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Professor Leon Jackson holds the Morrison Fellowship this year for his project: Scarlet Letters: A History of Blackmail in England and America

Scarlet Letters, is a history of blackmail in England and America from the fifteenth century to the present. Although blackmail may appear to be an uncommon practice -- and a salacious and unsavory one at that -- it speaks directly to some of the most pressing issues of our current moment. In an era dominated by blogging, tweeting, hacking, cyber bullying, identity theft, and massive electronic surveillance, scholars and pundits alike are posing with urgency such as questions as: where, and how, do we draw the line between private behavior and public accountability; to what extent should we be defined by youthful indiscretions; is it possible, or desirable, to leave one's past behind; what is the relationship between information and money; can all information appropriately be monetized; how effective is the state in regulating behavior through judicial means, and how should behavior that is inappropriate but not illegal be treated; to what extent are we beholden to community norms; and is shame still, or has it ever been, an appropriate tool for regulating behavior? The practice of blackmail raises all of these questions, and thinking about it helps us explore the answers that those in other periods and in places have suggested.

An early chapter of Professor Jackson's book explores how the Tudor state sought to extend its power by paying informants to bring prosecutions on its behalf (qui tam), thereby sanctioning private surveillance and monetizing the exposure of discrediting information. In a world in which anyone could bring a costly and damaging suit against anyone else simply by telling a tale, and if successfully prosecuted take half the fine in person, the opportunities for blackmail and extortion were rife. Fifteenth century blackmail almost always took the form of threatening to inform on citizens who had, or were alleged to have, violated economic statutes. A subsequent chapter looks at how in the sixteenth century and seventeenth centuries, blackmail was extended to the realm of behavior, especially to the realms of bigamy, infidelity, and prostitution. Other chapters explore blackmail in nineteenth century England, nineteenth century America, in the twentieth century, focusing on the rise of the so-called celebrity-industrial complex, and in our own digital moment, when, as Daniel Solove suggests, we have forgotten how to forget, and the least creditable moments of our lives are permanently electronically encoded and come back to haunt us. Blackmail also has a profoundly, and heretofore profoundly neglected, literary dimension. Literary historians are, of course, familiar with the handful of novels, short stories, and plays that depict acts of blackmail, although blackmail itself is rarely the topic of literary criticism. Blackmail helps us understand in new ways the history of the novel, the history of satire, and the history of journalism.

The Department of English is delighted to welcome the newest member of its faculty - poet, National Book Award winner and South Carolinian Nikky Finney

For more information about this announcement, please click here .

Welcome to our new faculty members!

  • Megan Foley (Public Advocacy and Political Rhetoric)
  • Kevin Brock (Composition Studies; Digital Rhetoric)
  • Danielle Coriale (Victorian Literature and Culture; Science, Medicine, and Literature)
  • Jenn Tyburczy (Cultural-critical rhetoric, performance studies, gender and sexuality studies)

Scott Gwara was recently named a recipient of the inaugural Breakthrough Leadership in Research Award

In recognition of his work with medieval manuscripts nationally, Dr. Scott Gwara was recently named a recipient of the inaugural Breakthrough Leadership in Research Award. Scott's 2008 South Carolina Medieval Manuscripts Initiative has led to the creation of the first statewide website of medieval manuscript resources, the development of a prominent teaching collection of manuscripts, and the launch of an annual seminar devoted to medieval books that hosts participants from all over the US. Scott's most recent book, Otto Ege's Manuscripts (Cayce, SC: De Brailes Publishing, 2013), represents a "biobibliography" of the American manuscript dealer who created the middle class market for manuscript pages. This book resulted from the study of more than 3000 medieval manuscripts in 110 collections. Finally, in support of his next book project, A History of Medieval Manuscripts in North America, Scott received both the Helfand Fellowship from the Grolier Club in New York, as well as the Folter Fellowship in Historical Bibliography, sponsored by the Bibliographical Society of America.

Catherine Keyser has been named a McCausland Fellow this year

Dr. Catherine Keyser has been named a McCausland Fellow this year! The McCausland Fellows are selected based on "outstanding teaching and research," and the fellowship is intended for faculty members "within 10 years of receiving their doctoral degrees, who show clear promise for becoming distinguished scholars in their fields." Additionally, the fellows must be "distinguished teachers" with "a commitment to students and their intellectual development." It is a three-year appointment, renewable for another three years with the Dean's approval. (Quote from the Dean's letter notifying college faculty of the award.)

Fore more information on the recipients of the 2013 McCausland Fellows, please click here .

Mark Garrett Cooper has been awarded the Department's Research Professorship for Spring 2014

With co-author John Marx (Professor of English at UC Davis), Cooper will continue work on "Mass Media and the Humanities Workforce." From the 1890s to the present, this book-in-progress reveals, engagements with new media forms have shaped the humanities in American colleges and universities more powerfully than the development of academic disciplines. Cooper and Marx blog their on-going research at:

Led by Michael Gavin and Chris Holcomb, the Digital Learning Initiative began its pilot year this semester

The DLI is a group of graduate students and faculty exploring digital humanities research and pedagogy.

Dr. Qiana Whitted organized the USC Comics Studies Symposium on Oct 25, 2013

The event was a terrific success and attended by students, faculty, staff, and local Columbia residents. An estimated 150 people came to at least one of the four events!

