March 23-29, 2001
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English faculty to share diverse scholarship

English faculty to share diverse scholarship

Conference proceedings will result in electronic book

By Robert Brickhouse

A special conference, March 30-31, organized by the faculty of the English department, will showcase the full range of today's diverse scholarly approaches to literary studies. The proceedings will be published later this year as an electronic book.

Titled "Texts and Contexts," the conference will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 30, followed by a reception, and from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., March 31. The venue is Clark Hall 147, a multi-media room where demonstrations of the latest in digital humanities scholarship can be shown.

The conference will feature presentations by scholars working in the earliest periods to the most modern and representing a broad cross-section of the English department's current research interests. These include traditional critical interpretations and theories of how historical, social and other forces influence literary works.

"This forum will offer a chance for people working in different scholarly modes to discuss their ideas with each other," said Michael Levenson, a professor of modern literature and chair of the English department. "Literary studies has long struggled with questions of interpretations of texts and their relation to their surroundings. This is a chance for us to reflect together on some of those questions."

At a time when some venerable English departments struggle to find shared purposes among their faculty, "this is a major event in departmental solidarity," Levenson added. "It's a sign of our commitment to one another."

Another key aim of the conference is to bridge the "digital divide" between scholars who have embraced new technology in research and those less interested in it. Its approximately 20 presentations, including both traditional articles and multi-media research archives, will be published electronically as a scholarly book available on the Internet. Undergraduate students from English professor John Unsworth's digital publishing class will be closely involved in creating the book this semester.

The conference also coincides with visits of prospective graduate students. Approximately 20 will get to meet the U.Va. English department faculty and see the mix of its many subdisciplines.

A sampling of what they will experience ranges from a discussion of "texts and contexts" by Ralph Cohen, editor of the influential journal, New Literary History, to a talk by award-winning poet Gregory Orr; from Eleanor Kaufman's study of Herman Melville's European influences to Lisa Woolfork's interpretation of slave narrative; and from Anthony Spearing's look at religious truth and historical context in the medieval period to Stephen Railton's presentation on electronic scholarship, work that recently won a major history prize.


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