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News of the University of Washington Department of English

Autumn 2000

In English is published annually for alumni and friends of the University of Washington Department of English to encourage interest in and support for the University of Washington. To be put on the mailing list to receive a snailmail copy of In English, e-mail the editor, Cheryl Mathisen (


Pedagogy and the Scholarship of Teaching
Notes from the Chair
The Latest in Tech
New Faculty
Alumni News
In Memory of Karen Shabetai
Faculty Notes
PhD Dissertations 1999-2000
Why Engli$h?
Three Chairs

Pedagogy and the Scholarship of Teaching Grow in Importance

Both faculty and graduate students in the English Department are investing more of their time nowadays not just in their ordinary teaching and research duties but also in studying and talking about what and how we teach in our undergraduate curriculum.

A special concern both here and at other universities has been the mentoring of graduate students as they become teachers.  We have long offered extensive orientation and coursework to support our new teaching assistants in the first year writing program; currently we are working to find ways to extend that support to graduate students new to the teaching of literature.  In this effort graduate students themselves have now taken a leading role.

Professors Anne Curzan and John Webster, faculty mentors for the ad hoc Teaching Literature Colloquium.

Last fall a group of twelve advanced graduate students--all experienced teachers of writing--organized themselves into a colloquium whose focus was spcifically on the teaching of literature. Having invited professors Anne Curzan and John Webster to act as co-mentors to the group, students met biweekly throughout both teh fall and the winter quarters.  They formulated a full set of seminar topics ranging from reflections on how to set appropriate learning goals to how to meet those goals with texts for a given class. 

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Notes from the Chair

This past Spring Quarter 2000, I was faced with a very difficult decision.  After three years of trying to raise funds for Poetry Northwest and carrying a $20,000 budget deficit, I called Professor David Wagoner, editor of the journal during almost its entire 40-year history, and told him that we would have to temporarily cease publication of the journal until we could find more stable funding.

Three years ago the UW’s Graduate School announced that it would end its 37-year patronage of the journal and after one year of interim funding by the College of Arts and Sciences, our department would have to assume financial responsibility.

What made my decision to temporarily cease publication with the Fall 2000 issue particularly painful was the fact that Professor Wagoner, 73, was retiring in June 2000 after four decades of service to the University.  I had made appeals to UW President Richard McCormick two years ago for funding and to the Graduate School to resume funding of a journal they had supported for 37 years, but could not reverse their decision.

Poetry Northwest is the oldest surviving journal published in America that only publishes poetry.  The journal has published such renowned poets as Richard Hugo, William Stafford, Mark Strand, Harold Pinter, Mona Van Duyn and started the careers of hundreds of poets.

Despite the illustrious history of the journal, it was floundering in red ink, and Professor Wagoner agreed with me that it was time to cease publication until we could erase the deficit.  He issued a press release that the Fall 2000 issue was the last.

A funny thing happened after that.  Two graduate students in our Creative Writing Program, Julie Larios and Thom Schramm, started an e-mail campaign.  Suddenly President McCormick’s office was flooded with messages of complaint and outrage.  Many who took time to write noted that the UW’s commencement speaker in June was Robert Pinsky, the Poet Laureat of the United States.  Both The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer were preparing articles about the demise of Poetry Northwest.  If you appreciate irony, that was an ironic moment to bask in.

President McCormick called me and agreed to fund Poetry Northwest for two more years, which would give our department time to find more permanent funding, while not adding to our already sizable deficit.  Since June, we’ve received several gifts from enthusiastic donors, but we need more to build a permanent endowment for the journal.  If you are interested in contributing to the Poetry Northwest Endowment, please contact this department for more information.

Shawn Wong

The Latest in Tech

The English Department’s computer-integrated-course program moved to Mary Gates Hall this past spring.  The building provides the latest in classroom technology, the largest open computer lab on campus, and an array of academic services for undergraduates.

