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ASU English adds 8 core faculty to help shape ‘humane communities’

Composite image of new faculty in the ASU Department of English

New faculty in ASU's English department this fall. Clockwise from top left: Lois Brown, Jeffrey Cohen, Aviva Dove-Viebahn, Jake Greene, Ayanna Thompson, Tyler Peterson, Jenny Irish and Jonathan Hope.

September 07, 2018

This fall, the Department of English at Arizona State University is getting another upgrade, and this time it’s personal. Rather, personnel.

It’s been a year since one of the largest units at ASU moved into its newly refurbished home in Ross-Blakley Hall, under the new leadership of chair Krista Ratcliffe. The new space has enabled additional collaborations and outreach within English’s six degree programs: creative writing; secondary education; film and media studies; linguistics and applied linguistics; literature; and writing, rhetorics and literacies.

Recognizing that you can’t do good work without good people, English is adding more celebrated scholars to its ranks. The department welcomes eight new faculty members whose varied specialties include study of augmented realities, hybrid fiction, aesthetics in horror films, literary linguistics, indigenous languages, African-American autobiography, Shakespeare and race, monster theory, social media and digital humanities.

“The Department of English is absolutely delighted to welcome our new colleagues, whose work reflects ASU’s dual commitment to both excellence and access,” said Ratcliffe. “We’re particularly excited because their public-facing research and teaching invite undergraduate and graduate students to participate in ways that will benefit local and scholarly communities.”

English has made it its mission to explore not just local, but global expressions of the English language in all media. In doing so, it has positioned itself to attract both established and emerging scholars — with top-notch teaching credentials and impactful research portfolios — from diverse disciplines.

Meet each new member of this wide-ranging, acclaimed group of ASU educators:

Lois Brown, professor (literature)

In addition to joining the Department of English as a Foundation Professor, Lois Brown is the new director of the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, a research unit of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. She previously directed the Center for African American Studies and chaired the African American Studies Program at Wesleyan University, where she was the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor.

As a scholar, Brown has focused on African-American biography and autobiography. She is a public historian whose groundbreaking research reshapes understanding of race, class, gender, faith and place in America. Her books include “Black Daughter of the Revolution: A Literary Biography of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins,” “Memoir of James Jackson, the Attentive and Obedient Scholar” and “Encyclopedia of the Harlem Literary Renaissance.” Brown’s current projects include a biography of the enterprising traveler Nancy Prince, a study of Liberator editor William Lloyd Garrison, and a book on African-Americans in 18th- and 19th-century Concord, Massachusetts. Brown holds a PhD in English from Boston College.

“I believe that the humanities well equip us to tell better stories about both history and the present and are integral to shaping more humane communities to come.”

—Jeffrey Cohen

Jeffrey Cohen, professor (literature)

Jeffrey Cohen is the new dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU and a professor in the Department of English. He was previously professor and chair of the Department of English at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he founded the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute.

Cohen is widely published in the fields of medieval studies, monster theory and the environmental humanities. His current book project, "Noah's Arkive: Towards an Ecology of Refuge," explores the biblical flood story as the first literature about human adaptation to climate change. “I believe that the humanities well equip us to tell better stories about both history and the present, and are integral to shaping more humane communities to come,” he said. Cohen holds doctoral and master’s degrees in English, American literature and language from Harvard University.

Aviva Dove-Viebahn, assistant professor (film and media studies)

Aviva Dove-Viebahn joins the faculty in the Department of English’s film and media studies program after spending six years as a faculty fellow in ASU's Barrett, The Honors College. Her diverse interests include television and new media, gender and its representation in popular culture, community formation and the role of the spectator in our digital age. Her in-process projects include an aesthetic analysis of the “Resident Evil” films and an interrogation of the concept of “feminine intuition” in action and crime television series.

A contributing editor at Ms. magazine, Dove-Viebahn is responsible for its Scholar Writing Program. Ms. magazine frequently carries her essays and reviews in both its print edition and its online blog. Dove-Viebahn holds a PhD in visual and cultural studies from the University of Rochester and an MA in art history from the University of Virginia.

