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Keynote Speakers

English Department
277 Fenton Hall
State University of
New York at Fredonia
Fredonia, NY 14063
Ph: (716) 673-3125
Fax: (716) 673-4661

[ Lauren Silberman | Marian Bleeke | Julie Ellison ]

Lauren Silberman

Much of keynote speaker Lauren Silberman's work revolves around Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene. In her extensive work and research concerning this epic poem, Silberman attempts to show that Spenser "has something to say to late 20th-century readers." She also applies what might be considered "modern ideas" to classic works such as The Faerie Queene and the Renaissance Bible. Her published work incorporates "classic" texts with new ideas of sexuality and female erotic desire, for example.

In response to her book, Transforming Desire: Erotic Knowledge in Books III and IV of The Faerie Queene, noted literary critic Anne Lake Prescott remarked that "Lauren Silberman...understands that Spenser's exploration of erotic not designed simply to demonstrate a truth expressible in a sermon or parental exhortation to behave oneself but rather to test, to interrogate, to analyze, to comment with some irony on human sexual behavior and the desires that impel it. What first struck me...was Silberman's ingenious way of reading Spenser's early modern text in the light of some very postmodern science. Silberman doesn't mean that Spenser anticipated quantum mechanics or string theory, but she does show that what modern science has to say about 'chaos' and other concepts is already figured in Spenser's sense of the world's and Amor's slipperiness."

Silberman, who is Professor of English at Baruch College (part of the City University of New York system), also writes on Milton, Donne and other medievalists and is a past president of the International Spenser Society. She is a graduate of Yale and Smith.

Selected Bibliography

Silberman, Lauren. Transforming Desire: Erotic Knowledge in Books III and IV of The Faerie Queene. University of California Press, 1995.

---, with Patrick Gerard Cheney, eds. Worldmaking Spenser: Explorations in the Early Modern Age. University of Kentucky Press, 1999.

---. "The Faerie Queene, Book V, and the Politics of Text," Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual 19, (2004), 1-16.

---. "The Specter of Dido: Spenser and Virgilian Epic." Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 27 (Autumn 1996), No. 3, 969-970.

---. "The Poem's Two Bodies: The Poetics of the 1590 Faerie Queene." Renaissance Quarterly, 1992.

---. "Spenser and Ariosto: Funny Peril and Comic Chaos." Comparative Literature Studies, 1988.

---. "The Faerie Queene, Book II and the Limitations of Temperance." Modern Language Studies (1987) Vol. 17, No. 4, 9-22.

---. "Singing Unsung Heroines: Androgynous Discourse in Book III of The Faerie Queene" in Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret Ferguson et. al. University of Chicago Press, 1986.

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Marian Bleeke

Dr. Marian Bleeke is an assistant professor of art history in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media at SUNY Fredonia. She primarily focuses her research on medieval sculpture as well as issues surrounding women, gender, and the body in medieval culture. Dr. Bleeke's essay entitled "Sheelas, Sex, and Significance in Romanesque Sculpture: The Kilpeck Corbel Series" was published and featured in the magazine, Studies in Iconography in January 2005. That article, deriving from her dissertation ("Situating Sheela-na-gigs: The Female Body and Social Significance in Romanesque Sculpture," at the University of Chicago), studied a controversial group of images of naked women, shown exposing their genitalia, found on twelfth-century and later medieval churches and castles in England and Ireland. Dr. Bleeke is in the process of revising her dissertation as a book to be tentatively entitled "Maternity and Meaning in Medieval Sculpture."

Dr. Bleeke received her undergraduate degree from the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon and her Master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. Before coming to Fredonia she taught at Columbia College-Chicago, Beloit College, and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She has also held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to Introduction to Art History, she teaches courses whose subject matter focuses primarily on Medieval art, Islamic art and Women's Studies. As a researcher, Dr. Bleeke is interested in writing new histories that resist rather than reinforce existing power structures. In terms of teaching, she aims to empower students to value their own ideas and observations, rather than relying on authorities to tell them what to think.

Selected Bibliography

Bleeke, Marian. "Sheelas, Sex, and Significance in Romanesque Sculpture: The Kilpeck Corbel Series," Studies in Iconography 26 (2005): n.p.

