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THE PERIPATETIC OBSERVER
SUNYGENESEO DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH VOLUME 9 WINTER 2009 Welles Hall, home of the English Department
Students, Faculty, and Alumni Together Maintain Our Special Community
A note from the Department chair, Richard Finkelstein
When I meet with high school students who are applying to Geneseo and thinking about majoring in English, I frequently ask them where else they are applying and what draws them to our College. Perhaps the response I hear most often is that they have heard Geneseo has the strongest English Department of the SUNY colleges and one of the strongest in the state, including both public and private institutions. These students recognize that our English Department not only offers a ﬁrst-rate education, but that we have also built a strong, supportive community like those found in the best small liberal arts colleges nationwide. That we are able to do so is thanks to the hard work of our entire community—our 22 faculty members, several parttime instructors, our ﬁrst-rate students, our staff, and the alumni and friends who support us. Graduates from whom I’ve heard are applying the skills gained from their Geneseo education to every kind of career from teaching to law to public relations, in every kind of place from New York to California to Kabul. They are eager to hear that Geneseo has maintained commitments both to excellence and to access. I am happy to tell people “yes” to both. In the English Department, excellence is visible in the range and depth of our program. Our students study British literature and cultural history from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present; American literature from the earliest written records in North America to the present; and literature written in English from all over the world, including the Caribbean, India, Africa, and nations of the far East. We now routinely teach perhaps 200 years more of American writing than was the case when many of you were students here. We have kept the curriculum up to date by integrating into courses the best writers and ﬁlmmakers from the contemporary English speaking world. Almost every student majoring in English now graduates with a Creative Writing course. Our new major track in Creative Writing is bursting at the seams. Almost half of the potential ﬁrst-year students who talk to me inquire about that area. Because SUNY tuition remains low and because the College and the Department are committed to diversity of all kinds, access to Geneseo remains much as it was many years ago. A signiﬁcant proportion of our students still come from families in which they are the ﬁrst generation to attend college. Merit scholarships—including several for English majors endowed by graduates of the Department—supplement Geneseo ﬁnancial aid. The Department itself provides support services to students whose academic preparation (cont. on page two)
in this issue:
departmental awards keep in touch alumni update introducing Dr. Gillian Paku
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The Peripatetic Observer • Winter 2009 • Page 2
English Club members are a vital part of the community of literary scholars at Geneseo.
Here are a few of this year’s student awards and scholarships
1. The William T. Beauchamp Literature Award. Ann Nicodemi received this annual $250 award presented to an outstanding senior English student. 2. The Rita K. Gollin Award for Excellence in American Literature. This graduating senior award was shared by Sara May and Leah Sopchack. To be eligible for consideration, recipients must demonstrate excellent work in the study of American literatures. 3. The Don Watt Memorial Scholarship. Anne Semel received this scholarship, established by friends and colleagues of the the former Chair and Professor. It rewards a student who demonstrates a strong academic record as well as a history of having to work to support her- or himself in college. 4. The Natalie Selser Freed Memorial Scholarship. Patrick Morgan received this award, granted to the junior English major with the highest grade point average within the major. It is funded by Professor Walter Freed in loving memory of his mother.
A Letter from the Chair (continued from page one) has left them with the need for added help in writing and planning. Everyone of our faculty members spends long hours in one-to-one meetings with students about their work, their aspirations, and even internship and job applications. This kind of personal attention is time-consuming but satisfying because the loyalty of our graduates is our best reward. Despite these challenging economic times, I hope you will nonetheless be able to support the kind of access to excellence and commitment to every student that has been our Department tradition. Alumni contributions designated to the Department have supported student scholarships and awards, as well as events that help guide students through their time on campus and into their careers beyond. Your support maintains excellence by providing us with opportunities to bring to campus writers and scholars whose presence both enriches our students and joins them to networks that help them to gain their goals. During the last year I have had many notes from people whose time at Geneseo long precedes my own and from others I once knew well. Please keep sending your emails. The quality of your memories and your activities are our best measures of success. Sincerely, ﬁnkelst@geneseo.edu
Keep in touch. Let us know about your accomplishments.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the information below. Name: Address: City/State/Zip: Email: Year of graduation: Your information:
GREAT Day 2008
At this year’s Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement, and Talent Day (22 April) more than ten student panels featured critical papers, recitations, and creative readings in English language and literature. Topics included Chaucer and Malory, Genesee Valley Agri/Culture, Willa Cather, Shakespeare and Centrifugal Forces, Cinematic Representations of Global Warming, and D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love.
