Department Life

The English department's scholarly and extracurricular life helps sustain the vibrancy of the intellectual community at the university. Here are several examples of what keeps Morgan Hall buzzing from week to week.

The Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies brings to campus distinguished scholars of the early modern period as part of its biennial Strode Seminar as well as an annual symposium and lectures on Shakespeare, literary criticism, and theory.

Every semester the Coal Royalty and Bankhead Visiting Writers Series bring established and emerging writers of fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction to campus for readings and workshops with students. Past readers include Charles Simic, Alice McDermott, Kevin Young, Andre Dubus, Robert Pinsky, Alice Walker and George Saunders. Another regular event is the MFA Reading Series, where graduate students in the creative writing program present their work to their peers and professors on Friday afternoons throughout the year.

Created by graduate students Nic Helms and Alaina Jobe Pangburn, the Improbable Fictions series features staged readings of classic drama. Originally created to help students who were taking early English literature classes, Improbable Fictions now features an eclectic group of students and faculty whose recent performances have included Twelfth Night, Much Ado About NothingKing Lear, Love's Labour's LostHamlet,  Hecuba, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Pure Products Reading Series, formerly known as The Barbed Wire Series, affords an opportunity for professors, instructors, and graduate students both in and outside the English Department to publicize, read, and perform their creative works.  This year, the series is expanding to include writers from other areas of Alabama and the nation.  Currently, readings are given monthly at Green Bar in the heart of downtown Tuscaloosa.

Slash Pine Projects is a non-profit organization that publishes chapbooks of poetry and mixed-genre work. They also host irregular and off-the-beaten path reading events, including the Slash Pine Writers Festival held at the end of April each year.

The Modernist Reading Group, organized by Professor James McNaughton, meets weekly to discuss a different modernist masterwork each semester and also serves as a forum where UA scholars and guest speakers can present their own work on modernist literature.  Recently, the group has discussed Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil and Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities.

The Americanists workshop, organized by Professor Fred Whiting, is an interdisciplinary forum for scholars whose research focuses on any aspect of American culture.  Participants meet roughly twice each month during the academic year to discuss shared readings, present work in progress, and generally examine issues of theory and praxis in the American grain.

Professor David Ainsworth has started The Edifice Project which seeks to create an intellectual community within an English course and across multiple semesters in order to increase undergraduate students' investment in their papers on Milton's works.

The Department's new Emerging Scholars Series provides an opportunity for University instructors to showcase their work in order to promote better understanding of University instructors, specifically their participation in academic endeavors, by facilitating the exchange of ideas between students, faculty, graduate students and instructors in an informal setting. For more information, contact Jason McCall.

At the biweekly meetings of FITE Club (Fantastic Instructors Teaching English), full- and part-time instructors who are teaching literature courses or would like to teach literature courses compare pedagogical strategies for particular books and authors commonly assigned in 200-level literature courses and generally try to inspire one another through stories of their own successes in the classroom.  They also love to hear presentations by volunteers from the department on any aspect of teaching literature. Contact Andrea Barton for more information. Similarly, The Lit Salon is a monthly brown bag series in which a faculty and instructor pair offer their hard-earned wisdom to help us reconsider the ways we teach 200-level lit surveys. Conversation topics include lesson planning, teaching with themes, and reading strategies for students. These sessions are open to all from GTAs teaching literature for the first time to instructors hoping to refine their chops and faculty feeling inspired to input two cents or a dime. Contact Ray Watcher or Juan Reyes.

The Department hosts a biennial symposium focusing on literature, race, ethnicity, and other topics. Each symposium features a variety of distinguished guests—writers, professors, journalists, and others well recognized in their fields—who speak and lead discussions during the course of the three day event. Several book volumes have been published based on papers given during the symposia.