Geneseo English department’s statement on racial justice

The English department has added a statement of commitment to action on racial justice to its website. You can also read the statement below.

Our Commitment to Action on Racial Justice

As protests continue and emerge across the U.S. and around the globe in response to the killing of George Floyd, and the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, we write to express our anger and grief. We write to acknowledge that the protests unfold not only because of these killings but because of the accumulated history of Black death at the hands of law enforcement, vigilantes, and the violence of structural inequalities. We acknowledge and mourn too many deaths, from Eric Garner to Jonathan Ferrell and Nina Pop, from Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Pamela Turner to Patrick Dorismond, from Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson to Amadou Diallo, from Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines to Atatiana Jefferson and Shantel Davis and Trayvon Martin and so many more human beings across time and geography. We acknowledge that these protests unfold also because of the toll of COVID-19 that has fallen disproportionately upon Black people because of the long-term effects both of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. We write to support Black Lives Matter and other national and local movements for justice and to commit to actions as well as words.

We write to support Black students who in both the physical and digital world must navigate Geneseo. We witness the excellent academic and creative work of the Black students in our classes, students able to thrive and innovate even while Geneseo’s spaces, like those of other predominantly white campuses, accumulate everyday careless and gratuitous insults and other obstacles to Black students’ achievement of a public liberal arts education.

As Geneseo English alumna Evelyn Mendez puts it, “Black individuals are dying inside and outside of jails and because many of us are afraid to seek help because of systemic racism….We aren’t at peace. All we want is to no longer live in fear.” We write, then, in response to her and her peers: we write to affirm the shared responsibility of our Community Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and particularly to “sustaining and expanding the diversity of our community and to making equity for all members of our diverse community a measure of our success.” That is, we write to acknowledge we can and must do more and better to fight actively against anti-Black racism.

As faculty members who study and craft literature, we rely on the long record of evidence that Black artists, scholars, and cultural critics have woven into stories of the fight against fear and the fight for peace that cannot be unpartnered from justice. These are narratives that, in the words of Geneseo English alumna Dr. Jacqueline Monique Jones, can “help us better understand the world that we’re in and the world that we want to see.” We strive in our courses to offer specific historical and cultural contexts for the texts that we teach, understanding both that art does not lie outside of history and politics and that complex stories and rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship inform the transformative Black art and activism we witness today. Such transformation is possible even and especially when it feels impossible; indeed, as Geneseo English alumna Sabrina Bramwell put it during her 2019 Senior Oration, “A core characteristic of interdisciplinary thinking is being willing to value a thought that differs from your own and use it to foster growth. With this mindset, the fear of difference is transformed to intrigue, the unfamiliar is now admired, and inclusion—the desire to hear different opinions—develops more naturally.” Discomfort is not there to be avoided but rather to be explored, not singly or by a few but by a community committed to equity as essential to inquiry.

As teachers and scholars, our commitment is to be listeners: to learn, to reflect, to educate ourselves and others. In the wake of the 2016 election, Mariame Kaba wrote that “Humility is in order across the land. It’s really OK to say that you don’t know the answers. You don’t have to pretend you do.” Kaba’s words guide us now. We commit to taking action, and in doing so commit to making Black lives the center while not asking those most affected by anti-Black racism to take on more emotional labor. We commit to be accountable for the sources, words, images, and narratives that we spread in personal and digital spaces, especially as Black Lives Matter warns of misinformation and disinformation targeted at the movement. We commit to take action within our various spheres of influence. We refuse saviorism, white and otherwise. We offer what we have and can in service to building a more just world.

Above all, we are called to commit to behaviors and structures for care and caring rather than behaviors and structures that exist only for calling to order, as Fred Moten has termed it. Such commitment must be careful. As Saidiya Hartman has affirmed, “Care is the antidote to violence.” Yet also as Geneseo English alumna Davina Ward has affirmed, “Care can exist as violence. Violence can exist as care.” We see this over and over where police, whose charge is to “care and protect,” target Black people with violence. Resources devoted to continuing such violence (such as the $230 million paid out in claims against the NYPD in 2018 alone) must be reallocated to structures for public health, mental health, and public education.

