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Department News

Commonwealth Professor Rita Dove Releases Poetry Anthology

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Commonwealth Professor Rita Dove’s paperback edition of The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry will be released on September 24, 2013.

Commonwealth Professor Rita Dove publishes new poem, "Trayvon, Redux"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Commonwealth Professor Rita Dove published her new poem "Trayvon, Redux" on July 16, 2013 in the online magazine The Root.

Mark Edmundson on the Ideal English Major, CHE

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Professor Mark Edmundson's piece on the "Ideal English Major" was recently featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Rita Dove to Deliver Emory Commencement Speech and Receive Two Honorary Degrees from Emerson College and Emory University

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States, UVA’s Commonwealth Professor of English Rita Dove will deliver the keynote address at Emory University’s 168th commencement ceremony Monday, May 13, in Atlanta. She also will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree. A day earlier on Sunday, May 12, Dove will be in Boston to receive a Doctor of Humane Letters from Emerson College at its 133rd commencement exercises.

Emory’s President James W. Wagner, who will preside over the ceremony for about 3,700 graduates, said, "Rita Dove's contributions to our collective intellectual, creative and interdisciplinary life serve as an example of how to create new opportunities for community and collaboration. We are pleased to welcome her back to the Emory community, given her recent involvement through the Center for Women at Emory and the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference.” Two other individuals will join Dove this year as recipients of honorary degrees at Emory: Marguerite "Maggy" Barankitse, Burundi Humanitarian activist and founder and president of Maison Shalom, the multi-functional service agency Maison Shalom in the wake of severe ethnic violence between Tutsis and Hutus in Burundi in the early 1990's; and, Michael Graves, architect and designer known for redefining the architect’s role in society, founding principal of the firm Michael Graves & Associates, and the Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus at Princeton University, where he taught for 39 years. Commencement will take place on Emory’s campus quadrangle with more than 14,000 expected to be in attendance. For details on commencement weekend, see www.emory.edu/commencement.

At Emerson College, Dove will be joined by three other honorary degree recipients: Max Mutchnick, Emmy Award winner and co-creator of the hit television show Will & Grace; Debbie Allen, actress, choreographer, television director and producer, best known for her role as dance instructor Lydia Grant on the television show Fame; and,Eugene M. Lang, a philanthropist who launched multiple manufacturing ventures for new and innovative technologies earlier in his career, establishing the Eugene M. Lang Foundation in 1963 and the well-known I Have A Dream Program in 1981, which provided guidance and support to thousands of disadvantaged children. Approximately 900 bachelor’s degrees will be conferred at the ceremony, and more than 300 master’s degrees will be conferred during the graduate exercises. For more details, http://www.emerson.edu/commencement.

Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995, and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. A major figure in American and African American literature, she is known for her interdisciplinary approach and her collaborative ventures with composers, musicians, dancers, and other artists. Dove has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She is the only poet to have received both the National Humanities Medal (from President Bill Clinton in 1996) and the National Medal of Arts (from President Barack Obama in 2012). She was honored with the Library of Virginia's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and in 2009 she received the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal.

Since 1993, Dove has held the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville where she teaches poetry writing in the Creative Writing Program of the Department of English.

UVa's Professor Rita Dove Lectures at NIH

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
On March 13, 2013, UVa’s Commonwealth Professor of English toured the Children’s Inn and a pediatric unit of the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and gave the NIH’s annual 2013 J. Edward Rall Cultural Lecture.  Speaking to a large auditorium of NIH employees and the public about her own discovery of and writings on the 18th-century violin prodigy George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower in her 2009 book, Sonata Mulattica, Dove also addressed the confluence of art and science and how imagination and a bit of poetry always seem to be involved in any kind of discovery—be it historical or scientific.
For a review of Professor Dove’s visit and lecture at the NIH, go to http://nihrecord.od.nih.gov/newsletters/2013/04_12_2013/story1.htm.
Listen to the Lecture:  The 2013 Rall Cultural Lecture is archived online at http://videocast.nih.gov/launch.asp?17851.

Professor Stephen Railton wins NEH digital start-up grant for Digital Yoknapatawpha

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A team including Professor Stephen Railton were recently awarded one of the NEH's new Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants.

