YEAR-END NOTES: SYMPOSIUM IN REVIEW; PROGRAM AWARDS

The 2020-21 school year, now coming to a close, has been a strange one. Although our MA program experienced no pandemic-related curriculum disruptions due to us having long been delivering fully-online education, still each of us, student and faculty alike, had to find ways to focus on our work and studies while enduring and in many ways suffering through this global pandemic. It has been….a difficult year for everyone. Hopefully being a part of this graduate learning community, and working toward your MA degree in one another’s company, has enriched your lives and brought you some calm over this past year.

One of the ways we celebrate the end of the school year is with the Writing Image Text (W.I.T) Graduate English Symposium. This year’s symposium was held on Saturday, May 1, live online. Over twenty-five attendees made up of current graduate students, alumni, prospective students, faculty, and the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts gathered together to hear a variety of graduate student presentations. To see the event program listing the presenters and their presentation titles, click the banner below.

Good times were had. All feedback so far suggests that the presenters found the experience meaningful and invigorating. We already have presenters from this year declaring their intent to again present next year. Next year’s symposium will mix together campus-based panels with live-online panels, and this is how the format will be henceforth. The event will therefore always be accessible to all of our students and alumni, wherever you are in the world. If you can make it to the campus, though, you’ll get catered food!

Another way we celebrate the end of the school year is with the awarding of three MA English Literature program honors: the Thesis of the Year award, The Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation, and the Graduate English Christie Bowl (program honoree) award.

All theses produced during an ENGL 599 thesis tutorial during the summer or fall 2020, and spring 2021, were considered for the Thesis of the Year Award. As always, selecting just one study from the group of over twenty qualified theses, each one excellent in its own unique way, was extraordinarily difficult. The final study was selected by a faculty panel with no students’ papers in the running.

  • The winner of the 2021 Thesis of the Year award is Lisa Irving for her paper: “Work It: The Black Feminist Body-Language of Missy Elliot, Janie Crawford, and the Shumalite Woman.”

The Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation, now in its second year, is awarded to a thesis that does one or some of the following: approaches literary analysis in a unique, unexpected, or unusual way; reconsiders and otherwise treats with dignity genre fiction; or involves interdisciplinary studies. The award was created to honor the late Dr. Howard Canaan, who taught English literature at Mercy College for over thirty years, and who in addition to being a Shakespeare scholar was also a scholar of science fiction, and an advocate for the literary significance and value of genre fiction.

  • The winner of the 2021 Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation is Kari O’Driscoll for her thesis “The Modern Witch in Contemporary Fiction: Why She Persists and Why She Matters.”

The third distinction that the MA program awards each year is the Graduate English Christie Bowl, named for the late Joannes Christie who established and long chaired Mercy College’s English Program. The award, determined by the collective graduate faculty, recognizes one graduating student for their consistent academic excellence and classroom performance throughout their time in the graduate program, their other work and contributions to the program’s scholarly learning community, and their relevant accomplishments beyond the program.

  • The winner of the 2021 Graduate English Christie Bowl is Kristen Vasquez.

It is always a strange thing to announce such distinctions as when doing so one can’t help but think of all of the marvelous students who are not the ones named. So as we recognize these honorees let us please also recognize all members of the graduating MA class of 2020-21 for their hard work and dedication. Congratulations, everyone.

Book-Order Info for Summer Courses

Below is some info about required materials for summer courses:

For ENGL 514 History of Textual Transmission, some materials will be available online and provided as links or PDFs, but there is one required book that will form the backbone of the course:

  • Michelle Levy and Tom Mole, eds., The Broadview Reader in Book History. ISBN: 978-1-55481-088-8.

ENGL 515 Mastering the Past – Literature & National Myths will require:

  • Euripides, The Trojan Women, trans. Alan Shapiro (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). ISBN: 978-0195179101.
  • Heym, Stefan, The King David Report (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1998), ISBN: 978-0810115378.
  • Ishiguro, Kazuo, The Buried Giant (New York: Vintage: 2016). ISBN: 978-0307455796.
  • Giuseppe de Lampedusa, The Leopard, trans. Archibald Colquhuon (New York: Pantheon, 2007). ISBN: 978-0375714795.
  • Sebald, W. G., The Natural History of Destruction, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2004). ISBN: 978-0375756573.
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, no translator given (New York: Penguin/Berkeley, 2009). ISBN: 978-0451228147.

