#EWLBrownBagSeries – Engaging in the Spaces Between

Welcome back to the 255. This week we wanted to feature an ongoing series hosted by the English and World Literature Department; the Brown Bag Lunch Series. The faculty from across Divisions are able to share their work with students, connecting it to ideas relating to their courses and research interests. The 255 took this opportunity to interview the Chair of the Department, Michael Colvin, to get some insight on the series and its position within the department.

  1. What is the Brown Bag series and what inspired the English and World Literatures Department to host such a series for students?

I was very curious to see how we could look at the different ways text is used in different disciplines. So my idea was to start inviting people from different disciplines who use or define text in different ways to see what they’re doing. For example, I always think it is interesting to teach Bible as Literature to see students who have experienced the Bible as Bible first, and to see that there is already, in the reading, a tradition of close analysis commentary. So this also becomes an opportunity to see, even in our disciplines, the way we read things. We read through our disciplines, but there is an overlapping. It is also a way to get inspiration as faculty for ways that analysis can be used for intervention. We like sharing and seeing our work and seeing how this comes in with the work that we do with students. We do a lot of student showcases, so for us this experience was also a way to show that all of us as faculty are involved in some way beyond just teaching. We wanted to be able to share what drives us outside of the classroom.

2. What are other events that you have hosted and how does the brown bag series relate to those?

Some of the past talks we’ve had have been very interesting because the presenters have used different formats to present their work whether that be using technology or in conversational ways to demonstrate their outcomes. These events tend to be very informal, but it invites students to ask questions.

I’m hoping that these events are sending the message that our department and our major programs are very involved in creative work and also in analytical and intellectual work. It’s part of everything that our students do. It’s actually very nice to see that the brown bag series, the creative writing functions, and student showcases that we will be doing compliment each other. All of it is very interesting to me how these events demonstrate students engaging in text. And that to me is really amazing because it’s creating a sense of community.

3. How is the engagement between the Brown Bag Series and the students translating in the virtual world?

It is harder to get people to confirm ahead of time to know what the headcount or screen-count will be. And that makes it difficult for us because we don’t know if we’re going to have three people or three hundred people in any given event. However, I think that there is something that we have realized that we need to work on, which is our communication outreach to know how many people are going to attend.

But, I find that the turnouts have been really good. For example, Professor Williams hosted an event after graduation in the Spring. No students were required to be there, but we had about thirty students attend the meeting to read and hear poetry. And these are the types of things that I think are really positive during our current times. No, we don’t want to be Zoomed in all of the time, but on the other hand, Zoom effectively creates spaces to share the intellectual life of the college. I think that the Brown Bag series and the Creative Writing series are proving to us a good testing ground for how we might consider hosting these types of events in the future.

4. Do you have favorite Brown Bag series topics coming up?

I have loved all of our events, but I would like to promote the upcoming ones. Professor Tatianna Serafin, who teaches in both EWL and the Communications Divisions, will be presenting on Wednesday October 21st from 1:00-2:15 PM. She will presenting on “TwoTwoOne.NYC” the digital journal. That one I am really excited about because I believe we will get students who have participated in the journal before. Also, with the screenshare function, she will be able to provide a lot of examples that will funnel students’ interests in taking one of her journalism courses. I think students are going to be thrilled to see this centerpiece of production that students are involved in.

The other event to note will be given by Professor Cecilia Feilla regarding Jonathan Swift and the Surrealist. I know that Professor Feilla had spent a long time conducting research in Paris a couple of summers ago and was going to present before about it, but, unfortunately, it got cancelled. I am extremely excited to see what she is presenting on and I am also encouraging my seniors to attend because we have been discussing in great detail magical realism.

These are two talks that we have coming up, but I am discussing with my colleagues events and presentation that we might want to do in the spring!

We would like to thank Professor Colvin for taking time to share with us his perspective and vision for the Brown Bag Lunch Series. Don’t forget to check out the upcoming events on the HUMSOC and EWL insta! And as always, be kind, stay safe, and get CREATIVE!!

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