Send to: Dept. of English, SUNY-Geneseo, 1 College Circle, Geneseo NY 14454-1401
The Peripatetic Observer • Winter 2009 • Page 3
Lauren Stiver Brown (2006) is married, has moved to Buffalo from Florida, and is thinking of attending graduate school. Daniela Aguel Di Merlo (2005) and Greg Fisher (2005) have moved from Uruguay to Santiago de Chile, Chile. She hopes to work at the local university while Greg continues his work as a web designer and computer programmer. Marie Bonarski (2002) earned a Master’s in Public policy from Duke University in May 2008. She recently started work as Advocacy and Communications Editor for a non-governmental research organization, funded in part by the United Nations, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Michael Faitell (2005) recently received his Masters from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. He is an adjunct instructor in English and has modeled a course on Geneseo’s popular ENGL341, The Romantic Hero, often taught by Professor Eugene Stelzig. Faitell’s message to Stelzig: “Thanks for being a great professor and such an inﬂuence on my academic career.” Professor Caroline Woidat reports that Katherine Fusco (2002) has successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation at Vanderbilt University. Fusco studied the function of time and narrative in both silent ﬁlm and naturalist novels from the progressive era; she will lecture at Vanderbilt while she enters the academic job market. Jodi Perelman (1996) is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in San Francisco. Her website is www.jodiperelman.com, and she welcomes virtual visits. She married Brad Shapiro on 30 July 2005. William Brewer, a lawyer and magistrate in West Georgia, has recently begun playing the string bass. “I took it up a year ago, and perform with a local Irish group and occasionally get called to ﬁll in with country and bluegrass players,” he writes. “It’s like a second adulthood.” Brewer was among Professor Herzman’s very ﬁrst students at Geneseo. Andrew Kay (2005) is currently in the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Wisconsin. He previously re-
ceived a Master’s degree in Irish Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. Dean of Residential Living Celia Easton reports that Diane Allen O’ Heron (1991) completed her Ph.D. Her dissertation examined the confessions of 19th- and 20th-centuries addicts and alcoholics. O’Heron is a community college professor. Molly Smith-Metzler (2000) is visiting playwright-in-residence this year at New York’s Julliard School, working directly with the program’s directors, Marsha Norman (Pulitzer Prize winner for ‘Night Mother) and Christopher Durang (Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You). Linda Nagel Meyer (1972) is a freelance copywriter and instructor of Lettering and Design at Erie Community College. Meyer is a Roycroft artisan specializing in calligraphy. She writes: “I have many fond memories of my years at Geneseo. I was part of the second year’s program with the University of Nottingham -- a totally wonderful experience! Thanks to Hans Gottschalk’s encouragement, I went on to do a M.A. in English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.” She later worked as a copywriter for several newspapers, including the Buffalo News. Allison Moonitz (2003) is a librarian in Ocean City, New Jersey. Carey Daniels (2002) received a M.F.A. in playwriting in 2005 from Western Michigan University where she also taught freshmen composition. Two of her plays have been published: “Heather’s Breasts” appeared in the e-zine Armchair Citizen, and “Hands for Toast” was published in the anthology, The Art of the One Act (2007). Her ﬁrst play, “Metal Militia” was produced in 2003 at the Ypsilon Theatre in Prague, Czech Republic, where she studied as part of a summer writing workshop at Charles University. “I’m working, writing, always reading, and enjoying life in Peoria [Illinois] with my partner Dave, two cats, and six ﬁsh (two of whom are named Gogo and Didi),” she writes. She has spent the last year working as the box ofﬁce manager for the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. Daniels presently writes a local, independent comic book, Nocturnal Static, about college life for students of the supernatural and paranormal. Matt Mozian (1997) practices law in Pittsﬁeld, Massachusetts.