ENGL 517 Creative Writing will require:

  • Atwood, Margaret, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (Anchor Press, South Shore, MA, 2003). ISBN:  978-1400032600

And ENGL 525 Victorian Literature will require:

  • Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. Lady Audley’s Secret. Broadview Literary Texts, 2003. ISBN 978-1-55111-357-9.
  • Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. Dover Thrift Editions, 2003. ISBN 978-0-486-42680-8.
  • Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. Dover Thrift Editions, 2001. ISBN 978-0-486-41920-6
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 2019. ISBN 978-0-486-26688-6.

Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet: online Performance and Interactive Event

As a part of the Mercy College English Program’s annual Christie Day Shakespeare celebration, Red Bull Theater’s virtual production of Romeo and Juliet will take place on Thursday, May 6th from 12-1:25pm. They will start with a 10-minute warm-up at 12pm, and the livestream will go from 12:10-1:10pm. They’ll finish up with a talkback from 1:10-1:25pm.

To receive the zoom link please email the Program Director at cloots@mercy.edu. For any other questions about the event please email Dr. Jessica Ward (jward16@mercy.edu).

Some things to know: 

  1. Please sign-in with Mercy College listed in your Zoom Box. Once in the main Zoom space, you will be asked to re-name yourself with your first name and pronouns. Please be sure to do this, especially if you wish to participate in the warm-up and/or talkback. The livestream is in a Zoom Webinar, so cameras will be disabled throughout and audio and Q&A privileges will only be enabled before and after the performance.

     
  2. To protect all participants and the actors, be advised that those who abuse Zoom functions or become a distraction will be dismissed from the Zoom spaces.

     
  3. The show is a livestream, but the actors appear safely in individual Zoom boxes. Through the talents of Red Bull’s production team, there is a beautiful and cohesive aesthetic created that unifies the actors through backgrounds, sound, props, and costume. Enjoy the innovative theater magic!

     
  4. The cast is made-up of a 5-member ensemble. Besides the actors playing Juliet and Romeo, the other 3 actors double, triple, and quadruple roles. The script is the original Shakespearean text but cut from “two-hours traffic of our stage” to just 1 hour.

     
  5. The performance is a webinar, so each viewer’s microphone and camera will be auto-disabled (except when adjusted by the host– which will happen during the warm-up and talkback).  

We can’t wait to see you there!  

Fourth Summer Course Added to Schedule: ENGL 517 Creative Writing

Because our three originally-scheduled summer courses are full, and we have a number of people on the waitlists for seats, we have added a fourth course to the summer schedule. It is the program’s ENGL 517 Creative Writing course. It will be run by Dr. Sax. Everyone in the program interested in creative writing is welcome to enroll, no matter if you have any experience with creative writing. The course meets the Writing & Literary Forms requirement by default, and works as an elective.

ENGL 599 “Master’s Thesis” Registration Info

Students for whom summer or fall with be your final semester, please note that you will need to enroll in ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis as one of your final-semester courses. The way you enroll in ENGL 599 is different than for any other course, which you might have discovered if you went to register for it today (registration for summer and fall opened today, 3/22). You can read about the process here on the blog. So if this summer or fall is to be your final semester in the program, now is the right time to be figuring out your 599 mentor situation. Any questions contact cloots@mercy.edu.

2021 Graduate English Symposium; Live Online Saturday May 1; CFP Deadline April 1

On Saturday May 1st the MA program will be hosting its annual “Writing Image Text” or “W.I.T.” Graduate English Symposium. The event will be held live online through Zoom. We will begin at noon, eastern time. Tentatively we are estimating the event will run from noon to 4pm, but that might change depending on how many MA students declare that they will present a scholarly or creative work. It’s possible that because this is going to be online, and therefore more easily accessible to all of our students, that we will get an extraordinarily large turnout of presenters. We shall see. For this reason we are at this moment limiting our call for papers (CFP) to current students in the program. We hope our alumni will join us in the virtual audience; and should the CFP result in a lower-than-expected response from current students we will open the CFP to our alumni.