As faculty members who teach and craft works of the imagination, we must not fail to work to build the different world that protestors and students are imagining through their demands. Indeed, rather than just saying Black lives matter, we should actively work on what Geneseo English and Philosophy student Emma Mandella identifies as a new model for reparations. Citing the work of Roy Brooks, in “The Ills of American Capitalism: A New Case for Reparations,” Mandella argues for reparations in the atonement model, demanding revolutionary structural change to support Black citizens. As an alternative to settlement reparations, the atonement model emphasizes long-term efforts to address structural inequalities and systemic inequities.

We close with words from Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, who notes a truth that emerged from her experience coming into what she calls her “full power” as an adult human being during the Civil Rights Movement:

Sometimes you really need things to be thrown up in your community, everything to be turned over in such a way so you have another chance to look at what you have put together. And in any culture, any people, any history, throwing things up gives you a chance to be selective about what you will carry forward.

Note: All Geneseo students and alumni invoked in this statement have given their express consent to their work being included in this context.

English Department Mourns Passing of Emeritus Faculty Leonard Moss

We regret to report the passing away of emeritus faculty, Leonard Moss, who taught in the  English Department from the 1960s until his retirement in 1989.

His wife, Shaoping Moss, offered the following message:

Leonard Moss, my beloved husband, patient teacher and best friend, passed away on May 28, 2020, at the age of 88. The cause is heart failure. As an ardent scholar and a dedicated writer, Leonard had worked tirelessly on his writing projects one after another, producing 7 or 8 books in his life. He never stopped writing until his last day. He even wrote his own tongue-in-cheek premature obituary a few months ago, and included it at the end of his last book, “Creating an Identity.” Now it has become his formal obituary, which we have published at the Moss family website:https://mossfamilypublications.weebly.com/obituary.html

He was buried at the Gan Shalom Cemetery in Briones, CA. Our small family had a graveside burial ceremony for him on June 2.  A recording of the ceremony can be found at our family website:

https://mossfamilypublications.weebly.com/burial-ceremony.html

Shaoping is collecting remembrances to share on our website. We invite you to share your memories of Len by responding to this email. These will be shared here:

https://mossfamilypublications.weebly.com/remembrances.html

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Sinai Memorial Chapel Chevra Kadisha. You can learn more about this charitable institution here:

https://www.sinaichapel.org/donate.html

Shaoping, Eli and Sara Moss

 

 

Beth McCoy’s Students Praised by Hayes Davenport on LA Podcast

In Spring 2020, Beth McCoy taught “Expulsion and the Housing Crisis,” a SUNY Geneseo literature course contemplating narratives flowing into and out of the 2008 global financial crisis.

The course’s final assignment asked students to consider Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower alongside episodes of L.A. Podcast they’d been listening to all semester.

The podcast’s host, Hayes Davenport, mentioned Dr. McCoy’s students  individually by name because of their essays here: https://morrison.sunygeneseoenglish.org/2020/05/15/sower-what-about-l-a-podcast/
Here’s the podcast clip cued up: https://simplecast.com/s/6351e2e4?t=1h8m10s
Here’s the whole episode: https://thelapod.com/episode/go-mask-alice/

English department announces 2020 student awards

We’re excited to announce our 2020 senior award winners and the winners of our annual writing contest.

2020 English Department Senior Awards

The end of spring semester traditionally is a time to honor, in person, the hard work and accomplishments of our graduating seniors. As believers in metaphor, the English Department won’t allow separation or measly screens to become an obstacle to celebration — for as Walt Whitman wrote, “a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” In this spirit the faculty recognize sustained excellence in literary studies through our senior awards. A couple of months not seeing these students in person remind us how much they have contributed to the vitality of our department during their time at Geneseo. Our congratulations!

William T. Beauchamp Memorial Award

Presented annually to a senior for outstanding service to the vitality of literature on campus.

Winner: Sean McAneny

Patricia Conrad Lindsay Memorial Award

Presented annually to a senior for excellence in scholastic achievement and intellectual promise.