On 9 October 2008, Jody Swilky, Professor of English at Drake University, introduced a campus showing of A Little Salsa on the Prairie: The Changing Character of Perry, Iowa (2006), a documentary ﬁlm he wrote and coproduced. It explores the changes that took place in Perry in the early 1990s when the complexion of a once predominantly white community shifted dramatically after an inﬂux of Latino workers and their families arrived to work at the local meat-packing plant. After the viewing, Dr. Swilky led a discussion with students and faculty. The ﬁlm’s website can be visited here: www.littlesalsaontheprairie.com After working for ﬁve years in children’s libraries, Wendi Hoffenberg (2000) “made the leap” and has been a law librarian in New York City for the last two years. email@example.com David Vickers (1987), now a lawyer in private practice, visited campus on alumni weekend and met with students interested in law careers. Vickers, who also taught Spanish and English, received an M.A. from Bread Loaf, and graduated from Syracuse University Law School. George Wilkerson (1964) has been involved recently with SUNY-Geneseo’s Alumni Connection for Excellence, a mentoring program sponsored by the college’s Access Opportunity Programs. According to Wilkerson, today’s AOP students are quite similar to those who attended the college during the 1960s. “Were it not for free tuition and a liberal admissions policy, many of us would never have attended college,” he notes. “Despite poor grades in high school, a signiﬁcant number of us went on to earn advanced degrees and achieve a great deal of success in a wide variety of roles.” One of the Geneseo’s ﬁrst recipients of the B.A. in English, Wilkerson went on to receive a Master’s in English (Syracuse) and Ph.D. in Higher Education (University of Texas). Joanne Williams (2006) teaches 10thgrade English in Charlotte, North Carolina, while she earns her certiﬁcation. Karyn (Ferner) Hunt (2000) wishes to correct our error in the last newsletter and remind everyone that her current email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Peripatetic Observer • Winter 2009 • Page 4
Meet Professor Gillian Paku
This year Gillian Paku joins the English department as an Assistant Professor specializing in Eighteenth-Century British literature. Paku grew up in a small town in
New Zealand and has undergraduate degrees in both German and English literatures from the University of Otago in Dunedin. While an undergraduate, she noticed the growing presence of American professors among the faculty
of New Zealand universities. According to Paku, this “gave me the fairly unusual idea (for New Zealand) of looking to the United States for graduate school”--and these same faculty members prepared her for the American academic rite-ofpassage known as the Graduate Record Examinations. Paku received her Ph.D. from Harvard University, where she attended on a Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship. While in Cambridge, she kept very busy. “I split my time between a dissertation on the way anonymity is a paradoxical but deliberate strategy for famous eighteenth-century British writers to ‘make a name’ for themselves, a lot of teaching (mainly in the 18th-century and British survey courses), involvement in English graduate student and international student affairs, and being at home with the three children I had in grad school,” she reports. Dr. Paku ’s research and publication continues her work on authorial anonymity. This autumn she participated in a semester-long seminar at Washington D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library. The seminar, titled “Anonymity,” explored the ways in which anonymity has developed
legally and politically, and how it affects our perception of canonized literature and self-conscious authorship. She is also about to join with another scholar in attempting to organize some of the eighteenth-century material on Google books, which she hopes to incorporate regularly into classroom work. Professor Paku will be responsible for teaching ENGL313, EighteenthCentury British Literature, among other offerings in her speciality. “In the spring, I'm teaching Samuel Johnson as my contribution to his tercentenary celebrations,” she says. “Much of the pleasure of teaching the eighteenth century comes from meeting head-on the perception that the texts are old-fashioned in their morality and coldly rational, and helping students to see instead that much of what seems very modern or post-modern to us was present even as authors ﬁrst thought of themselves as professionals, or as novels and periodicals ﬁrst became widely recognized--and not at all selfevident--genres.”
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