Faculty News

Michael J. Collins

On Friday, November 2, 2006, at its graduation ceremony, Michael J. Collins was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education of the University of Wales where he delivered a brief address to the graduates of the Institute.  Honorary Fellowships are awarded to those who have attained distinction in the arts, literature, science, or public life or who have rendered exceptional service to the Institute.  His fellowship was awarded for services to literature.  Prof. Collins has been and continues to be a Visiting Professor of English and Theatre at the Institute. 

            At the end of the 2006 – 2007 Professor Collins received the Bunn award for excellence in teaching.  Bunn awardees are some of Georgetown’s finest teachers and are chosen by student ballot.  For many years he has taught courses in Shakespeare, in Modern Drama, among many other subjects.  Mike’s award follows hard on last year's Bunn award to Wayne Knoll, suggesting that the English Department has some of Georgetown’s finest teachers in its ranks. 

Barbara Feinman Todd
has become the first Associate Dean for Journalism and Director of Journalism Programs for the University.  She was instrumental in the development of a new Master of Professional Studies curriculum for journalism and public relations and continues to direct the undergraduate program in journalism as well. 

Lalitha Gopalan
a widely admired Associate Professor in the English Department, will be leaving to take up a position as Associate Professor in the Department of Radio, TV, and Film at the University of Texas, Austin.

            Professor Gopalan graduated with a B.A. from Madras Christian College, and went on to earn a M.A. in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics,  an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Rochester.

            Professor Gopalan came to Georgetown in September 1992 in a joint appointment which had her teaching half the time in the School of Foreign Service and half of the time in the English Department.  There she taught a range of film genre courses over the years-- Westerns, Gangster Films, Horror Films; Women Filmmakers; Interpreting Visual Culture; and so on, to both undergraduate and graduate students. She notes that “I have always enjoyed genre classes and in the last few years, the course on Horror Films has been most fun. I will continue to savor the gasps in the room when the eye cutting moment in UN CHIEN ANDALOU unfolds on  screen.”  Her favorite English classes were “Asian Horror Cinema, the first time I taught Women Filmmakers and all my classes on Post-War Cinema.”  At the School of Foreign Service she consistently enjoyed “ the Introduction to CULP Humanities in its various incarnations.”

            Along with a series of significant essays on cinema Professor Gopalan has published two books: Cinema of Interruptions: Action Genres in Contemporary Indian Cinema.  [London: British Film Institute, 2002] and  Bombay.  A volume in the “BFI Film Classics” series. [London, British Film Institute 2005].

            Lalitha’s students and colleagues have long admired her wide-ranging learning and sharp analytical perceptions, and they will miss her lively wit and engaging friendliness.  It’s to be hoped that she will be returning to Georgetown regularly in the future for guest lectures on cinema. 

Joan Ozark Holmer
has published  “Desdemona, Woman Warrior: `O, these men, these men!” (4.3.59) in  Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, 17 (2005), 132-64.  Here is her summary of the paper’s argument.

            In this radical re-reading of Desdemona, I argue that Othello is a tragedy that surprises us because Shakespeare makes the blackest man onstage a white man (Iago) and the bravest warrior onstage a woman (Desdemona).  None of the acknowledged literary sources for Othello describe the heroine as a warrior; therefore, Shakespeare catches us off guard when Desdemona is identified as a warrior twice in the play (2.1.180; 3.4.152).  Contesting the prevailing critical view of Desdemona as a weak and passive character, I explore how and why Shakespeare adapts various source materials to fashion a heroine who is literally a warrior in the Christian sense, with faith as her shield (Eph. 6.17), and figuratively a warrior in the secular sense since her tongue is her sword or her only weapon, used defensively against Othello and offensively on behalf of Othello.  New findings in the acknowledged sources (Cinthio, Bandello, and Fenton) are supplemented with arguments for two new sources: (1) Spenser’s portrayal of the relationship between the Redcrosse Knight and Una in The Faerie Queene; (2) Erasmus’s depiction of the woman of faith as the heroic warrior against evil in his Enchiridion (Greek for “handbook” and “dagger”), a manual designed to serve as a Christian soldier’s chief weapon in spiritual warfare.  These contexts illuminate Shakespeare’s crafting of some of the more puzzling aspects of Desdemona’s behavior and language, especially her deathbed lie that she killed herself and her farewell to her “kind lord.”   The character most militant against slander ironically lies stifled after slandering herself with a lie that not only illuminates her magnanimity but also triggers ultimately the stifling of Iago’s slanders through Othello’s immediate truth-telling (“`Twas I that killed her”) that in turn enables Emilia’s unraveling of Iago’s web of lies.   Embodying Erasmus’s conception of the woman warrior, Desdemona sets an example of Christian kindness in love that is giving and forgiving, courageously sacrificing her reputation or “honor” as a self-proclaimed suicide in order to save Othello. Legal issues are also clarified in light of erroneous claims by scholars who have maintained that Othello’s action would be excused in both Renaissance England and Venice, and new evidence for favoring “the base Judean” reading, arguably the most famous textual crux in Shakespeare’s canon, is presented.   Although the Duke initially judged Othello “far more fair than black” (1.3.291), by the end of the play Desdemona proves herself the play’s “fair” warrior in both senses of outer beauty and inner virtue.  From the perspective of some in Shakespeare’s audiences, Desdemona, as Emilia’s human “angel” (5.2.128)  but no modern “kickass” Charlie’s angel, may well deserve a medal of honor for courage under fire on the moral battlefield. 

