Monthly Archives: April 2009

ALSC VP to Give Clark Lectures

ALSC Vice-President Susan Wolfson has been invited to give the Clark Lectures at Cambridge University in the spring of 2011.

The Clark Lectures are on aspects of English literature. Past Clark Lecturers have included T.S. Eliot (1926, published as The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry), E.M. Forster (1927, Aspects of the Novel), C.S. Lewis (1944, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century), Dame Helen Darbishire (1949, The Poet Wordsworth), F.R. Leavis (1967, English Literature in Our Time and the University), Richard Rorty (1987, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity), Toni Morrison (1990), Rowan Williams (2005), Seamus Heaney (2006), Elaine Scarry (2007) and Frank Kermode (2007).   Two distinguished ALSC members, former president John Hollander (1999) and our immediate past president, Christopher Ricks (1991) have previously been invited to speak in this renowned series.  Susan thus continues an illustrious ALSC sub-tradition within the larger tradition.

Susan has also recently been featured in the Princeton Weekly Bulletin (in the April 6th volume). She has been teaching at Princeton since 1991. Her courses focus mainly on the romantic poets and their contemporaries.

The article highlights Wolfson’s emphasis on close reading, upon which her study of literature rests. Despite the wariness of some of her students when approaching the poetry of another century, Wolfson maintains that romanticism is accessible to anyone, given a willingness to spend time with the work. The article also showcases Wolfson’s desire to apply the skills of literary criticism to the world at large by instructing her students to analyze political language in the same way that they would analyze the language of a poem by Yeats or Wordsworth. Wolfson feels that such an approach allows students to gain insight into how language works in everyday situations as well as in literature.

In addition to her courses at Princeton, Wolfson has works forthcoming in Johns Hopkins University’s ELH, Literature Compass, entries in The Cambridge Companion To British Poets and The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Her new work Romantic Interactions: Social Being & the Turns of Literary Action will be published in 2010 by Johns Hopkins University Press. Borderlines: The Shaping of Gender in British Romanticism has also been recently reprinted in a paperback edition by Stanford University Press.

– Thom Plasse


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ALSC Announces Title of the Forthcoming FORUM No. 3: THE LATEST ILLITERACY

The Association of Literary Scholars and Critics understands that it has an obligation to direct some of its force, time, and imagination to the bad examples that are set, as against the good example that the Association itself tries to set, for instance in its journal, Literary Imagination, and at its annual conferences. It was in this spirit that the Forum series has come about. Forum No. 3, The Latest Illiteracy, now brings together many instances of, as well as some reflections on, how different—largely, how much worse­—things are these days, both in print and in speech. The underlying questions are the enduring ones. Really worse, not just different? What is the evidence? Is it merely that all of us are getting older, and that the invocation of a golden age is becoming more of a lure? Is it not the case that in the Paston Letters, as long ago as the 15th century, the complaint was being voiced that servants be not so diligent as they were wont to be? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?

The Latest Illiteracy resists excuses and acquiescences. It is the work of two highly articulate writers—Jim McCue and Bryan Garner—who wish to help others to be no less articulate­—and, since individuality is to be respected and fostered, help them to be variously and personally articulate. This, as being able to do right by oneself as well by others because doing right by the great inheritance that is language, that is a language.

Neither of the present contributors, the one English, and the other American, is a university teacher, which was one reason why the Association, which is committed to allying the world of the university with the worlds of the arts, of the professions, and of the common reader, recently invited these two to put their experienced minds to illiteracy, new and old, and then to give the rest of us the pleasure of witnessing these two minds, their findings and their provocative speculations.

Forum No. 3 is set for publication in spring 2009.


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Peter Campion Awarded Rome Prize

The ALSC is proud to announce that Literary Imagination editor-in-chief Peter Campion has recently been awarded the Rome Prize, bestowed by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  This prize, which entails a one-year residency at the American Academy in Rome, is awarded each year to a select group of artists and scholars who represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities.  The Academy allows honorees to conduct independent study and advanced research in the spirit of artistic innovation and rigorous scholarship against the backdrop of the Eternal City. The Academy of Arts and Letters’ two hundred and fifty members nominate candidates, and a rotating committee of writers selects winners.  This year’s committee included ALSC members Edmund White (Princeton) and Rosanna Warren (Boston University).

Peter Campion is currently an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Auburn University.  His two collections of poems, Other People (University of Chicago, 2005) and The Lions (University of Chicago, 2009), have both met with critical acclaim.  Other accolades include a George Starbuck lectureship at Boston University, a Jones lectureship and Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, and a 2008 Pushcart Prize.

– Chelsea Bell

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ALSC Podcast: William Flesch on Comeuppance

In the latest ALSC podcast, William Flesch (Brandeis University) speaks on his book Comeuppance. This talk was recorded at the Editorial Institute, Boston University, on December 12, 2008.

To download and listen to the podcast, click here.

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Work Begins on ALSC-sponsored Project on High School Literature Curricula

ALSC Councillor Sandra Stotsky has begun the work of collecting data for the long-anticipated ALSC-sponsored project on high school literature curricula in the U.S. The project has substantial support from the University of Arkansas, The Bradley Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities*, and partnerships with The Concord Review and the California Reading and Literature Project.

Dr. Stotsky has provided ALSC with a basic outline of the project. We hope members and non-members alike will be as pleased and excited about this development as the governors and staff of the Association are. Queries about the project (one of the products of which will be an issue of ALSC’s special topics journal, Forum) can be directed to Sandra Stotsky c/o the ALSC at or 617-358-1990.

Literary and Non-Literary Works and Approaches Used in American High School English Classes.
Project Description: Based on recent surveys and observations, most American students graduate from high school with little literary knowledge and understanding. They also seem to have had minimal exposure to high quality historical nonfiction and other expository texts in their English or history courses. Their reading and writing skills are in decline, according to National Assessment of Educational Progress assessments in grade 12.

This study will gather data on what major literary and non-literary works are being taught in English classes in grades 9-11, how much class time is devoted to literary and non-literary study, and what pedagogical approaches teachers use. We seek to explore the extent to which high school students are sufficiently challenged by what they are assigned to read and write in grades 9-11 so that they can develop the reading and writing skills needed for authentic college-level coursework in the humanities.

Data collection for this study takes two forms. (1) A nationwide representative sample of English teachers in grades 9-11 (about 900) will be interviewed over the telephone by an experienced survey center on their assignments and approaches in teaching literary and non-literary texts. (2) Ten focus group meetings will be held during the fall of 2009 to explore in greater depth issues raised by the interview data. Each focus group will consist of 8-12 English teachers and school librarians.

Data analysis and interpretation will reflect the collaboration of an Advisory Board consisting of members of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. We anticipate being able to present an accurate picture of the central content of the high school English curriculum in this country at present. We will also make recommendations for a coherent sequence of reading assignments from grade 9 to grade 11 in order to strengthen the high school English curriculum for all students.

*N.B. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Website do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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