The event received a great deal of attention on campus, including a top feature in @UofSC Today . The symposium was also noted by Tom Spurgeon of "The Comics Reporter," a national comics news website:

This news story about the event from WLTX focused on guest writer Roy Thomas, as well as some of the USC students in attendance.

Associate Professor Jim Barilla appeared on the WHYY Philadelphia NPR program Radio Times

Jim Barilla talked with host Marty Moss-Coane about backyard wildlife and his book My Backyard Jungle (Yale 2013). You can listen to their conversation here

Congratulations to Professor Christy Friend for her appointment as Director of the USC Center for Teaching Excellence

Third-year MFA student Candace Wiley has been awarded a Fulbright to conduct research in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia

Palenque is one of the many towns founded by escaped slaves in the 1600s--and the only one that still exists in Colombia. Palenque has its own language as well as customs that trace back to the Bantu and Kikongo in West Africa. From August to April, Candace will collect narratives from residents of Palenque as the basis of a creative prose and poetry project.

Congratulations! Professor Pat Gehrke has been awarded the National Communication Association's 2011 Philosophy of Communication Division Book Award.

The award recognizes Gehrke's 2009 book, The Ethics and Politics of Speech: Communication and Rhetoric in the 20th Century.

Department MFA Program ranked amongst the top 50

The thriving MFA Program at the University of South Carolina has broken into the top 50 MFA programs in the United States, according to a ranking released this week by Poets & Writers.

The program, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, vaulted to No. 49, up 55 spots from last year, in the 2012 Poets & Writers Top 50 MFA Programs. The rankings appear in the September/October issue of the magazine, which provides the only rankings for MFA programs.

“A great research university like Carolina needs to demonstrate strength in all branches of human knowledge and creativity,” Dr. Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “We are proud of the recent ranking of our MFA program as one of the top programs in the country.”

Elise Blackwell, director of the MFA program and an associate professor of English, credits the rise in the ranking to the dedication and hard work of the faculty.

“This is exciting news,” Blackwell said. “Our faculty have worked hard to bolster our program and get the word out about its quality to students throughout the country. We’re receiving stellar applications from all regions and a handful from other countries. This ranking is an affirmation of our hard work and quality of faculty and students.”

Blackwell, who has written four novels, says the Poets & Writers ranking will be a boon to recruitment.

“It certainly helps with recruitment and is also good news for current students and recent alumni whose degrees now come from a program with a higher profile.”

To access the 2012 Poets & Writers Top 50 MFA Programs, go to

Several factors make the university’s MFA Program attractive to students, including the fact that it offers the intimacy of a small program with the resources of a major research university.

Students can choose from poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction tracks and have the opportunity to work with published writing faculty.

For more information about the MFA program visit the website

News and Internal Communications

This article was copied from:

Faculty Members Win Major University Awards

Two members of the Department of English received major university awards at the University Awards Ceremony, Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Catherine Keyser won one of the Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Awards and Bob Brinkmeyer was honored as the recipient of the USC Educational Foundation Research Award for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Congratulations to them both!

Catherine Keyser and Bob Brinkmeyer at the University's Awards Ceremony on April 27th.

Holly A. Crocker has been awarded a five-month Fulbright Fellowship

Holly A. Crocker has been awarded a five-month Fulbright Fellowship for research and teaching at the Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany. She will be working on her current book project, The Reformation of Feminine Virtue from Chaucer to Shakespeare, and delivering a series of lectures on "Shakespeare's Sovereignty."

Erik Doxtader part of a research project supported by the South African National Research Foundation

The South African National Research Foundation has awarded a Blue Skies Research Grant to an international and collaborative project featuring Erik Doxtader, Philippe Salazar (University of Cape Town) and Dominique de Courcelles (CNRS, Paris). The grant was awarded for a proposal entitled "Surveillance, Intelligence, and Forms of Rhetorical Control in Democratic Discourse" and funds a project that will begin this coming May in Paris (with subsequent workshops in Cape Town and Washington DC).

Professor Greg Forter has been awarded a full year fellowship by the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah

Professor Greg Forter has been awarded a full year fellowship by the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah. Forter will be working on his new book project, entitled "Atlantic and Other Worlds: Critique and Utopia in Contemporary Historical Realism."

New Books from the Faculty in 2010-11

  • David Bajo, Panopticon (Unbridled Books)
  • Mark Cooper, Universal Women: Filmmaking and Institutional Change in Early Hollywood (Univ. of Illinois Press)
  • Erik Doxtader and Fanie du Toit, eds. In the Balance – South Africans Debate Reconciliation (Jacana Press)
  • Greg Forter, Gender, Race, and Mourning in American Modernism (Cambridge UP)
  • Chris Holcomb and Jimmie Killingsworth, Performing Prose: Analyzing and Writing with Style (SIU Press)
  • Catherine Keyser, Playing Smart: New York Women Writers and Modern Magazine Culture (Rutgers UP)
  • Nina Levine, ed. Richard III: Evans Shakespeare Edition (Wadsworth)

INK! holds its inaugural undergraduate conference

INK!, our undergraduate English Majors' student organization, held its first undergraduate literary conference last Friday, April 8 in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library. If you were among the many students, faculty, and parents who attended, you know that it was a great success. After an opening session at which Professor Debra Rae Cohen presented the keynote address, thirty-two of our students read papers in ten sessions scheduled throughout the day. The session topics ranged from music in poetry and fiction to women in American literature to Shakespeare and gender roles to the dark side of modernism.

