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Chair: Kent Baxter

Notes compiled by: Kate Haake



I begin these notes with a personal note: a long time ago, in a different century and what sometimes feels like a different world, the English department at CSUN, like most English departments of the time, was a largely homogeneous one. Into these ranks of accomplished and often brilliant men, a few intrepid women found their way. Among them, the late Leslie Johnstone, first woman ever to earn a Cambridge Ph.D.; the irrepressible Gwen Brewer; and the feisty dramatist, Elaine Plasberg, with whom I shared an office my first year here. She was smart, quick, and efficient, pragmatically down-to-earth, and loaded with good advice on how to survive my new job; and I was a little afraid of her. For, as a couple of her former students remarked, “She taught us how to think.” Or another, in a classroom discussion of why we study literature: for pleasure? one student hazarded. “Well,” Professor Plasberg is said to have responded, “there are many kinds of pleasure — there’s ice cream cone on a hot afternoon pleasure, and there’s dying on the cross pleasure.” Although it has been many years since her retirement and subsequent journey into whatever in the world happens after we leave here, I still think I can hear her saying that. And so it was with a good deal of personal sadness that I received our recent news, sent to us from former colleague, Sheryl Thompson, via former colleague, Cheryl Armstrong, that Elaine Plasberg passed away in November 2010, leaving no family behind. Author of William Hazlitt: the structure and application of his critical standards, her other critical interests included Wyatt, Coleridge, Strindberg and the new poetics, and the King James Bible. Although we are only just hearing now of Elaine‘s passing, for those of us who remember her, it is no less a loss. And for those of us who do not, that is a different kind of loss.

Many of our students, faculty, and staff have felt directly or indirectly threatened or excluded by the political rhetoric of the election. In the response to the recent election, we offer an act of solidarity and community-building: we’re putting together a two day teach in. This event seeks to foster peaceful collaboration and kindness by offering joint readings across class sessions. Faculty who teach at the same time will bring their classes to the steps at the Oviatt Library and take turns reading passages from coursework this semester (or suggested by the class) that might offer sentiments of kindness, engagement with art, or encounters with power. In so doing, we are taking up the call from Colson Whitehead’s recent National Book Award speech where he suggests what we need to do now is “Be kind. Make Art. Fight the Power.” The dates for the event are Tuesday, December 6, and Wednesday,  December 7. If you’re not teaching on these days but would like to participate, please sign up for a time/day that works for you; we would love for you to offer a reading and invite any of the students with whom you work to attend as well. Sign up times are available at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ghYN3eEsghw8aZe9I9Gjwifu_lLeQrY-9BM-ud379gQ/edit?usp=sharing. And if this event doesn’t work for you, be thinking of ways we might respond in the coming months, as the challenges ahead will persist.

On Thursday, December 8th, at 5:00 p.m. in JR 319, the Northridge Playwights Workshop, in association with the Political Theater seminar, will present “Bad Hombres & Nasty Women: CSUN Playwrights React.” In addition to a variety of dramatic scenes, comic interludes, and performative provocations, there will be free refreshments. (The running time of the event will be approximately 60 minutes. Please feel free to mention it to your students.) Here’s a link to the event’s Facebook page:

happy-sandhill-cranes And now on a cheerier note, the holidays are upon us, and with them, the end of the semester. As we dig in to final papers and exams and prepare, with still another kind of sadness, to say goodbye to our fall semester classes and students, let’s not forget to embrace our festivities as well. And to start them off with just the right amount of cheer, we will celebrate as a department on Friday, December 9, from 1:00 p.m to 3:00 p.m. in JR 319. Presentations in honor of our remarkable students begin at 2:00 p.m. Meantime, there’s still time to plan your delicious, if perhaps not nutritious, contributions to the banquet, and then add them to the sign-up sheet in the mail room (already a mouth watering feast for the imagination).


Lest we forget, there is policy regarding how we schedule those final exams, and here it is: http://www.csun.edu/faculty-affairs/memos. The main thing is, we are to follow the posted dates and times for our exams, which we can find on our faculty portals.

Grades, too, will be due soon after. Even though final weeks is Monday, December 12 to Sunday, December 18 (no finals scheduled on Sunday), you can start entering grades Friday, December 9, which students may begin viewing on Monday, December 12. The final, absolutely last day to submit grades is Friday, December 23, but let’s remember the long-standing department policy to try to do so before then so our terrific staff can start their own holidays in joy and peace.

And remember, the university needs—you (and your talents and interests)! Remember to let the Faculty Senate know how and where you would most like to serve by completing the University Service Form at and making sure that this important database is up to date. The link is here: http://www.csun.edu/faculty-senate/university-service-form. While you are at it, don’t forget to update your profile on the Faculty App site. This is an excellent place for you to include a brief biography, your research interests, and your committee service (past and current). Maybe not Facebook, but time to link up: http://www.csun.edu/faculty.