University of Virginia -- Charlottesville, VA
HD 51774, Digital Yoknapatawpha
Rafael Alvarado, Project Director
Jama Coartney, Project Director
Worthy Martin, Project Director
Stephen Railton, Project Director
Outright: $59,084
To support: The development of an expanded prototype that allows for the mapping and study of William Faulkner's fiction that took place in the imaginary county of Yoknapatawpha.

For more information, visit the NEH's website at: http://www.neh.gov/divisions/odh/grant-news/announcing-23-digital-humani...

Announcing 23 Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant Awards

Professor Paul Cantor Featured in UVA Today Daily Report

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Professor Paul Cantor's article was recently featured in UVA Today's Daily Report. You can read the full article at: http://beforeitsnews.com/gold-and-precious-metals/2013/03/fsn-the-walkin....

English department ranked in top ten by U. S. News and World Report

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

This year, U.S. News also conducted new peer surveys and published new rankings for Ph.D. programs in economics, English, history, political science, psychology and sociology – all parts of U.Va.’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Those programs were last ranked five years ago.

The U.Va. English Ph.D. program is ranked No. 10, tied with the University of California-Los Angeles and Duke University. Several English specialties ranked highly, including American literature after 1865 (No. 4 tie), American literature before 1865 (No. 5), and 18th- through 20th-century British literature (No. 2 tie).

See the whole thing at http://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-graduate-schools-programs-excel-2014-us-news-rankings. You can check out the rest of the rankings at http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/....

Announcing Songs of the Victorians

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On Monday, March 11, English PhD student Joanna Swafford will launch the pre-release of Songs of the Victorians, an archive of parlor and art song settings of Victorian poems, and also a scholarly tool to facilitate interdisciplinary music and poetry scholarship.

It will ultimately contain four songs: Michael William Balfe's "Come into the Garden, Maud" and Sir Arthur Somervell's "Come into the Garden, Maud" (both based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's monodrama, Maud), Sir Arthur Sullivan's setting of Adelaide Procter's "A Lost Chord," and Caroline Norton's "Juanita," although for this limited release, it only includes "Juanita."

The archival portion of this site includes high-resolution images of the first edition printings of each song integrated with an audio file so that each measure is highlighted in time with the music. The scholarly component for each work includes an article-length analysis of the song's interpretation of the poem. Whenever this analysis references a specific section of the piece, the reader can click to view the score and hear the audio for this excerpt, again with the measures highlighted in time with the music. In this way all scholars, regardless of their ability to read music, can follow both the score and the thread of the argument.

Joanna has been developing this project with the generous support of a Scholars' Lab Fellowship. To learn more about the creation of this site or to receive updates on its development schedule, please visit and subscribe to her development blog, "Anglophile in Academia".

Songs of the Victorians

Upcoming 18th-century symposium featured on UVa Today

Monday, February 25, 2013


Professor Alison Booth awarded an ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship

Friday, February 1, 2013

The ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship supports digitally based research projects in all disciplines of the humanities and related social sciences. It is hoped that projects of successful applicants will help advance digital humanistic scholarship by broadening understanding of its nature and exemplifying the robust infrastructure necessary for creating such works.

ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowships are intended to support an academic year dedicated to work on a major scholarly project that takes a digital form. Projects may:

  • Address a consequential scholarly question through new research methods, new ways of representing the knowledge produced by research, or both;
  • Create new digital research resources;
  • Increase the scholarly utility of existing digital resources by developing new means of aggregating, navigating, searching, or analyzing those resources;
  • Propose to analyze and reflect upon the new forms of knowledge creation and representation made possible by the digital transformation of scholarship.

ACLS will award up to six Digital Innovation Fellowships in this competition year. Each fellowship carries a stipend of up to $60,000 towards an academic year’s leave and provides for project costs of up to $25,000.

