Department of English

  • Apply now for Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop, held online June 7-24

    Limited to just 30, this workshop encourages discussion and the exchange of ideas as each week students explore a different genre such as poetry, fiction, memoir, magazine production and more.

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  • Two UAB students earn spots in State Department’s first virtual language-immersion programs

    With an acceptance rate of less than 10 percent, the Critical Language Scholarship is one of the most competitive scholarships in the United States and the most prestigious language program for U.S. students.

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  • What 10 mentors learned from teaching graduate students and postdocs

    Ten graduate faculty were honored with the UAB Graduate Dean’s Excellence in Mentorship Award for exceptional work with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

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  • Celebrate 23 books authored by CAS faculty in 2020

    Writing a book isn’t easy, but faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences produced nearly two-dozen — for the second year in a row. Twenty faculty from 13 departments wrote books on police violence, John Milton, democracy in Bangladesh, addiction, postcommunist theatre and more.

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  • Department of English announces 2021 Faculty Awards

    Two Department of English faculty members are being recognized for their commitment to excellence in teaching and composition this year.

    By: Dena Pruett

    Two Department of English faculty members are being recognized for their commitment to excellence in teaching and composition this year.

    Core Teaching Award

    Assistant Professor Joseph Wood is this year’s winner of the Core Teaching Award. This award was established by a community advisory committee years ago as a way to honor excellent classroom instruction in 100- and 200-level courses. Wood has taught a wide variety of courses and is especially gifted at creating a dynamic discussion environment.

    Wood is the author of four books and five chapbooks of poetry, which include YOU. (Etruscan, 2015) and Broken Cage (Brooklyn Arts, 2014; finalist for 2013 National Poetry Series). His work has appeared widely, in journals such as Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, North American Review, and Verse Daily, among others. At UAB, he teaches world literature, creative writing, and composition.

    The Walt Mayfield Adjunct Teaching Award

    This year’s winner of the The Walt Mayfield Adjunct Teaching Award is Sally Anne Perz. Much like the namesake of the award, Perz is a positive and encouraging teacher. She currently teaches EH 102 and tutors in the University Writing Center.

    Perz recently graduated from UAB with a M.A. in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition. She hopes to continue her project on the rhetoric of oppression and exclusion. Though she has a lifelong passion for literature, she specifically chose rhetoric to focus her studies on anti-racist pedagogy and designing anti-racist curricula.

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  • Art-inspired spoken word and poetry event March 30

    UAB Department of English students will virtually perform poetry and spoken word inspired by artworks on display at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts.

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  • UAB to host award-winning writer Saeed Jones on March 10

    Poet and memoirist Saeed Jones will speak in a virtual event presented by the Department of English through UAB’s Jemison Visiting Professorship in the Humanities Endowment.

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  • Minnix named director of Signature Core Curriculum

    Associate Professor of English and Director of Freshman Composition Chris Minnix, Ph.D., is the new director of UAB’s Signature Core Curriculum, a broad array of courses slated to launch in fall 2022.

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  • UAB English professor awarded National Endowment for the Arts fellowship

    Poet Lauren Goodwin Slaughter has been awarded a $25,000 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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  • Creative Cloud programs can enrich coursework, increase student engagement

    Learn to use Adobe Creative Cloud to develop a range of compelling and meaningful multimedia projects in the classroom.

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  • Creating community in the classroom — wherever that is

    Five faculty share the tools, tweaks and shifts in mindset that helped them build connections with students during the fall semester.

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  • Docu-series tells stories from Alabama’s past to forge a better future

    The first installment, “Bending the Arc: The Vote,” which tells the stories of Black people and white allies who fought for racial justice during the 1960s, is the collaborative effort of retired and current UAB employees and community partners.

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  • Winners of the 2020-2021 “Building a Multicultural Curriculum” grants

    Congratulations to the winning proposals for the 2020-2021 academic year.

    This fall, all tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-earning College of Arts and Sciences faculty were invited to submit proposals for a new grant titled, “Building a Multicultural Curriculum.” The goal of these awards is to support faculty in developing new courses or revising existing classes in order to expand the College’s offerings that will support students’ diversity awareness and build their multicultural competence.

    Congratulations to the winning proposals for the 2020-2021 academic year.

