Monday, March 31, 2014

Omeka Workshop

Omeka Workshops

Please join the GWU English Graduate Digital Humanities Working Group on April 19 to learn about Omeka – a free and open source content management system for online digital collections. A favorite tool for digital humanists, Omeka allows scholars and professionals store and display scholarly collections and exhibitions. Dr. Patrick Murray-John, Web Developer and Assistant Research Professor at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, will be leading two Omeka workshops for graduate students and faculty who are interested in learning about this exciting platform. The event will begin at 10:30am on April 19th, 2014 in Rome 771. Space is limited, so please r.s.v.p to Tawnya Ravy ( to reserve a spot.
Co-sponsored by the GWU Digital Humanities Institute

Omeka Workshop

  Patrick Murray-John
  April 19, 2014
10:30am-2:30pm, Rome 771

Claudia Roth-Pierpont at GW

By Rachel Davidson
Claudia Roth-Pierpont
Image from: The New Yorker

Recently, The George Washington University program in Judaic Studies and the Department of English welcomed Roth Unbound author Claudia Roth-Pierpont as the fourth speaker for Professor Faye Moskowitz’ class, Jewish Lit Live. In an afternoon discussion for the JLL class and an evening reading open to the public, Roth-Pierpont (the name Roth is pure coincidence) discussed her new book, as well as two of Roth’s early works, Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint. While Roth-Pierpont spent hundreds of hours in conversation with Roth, Roth ultimately had no say in the content of Roth Unbound and was not allowed to read it until its final publication.  Hearing Roth-Pierpont elaborate on the ways in which Philip Roth has been misunderstood by the Jewish and feminist communities was a valuable experience for anyone with interests in America’s dynamic social culture or the intentions of an author. 
Philip Roth’s writing is still relevant because of his unique voice, but Roth-Pierpont emphasized that Roth’s authorial voice should not be mistaken as his opinion.  She challenged us to forget what Roth the author is saying, and focus instead on what his characters are saying.  Roth-Pierpont described Roth’s capacity to build stories situated in the unique struggles of their times and how these complicated themes were often misinterpreted.  After the release of Portnoy’s Complaint, Roth was branded as a misogynist by many feminist critics and as an anti-Semite by many Jews.  As a self-identifying feminist herself, Roth-Pierpont found these accusations laughable and noted that Roth’s male characters are just as, if not more so, troubled than his female characters.  Roth did not invent the over-bearing, Jewish Mother trope, yet many Jews felt that it was dangerous to reveal the less than pleasant realities of Jewish families post World-War Two. In a story like “Eli The Fanatic”, Roth presents a situation in which assimilated Jews are more threatened by an orthodox Yeshivah than the gentile population, nodding to the latent insecurities concerning modernity present within the Jewish community.  These insecurities were reflected back onto Roth, and the misogynist and anti-Semite labels stuck.
            One label that Roth would not deny would be that of “Nixon-Hater”. In his 1971 political satire, Our Gang, Roth follows the story of Trick E. Dixon, a character who eventually runs his campaign in Hell. When Richard Nixon got word of this novel, he said, “’A lot of this can be turned to our advantage. ... I think the anti-Semitic thing can be, I hate to say it, but it can be very helpful to us’ to which his chief of staff adds, ‘There are a lot more anti-Semites than there are Jews, and the anti-Semites are with us generally and the Jews aren’t.’”[1] As this incredible exchange shows, Roth had established himself enough as a writer to be brought up in a conversation in the oval office as a threatening figure. Roth-Pierpont cited this as a moment where truth was stranger than fiction, but also a moment that further complicates Roth’s status as a Jewish writer.
            Roth-Pierpont suggested that anyone who takes the time to actually read Roth’s work would find a wide breadth of male and female, and Jewish and non-Jewish characters that make it impossible to make any overreaching argument about Roth’s personal opinions. She suggests that many early readers completely missed the tenderness of a character like Alex Portnoy because they were so fixated on his occasionally overwhelming sexuality. She revealed that Portnoy’s Complaint is the only book Roth occasionally regrets writing, but only because a topic as frivolous as masturbation overshadowed much of his later work.  While some early readers treated Portnoy’s Complaint how modern readers treat 50 Shades of Gray, Roth-Pierpont suggests that the book is really about fighting to break free from what society says you should be.           
At the age of 81, Roth has officially retired from his career as an author. When Roth-Pierpont was asked, “why now?” she explained that after a lifetime of writing character’s lives, Roth wanted to live his own life.  Describing Roth as an ultimately optimistic and life-affirming man, it seems fitting that days spent writing in isolation would not be the ideal way to spend time.  These insights into Roth’s life made for a though-provoking afternoon and evening, and definitely sparked my own interest in Roth’s extensive works.