The symposium is a casual mini-conference at which interested MA English students can read aloud a scholarly or creative work. A paper that you’ve written for any of your MA courses will do just fine, though it would likely need to be edited down to a shorter length to fit into the 15 minutes we anticipate each presenter will have; instructions and guidance for that will be shared with all presenters after April 1. The symposium is also (normally) a social event at which to meet some fellow grad students and program professors. MA students interested in attending but not presenting are of course welcome to do so.

Graduate students and professional scholars often attend and read at local, regional, and national conferences, so this symposium provides a friendly small-scale introduction to the conference experience. And for anyone who reads a paper, it becomes a line-item you can list under the scholarship section on your CV (click here to read more about the CV). Earning line-items for the scholarship section of your CV is very important for anyone who aspires to apply to PhD programs after the MA.

Anyone planning to attend and/or present, please let me know by sending an email no later than the end of Thursday, April 1 to cloots@mercy.edu. You don’t need to know what you will present by 4/1. You just need to tell me on 4/1 if you are going to present something at the symposium on 5/1. And if you plan to attend but not present, please tell me that too by 4/1, so that I will have some sense of how big the online event is going to be. After 4/1 I will begin to arrange the symposium panels, virtual rooms, and the rest based on the amount of people I know will be presenting and attending.

You can read about previous symposiums on the blog here, and here, and here (we canceled it last year amid the covid outbreak). On behalf of the MA faculty: we hope to see you there! Please contact cloots@mercy.edu if you have any questions about any of this.

UPDATED Summer and Fall 2021 Schedules and Registration Info

General registration for Summer and Fall 2021 opens simultaneously on 3/22; however early registration for veterans opens on 3/15. Registration typically begins about 9am eastern time. It is not on a timer and begins only when the Registrar personally activates the system, so it might not be at 9am sharp but it should start around that time. (Veterans who want to check that they are registered as such with the college should contact Erika Tremblay at etremblay@mercy.edu.)

Some courses do fill up quickly, some even early on the first day of registration. If a course you are interested in is full by the time you go to register, you can get on the waitlist for the course. Being on the waitlist often works out, but it’s best to register for the next-best courses you see available and get on the waitlist for preferred courses, just in case the waitlist does not work out. Instructions for using the waitlist can be had by contacting the MA program’s PACT advisor Erika Tremblay at etremblay@mercy.edu. Note that being on the waitlist does not automatically place you into the course if a seat opens up; instead, the waitlist system sends an email to your college email address if a seat opens alerting you that you have 24 hours to claim the seat. If you don’t claim the seat within that window of time, the next person on the waitlist will get the email and the 24-hour window. If no one on the waitlist claims the seat in time, the vacant seat opens up to general registration.

Below are the course offerings for fall and summer, listed in that order. Note that we always run a shorter summer schedule because many students in the MA program don’t take summer courses, and prefer to follow the traditional fall/spring pattern. Currently we have six courses scheduled for fall. If those six courses fill up well ahead of September then a seventh course will be offered, but for now we are estimating that six courses will suffice.

FALL 2021

ENGL 500: Theory of Criticism (Dr. David Kilpatrick)
    • An introduction to some of the major movements and figures of the theory of criticism. The question “what is literature?” is a primary concern of this course. Such an inquiry necessarily engages other, closely affiliated signifiers such as work/text, writing, reading, interpretation, and signification itself. After brief encounters with ancient antecedents and seminal moderns, influential contemporary approaches to the question concerning literature and its cultural significance will be engaged. An assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of current trends in the practice of literary criticism, and their theoretical groundwork, is the ultimate objective of this course.

