Upcoming Guest Speakers and Events in the English Department


Upcoming Guest Speakers and Events in the English Department









Dr. Brian McGrath (left) and Dr. Walt Hunter (right)


We sat down with Dr. McGrath and Dr. Hunter to get information on the upcoming speakers and events coming to Clemson this semester.

Dr. Brian McGrath is an associate professor of English specializing in British Literature and Literary Theory at Clemson. He received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, his masters from the University of Maine, and his PhD from Emory University.

Dr. Walt Hunter is the current Director of Undergraduate Studies for the English department and an assistant professor of World Literature.  He went to Harvard College for his undergraduate degree and the University of Virginia for his PhD. He is from Philadelphia and he has a small dog.


What upcoming events would you like to highlight that the English department will be hosting or co-sponsoring for students this semester?

Dr. Hunter: One of the things to highlight would be the Clemson Literary Festival, which takes place from the 10th through the 12th of April. We have some huge people coming this year including Tyehimba Jess, who won the Pulitzer in 2017. It’s a great weekend: we bring in a number of different poets and fiction writers whom our students have selected. On February 27th at 3 pm, Professor Jillian Weise is bringing the poet Khadijah Queen for “The New York Times and Disability Poetics: A Conversation,” with Peter Catapano, an editor of the New York Times Op-Ed page. I’m really looking forward to that event.

Dr. McGrath: The last week in February is going to be an exciting time. Another event worth highlighting is the discussion between Siraj Ahmed and Alex Bevilacqua. That is going to happen February 28th at 4pm. Bevilacqua, who is a historian at Williams College, wrote a book on Enlightenment and Islam: The Republic of Arabic Letters. Siraj Ahmed’s book, Archeology of Babel: The Colonial Foundations of the Humanities, recently won a big prize from the Modern Language Association. The book explores the colonial foundations of philology and the colonial foundations of the humanities today. On March 4, J.D. Connor will deliver a lecture called “Whirled Pieces: The Components of Global Transmedia Production.” And in early March we’re planning an event we’re calling “Thinking about Brexit,” a conversation between Fintan O’Toole, who is an opinion writer for the Irish Times, and Stephanie Barczewski, a professor of History at Clemson. It will be a conversation about Brexit, what it means and what its repercussions might be.  


What do you think English students can learn from these events?

Dr. Hunter: First, seeing the intellectual lives of scholars and artists and their work outside the classroom is a great way to stimulate intellectual curiosity. Guest speakers can help you discover lots of stuff you wouldn’t necessarily even know might interest you, whether it’s poetry or the eighteenth century or Andy Warhol. These events are also great opportunities to meet people and to make professional connections. Finally, these events make visible the ways that Clemson is tied into the larger world. One of the things that I remember doing in college is just sort of writing to people whom I really liked and asking if they would come and speak or give a reading. It’s often the case that writers and thinkers want to come and talk to students.

Dr. McGrath: When I was a college student, my first year I was just wandering around, but then at some point I started going to more events and it changed my experience of college because all of a sudden I understood that the opportunities for learning were not limited to the classroom. I realized that I was actually part of a larger intellectual community and not one that was limited to class, homework, and papers.


Who is someone you would like to see speak to Clemson?

Dr: Hunter: I’d love to bring Jia Tolentino, who is a staff writer for the New Yorker with a book of personal essays that is about to come out called “Trick Mirror.” I would also love to hear Leslie Jamison speak. She has a new book of non-fiction coming out called “Make It Scream, Make It Burn.” She wrote a book called “The Empathy Exams” and a book about addiction called “The Recovering: Intoxication and the Aftermath,” as well as a novel, “The Gin Closet.” I expect that their talks would be really interesting to students.



Below is a more comprehensive list from the Humanities Hub, highlighting the English department’s upcoming events for Spring 2019:



  • February 27: at 3:00 p.m. in Watt Auditorium: The New York Times & Disability Poetics: A Conversation. Peter Catapano, Khadijah Queen, and Jillian Weise talk about selecting poems for a NYT feature on disability poetics. Peter Catapano has been an editor in the New York Times Opinion section since 2005, where he’s developed and edited several online series on topics ranging from music, education, war, insomnia, alcohol, animals, anxiety, philosophy and disability. Khadijah Queen is the author of five books, most recently I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books 2017). Her verse play Non-Sequitur (Litmus Press 2015) won the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women’s Performance Writing, which included a full staged production at Theaterlab NYC in 2015. Jillian Weise is an Associate Professor at Clemson. Her books include The Amputee’s Guide to Sex (2007), The Colony (2010), The Book of Goodbyes (2013), and the forthcoming collection Cyborg Detective (2019). This talk is sponsored by The Zeitgeist Poetry Series, which brings poets/editors to Clemson for talks and readings. The series provides an opportunity to learn from the visiting speakers and participate in the national conversation on poetry.