[1] Kirsch, Adam. “Philip Roth: Claudia Roth Pierpont’s Biography is Fan Fiction.” The New Republic. January 8, 2014. Web. March 24, 2014.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Interrogating Ground/s and Justice

By Theodora Danylevich

“From Rodney King to Trayvon Martin, from the birth of the racial republic to its late modern bio-political landscape, difficult dialogues and actions are necessary for progress— however evanescent, however staggered, and however long—to materialize.”
-- Neil Roberts, in his introduction to a special-issue Trayvon Martin symposium in Theory and Event (vol. 15, issue 3, 2012),

Wednesday February 5th would have been Trayvon Martin’s nineteenth birthday. On the evening of Wednesday January 29th, hosted by the American Studies department, the Critical Race Theory reading group held its first roundtable discussion, “On Whose Ground? Exploring the Trayvon Martin drama and the complex interplay of race and rights in America.” Sadness, anger, but not really very much shock so much as disappointment were the generally shared feelings with regard to the Zimmerman/Martin ruling that prompted the organization of this event, which was also framed by the question, “where do we go from here?” The roundtable was moderated by our department’s Dr. Jennifer James, and included as panelists Dr. Tony Lopez (English), Dr. Jennifer Christine Nash (American Studies), and Lyndsay Davis, a PhD Candidate in American Studies.

Image by  Favianna Rodriguez

Unpacking “stand your ground” laws:

Dr. Tony Lopez’s comments on the material and spatial elements that both allowed Zimmerman to get away with murder, and made Martin fundamentally unsafe set us up to consider the way in which “stand your ground” laws, especially as they are interpreted in Florida, shed light on some perhaps surprising contradictions in the ways that “public” and “private” come to signify with regard to spaces (and subjects). Both Dr. Jennifer Nash and Tony Lopez’s analyses pointed to “stand your ground” laws as a colonial technology. That is to say, a consideration of the raced and gendered bias and injustice built into the distribution of designations of “public” and “private,” and how they stand up in a court of law suggests that the “contradictions” are yet altogether logical when seen as part of a c/overtly recursive racist-colonial patriarchal structuring of the nation. Subjects that are commodified (slaves, wives) slip between private and public domains, particularly in the process of exchange. In a parallel motion, particularly in the context of excessively permissive “stand your ground” laws (where “home” extends to “home-like” spaces), questions of state power versus state actor lead to a blurring of the line between state and citizen; and by extension, between property and citizen. [As I write this synopsis/interpretation, I’m having trouble being certain that I’m laying this out properly. Comments invited.] In the context of the Zimmerman/Martin case, technological extensions of these discursive power structures include the gun, the “home-like” gated community, and the “home-like” car.

Questioning “justice,” and the fetishization of intent:

While nobody in the Zimmerman/Martin case has spent time in prison, in the context of the prison-industrial complex as a neoliberal placeholder for the commodification of subjects into state property, a young black man – particularly in a black hoody – is, as Jennifer James put it, always and only perceived to be on his way in or out of prison. Regarding a desire for justice, and the role of prison in this equation, Lindsay Davis, who works in and on prison abolition, posed the question: If one supports an agenda of prison abolition, how are we then to arrive at “justice” in the Zimmerman/Martin case, if not by imprisoning Zimmerman?

An undergraduate student brought up the slippery question of motivation or “intent” in the context of the case. This led to a very helpful explanation of what Tony Lopez called a fetishization of intent, which we should be wary of as something that the media loves to do but which is, in the final analysis, beside the point. Fetishizing intent in fact colludes with the underlying structural problems at work by creating a sensational distraction, and giving the public a target for cathexis. Tony referenced the film Fruitvale Station as an aesthetic critical response to such ideas about intention in the many scenes of Oscar Grant’s everyday life.

To further develop the problem of fetishizing intent, Dr. Melanie McAlister from American Studies noted that the vilification of Zimmerman as the exemplary horrible racist can lead to a covering-over of everyday racism, where small or unconsciously performed acts of racism can even become justified or self-justifying because, “look, how awful! I’m not like him (Zimmerman)!” This brings us back to the problem of how to achieve “justice,” then, if we are (a) seeking prison abolition and (b) seeking to avoid a covering-over of diffuse and pervasive modes of structural racism by indicting the exemplary instances of cases of lethal racist violence.

Image from :

Where do we go from here?

The question “where do we go from here?” feels at once strange and pressing. Strange because the time and place that “here” points to seems somehow so historically and legally overdetermined. Also pressing because this past year, which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington not only gave us the Zimmerman/Martin ruling, but also the similarly structured and handled murders of Renisha McBride and Jonathan Ferrel, all of which bring into starkly ironic relief questions as to the nation’s progress on questions of racial and economic justice over the last half-century.

Also of importance to this question is the space and role of the academy, as a place where teaching and writing about racial violence can happen, and also a place that needs more, in terms of emotional support, and space for grief. Circling back to the feelings that prompted this roundtable, Jennifer James pointed out that we live in a culture that knows very well how to make a spectacle of suffering, but does not have ways that create space for grief, which makes the problem of having space for black grief overwhelming, because it would require so much.