Jacob “Jake” Greene, assistant professor (writing, rhetorics and literacies)

Jacob "Jake" Greene joins the ASU Department of English faculty as a specialist in digital rhetoric. He has written about sinkholes in social media for the Journal of Florida Studies (2015), created a mobile augmented reality experience chronicling “ghost bikes” for the journal Kairos (2017), and designed expository writing curriculum around themes of podcasting and sound-design for the journal Composition Studies (forthcoming fall 2018).

This semester, Greene is teaching an undergraduate introduction to writing, rhetorics and literacies as well as a graduate seminar. Greene holds a PhD in English from the University of Florida and an MA in English from Clemson University.

Jonathan Hope, professor (literature)

Jonathan Hope arrives at ASU from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. His work lives at the intersection of language and literature: using techniques from linguistics to explore literary texts and literary texts as evidence for the linguistic history of English. With publications like “Who Invented 'Gloomy'? Lies People Want to Believe about Shakespeare” (Memoria di Shakespeare), it’s clear that Hope means for his scholarship to lay to rest many misconceptions about the English language and its most famous users.

Hope is recognized for his digital humanities work. He is director of the NEH-funded Early Modern Digital Agendas, a series of advanced summer institutes now in its sixth year, held at the Folger Shakespeare Library. At ASU this fall, he is teaching a graduate-level digital humanities course as well as an undergraduate survey of English literature. Hope earned his PhD at St John’s College, University of Cambridge in the U.K.

Jenny Irish, assistant professor (creative writing)

Jenny Irish moves into her new role of assistant professor in English’s creative writing program after serving for two years as the program’s assistant director. A published poet and fiction writer, her work appears widely in journals and magazines and she is a frequent collaborator on public arts projects.

Irish’s hybrid fiction book “Common Ancestor,” which poet Cynthia Hogue called a “scintillating debut collection” with “hurricane-force language,” was published in 2017 by Black Lawrence Press. Irish’s newest book of poetry, “Low,” is scheduled to be released in 2019. Irish holds an MFA in creative writing from ASU and an MA in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin, Michener Center for Writers.

Tyler Peterson, assistant professor (linguistics and applied linguistics)

Tyler Peterson joined the Department of English at ASU in January 2018 from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, where he was a lecturer in the Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics. His work focuses on the documentation, revitalization and maintenance of endangered indigenous languages, primarily in the Southwest U.S., Canada and Oceania.

Currently, Peterson is engaged in a linguistic fieldwork project with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the San Carlos Apache Tribe, in which he has trained ASU students in language documentation techniques. For his studies of meaning in endangered and understudied languages, he has been awarded funding from various agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the U.S. Department of Education. Peterson holds a PhD in linguistics from the University of British Columbia.

Ayanna Thompson, professor (literature)

Arriving from George Washington University, Ayanna Thompson is now the director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, a statewide research unit serving the three Arizona universities and located centrally on the ASU campus. Thompson’s new tenure at ASU also marks her return; she was formerly a professor of English here from 2004 to 2013 and was associate dean of faculty for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 2011 to 2013. 

From the beginning of her academic career, Thompson has been a trailblazer, especially in her scholarship on early modern race studies. Her first book, “Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage” (2008), was a historicist examination of explicit, staged depictions of torture; Theatre Journal said the volume “cover(ed) valuable ground, productively interweaving literary and theoretical territory both established and neglected.” Most recently, Thompson published “Shakespeare in the Theatre: Peter Sellars” (2018), an in-depth study of the avant-garde Shakespeare director whose experimental productions have invited both intense praise and criticism. She is a frequent international lecturer and collaborates regularly with directors and performers; most recently, Thompson gave a keynote address at a Shakespeare and race symposium hosted by The Globe Theatre in London in August. She is also the 2018-2019 president of the Shakespeare Association of America. Thompson holds a PhD in English, American literature and language, from Harvard University and an MA in English from the University of Sussex in the U.K.

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