The conference culminated with a banquet and awards ceremony Friday evening in the Graniteville Room of Thomas Cooper Library. Sarah Pulliam's paper on The Merchant of Venice was designated as best of conference. Rory Fleming's paper on Virginia Woolf's Orlando and Austin Blaze's paper on film and gender roles were recognized as runners up.

First INK Conference 2011

From left to right: Brooke McAbee (Treasurer of INK!), Rory Fleming (Finalist), Sarah Pulliam (Best Paper of Conference), Austin Blaze (Finalist), Michelle Metzler (Secretary of INK!) and Abigail Agati (President of INK!)

This first Undergraduate Literary Conference was a glowing success because of the hard work of number of people. Special thanks go to the student officers of INK!, Abigail Agati, Sarah Pulliam, and Brooke McAbee, who organized the conference and even secured funding (with a Magellan Undergraduate Research Grant and some help from the English Department) to cover the costs of the space, conference programs, and the banquet. They were supported by faculty advisors Kate Adams and Gretchen Woertendyke and by many other faculty members who encouraged their students to turn course papers into presentations for the conference. Furthermore, a number of our graduate students contributed by holding workshops to help our undergrads polish their presentation skills. David Miller and Brian Glavey read all the papers and then had the difficult task of choosing the best three for awards. Elizabeth Suddeth from the Thomas Cooper Library was, as usual, amazingly helpful with logistics in the library.

The INK! conference was an exciting, stimulating, and fun day. We are already looking forward to next year's conference.

PhD Program Earns High Marks in NRC Ranking

In the National Research Council's (NRC) 2010 rankings of 119 Ph.D. programs in English Literature and Language, USC's Department of English received evaluations that placed it among the very best programs in the country. The new approach used by the NRC ranks programs based on a number of factors. Our department did exceptionally well in a number of the most significant of these categories, especially in overall program quality and faculty research productivity.

In the overall program quality, USC Department of English came out 26th in the nation and 10th among all public university programs. In research productivity, our department was 23rd nationally and 11th among all public university programs. The NRC also rated the department as one of the top twenty programs nationally for graduate student resources and overall graduate student support.

NRC rankings of PhD programs come out about once every ten years. In this most recent report, our rankings showed considerable improvement over those in previous reports, an indication of the continued and significant strengthening of the reputation of our program and our faculty.

More information on the NRC's 2010 rankings can be found at

Cynthia Davis' biography selected for award

Professor Cynthia Davis' recent biography of Charlotte Perkins Gilman has been selected by Choice, the review for the American Library Association, as one of their Outstanding Academic Title Awards for 2010.

Every year in the January issue, according to the Association, Choice publishes a list of Outstanding Academic Titles that were reviewed during the previous calendar year. This prestigious list reflects the best in scholarly titles reviewed by Choice and brings with it the extraordinary recognition of the academic library community. The list is quite selective and includes only books that meet the following criteria: overall excellence in presentation and scholarship; importance relative to other literature in the field; distinction as a first treatment of a given subject in book or electronic form; originality or uniqueness of treatment value to undergraduate students; importance in building undergraduate library collections.

Professors Adams and Davis curate a special exhibition: Beyond Domesticity: U.S. Women Writers 1770-1915

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
University of South Carolina
January-April 2011

Exhibition Opening: Tuesday, January 18, 2011
4:30 - 6:30 PM, with remarks by Joel Myerson, Carolina Distinguished
Professor of American Literature, Emeritus, at 5:00.

Exhibition curated by Katherine Adams, Associate Professor of English
Women's and Gender Studies, and Cynthia Davis, Professor of English.

For more information: Jeffrey Makala ( or 803 777-8154.

Professor Laura Dassow Walls receives MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize for The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander Von Humboldt and the Shaping of America.

New York, NY - 1 December 2010 - The Modern Language Association of America today announced it is awarding its forty-first annual James Russell Lowell Prize to Laura Dassow Walls, of the University of South Carolina, for The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America, published by the University of Chicago Press. Joseph Litvak, of Tufts University, has received honorable mention for The Un-Americans: Jews, the Blacklist, and Stoolpigeon Culture, published by Duke University Press. The prize is awarded annually for an outstanding book-a literary or linguistic study, a critical edition of an important work, or a critical biography-written by a member of the association.

The James Russell Lowell Prize is one of seventeen awards that will be presented on 7 January 2011 during the association's annual convention, to be held in Los Angeles. The selection committee members were Claudia Johnson (Princeton Univ.), chair; Meredith L. McGill (Rutgers Univ.); D. Vance Smith (Princeton Univ.); Carlos Vega (Wellesley Coll.); and Marguerite Waller (Univ. of California, Riverside). The committee's citation for the winning book reads:

In North America, the legacy of the man Simón Bolívar once called the true discoverer of America has been obscured. The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America restores that legacy. Humboldt's fascination with the interconnections of ecology, geography, political science, history, and above all literature and science finds a corollary in Laura Dassow Walls's generous, lyrical, and thoroughly researched book, which shows how the making of a book and the making of a world are not merely homologous but equal acts. Walls's book is thus a genealogy, informed by a keen literary awareness, deepened by a sense of the inescapable mediations of knowledges, and mediated especially by the form of the book as cosmos. Walls illuminates the literary history of nineteenth-century America and makes us feel and see the losses we have sustained by separating literature from science.