If there were the beginnings of an answer to the “where do we go from here” question, it would seem that it lies with teaching about, generating awareness of, and most importantly, holding space for probing conversations that move us away from the “fetishization of intent” and toward an awareness of the embarrassing complicity with structural racism that we might participate in if we do not interrogate the terms of the rulings and assessments that our culture dishes out for us: to the point of the title of the roundtable, “On Whose Ground?”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Helen of The Wooster Group: A Face That May or May Not Have Launched a Thousand Ships

by Susan Koenig

Archaeology has always been a tricky field, relying upon reconstructions of the past to enable us to understand our present. Sometimes events written about by ancient people become myth as they fade, evidence of their existence being buried by a variety of elemental forces. One such event was the Trojan War. Until the late 19th Century, Troy was a fictional town, existing only in Homeric tradition. Then the ruins of the nine cities were found in modern-day Turkey, and, given the similarities between the landscape and how Troy is described by Homer, the site made Troy a possible reality as opposed to entirely legend. That being said, there is still debate in the field, as there always seems to be. There are a number of sites that could possibly be Troy, but many archaeologists agree that this site is the most likely candidate. Despite these lingering questions, there are now scholars asking not whether the Trojan War was a historical event, but how the actual Trojan War differs from portrayals of it in popular literature. One of the most famous of these literary portrayals is Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.

Recently, The Wooster Group of New York staged a version of Troilus and Cressida which they renamed Cry, Trojans! Saturday, February 1st, a group of us from GW took the five-hour bus trip to New York City to see the show. It was the most thought-provoking theatre performance I’ve seen in a very long time. I found myself sitting there during the curtain call, trying to parse out what it was I’d just witnessed. One thing that captured my imagination – and that of many others, if our discussions after the show were any indication – was the representation of the women of the play. Shakespeare wrote three complex and varied characters in Cressida, Cassandra, and Helen. All three were wonderfully portrayed, but I found myself especially drawn to the portrayal of Helen.

Scene from Cry, Trojans! by The Wooster Group
Image from:

When The Wooster Group decided to take their 2012 production of Troilus and Cressida (originally done with the Royal Shakespeare Company performing the Greeks while The Wooster Group did the Trojans) and rework it into a standalone production, they decided to cut as many of the Grecian scenes as possible. As a result, Helen only appears in one scene (III.i).

When playing the Greeks, the actors wore black masks to differentiate the Greeks from the Trojans. Helen seemed entirely out of place, her mask the only one in a sea of Trojans. Immediately, she did not belong. Given the recent conversation where the Trojans debated returning her to the Greeks, it was even more striking how different she was.

Perhaps what set her apart most was her voice. Kate Valk portrayed the physical Helen, mouthing the lines, but Scott Shepherd did her speaking voice and Andrew Schneider sang for her. The three actors were so in sync that initially it seemed Valk’s voice was being electronically manipulated.  Upon further scanning the stage, however, Shepherd and Schneider became evident.

In the original 2012 co-production with the RSC, Scott Handy played Helen (and Ulysses). Knowing this, it’s easy to see why The Wooster Group chose to replace Valk’s voice with Shepherd’s and Schneider’s. They publicly acknowledge that they are working to recreate the RSC’s performance, as they did with their 2007 Hamlet, and this is a way to take that staging from the original and make it uniquely Wooster. However, it feels like there’s much more to their performance of Helen than simply emulating the 2012 production.

I, for one, can’t help but point out how puppet-like Kate Valk’s movements were, almost as if she were a marionette being twitched about the stage by these male voices. Helen herself comes from a line of myths revolving around women being used by men. Her mother, Leda, was either raped or seduced by Zeus, depending on which version of the myth you read.  Her involvement in the myth of the Trojan War is just as muddled. Indeed, we never know if Helen went with Paris willingly. Depending on the myth, Helen left or she was kidnapped. The one consensus seems to be that she was one of the few who survived the war. Valk’s movements and the displacement of Helen’s voice draw attention to the divide in the mythological Helen.

This also becomes intriguing when we examine that fact that archaeology now believes some version of the Trojan War actually occurred. George Washington University’s very own Eric Cline told Stefan Lovgren in National Geographic, “The archaeological and textual evidence indicates that a Trojan war or wars took place, and that Homer chose to write about one or more of them by making it into a great ten-year-long saga.” Given that he already altered much of the historic war(s), Homer added in a more compelling reason for the war’s initiation: Helen of Troy. Many archaeologists speculate that the Trojan War was actually fought for economic reasons, but an irksome trade fee is less exciting than a stolen or fleeing queen. If the mythic Helen never existed, whether or not the Trojan War did, then doesn’t The Wooster Group’s portrayal of her point to her Homeric origins and Shakespearean legacy as much as it points to their production with the RSC? She is a puppet in Homer’s, and thus Shakespeare’s, Trojan War as she is a puppet for Shepherd and Schneider.

Calling attention to the complexities of the character in the source mythology also draws our attention to the complexities of Shakespeare’s Helen of Troy. She is not the face that launched a thousand ships and burned the topless towers of Ilium. Rather, she is human, as are the Shakespearean versions of all these Greek and Trojan heroes. They are about as non-Epic as it is possible to get, and it seems that The Wooster Group is highly aware of this in their performance.

Works Cited
"History of the Trojan War." History of the Trojan War. Stanford University, n.d. Web. 31 Jan.     2014.
Korfmann, Manfred. "Was There a Trojan War?" Archaeology Magazine 57.3 (2004): n. pag.        Archaeology Magazine. Archaeological Institute of America, May-June 2004. Web. 01   Feb. 2014.

Lovgren, Stefan. "Is Troy True? The Evidence Behind Movie Myth." National Geographic.          National Geographic Society, 14 May 2004. Web. 01 Feb. 2014.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Don't forget to RSVP to Roderick Ferguson' plenary talk, "To 'Post' the Nation: Race, Gender, Sexuality, and the Not-Yet-Imagined."

