September 29th, 2011
Photos by Kat Clark ‘12
Photos by Kat Clark ‘12
Photos by June Xie ‘11
in the new issue of _Harper’s Magazine,
Professor Jahan Ramazani, Edgar F. Shanon Professor of English Literature at the University of Virginia, gave his talk “Poetry and Postcolonialism” on March 31st, 2010 to an inquisitive audience. His talk explored how poetry, specifically postcolonial poetry, draws on the fields of law, prayer, song, and other cultural practices, blurring distinctions between these conventionally separated spheres. Examining the poetry of Patience Agabi, Lorna Goodison, Nourbese Philip, and Agha Shahid Ali, Professor Ramazani distinguished postcolonial poetry from the discourses from which it draws. Presenting what he considered to be a fresh body of ideas, Professor Ramazani found the questions and feedback from Swarthmore students and faculty “hugely stimulating”.
Pictures from March 24th, 2010.
–june xie, ‘11.
This past summer I interned with Little, Brown and Company at the Hachette Book Group in New York City. I was incredibly excited to be working as the editorial intern for Little, Brown, and riding up the glass-and-chrome elevators every morning never lost its charm. As part of an English major’s dream, I could not believe at first that I was being paid to read. A large component of my job was to add an extra pair of eyes to the manuscripts that were submitted and also those in the process of editing. In addition, I was able to attend meetings to find out more about the business. These included a series of lunchtime lectures (mainly geared towards the summer interns at the company), each presented by the head of a different department to give a sense of how the different pieces of the publishing puzzle fit together. Even the CEO of Hachette, David Young, came down to chat with us – and welcomed us to visit his office anytime.
My big project for the summer was working on the endnotes for Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book, “Eating Animals.” While the experience did not turn me into a total vegetarian, it did give me a hands-on look into the production of the book (I was the last person to view the manuscript before it was send to copy editing), and how it feels to see your name in the acknowledgements. And the excitement of the internship has carried on past the summer, as I spent this past fall and winter eagerly watching the books I saw in process hit the bookshelves.
This coming Tuesday (the 23rd), Michael Pietsch is coming to campus to speak. As the publisher for Little, Brown, it seems to me that Michael knows all there is to know about the business – how it runs, how we got to where we are now with books and where the future of publishing is headed. If you are interested in going into publishing or just want to know more about the production of books, I would highly recommend attending his talk. I’ve listened in every year, and every year I learn something new.
Career Services and the English Department present
Michael Pietsch, Vice-President and Publisher of
Little, Brown and Company
Tuesday, February 23 at 7:00 pm in Scheuer Room
“e-Books, iBooks, p-Books, Books!–publishing now and in the future”
Michael Pietsch is Executive Vice President and Publisher of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group. Before joining Little, Brown in 1991 he worked as an editor at Scribner and Harmony books.
Some of the writers he has worked with are the novelists Martin Amis, Michael Connelly, Tony Earley, Janet Fitch, Rick Moody, Walter Mosley, James Patterson, George Pelecanos, Alice Sebold, Anita Shreve, Nick Tosches, David Foster Wallace, and Stephen Wright; the nonfiction writers John Feinstein, Peter Guralnick, and David Sedaris; and the cartoonist R. Crumb.
A career highlight was editing Ernest Hemingway’s posthumous memoir, The Dangerous Summer, when he was with Scribner in 1985.
Recent acquisitions at Little, Brown have included new books from Tom Wolfe, Keith Richards, Donna Tartt, and Tina Fey.
Michael is a graduate of Harvard College and lives in New York with his wife and three children.
After a full day of discussion of English literature, seven hours worth between a course and a seminar, the literature that I attempt to read outside of these classes start to fall into thematic patterns or continually evoke quintessential literary questions. The dark side to being a major is the struggle to leave behind critical analysis and separate the student from the reader. (Even my words now are attempting to take the shape of formal thought.) The study of English is unique in that way.
Reading can often blossom from childhood – many of us began reading for enjoyment and fulfillment. Few other academic disciplines can claim that they hold a similar connection to students before we became students, especially at Swarthmore. But at some point last year, I realised that I had stopped reading novels, my favorite literary form, for pleasure. I easily consume creative news articles and short stories through online magazines, but I had not completed reading many volumes that I picked up outside of my classes during the semester. Most of my pleasure reading is crammed into the spaces between semesters – books were sprawled all around me when I was home in L.A. for winter break.
When I went abroad to London, a niche for reading was carved out for me since I had an hour commute on the Tube every day into university. I owe greatly to my fellow commuters because it was through them that I serendipitously discovered, and fell in love with, Zadie Smith’s hilarious White Teeth, which I then wrote about my for my capstone senior English essay last semester.
When I returned to Swarthmore, I found it difficult to return to the pattern of reading that I had developed. I asked a friend, a 2008 Swat graduate in English, for a recommended reading list and strategies to create such a niche here. The problem with asking him is that reading is an individual process – everyone has a different method. My friend would sneakily read between classes and under the desk during classes. I chose to call upon a classic convention of reading a few pages before bed every night. The book that I am currently reading was from my friend’s list and is called The Baron in the Trees. I gather that it is a story about warring Italian royal families, but I’m only on page 35.
Even as I was reading, I found myself thinking about the relationship between picturesque details and characterization etc [insert pedantic academic questions]. But then this reading was no longer separate from a class assignment since it placed me in the same mindset that I took during my many hours of class. Pleasure became conflated with study.
Can I put aside my critical eye? (Or “I”? – a bad pun)
An idea came to me during my dance class, African 1. The college offers an astonishing variety of courses, including the conventional ones like Ballet and Modern, but also Salsa, Swing, and Tango. We come to these classes to pause the mind. You can’t think when you dance, not after you have learned and memorized the movements. They become recorded in the muscles and the body gains autonomy when it moves. The moment a dancer attempts to analyze the movements with the mind is when it can all break down.
I’m not sure yet how to translate this process from dancing to reading, but I know that I should unharness the words from my brain and read with – what do you call it – spirit? Intuition? The soul? Something deeper than the intellect and as instinctive as the muscle – the apparatus that inspired my love for the literature and turned me into its student.
PS – Swarthmore is not directly at fault for this. McCabe offers a vast collection of literary titles and every student is a walking bibliography. The next book on my list, from a friend who is not an English major, is Mistress of Spices.
-Ramya Gopal, senior English and Economics major, and Managing Editor for The Daily Gazette