Friday, March 27, 2009

In Memory of Dave Wallace

Assistant Professor Joseph T. Thomas, Jr., who wrote recently on this blog about his friend and associate David Wallace and David's untimely death (10/4/08), would like to spread the word about Illinois State University's newly instituted David Foster Wallace Memorial Fund.

Illinois State University has created this fund in order to bring to campus writers who will energize and challenge the community, this fund will also periodically have a cash award to honor a graduate or undergraduate student whose writing engages its subject from an original, committed, and humane perspective. Whether poetry, fiction, non-fiction, drama, or a hybrid combination, the award winning work should be an articulate and thought-provoking text that pushes a paradigm, extending rather than following traditional genre expectations. The award winning entry shall be selected by a committee appointed by the English Department Chair and consisting of that Chair, at least two English Department faculty members, and at least one member of the community at large. Although submissions for the award will be solicited annually, the award will be given only when the committee determines that an entry satisfies the criteria listed above and thereby exemplifies the spirit of David Foster Wallace's work.

Tax deductible donations may be mailed to Illinois State University Foundation, Box 8000, Normal, IL 61790-8000. Checks should be made to ISU Foundation, David Foster Wallace Memorial Fund. Donations may also be made on-line at <>. Gifts should be designated as restricted to the David Foster Wallace Memorial Fund. David was a member of the English Department faculty at Illinois State University from 1993-2002. During his productive years at ISU, he completed Infinite Jest, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Come see Christina Rivera-Garza at SDSU March 24th @ 8:00 am!

One of Mexico's foremost writers of fiction, Christina Rivera-Garza will be at SDSU for a lecture, reading, and signing of her book No One Will See Me Cry. A professor of writing at UCSD, Garza's works have been translated into English, Italian, Portuguese, German and Korean. To learn more about Christina Rivera Garza, visit her blog at

No One Will See Me Cry and More...
West Commons 220
8 am; Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Open to the public. Seating is limited.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ilya Kaminsky Shares His Poetry With Amherst College

On Thursday, March 5 SDSU creative writing professor Ilya Kaminsky was invited to read from his poetry at the Center for Russian Culture on the campus of Amherst College. In promoting this event, Amherst College's Creative Writing Center and the Department of Russian (sponsors of the event) reminded us that when Kaminsky was awarded with a Metcalf Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters wrote, “With his magical style in English, poems in [Kaminsky’s collection] Dancing In Odessa seem like a literary counterpart to Chagall in which laws of gravity have been suspended and colors reassigned, but only to make everyday reality that much more indelible.”

Screening Update of Kendricks' Film "Beholder"

Kendricks'short film, "Beholder" which he co-directed and co-photographed with an artist-friend Jim Cavolt will be screened at the San Diego Latino Film Festival. "Beholder" screens on Saturday, March 14 at 12:30 p.m. in the "Cine Mujer" program on Screen one, and Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the "Frontera Filmmakers" program on Screen one. Make sure to note these dates on your calendars!

A New Installment to Kendricks' Photo Ops in Union Tribune

As reported here earlier, filmmaker, artist, photographer, writer, Film Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and SDSU lecturer Neil Kendricks has been commissioned to write a new column, PHOTO OPS for the San Diego Union-Tribune. The column Kendricks describes it as "what I hope will be a comprehensive and engaging column for photographers and artists, photography enthusiasts and general readers alike, who share a passion for delving into the best and most innovative new volumes focused on photography-oriented issues coming from such respected publishers as Aperture, among others."

In the Photo Ops second instalment entitled "Star Search", Kendricks reviews various coffee table volumes of celebrity portraiture. In this review, Kendricks will not only direct you towards a wise purchase, but he also explains the subtle distinctions that separates a photographer like Rollingstone's Mark Seliger (whose work Kendricks finds is "too carefully composed, too wary to let chance enter into the frame" from Annie Leibovitz, who "is far more versatile when it comes to shaping celebrity portraits."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

SDSU Alumni Greg Gutierrez Talks Zen, Surfing, and Nostalgia

Congratulations go out to Greg Gutierrez for his new book Zen and the Art of Surfing: A Collection of Short Stories. Go pick it up! For ordering information and to check out Greg's original artwork, visit him online at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SDSU Lit Superstar Rachel Van Wormer in the NEWS!