Laura Dassow Walls is a professor and John H. Bennett Jr. Chair of Southern Letters in the English Department at the University of South Carolina. She received her PhD from Indiana University and her MA and BA from the University of Washington. She is the author of Emerson's Life in Science: The Culture of Truth and Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science; editor of Material Faith: Thoreau on Science and The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies; and coeditor of The Oxford Guide to Transcendentalism, More Day to Dawn: Thoreau's Walden for a New Century, and the forthcoming The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, Vol. 9. Among her honors and awards, she is the recipient of Guggenheim, NEH, and ACLS fellowships. Passage to Cosmos received the Merle Curti Award for the best book in American intellectual history from the Organization of American Historians.

First presented in 1969, the James Russell Lowell Prize is awarded under the auspices of the MLA's Committee on Honors and Awards. Recent winners of the prize have been Gauri Viswanathan (1999), Mary Baine Campbell (2000), Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass (2001), Jerome McGann (2002), María Antonia Garcés (2003), Giancarlo Maiorino (2004), Diana Fuss (2005), Paula R. Backscheider (2006), W. J. T. Mitchell (2006), Martin Puchner (2007), and Isobel Armstrong (2008). In recent years honorable mention has been awarded to Phyllis Blum Cole (1999), Eric L. Santner (2002), Susan Stewart (2003), Wendy L. Wall (2003), Brent Hayes Edwards (2004), Robert Pogue Harrison (2004), Alan Liu (2005), Wai Chee Dimock (2007), and Cynthia Wall (2007).

James Russell Lowell (1819-91) was a scholar and poet. His first important literary activity came as editor of and frequent contributor to the National Anti-slavery Standard. In 1848 Lowell published several volumes of poetry, criticism, humor, and political satire, including The Vision of Sir Launfal and the first Biglow Papers, which firmly established him in the galaxy of American writers of his day. In 1855 he succeeded Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as Smith Professor of French and Spanish at Harvard. Lowell was the first editor of the Atlantic Monthly (1857-61) and was later minister to Spain and Britain. James Russell Lowell served as second president of the MLA from 1887 until his death in 1891.

Professor Ed Madden receives a 2010 South Carolina Individual Artist Fellowship Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission

University of South Carolina associate English professor Ed Madden is one of four South Carolina artists to receive an Individual Artist Fellowship Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission.

Read the full story hereVisit Site.

Professor Bob Brinkmeyer receives award from the Thomas Wolfe Society

Professor Bob Brinkmeyer has been awarded the 2009 Zelda and Paul Gitlin Literary Prize, given by the Thomas Wolfe Society for the best work of the year on Thomas Wolfe. The prize was given for The Fourth Ghost and particularly for its chapter on Wolfe.

The Center for Digital Humanities has been granted formal recognition by the USC Board of Trustees

The Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) at the University of South Carolina is pleased to announce that it was formally recognized by the University Board of Trustees on the 25th of June 2010. CDH will explore innovative and experimental approaches to research, education, preservation, and public programs for the interdisciplinary field of digital humanities. Housed within the College of Arts and Sciences but reaching across institutions, colleges, disciplines, and departments, the CDH initiates, nurtures, and supports the development and deployment of computational resources, collaborative tools, and educational programming to benefit students, faculty, the University, and the general public.

Read more from the College of Arts and Sciences hereVisit Site.

Professor Erik Doxtader receives award from the Rhetoric Society of America

Professor Erik Doxtader has received the Rhetoric Society of America's 2010 Book Award. He received the prize for his book, With Faith in the Works of Words: The Beginnings of Reconciliation in South Africa.

Erik Doxtader, a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, is the winner of the 2010 Book Award from the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) for his book, With Faith in the Works of Words: The Beginnings of Reconciliation in South Africa (David Philip/Michigan State University Press, 2009).

Doxtader's research covers the areas of rhetorical theory, critical social theory, and political discourse. In the last few years, he has spent a great deal of time living in South Africa and investingating the rhetorical history of reconciliation. With Faith in the Works of Words examines how reconciliation shaped the struggle against apartheid and underwrote the constitutional negotiations that brought South Africa to the threshold of a non-racial democracy.

Read more hereVisit Site.

Professor John Muckelbauer receives the Ross Winterowd Award

Professor John Muckelbauer has received the 2009 Ross Winterowd Award for his book, The Future of Invention: Rhetoric, Postmodernism, and the Problem of Change.

The Winterowd award is sponsored by the Journal of Advanced Composition (JAC). The list of previous winners puts John in excellent company, including our new colleague Byron Hawk, whose book won the award in 2007. You can check out the award and previous winners (all major players in composition theory since the award's inception in 1989) at the JAC website: hereVisit Site.

Professor Laura Walls wins a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship

Professor Laura Walls has received a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for her project Writing the Cosmos: The Life of Henry D. Thoreau. She writes,

It’s been nearly fifty years since the last full biography of Thoreau was published, and in this new biography I seek to weave together the material circumstances of Thoreau’s life and the intellectual currents of his time, responding to the way he uniquely, and deliberately, anchored the big "planetary" ideas of his era with the heft and swing of lived reality, its chance, contingency, and choice. I hope to present the work of Thoreau scholarship in recent decades to a wide audience of readers, to consider the meanings of this iconic writer for our time, and to think how a single life, so consciously lived, offers a unified but deeply complex center from which to explore how writing can inscribe an entire textual ecology. Thoreau wrote as a poet, a social reformer, and a scientist - or, one could say, his response to the provocation offered by Humboldt was no less than a writing of the Cosmos.