And here is our Fellowship Winner's project:

                                                The Practice and Theory of Digital Prosopography:

Collective Biographies of Women and Biographical Elements and Structure Schema

The ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship (January-December 2014) supports ongoing development of the Collective Biographies of Women project, a collaboration with IATH (UVA) and Suzanne Keen (Washington & Lee).  Our database and online bibliography of 1271 books collecting some 13,000 short biographies of women demonstrate ways to study what we call documentary social networks of historical women.  Our XML markup schema, Biographical Elements and Structure Schema (BESS), applies narrative theory to nonfiction and experiments with large-scale, team interpretation of narrative, between big data and the techniques of textual editing and close reading.  During the fellowship, we will extend BESS analysis to biographies of four disparate personae types, Frances Trollope, Caroline Herschel, Cleopatra, and Charlotte Corday, to amplify our current work on the networks surrounding Sister Dora (saintly nurse) and Lola Montez (adventuress).  In addition to work on web design, functionality, and visualizations of the site, I will be beginning a book related to the project, tentatively called “Facebooks: Prosopographies in Print and Online.”


Charles Wright Wins $150,000 Bollingen Prize for His Poetry

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Charles Wright, professor emeritus of the English department’s Creative Writing Program in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, has won the 2013 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. Wright taught at U.Va. for almost 30 years, retiring in 2011, and is one of America’s most celebrated poets.

The Bollingen Prize in American Poetry is among the most prestigious prizes given to American writers. Established by Paul Mellon in 1949, it is awarded biennially by the Yale University Library to an American poet for the best book published during the previous two years or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The prize includes a cash award of $150,000.

The judges awarded Wright the Bollingen Prize for his 2011 book, “Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems,” describing it as “an extended meditation in which we sense ‘splinters of the divine’ in the phenomena and cyclic changes of the natural world, and in the elusive reaches of memory, myth, and history.”

“A poet of remarkable scope and ambition, Wright’s lyrics are like verbal scroll paintings, considering a vast landscape but exploring every aspect in exquisite detail, a stylistic combination that properly figures both the significance and insignificance of the human,” the three-member judging committee noted. “In poems that render the poignancy of moving time, the constancy of the landscape, and the mystery of the invisible, Wright binds the secular and the sacred in language charged with urgency and grace.”

While stationed in Italy during four years of service in the U.S. Army, Wright discovered the work of Ezra Pound and began to write poetry for the first time. His first collection of poems, “The Grave of the Right Hand,” was published in 1970.

Wright said he was delighted to have won the award. “I always fantasized about winning the Bollingen Prize because it's the only prize Pound ever won,” he said. 

Wright’s recent books include “Outtakes” (2010); “Sestets: Poems” (2009); “Littlefoot: A Poem” (2008); “Scar Tissue” (2007); “The Wrong End of the Rainbow” (2005); and “Buffalo Yoga” (2004). His two volumes of criticism are: “Halflife” (1988) and “Quarter Notes” (1995). He has translated the work of Italian poets Dino Campana and Eugenio Montale.

Wright, the Souder Family Professor Emeritus of English, has received numerous awards during his career, including the National Book Award, the PEN Translation Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Griffin Prize, the American Book Award in Poetry, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

The Bollingen Prize has honored the literary accomplishments of poets whose work continues to be a force in shaping contemporary American letters. Early Bollingen Prize winners –Pound, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore and e.e. cummings – are widely considered writers whose work defined a new American literature of the 20th century. More recent winners – John Ashbery, Robert Creeley, Louise Glück, John Hollander, Gary Snyder, Jay Wright and Adrienne Rich – represent “exciting stylistic diversity in American writing,” note the prize organizers.

This year’s judges were poet Susan Howe; poet, critic and editor Geoffrey O’Brien; and literary scholar and cultural critic Joan Richardson.

# # #

After it’s over, after the last gaze has shut down,
        Will I have become
        The landscape I’ve looked at and walked through
        Or the road that took me there
                                                        or the time it took to arrive?

