, German and Korean and in journals ranging from PMLA, The Eighteenth Century and NOVEL to The New Yorker (congratulations, Virginia Konchan), the London Review of Books and the official journal of the French Communist Party -- published by our faculty and by students like Virginia. And the range of topics – from the Platonic possibilities in Aristotle’s Rhetoric through the imagination of authority in representations of Elizabeth 1 to musical meaning and The White Stripes -- is just as daunting.

But we can at least list the books:  

Scholarly monographs were published by Sunil Agnani, whose Hating Empire Properly came out with Fordham and Mark Canuel, whose Justice, Dissent and the Sublime came out with Johns Hopkins.  

Christina Pugh’s book of poems, Grains of the Voice, was published by Triquarterly.

Lots of other new work is also coming out this fall, including Cris Mazza’s Something Wrong with Her (Jaded Ibis Press), Mary Anne Mohanraj’s The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and, by our students, Laura Krughoff, My Brother’s Name (Scarletta Press) and Snezana Zabic, Broken Records  (Punctum Press). Jay Shearer, whose 2012 collection of stories How Exquisite the Dead Girl was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, has a novel, Five Hundred Sirens, forthcoming from Cairn Press.

Roger Reeves’s book of poems, King Me, is coming out from Copper Canyon Press, as is Philip Jenks’s Colony Collapse from Fence.

Lennard Davis’s The End of Normal: Identity in a Biocultural Era is forthcoming from the U. of Michigan Press; Anna Kornbluh’s book on the Victorian novel, Realizing Capital will be out in a few months from Fordham, and the new special issue (on Brecht) of, with essays by both Nicolas Brown and Jennifer Ashton, has just gone up. Indeed both and Mediations are closely connected to UIC English and regularly publish work produced here.

Passing a pretty amazing milestone, Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say has now sold over a million copies and is in use at over half the colleges and universities in the United States.

Demonstrating a similar (although perhaps not as remunerative) impulse toward outreach, Lennard Davis and Rachel Havrelock have been reaching wider audiences as bloggers for The Huffington Post, posting columns on topics like "Have a Little Diversity With Your Chicken Sandwich:  Chick-fil-A and the Contradictions of the Diversity Agenda," (Davis) and "Where Exactly is Biblical Israel?" (Havrelock).

The launch of the Chicago-based non-profit, Narrative 4, co-founded by Luis Urrea along with Colum McCann, took place last year and featured an appearance by Luis as well as a performance by Sting (you can find a video at

And here on campus, a group including Lisa Freeman, Mark Bennett and Ralph Cintron organized a very successful conference, Composition Matters, with speakers from around the country and commentary by faculty in our own First-Year Writing Program.

Gary Buslik’s novel, Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls was published by Solas House.

Laura Krughoff
(PhD, Fiction) recently released her debut novel, the well-received My Brother’s Name (Scarletta Press, 2013). The story follows protagonist Jane Fields, as she follows her brother into the bewildering landscape of mental illness with the hope that she can save him. But it soon becomes a question of how long she can survive there before she loses herself. Foreward Press said of the work, “ … by deeply involving the reader in Jane and John’s lives, [Krughoff] provides much food for thought.”

Jen Phillis' "'I Always Wanted to be a Tenenbaum: Neoliberal Fantasy and Class Mobility in the Films of Wes Anderson" will appear in Palgrave MacMillan's The Films of Wes Anderson: From Early Shorts to Blockbuster Films (2014). There, she argues that Anderson's early films use their own fictionality to point to the fictionality of class relations under neoliberalism.  So, in The Royal Tenenbaums, when both the titular character and Eli Cash admit that they “always wanted to be… Tenenbaum[s],” the audience must consider: what does it take to be a Tenenbaum? It turns out that it is not based on parentage—it isn’t enough to be Royal—nor is it based on economics — it isn’t enough to have (or to be) cash; being a Tenenbaum is about taste. The belief that class affiliation is a choice is a marker of the neoliberal turn in economic and governmental policy. Anderson’s early films, however, are not neoliberal propaganda. Instead, by emphasizing the construction of the filmic world, call out the essential fictionality of such the neoliberal doctrine.  

Danielle Christmas (PhD, 20th Century American Literature) earned a prestigious Mellon / ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. Additionally, her essay, "The Plantation-Auschwitz Tradition: Forced Labor and Free Markets in American Holocaust and Slavery Narratives," has been accepted for publication in the journal Twentieth Century Literature.