NOTE 1: The professor of this course plans to hold optional weekly supplementary zoom sessions. The specifics will be shared by the professor at the start of the semester. Attending such zoom sessions is not required, as all courses in the MA program are asynchronous in order to best accommodate the schedules and lives of our graduate students. Such zoom sessions will only every be optional and supplementary to the core course requirements.

NOTE 2: This is the program’s core course, meaning the course that everyone must take and for which there are no alternative course options. This course runs once each fall semester, so if you’re aiming to graduate at the end of fall 2021, spring 2022, or summer 2022 and have not yet completed 500, you must enroll in this for fall 2021. The next instance of the course will be fall 2022.

NOTE 3: Registration for this course requires a permit, which the Program Director will give to anyone on-pace to complete their degree prior to fall 2022. Contact your PACT mentor Erika Tremblay (etremblay@mercy.edu) or the Program Director (cloots@mercy.edu) to request a permit.

ENGL 509: Perspectives on the Essay (Dr. Kristen Keckler)

The course studies the essay as a distinct literary genre; some of its characteristics and types; some of its history; and some of its role in reflecting authorial consciousness. Further, this course examines the taxonomy of the essay in terms of its medium (verse or prose), its tone and level of formality, its organizational strategies, and its relationship to its audience and to particular modes of literary production (diary, letter, manuscript, book, magazine, newspaper, podcast, blog, etc.). 3 credits. (Fulfills either the Writing & Literary Forms requirement or an elective.)

ENGL 515: Magic in Literature (Dr. Boria Sax)

This course examines alchemy, together with related activities that now impress us as “magical,” as a virtually all-inclusive discipline which laid much of the foundation for later literature, art, and science. It looks at the beginnings of alchemy in the ancient world, and how these developed, along with the revival of Classical learning, in the Renaissance. Finally, it looks at the continuing influence of magic in Romantic, Modern, and Post-Modern literature and culture. Readings typically include works by Hesiod, Ben Johnson, Shakespeare, E. T. A. Hoffmann, J. K. Rowling and others. Textbooks include The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age by Frances Yates. 3 credits. (Fulfills an elective by default, but can work for a Literature Group 1 requirement if needed.)

NOTE: The MA program cycles numerous different courses under the catalog codes of 514, 515, 540, and 560. Students can take multiple instances of 514, 515, 540, and 560 courses as long as the title of the course is not the same as before. This Magic and Literature course ran most recently as 540. You cannot take this course again if you took it earlier as 540.

ENGL 540: Medieval Literature: Seven Deadly Sins – Then and Now  (Dr. Jessica Ward)

This course brings together a wide range of late medieval texts in Middle English and in translation, including Arthurian legends and bawdy romances, in order to understand how this historical period, so far removed from our own, conceived of the seven deadly sins. While this course focuses on medieval literature, our semester long question concerns how our own conceptions of the vices are different or similar to that of their manifestations in the texts we read. We interrogate the ways in which the medieval writers explore their own culture and a cluster of enduringly engaging issues: ethical, sexual, theological, and political. 3 sem hrs. 3 crs. (Fulfills a Literature Group 1 requirement or an elective.)

ENGL 545: Literature of the Left Bank, Paris (Dr. Christopher Loots)

This course examines the diverse people, culture, and writings of the expatriate community of the Parisian Left Bank during the modernist movements of the early- and mid-twentieth century. Authors covered typically include Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Hilda Doolittle, Andre Breton, Mina Loy, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin, among others. In the course of our studies we will consider the significance of Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Company bookstore and lending library, and of intellectual and artistic salons such as those of Natalie Barney and Gertrude Stein. An emphasis will be placed on studying the cultural geography of this Paris location which attracted so many of the world’s great writers and artists and gave rise to so many works now considered twentieth century literary masterpieces. 3 credits. (Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or an elective.)