(Photo by Mary Levin)

Bill and Melinda Gates attended the May 8 dedication and open house commemorating the renovation and transformation of the old Physics Building into a facility focusing on undergraduate learning.  Dr. Laurie George, Senior Lecturer, and Rob Weller, the department’s senior computer specialist, were on hand to explain how the new classrooms’ network of computers facilitates peer-oriented writing instruction.

Computer-enhanced English offerings have broadened to include entry-level writing, interdisciplinary writing, upper-division literature, comparative literature, language, and cultural/cinema studies courses.  This year five senior seminar will be taught in computer lab/seminar combinations, as well as a graduate level course in Shakespeare.

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New Faculty

The Department of English welcomes three new faculty members: Professor Herbert Blau, Assistant Professor Brian Reed, and Professor Kathleen Woodward.

Herbert Blau has been named the Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor of the Humanities.  He comes to the UW from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee where he was Distinguished Professor of English and Modern Studies.  Professor Blau was (with Jules Irving) co-founder and co-director of The Actor’s Workshop of San Francisco (1952-65), co-director of the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center in New York (1965-68), and artistic director of the experimental group KRAKEN (1968-81).  The work of KRAKEN was a radical departure from the already innovative theater with which Professor Blau had been associated before, including some of the first production in America of various controversial, now canonical dramatists of the modernist period, such as Brecht, Beckett, Pinter, Ionesco, Whiting, Arden, Duerrenmatt, Frisch, and Genet.

He is an award-winning author of numerous articles and books on theater, literature, visual arts, fashion, and other subjects, such as The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto (1964), Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point (1982), Blooded Thought: Occasions of Theater (1982), The Eye of Prey: Subversions of the Postmodern (1987), The Audience (1990), To All Appearances: Ideology and Performance (1992), Nothing In Itself: Complexions of Fashion (1999), and two books are forthcoming this year and next year: Sails of the Herring Fleet: Essays on Beckett and The Dubious Spectacle: Of Theater and Other Matters, 1975-2000.

Professor Blau received his M.A. (Speech and Drama) and Ph.D. (English and American Literature) from Stanford University and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from NYU.
Brian Reed. This year, four and a half decades after Professor Blau received his Ph.D. from Stanford, Brian Reed received his Ph.D. from the same institution in English and American Literature.  A recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including a Rhodes Scholarship, Assistant Professor Reed’s specialty is in contemporary American poetry.

Kathleen Woodward was appointed as director of the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities.  In addition to her duties at the Simpson Center, Professor Woodward will teach courses on twentieth-century American literature, autobiography, cultural criticism, discourses of the emotions, and psychoanalytic theory.  She holds a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California at San Diego and a B.A. degree in Economics from Smith College.

Professor Woodward is the author of Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions (1991), At Last, the Real Distinguished Thing: The Late Poems of Eliot, Pound, Stevens, and Williams (1980), and has edited several volumes of cultural criticism.  Since 1981 she served as director of the Center for Twentieth Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.  Professor Woodward is married to Herbert Blau. 

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Alumni News

Vivyan Adair (PhD 1997) won the top teaching prize at Hamilton College in May.  Her program, the ACCESS Project, was granted over $500,000 by the New York Legislature to fund the matriculation of local women on welfare as students at Hamilton.

Matt Briggs (BA 1995) is the author of The Remains of River Names, a novel in stories, published in October 1999 by Black Heron Press and winner of the 1998 King County Arts Commission Award.

Judish Prowse Buskirk (BA 1969) illustrated the children’s books Looking for Bears and Bat’s Night Out from New York publisher Richard C. Owen.

Janis Caldwell (PhD 1996), Assistant Professor at Wake Forest University, has received a Buntting Fellowship for 2000-2001 at the Radcliff Institute (Harvard).

Novella Carpenter (BA 1997) and Traci Vogel (BA 1996) are the co-authors of Don’t Jump!  The Northwest Winter Blues Survival Guide, to be published by Sasquatch Books this fall.