    • Dr. Erin Borry, Department of Political Science and Public Administration: “Isms in Public Administration”
    • Dr. Olivio J. Clay, Department of Psychology: “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Research and the Workplace”
    • Prof. Michele Forman, Department of History: “Our Histories: Documentary Film and Public History in Birmingham”
    • Dr. Reginald Jackson, Department of Music: “African American Music from 1619-Present”
    • Dr. Dione Moultrie King, Department of Social Work: “The Health and Well-being of Black Americans: A Social Work Approach”
    • Dr. Angela Lewis-Maddox, Department of Political Science and Public Administration: “Social Justice and Pop Culture”
    • Dr. Samiksha Raut, Department of Biology: “Building a Multicultural Curriculum”
    • Prof. Ana Maria Santiago, Department of English: “Themes in Lit with a Latina-o-x American Identity Focus”

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  • COVID-19 can't stop Into the Streets volunteers from safely serving Birmingham community

    For the 21st year of Into the Streets, a student-led day of service at UAB, 84 volunteers gave a combined 168 hours of service, working at 12 sites with seven community partners, while safeguarding against COVID-19.

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  • A Limitless World

    Makayla Smith wants to use poetry to create spaces of joy and representation for Black, queer audiences.

    Photo of Makayla by Tedric Davenport
    Illustration by Caitlin Du

    Makayla Smith wants to use poetry to create spaces of joy and representation for Black, queer audiences.

    Growing up in the rural South, Smith struggled to find her identity as a writer and as a person. But studying literature, creative writing, and African American Studies at UAB has clarified for Smith what role she wants to play in the world as an academic and creator. Now, as an adult and recent graduate, Smith has a clearer understanding of herself.

    “I feel like there aren’t enough works on the market really exploring that for my age group,” Smith said. “My sexual orientation is such a big part of my writing.”

    Smith also hopes to explore these realities without commodifying Black pain. She worries about the misconception that creating work is only profitable and valuable if the process is painful for the audience and creator.

    “[Writing] does not have to be traumatizing in order for it to sell and it will literally have the same impact,” Smith said. “I want people to feel joy. I want people to feel happy to be themselves and safe.”

    During her final semester at UAB, Smith compiled a poetry manuscript called I don’t believe in mermaids. In the manuscript, she uses her childhood and personal memories as a way to broach the topics of how community, family, and one’s surroundings can affect an individual’s relationship with their sexuality and perception of self. Smith writes about the experience of growing up with her grandparents, particularly her relationship with her grandmother and how that impacted her identity.

    “In poetry, you’re limited in some senses of style and formatting,” Smith said. “It was very meticulous [work] trying to convey a clear picture while also trying to not give it away at the same time, to be metaphorical.”

    Before attending UAB, Smith attended Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery. Smith had the opportunity to write with the Alabama Writers Forum and as a journalist for the Kentuck Festival of the Arts. Writing with and for her community confirmed for Smith that writing was what she wanted to do professionally.

    “Essentially, what I’m trying to teach people is that you don’t have to be in one specific place, like New York or San Francisco, to really learn about yourself or to be proud of your identity,” Smith said. “I want Black, queer people in general to feel proud of themselves.”

    In High School

    In high school, Smith had felt adamant that attending school or living in a major city was necessary to achieve a career in writing. She ultimately chose to attend UAB instead of going out of state since it was the best option financially. Looking back, Smith is grateful for how her time at UAB allowed her to grow as a writer and person.

    “It ended up being a very introspective, very needed last four years,” Smith said. “I didn’t need to go out of state to find all these great things out about myself.”

    Smith is especially appreciative of the relationships she was able to foster with her professors during her time at UAB. She describes the Department of English and the African American Studies Program as a family. Smith hopes to carry that dynamic with her as she continues in academia.

    “It felt safe and like I could show up 100 percent as myself. There was no white gaze to interfere with,” she said. “It feels good knowing that people are going to be there for you and stand up for you.”

    Smith is also thankful for the confidence that her African American Studies minor and literature studies has given her. Before UAB, Smith was unfamiliar with the idea of intersectionality. Exploring that, along with critical race theory, allowed Smith to understand herself better.

    “I was able to really analyze the systemic and historical context of my existence, of Black people’s existence. It makes sense why I am the way I am and now I can work on myself,” Smith said. “That’s the best thing both departments could have ever given me.”