ENGL 560: Hip Hop Literature & Culture (Dr. Dana Horton)

Hip hop is a global phenomenon. It started as a form of black expression in the Bronx, NY and has morphed into an international, multicultural powerhouse. This course introduces students to hip hop culture by examining some of the major concepts and political issues that shape the culture. Through listening to hip hop music, analyzing lyrics, reading articles, and watching documentaries, students will learn more about the themes and debates within the culture. This course will take a cultural-studies approach to studying hip hop; will consider the history and politics of New York City in the 1960s-70s as this is crucial to understanding hip hop’s birth, as well as the connection amongst space, power, inequality, and racial dynamics. Questions we will consider include: What is hip hop culture? What are the similarities and differences between old-school hip hop and contemporary hip hop? Why are hip hop lyrics often taken at face value when many rappers exaggerate and lie? Why are some hip hop sub-genres prone to using lyrics and imagery that is misogynistic and/or homophobic? What do you think about prosecutors who use hip hop lyrics against rappers in court? How has hip hop’s large international presence changed the genre and culture? What can we learn about American history and culture through studying hip hop? (Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or an elective.)

NOTE: Please understand that because we will examine the unedited versions of lyrics, music videos, and artwork, the course materials will contain language that is profane, offensive, violent, and/or controversial. Prior familiarity with hip hop is not required, but being open to learning more about hip hop is a must. Please approach the course material with an open mind.

SUMMER 2021

ENGL 514: An Introduction to the History of Textual Transmission (Dr. Jessica Ward)

This course introduces students to critical bibliography, a fast-growing and emerging field that seeks to bring the bibliographic tradition into dialogue with the critical and theoretical insights of twenty-first century humanities scholarship. Students explore the creation of texts across centuries and technologies—from manuscripts to e-books—and consider how meaning and materiality relate. (Fulfills an elective by default but can work for a Literature Group 1 or 2 requirement if needed.)

ENGL 515: Mastering the Past, Literature and National Myths (Dr. Boria Sax)

Every country likes to see itself as heir of to a glorious past, filled with heroic and ultimately successful struggles against oppression. But the construction of such a narrative always leads to the repression or trivialization of uncomfortable aspects of the past. Important authors of Antiquity such as Homer and Virgil have created national myths, while others such as Sophocles and Euripides have challenged them. If the myths themselves can often serve to rationalize complaisance, injustice and chauvinism, correcting them involves hazards as well. It can reopen old resentments, leave people disoriented, and open the way for other, similarly dangerous illusions. This course will look at the contrasting ways in which modern and contemporary writers have tried to come to terms with the collective past, and will likely include readings by Faulkner (USA), Sebald (Germany), Solzhenitsyn (Russia), Lampedusa (Italy) and Ishiguro (Britain and Japan). Students will endeavor to evaluate their intellectual strategies, especially in the light of current controversies such as whether we should continue to display statues that commemorate dubious legacies. Questions to be addressed will include: Can we ever truly come to terms with the past? Can the brutalities of history ever be redeemed or compensated for? What lessons, if any, can we legitimately learn from history? Are some aspects of history better left forgotten? (Fulfills an elective by default but can work for a Literature Group 2 requirement if needed.)

ENGL 525: Victorian Age in Literature (Dr. Sean Dugan)

This course will explore representative literature and the culture of the Victorian Age (1837 – 1901), a period of exploration, industrialization, empire, and imperialism. The poetry and novels of Tennyson, Carroll, the Brontes, Eliot, Wilde, and others will be considered from a variety of critical approaches. Particular attention will be given to the importance of gender, class, and societal expectations. (Fulfills a Literature Group 1 field requirement or an elective.)

Second Update Re: 546 Working Women: New Course Description & Book Info

Dr. Horton has moved at light speed to put together a new description and reading list for ENGL 546. Here is the new description followed by the new book list:

According to a 2020 article in The Washington Post by Dr. Alicia Sesser Modestino, “one out of four women who reported becoming unemployed during the pandemic said it was because of a lack of child care — twice the rate among men.” In this course, we will turn to American literature to help us understand and dissect this alarming statistic.

