Letter from the Director, Unit for Criticism, Fall 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

posted under by Unit for Criticism

Dear Colleagues,

As most of you know from a previous email, Michael Rothberg has stepped down from the Unit for Criticism to direct a new Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies initiative. I’m sure that all of you join me in wishing Michael the greatest success knowing that he will bring the same insight, verve, and dedication to this new endeavor which he devoted to the Unit during the last five years. Writing to you now, in my first year as Director, I want to thank you very much for your support during my interim term, and to anticipate many collaborations in the years ahead.

I’m delighted to begin by announcing a new faculty position: Robert Rushing, Associate Professor in Italian, Comparative Literature, and the Unit for Cinema Studies, has agreed to serve as the Unit for Criticism’s first Nicholson Associate Director Fellow, a two-year appointment that begins immediately. In addition,Carl Lehnen and Katherine Skwarczek, both doctoral candidates in English, will be working with Rob and me in their two-year appointments as the Unit’s Graduate Assistants.

This fall we will continue the Author’s Roundtable series launched last year with visits from three scholars and responses from Illinois faculty and graduate students (more details below). We have two visiting speakers for the Modern Critical Theory Lectures: David Wayne Thomas (English, Notre Dame) and Lanier Anderson (Philosophy, Stanford); a lecture from Etienne Balibar, distinguished critical theorist from the Universit√© de Paris-X Nanterre and the University of California, Irvine; and a colloquium from our own Dara Goldman (Spanish, Latina/Latino) with a response from Chantal Nadeau (Gender and Women’s Studies). Also planned for fall is an introductory program of writing groups for Illinois faculty and grad students—look out for an email from Rob Rushing on this topic in the next few days.

The Modern Critical Theory Lecture series begins next Tuesday, September 1, with David Thomas lecturing on Kant. On Monday, September 14 the Unit welcomes all grad students interested in learning more about our student programs to our annual pizza/information event.

On September 28 we’ll be kick off the Author’s Roundtable series with Darieck Scott (African American Studies, U California, Berkeley), author of the forthcoming Extravagant Abjection: Blackness, Power and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination, with responses from Marc Perry (African American Studies, Anthropology), Ricky Rodriguez (English, Latina/Latino Studies), and Emily Skidmore (History). As with last year’s series, audience members will have the opportunity to read at least two chapters of each book, enabling lively participation and debate. Lanier Anderson’s lecture on Nietzsche will follow on Thursday, September 24.

On October 13 we will welcome Etienne Balibar to our campus for a lecture, entitled “Biopolitics: the New Behemoth?” Our second Author’s Roundtable, on October 26th will feature Frank Donoghue (English, Ohio State), discussing his The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities (Fordham, 2008). I’m delighted that Antoinette Burton (Chair of History and last year’s Chair of the Humanities Council), Dianne Harris (Director of IPRH and current Humanities Council chair), and Dave Morris (English and member of the GEO) will respond, making this an important event for thinking about the future of the humanities at Illinois and elsewhere.

The final event in the series, scheduled for November 16, will feature Ritu Birla (History, U of Toronto), author of an exciting new book from Duke, Stages of Capital: Law, Culture and Market Governance in Late Colonial India. Respondents thus far are Matt Hart in English and James Warren in History. Finally we will cap off the year on December 7 with Dara Goldman’s colloquium,“Happily Ever After? Examining Narrative Form in the Latina Girl-Meets-Girl Story,” including Chantal Nadeau’s response.

Let me add that plans are already underway for the Unit’s Spring 2010 seminar on the topic of “Bios” which will lead up to a conference, co-organized with the Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies Initiative, called Bios: Life, Death, Politics, with keynote lectures so far from Paul Rabinow (U of California, Berkeley) and Priscilla Wald (Duke).

It’s my pleasure to ask you to join me in welcoming several new affiliates to the Unit for Criticism: Anustup Basu (English/Cinema Studies), Jodi Byrd (American Indian Studies/English), D. Anthony Tyeeme Clark (American Indian Studies), Wail Hassan (Comp Lit/African Studies/South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies),Marcus Keller (French), Susan Koshy (English/Asian American Studies), Sarah Projansky (Gender and Women’s Studies/Cinema Studies), Junaid Rana (Asian American Studies/Anthropology), Richard T. Rodriguez (English/Latina-Latino Studies), Emanuel Rota (Italian), Anna Stenport (Scandanavian Studies/German), and Robert Warrior (Director of American Indian Studies/English)

Finally, Kritik, the Unit’s blog is, with this very post, jumping back into action. In addition to volunteers for blogging on Unit events, we also welcome a wide variety of submissions for Kritik at any time. Simply contact me with your ideas or questions in this regard—or on any other Unit matter. Oh, and for those of you who enjoy social networking, the Unit for Criticism is now a group on Facebook which we welcome you to join. (Don’t worry: there are no plans afoot for Unit tweets).

My very best wishes for a cool, stimulating, and productive fall.
Lauren Goodlad


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