Monday, December 16, 2019
December 16, 2019: Book Talk Recaps: Temple Graduate English Program
[Since I’ve been on sabbatical this Fall, in place of my usual semester recaps series I’ll be recapping some of the many book talks I’ve gotten to deliver over the last few months. Leading up to a special weekend post on what’s next for We the People!]
On three awesome audience cohorts who together made the inaugural Temple Graduate English Program Distinguished Alumni Lecture an inspiring experience for the lecturer!
1) Faculty: My opportunity to give the lecture was due directly to Miles Orvell, my dissertation chair and one of the AmericanStudiers whose career (in every sense) has been a model for my own. Miles also asked one of the best questions I’ve gotten at any book talk thus far, pushing me to consider what shared vision of America the inclusive definition of the nation could argue for (his own proposed vision, of a community that embraces diversity and difference as core values, sounded like a good starting point to me!). But I also got great questions and responses from a number of other Temple English faculty, including Katherine Henry, James Salazar, and Roland Williams. Getting the chance to return to this hugely influential space and community as a colleague to such folks was and will remain a career highlight for me.
2) Graduate Students: Another fun experience, if also a slightly “Once More to the Lake” dejá vu one, was the chance to meet and chat with English PhD candidates. I tried to share some of the things I’ve learned about both the profession and job searches over my 15 years at Fitchburg State, as well as through my annual participation in the Teaching at Teaching-Intensive Institutions conference. But as always with the best communities and conversations, I learned as much (if not indeed more) from these folks as I was able to share with them, and that continued to be the case with their questions and responses after the talk. In particular, a grad student of Latinx heritage asked a probing and important question about how multi-generational immigrant American communities can not only buy into but even propagate exclusionary visions of American identity, often targeting newer immigrant communities as a result.
3) Undergrads: I knew that faculty members and grad students would be in attendance, and knew Temple Graduate English well enough to know that they’d have great and helpful responses. But I wasn’t at all expecting what turned out to be the largest audience cohort at the talk, Temple undergrads. Apparently instructors in the university’s awesome Intellectual Heritage program had announced the talk (and perhaps given extra credit for attendance), and a number of their students not only came, but shared really insightful questions and responses. Temple’s undergraduate population is both hugely diverse and reflective of the city of Philadelphia (as it should be, as the city’s only public university), and I’m sure that both those elements contributed to their thoughtful perspectives on exclusion and inclusion. But those communal elements shouldn’t take anything anyway from these folks’ individual and impressive voices, and that’s what I love about each and every book talk—the chance to hear them, from expected and unexpected audiences alike.
Next talk recap tomorrow,
PS. Ideas for other places I could talk or write about We the People? Lemme know, and thanks!