For more information about Guggenheim fellowships, visit the Guggenheim Foundation Visit Site site.

Professor Cynthia Davis receives Fulbright grant

Professor Davis has been awarded a four-month Fulbright grant to lecture in American Literature at the Università degli Studi di Venezia 'Cà Foscari' in Venice.

Professor Kwame Dawes to receive honorary degree

Kwame Dawes will receive an honorary doctorate from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Recent honorees include President Obama, President Clinton, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, but the list also includes scientists, journalists, leaders of humanitarian organizations, community environmental activists, and public school teachers. (Note: The first recipient of a honorary doctorate from Knox was Abraham Lincoln in 1860!)

More information can be found here Visit Site.

Professor Gretchen Woertendyke wins ACLS Fellowship

Professor Gretchen Woertendyke has been recognized with a prestigious ACLS Fellowship for 2010-2011. The award will support her current book project. Entitled Romance to Novel in Early America, the book argues that the U.S. novel as it develops from 1789-1889 cannot be understood apart from U.S.-Cuban-Haitian exchange. In re-framing the history of the genre within the Americas, a different archive and trajectory emerges. Romance to Novel in Early America accounts for New-World novels by tracing their movements across hemispheric routes and against hemispheric histories.

The mission of the American Council of Learned Societies is "the advancement of humanistic studies in all fields of learning in the humanities and the social sciences and the maintenance and strengthening of relations among the national societies devoted to such studies." ACLS, a private, nonprofit federation of seventy national scholarly organizations, is the preeminent representative of American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences.

Professor Laura Walls wins the prestigious Merle Curti Book Award

The Organization of American Historians has awarded Laura Dassow Walls the Merle Curti Award, given annually for the best book in American intellectual history, for her book Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America (University of Chicago Press, 2009).

The award will be presented at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the OAH in Washington, DC, on Saturday, April 10. Previous winners include Gary Wills, Edmund S. Morgan, Ann Douglas, Steven Mintz, and Michael O'Brien.

Laura Dassow Walls is the John H. Bennett, Jr., Chair of Southern Letters in the Department of English.

Professor Laura Walls to open new 'Greening the Mind' series on February 3, 2010

Office of Media Relations

The University of South Carolina Green Quad Learning Center will launch a new lecture series “Greening the Mind,” which will explore a variety of green perspectives on the world.

Read More from University News

Jewish Studies Program established, led by English faculty members

Office of the Dean ('Jewish Studies Program established')

A Jewish-studies initiative that began in 2007 at the University of South Carolina has officially been made an academic program in the College of Arts and Sciences. ...

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S.C. Poetry Initiative resumes Minority Writers Series

The first event of the semester will be held on January 28, 2010, and the series will continue through April.

  • January 28
  • Colin Channer
  • March 19
  • Reginald Dwayne Betts, Randall Horton, Marcus Jackson and John Murillo
  • April 23
  • Tracy K. Smith
Read More from University News

Southern Writers Series begins January 25, 2010

The first of six bi-weekly events featuring prominent authors in contemporary Southern literature will be held January 25, 2010, at Richland County Public Library in Columbia. The series will conclude in April.

  • January 25
  • Daniel Wallace
  • February 8
  • Brian Ray
  • February 24
  • Percival Everett
  • March 18
  • Pamela Duncan
  • April 1
  • Robert Inman
  • April 15
  • Margaret Maron

Visit the links below for detailed information.

Read More from ISS text-div Information on the 2010 Southern Writers Series (PDF)

Professor Federica Clementi awarded the Josephine Abney Fellowship

Office of the Dean

Federica Clementi's project, Entr’actes: Sarah Kofman’s Art of Memory, has been selected to receive the Josephine Abney Fellowship for Research in Women’s and Gender Studies for 2009. ...

Read More from the Office of the Dean

American Literature Colloquium at USC - Brian Glavey, "John Ashbery's Wallflower Avant-Garde." Thursday, November 12, 3:30 pm, Gambrell 429.

Much of the critical discussion surrounding the work of John Ashbery work hinges on the assumption that his poetry operates on a principle of omission, that his poems chiefly work by leaving things unsaid. Such an approach, attending to the sense that they don't make, tends to treat the particular aesthetic features that animate his poetry as though they were symptoms of repression. This paper argues that Ashberys work is better understood if we recognize the generativity of their forms of shyness. Ashbery discovers these forms, I suggest, through the art of reclusive figures such as Joseph Cornell, Joe Brainard, and Henry Darger. Identifying with homophobically charged imagery in their workspansies, nancies, and sissies Ashbery creates an aesthetic mobilized by shame and shyness rather than shock and provocation, and, in the process, suggests a model of artistic agency that avoids the pitfalls of opposition and acceptance facing the avant-gardes of the 1960s. Understanding his idiosyncratic vision of an artistic vanguard offers a new perspective on the relationship between aesthetics and sexuality in Ashbery's work, and on theories of the avant-garde more generally, showing his reticence and difficulty to be generative and transformative rather than merely the byproduct of a repressive culture.

