Not Just Letters - Fall 2012




Not Just Letters
Department of English
                                                                                                   September 2012


In this issue:


Support your English Department


If you’d like to contribute to the Mason English Department, click here.  Please be sure to indicate the English Department in the “Other Established Fund” box. If you’re interested in other giving opportunities, please contact Kelly McCaskill, director of development, at 703-993-8706. As always, we appreciate your support.



Join us on
Alumni Weekend



Saturday, October 6
4 -6 p.m.
Join Dean Jack Censer and fellow alumni for a happy hour with beer and food pairings.
All Mason alumni
are welcome to attend!
For more information, visit



Mark your page for
Fall for the Book



Featuring alumni authors
September 26-30


A note from Robert Matz, department chair
Dear Friends,
This edition marks a first for Not Just Letters: a combined release in identical paper and online formats. Or rather, the content is identical. As students and teachers of English, we’re trained to ask what difference form makes. In this case, what difference is there in reading the same content on paper or as hyperlinks on an electronic screen? Paper or—digital—plasticity? Read more


Faculty Research
John Burt Foster
tackles Tolstoy transnationally
John Burt Foster’s book Transnational Tolstoy: Between the West and the World, a collection of his essays forthcoming from Continuum International that was created with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, might seem like a capstone of sorts to his 30-year career as a professor at Mason, a culminating articulation of his long-held perspectives on an author he’s cherished since his own college days. And that assessment would be about half right. Read more

We welcome new faculty member Jenny Culbertson...
The English Department proudly introduces its newest full-time faculty member, Jenny Culbertson. Please join us in welcoming her to Mason. Read more


...and bid a fond farewell to Bob Nadeau
Professor Bob Nadeau retired at the end of the spring 2012 semester, following a long and distinguished career in Mason’s English Department. Nadeau joined the English Department in 1975, just a few years after the Fairfax Campus was established. Read more

The Live Video Cam
A poem by Faculty Member Sally Keith


Fall for the Book Preview
The 14th annual Fall for the Book Festival celebrates the 30th anniversary of The Color Purple with a visit by novelist Alice Walker and presents four distinguished authors—Katherine Boo, Michael Chabon, Rita Dove, and Neil Gaiman—with the festival’s 2012 awards. These authors and nearly 125 others will appear September 26-30 at George Mason University and other venues throughout Northern Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and Maryland. Read moreNeil Gaiman
An Interview with Eve Wiederhold:
Political rhetoric and the election season
Assistant Professor Eve Wiederhold is completing a book on political rhetoric, Expel the Pretender: Rhetoric Renounced and the Politics of Style.


With the 2012 election just a couple of months away, we thought this would be a great time to check in with Wiederhold, whose book reaches surprising conclusions by arguing against a long-held prejudice—one that goes at least back to Plato—against rhetoric.


Rather, Wiederhold suggests that since our lives are inherently rhetorical, whether through the forming of arguments, the playing of roles, or the participation in debate, we would do better to embrace our rhetorical lives, rather than pursuing an “authenticity” that is really just another rhetorical posture and fails to respect the engaged dialogue with others at the heart of political give and take. Read more


Charlie Jones, Off the Clock: There's an app for that, too
When linguistics professor Charlie Jones first got a computer in 1985, he was amazed. Having typed 185 pages of his dissertation on a typewriter, word processing on a computer first made him think that he “had died and gone to heaven.” However, he was soon bored: “After a while, you want your computer to do something interesting,” he says. Read more

Alumni Profile
The future of print in a tablet world: Sean Murphy '93
As Sean Murphy left Mason with his master’s degree in English in 1993, he noticed a revolution taking place. Though he did not yet have his own e-mail account, he could see what was coming in computers and communication. He stumbled into a job with what was then a small, local company called America Online, as executive assistant to Steve Case. Read more


Paper or Tablet?
Paper or tablet? Faculty in the English Department are all book lovers, but they are becoming increasingly keen on reading—or writing—books electronically. Read More.