Christine Chaney (PhD 1998) has joined the faculty at Seattle Pacific University.

Alan Coleman (BA 1990) is a TV operations specialist at King County Civic Television.

Samuel Crapps (BA 2000) joined the staff at as quality assurance lead in the research department.

Tiffany DeGross-Coleman (BA 1990) teaches literature at Snohomish High School.

John Eckmann (PhD 1999) is working at TVisions, an internet professional services firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Mary Jane Elliot (PhD 2000O will teach at Seattle University this year.

Anna Faris (BA 1999) appeared in her first major motion picture, ‘Scary Movie,” this summer.

Pat Jennings (BA 1962) has built a five-room school in The Gambia, West Africa.

Lara Johnson (BA 2000) is now writing as a theatre critic for Seattle Weekly.

Betsy Klimasmith (PhD 2000) has joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

Suzanne Matson’s (PhD 1987) new novel, A Trick of Nature, was published spring 2000 by W. W. Norton.

Tilar Mazzeo (PhD 1999) has accepted an academic appointment at Oregon State University.

Shannon McRae (PhD 2000) accepted a professional position at Singing Fish, a dot-com company in Seattle that develops, markets and licenses streaming media and multimedia search services.

Gretchen Murphy (PhD 1999) begins teaching at the University of Minnesota-Morris this fall.

Ann Pancake’s (PhD 1998) short story collection won the Bakeless Prize, sponsored by Bread Loaf this summer.  Her book will be published by the University Press of New England in August 2001.  She is currently an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University in Erie.

Maureen Phillips (MA 1992, PhD in progress) is the managing editor of Microsoft Developer’s Network (MSDN) Online.

Arlene Plevin (PhD in progress) has a teaching appointment at the University of Puget Sound.

Sangeeta Ray (PhD 1991) published En-Gendering India: Women and Nation in Colonial and Postcolonial Narratives, Duke University Press.  Her anthology, A Companion to Postcolonial Studies (co-edited with Henry Schwarz) was published by Blackwell and is due out in paperback.  She is currently an associate professor at the University of Maryland.

Brian Richardson (BA 1982, MA 1984, PhD 1988) has just edited a special issue of the journal Style: On Concepts of Narrative (Vol. 34, No. 2; Summer 2000).  He is also an associate professor at the University of Maryland.

Jeff Shelley (BA 1979) co-authored Championships and Friendships: The First 100 Years of the PNGA, a 484-age color coffee-table book celebrating the centennial of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association.

Tabitha Sparks (PhD in progress) will teach at Georgia Tech this year.

Norman Stephens (MAT 1988) is an associate professor of English at Cerro Coso Community College.

Joan Swift (MA 1965) published her fourth full-length collection of poems, The Tiger Iris, December 1999, by BOA Editions Ltd.

Molly Tenenbaum (BA 1986, MFA 1988) has a new book of poetry, By a Thread, published by Van West and Company.

Jeanie Thomas (PhD 1985), director of educational programs at Pacific Northwest Ballet for ten years, passed away in June.  In her memory PNB’s library has been named the Jeanie Thomas Collection.

Kathryn Trueblood (MFA 1990) received special mention in the Pushcart Prize 2000 for her book The Sperm Donor’s Daughter, a novella and stories published by The Permanent Press.  Trueblood currently teaches in the English Department at Western Washington University where she is director of its Writers in the Community program.

Alan Vardy (PhD 1996) has accepted a position at CUNY University-Hunter.

Michael Weingrad (PhD 1999) has joined the faculty in Jewish Studies at Leeds University.

Patricia E. Widden (BA 1965) had her story “Remembering Uncle and the Sinnemox, July 19343” published in Nor’westing, the Family Boating Magazine.

Lisa Wogan (MFA 1997) is Editor in Chief at Adventure Media, Inc., Seattle-based publishers of in-flight magazines.