The concept of American women in the workforce has seen many transformations from 1865 to the present due to various social and political movements. With the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the ending of the Industrial Revolution, the period around 1865 saw an increase of women taking positions outside of the domestic sphere. In 2020, as Modestino’s article demonstrates, we are seeing how social media and working from home adds another complex chapter to the history of working women in the United States. We will discuss the social, economic, and racial factors since 1865 that influenced women’s role in the American workforce. We will take a cultural studies approach to this topic – in addition to reading literature (fiction, short stories, poetry, biographies, and essays), we will examine scholarly and news articles, documentaries, films, television shows, and music to help us deconstruct the definitions of “women,” “working,” and “The United States.” We will interrogate the shifting definitions of the term “gender” and start with gender as a concept, a social construction reflecting differentials of power and opportunity.

The goal of this course is for students to understand the literature, history, and benchmarks of major events in the lives of women, as well as challenge American cultural conceptions of work. Throughout the semester, we will discuss the following questions:

  • What is your personal definition of “work”?
  • How does American culture privilege some forms of work while marginalizing others, specifically work performed by women of color?
  • How has the American definition of work changed from 1865 to the present, specifically with the influx of “work from home” positions?
  • What influence did the various waves of feminism have on the American workforce?
  • How do stereotypes of womanhood influence the types of careers women choose?
  • How does American literature reinforce and/or challenge stereotypes of working women?
  • What messages do children and teenagers receive about women’s role in the workforce?

Required Texts:

For students who may not want to buy the physical books, most of these are available for free online or through your local library.

  • Wilson, Harriet. Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black. ISBN-13: 978-0486445618
  • Hurst, Fannie. Imitation of Life: ISBN-13: 978-0822333241
  • Martin, Ann M. Kristy’s Great Idea. ISBN-13: 978-1743813294
  • Tademy, Lalita. Cane River. ISBN-13: 978-0446615884
  • Weisberger, Lauren. The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel. ISBN-13: 978-0767914765
  • Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0679734772
  • Ng, Celeste. Little Fires Everywhere. ISBN-13: 978-0735224315

A Netflix account is also required, as we will watch a few documentaries and television shows on this platform. Other texts will be available on Blackboard as PDFs.

Recommended but not required texts:

  • Carey, Elaine. Women Drug Traffickers: Mules, Bosses, and Organized Crime. ISBN-13: 978-0826351982
  • Ware, Susan. Modern American Women: A Documentary History, Second Edition. ISBN: 978-0072418200.
  • Baxandall, Rosalyn Fraad, and Linda Gordon. America’s Working Women: A Documentary History, 1600 to the Present. ISBN: 039303653

There is still one open seat in the course, so anyone who isn’t in the course now and finds this interesting should consider grabbing the last seat. You can add/drop courses from your schedule without issue up until the semester begins on 1/20.

546 Professor Change – Book Change Coming

Students in ENGL 546 Working Women in the USA this spring semester please take note: due to an unexpected crisis, the original professor of the course, Dr. Gogol, has just informed us that she is taking leave from all teaching in spring 2021. Fortunately, Dr. Dana Horton stepped up immediately to take over this 546 course, and thereby saved it from being canceled, which is normally the fate of specialty courses like this if something like this happens on the eve of the semester. So I just need to say thank you to Dr. Horton for taking this extraordinary action and rescuing this class. I also want to wish Dr. Gogol the best.

Practically speaking this means that Dr. Gogol’s book order will (almost certainly) no longer be relevant, since no two professors will ever run the same graduate course, not even one by the same title; each professor will assign and teach works that are in their particular area of specialty, while still keeping the theme/title of the course in mind. Right now, at this moment, Dr. Horton is working quickly to put together her own reading list and schedule, and will share that list with me as soon as it is done. I will update this post with Dr. Horton’s book order for 546 as soon as I receive it, which should be by this Friday, possibly sooner.

If anyone has any questions or issues please contact me at cloots@mercy.edu.

 

This is the director's blog for the Mercy College MA in English Literature Program. This is not the official College site. The purpose of this is to share news and other information to help MA graduate students stay current with the state of the program and navigate the MA degree. Students in the program should check here regularly to learn about upcoming registration periods, course schedules, and other news.