Hats off to our brilliant lecturer, Dr. John Granger, for tipping us to this posting from The Union Tribune, the local fishwrap.

Not your Grand-Daddy's Gray Ghost

MA student Kevin Gossett and his band the Gray Ghosts are getting some press. The indie group was recently featured in San Diego CityBeat for their complex and catchy mix of pop, rock, doo-wop and bubblegum. For shows and a sample of their upcoming EP, check out their Myspace page at

Congratulations to Joanna Brooks

A huge abrazo to Joanna Brooks, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Co-Director-elect of our Graduate Program for her appointment to the editorial board of American Literature, one of the leading journals in American Literary studies.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dr. George C. Gross, Professor Emeritus, RIP


George C. Gross was born May 14, 1922, in Wilmington to Ada Bachmann and Henry Gross. He graduated from Hoover High School and married his high school sweetheart, the former Marlo Mumma, in 1940. She died in 2006. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from San Diego State and received his doctorate from the University of Southern California in the early 1960s. Dr. Gross is survived by two sons, Tim of Lakeside and John of Spring Valley; a granddaughter; and two sisters, Hazel Lemmons of San Diego and Betty Desport of Texas. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. March 7 at SDSU Aztec Center, Casa Real. Reservations can be made with Leslie Herrman at or (619) 594-6337.

Friends of English and Comparative Literature at SDSU
This is the worst part of my job as I write to share that the Department of English & Comparative Literature is in mourning. It brings me great sadness to send word that Professor Emeritus George C. Gross passed away last night, February 1, 2009. I would be in your debt if any of you who knew and worked with Dr. Gross might send me a brief dispatch chronicling your memories of his time here on Montezuma Mesa at SDSU. As recently as January 19, 2009, Professor Gross was actively blogging on the internet; you can see his moving post here.


Dr. William Anthony Nericcio
Chair, English and Comparative Literature
San Diego State University

George C. Gross Memorial Fund

From: Dr. William A. SDSU Colleagues, Students, and Friends,

I have more news regarding the untimely February 1, 2009 passing of George C. Gross, Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature. I have been notified by the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) that George's sons, Tim and John, have initiated the George C. Gross Memorial Fund benefiting the Department of English and Comparative Literature and Holocaust Studies, in the Department of History.

For those interested in donating a memorial gift, checks can be made out to The Campanile Foundation. Please note that donors should designate one of these options:

1) Designate the Department of English and Comparative Literature
2) Designate Holocaust Studies in the Department of History
3) Designate the "Memorial Fund" (60% English / 40% Holocaust Studies)

Checks can be mailed to:

SDSU, College of Arts & Letters
c/o Trina Hester
George C. Gross Memorial Fund
Arts and Letters, room 600
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-6060

You can also drop them off with staff in the Dean's Development office, Arts and Letters 600. If someone wishes to use their credit card, please call Trina Hester at 619.594.1562.

More information and a memorial page with tributes from Professor Gross's students and colleagues can be found here below. Please send any reminiscences you would like to add to that page directly to me via email and I will see to it that it is posted.

A Compendium of Notes on the late, great Professor George C. Gross:

Professor Nericcio, I just found your message. Thanks for letting everyone know. If we can supply any information about Dad and his association with SDSU, please let us know. Dad loved the University. He experienced in almost every role that an individual can: undergraduate student, graduate student, instructor, tenured faculty, and administrator. He was active in the Honors Council until he could no longer negotiate the campus well enough to get to meetings (although I was hoping we could get his strength built up to the point he could go again). He felt that his years in administration were important, but his happiest hours were spent in classrooms showing students some insight into the poetry of Keats or Byron, or introducing another class to the fundamental beauty of Shakespeare. Thanks, His sons,

Tim and John Gross

George Gross was always a class act and he looked the part. He was the best dressed professor in the English Dept. when I arrived in 1968 and he continued to hold the title until the last time I saw him (around 2005). Above all, however, he acted and WAS the gentleman-scholar--friendly, erudite and considerate. May he rest in peace!