    New Opportunities in New York

    Since graduating from UAB, Smith has flourished professionally and academically. Currently, Smith is attending the New School of New York for her M.A. She is also on staff at the school as a tutor and as an intern for “One Story,” a literary magazine based in Brooklyn. Over the summer, Smith also announced on social media that she won a Gilman Scholarship. The scholarship will cover her travel and living costs while she studies television and film production in London for three weeks.

    “I was with my brother at the time [of receiving the scholarship], screaming at the top of my lungs. I’ve never been overseas a day in my life, owned a passport, or anything like that so I’m just really grateful,” she said.

    However, Smith acknowledges that rejection is a large but often hidden part of the application process. In the same social media caption announcing her Gilman Scholarship, Smith admitted that receiving this award came after multiple rejected scholarship and job applications.

    “There are so many different ways to get to where you want to be,” she said. “That is my healthy way of dealing with being turned down from so many opportunities and scholarships.”

    Currently, Smith is studying children’s literature at the New School and has workshopped several short stories. She hopes to publish more illustrated editions of her work in the future. She hopes that her experiences inspire others to persevere, even through rejection.

    “One person’s no will be another person’s yes. The world is limitless.”


    If I Could Buy Love in the Marketplace

    Grandma used to make tea cookies that left sweet fantasies in the air
    But the texture was brittle and bleak and rock-like as if it had been -
    apart of a canyon
    She used to say, "Do right by me and right shall follow"
    To which I respnded with irate sadness and irate confusion
    How dare she place God where they need not be?
    Between hard boiled cookies and my sweet, little fantasies
    But God was her love for all seasons and her love for all reasons
    And I, too, was fascinated with that idea of unconditional love
    From an unconditional savior like Jesus Christ
    But instead, I was warped with thoughts of buying vases of love
    In its glass cylinder as it refracted the Moon
    Christ had nothing to do with this equation
    And Grandma's tea cookes had left me toothless and heartbroken
    I, too, was to do right by myself
    Amen

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  • Teaching in the time of COVID

    COVID-19 has changed not only our daily lives but also how we approach education. UAB English Instructor Halley Cotton has faced these challenges following a simple but meaningful maxim: “You give grace; you get grace.”

    COVID-19 has changed not only our daily lives but also how we approach education. In these uncertain times, professors are learning and creating new policies, procedures, and delivery modes at a breakneck speed to make sure students stay on track and engaged. UAB English Instructor Halley Cotton has faced these challenges following a simple but meaningful maxim: “You give grace; you get grace.” 

    Halley CottonHalley Cotton wasn’t always an English major. In fact, her passion for biology, science, and animals first took her to Jefferson State where she earned an associate’s degree in biology. A run-in with calculus, though, made her reassess her goals and career path. 

    “I knew I wanted to be an advocate, but I realized that I didn’t have to be out in the field collecting data to do so,” said Cotton. “I could be an advocate by being a writer and an educator. I ultimately chose UAB because it was close. I had no idea how wonderful their English department truly was and how kind, caring, and dedicated their professors are.”  

    Cotton first graduated from UAB in 2013 with a B.A. in English, concentrating in creative writing, then followed it up with an M.A. in 2016, completing a thesis in poetry. Once she taught her first course in fall of 2015, she never stopped. She currently teaches first-year composition writing courses in rhetoric and argument as well as 200-level literature courses, which cover topics ranging from literary forms to monsters to otherness. In a given semester, Cotton is responsible from 50 to 90 students. 

    Starting in Fall 2020, though, Cotton was forced to pivot not only her teaching style but also what she knew about classroom dynamics when she took on one remote class and two hybrid classes due to COVID. Her pedagogy relies mostly on creating a community within the classroom, which has been made more difficult now that one-third of her students are in-person and the rest are in a digital space. She’s combatted the distance by encouraging her students to get to know and learn from each other in weekly mini-sessions in breakout rooms. 

    Cotton also chooses compassion and transparency when it comes to her students, establishing both trust and expectations ahead of time. She tries to keep her focus on the ultimate goal: getting her students through the semester successfully. To do so, Cotton adapts and juggles deadlines when need be:

    “I remember what it was like to be a student juggling three jobs and taking classes full-time. It was a lot. Now, throw a global pandemic into the mix, and that really takes things over the edge. Students have a lot going on in their lives at the moment—professors, too. Now isn’t the time to be rigid and unforgiving. What’s meaningful to me is to be able to respond to students going through these difficult times with empathy. Is it really going to affect me if a student needs an extra week on a paper? Not really. But to them it makes all the difference. When I look back on my life it’s not going to matter to me if I had to grade a paper a week late. What will matter is how I responded to the students entrusted to my care.”  

