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English Department

Fall 2013 Newsletter

Welcome by the Department Chair, Jenny Spencer

My first months as chair of the English Department have coincided with intensified debates on the national stage about the value of a degree in the Humanities. Recent reports from the Academy of Arts and Sciences (see the Commissions Report The Heart of the Matter) and Harvard University show a precipitous decline of humanities majors since the mid 1960s, and suggest that the Humanities are in a serious, and perhaps irreversible, decline. Yet a newly released study from the Modern Language Association tells a slightly different story: that English and foreign language degrees, in particular, have held steady at between 9 and 11% of all University degrees granted over the last several decades. Our educational institutions do face challenges, yes; but has the English degree really lost its value in the current economic climate? It’s a conversation worth having because it keeps us thinking about the relationship between what we do in our classrooms and what is happening in the workplace and beyond.

Read the full Chair's welcome.

Tribute to Anne Herrington

In May of 2013, after 27 years of service, Professor Anne Herrington retired from our department. An internationally prominent scholar and author, and an integral, committed member of the University community, Professor Herrington served at various times as the director of the Undergraduate Writing Program, the Chair of the English Department, and the Director of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. In the midst of her many successes, Professor Herrington always found time for her students. One of them, Jessica Ouellette, once a UMass undergrad and now a PhD student in our program, read this tribute to Professor Herrington at the end-of-year Awards Ceremony this past Spring.

Read tribute to Anne Herrington

Victoria Szydlowski (2014) — English Majors in the World

Hearing the hollering for and against the English major, I will address this stormy discourse. If I don’t, it may be imposed onto this essay regardless of my intent. I am in a unique position to join this discussion since I was both a neuroscience-psychology major and an English major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Both parts of my education were aimed at discovering a bigger, weirder, ineffable “pap of life” through science’s third-person objectivity and literature’s first-person subjectivity.

Read article by Alumna Szydlowski

MFA Program for Poets and Writers

We are very happy to welcome two new fiction writers to our faculty:  Edie Meidav and Jeff Parker.

Edie Meidav’s books include LOLA, CALIFORNIA (FSG; in paperback from Picador 2012); CRAWL SPACE (FSG; Picador, 2005); and THE FAR FIELD: A NOVEL OF CEYLON (Mariner, 2002). Find out more about Edie Meidav at ediemeidav.com.

Among Jeff Parker’s books are THE TASTE OF PENNY (Dzanc, 2010); OVENMAN (Tinhouse 2007); with William Powhida, THE BACK OF THE LINE (Decode 2007); with William Powhida, THE BACK OF THE LINE (Decode 2007); and the co-edited collection AMERIKA: RUSSIAN WRITERS VIEW THE UNITED STATES. Fine out more at iamovenman.com.

Read the full MFA Program Update

Give To English!

The English Department depends on the contributions and support of its alumni to create a vibrant English Department for our students. Your contributions allow us to offer student scholarships, innovative courses, special community events, and to host visits by internationally renowned writers and scholars. Please consider making a contribution, thereby enriching the lives of our students while also investing in our common future.
Thank you for your generosity!

Contributions may be made by mail using the form below or online at:

Make checks payable to the UMass Amherst Annual Fund with the English Department specified on the memo line of the check and mail to: UMass Amherst Annual Fund, Development Office, Memorial Hall, 134 Hicks Way, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003-9270.

Go to our full donor listing.

More news , including Renaissance Center update, Oxford Summer Program, PWTC update, WMWP update, Off the Press, What We're Reading, Awards and Donors.

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University of Massachusetts Department of English
170 Bartlett Hall, Amherst, MA 01003 .  umass.edu/english . 413-545-4339