16 February 2021

Dear Everyone:  

Maybe especially because it’s been so cold and icy around here, and most certainly because we’ve been in this hunkered down stage now for nearly a year, Friday’s Queer Valentines forum was an enormously welcome hit of warmth and light — thank you once again to Madeleine Barnes for organizing and offering hospitality to one and all!  And big thanks as well to those who offered readings, which ran an expansive gamut across original writing and prose poetry and even the poetic critical text. The event was lush with thinking/feeling through love and being and being together and apart, of the gathering of self and of self-dissolution, of the inadequacies of narrow versions and visions of intimacy and belonging, and, as ever, of adoration for how words move and sustain and engulf us…  

Engulf stays with me from Friday’s readings – it appeared a couple of times at least – and is different just enough from overwhelm, as engulf hews connotatively, perhaps, more toward envelop. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking, which is not to minimize but to say, I wish for you, for all of us, a strong sense of being engulfed by sustaining forces, of envelopment in warmth and fellowship.  

Wishes, of course, only come true with work! You’ll have seen this weekend the efforts of Andrea Vasquez and Nancy Silverman and the PSC among others, to make the idea of sustenance meaningful and literal in and beyond CUNY. In many different forms, in support of colleagues and communities – which is of course also always in support of ourselves –  many are working against the overwhelming and toward engulfment; a note of gratitude on all our behalf for every single one of those efforts – and please, read and sign and call and do all the things that need doing to keep pushing in that direction!  

A couple of news items:  

You may have seen the message from the CUNY Chancellor regarding plans to move into in-person teaching modes in fall 2021. As has been the case throughout this year, each campus will determine what makes best sense for its communities. The Graduate Center has a reactivation plan in place, and in accordance with it, freshly confirmed at the meeting of Executive Officers last week, it is implausible we will be fully in-person in fall 2021. Between the (small) sizes and windowlessness of seminar rooms and reliance on the (also small) elevators to move through the building, coupled with the uncertainties regarding the distribution and efficacy of vaccines, and even projecting half a year out, it’s hard to imagine how we’d be fully back. We’ve been asked preliminarily – and likely will be asked more pointedly – to consider/identify what courses, if any, must be in person, and what courses, if any, might be hybrid, and what courses, if any, are happily virtually offered. We’ll start those conversations in the program’s various committees and constituencies in the weeks to come.  

Also, in lieu of commencement, the Graduate Center will hold a virtual celebration of graduates on Thursday, 3 June, time TBA. We’ll be taking up English’s plans for such celebration more concertedly also in the weeks to come!  

And, finally for now, huge thanks to Siraj Ahmed, our DEO of Admissions, and to everyone serving on and helping with Admissions this year, for working through the nearly 300 applications we received even as that meant encroaching on this past long weekend. So much intelligence and thought and care  goes into consideration of each application; some of the very best qualities of our program are realized in this process. Enormously grateful for all of it.  

There is no public Friday Forum this week, as we’ll be conducting program business instead, and/but I look so forward to being with you on 26 February for the forum organized by Sonali Perera – “Where is the Indian in Aztlán? The Changing Geographies of Indigeneity in the Era of Mass Migration,” a talk by María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo (NYU), author of Indian Given (Duke UP 2016). With response by Chandan Reddy (University of Washington, Seattle), author of Freedom with Violence (Duke UP 2011).  Please remember to register (here)!  

With thanks and all well wishes, as ever,


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