New Fall 2020 Course Option: “The Literary Accretion of Black Lives Matter”

Next week or the week after, at the latest, another course will appear on the fall schedule, something brand new and just designed by Dr. Donald Morales. A few weeks ago we knew we were going to need a sixth course due to increase in enrollment. We wanted to run something new, unique to Mercy, something that spoke to the times; and in response Dr. Morales came up with the following. I hope you will find it interesting, exciting even, and will consider enrolling in it (and remember, you can switch in/out of courses without issue or problem, as you like, until the start of the semester):

ENGL 560 The Literary Accretion of Black Lives Matter

“In the agony of his final moments, while crying out for his mama, water, and breath, George Floyd reached out to and became all of us. He has joined a vast community of people, across the globe, who see echoes of the injustices and the inequalities of their own societies in his American story and recognize their own torment in his suffering. Floyd’s seemingly unending death, in the midst of a pandemic that has disproportionately killed black, brown, and indigenous people, also underscores the fact that many of us are mourning and are uncertain about how long we ourselves will be able to breathe.”

–Edwidge Danticat, “So Brutal a Death,” New Yorker

“Black creativity emerges from long lines of innovative responses to the death and violence that plague our communities. ‘Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro’s grief,’ Toni Morrison wrote in Beloved, and I am interested in creative emergences from that ineluctable fact.

–Elizabeth Alexander, “The Trayvon Generation,” New Yorker

This new course explores the dynamics of the racial turmoil that has disrupted this nation in ways much like during the civil rights era of the sixties. The question arises: is this a momentary period of protest or a defining movement ushering in profound change? In this class, through mostly non-fiction, we will look through the prism of literature at the origin and continued life of systemic racism in America; at how artists have responded and creatively documented it. The course will also expand beyond America and view the global response to the spring+summer of 2020 through works and articles from international writers.

Students will encounter works such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “A Case for Reparations,” W. E. B. Du Bois’ Souls of Black Folk, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage, Caryl Phillips’ A Distant Shore or Nature of Blood, Teju Cole’s Open City, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, August Wilson’s King Hedley, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Oladipo Agbouuaje’s The Hounding of David Oluwale, and Debbie Tucker Green’s ear for eye or random. Other or different works might be studied as well. The course will be supplemented with audio, video, and other media arising out of the events of this period. 3 credits. Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or works as an elective.

Note: you can take this course even if you’ve taken an earlier course coded as 560. Multiple topics courses cycle under the course codes of 560, 540, 515, and 514, and students can take as many different courses running by these codes as they like.

Fall 2020 Books Orders (Updated Throughout the Summer)

Book orders for each class will eventually appear in the college’s online bookstore, but I know that many graduate students check here instead of the bookstore for this information; and anyway the bookstore usually charges a premium for books, so it’s best to buy books elsewhere. I recommend Powell’s for new books, and Alibris for used books (and overall I recommend buying used books rather than new; you can secure a semester’s worth of books for relatively cheap if you look for used versions of them online). Below are the book orders for each of the fall classes (so far). Professors are still considering works and working on their courses, so consider this list a work in progress that will be updated throughout the summer as professors finalize their book orders.

  • ENGL 500: Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism

Books TBD

  • ENGL 510: Theory and Practice of Expository Writing

Books TBD

  • ENGL 522: Humanism in Renaissance Texts

Much of the semester’s readings will be Open Education Resources (available for free online). Other than that, students are required to secure one book for the class:

Kraye, Jill, editor. The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism. Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN: 0521436249.

  • ENGL 526: Modernism

Note that you can use other editions than these recommended ones. Also, Dr. Sax notes that, in particular, the Eliot poems and Joyce stories tend to be floating around the internet on different sites and in different forms, and these are fine to use. Descartes’ Discourse is out there too online, in different forms, for free.

Descartes, René. Discourse on Method and the Meditations. Trans., F. E. Sutcliffe. New York: Penguin, 1968. 0140442065

Eliot, T. S. The Waste Land, Prufrock, and Other Poems. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1998. ISBN: 0486400611.

Richard Humphreys, ed. Futurist Manifestos. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2001. ISBN: 9780878466276.

Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: Dover, 1991. ISBN:  978-0486268705

Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern. Trans., Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993. ISBN: 0674948394.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 1984. ISBN: 0-8166-1173-4.