Monica Westin (PhD, Lit) is a new contributing arts writers at Artforum. In the spring of 2014 she will be a visiting student researcher at the University of California, Berkeley's Rhetoric department, where she will work on her dissertation and a collaborative project on experimental documentary photography.

Julie Fiorelli (PhD, American Literature) received the Michael Sprinker Award for her essay, “Imagination Run Riot: Apocalyptic Race War Novels of the Late 1960s,” which is forthcoming in Mediations, the journal of the Marxist Literary Group. 

Virginia Konchan (PhD, Poetry) was named an Inaugural Poetry Fellow at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, Venice, Italy, as well as Poetry Fellow in the Ox-Bow Faculty Artist Residency Program.

Tyler Mills (PhD, Poetry) earned the Vermont Studio Center Artist and Work-Study Grant for July 2013.  

Lindsay Marshall (PhD, Rhet/Comp) has been selected for a 2013-2014 Chancellor’s Supplemental Research Award.

Madeleine Monson-Rosen (PhD, 20th-Century Literature and Digital Cultures) garnered the Arthur L. Norberg grant from the Charles Babbage Institute of the University of Minnesota.

Snezana Zabic’s Po(jest)zija/Po(eat)try, (SKC NS), co-written with Ivana Percl, was published in Serbia and will be launched in Chicago this fall.

UIC had six English alumni land tenure-track jobs, including Andrew Farkas (Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, Rocky Mountain College), Margaret King (Assistant Professor, Harper College), Cynthia Cravens (Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, University of Maryland Eastern Shore), Caleb Spencer (Assistant Professor, Azusa Pacific University), Megan Hughes (Assistant Professor, Prairie State College), and Reiichi Miura (Professor, Graduate School of Language and Society, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo).

Three current MA students have struck out and started their own theater company. Always-Already, founded by Elizabeth Cramarosso, Tyler Brown, and Rithika Ramamurthy, will stage their first production, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Den Theater, Oct. 4-6.  According to the company’s mission statement, “We believe our textual approach in shifting medium allows for a unique interpretation and application of both dialogue, as well as stage directions/imperatives."

A short story written by James Adcox (PhD, Fiction) was adapted and produced as a staged reading by the Pre-PostHumanists at the Straw Dog Theater in Chicago. The Pre-PostHumanists Present is a monthly reading series in which several short stories are selected to be read by actors, framed by a serial sketch narrative. Adcox’s piece, “Leonard,” was read on stage before a packed house on the series’ opening night, August. 28.



UIC English Department Moves Up National Rankings
The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences has released its assessment of doctoral programs in all the major disciplines, and UIC English has done very well, both nationally and locally.  The “cumulative” ranking places UIC above all other English programs in Illinois, including those at Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois.  UIC English is similarly prominent when compared to other well-known English programs at Duke, NYU, and UCLA. 

For more details, see the message below from Department Head, Professor Walter Benn Michaels:

We’re very proud to have placed so high in the NRC assessments of Ph.D. programs, and prouder still of the graduate students and faculty whose efforts are reflected in these ratings. Our faculty, for example, ranks 10th nationally in publication per faculty member and that’s a direct consequence of a lot of hard work. And, as the homepage suggests, we’ve done remarkably well in “Overall Rating of Program Quality.” Here the NRC gives ranges rather than individual rankings. Locally, UIC English ranks 5-24; U of Chicago ranks 8-31, Northwestern ranks 9-33 and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ranks 23-53. Nationally, we also do extremely well; both Yale and Columbia, for example, are in the 5-23 range.

When you remember that in the NRC ratings from 1995 (which followed a different methodology and are thus only partially comparable but nonetheless provide a useful benchmark), we ranked 64th in Faculty Quality, you can see that we’ve come a long way.

But we also know that we still have a way to go. As you can see in this chart taken from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website, we don’t do quite as well in the “Regression-Based” version of the “Overall” ranking as we do in the “Survey-Based” version.  And, more generally, we need to find ways to support both graduate student and faculty research more generously. In fact, we hope that our performance in these rankings will help us do just that; when people see how well we do with such limited resources, we hope they will also see how much we could accomplish with a little more support.

Finally, we’re also very much aware of the fact that ratings like these are a limited tool. The real measure of a program’s quality is, of course, the quality of the work it’s doing – not only in publications, but in seminars, colloquia and the undergraduate as well as the graduate classroom. The NRC rankings only begin to get at that but, as everyone connected with UIC English will testify, it’s the intellectual intensity and seriousness of our everyday work that makes UIC English an exciting place. That’s what we’re most proud of, and that’s what we want to continue to build on.