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Posts by: Marisa Siegel

The Future of English

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Are English departments dying? Or, are they simply changing to meet the wants and needs of today’s students? Emory University professor Marc Bousquet argues it’s the latter, and sees more change ahead:

If universities like mine are still offering doctorates in English 10 years from now, the programs won’t resemble the lit-only degrees at Yale or Columbia.

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Writing “the very stuff of life”

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Today in unusual writing jobs: an inside look at what it’s like to be an obituary news writer for the New York Times.

Each day, it is our job to come to know such strangers intimately, inhaling their lives through telephone calls to their families, through newspaper and magazine profiles culled from electronic databases and through the crumbling yellowed clippings from the Times morgue that can fall to dust in our fingers as we read them.

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UMass Amherst Celebrates 50 Years of MFA Writing!

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Online literary magazine Route Nine released a special alumni issue to celebrate the UMass Amherst MFA for Poets & Writers’s 50th Anniversary. Route Nine is edited by Rumpus Tumblr editor Molly McArdle.

In addition, the W. E. B. Du Bois Library inaugurated an MFA Special Collection featuring five decades of ephemera from program participants and The Massachusetts Review has released a special issue celebrating fifty years of the MFA for Poets & Writers.

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A 21st Century Kind of Poet

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At The Millions, Michael Bourne writes about the stunning success of poet Tess Taylor’s debut collection, The Forage House, and technology’s hand in making it happen:

When writers talk about literature in the digital age, they tend to lay out one nightmare scenario after another: books losing value as they migrate onto screens, publishing houses shedding jobs, readers snuggling up with cable shows on their iPads rather than books.

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The Works Behind the Work

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Over at the New Yorker, Meg Wolitzer writes about the cultural influences that helped inform her novel The InterestingsThey include Archie comics, folk music, and Michael Apted’s “Up” films”:

A good chunk of what you need to know about the characters in the “Up” films is right there in their childhoods, and I suppose that’s true in many novels, too; and yet you often still need life to just continue to unspool like an old Bell and Howell projector gone amok in order to get the whole story.

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The Elusive Happy Ending

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Happy endings are hard to come by in great literature, especially in stories that center on affluent American suburbs and their inhabitants. Over at the Atlantic, writer Ted Thompson looks at the hopeful and redemptive (but still believable) dramatic climax of John Cheever’s “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill”:

This is one of the things that’s so apparent when you’re reading Cheever: his openness to redemptive beauty.

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“A Bitter Cup of Tea” Worth Drinking

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Electric Literature has a new review up for Rumpus columnist Jerry Stahl‘s latest book, Happy Mutant Baby Pills:

Jerry Stahl’s Happy Mutant Baby Pills is a hurricane of comedic and satirical horrors involving drug abuse, violence, manic lovers (including their manic sex lives), and ungodly revenge against the United States. Stahl ventures unapologetically through the darkest imaginable places.

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All Roads Lead to Writing

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Over at The Millions, Rumpus contributor Nick Ripatrazone looks at the many and varied paths that bring writers to the profession and considers the benefits of time spent studying subjects other than creative writing:

Although I have drifted toward the science of syntax, I think about the positives of studying content that is not literary.

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Fiction in the Digital Age

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Serialized fiction is experiencing a resurgence, and we have technology to thank.

Back in 2012, The Silent History brought the serialized novel to our iPhones (check out our interview with co-author Kevin Moffett here). And now, there’s Wattpad. The New York Times takes an in-depth look the app, which sees “more than two million writers producing 100,000 pieces of material a day for 20 million readers on an intricate international social network.”

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The Decline of Punctuation?!…

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We live in a heyday of punctuation. “Call this what you will—exclamatory excess, punctuation inflation, the result of the Internet’s limitless expanse—it is everywhere,” writes Megan Garber at the Atlantic. But perhaps not for long—with the rise of image-based expression like emoji and gifs, we are finding new ways to express ourselves, and we’re leaving exclamation points and question marks out of it.

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Gregor Samsa Dreams of RoboCop

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Susan Bernofsky, in the introduction to her new translation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, compares Gregor Samsa to famed American literary character Willy Loman. Over at the LA Review of Books, David Burr Gerrard praises the translation but disagrees that this is the character with whom Gregor has most in common:

Perhaps the troubled dreams from which Gregor awakes as an insect were dreams of military service.

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Pink Books and Blue Books

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Across the pond, the Let Books Be Books campaign is circulating a petition calling on publishers of children’s books to stop labeling books according to gender and to “allow children to choose freely what kinds of stories and activity books interest them.” Prominent British authors and publishers have come out in support of the campaign—Phillip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy, says “I’m against anything, from age-ranging to pinking and blueing, whose effect is to shut the door in the face of children who might enjoy coming in.”

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What We Talk About When We Talk About the American South

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The latest issue of Guernica is out, and it’s a doozy. The special issue—the first of 4 such issues funded by a Kickstarter campaign—takes on the American South. Features include novelist Kiese Laymon in conversation with his mother on language and love in the South (check out our own interview with Laymon here) and Rumpus contributor Lincoln Michel‘s essay “Lush Rot,” on the deep roots of Southern Gothic tradition.

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Gina Frangello Talks A Life in Men

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Over at BuzzFeed, Rumpus contributor Julie Greicius interviews Rumpus Sunday Editor Gina Frangello about her new novel A Life in Men, the special bonds we form in adolescence, and why moms can still write about sex. Take a peek:

I’m not really sure how our culture has arrived at the mutually exclusive relationship between Motherhood and Sexuality, especially since in most cases, women become mothers by having sex.

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NYC Reading Series Kicks Off with Amy Fusselman

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Girls Write Now, a terrific NY-based organization that helps underserved teenage girls in New York develop their creative voices and prepare for college, kicks off their 2014 CHAPTERS reading series on Friday, March 21st! The evening features author Amy Fusselman (whose writing has appeared here on The Rumpus) and original work performed by participants in the Girls Write Now program.

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Teju Cole Tweets 4,000-Word Essay

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Last week Teju Cole published a 4,000-word non-fiction essay on immigration, titled “A Piece of the Wall,” entirely on Twitter. BuzzFeed spoke with Cole about his decision to share the piece via the social media platform, the challenges in doing so, and his views on immigration reform:

I’m not getting my hopes up, but the point of writing about these things, and hoping they reach a big audience, has nothing to do with “innovation” or with “writing.” It’s about the hope that more and more people will have their conscience moved about the plight of other human beings.

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