  • ENGL 541: Search for Identity in American Lit

Most of the semester readings you will be able to locate for free online, in one way or another. I will be providing PDFs of many shorter readings, as much as I am allowed to do. So although I am recommending the following anthology, purchasing it is not required. Those who plan to focus on American literature during their MA studies and beyond might consider investing in the anthology. Otherwise, you can succeed in the class without it.

Levine, Robert, et al., editors. The Norton Anthology of American Literature Shorter 9th Edition (Two Volume Set). W.W. Norton, 2017. ISBN: 9780393264517.

Other than that, everyone will need to secure a copy of the following novel, which we’ll be reading near the end of the semester (any edition will do, but I teach from the following):

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. ISBN: 0061120065.

  • ENGL 560: Class title and info coming soon/will appear on the schedule in early July.

Books TBD

Additional Fall 2020 Course Coming Soon

A sixth graduate literature course will be added soon, probably by the start of July, to the fall schedule. We schedule as many courses during each fall/spring semester as seems sustainable based on projected enrollment, and informed by the idea that most students take two courses each of these semesters. Our enrollment projections are rising, though, perhaps due to increased interest in well-established online graduate programs such as ours during this COVID-19 situation. Dr. Morales has responded to the call for an additional course offering and is working on something that we will schedule soon. Students currently enrolled in fall courses might find that the new course is more interesting than one of your current courses, and might want to switch. This is fine, as students can change their schedules, can freely add and drop classes as often as you like, up until the first day of any semester. As a finale note, preliminary book orders for the fall classes will be posted here on the blog near the start of July.

Year End Honors: Thesis of the Year, Howard Canaan Thesis Award, Program Honoree, Online Student of the Year

At the end of each school year the MA English Literature program and Mercy College overall award a number of distinctions to students and faculty. I would like to share the results of these here with our graduate program community.

One such college-wide distinction is the Mercy College Online Student of the Year, chosen from thousands of eligible students across all Mercy programs by a college-wide committee of faculty and administrators. The award bespeaks academic accomplishments both in the classroom and beyond. For the second year in a row that rare distinction has been awarded to one of our own, an MA English graduate student.

  • The winner of the 2020 Mercy College Online Student of the Year Award is Cornelius Fortune.

The MA program itself traditionally awards two annual distinctions: the Thesis of the Year award, and the Graduate English Christie Bowl (program honoree) award. This year we are introducing a third distinction which will become an annual practice: The Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation. Before I get to sharing with you the names of the people recognized for these three awards, I want to introduce to you all who Howard Canaan was, and what this new award is about. The following is provided by Dr. Dugan, long-time colleague and friend of Howard:

Dr. Howard Canaan taught English literature at Mercy College for thirty-one years. During his tenure, he was an active scholar, engaged and innovative instructor, respected faculty leader, and a valued colleague. He was the faculty advisor for Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. Dr. Canaan was one of the founding faculty members of Mercy’s online program, and taught successfully online and in-person at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Canaan’s areas of interest included Renaissance literature, speculative fiction, and satire. He wrote plays and epic poems that revealed his incisive wit and adroitness with the English language. With Dr. Joel Feimer (who founded the MA English Lit program), Howard co-authored Tales of Wonder from Many Lands: A Reader for Composition, adapted by Mercy College and other colleges and universities. Dr. Canaan’s legacy is one of commitment to students, a strong dedication to the value of English literature and the liberal arts, an insatiable curiosity, a generous spirit, and a belief that education can be transformative for the individual and for the society.

Howard passed away this April.

To honor him and what he stood for we in the MA program have done what small thing we can, and that is to create the Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation. We will award this distinction annually 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 winner of the 2020 Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation is Jana Enderle for her thesis “Song of Silence: The Role of Silence in the Decline of the Harry/Falstaff Relationship in 2 Henry VI.

Not surprisingly we had numerous theses submitted during the summer and fall 2019, and spring 2020, that had an innovative approach or otherwise spoke to this award’s criteria. Selecting one study from this group was extraordinarily difficult as all such theses were excellent and worthy in their own right. The same was the case for determining the other thesis award that the MA program recognizes, the overall Thesis of the Year. All theses written during the summer and fall 2019, and spring 2020, were eligible and considered for this distinction. The final paper was selected by a panel of faculty with no students’ papers in the running.

  • The winner of the 2020 Thesis of the Year award is Cecily Van Cleave for her paper: “Feminist Themes in North and South and The Mill on the Floss.”

