Friday, February 26, 2010
Have a warm weekend!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
We - and most of you - know what a delicious blend of people traverse our proverbial halls here at Draper. We wanted to honor this in writing so we've decided to start an ongoing feature of the blog that profiles Draper students and alumni, giving us all a taste of the mix. We set up a dozen questions to ask and we'll include a brief intro or bio of the profilee.
Our inaugural profile is that of Draper alumni, Derek McPhatter. Derek came jumping back to our attention recently with a play of his that was produced by Horse Trade Theater Group as part of a short play festival honoring Black History Month. He was one of seven up-and-coming playwrights to have his work shown and, as you can read below, isn't stopping there.
Many thanks to Derek, and to everyone else, we hope you enjoy Derek's words as much as we did. (A note: Derek's bio was so complete we just popped it onto the end.)
1. When did you graduate from Draper?
I graduated in January 2006.
2. Did you attend as a full or part-time student?
I attended as a full-time student.
3. Do you still live in New York?
Yes I do. I live and work in Harlem.
4. What was the topic of your Master’s thesis?
Let the Kids Say Amen: Black Gay Spaces and the Hybridity of Gospel House Music
With my thesis, I excavated gospel-house music, as a hybridized cultural form. Using ethnographic, historiographic, and structural approaches, I delved into the meanings various communities ascribed to the music. I proceeded with an understanding that gospel house has proven particularly meaningful to black gay communities as a means to express spirituality and sexual diversity. Yet, with the (frequently re-mixed) musical object as the centerpiece, I engaged varied communities with a stake in Gospel House’s significance, from conservative elements of the African American church to international underground dance communities, all of which offered compelling and divergent positions on this unique musical form.
5. Why did you choose to pursue an interdisciplinary degree at Draper?
I was invited to consider to Draper after getting a little bit rejected at another NYU Ph.D. Program which we shall not name (and which, in hindsight, would have been the wrong move for me.) After attending the first orientation session for prospective Draper students, I knew it was precisely the type of graduate program I wanted. So when the opportunity presented itself, I did not hesitate.
Throughout my graduate school application process, I was conflicted about pursuing a Ph.D. in earnest. None of the doctoral programs which seemed suited to my English-major background reflected the breadth of my academic interests. And some of the other Master’s programs I looked at seemed a bit too broad. Draper offered the opportunity to get a graduate degree with solid footing in humanities scholarship, while offering a means to transcend disciplinary barriers. Preparing for and pursuing my thesis gave me a solid understanding of ethnographic practice, and provided a platform for me to engage current cultural studies arguments, as well as literary and music theory -- a broad palette, but with clear overlapping elements. By the way, all of this academic experience comes in handy as an arts administrator at the Apollo Theater. And one of the first questions in my interview for the job was, “tell me more about your master’s thesis…”
Pursuing a graduate degree was part of my “master plan” towards a successful career as a writer/intellectual superstar. You know, that eccentric, independent author kinda guy. He has dozens of published novels, articles in prominent print (not online) journals. He has critically-acclaimed plays on Broadway that do terribly financially. He has one book of self-obsessed, opaque free verse poetry. He writes introductions to anthologies on various timely topics, routinely praising his peers, most of whom he detests in person. He has independent film options, and guest appearances on TV shows of quality like Charlie Rose on PBS. He provides the occasional guest lecture at universities. And he probably has a yacht. These are among my numerous benchmarks for success. Lately, I’ve been e-blasting Oprah and my boyfriend was quoted in the New York Times a few months ago. So, I think I’m moving right along with all of that. But no yacht.
6. Are you still in academia?
No. My Draper experience let me get a preview of what a full-time Ph.D. program will entail when (and if) I’m ready for it. What’s more, post-Draper, I am entirely clear on what type of doctoral program will suit me. (I only had a vague inkling coming out of undergrad.)