The article is split into three sections with the first section focusing on the scholar as a viewer interpreting and critiquing a sculpture as a "sinful" sexual piece of art. Bleeke argues why the Sheela sculptures should be considered part of "medieval iconography" despite their "scandalous" subject matter. In the second and third sections of her piece, Bleeke develops different interpretations of the Kilpeck Sheela corbel and its change "in method from iconography to reception studies." She does this through studying other sculptures on the church of Saint Mary and Saint David at Kilpeck, Herefordshire, as well as within the local culture. Bleeke ultimately argues that the Kilpeck corbels are part of a medieval discourse in which the sexually active female body is seen as a reproductive rather than sinful body.

---. "On Location in Ireland: Sheelas, Pilgrimage, and Disciplinary Practice," Chicago Art Journal 6:1 (Spring 1996): 65-73.

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Julie Ellison

Julie Ellison, founder of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, has dedicated her time and effort to fostering the public role of the arts and humanities. The Imagining America project seeks to build coalitions and to create change in the structure of higher education. Through the help and support offered by Imagining America, scholarship activities are successfully diving into society to engage and form a partnership with the public to create stronger and more imaginative communities.

A graduate from Yale and Harvard, Julie Ellison is also Professor of American Culture, English, and Art and Design at the University of Michigan. She has also held various administrative positions including Associate Vice President for Research at Michigan as well as Director of Imagining America. Dr. Ellison's scholarly work ranges across the literature and culture of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century, with particular emphasis on gender, emotion, politics, and genre. She has a trail of publications following her name, including books, articles, poetry, conference papers and lectures. Her current research project is a study of World Poetry Day and other organized efforts to link poetry and democratic values.

Dr. Ellison currently resides with her husband, Mark Creekmore, in Ann Arbor. They are the parents to one son, Peter, a jazz flutist.

Selected Bibliography

Ellison, Julie. "The Humanities and the Public Soul." (Printouts available upon request.)
This talk discusses collaboration between college campuses with the surrounding community and organizations, focusing on the benefits that might arise from such synergistic collaboration. Julie Ellison "grapple[s] with the mixed aspirations perpetually circulating within and between academic and community cultures" (Ellison 1). She describes possibilities for the role of humanists in public life and details some obstacles and conflicts that may arise from humanists and artists' inclusion in politics or other cultural avenues. She takes what President George Bush said in his 2002 State of the Union Address to inspire a call to action in her readers: "[Bush] invited us to imagine what 'a new culture of responsibility could look like.' We can, he said, 'change our culture'-a statement with which I passionately agree. This is precisely what public scholarship is about-the shared public work of changing our culture" (9). Humanists and artists are what complete the public soul. "The public soul needs the expression of grief, witness, and testimony, yes. But it also needs action, including educational action" (10). By having humanists and artists collaborate with public scholarship the outcome (the whole) will be greater than the sum of the parts.

Ellison, Julie. "Tenure: A Public Matter."

The controversial issue of tenure is addressed in this article. Ellison discusses the problems that arise with the current method of receiving tenure. She explores the impact of the restricting force that tenure puts on public scholarship. "The current system extracts a high price both from communities, because they aren't getting access to publicly-engaged faculty, and from scholars who feel that they can't practice the kind of scholarship they want to pursue" (1). Dr. Ellison also explains how one type of tenure system is not the answer to the problem. Tenure systems need to be able to fit the needs of the many different schools that would use them. "We need changes that are flexible and credible" (2). There needs to be a greater sense of seriousness while at the same time a flexibility in order for the tenure program to meet its potential.

Ellison, Julie. "Tears for Emerson." Cambridge Companion to Emerson. Ed Joel Porte. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

---. "A Short History of Liberal Guilt." Critical Inquiry 22.2 (1996): 344-71.

---. "The Politics of Fancy in the Age of Sensibility." Re-Visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776-1837. Ed Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1994. 329.

---. "The Gender of Transparency: Masculinity and the Conduct of Life." American Literary History 4.4 (1992): 584-606.

---. Delicate Subjects: Romanticism, Gender, and the Ethics of Understanding. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990.

The above citations represent only a tiny sample of Ellison's creative and scholarly output. For a complete list of publications, please see her bio page at the University of Michigan website:

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MLW Symposium, Department of English

SUNY Fredonia - 277 Fenton Hall - Fredonia, NY 14063
Phone: (716) 673-3125 | Fax: (716) 673-4661

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