  • February 27: at 6 p.m. “Marianne Noires,” a film directed by Mame-Fatou Niang, will be screened followed by a discussion with Niang in McKissick Theatre in the Hendrix Student Center. An associate professor of French and Francophone studies at Carnegie Mellon University, Niang conducts research on contemporary France, postcolonial and transnational studies, and media and urban planning. Her 2016 “Marianne Noires” centers on seven Afro-French women who discuss what it means to be black and French. Sponsors include the Department of Languages; World Cinema program, Women’s Leadership program, and Pan African Studies program; the Commission on the Status of Black Faculty and Staff; the Gantt Multicultural Center; Global Engagement; Student Affairs; the Clemson Southern Poverty Law Center student organization; the CUSG Student Council for Diversity Affairs; and the Clemson Feminism Club.


  • February 28: at 4 p.m. Siraj Ahmed and Alex Bevilacqua will discuss colonialism and the history of the European Enlightenment in Lee Hall (Lee 2-301). Ahmed’s book “Archaeology of Babel: The Colonial Foundation of the Humanities” (Stanford) recently won the Modern Language Association’s prestigious Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize. Ahmed is an associate professor of English and the director of comparative literature at Lehman College, part of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Bevilacqua, author of “The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment” (Harvard), is an assistant professor of history at Williams College in Massachusetts. He specializes in the cultural history of early modern Europe and how non-Western religious and intellectual traditions are understood there. This discussion is sponsored by the Humanities Hub.



  • March 1: at 10 a.m. Siraj Ahmed and Alex Bevilacqua will lead a seminar discussion of colonialism and the history of the European Enlightenment in the conference room of the Class of ’41 Studio on the first floor of Daniel Hall. The seminar is sponsored by the Humanities Hub and Pearce Center for Professional Communication.
  • March 4: at 5 p.m. J. D. Connor will deliver a lecture, “Whirled Pieces: The Components of Global Transmedia Production,” in the Academic Success Center, Room 118. Connor, author of “Hollywood Math and Aftermath: The Economic Image and Digital Recession” (Bloomsbury), is an associate professor in the Division of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California. His research and teachings focus on the art and industry of contemporary Hollywood. The talk is sponsored by the world cinema program and the Humanities Hub.
  • March 26: at 6 p.m. artists Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman will present “The Politics of Physical and Social Environments” in Lee Hall (Lee 1-100). Ciurej is a Chicago-based photographer and graphic designer. Lochman is a Milwaukee-based photographer and lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The two artists explore how photography can engage the edge between the heroic and the commonplace. They also probe how history, myth and popular culture shape our understanding of who we are. Sponsors of the event include the Clemson Architectural Foundation, Clemson Visual Arts, the Humanities Hub, the Pearce Center for Professional Communication and professors Steve Katz and David Blakesley.
  • March 27: at 6 p.m. Blair Imani, author of “Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History,” will discuss the relation between her writing and grassroots activism in the McKissick Theatre at the Hendrix Student Center. Imani is the founder of Equality for HER, a nonprofit educational platform for women and nonbinary people. Sponsors include the Humanities Hub and the Gantt Multicultural Center.



  • April 10-12: The Clemson Literary Festival returns for its 12th year. Headlining this year’s event is Tyehimba Jess, author of “Olio,” which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Jess, a dynamic presenter of his own work, will speak at 8 p.m. on April 11 in Bracket Hall 100. More than a dozen other writers and literary events are scheduled during the three-day literary fest at various venues in and around Clemson University. Sponsors of Lit Fest are the Department of English, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, South Carolina Humanities, South Carolina Arts Commission, Clemson University Vending Committee, the South Carolina Review, the Zeitgeist Poetry Series, the Humanities Hub, and R.M. Cooper Library.
  • April 11-13: The “Embodiment and Race Conference,” features keynote speakers George Yancy, author of “Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly About Racism in America” (Rowman and Littlefield), and Sara Heinämaa, author of “Toward a Phenomenology of Sexual Difference” (Rowman and Littlefield). The two-day interdisciplinary conference offers an opportunity for academics and the local community to explore recent debates on race. Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Philosophy of Race book series published by Lexington Books. Heinämaa is a philosophy professor at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. Sponsors include the Department of Philosophy and Religion, The Office of the Provost, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, and the Humanities Hub.





Written By: Caroline Cavendish


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