The finalized schedule for EGSA's annual symposium, "Post-ing: A Symposium on What Comes After" is below. Don't forget to RSVP! We look forward to seeing you there!

Post-ing: A Symposium on What Comes After
February 7, 2014
The George Washington University
Rome Hall 771

RSVP NOW!  to:

Panels & Schedule:

9:30 – 10:00 am: Welcome & Breakfast

10:00 am – 11:00 am: “What Comes After the Conference Paper: A Series of Ignite Talks on ‘Post-ing’”
Leigha McReynolds, moderator

Emily Russell, George Washington University, “Phantasmic Affections”
Erin Vander Wall, George Washington University, “Monstrous Geographies”
Leigha McReynolds, George Washington University, “Mesmerized”
Lori Brister, George Washington University, “After Tourism” 

11:00 am – 12:00 pm: This Time is Out of Joint: Post-Temporal
Shyama Rajendran, moderator

Nora Alfaiz, George Washington University, “‘The Point Where the Imperfections of Memory Meet the Inadequacies of Documentation’: The Unstable and Unreliable Memories in The Sense of an Ending
John Polanin, Villanova University, “‘A wound that’s bled for a hundred years’:  The Ethics of a Post-Teleological Periodization in Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary
Sukshma Vedere, George Washington University, “Translating Morals in Tales of Bidpai
Patrick Henry Thomas, George Washington University, “Detective Fiction and the Revision of National History:  Proving the Innocence of Richard III in Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time

12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch (provided)

1:00 – 2: 00 pm: Post-Sexuality/Post-Queer
Maia Gil’Adi, moderator

Laura Christiansen, College of Staten Island, “Postfeminism, Retrosexism, and Shit Girls Say
Kimberly Pendleton, George Washington University, “Saving the Strip: Evangelical Outreach to the Contemporary Sex Industry” 
Lee Nevitt, “The Great Gay War: A Post-Queer Reading of Virginia Woolf and Ford Maddox Ford"

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm: Harrowing Transformations
Haylie Swenson and Alan Montroso, moderators

Samantha Vitale, George Washington University, “Time Traveling with Darwin: Anti-teleology in The Time Machine
M.W. Bychowski, George Washington University, “Quantum Medievalism: Merlin and the (Meta)physics of Superposition”
Alan S. Montroso, George Washington University, “Dead Birds/New Objects: Contact and Sympathy in Marie de France’s Yonec and LaĆ¼stic
Haylie Swenson, George Washington University, “On the Back of Whales”

3:00 – 3:30 pm: Coffee Break

3:30 – 4:30 pm: Losing Sight of Race: Past, Present, Future
Justin Mann and Molly Lewis, moderators

Justin Mann, George Washington University, “Against the Odds: Postracial America and The Hunger Games Controversy”
Jason Demeter, George Washington University, “Racial Profiling: Embodied Identity in the Performance Archive”
D. Gilson, George Washington University, “Temporal Disavowal from the American Dream: Occupy Wall Street, Hipster Bodies, and the White Rhetoric of Revolution”
Molly Lewis, George Washington University, “Modern Critical Race Theorists and their Preracial Middle Ages”

5:00 – 6:00 pm:      Keynote Speaker, Roderick Ferguson
“To ‘Post’ the Nation: Race, Gender, Sexuality, and the Not-Yet-Imagined” 
International Brotherhood of the Teamster, Gelman Library 702

6:00 – 7:00 pm: Reception, Rome Hall 771

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rails Girls: Closing the Coding Gender Gap in Digital Humanities