    Admitting that knowing students and who they are is what ultimately motivates her, Cotton has faced her own struggles this semester in connecting with students and figuring out the best ways to teach in the new settings. 

    “I’ve had to be very intentional about my time,” said Cotton. “I'm learning right alongside my students, and I tell them that. Our UAB students really are so wonderful. I've remained open and transparent about my own challenges. We're all just trying to do our best and take things one day at a time. We’re all human. You give grace; you get grace.” 

    That same balance comes in to play for the mental health of her students as well as herself. Cotton checks in weekly with current and past students, providing both encouragement and a safe place for them to unload their worries. She also makes sure to disconnect from the screen and takes time for herself by exploring Alabama’s woods and trails. 

    Though the current crisis remains ongoing, Cotton hopes that we will take away some lessons. 

    “I hope that we’ve learned forgiveness when it comes to attendance,” said Cotton. “I also think this may encourage us to establish policies where we record lectures for students that can’t be there. Overall, we’ve been faced with a challenge that asks us to make college more accessible for all, and I think that level of accessibility will be better for students in the long run.”

    Halley Cotton completed both her B.A. and M.A. in English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is the assistant editor of the Birmingham Poetry Review, poetry editor for NELLE, and the founding director of the SPARK Writing Festival. Her work has appeared in places such as The Greensboro Review, Poetry South, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others.

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  • Five Questions with Alumni: Shelby Morris

    Shelby Morris earned her B.A. in Professional Writing with a minor in Spanish in 2016 followed by a M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition in 2018.

    Shelby Morris earned her B.A. in Professional Writing with a minor in Spanish in 2016 followed by a M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition in 2018. She is currently attending law school at Samford University, Cumberland School of Law.

    Why did you choose professional writing?

    Originally, I thought I would be going to Dental School and I had always enjoyed English in high school so I decided to major in English. It wasn’t until I took a Document Design class by Dr. Bacha that I realized I really enjoyed professional writing and decided to pursue that instead.

    I definitely get skeptical looks from people who believe you can’t get a job with an English degree, but I constantly look at the market and see how untrue that really is.

    What made you want to attend law school?

    My mother is a lawyer so it was always in the back of my mind as a career path, but it wasn’t until graduate school that I realized this was something I wanted to pursue. I didn’t really feel the part of a teacher and when volunteering at the literacy council, I realized I wanted to help others and advocate for those who couldn’t.

    What do you like best about law school so far?

    I really enjoy all my classes and how logic based everything is. Some very challenging things have been learning how to write in a legal sense. I’ve recently been able to take an intellectual property class and I really feel like this mixes the both of best worlds: creative arts and law. I feel like I’ve been able to apply principles I’ve learned in my professional writing classes to legal concepts I’m learning now.

    What advice would you give to current UAB students?

    Internships. Experience. These are some of the most important things to do before leaving college. Now is the time to find out what you really want to do and internships will really help with that. Experience in the field is necessary, especially when it comes to landing that marketing role. The English faculty is awesome and are there to help you in whatever capacity you need so don’t be afraid to reach out to them!

    What question do you want us to ask our next alumni we interview?

    Have you been able to use your degree or experiences from UAB in an unexpected way?

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  • Enjoy “A la carte: A Visual Exploration of Our Relationship with Food,” presented by UAB’s AEIVA

    “A la carte” features more than 30 renowned contemporary artists whose works utilize food to explore relevant contemporary social and cultural issues. Tour the exhibition virtually.

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  • The Perz family legacy continues: Sally Anne Perz will graduate summer 2020

    Sally Anne Perz follows her daughter’s footsteps as a UAB Blazer alumni.

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  • Faculty with ‘an opportunity to rethink everything’ share lessons from spring semester

    Pro-style teaching videos, interactive Canvas modules, Zoom breakout rooms: Four faculty adapted their courses in innovative ways to boost engagement and collaboration — and they plan to continue using these techniques.

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