Welcome to Lehigh English & Drown Unbound!

We can’t deny it any longer: summer is over and the new academic year is about to begin, sure to be filled with many plans and unexpected discoveries–all accompanied by a heaping dose of excitement and nervousness.

Old Lehigh U Postcard

These feelings are especially potent for anyone beginning their graduate school education, or for those starting graduate school at Lehigh for the first time. So, for all our new community members, Laura and I will have a few posts over the next week filled with advice and helpful tips for managing this hectic and wonderful and challenging and thrilling new year. But first, check out a few highlights already on the blog:  Continue reading

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Learning to Read

Directing a play is applied criticism (which is to say applied reading); the ballistics to the pure physics of literary theory. I feel qualified to say this (and what is qualification other than a feeling turned into a LinkedIn profile) because for the past two years, I operated, simultaneously, as an English graduate student, and as a playwright-director in New York City.
Play Promotional Materials

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2016 Graduate Student Commencement Address: Purpose, Possibility and Love

Graduation View from the stage

On Monday, May 23, 2016 I was honored to deliver the 2016 Graduate Student Address at Lehigh’s 148th Commencement Ceremony. The subject of my talk was Purpose, Possibility, and Love. As I thought about what message I wanted to share with my fellow graduates and our families, I wondered about the other black women who walked this path before me. With the help of Professors Jenna Lay and Betsy Fifer, I was able to piece together the brief history of the two phenomenal black doctoral students who pursued the English degree. Only Ronald Williams graduated from the program, in the 1970s. I was shocked to learn that Nancy Cho Barrett passed away in 2003 after passing her exams with distinction. With this information heavy on my heart, I prepared a talk that I hoped would honor Nancy’s memory and acknowledge the significance of my role as the first African American Woman English PhD Graduate from Lehigh. The following is the address I wrote, followed by the video footage that begins at 38:00. Continue reading

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What Nourishes Us?: Summer Reading 2016

“Reading to me was fundamental, as fundamental as food.” 

–Bich Minh Nyugen, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

summer reading advertisement

As in the past two years, Lehigh’s Summer Reading Program for the Class of 2020 is centered around a theme; for 2016, it’s Food: What Nourishes Us? The books that have been chosen–Mark Schatzker’s The Dorito Effect, and Bich Minh Nguyen’s Stealing Buddha’s Dinnerjuxtapose two very different approaches to junk food, nutrition, nourishment, culture and food identity. The books also serve as a gateway for broader theme-related conversations about the ethics of our eating practices, food justice, hunger, and more.

The opportunities for personal reflections about food and identity, research into food access issues and sustainability initiatives at Lehigh and in Bethlehem, and debates over best responses to food crises create rich material for a first-year writing instructor. What follows are a few easy ways to incorporate the books and the theme into your English 001 in the fall, and more information on how you can be involved in the program this year and the future. Continue reading

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Reflections on a Year of Connected Academics

Connected Academics Logo

When I applied to the MLA’s Connected Academics proseminar early last summer, I knew I wanted to explore alt/non-academic career options, but I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. So in my application, I focused on three ideas: my “commitment to connectivity” and public discourse about the humanities; my valuation of the project of translation; and my desire to increase my professional self-knowledge. I tried to show how I had a longstanding research and teaching interest in making connections between groups—an interest that matched the CA initiative’s goal of “integrating the values of humanistic study into society.” I talked about wanting to better accomplish the crucial work of translating academic practices into more general skills and abilities. And I explained that I wanted to become a better candidate for any job, whether in or outside of academia: to know my worth and be able to articulate it convincingly to employers. Continue reading

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Getting In and Fitting In: First-Generation Students in Graduate School

As a college education becomes more financially feasible and socially expected for a greater portion of the population, historically disadvantaged students and those from working class families are entering colleges and universities at a higher rate than prior decades. Though school officials offer varying definitions of what it means to be a first-generation student, many agree that first-generation students tend to feel unprepared and under-supported for the many challenges that college entails. As such, universities, such as our own, are starting to implement more programs specifically designed to recruit, support, and retain first-generation students, by building community, offering practical studying and time management advice, and helping students stay on track with their academic and personal goals.

the struggle

Admittedly, my alma mater did not have a LUSSI (Lehigh University Summer Scholars Institute) program, as Lehigh students do. In fact, I was not aware that such programs existed, much less that I might have benefited from knowing that I was not alone, as I struggled to not only adapt to college, but also, to learn the inner mechanisms of higher education that other students seemed to anticipate. Although it sounds unfathomable to me now, it wasn’t really that I started applying for graduate schools and researching stipends that I realized what being a first-generation student actually meant to me. Continue reading

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What’s Happening?: May 2016

We have one more week of classes this May, with four exciting events still to come before we wrap up the year.

TODAY, Monday, May 2, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm stop by the Global Commons (Williams Hall) to pick up a copy of this year’s Lehigh Review and celebrate with the undergraduate artists, authors, and editors who put it together–as well as with our own Laura Kremmel and Kyle Brett, who acted as advisors and guides.  Continue reading

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“I’m Going To Get a Little Technical Here”: An Interview with Amardeep Singh

Deep Solo (1)

Preparing for the keynote address…

James McAdams: You mentioned in your March 4th keynote address to the 2nd annual Lehigh LSJ Conference a certain moment in time (circa 2004-2008) where social media and various open access publishing platforms manifested a “technoutopianism” where the spirit of sharing, collaboration, and community was, in fact, “real,” before being co-opted by economic forces, trolls, ads, etc. Could you mention an example or two of inspirational Public Humanities (PH) or Digital Humanities (DH) work during this period and speak to whether it would be possible to revive these pursuits in 2016, or has everything been monetized beyond redemption?  If there are reasons for hope, could you sketch out some of the necessary elements that might ensure (at least for a while) a “playful space” free of market commodification?

Amardeep Singh: It seems like it might be helpful to give a little personal history here.

I discovered the idea of academic blogging late in 2003, oddly enough, when I read about what people like Daniel Drezner and Michael Bérubé were doing on their blogs. I quickly became addicted to the intellectual communities I found in the comments threads at places like Michael Bérubé’s blog [JM insert: archived here] and the group blog Crooked Timber, which is still, amazingly, going strong. By spring 2004, I had started my own blog running on my Lehigh webspace [JM insert: here]. At first it seemed an act of vanity – since I knew I was a young academic that no one had heard of, how would they find my blog? Continue reading

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Ex Academia ‘Merica

Recently, current Lehigh English Department Ph.D. candidates and sole staffers of ‘Merica Magazine Ed Simon (Editor and Founder) and Wade Linebaugh (Assistant Editor) sat down to discuss their joint venture, graduate school, public humanities, and the finer points of laundry etiquette. Their banter has been edited for length and clarity.


WL: So the properly ‘merican thing to do would be to start with our origin myth, right? What made the whole thing start? Continue reading

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Lehigh Spaces: Farrington Square

When I first stepped foot on Lehigh’s campus six years ago, I was only a high school student entranced by the mere thought of starting college. Yet, somehow on that day I was able to set aside my apprehensions over SAT scores, Common App questions, and letters of recommendations. I was able to forget about all of those things because I was completely distracted by the beauty of the campus.


The fact that I’m writing this post gives away what happened next: I enrolled, spent four years as an undergraduate student, graduated . . . and then enrolled again. As a current graduate student who has been at Lehigh for the past five years, I can say that I still find the campus just as beautiful as I did on that first day I visited. However, many things have changed.

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