            — excerpt from “Sprung Narratives” by Charles Wright

UVA’s Rita Dove Speaks at The Peace Ball in Washington January 20

Thursday, January 24, 2013
Rita Dove was one of numerous luminaries to briefly speak at The Peace Ball on January 20, 2013, one of Washington, DC’s more creative big parties over the weekend to celebrate the presidential inauguration. The Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance took place in Washington DC’s historic Arena Stage at The Meade Center For American Theater.  This event paid tribute to the continuing struggle for peace and justice here in the United States and throughout the world.  After a few initial comments, Dove entertained the large crowd by reading two of her poems particularly well suited to the event, “Umoja” and “Lady Freedom Among Us.” (Watch the reading here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiYenuchOAg)
Joining Dove, other artists, activists, speakers and organizations participating in the evening’s comments, musical entertainment, dancing, and other festivities were: Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), noted journalist Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation), TransAfrica, The National Council of Negro Women, Institute for Policy Studies, The Pacifica Foundation, Progressive Democrats of America, Julian Bond, Alice Walker, Sonia Sanchez, Dick Gregory, Marian Wright Edelman, Farai Chideya, Ralph Nader, Van Jones, Dave Zirin, Etan Thomas, Barbara Ehrenreich, Medea Benjamin (Code Pink), Danny Glover, Rev. Lennox Yearwood (Hip Hop Caucus), and Zainab Salbi (Women for Women International), among many others. Musical performances were by Mos Def and Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Four years ago hundreds of peace loving activists gathered at the first Inaugural Peace Ball in Washington, DC to celebrate the election of the first African American President of the United States and to wave the banner of peace during that historic moment.  The times are different today, but the commitment to ensure that peace and justice remain on our national agenda has not wavered.
Rita Dove is a former U.S. Poet Laureate and currently Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia where she teaches poetry writing.

Professor Tony Spearing's New Book Featured on UVA Today

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yesterday, the announcement about Professor Spearing's new book, Medieval Autographies was posted on UVA Today.


Professor Tony Spearing's New Book Featured on UVA Today

Professor Gregory Orr Featured in Special Issue of Cortland Review

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The winter special issue of the Cortland Review focuses on UVA poet Gregory Orr's work, including a video interview and visit to his home. The issue features poets associated with Orr and includes work from our very own Charles Wright, Paul Guest, Debra Nystrom, and Lisa Spaar, as well as an advance review of his new book from Norton, RIVER INSIDE THE RIVER, by UVA PhD David Rigsbee.

Winter Feature: Gregory Orr

Here’'s an excerpt from the Rigsbee review:
Excerpts from an advance review of RIVER INSIDE THE RIVER: (Norton, June 2013):

“Orr knows that tragedy befalls us because we live in time, and in writing poems, he is able to make images that reference the timeless, when ugly consequences do not follow from a moment's surrender. Yet in that imagination of timelessness, he knows we can only find temporary respite; hence, a paradox: we fall into history where the monsters are, but our poems rescue us by showing us images of the timeless. It is in our works that we are forgiven, and so the process works.”

“A striking meditation on art's free-standing place in the natural world and of the feeling of rightness, of restitution, even resurrection—not of bodies, but of the sense of having been justified and hence forgiven by the thing that we do, this art.”

“Orr, by now a veteran pilgrim of the great wound-like void that separates immanence and transcendence, knows that theme-and-variation isn't just a method: it is itself an ancient and approved pilgrimage, and gathers to itself a richness over time. Indeed, repetition is the earth's way of knocking on eternity's door: to repeat is to resist, and in that resistance lies the image of a timeless wish: Adam and Eve "Making the holy human city,/ Making the wholly human city"—a way of putting it that is as true as it is unfashionable.”

David Rigsbee, The Cortland Review

Professor Gregory Orr Featured in Special Issue of Cortland Review

UVA Today article on Paul Cantor's new book

Friday, December 7, 2012

Check out this great Q & A interview in UVA Today about Paul Cantor's new book: http://news.virginia.edu/content/paul-cantor-s-new-book-finds-literary-value-popular-culture.

Recent Faculty Publications

Monday, November 26, 2012

Paul Cantor, The Invisible Hand in Pop Culture

University Press of Kentucky: http://www.kentuckypress.com/live/title_detail.php?titleid=2502

Lisa Russ Spaar, Vanitas, Rough

Persea Books: http://www.perseabooks.com/detail.php?bookID=100

A. C. Spearing, Medieval Autographies: The "I" of the Text

University of Notre Dame Press: http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P03007

Paul Cantor's new book, The Invisible Hand in Pop Culture reviewed in the Wall Street Journal

Monday, November 26, 2012

Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English Paul Cantor's new book, The Invisible Hand in Pop Culture was recently reviewed in the Wall Street Journal:


The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture

AAU President Hunter Rawlings Champions Value of Liberal Arts Education

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Peter Baker delivers the opening plenary lecture at the Spanish Society for Medieval Language and Literature at the University of Salamanca (and "boy, was the food good," says he)

Monday, October 8, 2012



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