The panels for these distinctions would like to recognize and applaud the quality of all theses written during the past school year.

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 contributions to the program’s scholarly learning community, and their relevant accomplishments beyond the program (e.g. publications, presentations at conferences).

  • The winner of the 2020 Graduate English Christie Bowl is Cornelius Fortune.

Lastly, Mercy College annually recognizes one faculty member from across all programs at the college for the Online Instructor of the Year award. The person so recognized for this distinction is chosen from hundreds of instructors by a college-wide committee of faculty and administrators. We’re happy to announce that one of our own has been recognized this year for his excellence.

  • The winner of the 2020 Mercy College Online Instructor of the Year award is Dr. Sean Dugan.

It is always a strange thing to announce such distinctions as when doing so one can’t help but think of the marvelous students and studies that are not the ones named. It is extraordinarily difficult to locate any single person to honor for any of these awards out of the many exceptional students graduating each school year from our program and the college overall. So as we recognize these honorees let us please also recognize all members of the graduating MA class of 2019-20 for their hard work and dedication that has gotten them to this moment of completing their MA degree in English Literature. Congratulations, everyone. Here’s to the end of one of the strangest school years in memory, here’s to the summer ahead, and here’s to the eventual end of this coronavirus pandemic, let us hope soon.

Survey – What do you think of our courses? What courses do you want to see scheduled?

Please complete the survey linked here to provide us with feedback about the MA program’s course offerings (and about a few other curriculum topics). Your responses will let us know what courses we should run in 2021 and beyond.

In case the hyperlink above doesn’t work for you, you can copy and paste the URL below into your browser’s address bar:

https://forms.gle/3AZD1VTryCmJnsUw8

Teaching Assistants (Blackboard English Assistants) for Summer 2020

Starting this summer, and hopefully continuing each semester thereafter, we will be implementing a Teaching Assistant feature in the MA English program. Because the term “Teaching Assistant” is already a technical term at Mercy College with a number of implications and requirements and duties that are different than what we’re implementing here, we are going to differentiate this by calling what we’re implementing here a “Blackboard English Assistantship” (BEA).

BEAs will be placed inside of online undergraduate English composition classrooms to assist the instructor of record. You can read more about the BEA requirements, procedures, and responsibilities in the PDF linked here.

At this point we expect to be able to fund two BEAs with a $500 stipend, each, this summer. Each BEA would be responsible for assisting in one class this summer (the semester runs from May 27 through August 4).

Experience as an assistant inside of a college classroom can be a valuable line-item in a curriculum vitae. And assisting in a classroom will provide a first-hand look at how an actual college composition course unfolds over a semester. If the interest in BEA opportunities exceeds what we are able to fund, we will consider offering additional unfunded BEA positions to those seeking the experience.

Anyone interested in applying for a BEA for summer 2020 must email the following materials before the end of May 10 to the Program Director at cloots@mercy.edu:

  1. Resume
  2. A recommendation from any MA faculty (This does not have to be a formal letter. It can just be a brief email from the faculty member expressing their support. You can forward that email to the Program Director)
  3. A short statement of purposes, just a paragraph or two (between 200 and 400 words) expressing why you are interested in being a Blackboard English Assistant in a Mercy classroom
  4. The completed activity linked here.

This current application cycle is only for summer 2020. We will put up a call for fall 2020 BEA applications later, during the summer, once we are clearer on what funding we will be able to provide. Please send any questions to cloots@mercy.edu. Thank you.

 

 

 

Fall (and Summer) Course Schedules

SUMMER 2020

  • ENGL 517 Advanced Creative Writing (Dr. Keckler)

Advanced Creative Writing, despite the name, is open to anyone in the MA English program no matter how much or little previous experience you’ve had with creative writing. If you are interested in expressing yourself creatively through words, you are welcome and encouraged to enroll. The form of writing emphasized in the course changes depending on the preferences of the instructor running it. In this summer 2020 instance, students will be doing poetry only. Students will not be required to purchase any books. Instead, articles, textbooks, and other sources will be either linked or provided as PDFs. 3 credits. Fulfills the Writing & Literary Forms field requirement or an elective.