Minas Savvas, Professor Emeritus
English and Comparative Literature, SDSU

George Gross at Dan McCleod's retirement party, 1993
(with Joe Butler and Elsie Adams in the background).
Picture courtesy of Professor Emerita Carey Wall

Regarding George Gross, sad news indeed; I'll try to remember stuff from way back. I was in a pre-freshman comp class George taught in 1948 (I think). I was released from high school in the 11th grade to take college courses at then San Diego State College. I was into math and science back then, but with George's encouragement and the example of his class, I developed an interest in the English business. His was the first class I'd ever had where there was a teacher with a sense of humor and whimsy, and I loved it. He taught me how much fun it could be to write. Someone in the department once said, "You could take George out of the high school but you couldn't take the high school out of George." It was an insult by a Prof. who was a notoriously bad teacher. I thought at the time that it was true because high school teachers usually cared about their students and had to communicate well or their classes would get chaotic. College students, on the other hand, would put up with anything we dished out, but his students would raise hell if they were bored. George was a genuinely fine teacher. And he was one of the best students the department turned out as well. A lovely guy--I miss him already.

Dan McLeod
Professor Emeritus
English and Comparative Literature, SDSU

I was genuinely sorry to hear about George Gross; fortunately, he had a long and productive life. I was a sophomore at SDSC (as it was in 1968) when I took a course from Prof. Gross. It was an honors course numbered Humanities 66, an undergraduate seminar he taught in tandem with Prof. Janssen of Political Science and Prof. Rader of History. The timely topic was war and literature, and among other texts we read and discussed Hasek’s The Good Soldier Schweik and Heller’s Catch-22. I had not yet decided to major in English, and it was an office talk with George Gross at the end of my sophomore year that made up my mind. Not only did I go on to a doctorate and my academic career, I published two books on Joseph Heller, one just on Catch-22.

Steve Potts
English and Comparative Literature, SDSU

I was very sorry to hear of Professor Gross’s death. It was my good fortune to have George as an office mate for several years. He was always cheerful, considerate, encouraging, and interesting—the best of colleagues. His stories about World War II were especially moving in light of his being one of the youngest tank commanders in the European theater. Tanks were a favorite target, so mortality was high in the tank corps, and dangerous promotions all too frequent. If you consult this website you can see a photo of Sgt. George and his buddy when they liberated the train with its 2500 Jews on its way to a death camp. The story George tells reveals his exceptional character.

Less well-known is George’s place among proto-feminist Shakespeare scholars. In 1980 a landmark anthology was published, The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, ed. Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, Gayle Greene, and Carol Thomas Neely (U of Illinois P). The Woman’s Part ushered in what is now a major critical movement. On page 317 of its valuable bibliography is an entry for George C. Gross: “Mary Cowden Clarke, The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines and the Sex Education of Victorian Women,” Victorian Studies 16 (1972): 37-58.

Dorothea Kehler
Professor Emerita
English and Comparative Literature, SDSU

[click to enlarge]

George Gross was just of the opposite of the self-involved, arrogant professor stereotype. He cared deeply about his subject, poetry of the English Romantic period, about his students, and about his colleagues. I have never met anyone more selfless—his life was one of giving, giving of his time and energy to others. He was on the committee that hired me, and even though our interests were quite different, he became my good friend. He was not interested in doing scholarly publication (although he had written some articles), but constantly supported me in my research and writing, recommending me for several awards by the university. His genial personality, his sense of humor, and his unbounded kindness made it a pleasure to be in his company. He made me laugh, he made me think, and he made me wonder if I could ever be such a good man. I had not seen him for many months when a year ago I passed his house, while walking our dogs. He was on his porch, and when he saw me, he shuffled, very slowly, step by step out across his lawn to the low fence near the sidewalk. He raised his trembling hand and held it out to me. We shook hands and he smiled.