Please join us afterward for a reception honoring Dr. Glavey in the First Floor Lounge of the Humanities Office Building.

Professor Kwame Dawes, team win an Emmy

Kwame Dawes, Louise Fry Scudder Professor of English and Distinguished Poet in Residence, headed up a documentary filmmaking team that has won a 2009 Emmy Award for their film Hope: Living & Loving with HIV in Jamaica.

The award, a News & Documentary Emmy, was granted in the category of New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming Arts. The Hope documentary aired as a two-part series for the public television program Foreign Exchange.

The Emmy is the second major award Dawes has won this year for his work exploring the lives of those in his native Jamaica who are living with HIV. Dawes interactive web project "Live Hope Love" was named the Peoples Voice winner for the 2009 Webby Awards in the Art category. Called the Oscars of the Internet, the Webby Awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and recognize excellence on the Internet in areas including websites, interactive advertising, and online film and video.

Both the documentary project and the Live Hope Love website are part of a multimedia reporting project which also includes an extended essay by Dawes in The Virginia Quarterly Review and a live performance of Dawes poetry set to music by composer Kevin Simmonds. To view the interactive website, visit

Professor David Shields wins an MLA Distinguished Scholar Award and the South Carolina Governors Award in the Humanities

Professor David Shields, the McClintock Professor of Southern Letters, has been honored for his work with two significant awards. In October, Shields will receive the South Carolina Governors Award in the Humanities. Established in 1991, the Governors Awards in the Humanities recognize outstanding achievement in humanities research, teaching, and scholarship; institutional and individual participation in helping communities in South Carolina better understand our cultural heritage or ideas and issues related to the humanities; excellence defining South Carolinas cultural life to the nation or world; and exemplary support for public humanities programs.

Later this year, Shields will be honored by the Modern Language Associations Division of American Literature before 1800 with its 2009 Distinguished Scholar Award. This award recognizes Shields lifetime contribution to scholarship and leadership in the fields of American Literature.

Fall Festival of Authors will run October 13-20, 2009, featuring Marsha Hamilton, Billy Collins, Kwame Dawes

This year's Fall Festival of Authors features readings from acclaimed novelist Marsha Hamilton, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, and USC's own nationally-renowned poet-novelist Kwame Dawes.

Hamilton, author of four acclaimed novels, including 31 Hours and The Camel Bookmobile, will read from her work at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 13 at 2009 in Currell College Auditorium, located just off the Horseshoe and across Greene St. from the Russell House. In addition to writing fiction, Hamilton is a journalist who has worked for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, reporting form the Middle East, Russia, Africa, and Afghanistan. She is also the founder of two world literacy programs, the Camel Book Drive in northern Kenya, and the Afghan Women's Writing Project, which is designed to foster creative and intellectual exchanges between Afghan and American women writers.

Collins, who served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001-2003 and as New York State Poet Laureate from 2004-2006, will read from his work at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 15 in the Business School Auditorium, located in the Close/Hipp Building, on the corner of Barnwell and Henderson streets. Author of several collections of poetry, including Ballistics, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Collins has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and has won the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, and the inaugural Mark Twain Award for humorous poetry.

Dawes, who is Distinguished Poet in Residence at USC, where he directs the S.C. Poetry Initiative and the USC Arts Institute, will read from his work on Tuesday, October 20, at 6:00 p.m. in Currell College Auditorium. Author most recently of a poetry collection entitled Hope's Hospice, Dawes is a 2009 inductee into the South Carolina Academy of Authors and a 2008 recipient of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governors Award for the Arts. He is also a 2009 Emmy nominee and a recipient of a Pushcart Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

The Fall Festival of Authors is an annual celebration of the literary arts, open to all, free of charge. It is jointly sponsored by the English Department and the Thomas Cooper Library, and is supported by a generous anonymous donor.

New Undergraduate English Society to meet Friday, April 24, 2009

The newly-formed Undergraduate English Society will hold its first meeting on Friday, April 24, in Humanities 104, from 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Designed to foster community and professional development among all English majors and minors, the Society will provide a forum for discussion of any and all issues that are of concern or interest to undergraduate students in English, including how the department can best support students, how students can develop strong social networks, and how students can prepare for various English-related careers.

All English majors and minors are invited to attend the meeting and provide input into the groups future plans. Bring your questions, concerns, and ideas; and the UES will provide food, drinks, and a few ideas of our own.

For more information, contact Professor Gretchen Woertendyke at or 777-2115. Please click the image above to view the event flyer.

Professor Elise Blackwell wins 2009 Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award

Assistant Professor of English Elise Blackwell has been named a recipient of the 2009/2010 Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award. The Mungo Awards are among the universitys highest faculty honors and are designed to recognize outstanding teaching, advising, and mentoring of undergraduate students.

Blackwell, who teaches creative writing at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, joined the department in 2005. She is the author of three novels, Grub, The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish, and Hunger, as well as numerous short stories. Her fourth novel, tentatively titled The Conductors Wife, will be published in the spring of 2010.

Im honored, Blackwell says, to work with USC students and to be part of a department in which scholarly and creative work go hand in hand with excellent teaching, where faculty passion for scholarship and writing engenders student enthusiasm."

Blackwell is the fifth member of the English faculty to win the Mungo Award for Undergraduate Teaching in the last decade. Professors Dan Smith, Greg Forter, Patrick Scott, and Nina Levine are recent past recipients; and Professor Christy Friend received the Mungo Award for Graduate Teaching in 2002/2003.

