Welcome, everyone, to the English Department’s new website and to the new academic year. Both are works in progress but, as a quick tour will make clear, the new website is already a big improvement over the old site. The old academic year, however, will be harder to top. As you can see in our newsletter, last year our faculty and our students won a wide array of awards, national and local, both for research and for teaching. And the successful negotiation of our first  (for faculty) union contract boosted morale by starting us down the path toward a much fairer system of compensation.

Now, back from the summer, we’re ready to take on the challenges of making the new year as fruitful as the last one was. At least most of us are. Roger Reeves and Sunil Agnani will be gone for the year, Roger with a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton, Sunil with a Rice Seminar Research Fellowship at Rice. Alfred Thomas will also be gone but only for a semester, serving as the first Kosciuszko Foundation Visiting Professor at the University of Warsaw and I’ll be away for just a couple of weeks as the Media@McGill Beaverbrook Visiting Scholar at McGill University. These absences will be more than made up for, however, by the arrival of our new colleague, Peter Coviello. Pete is the author of several important books on American literature, was for fifteen years a dynamic and much-loved teacher at Bowdoin College and, with the wonderful talk he gave on polygamy last year, began to make his presence felt in our Department even before he arrived to stay.  We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome him to UIC.

One of the things we didn’t accomplish last year has left us with probably our most exciting challenge for the new one.  We didn’t make an appointment of a new Director of First-Year Writing, but during the course of the search I was so impressed by the energy, intelligence and expertise of the faculty we already have in place that I’ve authorized a FYWP working group, chaired by Mark Bennett and Charitianne Williams, to begin thinking about what we already do well, what we need to do better, and what we might start doing for the first time. The idea behind this group is to make even better use than we already do of the knowledge, talent and energy of our students and faculty.  If you have thoughts about the teaching of writing, you should feel free to get in touch with Mark or Charitianne, and if you have ideas more generally about things that English might be doing, you should just get in touch with me.

So welcome again to UIC English. I’m looking forward to a great year.

Walter Benn Michaels
Professor and Head