Jack Benson
Professor Emeritus
English and Comparative Literature, SDSU

George Gross was a gentleman's gentleman...pure and simple. A good, decent guy, who didn't start putting on suits when he became an administrator; he always wore them, even as a teacher. And though George spent a great many years in administration, he remained a classroom teacher at heart. When I went back to teaching after chairing the English Department for four years, I remember him saying to me. "Good decision. That's where the action is, isn't it." He loved Romantic poetry and when I developed a high tech presentation on the Poetry of John Keats he was excited to see Keats' work brought into a 21st century context. I always respected him and I'm very sorry to hear of his passing.

Fred Moramarco
Professor Emeritus
English and Comparative Literature, SDSU

[From the San Diego Union Tribune]

George C. Gross; literature scholar helped liberate Holocaust camps; 86
By Blanca Gonzalez
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. February 18, 2009

George C. Gross was known locally as a scholar who inspired high school and college students to care about Chaucer, Keats and other academic pursuits.

Throughout the world, others knew him as a symbol of American liberators who played a role in the lives of Holocaust camp survivors. Dr. Gross died of anemia Feb. 1 at his home in Spring Valley. He was 86.

More than half a century after World War II ended, Dr. Gross was asked to tell his story to Matthew Rozell, a Hudson Falls, N.Y., high school teacher who coordinates a World War II living history project and Web site. Rozell had heard about Dr. Gross from another veteran involved in the project. In a narrative posted on the project Web site, Dr. Gross told of being among the first U.S. servicemen to come across about 2,500 people the Nazis had stuffed into a string of boxcars. It was April 1945 and World War II was coming to an end in Europe. Dr. Gross was a sergeant commanding a light tank moving toward Magdeburg, Germany, as part of a tank battalion in the 30th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. The battalion had just finished a grueling three weeks of fighting across Germany when it came across some emaciated Finnish soldiers who had escaped from a nearby train full of starving prisoners.

Dr. Gross and fellow sergeant Carrol Walsh accompanied the battalion major to a small train station where they discovered a mass of people, some sitting or lying outside the train and others still in the boxcars. It is believed their German guards ran away as the U.S. tanks rumbled in.
The train contained Jewish prisoners who had been taken from Bergen-Belsen and forced into the cramped boxcars. Dr. Gross, Walsh and the major greeted survivors and took pictures of them, capturing their surprise and joy.

"I was assigned to stay overnight with the train," Dr. Gross wrote years later, "to let any stray German soldiers know that it was part of the free world and not to be bothered again. I was honored to shake the hands of the large numbers (of survivors) who spontaneously lined up to introduce themselves and greet me in a ritual that seemed to satisfy their need to declare their return to honored membership in the free society of humanity.

"The heroism that day was all with the prisoners on the train," Dr. Gross wrote. "What stamina and regenerative spirit those brave people showed. I have one picture of several girls, specter-thin, hollow-cheeked, with enormous eyes that had seen much evil and terror, and yet with smiles to break one's heart."His pictures were posted on the history Web site and sparked reunions and phone calls between survivors from around the world and between Dr. Gross and Walsh, a retired judge living in Hudson Falls.

Rozell said Dr. Gross was a very humble and gracious person. "He came from a generation that didn't really trumpet their accomplishments," he said.

Local friends and colleagues lauded Dr. Gross as a gentleman and a scholar who was fascinated by the language of Keats and Chaucer and enjoyed sharing that love with students. Larry Durbin, a Grossmont High School graduate who became a close friend, said the class of 1958 made Dr. Gross an honorary classmate. "He was a pretty special guy. Chaucer's English was very difficult to read and hard to listen to ... but there he was, probably 36 or 37 years old, standing up in front of a class of 17-and 18-year-olds and getting them to be enthralled with Chaucer. At nearly every (class) reunion someone will start reciting 'The Knight's Tale' (from Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales") we learned in his class," Durbin said. "He was a sensitive, caring, warm guy and everybody liked him."

