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{ Fall 2009 }
  Datelines - Literary News

2009 National Book Award winners recently announced


Dear friends of the English Department,

I thought I would use this opportunity to highlight some new courses being offered by English Department faculty. Over the fall, I have been reading the fiction of Alan Hollinghurst, whose novel The Line of Beauty won the Man Booker prize for fiction in 2004. Hollinghurst’s novels position him as the self-conscious heir to both Oscar Wilde and Henry James; his queer fiction makes explicit what remains coded or reticent in The Picture of Dorian Gray, say, or in The Aspern Papers. The gay men in Hollinghurst’s novels cruise early 1980s London or other European cities in search of anonymous recreational sexual encounters, their lives shadowed by the impending AIDS epidemic. The novels are also haunted by their gay protagonists’ awareness of their queer forbears. In The Swimming-Pool Library, the narrator, Will Beckwith, is invited to read an unpublished memoir of an Edwardian aristocrat’s secret life as a homosexual man who has (like Wilde before him) been jailed in a “crusade to eradicate male vice.” In The Line of Beauty, the protagonist, Nick Guest, is writing his dissertation on Henry James while living in a Notting Hill estate surrounded by beautiful art objects that are reminiscent of the collections prized by James’s aesthetes. I mention my interest in Hollinghurst’s fiction not only because, as professors of literature, we are often asked what current literature we can recommend reading, but because for the first time this fall Professor Judith Haas, director of our program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, is teaching a course on “Queer Identities, Queer Narratives” that considers “questions of identity and desire” in texts by or about “gay people.” This special topics course is one of several courses now being offered in the department that focus on literature or film and various aspects of identity politics. Professor Jason Richards is teaching a class this fall on “The Postcolonial Short Story,” while Professor Rashna Richards is offering a seminar on Bollywood cinema and its appropriation and adaptation of Hollywood films. Professor Rychetta Watkins taught a course this past spring on “Writing Revolution: African, Asian, and Native American Responses to the ‘60s” and will be centering her first-year writing seminar next term on the “Crossroads to Freedom” digital archive, which contains a wealth of materials documenting the Civil Rights era in Memphis. The introduction of a course such as Haas’s “Queer Identities, Queer Narratives” is both timely and, in another sense, long overdue. I can say, as someone who has taught at Rhodes since 1984, that it is refreshing to see these courses being added to our curriculum.

 Jennifer Brady, Department Chair  

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As the graduate school advisor for the English department, Assistant Professor Scott Newstok has advice for all students. []
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