By Tawnya Ravy

Hello GW English Grads! You may remember a few months ago a small contingent of GW Eng-Grads attending a weekend conference called ThatCamp (you can read about our adventures here) following our department’s first Digital Humanities graduate class (taught by Dr. Alex Huang). Well our Digital Humanities education continues with Rails Girls, a group that aims to give tools and a community to women who are interested in technology. We actually learned about the noble goals of Rails Girls (closing the coding gender gap) at ThatCamp in June. One of our questions at ThatCamp was “how can we learn how to code?” In addition to other resources (like Code Academy), Rails Girls was championed as an excellent opportunity to stretch our newbie skills with digital tools. We all applied for the Rails Girls event hosted at George Mason University on September 6-7. A few weeks after submitting our applications (basically consisting of information on our level of knowledge of coding), we received notice of acceptance to the event with instructions for setting up our computers in preparation for the event. The first night was simply a set-up party designed to help folks who wanted help setting up their laptops with the software, and to meet the organizers and other participants. The following day we began to code. Upon arriving in the research hall we were sorted to different tables named for different characters in Alice in Wonderland (in honor of the DH theme) where we met the others in our group and our table coaches. Right away we got a short tutorial on various simple commands and their meaning – we even learned our first coding joke: rm-fr (a command which strikes fear into the hearts of programmers). Then we were instructed to follow a set of exercises designed to teach us some basics called 100 Minutes of Ruby. For the next hour we had our coach chair-hopping to help us, soothe our initial frustration, and fill in the instructional gaps. Let me stress that many of us were complete newbies at all of this – I didn’t even know how to open a command line to start. By the end of the hour I understood some of the basic rules of this little universe, and only felt slightly overwhelmed. Then we switched to the Ruby guide for creating an app. This guide gave us line-by-line instructions on how to build an app that allowed us to open a twitter line, plot an address on a map, and much more (much of which I did not even get to by the end of the day). This is the part for me with the steepest learning curve. It was, however, very satisfying when it all worked the way it was supposed to. I was even able to fix a problem by myself after an hour of calling over my coach every few minutes. Finally we took a break for lunch which consisted of two amazing tacos from a food truck that was pulled up right to our building just for us. We all sat on the building steps, ate tacos, and talked about our Digital Humanities projects. After lunch we had a quick presentation on how web apps fit together in a Bentobox like model. The rest of the afternoon we had an option of either continuing with our apps and exploring the extra features or joining groups to discuss different digital tools for DH projects. For example, I joined the mapping tool table, but there were also tables for data-mining and collections. We discussed already established mapping tools like GoogleMaps, DIS, and Neatline, and then we engaged in a thought-exercise in how we would go about designing and building a map app of our own (for finding tacos appropriately enough). Soon enough it was time for the Rails Girls Reception at the campus inn bar. We all had “drink me” tickets for a free glass of wine or beer, and many of us stuck around to discuss our DH projects and coding ambitions. I met so many amazing women, had a wonderful learning experience, and came away with a great appreciation for programming. I fully intend on participating in another Rails Girls event and checking out Code Academy when I get a chance. Rails Girls also organizes Meet Up events and online forums to turn to for support and advice. Even if I never build an app from scratch, I can see how useful this instruction can be for me in developing and expanding my DH project. Do you have a favorite DH tool you wish you could manipulate? Wordpress? Omeka? Find out the kind of code they use and take advantage of these incredible opportunities to learn code and become a member of this vibrant community of techies.

Interested in exploring the digital humanities in your own scholarly work? Join us next at our inaugural GW Eng-Grad Digital Humanities Working Group on Wednesday September 18th 11:00am at The Corner Bakery. Hope to see you then!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2014 English Graduate Student Symposium


The George Washington UniversityFebruary 7, 2014

CFP deadline: September 01, 2013

Keynote speaker: Roderick A. Ferguson, Professor of Race and Critical Theory at the University of Minnesota and author of Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique (2004) and, most recently, The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference (2012)

Recent scholarship has proposed that we are living in an era of posts: post-raciality, post-humanism, post-feminism, to name a few. However, as Neil Badmington reminds us, the post is always already intrinsically tied and haunted by that which it is post-in. To “post” is to reference and simultaneously repel the past which it is trying to think and exist beyond. Embracing this (im)possibility as a generative space of productivity, we hope to explore the potentialities that lie within those literary, historical, artistic and cultural productions that depict the desire of “post-ness.”

In this symposium on the “post,” and the future it suggests after the hyphen, we hope to explore the current focus in the academy on the desire to live and think beyond: beyond the body, beyond definitions of the canon and literary productions; and in a post- world: post-race, post-human. Therefore, the GWU EGSA board is proud to announce its Fourth Annual Graduate Student Symposium entitled Post-ing: A Symposium on What Comes After, taking place on February 7, 2014. We invite panels and papers that explore subject matters on race, space, nationality, humanism, queerness, disability/the body, and all things/subjects that explore the desire to exist beyond. Moreover, what are we trying so desperately to escape in our attempt to “post”? What type of painful processes must take place in order to exist beyond that which we are “post-ing”? What, indeed, comes after, if anything at all? In this symposium, we hope to further the conversation between presenters and participants across concentrations and disciplines through the intersections of current graduate student work that explores the notion of “post-ing.”

To encourage innovative dialogues, we welcome papers from diverse disciplines, including, but not limited to the following topics:

Animal Studies

Canon, disciplines, and interdisciplinary practices
Critical Race Studies and post-raciality
Cultural Studies
Cyborg Studies, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality
Digital Humanities
Disability Studies
Embodiments and identity
Gender Studies
Humanism, post-humanism, transhumanism and antihumanism
Queer Theory
Utopia and dystopia

Panel Submission Guidelines

The GWU EGSA board will be accepting panel submissions for our symposium first, then individual panel organizers will be accepting paper abstracts.
Please send your 300 word panel submissions, along with your contact information, to Maia Gil'Adi at by September 01, 2013. Please include the words “EGSA Panel Submissions” in the subject line of your e-mail.
Information on how to submit abstracts will be soon to follow.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Inaugural Salon Success

By Lori Brister

We're not putting ourselves at the level of Auden or Williams, but...
okay, maybe we are saying that (at least in our capacity for salons).

You may have heard that the Summer Salon Series had its inaugural event just a couple of weeks ago, bringing together members of the EGSA community, both past and present, for stimulating conversation, a classy snack buffet, and ballroom dancing. Yes, I said ballroom dancing, which was probably the first time in Rome 771.
The Summer Salon Series was initiated out of a desire for a forum where people could discuss art, politics, current events, music, and whatever else inspires their passions. With a ready-made community of intellectuals, why couldn't we do something like a salon here? 

