A Note From Our Chair / Fall 2023

Submitted by Henry J Laufenberg on
Anis Bawarshi

As colleagues are likely tired of listening to me say, one of my favorite words is articulation. It has a useful double meaning. In one sense, its verb form means to express. But at the same time, it also means to conjoin.  This suggests that how something is expressed depends on how it is held together. As a genre scholar, I have long been interested in how genres are forms of articulation: conventional ways of holding together formal, rhetorical, and aesthetic features that make certain expressions (and actions) possible and, conversely, others more difficult. As department chair, I have likewise been interested in how our habitual practices hold things together in such a way as to make certain expressions (of labor, knowledge and knowledge-making, identity, value, etc.) easier and others more difficult.

Paying attention to the structures of articulation requires us to slow down and dwell in the seams—to examine the ways our ideas and ways of thinking are held together to produce certain outcomes and to imagine other possibilities.  I like to think that at its core, this is what the study of literature, rhetoric, and language as well as the creation of art teaches us how to do.  At a time when public discourse keeps breaking down precisely when we most need it to address global challenges, I am reminded of the urgency and value of our work in the English department and humanities.

This attention to structures of articulation has not only been a subject of study for us; it has also guided much of our administrative work as a department: in how we review merit and promotion criteria, conduct searches, think through hiring plans and proposals, and consider relationships among various parts of the department.  As I look back over the last five years, I am proud of the spaces we have created via collaboration grants and other means to think about these articulations. None of this could happen without colleagues who have been willing to participate in this work. And none of it could happen without the leadership of our program directors and staff colleagues.

I am pleased to say that for 2023-24, Habiba Ibrahim returns as the department Associate Chair and Stephanie Clare has stepped in as Director of Undergraduate Studies (replacing Jesse Oak Taylor who served so effectively and transformationally in that role for two terms). Our returning program directors continue to lead our five other programs: Suhanthie Motha (MATESOL), Eva Cherniavsky (Graduate Studies), Megan Callow (Program for Writing Across Campus); Nikki Crouse (Creative Writing), and Stephanie Kerschbaum (Program in Writing and Rhetoric).  Carrie Matthews started as Associate Director of Writing Programs, continuing a role that Michelle Liu performed so expertly). Colette Moore continues as department scheduler, Josie Walwema as Coordinator of the Technical and Professional Writing Courses, Henry Laufenberg as English Matters editor, Jessica Burstein as London Study Abroad program director, Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges as Internships Coordinator, and Anna Preus as Humanities Data Lab Coordinator.

I am also pleased to say that English enrollments continue to be strong, with courses in 2022-23 across the board filling at 94%.  Our new undergraduate curriculum has already begun to shape the way we recognize relationships across areas of study and the way we approach our hiring plan. Early indications are that students are responding well to the new major, with the number of pending English majors reaching a five-year high.  You can learn more about our new major as well as the updated writing programs pages by visiting our department website, which was redesigned this past summer.

I would like to extend special congratulations to Stephanie Kerschbaum for her promotion to the rank of Full Professor as well as to Doug Ishii, Anna Preus, and Cristina Sánchez-Martín on their reappointments as Assistant Professors.  Congratulations also to Stephanie Clare who received the 2023-24 English Department Excellence in Teaching Award. 

We also completed four searches and six faculty hires last year, and I am delighted to welcome Dr. Jonathan Radocay (Cherokee Nation; Assistant Professor in American Indian and Indigenous Literary Studies), Dr. Alex Ramos (Assistant Professor in Latinx Literature and Culture), Dr. Jonathan Isaac (Assistant Teaching Professor in the Program for Writing Across Campus), Dr. Linford Lamptey (Assistant Teaching Professor in Technical and Professional Communication), Dr. Chris Holstrom (Assistant Teaching Professor in Technical and Professional Communication), and Dr. Calvin Pollak  (Assistant Teaching Professor in Technical and Professional Communication). We feature our new colleagues in this edition of English Matters.

This year, we are conducting a search for an Assistant Professor in Early Modern Drama and Performance, including Shakespeare.  In addition, this Fall we have four promotion cases and three Teaching Professor reappointments. We are also piloting a few hybrid courses using newly developed guidelines a working group in the department created last year. The MATESOL program faculty continue work on their curriculum revision. The undergraduate studies program continues to discuss the role of core courses in relation to the new major plus other initiatives related to the honors program.  The Executive Committee is working on bylaws revisions. And the Program in Writing and Rhetoric and Program for Writing Across Campus are implementing cross-program training and mentoring.

We are also continuing several initiatives: Our Works in Progress Colloquium series featuring graduate students and faculty, our new faculty mentoring, our graduate student peer mentoring groups, our internship program, and our mentoring and community-building for English majors who are interested in teaching careers.

English department faculty Jesse Oak Taylor, Charles LaPorte, Habiba Ibrahim, and Chad Allan are featured in a new UW Humanities podcast titled “Ways of Knowing,” an eight-episode podcast connecting humanities research with current events and issues.  As you check out these episodes, I want to remind you about our department’s Literature, Language, Culture dialogue series, which features faculty research and teaching.  Our “Public Pedagogy” website includes teaching resources to accompany some of the episodes.  You can support the department by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

Our faculty continue to earn awards, take on journal and book series editorial leadership, and win grants and fellowships.  You can read about these in the Faculty Awards and Achievements section of English Matters. Here I will highlight a few: Juliet Shields, David Nikki Crouse, Pimone Triplett, and Maya Sonenberg have been awarded professorships. Cristina Sánchez-Martín and PhD candidate Taiko Aoki-Marcial have been named 2023-2024 Public Humanities Fellows by Humanities Washington.  Shawn Wong’s book series in partnership with the UW Press just released the fourth book in the series, Dancer Dawkins and the California Kid by Willyce Kim, which has been out of print for decades. Doug Ishii received a Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Institute for Citizens and Scholars. And Anna Preus and a colleague were awarded a $150,000 Mellon/Mozilla Responsible Computing Grant.

In addition to honoring recently retired colleague, Robert Abrams, and welcoming our new faculty, this issue of English Matters features recent faculty books, faculty awards and achievements, an article by Michelle Liu, and recommended readings.

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