Graduate students receive high honors for teaching, research

Grace Wetzel, a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature, was selected from among all graduate instructors campus-wide as the 2009 recipient of the Graduate Schools Education Foundation Teaching Award. She joins past graduate students from the department Carl Jenkinson (2007), Corinna McLeod (2003), and Chris Fosen (2001) as recent EFTA honorees.

This award is a major achievement for Grace and the department, said English Department Chair William Rivers.

Ph.D. candidate Marcia Nichols has been named the inaugural recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in the Material Texts Initiative at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. The prestigious and highly selective nationwide award will provide Nichols with a 13-month residency at the McNeil Center, allowing her to complete work on her transatlantic study of the literature of midwifery during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Two other Ph.D. candidates have also been awarded major research fellowships. Abigail Lundelius has won a Winterhur research fellowship from the Winterhur Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, which is the greatest center for scholarship in pre-1879 American material culture; and Stephen Spratt has been awarded a summer research grant by the CGR Foundation. Lundeliuss work focuses on the literary and cultural significance of the table in the 19th-century United States, while Spratt will be researching agricultural journals for information on crop rotation and the experimental farming of grains.

University hosts 'Robert Burns at 250: Contemporaries, Contexts & Cultural Forms'

To celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns (1759-1796), the University of South Carolina hosted "Robert Burns at 250: Contemporaries, Contexts & Cultural Forms," a multi-disciplinary international conference, Thursday, April 2 through Saturday, April 4, 2009.

The conference, which brought together Burnsians and Burns scholars of different generations, from North America, Scotland, and elsewhere, was the only major university-based event in the U.S. for the Burns 250th Anniversary. Its aim was to provide fresh perspectives on Burns's work and that of his contemporaries, and fresh appreciation of his achievement and influence.

Burns and Burns-related manuscripts from the university's extensive G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns & Scottish Poetry were on display at Thomas Cooper Library during the conference. Conference highlights also included a keynote lecture by Professor Edward J. Cowan of the University of Glasgow, and a concert on Friday evening in which legendary Burns singer Jean Redpath performed Burns's songs.

Professor Thorne Compton receives MLK Social Justice Award

Dr. Thorne Compton, professor of English language and literature and former associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, was recently awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award. The award, given by the University of South Carolina Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, recognizes outstanding accomplishments in teaching, research or creative work, and service and outreach.

Dr. Compton has spent his career serving the University as a faculty member, departmental chair, institute director, assistant dean, and senior associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences. As part of the USC Bicentennial, he was commissioned and produced a new play, The White Problem, about Richard Greener, the first African American to graduate from Harvard and the first African American faculty member at USC during The Reconstruction. Additionally, he developed the University of South Carolinas first seminar in African American Theatre History as well as the first course in African American Drama which is now cross listed with Theatre, African American Studies and English.

Dr. Comptons leadership in professional service extends beyond contributions to teaching. As Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, he brought the first African American faculty member to the department to teach and mentor in the acting program. He served on the Martin Luther King, Jr. committee for ten years as a committee member and was host and co-host of the University MLK Day Gospel Fest for three years. He also continues to work individually and in groups with people from the community and with University Presidents to insure a continuing commitment to maintaining the important legacy of historical buildings such as the Booker T. Washington Building.

Through these and other ongoing acts of community service, social justice and racial reconciliation, Dr. Compton exemplifies the philosophies of Dr. King.

Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Janette Turner Hospital nominated for literary honor

Janette Turner Hospital, Distinguished Writer-in-Residence and Carolina Distinguished Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, was one of five finalists a major new international literary prize.

Hospitals latest novel, Orpheus Lost, was nominated for the inaugural, 2008 Asia-Australia Literary Prize. Other finalists included Michelle De Krester, Mohsin Hamid, David Malouf, and Ceridwen Dovey.

Hospital has written nine novels and four collections of short stories. Orpheus Lost has been named to Booklists Top 30 novels of the year and the American Library Associations Best 25 Books of the Year. It is the re-telling of the Orpheus legend in an age of international terrorism.

Hospital grew up in Queensland, Australia, and taught at universities in Australia, Canada, England, France and the United States before joining the University of South Carolinas faculty and filling a post previously held by James Dickey. She is well known in South Carolina for her enormously popular community course, Caught in the Creative Act."

Robert Brinkmeyer's 'Fourth Ghost' wins 2008 Warren-Brooks Award

The following is a press release issued on April 1, 2009 by Western Kentucky University, Office of Media Relations, concerning the recent recognition of Dr. Robert Brinkmeyer:

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. A book by Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr., professor of English and southern studies, is the 2008 winner of the Warren-Brooks Award for Outstanding Literary Criticism.

The award, presented by the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies at Western Kentucky University, is given in honor of Warren and Cleanth Brooks. Winning it puts Brinkmeyer in impressive company, as past recipients include a number of scholars of international repute, including Lawrence Buell, Sir Frank Kermode, Marjorie Perloff and Lewis P. Simpson.

Brinkmeyer is being honored for his book The Fourth Ghost: White Southern Writers and European Fascism, 1930-1950.

In announcing the award jurys choice, Charlotte H. Beck wrote, Among the 23 books submitted for this years contest, Brinkmeyers book, nominated by LSU Press, is clearly superior in scholarship, breadth of content and authoritative style.