On behalf of the University Vice Presidents, I am pleased to announce the acceptance of Campus Quality Fee proposals for the 2017-18 year. The proposal document is accessible at the Campus Quality Fee (CQF) website located at: http://www.csun.edu/studentaffairs/campus-quality-fee and must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on December 22, 2016. Your assistance is requested in widely circulating this announcement.

The deadline to submit applications for the 2017 Faculty Scholar Academy (FSA) is Friday, December 9th. All faculty interested in participating as a Coach or as a Protégé must submit an application to the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP) to be eligible. The FSA is a peer mentorship program in which Protégés are paired with faculty Coaches in an intensive, self-directed proposal development and writing experience. Incentives are offered to both Coaches and Protégés for successful proposal submissions. FSA applications for both Coaches and Protégés are available on the FSA website at http://www.csun.edu/research-graduate-studies/faculty-scholar-academy-fsa-and-faculty-investigator-training-fit, and are due no later than December 9, 2016 to research@csun.edu.


Joseph Galasso‘s monograph (theoretical syntax) entitled: <From Merge to Move: A Minimalist Perspective on the Design of Language and its Role in Early Child Syntax> will be published early next year by the German publisher Lincom Europa.

In May 1998, the Faculty Mentor Program and the EOP established the “Don Dorsey Excellence in Mentoring Award” in recognition of Professor Dorsey’s invaluable contributions to mentoring and mentor training at CSUN. This award is presented to faculty, staff, administrators, and/or students who have made exceptional contributions to mentoring at CSUN. The first recipient was the award’s namesake, Dr. Don Dorsey. And among this year’s five recipients is our own Sharon Klein, who has been teaching at CSUN since 1986. She earned her B.A. from the University of California, Riverside, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. For the past three decades, she has collaborated with faculty and students on our campus through initiatives such as the Writing and Reading Across Disciplines program (WRAD). She was nominated for the Dorsey mentoring award by graduate student Mrinalini Watson, and celebrated at a reception on November 16.

Student Megan Freiberg is having a piece of creative nonfiction published in Sigma Tau Delta’s Rectangle this spring, which she will be reading at the opening ceremony of the international conference in March.

Rick Mitchell‘s new book, Experimental O’Neill, has been published by Rare Bird Books. A critical anthology featuring an international array of scholars, the volume features chapters on the Wooster Group’s productions of O’Neill’s early work and other essays, including one on political plays by female dramatists of the Provincetown Players. Additionally, the book contains all of O’Neill early dramas performed by the Wooster Group, an interview with the Wooster Group’s Kate Valk about re-presenting O’Neill’s experimental work today, and one-act antiwar plays by Edna Saint Vincent Millay and Louise Bryant.

Sean Pessin‘s story, “The Fox Hunt,” will be p in the forthcoming issue of Liminoid Magazine.

Martin Pousson was a featured author at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, where he appeared on a panel and read from his new novel, Black Sheep Boy, on Saturday, October 29. On October 14, he read his new Trump poem, “Tower of Power,” on the panel for “Let’s Gather,” at Skylight Books on Monday, October 14, hosted by Los Angeles Review of Books. That poem has just been published in a post-election issue of the LARB, and can be read at: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/tower-power-poem-donald-trump/ And—this just in—Martin‘s Trump-themed flash fiction, “Don’t Tread On Me,” will be published in Only Light Can Do That, a special post-election anthology to be issued in print by PEN Center USA & The Rattling Wall on Thursday, December 8, with a release party at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles that same night. Good things come together, because that same night (December 8), Martin will be a featured reader, along with Aimee Bender, at Chevalier’s Books at 7:30 p.m., where he will be reading from his novel-in-stories, Black Sheep Boy. The event is free, all are welcome, and details can be found at: https://chevaliersbooks.com/2016/11/15/keep-the-candle-burning-in-december-with-all-lit-up-aimee-bender-martin-pousson-and-amy-uyematsu-simon-petty-reading-performing/. Well done, Martin! Keep it up.

Congratulations to student, John Nunez, who submitted the poem selected for the Dean’s annual holiday card. John is a nontraditional student, whose ethnic background is Cherokee, Ute, and Hispanic, and who is returning to school after more than forty-five years, during which he worked in construction’s special trades, and also played a variety of musical instruments and sang in rock and blues bands and played with jazz groups. Even though this comment is technically out of alphabetical order, I can’t think of a better way to end Thursday’s Notes this fall semester than with John’s own words, selected by Dean Elizabeth Say for this season’s holiday wishes from all of us in the College of Humanities:

The holidays will pass; then
we will go back to the everyday.
I am thankful. At least once a year
I see you near and know you.