Lately, I’ve been making pretty good strides as an early-career dramatic writer, so I’m really focused on about half-a dozen projects in theater and the performing arts. The Ph.D. might be the right move down the road, and I still stay connected to the Academy, as a lot of my friends and colleagues are in that world.
7. What special activities or projects do you enjoy outside of your academic work and/or career?
I’m a sci-fi nut, and anything sci-fi themed is fun for me: I sometimes suspend race and gender studies sensitivities so I can enjoy tent-pole summer blockbuster films. Downloading sci-fi soundtracks is also fun. (Battlestar Galactica has a gorgeous score and is on heavy repeat on my IPOD)
I suppose useless facebook apps eat up a good portion of time I should be using for more productive ends. (Starfleet Commander is my current favorite.) I also watch Bravo and HGTV a lot, and just discovered the “Free On Demand” feature on cable, so now I’m catching up on the BBC’s Doctor Who.
But honestly, it’s hard for me to articulate “projects I enjoy outside my academic work and/or career.” My day-job is doing grant writing and resource development for the Apollo Theater. That’s time consuming work, but well worth it as a behind-the-scenes experience on how a cultural institution functions and evolves. And beyond that daily grind, in my free time I’m doing stuff to further my individual career – writing plays, filing out fellowship and grant applications, trying to network. And even stuff I do for fun (like sci-fi frivolity) has a thematic impact on some of my more creative stuff.
Beyond that, I WOULD list video games as an activity I enjoy. But I have been fasting from video games since before grad school. I tend to get obsessed with Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) and the like. But until I don’t need a day job, I cannot really afford to entertain that past-time. (As a rule, I break this “no-video games” rule frequently.)
Oh yeah, cocktails. I like cocktails, but that falls under “networking” right? And that’s work.
8. What do you like best about New York City?
New York City has such a broad palette of things to do. Arts and Culture in the Big Apple is alive and well, though “breaking in” is a challenge (an NYU degree goes a long way here.) I could fill my calendar with fun things to do every night of the week if I wanted to.
9. What do you like least about New York City?
The issue is money really. The cost of living in New York is just ridiculous. I’m a mid-westerner at my core, and I could mortgage a very nice house in Ohio for what I pay in rent for a little studio in Harlem. Rent. Food. Just covering the basics can be an exercise in personal cash flow innovation. Don’t even get me started on how to make ends meet while getting a graduate degree…
10. What was the last book you read for fun?
I finished Octavia Butler’s Mind of My Mind in January. It’s the second book in her Patternmaster Series, which is the one series of hers I’ve never finished. (As I am a budding sci-fi writer of color, Octavia Butler is one of my idols.) Her work is always engrossing and often makes me a little bit uncomfortable, so I switched things up for February. I’m twenty two pages into William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
11. If you could change anything about ______ [fill in the blank: New York City, the world, the economy, your hair…] what would it be and why?
If I could change anything about my hair, I would have all of it back. (Yes it’s thinning I’m afraid, fading fast. You can fix that with photoshop and stuff on Facebook and your avatar can feature afropuffs for MMORPG’s, but for cocktail hour “networking time” there’s only so much that can be done.)
12. How do you feel about social media and which, if any, do you use most?
I log on to Facebook regularly. Even when I’m not on the Starfleet Commander app, building my intergalactic armada, I’m checking in with long lost friends, family and such. As a playwright/producer, I use the Facebook events feature often to get the word out. (I also check my event RSVP’s compulsively.) If I don’t get a handle on my Facebook addiction soon, I might need to go on INTERVENTION. But I don’t tweet. Nope. Not into that tweeting. Tweeting is for “tweens” and other auspiciously marketing-driven consumer segments that don’t really apply to me.
Myspace used to be fun, but I forgot my password on purpose.
I do some gay-themed social networking sites sometimes, but that’s really just for eye-candy these days. Online dating has led to serious romance for me, so I’m all for logging-in for love and life.