Our work, especially during the summer "holidays" can seem isolating. We still crave company and conversation, but our reading time is limited, and  we're often, especially if we're writing dissertations, just tired of talking about our own work. So why not change the conversation? Why not get together to share the things we love--from hidden talents to pop culture--and why we love them. With visions of Voltaire lecturing from coffee tables, Alice and Gertrude showing off their newest Picasso, or James Joyce reading early drafts at Sylvia Beach's bookshop, I sent out a email to gauge interest and solicit ideas. And, you, members of the EGSA community, did not disappoint. 

Our first Summer Salon Series event had a great turnout, and our first two, exceptionally brave presenters kept us entertained. First, Leigha McReynold's discussed her experiences as a ballroom dancer, explained competitive rankings, and the various types of dances required in different circuits. And since the Salon is all about putting theory into practice, Leigha followed up with a simple dance lesson to get us waltzing. So the next time you're up late watching Strictly Ballroom or Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights--hey, I'm not judging--you'll have a better idea of what's going on, with the dancing at least. For the second presentation of the night, Maureen Kentoff, or 'Mo' as she's known to friends, led a group discussion about what we're talking about when we talk about post-feminism. How and why is the term being used in the media? How is it understood by undergraduates in our classes? How can we be said to live in a post-feminist society at this present juncture in American politics when women's access to healthcare and employment equality is forcibly challenged?  If you were there, you'll never watch commercials the same way again.

The next Salon will be this Thursday, June 27th at the Alexandria home of Mike Smith. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to email me at You can join the Summer Salon group page on Facebook, and be sure to RSVP to next Thursday's event! See you there! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Code is Not a Four Letter Word: Lessons Learned by THATCamp Newbies

By Tawnya Ravy

A few weeks ago, Leigha, Molly, and I decided to attend ThatCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) which is an open, free meeting of humanists and technologists. Coming out of Alex Huang’s Digital Humanities class this past semester, a few of us decided that we are what we now know to be “code curious” in that we wanted to learn how to do some computer coding for our own DH projects. Luckily we heard that a ThatCamp would be held at a local university in June. Having been plugged in the DH world for a few months via Twitter, we were all familiar with the concept of ThatCamp which is where DH enthusiasts can freely let their freak flags fly. More importantly, we heard that we might be able to get some free lessons in coding for DH projects. ThatCamp describes itself as an “unconference,” and we were immediately struck by how different this was from a typical conference experience. You have to apply to attend, but there is no conference fee (the event is sponsored by several companies and by the generosity of attendees at the end of each day). Each participant is expected to propose a topic, session, or workshop on the conference blog ahead of time with the understanding that we would all vote on the first day for our favorite topics/sessions/workshops. We arrive with no determined schedule in place, but by 10:30am we have a full schedule posted on the blog with copies in hand by lunch. Topics and sessions ranged from pedagogy-related conversations and theoretical applications to hands-on workshops and Wikipedia-editathons. Before beginning the sessions, 15 participants are allowed 2 minutes or less to perform what they affectionately call “Dork Shorts” – I did one of these myself. Basically you take 2 minutes and talk about your current DH project to the whole group while votes are tallied for the sessions. This was one of the best decisions I made all weekend because immediately anyone in the room who had tools to help me knew who I was and how to find me later for a chat. As a result, I met several great people who gave me advice and tools for my DH project.

This? Overwhelming. But tools like Code Academy help to let us know code and other DH tools are not that scary.

One of the coolest things we learned about was a tool specifically designed for ThatCamp conferences – the Participad which is now available for other applications. For each session one member of the group could create a notepad for that session (via the wordpress blog) on which every other member with a computer could take notes. Each participant’s notes shows up in a different color. You can also create personal notepads as well. This was immensely useful especially because we could not attend every concurrent session – and some folks take way better notes than I do.
Much of the sessions which we attended were focused on how to build digital collections and access materials for your DH projects. As a result, we came up with an impressive list of open-access resources that you might want to consider for your own DH work including (a Digital Library), (historical collections in digital format), Gutenberg Project (Digitized Books), Library of Congress (an incredible resource), and Digital Public Library of America (brings together American heritage archives, art, and books). A piece of advice that we hear everywhere is to take some time and see what your own institutional library offers in the way of collections and resources. For example, I found out that our own Gelman Library offers the chance to archive individual twitter feeds (and provide valuable data about them) for students and researchers who want to study individual twitter feeds – start now and they will keep grabbing batches of tweets from your favorite politician, celebrity, author, etc.

So now you have materials for your collection, but now what do you do with them? For a few years now I have been using Wordpress which, for me, is a shortcut way to a useful website/blog platform (as in, I don’t have to know code to use it). While Wordpress has some great features and is a leading blog platform, there are a few other platforms that you might find useful if you are contemplating a DH project. For example, we spent one whole session learning about how to use Omeka. Now I had heard of this platform in my DH class, but I could not see then what it offered me that Wordpress didn’t, but now I do. If you are interested in building a collection of any kind, Omeka is an excellent tool (and bonus, you don’t need to know code for this either). Whereas Wordpress only allows me to link to things (and thus risk losing the data if the link breaks), Omeka allows me to upload any kind of file I want in a collection or series of collections. Here is an example Omeka website: Another platform that we heard about, but with which I am not as familiar is Viewshare. This site has a very helpful two minute video explaining what it can do, so watch it! Finally we learned about Drupal as another option for content management. The designers of these platforms all swear up and down that they are different as night and day, but from my luddite chair I can tell you that while they offer different kinds of services for your DH projects, they are not so dissimilar that you will struggle if you are used to working with only one of them. Take a look around, google some how-to videos, and find the right platform for your project.