Dr. Gross, who had boxed in the Army, served as adviser of the high school's boxing club. After teaching at Grossmont for about 10 years, Dr. Gross joined the San Diego State faculty in 1961. He was associate dean for faculty and dean of faculty affairs from 1970 to 1981 before returning to the classroom. He retired in 1985 but remained active on campus with the SDSU Honors Council.

Dr. Gross is remembered on campus as one of the great chairmen of the English and Comparative Literature department, said current Chairman Bill Nericcio. "Tales of his generosity and intellect still shadow the corridors of our department. His skills as a master teacher, gifted scholar and top-shelf administrator are a hard act to follow."

George C. Gross was born May 14, 1922, in Wilmington to Ada Bachmann and Henry Gross. He graduated from Hoover High School and married his high school sweetheart, the former Marlo Mumma, in 1940. She died in 2006. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from San Diego State and received his doctorate from the University of Southern California in the early 1960s. Dr. Gross is survived by two sons, Tim of Lakeside and John of Spring Valley; a granddaughter; and two sisters, Hazel Lemmons of San Diego and Betty Desport of Texas. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. March 7 at SDSU Aztec Center, Casa Real. Reservations can be made with Leslie Herrman at or (619) 594-6337.

Donations may be made to the Campanile Foundation for the George C. Gross Memorial Fund benefiting the Department of English and Comparative Literature and Holocaust Studies, in the Department of History or to the George Gross Memorial Scholarship at Grossmont High School.

Blanca Gonzalez: (760) 737-7576;

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

SDSU's Jericho Brown selected for Harvard Bunting Fellowship

Our hats go off to USD's poet-professor Jericho Brown, who has been selected for the prestigious Bunting fellowship at Harvard University--Brown is visiting this term teaching a graduate poetry workshop for our MFA in Creative Writing. Historically devoted to the study and advancement of women, the Bunting is awarded by the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program to men and women in a variety of academic disciplines, professions, and creative arts. Join us in congratulating Dr. Brown on his remarkable achievement.

English Department Dean's Award Recipients

Two students from the English Department won Dean’s Awards from the recently 2009 Student Research Symposium, held February 27 and 28 at The Aztec Center. Lisa Hemminger, MFA candidate in Creative Writing, won for her oral presentation "Funny Paper"; and Pierre Lalague, undergraduate English, won for his presentation "Glowing Bones: Art Spiegelman’s Hallucinations in the Shadow of No Towers". MFA Director Sandra Alcosser and Associate Professor Joanna Brooks mentored, respectively. Both students receive a cash prize of $250.

The 2009 Student Research Symposium (SRS), in its second year, featured oral and poster presentations from nearly 400 undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral candidate’s research projects.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Praise Continues for Thomas and Poetry's Playground

Joseph T. Thomas, Jr., Assistant Professor of English and Composition, was notified this week that his book, Poetry's Playground: The Culture of Contemporary American Children's Poetry (Wayne State UP), has been selected as the Children's Literature Association's 2009 honor book, for outstanding book-length scholarly work.

This is a real honor in the field of children's literature studies. The honor is given annually, the committee choosing the honor book from all scholarly books published in the area of children's literature internationally.

In her review Susan Kreller describes Thomas's "great merit [in Poetry's Playground] is his canny defence of children’s poetry as an important part of poetry and his insistence that there is no such thing as real poetry,only poetry."

Thomas is quite pleased, and elated to share this honor with the department of English & Comparative Literature, SDSU's National Center for the Study of Children's Literature, the College of Arts & Letters, and, of course, the university itself.
You can also read more of Thomas's insights in his review of The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense. This text, Thomas explains, "crystallises our understanding of nonsense, even as it surveys the diverse landscape of Indian nonsense, providing insight into Indian culture,
folk-traditions, and literary history."