Derek Lee McPhatter (Playwright) Originally from Pickerington Ohio, Derek has lived in Atlanta and Osaka, Japan and calls Harlem home. His most recent play, Citizen Jane, was featured in the Horse Trade Theater Group’s Fire This Time Festival in February 2010. Derek was a 2009 resident playwright with Freedom Train Productions, developing a new music-theatre dramedy: Bring the Beat Back. He is the development director for Under the Spell Productions, and co-author of the company’s signature show, It Goes Unsaid, which has been produced at Harlem’s Poets Den, the University of California, and London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. Derek was a finalist for the New York Theatre Workshop’s Emerging Playwright’s of Color Fellowship in 2007. He has publications in the journals Anamesa, Flash Fantastic, and the Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History. He is a member of the Harlem Arts Alliance and the Speculative Literature Foundation and holds degrees from Morehouse College and NYU, where he completed his master’s thesis—Let the Kids Say Amen: Black Gay Spaces and the Hybridity of Gospel House Music. By days, Derek works at the Apollo Theater and hosts the Apollo Salon Series, a works-in-development program presented weekends in April. He invites you to check out his blog: www.itsdmcp.blogspot.com for more.
You are cordially invited to the NYU department of Comp Lit’s inaugural Majors’ Choice Lecture Series:
on “Remembrance: Benjamin, Politics & Present Time”
With an introduction by Avital Ronell
Monday, March 8 from 4:00-6:00 pm
Hemmerdinger Hall (
(Event is free and open to the public)
Judith Butler is a Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Why not use Spring Break to "clean up" your research and organizational skills?
The NYU Bobst Library is holding a series of workshops and clinics especially for graduate students. These sessions focus on core skills like:
* Finding citations and expanding your research
* Organizing your research using an easy personal database called RefWorks
* Finding and ordering research materials from other institutions
* ...And much more
Some of the sessions are one-hour sessions on a single topic, while others are designed to give you a chance to get help with whatever questions you might have. All sessions are led by expert librarians, and take place in the Bobst Library computer labs on Lower Level 1. Classes are scheduled twice a day, every day, with early evening sessions for those coming from work or other engagements.
So you can't go somewhere fun in the sun for Spring Break; you can still make the rest of your semester a little less stressful and a little easier.
Find all the details and sign up at:
For more information about what the NYU Libraries can do for Graduate Students, see your web front door:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Led by Professors Rebecca Colesworthy and Robin Nagle
Friday, February 26, 5-7 PM
Draper Map Room
This workshop is primarily intended for students who are in the early phases of thesis preparation, but also for those at later stages of the process. Students will receive guidance on how to refine their topics and narrow the scope of their theses, and on some of the basic mechanics of writing up their work.
Please RSVP--call 212.998.8070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you'll be attending.
GSAS Master's Seminars- Master the Road Ahead
The GSAS Master’s College is hosting several events this spring to help you hone your skills for success in graduate school. This series features topics of particular interest to graduate students aiming for excellence in scholarship and beyond. Taught by experts in the field, topics include practicing good research, grant writing and review; and planning for the next chapter- life after graduation. To register for one or more of these workshops send an email to email@example.com. Light refreshments will be served. All GSAS Master’s Seminars will be held at
Register today for:
· What to do after graduation; applying for Jobs or PhD programs – in Partnership with the Wasserman Center for Career Services, the Department of Humanities and Social Thought and Graduate Enrollment Services
Tuesday, March 2nd 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Which way will you go at this crossroads? Whether you are looking for a job or want to pursue a PhD, this seminar will help you get prepared for the next chapter. If you have just begun your master’s study, the time is now to get this planning underway. If you are closer to the end of your degree, there is no time to waste in making a plan for success. We are grateful to have the expertise of Professor Robert Dimit, Associate Director of the Draper Program, David Giovanella, the Assistant Dean of Graduate Enrollment Services and Paula Lee, Wasserman Center Counselor as members of this panel. Learn from the experts about how to prepare an application that will get noticed or how to create the resume that leads to the job.