But wait, didn’t we go to ThatCamp to learn code? It is true that we were all hoping for some beginners coding lessons, but no session offered hands-on coding this time around. In the ThatCamp newbie session we learned that there are many, many different types of coding, and selecting which type to learn depends entirely on what you want to do with your project. This left us feeling a little overwhelmed, but we also learned about two resources to begin our code education: Code Academy and Rails Girls. A few of us are planning on participating in the next Rails Girls event, so let us know if you want to join. The truth is that I am not expecting to be able to build my own site from the ground up, but my limited experience with Wordpress and Omeka has let me know that learning some code would help me more easily manipulate those sites to do what I want for my project. The bottom line, however, is this: do not let your ignorance of coding stop you from starting your DH project. There are plenty of tools available to you that do not require you to know code. Don’t know even where to start? Check out this helpful website dedicated to listing out popular DH tools and their uses: Bamboo Dirt.
My final word on how to start being a fellow DHer? Join Twitter! I am not exaggerating when I say that the bulk of what I know about DH comes from the amazing, collaborative community of DHers on Twitter. Not sure how to sign up and/or use Twitter? No problem, check out this Twitter 101guide

Also, get organized – there are plenty of digital tools to help you map out what steps to take to getting your DH project off the ground. We learned about Trello, for example, at ThatCamp which allows you to see the whole picture at once (also great for keeping to-do lists). What tools do you use for your DH projects? Please feel free to share!

If you have any questions about these resources, do not hesitate to contact me: Tawnya Ravy

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Publishing: "Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Article"

On Friday, April 19, 2013 EGSA hosted an event focused on publishing, in which Dr.Laurence Roth, Editor of the journal ModernLanguage Studies, joined us via Skype for a talk titled, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Article,” in which Roth gave us advice, as junior scholars, on how to approach the daunting world of publishing in peer reviewed journals. Besides being the editor of MLS, Roth is Professor of English and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Susquehanna University, where he founded the Publishing & Editing minor. He is currently co-editing a The Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures with Nadia Valman, and working on a book project, Unpacking My Father's Bookstore: Collection, Commerce, Literature, for which he received a fellowship at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan for Spring 2013. 

In case you missed this wonderful event, here are the highlights of Roth's immensely helpful advice:

Before delving into the thirteen ways of looking at an article, Roth spoke briefly about the fact that as writers it is almost impossible for the pieces we set out to write to match the intentions of our writing: “Does anything ever hit the mark of what we intended to write?” he asked. This paradox is part of our profession, Roth asserted. We will always have to grapple with the mediation of our ideas and the practice of these ideas.

The following steps seem to be a methodology for making this mediation slightly simpler:

  1. An article is an idea story with a beginning, middle and end: Like a piece of fiction, an article should also have a discernible narrative arch that grips readers and clearly presents why an idea is important. It must convince readers to turn the pages.
  2. An article talks back to the literature: Although one cannot grapple with everything that has been written about our topic in one article—i.e.: Shakespeare's Othello—Roth recommends demonstrating specific engagement with a particular current within the conversation—one that is pertinent to our argument and demonstrates our deep engagement within the field.
  3. An article is about the “new” because it is your way of looking at the topic: Roth mentioned that while our articles may not be speaking about completely “new” ideas, our particular perspective and our explanation about why our ideas are important makes it new. This should come across clearly in our opening and through the article.
  4. An article knows exactly what it’s about: When writing an article, it should be clear from the outset what it is trying to argue and the methodology it will use in order to present this argument and its proof.
  5. An article wants to show, not tell: Much like a piece of fiction, our “idea story” wants to show its argument. Roth suggests getting to our evidence quickly, making sure it is well examined. The evidence is the most important part of the article, Roth stated, and suggested we avoid using other scholar's ideas when analyzing our evidence.
  6. An article reflects and does not reduce: Our arguments should anticipate the objections and responses of critics and readers (reflecting), stating clearly what the take-away of our argument is—why our idea is important.
  7. An article is not a book: Articles are narrower and more discrete—they cannot contend with all that has been said, or can be said about a subject or text. Many times, Roth advised, articles can be taken from pieces that do not fit within a larger book project; therefore we should make sure that our articles are focused and specific.
  8. An article speaks to an audience: Roth advised us to read, read, read journals in our specific field in order to know what editors and readers are looking for. Roth differentiated between journals such as American Quarterly—published with other scholars in mind, and therefore its language and focus is more “jargon” and academic—and the Yale Review—published with a wide-ranging audience in mind and therefore less "academic" in its language and direction. Our articles should fit within the guidelines and aims of the journals to which we submit. 
  9. An article speaks in a recognizable voice: Editors and readers can differentiate between authentic and inauthentic voices, and our articles are most effective and powerful when our personal voice comes through. Roth stated that even the smallest of details affects our voice. For example, for many years Roth fought against using contractions in his articles, yet finally deciding to incorporate them into his writing because it felt more authentically like himself.
  10. An article wants to be understood: Roth recommended avoiding unnecessary jargon, taking the opportunity to translate theory taken from others—how you interpret this theory and are going to use it in the article—and when accepted into a journal, working alongside an editor and being open to editing suggestions.
  11. An article takes time: To write a successful article that will be accepted to a prestigious peer-reviewed journal takes time (Roth gave a 1½ year - 5 year timeline). This is a process that cannot be rushed, and seeing as one can write a book in about the same amount of time (toward the longer end of Roth's timeline), one has to decide where one wants to invest one's time—i.e.: Do you want to write a book instead?
  12. An article is not timeless: An article is not going to be perfect and must be sent out for peer-review at some point. Let it go!
  13. An article is not the final word: An article is part of a transient and fast moving conversation (vs. a book), and while it should be treated with seriousness and respect, do not get overwhelmed with making an article a perfect, timeless piece.

