Alum turns “Examiner”

It’s only been three weeks since graduation, but Allegra Gallian writes that she already has her first writing “gig.” She’s covering theatre in the Chicago area for—one of 379 Chicago Examiners and 1238 Arts & Entertainment Examiners nationwide. As newspapers continue to struggle and lay people off, journalism seems to be shifting toward the Web, and the Examiner is a perfect example. You can access Allegra’s articles through her home page.

The John Updike Society is officially launched

At the 20th annual conference of the American Literature Association in Boston, Updike scholars got together to form The John Updike Society, a not-for-profit organization devoted to “awakening and sustaining reader interest in the literature and life of John Updike, promoting literature written by Updike, and fostering and encouraging critical responses to Updike’s literary works.”

The Society’s first roundtable, “John Updike: Fifty Years of Literary Influence,” featured myself as moderator, with Jack De Bellis (Lehigh University), Lawrence Broer (University of South Florida), Marshall Boswell (Rhodes College), and James Schiff (University of Cincinnati) participating. It was that core group, along with Updike’s Shillington, Pa., contact Dave Silcox, who founded the Society. At the first business meeting on Sunday, May 24, the brand-new organization—which launched with 40 members, many of them voting by proxy—approved bylaws and elected Plath to serve as President/Director. Schiff was elected to be editor of The John Updike Review and a director, while  Peter Bailey (St. Lawrence University) was elected Secretary/Director, and De Bellis, Boswell, and David Parker Royal (Texas A&M University-Commerce) were elected directors. In addition to publishing a journal of Updike studies, the Society plans to host conferences in Pennsylvania, Boston, and other places where Updike lived and worked. Pictured (l to r) are Royal, Schiff, De Bellis, Plath, Boswell, and Bailey. Not pictured is Judith Newman (University of Nottingham, U.K.), who was also elected to the board. The Society includes members from five different countries.

Illinois Wesleyan University will host the Society’s website. Updike received an honorary degree from IWU in February 2002, when he was featured speaker at a Founder’s Day Convocation celebrating the opening of The Ames Library.

IWU alum discovers works by early Black playwright

Eric Gardner (English, ’89) will share his discovery of an early African American book of plays in a piece titled “Forgotten Manuscripts: William Jay Greenly’s Antebellum Temperance Drama,” which will appear in the next issue of African American Review. Greenly, a Black teacher in New Albany, Indiana, published the collection of plays titled The Three Drunkards in early 1858; as Greenly’s book seems to pre-date the publication of William Wells Brown’s play The Escape by a few months, it may well be the earliest book of plays published by an African American yet discovered. Greenly’s book is also an important example of early Black temperance literature and of Black literature in the Midwest.

“My speculation—mainly from internal evidence in the plays—is that they were designed either as ‘closet drama’ (and so not meant to be performed) and/or as plays for a kind of readers’ theater (say a church group or a class) where the parts would be read aloud, but not paired with costumes, sets, props, etc.,” Gardner said.

Gardner is Professor, Braun Fellow, and Chair of English at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. He also edited Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West (2007) and Major Voices: The Drama of Slavery (2005), and wrote Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature, which will be published this October by the University Press of Mississippi. 

This past weekend Gardner, who was an editor at The Argus while at IWU, presented a paper at the 20th annual conference of the American Literature Association in Boston on “Rethinking the Occasional: 19th Century Black Women’s Newspaper Poetry.” He’s pictured here with Elizabeth Alexander, who was at the conference to receive the 2009 Stephen Henderson Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society. Alexander, of course, is best known for “Praise Song for the Day,” a poem written for and read at the Inauguration of President Barrack Obama.

In an interview for IWU Online, Gardner said he was “well prepared” for graduate school and beyond. “Certainly Bob Bray’s early instruction in critical reading and recovery, Pam Muirhead’s on African American lit, and Paul Bushnell and Mike Young’s on historical method all shaped what I’m doing now,” he said.

Commencement 2009: The Long Good-bye

On May 3, 55 English majors walked across the platform at Sheean to receive their degrees, and afterwards feasted on the traditional scones and strawberries. Then it was on to the “major” stations, where students could introduce faculty and parents to each other and take photos.  Here, “prof cam” shows a shot of the recessional. 



There were hugs for some, jokes with others, and plenty of bittersweet moments. 

Some students said they were headed for graduate school, some had PR and writing job interviews, while others were joining the Peace Corps or traveling. They’ll be missed! 

To see more graduation photos, check out the photo gallery on the English department’s main page (linked on the left menu).