Beck calls The Fourth Ghost a necessary book. He has courageously and competently engaged a topic that experts on Southern literature have no doubt noted but chosen to avoid, she wrote. We feel confident that The Fourth Ghost will contribute mightily to the already auspicious canon of Southern literary scholarship.

Brinkmeyer will speak on his award-winning scholarship at the Robert Penn Warren conference, on the campus of Western Kentucky University, on April 17.

Established in 1994 by the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies, the Warren-Brooks Award is given each year to an outstanding work of literary scholarship or criticism that exemplifies in the broadest sense the spirit, scope and standards represented by the critical tradition established by Warren and Brooks. It is intended to recognize and honor work that employs in a significant way the methods associated with a close reading of texts.

Dawes to be inducted into SC Academy of Authors

Kwame Dawes, Louise Fry Scudder Professor of English and Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at USC, has been chosen for induction into the South Carolina Academy of Authors. The induction ceremony will occur at an awards dinner sponsored by the Academy, the USC University Libraries, the Institute for African American Research, and Winthrop University the evening of Saturday, April 25.

Founded at Anderson College in 1986, the South Carolina Academy of Authors identifies and recognizes the states distinguished writers, living and deceased. Other writers honored by the Academy include James Dickey, Pat Conroy, Josephine Humphreys, and John Jakes.

Dawes is the author of 13 books of poetry, as well as books of fiction, nonfiction and drama. Among his awards are the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize by the Ohio University Press, and a Pushcart Prize. He also is an actor, producer, storyteller, and broadcaster and was lead singer in a reggae band. His collection Hopes Hospice will be published by Peepal Tree Press in Spring 2009. Dawes directs the S.C. Poetry Initiative and the USC Arts Institute. Born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica, Dawes also is the programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which takes place each May in Jamaica. Recently, he was commissioned by The State newspaper to write a poem commemorating the inauguration of Barack Obama. The poem can be read here.

Along with Dawes, poets Susan Ludvigson and Carrie Allen McCray Nickens will also be inducted into the Academy of Authors. The ceremony will be held in Capstone Houses Campus Room on the University of South Carolina campus in Columbia. Doors will open at 7 p.m. The ceremony will start at 8 p.m. Beer, wine and appetizers will be served. Tickets cost $35. Winthrop University and USCs Institute for African American Research are also sponsors of the event. Those interested in attending should contact Nicholas Meriwether at

Dawes honored alongside literary giants with Hurston/Wright Award

Louise Fry Scudder

Professor of English Kwame Dawes has been named the winner of the 2008 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundations Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction.

The honor places Dawes in distinguished company: other winners of this years Hurston/Wright Award include Edwidge Danticat, for her acclaimed memoir, Brother, Im Dying, and Junot Diaz for the lauded bestseller The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Presented annually, the Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award provides a platform for the national community of Black writers to honor the work of their peers and, in the process, speak not just to the nominated writers but to the world at large about the profound significance, edurance, and genius of Black writers and the stories they tell. The Hurston/Wright Foundation is the nations resource for writers, readers, and supporters of Black literature.

Dawes, who teaches twentieth-century, postcolonial, and African American literature, is also the author of several acclaimed collections of poetry, a play, a memoir, and numerous scholarly works.

Professor Patrick Scott honored with Lucy Hampton Bostick Award

For his role in significantly expanding the Rare Books Collection at Thomas Cooper Library, Dr. Patrick Scott has been awarded the 2008 Lucy Hampton Bostick Award by the Friends of the Richland County Public Library.

Professor ScottDuring the past 10 years, under the direction of Dr. Scott, the Rare Books Collection at the University of South Carolina (USC) has doubled in size - growing to well over 100,000 volumes. Many of the materials have also been digitalized and shared worldwide. In 2007, Scott helped launch the digitalized Phillis Wheatley project, which contains Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, the first book published by an African-American author, and the front is piece portrait of Wheatley, which is the only surviving work by the African-American slave artist Scipio Moorhead.

Scott is a Professor of English and the Director of Rare Books and Special Collections in the Thomas Cooper Library at USC. In 1985, he was named the USC English Department Teacher of the Year, and in 2004, he received the university-wide Mungo Teaching Award.

Scott earned his bachelor of arts at Merton College, Oxford; his masters of arts at Leicester University and his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh. Prior to coming to South Carolina in 1976, he taught at the secondary level in Nigeria and Britain, at the college level at Leicester and Edinburgh and was a visiting lecturer at the College of William and Mary.

"I have worked in university research libraries for nearly 40 years and have met many rare books librarians" said Paul Willis, former Dean of Libraries at USC, in a letter supporting Scott's nomination. "I have never met Patrick's equal. (He) brings great genuine interest and intellect to books and libraries and is eager to share his knowledge and the extraordinary collections...with faculty, students and the greater community."

The Friends' Lucy Hampton Bostick Award was established in 1978 to honor the memory of Ms. Bostick, the Richland County Public Library's director from 1928-1968. Bostick is credited with fostering interest in Southern literature and history, improving cultural life in Columbia and promoting library appreciation throughout the state.  Scott is the second English professor at Carolina to receive the Bostick award in recent years.  Carolina Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Writer in residence Janette Turner Hospital was honored with it in 2005.

For more information about the Bostick award and the Friends of RCPL, visit