M. Lindsay Kaplan’s
essay "Jessica’s Mother: Medieval Constructions of Jewish Race and Gender”  in The Merchant of Venice." will appear in Shakespeare Quarterly  in 2007.  Prof. Kaplan reported on this project during the English Department Faculty Lunch program in 2006.   Here is Lindsay’s  summary of the essay’s argument:

“In this essay I argue that the gendered racial representation of Jews in early modern English culture, articulated most explicitly in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, draws upon a similar set of ideas developed in medieval England.  Thirteenth century English culture gave rise to the concept of an immutable Jewish racial identity, corresponding to a modern definition of race, that was constructed in theological, class, somatic, hereditary and gendered terms.  The site of conversion provides the context in which these emerging assumptions become clear.  In those cases where converts from Judaism are seen as impervious to conversions, the resistance comes not from the converts themselves, nor from questions about the sincerity of their profession, but from a Christian assertion of Jewish race.  An examination of the language in which these assertions are articulated demonstrates a concern that Jews, religious inferiors according to Christian doctrine, gain a kind of superiority over Christians through conversion. This view creates a paradox: on the one hand, the conversion of the Jews is necessary to fulfill Paul’s prophecy upon which the second coming depends, on the other hand, conversion is perceived as advantaging Jews over Christians. The representation of a Jewish woman lacking in racial difference from Christians and acquiescent to conversion develops in the same period, around the time that Aristotle’s views on gender and reproduction are re-introduced in Europe.  Aristotle offers evidence for the “natural” inferiority of women to men generally, and particularly, for my purposes, in the realm of reproduction, where women serve as mere vessels for nurturing the male seed that becomes a child.  These ideas make possible the construction of an female Jew amenable to conversion, insofar as her inferiority is fixed even after her “elevation” to Christianity, and whose racial status is moot, since she will not contribute any of her own characteristics to her husband’s offspring.  These are the ideas informing gendered representations of Jewish race in the early modern period, and a close consideration of their medieval development will be followed by a discussion of their operation in Merchant of Venice.” 

Ricardo Ortiz
is on leave from Georgetown until the summer of 2007 while he directs the American Communities Program at Cal State LA, where he also holds the Joseph A. Bailey II, MD, endowed chair in American Communities. His first book, Cultural Erotics in Cuban America, will be published by the University of Minnesota Press in December 2006. In early 2006 Prof. Ortiz delivered papers on panels at the Latin American Studies conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and at the American Literature Association Conference in San Francisco, CA. He has also published a series of review pieces in The Lambda Book Report on a variety titles, including collections of poetry by Richard Blanco and Rigoberto González, an essay collection by Thomas Glave, and a history of Gay LA by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons. Finally Prof. Ortíz served as a judge for the 2006 Alan Bray Prize, awarded every year to the best book in Queer Literary Scholarship by the Gay and Lesbian Studies caucus of the Modern Language Association. 

Jason Rosenblatt
In a review of Prof. Rosenblatt’s Renaissance England’s Chief Rabbi [Oxford University Press] Brian Cummings writes in the Times Literary Supplement [13 April 07] that the book “is full of the genial humour and spirit of Selden’s own researches into Hebraic lore.”  He continues,  “It is a delight to read a modern academic book (especially one emanating from a Department of English) which relishes exegesis in Hebrew, and which quotes liberally from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic sources.  It is a delight to share Rosenblatt’s delight in overturning modern academic prejudices (especially in English Departments) in showing seventeenth-century Bible study to be anything but prissy or pusillanimous.”  It’s good to hear Jason’s book relished, and to find him overturning in his splendid work assumptions about what goes on in “English Departments” – thanks to Jason and others our Department, it can be argued, is anything but narrow or “pusillanimous.”

 Mimi Yiu 
       Mimi's article, "Sounding the Space between Men:  Choric and Choral Cities in Ben Jonson's Epicoene; or The Silent Woman,"  appears in the current issue of PMLA.