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In Memory of Karen Shabetai

Senior Lecturer Karen Shabetai died of cancer on May 14, 2000.  She was a gifted and award-winning distinguished teacher and scholar.  Dr. Shabetai directed the English Honors Program and the English Study Abroad Program and was the wife of English Professor Ross Posnock.

A permanent endowment has been established in her name and the funds from the endowment will be used to support students involved in the department’s study-abroad program in Rome.  In addition, the department’s annual teaching award has been renamed in Shabetai’s honor.

Professor Malcolm Griffith, former Director of Undergraduate Studies, noted that the honor was entirely fitting because Shabetai not only won the award herself, but was “one of the very best of our teaching colleagues, whose career here began before this award was instituted and whose example helped define its meaning over the years.”

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Faculty Notes

New Books

Honors and Awards Extra Curricular Activities
Marshall Brown and Gary Handwerk are organizing the 2000 annual meeting of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism in Seattle next August. Heather McHugh will be a plenary speaker.

Robert Shulman co-chaired the workshop on “Visions of Nature in Contemporary American Literature, 1970 to Present,” and gave a paper in April at the annual European Association of American Studies meeting in Graz, Austria.

Robert Stevick was in London in February for a part in a documentary film on The Book of Kells, and in Vancouver B.C. in July for a part in the recording of Beowulf, complete, in Old English.


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Ph.D. Dissertations 1999-2000

Douglas Barnett, “The Prophetic Fount: The Ideal of Abundance and Milton’s Recovery of Paradise” (Henry Staten).

Gregory Paul Choy, “Sites of Function in Asian-American Literature: Tropics of Place, Agents of Space” (Johnella Butler).

Dennis Chester, “Performance, Spectatorship, and the Evolution of Nationalism in Harlem Renaissance Fiction” (Johnella Butler).

Merrill Cole, ‘The Erotics of Masculine Demise: Homosexual Sacrifice in Modernist Poetry” (Leroy Searle).

Mary Jane Elliott, “(re)Visionary Representations: Transmigratory Subjectivity in Contemporary Latina Fiction” (Johnella Butler).

Kathleen Harrington, “Leadership by Design: The Gendered Construction of Military (Air Force) Officers’ (Mark Patterson).

Bret Keeling, ‘Of Another World: The Intersubjective Gift” (Sydney Kaplan).

Laurel King, “God’s in his Lab and All’s Right With the World: Depictions of Science in 19th-Century American Literature” (Leroy Searle).

Elizabeth Klimasmith, “At Home in the City: Networked Space and Urban Modernity in American Literature, 1850-1925” (Priscilla Wald and Mark Patterson)

Laura Kuske, “Border Stories: Rethinking the Function of Captivity in Early National Fiction” (Mark Patterson).

Peter Kvidera, “Narrating Americanization: Space and Form in U.S. Immigrant Writing, 1890-1927” (Priscilla Wald).

Shannon McRae, “ ‘A Dream of Purely Burning’: Myth, Gender and Modernism” (Kate Cummings).

Julie Prebel, “Domestic Mobility in the American Post-Frontier, 1980-1900” (Susan Jeffords).

Thaine Stearns, “A Visible Chaos: Conflicted Exchanges in Anglo-American Modernism” (Malcolm Griffith).

James Thomas, “The Shaman in the Disco and Other Dreams of Masculinity: A Theory of Male Self-Alienation” (Robert Shulman).

Sean Williams, “Theorizing a Perspective on World Wide Web Argumentation” (George Dillon). 

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Why Engli$h?

Students choose English for a major or for elective study for a variety of reasons.  From what the increasing number of friends and alumni who support the department with gifts tell us, many of the same reasons motivate these donors.

Most who receive In English are regular contributors to Friends of English or to some dedicated English fund.  Many of you contribute through the University’s Annual Fund campaign. “Friends” include a number of UW graduates who did not major in English, many who contribute to memorial funds, and many who never attended this university (a source of several of the department’s larger endowments).  This year, for the first time, we are sending In English to department graduates who have contributed to other parts of the university.  We ask that in addition to those gifts, you designate a gift for English.

