From August to December 2017, LJMU English PhD student Ryan Coogan spent a semester teaching and researching at LJMU’s transatlantic partner Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. Ryan’s thesis focusses upon the work of five key 20th century artists who are primarily known as poets, but have also worked extensively in other forms of media. In Southern’s Professor Charles Baraw, who visited the LJMU English department last year, he found a fellow fan of the work of Susan Howe, and together they collaborated on the design of some challenging material and assignments as part of the 2017/18 version of Professor Baraw’s ‘Contemporary American Poetry’ module. Work and study abroad adds a highly competitive edge to any cv, and the unique relationship between Southern and LJMU has been established to ensure as many of our students as possible can gain that international advantage.
At LJMU’s 2017 Teaching and Learning Conference, Ryan, Professor Baraw, and Alice Ferrebe (Subject Leader for LJMU English) co-presented on the challenges and successes of Ryan’s pioneering semester at Southern. Ryan’s section included details of some of the innovative tasks students on ‘Contemporary American Poetry’ were set in order to expand their understanding of what are often dauntingly experimental poetic forms. One of these tasks asked students to insert poems in unexpected contexts and Instagram the results.
Ryan said, ‘Presenting at the conference was a great opportunity to show off some of the things that Charles and I managed to accomplish during our time together. When it came to actually sitting down and looking back over everything that we had managed to fit in to the course, and the research that I’d managed to accomplish during that relatively short period of time, I was really taken aback at just how much there was there to draw on. The paper itself went well (I thought!), and we had some great feedback afterwards. Hopefully we helped to demonstrate the value of the partnership between LJMU and SCSU, and to show just what this type of exchange can help bring to both institutions – as well as to postgraduate students like myself’.
Ryan is now in the third year of his studies at LJMU, and through a process of recovering and analysing largely unacknowledged works by artists, alongside close reading of their poetry, he argues that figures such as Mina Loy, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhove and Susan Howe, are representative of an undercurrent of what he calls ‘Material Poetics’ in 20th Century literature, wherein the poem is defined as much by its materiality and object-qualities as it is its language.
Another LJMU PhD, Jennie O’Reilly, will be teaching at Southern Connecticut in Semester 1 of 2017/18, and the links between our two English departments get ever stronger. Jennie’s work focuses upon representations of African American folk lore belief in US culture.