· Practicing Good Research: Getting the most out of using the NYU Libraries' resources and services – in partnership with the NYU Bobst Library
Tuesday, March 9th 5:30 – 7:00 pm
There’s one way to maximize your chances at straight A’s, make sure your research is solid. Scott Collard of NYU’s Bobst Library brings the science of research to your fingertips in this seminar. Learn what tools are available to you as a GSAS student. Find easy ways to make the most of your library resources. Master the best practices in research techniques and presentation.
· Get Funded- Grants and Scholarships for Study and Research
Monday, February 22, 2010
April 16-17, 2010 University at Albany, SUNY
Keynote Speaker: Joseph Slaughter, Associate Professor of English and
Comparative Literature at Columbia University
“We must more than ever stand on the side of human rights. *We need human
rights. *We are in need of them and they are in need, for there is always a
lack, a shortfall, a falling short, an insufficiency; human rights are never
sufficient” (Jacques Derrida, *Philosophy in a Time of Terror*).
If human rights are insufficient yet necessary, we must then ask what to do
with “rights.” This conference will explore historical and theoretical
definitions, constructions, and performative notions of rights. How do texts
challenge predominant conceptual narratives of rights? In what ways does
literature explore notions of rights outside of the juridical realm? Can we
have a discourse on rights that exceeds the anthropomorphic field?
In wide ranging disciplines, rights of the subject and to the objective
world are both historically grounded and contemporarily debated. If
discourses of all varieties are also textual sites, then the places where
rights are manifested (technology, culture, art and literature, science,
law, and ontology) must be read and ultimately performed.
As the focus of our 8th annual Graduate Student Conference, the English
Graduate Student Organization at the University at Albany seeks both
critical and creative projects that further this discussion. Our keynote
speaker will be Joseph Slaughter, Associate Professor of English and
Comparative Literature at Columbia University and author of *Human Rights,
Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law*. The Friday
evening event will commence with a creative performance featuring Rachel
Zolf, author of The Neighbour Procedure (2010) and winner of the 2008
Trillium Book Award for Poetry for Human Resources (2007). We encourage
submissions from graduate students working in any field, historical period,
or scholarly discipline. We also solicit creative submissions for the
Friday evening performance. Critical abstracts should be limited to 250-300
words; creative abstracts should include a 300 word or less description and
a 3 page sample. Submit abstracts to: firstname.lastname@example.org by March 12,
2010. Please label the subject of the email “Turning On Rights.” Possible
areas of inquiry may include, but are not limited to:
· Animal and Other Alterities
· Violence, Trauma, and Testimony
· Sovereignty, Exemplarity, and Exception
· Environmental, Agricultural, and Terrestrial Rights
· Witnessing vs. Performing Rights
· Authorship, Readership, Agency
· Global vs. National Rights
· Unwritten, Inalienable Rights
· Definitions of Freedom
· Sexual and Reproductive Rights
· Corporate and Commercial Rights
· Information, Technology, and Copyright
· Rights and the Demarcations of the Body
· Rights in the Realm of the Post-Human and Virtual
Art and archives
Friday March 5, 12:00-2:00pm
King Juan Carlos Center, room 607
The Archives and Public History brown bag lunch series continues on Friday, March 5 for a discussion on art and archives. Marvin Taylor, director of the Fales Library and Special Collections, and Lucy Oakley, head of Education and Programs of the Grey Art Gallery will examine issues surrounding the curation and installation of Downtown Pix: Mining the Fales Archive 1961-1991, now on display at the Grey Art Gallery. Additionally, Christine Licata, assistant curator of Taller Boriqua ("workshop Puerto Rican") will discuss the challenges of archiving artwork associated with this 40-year-old East Harlem arts non-profit.
Please bring a brown bag lunch. Complimentary drinks and desserts will be provided.
Please RSVP to Kate Dundon email@example.com by Tuesday, March 2.