SUNY Geneseo teams with University of Rochester to celebrate Thoreau and creativity

SUNY Geneseo is partnering with the University of Rochester to sponsor a week’s worth of events celebrating Henry David Thoreau and creativity, April 3-5.

Poster for Thoreau Events

Wednesday, April 3: Concert and Lecture

  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Place: Hatch Recital Hall, Eastman School of Music
  • Admission: Free
  • Sponsor: University of Rochester

Heather O’Donnell (piano) and Laura Lentz (flute) will perform Charles Ives’s Piano Sonata No. 2, “Concord, Mass., 1840-1860.” Ives biographer Jan Swafford will deliver a lecture contextualizing Ives’ sonata.

Swafford writes regular columns on music and other subjects in Slate, and is heard as a commentator on NPR and the BBC. His writing honors include a 2012 Deems Taylor Award for internet writing and a Mellon Fellowship at Harvard. His Brahms and Ives biographies were end-of-year Critics’ Choices in The New York Times. The Ives biography was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award in biography and won the Pen-Winship prize for a book on a New England subject. His biography Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph in its first week appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.

Thursday, April 4: Lecture

  • Time: 5:00 p.m.
  • Place: Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester Humanities Center, Room D
  • Admission: Free
  • Sponsor: University of Rochester

Laura Dassow Walls, William P. and Hazel B. White Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, will deliver the University of Rochester’s 2019 George Ford Lecture, titled “The Death of Nature and the Life of Thoreau.”

Walls is the author of Henry David Thoreau: A Life, published by the University of Chicago Press. The first full-length, comprehensive biography of Thoreau in a generation, Walls’s book draws on extensive new research and the full range of Thoreau’s published and unpublished writings to present Thoreau as vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions — fully embedded in his place and time, yet speaking powerfully to the problems and perils of today.

Friday, April 5: Film, Henry David Thoreau, Surveyor of the Soul

  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Place: The Little Theatre, Rochester
  • Admission: Free
  • Sponsor: SUNY Geneseo

The Little will screen independent director Huey Coleman’s feature-length film, Henry David Thoreau, Surveyor of the Soul. The screening will be followed by a conversation between the filmmaker and Thoreau biographer Laura Dassow Walls.

For thirty years, Huey has been making films about artists, education, the environment, and Maine. His films have been shown at film festivals throughout the US, on PBS, and on European television. Surveyor of the Soul explores Thoreau’s life and the impact of his writings on environmental issues, civil rights, and individual thinking in our time. It includes appearances by Bill McKibben, Howard Zinn, Robert Bly, Rep. John Lewis, and Thoreau biographer Laura Dassow Walls.

Note: Huey will be on the SUNY Geneseo campus Friday, April 5 at 1 p.m. in Bailey 204 to talk about Surveyor and about his career as an independent filmmaker.

Leah Christman wins Fulbright

English major Leah Christman (’19) has won a prestigious U.S. Student Fulbright Award for 2019-20. Leah will travel to India, where her award will enable her to serve as a Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in either a middle or secondary school in a community to be determined by the United States-India Educational Foundation. The Fulbright Program is the highly competitive flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and citizens of other countries.

More in this SUNY Geneseo News story.

Lima and Goldberg, faculty member and alum, in journal special issue

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.

Spencer Crew to deliver 2018 Walter Harding Lecture September 28

Spencer Crew Harding Lecture poster

The 2018 Walter Harding Lecture will be delivered by Dr. Spencer Crew, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History at George Mason University, on September 28, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. in Doty Recital Hall on the campus of SUNY Geneseo.

Dr. Crew’s lecture is titled, “Civil Disobedience, the Underground Railroad, and Thoreau.”

A distinguished public historian, Professor Crew served for six years as president of the National Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio and for nine years as director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, where he curated, and wrote the companion volume for, the exhibit Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration 1915–1940 (1987). He is also the author of Black Life in Secondary Cities: A Comparative Analysis of the Black Communities of Camden and Elizabeth, N.J. 1860–1920 (1993) and co-author of both The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden (2002) and Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (2002).

The Harding Lecture, which is sponsored by the English department with support from the Office of the Provost and the Office of the President, is free and open to the public.

You can download and print the poster for this lecture.

Lytton Smith to direct new Center for Integrative Learning at SUNY Geneseo

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.”

McCoy co-authors book chapter on community art

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.

More recognition for fiction writer Rachel Hall

SUNY Geneseo Professor of English (Creative Writing) Rachel Hall continues to receive recognition for her linked story collection Heirlooms.

The Arkansas Writer’s MFA Workshop recently recognized Hall’s book by naming it the winner of the third annual Phillip H. McMath Post Publication Book Award.

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.

Cui and LoTempio named finalists for anthology

Geneseo English major Jasmine Cui ’20 and recent English alumna Lucia LoTempio ’16 have been named finalists for Sundress Press’s Best of the Net 2017 anthology; they are on a short list of 31 poets, including several well-established writers with numerous books published. Congratulations to Jasmine and Lucia! They are included for their poems “When They Tell Me to Imagine the American Dream” from Breakwater Review and “Facsimile of a Bedroom in the Wheatfield” from Quarterly West respectively.