Winners: Clio Lieberman, Margaret Pigliacelli, Brianna Riggio

Calvin Israel Award in the Humanities

Presented annually to a senior with an outstanding academic record and a strong support of the humanities.

Winners: Claire Corbeaux, Abigail Ritz, Helen Warfle

Joseph O’Brien Memorial Award

Presented annually to a senior English major who has exhibited those attributes exemplified in the life and career of our colleague Joe O’Brien: a demonstrated record of academic excellence, a spirit of volunteerism, and a sterling moral character.

Winners: Sandy Brahaspat, Julia Merante, Don Rothwein

2020 Geneseo Writing Contest

As physical journeys have narrowed during the coronavirus epidemic, many of us have become reacquainted with the power of writing to open up new spaces. The English Department has the pleasure of recognizing excellence in student critical, creative, and self-reflective writing though its annual writing contest. The contest is open to the whole campus, and this year’s winners, ranging from first-year students to graduating seniors, represent the following programs: the English Literature and Creative Writing tracks, Women and Gender Studies, Africana Studies, the Film Studies minor, Adolescent Education certification, the Edgar Fellows program, French, Philosophy, History, Anthropology, Communication, Geography, Psychology, Mathematics, Biology, and Physics. The winning entries were written for classes with ANTH, AMST, ENGL, FMST, HIST, HONR, and INTD 105 prefixes, and sometimes also produced by students writing outside class for the sheer love of language. Congratulations to all!

Irene E. Smith Award in First-Year Critical Writing: INTD 105

Winner

Sarah Fadlaoui, “Carlisle in the Great War”

Second place

Maria Pawlak, “Conformity in the United States and its Effect throughout the Twentieth Century”

Third place

Madisyn Pausley, “Parable of the Sower as a Warning for Climate Change”

Honorable mention

Nicole Lallier, “Human Migration: Displacement from Disaster”

Jérôme de Romanet de Beaune Award for an Essay in Diversity Studies

Winner

Brianna Riggio, “Can He See the Forest for the Trees?: The Eagle Tree

Second place

Sean McAneny, “Approaches to Teaching Age in King Lear

Research Paper

Winner

Rachel McLauchlin, “Maternal Horror: Women’s Bodies as Monstrosity in Macbeth

Second place

Claire Corbeaux, “The Threat of Greed and the Cultivation of Community”

Third place

Shannon Curley, “Space, History, and Tourism in Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina”

Honorable mentions

  • Ashton McCormack, “Benefits of Entomophagy”
  • Alissa Moeller, “American Slavery and Historical Silences in the Journal of Women’s History

Self-Reflective Writing

Winner

Sean McAneny, “Addressing Slavery’s Legacy at the Academy”

Second place

Emma Short, “Fame, Fandom, & The Woman in the Spotlight”

Third place

Abigail Ritz, “This Is Paratext”

Honorable mentions

  • Claire Corbeaux, “Realizing Service Learning”
  • Brianna Riggio, “Ableist Constructions of Communication Disabilities and Identity”

John H. Parry Award for a Critical Essay

Winner

Sean McAneny, “Against the King’s Two Bodies: Richard’s Corporeal Authority”

Second place

Claire Corbeaux, “Wuthering Heights, Quantum Entanglement, and Loving One Dead”

Third equal

  • Rosa Mesbahi, “Dismantling Dualisms: Exploring Agency and Victimhood in Purple Hibiscus
  • Abigail Ritz, “Disability as Doozy: Kurt Vonnegut’s Use of Disability as Metaphor in ‘Harrison Bergeron’”

Creative Non-Fiction

Winner

Aliyha Gill, “Sisters”

Second place

Kyle Navratil, “Into Base Camp”

Third equal

  • Hannah Fuller, “Promises”
  • Rosa Mesbahi, “October”

Agnes Rigney Award in Drama and Screenwriting

Winner

Patrick Donohue, “The Masque of the Red Death”

