caroline-levander-portraitThe talk entitled “De-Ciphering American Literature: 1945-1840-2016” links American literature to the information age. Those interested in the digital humanities as well as American literature will find this talk on Poe and Claude Shannon (the ‘father’ of information theory) of special interest.

Caroline Levander is the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Digital Education at Rice University, where she leads the digital learning and scholarship endeavor, including overseeing all online curricula as well as K-20 digital initiatives.

An award-winning cultural and literary critic, Levander teaches, talks, and writes about American life and culture. Her writing has recently appeared in Slate, The New York Times, and Business Insider, and her latest book, Hotel Life: the Story of a Place Where Anything Can Happen, is about the everyday work of one of the world’s most fascinating and strange institutions. In addition to authoring three books including Where is American Literature? (2013) and co-editing many others such as Hemispheric American Studies (2008) and Companion to American Literary Studies (2011), Levander spends time thinking about the future of higher education. She writes and speaks regularly in venues such as Inside Higher Ed and at international higher education and innovation summits.


Alejandro Zambra is the author of My Documents, which was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and three previous novels: Ways of Going Home, The Private Lives of Trees, and Bonsai. His books have been translated into more than ten languages and have received several international prizes. His stories have appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris ReviewHarper’sTin House, and McSweeney’s, among others. In 2010, he was named one ofGranta’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists, and he is a 2015–16 Cullman Center fellow at the New York Public Library. He teaches literature at Diego Portales University, in Santiago, Chile.

Of Poetry and Pixels: The Power of a Liberal Arts Education in TV, Film and Journalism

Billy Shebar is a writer, director and producer of TV series and independent films. He helped develop, and produced two episodes of, the new documentary series Dark Net which premieres on Showtime in January 2016. An Emmy-nominated filmmaker, Shebar has made TV documentaries and episodes for major networks including PBS (America by the Numbers, History Detectives), Discovery (King Tut Unwrapped), A&E (The First 48), and TNT (Boston’s Finest).

Shebar has also written several narrative features, including Dark Matter (2007), which starred Meryl Streep, Liu Ye, and Aidan Quinn. Dark Matter won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and was chosen for Lincoln Center’s Film Comment Selects series.  The New York Times called it “a movie of ideas that does an exemplary job of translating scientific speculation into layman’s language,” and TV Guide called it a “hypnotic, culturally pertinent drama.”  His previous screenplay, 50 Ways to a Better Memory, won the Grand Prize at CineStory, and was read at Nuyorican Poets’ Café’s acclaimed Fifth Night series. READ MORE >>

View a detailed work listing.

The Dillon Johnston Writers Reading Series

Anne Waldman imageAnne Waldman is a prolific poet and performer, creating radical hybrid forms for the long poem, both serial and narrative, as with Marriage: A Sentence, Structure of the World Compared to a Bubble, Manatee/Humanity, and Gossamurmur (Penguin Poets). She is the author of the magnum opus, The Iovis Trilogy: Colors in the Mechanism of Concealment, a feminist cultural intervention taking on war and patriarchy, which won the PEN Center 2012 Award for Poetry. She has been deemed a “counter-cultural giant” by Publisher’s Weekly for her ethos as a poetic investigator and cultural activist and has been at the forefront for decades in creating poetic communities. She was a founder of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery and The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University with Allen Ginsberg and Diane di Prima. She continues to work at Naropa as a Distinguished Professor of Poetics and Artistic Director of its Summer Writing Program. She is the editor of The Beat Book and co-editor of Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action, Beats At Naropa, and Cross Worlds: Transcultural Poetics. Her latest book is Voice’s Daughter of a Heart Yet To Be Born (Coffee House Press, 2016). She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Celebrated as a remarkable performer with a unique vocal range including techniques of Sprechstimme and her own model structures, she performs on stages all over the world.

Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24, 2016
Old Salem Visitor’s Center 900 Old Salem Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

The 73rd annual Southeastern Renaissance Conference is a two-day event bringing together approximately 40 scholars in English studies and other disciplines from the southeast and elsewhere.  The meeting will be held Friday and Saturday, September 23-24, at the Old Salem Visitor Center.  Friday 1-9 p.m. (includes reception and dinner); Saturday 8:30-1:30 p.m.  $20 includes dinner on Friday.   Shuttle from Reynolda campus TBA. For more information, email Olga Valbuena at

Sponsored by the WFU Humanities Institute, the English Department, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the Dean’s Office, and Provost’s Office.

