In addition to traditional modes of literary scholarship, English Department faculty and students are actively engaged in a wide range of collaborative Literature and Social Justice projects, which seek to address broader publics and more general audiences. These include Public Humanities and Digital Humanities projects—from documentary films to innovative websites, from community reading groups to public forums, from staged adaptations of our own writing to concert recitals of poems by Romantic era women writers set to music. Grad students can get involved with ongoing projects from their first semester, have access to Public Humanities and Digital Humanities seminars in the department, and can launch new projects of their own.
Southsider is an online hyperlocal news source that covers artists and arts programming on the South Side of Bethlehem with the aim of exploring how the arts help us reflect on our unique civic identity and explore the challenges as well as the strengths of our community. By publishing accessible literary, film, and arts criticism for regional audiences, our website encourages communal reflection upon the vibrant arts district in Bethlehem, including discussion of artists and programs not usually covered by larger news outlets due to decreases in funding to regional papers. read more >>
LGBT Community Reading Group
In partnership with Allentown’s Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and with funding from the Lehigh Humanities Center, Prof. Mary Foltz facilitates a community reading group featuring works by LGBTQ authors. Each month the reading group tackles a memoir, biography, or fictional text by LGBTQ authors. The aim of our group is to provide a safe space for LGBTQ community members and allies 1) to learn about the divergent experience of people in our communities 2) to address how forms of oppression impact members of our communities differently 3) to explore various strategies of survival and resistance and 4) to imagine how we might form liberation movements that address homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, ableism, and classism, and other forms of violence that authors and community members identify.
Tackling T.I.N.A. is a public reading group that broadens participants’ understanding of economic justice. The discussion series prepares the community to imagine more equitable alternatives to our current economic systems using a combination of fiction, ethnography, creative nonfiction, and popular theory. The reading group is unique in its efforts to partner with the local community for all of its programming, bringing in directors of NGOs, activists, and area residents to lead discussions on subjects such as homelessness, welfare, and Universal Basic Income. Ultimately, Tackling T.I.N.A. challenges the narrative that “there is no alternative” by identifying the many hopeful economic possibilities already being practiced here and now.
Bridging Bethlehem is a shared memoir that seeks to create and strengthen community bonds through digital story-telling. In a small group setting, community members write short personal narratives that highlight the rich diversity of the city which will then be housed on a digital platform accessible to the community. This project, a collaboration between Lehigh University and the Bethlehem Area Public Library, seeks to work with the community to tell its story in a way that honors its past and envisions its future. Bridging Bethlehem provides a model for engaging with the community in a way that recognizes and utilizes the wealth of talent and knowledge in communities that has historically been overlooked by universities.
Finding H.D.is a 12-month long public exploration of the life and work of poet Hilda Doolittle (H.D.)., culminating in the premiere of a new play by Mock Turtle Marionette Theater in October of 2019 at Touchstone Theatre. A partnership between the Lehigh University English Department, the Bethlehem Area Public Library (BAPL), Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, and Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.
The Song Cycles of Beachy Head
The latest development in Elizabeth Dolan’s career-long focus on recovering Romantic-era women’s writing is a collaboration with composer Amanda Jacobs. Dolan edited Romantic-era author Charlotte Smith’s 731-line poem Beachy Head into lyrics, which Amanda set as a 26-song set of five song cycles. Performing the piece in Australia, England, and around the United States–most notably at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall–Dolan and Jacobs aim to raise awareness of Smith’s beautiful and innovative poem, which ranges thematically from botanical and geographical to anti-war and anti-slavery themes. A studio recording performed by Jacobs (piano) and mezzo soprano Shelley Waite is available on iTunes, CD baby and most streaming services.
Betting on Bethlehem
Under the direction of English Department professor Michael Kramp, a group of Lehigh students devoted a fully year to the production of a documentary film about the impact of the Sands Casino on South Bethlehem. This film began as a Mountaintop project during Summer 2018 and continued through the 2018-19 academic year, meeting weekly to discuss research and interviews, and culminating in Spring 2019 under an experimental Filmmaking Studio class (Eng. 387). The original three student filmmakers brought in a talented group to constitute a film production team, including students to work on b-roll, sound and music, marketing, graphic design, and community relations. Since this is a local and public-facing story, we have collaborated extensively with the South Side Initiative and the Public Humanities work of Lehigh’s Humanities Center.
Mentored: Sexual Misconduct in Graduate School
A documentary film written, directed, and produced by Lehigh University students, Mentored explores the dark side of graduate school. Rooted in the Me Too Movement, the film focuses on how the relationship between graduate students and their faculty mentors can lead to sexual misconduct. With misconduct cases being widespread at universities across the country, Mentored examines why these relationships can be so toxic and why it is still a commonly occurring situation.