Finally, during the Q&A, Roth also suggested that if an article is rejected do not be afraid to revise and resubmit. However, make sure that the revision is drastic and demonstrates to editors of the journal that you are able to re-write and take suggestions seriously. Do not be afraid to write editors for advice on how to revise your article, asking specific questions about what it is they exactly want in a revision. Another good piece of advice was to research who the editors and board members of journals are, seeking them out at conferences. Network with editors and board members, mentioning what you are working on, can be an effective tool for getting published. Roth also mentioned the emerging market of online publications, such as ImageText, but did question their efficacy and whether these were good venues for junior scholars.

As a junior scholar, I found this event to be extremely helpful, putting the world of publishing in perspective. The break-down of how to go about writing and revising an article—thirteen things to keep in mind when writing and sending out an article—has helped me put my writing in perspective, and hope this summary is helpful for you. Now, go write! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Curating Your Online Presence

Post by Maia Gil'Adi

On March 4, 2013 Alex Huang, Associate Professor of English, Director of the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Program, and incoming director of graduate studies, gave a guest lecture titled, “Curating Your Online Presence” (you can see the full presentation here) and answered questions about how junior scholars can better shape and polish their image online, not only as students in a PhD program, but moving forward into the job market and in their future careers. In case you missed this wonderful event, here is a summary of the information and tips Alex provided:

Before you can begin curating your online presence:
  1. Search for yourself online and gauge your online impact: Before one can start honing and molding an online presence, we must assess our presence online. Google yourself and see the places you are mentioned—see the impact of your online presence (digital footprint).
  2. Keep everything up to date: Make sure that all online profiles (these include, but are not limited to:, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MLA Commons) are updated regularly. Decide your desired time commitment in maintaining your various profiles and monitor them regularly. Alex made very clear that less is more—having fewer pages in which one actively participates is better than having a vast array that are neglected or not update regularly.
  3. Self-archive and share what you can: Make sure that your academic output is available for view.
  4. Connect and interact online: Comment on blogs, tweet, Facebook with other academics, making your presence and opinion heard and available to other academics.

When creating and maintaining your digital presence, Alex recommends creating a consistent, clear and concise message as a scholar. By honing and maintaining your digital footprint (an active contribution to your profiles and interactions with others online), hopefully your digital shadow will grow and echo—those things that others post about you and your work will increase in visibility. Interestingly, Alex indicated the importance of creating a brief but comprehensive view of yourself as a scholar, specifying the importance of using different jargon for the multiple sites one is on (i.e.: LinkedIn is useful, Alex mentioned, but better for the private sector and academic jargon should probably not be used on it).

A key way to ensure that one has a wide-range of online impact is by identifying key platforms in which to share scholarly output (i.e.: articles, teaching resources, etc.), and redundantly share the same work in a variety of formats (i.e. MLA Commons, personal websites,, etc.). For me, one particularly revelatory and useful fact that Alex shared during this conversation was the advantage of posting accepted conference abstracts, conference papers, and seminar papers which you consider to be excellent on sites such as

In the case of full-length articles (as opposed to abstracts), he did mention that once an article is being peer reviewed and considered for publication, you should take down the article from these websites. The abstract itself can stay up.

Other key bits of information:
  • Twitter is a useful but an ephemeral medium because of its brevity—Alex did not find this online activity to be the best for scholarship dissemination, but did mention its use for finding CFP’s, new texts, and connecting with other scholars/writers. 
  • It has become the responsibility of the experts to disseminate their own information.
  • GWU provides students and faculty with the space through which to create a personal website ( and can be set up by visiting:
    • Alex did mention, however, that this is not the most advanced place for a personal website, but is useful (and free!) for junior scholars before they go on the market
  • Facebook is a great place through which to connect with other scholars and place people into groups—Make sure that (acceptable) information is open to the public, but use the security/privacy settings on the site to ensure that certain information (i.e.: pictures, posts) that should remain private (for personal friends eyes only) remain private.

Alex Huang’s comprehensive presentation was a great how-to for junior scholars in creating, maintaining, and expanding their online presence in productive ways in order to make their work more visible. Make sure to read through Alex’s presentation, and feel free to contact me with any questions:

Maia Gil'Adi is a second year PhD student of American Literature and Culture in the English Department of the George Washington University.