Gordon HutnerGordon Hutner is a professor of American Literature at the University of Illinois, where he directs the Trowbridge Initiative in American Cultures. Professor Hutner is the author and editor of several books in American literature and culture, including What America Read:  Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960.  His most recent publications include the second volume of his anthology of immigrant narratives, Immigrant Voices and a collection of essays, coedited with Feisal Mohamed, A New Deal for the Humanities:  the Liberal Arts and the Future of Public Higher Education.  He is also the founding editor of American Literary History, now in its 28th year.  Hutner also edits the Oxford Series in American Literary History, monographs exploring the dimensions and contours of contemporary literary historiography.

Hutner is currently writing a book on 21st century US fiction.


Schreier is Associate Professor of English and Jewish Studies, Lea P. and Malvin E. Bank Early Career Professor of Jewish Studies, and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Penn State University. He is author of The Impossible Jew: Identity and the Reconstruction of Jewish American Literature (NYU 2015) and The Power of Negative Thinking: Cynicism and the History of Modern American Literature (Virginia 2009), and since 2011, he has been the editor of the journal Studies in American Jewish Literature.

Please join us on Wednesday, March 23, at 4:30 pm

in Tribble C216 for a

Talk by Richard Begam, Dean Family Speaker:

“From Automaton to Autonomy: Mechanical Reproduction in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis” 


Begam considers issues of modernism and modernity in Fritz Lang’s 1927 cinematic masterpiece, Metropolis. Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Prof. Begam examines how Lang develops visual equivalents to the “auratic” and the “mechanical” in mounting his own critique of technology. At the heart of the film is the relation between automation — exemplified by the robot Maria — and the autonomy essential to Lang on aesthetic and political grounds. From Automaton to Autonomy: Mechanical Reproduction in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The latter is a major concern of Benjamin’s essay, whose “Epilogue” famously claims that fascism aestheticizes politics. In From Caligari to Hitler, Siegfried Kracauer takes up Benjamin’s charge and levels it at Metropolis, asserting that the film is proto-fascist. Prof. Begam responds by arguing that what Kracauer regards as Lang’s extrinsic formalism—his “ornamental” patterning—is in fact intrinsic to the film’s Weimarian liberalism.

Reception follows in Ammons Lounge, A107.

Reading aloud

‘Paper conference’ helps students become better writers

By Kim McGrath Office of Communications and External Relations
English professor Jessica Richard
English professor Jessica Richard finds paper conferences are a good way to measure her students understanding of the books they read.

English professor Jessica Richard’s students turn a paper in and get a grade the same day. Right after they read it to her in her office.

“I was nervous the first time I submitted a paper,” says senior English major Ashley Gedraitis. “Grammar errors and typos jump right out when you hear yourself say them aloud.” After just one “paper conference,” however, Gedraitis become a fan, enrolling in two more of Richard’s classes during her four years at Wake Forest.

Ashley Gedraitis

Ashley Gedraitis (’11)

“I can’t remember the number of times I worked on a paper and, weeks later, received it back from the teacher with a question mark in the margin or a comment I couldn’t read. By that time, I could hardly remember the thought process that went into writing the paper in the first place.”

Richard, an expert in 18th-century British fiction and all things Jane Austen, says writing is the instrument she uses to ensure that students understand the course material. The 10-page paper is a chance to delve into a novel and explore what is happening in the text, and Richard says giving the students immediate feedback puts important emphasis on the process of understanding and communication.

“Before I started the paper conference, I was frustrated by the time it would take to grade papers. I would write elaborate comments on each paper, but when I returned them, I never knew if students read them or just looked at the final grade.”

Dissatisfied with the traditional paper-grading process, Richard decided to borrow the idea for tutorial-style grading from her own experience as an undergraduate studying abroad in Oxford. The conferences usually run about 30 minutes. After reading the paper, professor and student discuss what worked and what could be improved.

“The conference is set up as if you’re defending a paper in graduate school,” says Gedraitis. “It might seem frightening, but Dr. Richard balances constructive criticism with positive feedback.”

Gedraitis, who is from Peru, Ill., says the paper conferences inspired her to write a final honors thesis on gender dynamics in Jane Austen’s “Emma,” with Richard as her advisor. Along with her English major, she is earning minors in sociology and women’s and gender studies. “Professor Richard teaches us that the humanities enter into all disciplines and are a part of our daily lives.”

Richard was awarded the Reid-Doyle Prize for Teaching Excellence at the University’s Founders’ Day Convocation in February.

Link to original article.

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