Second place

Ben Michalak, “FOLLOW THE PATH: A Twelve Day Immersive Theater Piece”

Mary A. Thomas Award in Poetry

Winner

Kayla Eyler, “THE FAIRWAY MARKET HOSTAGE CRISIS”

Second place

Aliyha Gill, “Ruminations”

Third place

Sparrow Potter, “On the Slowing of the Universe”

Lucy Harmon Award in Literary Fiction**

Winner

Laura Gikas, “Not Greek”

Second place

Brianna Riggio, Selection from “Elodie May”

Third place

Elizabeth Roos, “The Archeologist”

Boston Review publishes nonfiction by Lytton Smith

Boston Review has published online “The Pruner’s Tale,”, a nonfiction piece by Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Lytton Smith about the experience of a migrant orchard worker in Western Upstate New York. This piece is part of the Refugee Tales project, a series of walks and books in solidarity with Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigration Detainees in the U.K., Italy, North America, Australia, and elsewhere. “The Pruner’s Tale” first appeared in Refugee Tales vol. 3 (Comma Press, 2019).

Doggett Named General Editor of Journal of International Yeats Studies

This past December, at the annual International Yeats Society Conference in Paris, France, Professor and Chair of English, Rob Doggett, was named general editor of the Journal of International Yeats Studies.

The International Yeats Society is an academic organization that links national and other Yeats societies around the world. Conceived on the 150th anniversary of W. B. Yeats’s birth, International Yeats Studies brings together scholarship from Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa, and addresses Yeats’s place in world literature.

Reimagining the Beach: Artists Interpret the Poetry of Dave Kelly

Flyer Advertising Exhibit

Dave Kelly was the Geneseo English Department poet from 1967-2009. This exhibit, which is sponsored by the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts and runs from November 8 to December 3, features works in the visual arts that were inspired by Dave’s poetry.  The exhibit is at the New Deal Gallery: 4 Murray Hill Drive, Mt Morris, NY 14510.

A reception, that is open to the public, will be held on Friday, November 15, from 4pm – 7pm. There will be food, drinks, music, and a reading of selected poems, which will begin at 5:30pm.

 

 

Composer Gregory Spears to deliver 2019 Walter Harding Lecture

Composer Gregory Spears
Photo used with permission

Composer Gregory Spears will deliver the 2019 Walter Harding Lecture on Wednesday, September 25, at 7 pm in Doty Recital Hall on the SUNY Geneseo campus. His subject will be “Thoreau and Music.”

Spears’ song cycle Walden, which premiered in 2018 in a performance that the Washington Post called “gripping,” takes a series of excerpts from Thoreau’s Walden and arranges them in four structurally interconnected songs to loosely tell the story of Thoreau’s departure from and return to society in Concord, Massachusetts. Along the way we see Thoreau’s progression from anxious social critic, to passionate naturalist, to contemplative mystic.

Spears’ other compositions include Fellow Travelers, written in collaboration with Greg Pierce and based on the McCarthy-era lavender scare, and Paul’s Case, written in collaboration with Kathryn Walat and based on the Willa Cather short story of the same name. The latter was described as a “masterpiece” and a “gem” (New York Observer) with “ravishing music” (New York Times).

Spears’ music has been called “astonishingly beautiful” (New York Times), “coolly entrancing” (The New Yorker), and “some of the most beautifully unsettling music to appear in recent memory” (Boston Globe). In recent seasons Spears has been commissioned by The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Seraphic Fire, The Crossing, Volti, BMI/Concert Artists Guild, Vocal Arts DC, New York Polyphony, The New York International Piano Competition, and the JACK Quartet among others. He is currently working on a new evening-length opera, Castor and Patience, with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, commissioned by Cincinnati Opera and scheduled for premiere in 2020.

Spears holds degrees in composition from Eastman School of Music (BM), Yale School of Music (MM), and Princeton University (PhD). He also studied as a Fulbright Scholar at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen with Hans Abrahamsen. He currently teaches composition at SUNY Purchase.

The Walter Harding Lecture is sponsored by the English department and supported through the generosity of the Harding family.