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).
A collaboration between SUNY Geneseo and the New Deal Gallery in Mt. Morris is updating a collection of more than 200 paintings from the 1930s, and seeing new relevance for the ecological challenges of our own times. The project, called “The Green New Deal: Art During a Time of Environmental Emergency,” is taking the form of a gallery show that opens May 2, along with a digital exhibit created by students of Associate Professor of English Ken Cooper.
The gallery’s collection owes its existence to the Federal Art Project, which “allocated” paintings to the state tuberculosis hospital on Murray Hill. They seem to have been chosen for their restful associations, however, and weren’t always typical of the artists’ more experimental or political work—an important context recovered by the project. For the past year, junior English major Abigail Ritz has been re-photographing and researching the collection thanks to an Ambassadorship through the Center for Integrative Learning. Students in Cooper’s OpenValley course this spring have continued that work and developed a series of linked online exhibits to re-evaluate paintings now approaching a hundred years old.
Why a Green New Deal? Americans already know how the Dust Bowl intensified the social crisis of the Great Depression. But new “attribution studies” by climatologists suggest that a series of record temperatures during the late 1930s probably were the first to have some Anthropogenic dimension. In other words, those past events have a direct lineage to climate change today and our own efforts to mobilize an effective response.
Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters will be publishing a special issue titled Unchaining Selves: The Power of the Neo-Slave Narrative Genre, co-edited by Professor Joan Anim-Addo (Goldsmiths University of London) and Geneseo Professor of English Maria Lima.
Lima has taught a course on the genre of neo-slave narratives at Geneseo for a number of years, and has been working on this special issue with Anim-Addo since 2015, when she chaired a panel at the Northeast Modern Language Association Annual Meeting on the topic.
Generally, the term neo-slave narrative refers to a genre of literature in which twentieth and twenty-first century writers take Atlantic slavery as the occasion for their literary texts. Neo-slave narratives often both draw on and depart from the earlier genre of slave narratives — autobiographical writing by enslaved and emancipated peoples of African descent addressing the experiences of living through slavery. Some examples of neo-slave narratives include Ishmael Reed’s Flight to Canada (1976), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! (2011), and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016).
In their original call for papers, Anim-Addo and Lima write, “The main reasons for this seemingly widespread desire to rewrite a genre that officially lost its usefulness with the abolition of slavery are to re-affirm the historical value of the original slave narrative and/or to reclaim the humanity of the enslaved by (re)imagining their subjectivity. No other genre has undergone such widespread creolization—both a process and a concept used to describe many forms of contact across a wide range of cultural and ideological formations—having become a mode shared by many cultures in an uneven yet interdependent world.”
Lima and Anim-Addo’s special issue brings fresh scholarship to this established literary genre, interrogating some of the ways recent currents in black and Africana studies theory and criticism open up new conversations about slavery’s afterlife through this literary genre.
The issue includes essays by two Geneseo English alumni from the class of 2012 – Jesse Goldberg and Stephanie Iasiello – and an essay by SUNY Geneseo Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Beth McCoy.
Since graduating from Geneseo, Goldberg earned a PhD in African American literature at Cornell University and is now Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Longwood University in Virginia, where, like Lima, he is teaching a course on neo-slave narratives. Goldberg’s essay is titled “The Restored Literary Behaviors of Neo-Slave Narratives: Troubling the Ethics of Witnessing in the Excessive Present.”
Iasiello earned a PhD in African Diaspora Literature at Emory University and is now Board President at Reforming Arts, a non-profit organization providing liberal arts higher education to people incarcerated in women’s prisons in Georgia. Iasiello’s essay is titled “Photographing A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby: Kara Walker’s Take on the Neo-Slave Narrative.”
McCoy’s essay, “Flights of Principled Fancy Dress: Steve Prince’s Katrina Suite and the Neo-Slave Narratives” extends the rich and ongoing collaborative work she has been engaging in with New Orleans artist Steve Prince.
The issue is in its final printing stages and is scheduled to be published by the end of 2018.
This post has been updated to reflect Iasiello’s and McCoy’s contributions to the forthcoming special issue.
Distinguished Teaching Professor Beth McCoy’s essay “The Great [White] Wail: Percival Everett’s The Water Cure and Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia” appears in American Revenge Narratives, a 2018 Palgrave Macmillan collection of critical essays edited by Kyle Wiggins.
The Office of the Provost at SUNY Geneseo has named Dr. Lytton Smith director of the college’s new Center for Integrative Learning, effective August 2. The center represents a strategic re-imagining of the current Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Development, which supports SUNY Geneseo’s mission to promote transformational learning experiences and to inspire students to be socially responsible and globally aware citizens.
In an email to campus faculty and staff, Provost Stacey Robertson writes that the new center will “play an expanded role in developing and promoting academic experiences that are interdisciplinary, connect learning opportunities to real world problems and issues, and encourage students to explore and articulate connections across their different experiences.”
Robertson points out that since coming to SUNY Geneseo in fall 2014, Smith, who was recently awarded tenure and promoted to the rank of associate professor, “has helped create or sustain a number of collaborative high impact educational opportunities for Geneseo students, including interdisciplinary and team-taught experiences that cross disciplines and divisions, study abroad, and community-based learning, often working with collaborators across science and humanities fields.” Smith’s work, she continues, “including his literary translations of Icelandic literature, in many ways models the principles of integrative learning. Under his leadership the CIL is poised to make considerable progress in advancing our goals as a public liberal arts institution that empowers students to make meaningful connections across their academic experiences.”
Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Beth McCoy and artist Steve Prince have co-authored “From Grief, Find Your Peace: Steve Prince and The Big Zipper Community,” an essay that explores how community art can help to heal community trauma. The piece appears in Routledge’s The Role of the Arts in Learning: Cultivating Landscapes of Democracy, edited by Jay Michael Hanes and Eleanor Weisman. McCoy will be teaching an integrative learning course on Prince’s art in Spring 2019.
SUNY Geneseo Professor of English (Creative Writing) Rachel Hall continues to receive recognition for her linked story collection Heirlooms.
The award was founded in 2016 to honor central Arkansas author and literary champion Phillip H. Math, who is also the final judge.
Of the collection, final judge Phillip McMath notes: “With just a hint of Irene Nemirovsky, Camus and a dash of Guy De Maupassant, Rachel Hall is uniquely and brilliantly herself, and the appearance of her marvelous collection of short stories, Heirlooms, heralds the appearance of a first-rate talent.”
Earlier this semester, the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies named Hall as runner-up for the Edward Lewis Wallant Award. The winner was Margot Singer, for her novel Underground Fugue. Both authors will be honored at an awards ceremony Wednesday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, West Hartford, as part of the 2017-18 Mandell JCC Book Festival series.
Established by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Waltman of West Hartford in 1963, the award honors the memory of the late Edward Lewis Wallant, author of The Pawnbroker and other works of fiction. The Wallant Award is one of the oldest and most prestigious Jewish literary awards in the United States. It is presented to a Jewish writer, preferably unrecognized, whose published work of fiction is deemed to have significance for the American Jew.
English major alum Evan Goldstein (’17) and Assistant Professor of English Lytton Smith are both included in a new issue of the online journal BathHouse focused on ideas of collaboration. The nine poems were written as part of a back-and-forth poem exchange between Goldstein and Smith.