Gifts make it possible to recognize and support excellence in teaching through the Karen Shabetai faculty award and the Joan Webber prize for teaching assistants.  Selected by their peers, this year Professor John Webster and teaching assistants Peter Kvidera and Brett Keeling were honored by the faculty.  Also with dedicated annual gifts, the department helps both graduate and undergraduate students to participate in national and regional conferences and provides need-based aid for undergraduates in our London and Rome study-abroad programs.

Families, colleagues, students and friends have established endowments and prize funds to honor the memory of faculty members.  In addition to Shabetai and Webber, these honor Nelson Bentley, Richard Blessing, Edward Cox, James Hall, Robert Heilman, Andrew Hilen, Loren Milliman, Arthur Oberg, Angelo Pelligrini, Theodore Roethke, Roger Sale.  These, as well as the numerous contributions honoring the memory of former students, family, and friends, are gifts whose continuing value and special messages we like to share with their recipients each year.

Whether inspired by an individual, a learning experience, or a strong commitment to education, such gifts have the special potential for the ongoing enrichment of the mind and spirit.  Whenever possible, student and faculty recipients get information about the endowment or prize and the department provides donors with information and personal notes from recipients.  One of this year’s scholarship winners, in expressing his gratitude to the donor, wrote, “Your father mush have been a wonderful man to inspire such kindness in you as you show me (a strange), and you must cherish his memory deeply….  Some day I will pass this good deed along to others.”

The English Department depends upon a combination of gifts, grants, and minimal university funding for its major publications: Poetry Northwest, The Seattle Review, Modern Language Quarterly, and the excellent undergraduate magazine, Bricolage.  So, too, do we depend upon donors’ generosity for the annual Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Reading and other lectures and programs through the year.  A particular case was the great success of the 1999 gala benefit premier of the film Snow Falling on Cedars.  Over 800 attended and thereby contributed to a fund, augmented by the author, that has become the David Guterson Endowment for Creative Writing.

Readers of In English over the past fifteen years see a building base of donor support.  With five degree programs, the faculty and student numbers in the English Department match those of many small colleges.  Unlike departments in the sciences and social sciences, English is not a field with large grant and contract funding. Thus, like liberal arts colleges, the department needs the help of alumni and friends.

To maintain and improve its excellence, to enrich opportunities for learning, teaching, and writing, the English Department must:

Recruit and sustain students through fellowships and scholarships.  In 1999-2000, major gifts established two new endowments and significantly enhanced another.  When faculty committees rank candidates for these awards, there are far more deserving students than prizes and scholarships.  Although the graduate program in language and literature ranks in the top 25 nationally and the MFA in Creative Writing in the top 10, each year promising applicants choose other programs, not always as highly ranked as our own, which have more support to offer.

Train and support teachers in undergraduate programs, graduate student pedagogic mentoring and such proven in-service opportunity as the nationally-recognized Puget Sound Writing Program.

Attract and retain excellent faculty.  In the past several years, despite strong new appointments, increasing numbers of faculty at all ranks have received and accepted competitive offers.  Two present endowed professorships help with retention, but as peer and other schools with more lucrative salaries, benefits, and endowed funds recruit faculty, there is a great need for additional professorships and for general faculty research and instructional support.

For more information about English Department endowments and dedicated funds, or to discuss a particular gift, contact Professor Richard Dunn, Department of English  Box 354330, University of Washington, Seattle, WA  98195-4330, or email 

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Three Chairs

Professors Tom Lockwood (l) and Richard Dunn (center), former Chairs of the English Department, assist Professor and current chair Shawn Wong (r) in greeting the class of 2000 at the Department's annual graduation brunch.

(Photo by Susan Williams)

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Except where otherwise noted, all photos are by Cheryl Mathisen.