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Department News & Events

Emeritus Professor Charles Wright named America's Poet Laureate
Friday, June 13, 2014

The Library of Congress will name Charles Wright, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Virginia, America's next poet laureate. Wright, whose work he once described as reckoning with “language, landscape, and the idea of God,” has formerly won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Read more about Wright and his poetry at the New York Times article here.

Jerome McGann elected to the American Philosophical Society
Monday, June 9, 2014

Jerome McGann, University Professor and John Stewart Bryan Professor of English, has been elected to the American Philosophical Society. He becomes the eighth U.Va. scholar to join the ranks of the country’s first learned society, joining such previous members as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and Robert Frost. Election to the society honors extraordinary accomplishments in all fields. Read the full UVA Today release, detailing McGann's pioneering work in digital humanities scholarship, here.

Andrew Stauffer lectures on Byron in Greece
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Professor Andrew Stauffer traveled to Greece as a representative of the Byron Society of America, where he gave a lecture on Byron’s poetry to approximately 200 local citizens of Messolonghi.

Rita Dove remembers the life and work of Maya Angelou
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English, has released the following statement on Maya Angelou's life and work:

Maya Angelou was indeed a phenomenal woman – rising from the ashes of a childhood that would have rendered many of us mute and enraged, she made her way in a world that all too often despised her kind – a black woman, tall, fierce, and most fearsome of all, unafraid. 

All of this is chronicled in the six volumes of her landmark autobiography – most notably its first volume, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Now children read sections of it in school.  As my grandmother would have said had she met her: "Girl, you done done something!”

I have encountered so many people for whom her poetry has been a balm and even a salvation:  This is no mean feat, muttering critics aside.  And though I would not count myself among the most ardent fans of her poetry, I admired her Inaugural recitation for President Clinton, On the Pulse of Morning, as a masterful exemplar of the occasional poem.  It manages that most difficult trick: to be both simple and deep, appreciated by the person on the street upon first hearing, and yet containing riches upon closer, deeper reading – complex images, poignant litanies, a trajectory from the dinosaurs to the moment we were celebrating:  a new President, a new era. 

I first met Maya around 1990 when she came to speak in Charlottesville, where I teach at the University of Virginia. I managed to squeak past security to the green room a few minutes before her gig.  I was uneasy, unsure of my reception:  After all, I was part of a new generation of African-American poets, a “literary” aesthete in the eyes of many who had stamped out a space for Black literature in the sixties. Would she brand me a sell-out, a literary snob?  I knocked on the doorjamb and announced myself; she turned the table, smiled, and enveloped me in an embrace. 

Maya Angelou was a beacon to many – poets and artists of all kinds, those young protégées eager to make a mark, those older and perhaps already discouraged.  Her autobiographical books were startling in their honesty but most importantly, also dazzling in their artistry:  Here I am, they proclaimed; here we are, they whispered.  Being an icon is often a lonely, thankless job:   Envy and worship are two sides of the same ambivalent coin.  But Maya wore the mantle with a dignity and joy that emboldened and enlivened those who knew her story:  She understood the hunger for role models providing a window onto a world many had not been able to imagine.  She did us proud.

English graduate students become new Scholars' Lab Fellows
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The 2014-2015 Scholars' Lab graduate fellows include three graduate students from the English Department- Jennifer Foy, Amy Boyd, and Andrew Ferguson.

Jennifer Foy (English), James Ambuske (History), and Emily Senefeld (History) were awarded the three Digital Humanities Graduate Fellowships. Throughout the year, they will have the opportunity to collaborate closely with Scholars’ Lab staff to integrate digital tools and methods to their dissertation research. Jennifer Foy’s dissertation is titled “Mapping Sympathy: Sensibility, Stigma, and Space in the Long Eighteenth Century;” James Ambuske’s dissertation is titled “Scotland’s American Revolution: Emigration and Imperial Crisis, 1763-1803;" Emily Senefeld project is titled “The Cultural Programs of the Highlander Folk School, 1932-1964.”

In addition, six fellows were chosen for the Praxis Program. Under the guidance of Scholars' Lab faculty and staff, they will design and create a full-fledged digital humanities project or software tool; past Praxis teams have worked on Prism and Ivanhoe. The 2014-2015 Praxis Fellows are Amy Boyd (English), Swati Chawla (History), Andrew Ferguson (English), Joris Gjata (Sociology), Jennifer Grayburn (Art and Architecture), and Steven Lewis (Music).

Read the full Scholars' Lab announcement here.