  • ENGL 560 Magical Realism (Dr. Vasile)

This course focuses on Latin American magical realist fiction, a genre where elements of the magical, the fantastical, are included in otherwise realistic narratives. This literary style has had a profound impact on literature and has generated an array of interesting and diverse experimental literary responses. This summer we will examine some of the most innovative magical realist texts written by some of Latin America’s most important writers: the Mexican writer Elena Garro, the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, and the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  The short story genre will be the main focus of our analyses as well as a novella. Assignments will include discussion, essays, response papers, and a research paper. No books are required for the course. All readings will be provided as PDFs or links. Readings will likely be: It’s the Fault of the Tlaxcaltecas, Elena Garro; A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, Gabriel Garcia Marquez; The Kingdom of this World, Alejo Carpentier; and Journey Back to the Source, Alejo Carpentier. 3 credits. Fulfills a Literature Group 2 field requirement or an elective.

NOTE: The course numbers 514, 515, 540, and 560, are “topics” shell numbers under which a variety of coursework cycles. Students can take multiple instances of any of these course numbers as long as the different instances are actually different courses with different titles. So students who have previously taken a 560 course can take this 560 course, as long as the previous instances wasn’t Magical Realism.

FALL 2020

  • ENGL 500 Theory & Practice of Literary Criticism (Dr. Kilpatrick)

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 2020, spring 2021, or summer 2021 and have not yet completed 500, you must enroll in this for fall 2020. The next instance of the course will be fall 2021. Enrollment requires gaining a permit from the Program Director (contact cloots@mercy.edu). Here’s the catalog description for the course:

This course provides an introduction to 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. 3 credits.

  • ENGL 510 Theory & Practice of Expository Writing (Dr. Proszak)

In this course, students learn about how writing has been studied and theorized across writing studies and related disciplines. The course specifically focuses on cultural issues endemic to writing and how race, ethnicity, gender, and class enter into conversations on writing instruction and assessment. Students who take this course will understand how writing functions across contexts and communities, including within higher education. All course texts will be scanned or available online. Readings will include chapters from A Short History of Writing InstructionNaming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies and chapters from texts on the open-access WAC Clearinghouse, including Situating Writing ProcessesWriting Assessment, Social Justice, and the Advancement of OpportunityGenre in a Changing World. Fulfills the Writing & Literary Forms field requirement or an elective.

  • ENGL 522 Humanism in Renaissance Texts (Dr. Fritz)

This course will focus on humanism and the concepts arising from it in relation to the production and appreciation of literature during the Renaissance. The revival of interest in the arts and ideas of Greco-Roman antiquity and the dependence of Renaissance thought on classical themes will be among the issues discussed. Readings could include (but aren’t limited to) works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Machiavelli, More, Spenser, among others. 3 credits. Fulfills a Literature Group 1 field requirement or an elective.

  • ENGL 526 Modernism (Dr. Sax)

This course explores the various “isms” of modernism, while questioning if these trends emerging in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are of the past or remain present and relevant to contemporary intellectual and aesthetic sensibilities. Among the features of modernism that we will explore in this course are themes of fragmentation, parody, and irony; the self-conscious retrieval of myth; the collapse of traditional distinctions between subjective and objective reality; and the iconoclastic transgression of Victorian norms of religion, the family, and sexuality. 3 credits. Fulfills a Literature Group 1 requirement or works as an elective.

  • ENGL 541 Search for Identity in American Lit (Dr. Loots)

This course will study the search for identity, individually and collectively, as it manifests in American (United States) literature from Colonial times through the turn of the twentieth century. Attention will be paid to the rapidly changing historical/cultural contexts from which such literature emerged, as well as to different literary movements emerging in America over the eras studied (e.g. Romanticism, Realism, etc). Part of the goal of the course is to provide students with a foundation of American literature, and with an understanding of the foundations of literature in America. Readings this fall will likely include works by Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, Olaudah Equiano, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Phillis Wheatley, Philip Freneau, Poe, Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Charles Chestnutt, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. 3 credits. Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or works as an elective.

Grad Symposium Status: Canceled

UPDATE: It’s official. Mercy College has announced that it will remain campus-closed through the rest of this semester at least. That means that the Grad Symposium is now canceled.

As some of you know, the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has recently been declared a pandemic and is only ramping up, appeared last week at Mercy College in one of our professors. The campus is now closed to all “non-essential” personnel; courses have all moved online at least through the end of this month; and it is highly likely that courses will have to remain online through the end of the semester (possibly longer). Colleges all around us, including all of those in the massive CUNY and SUNY systems, have moved their courses completely online for the remainder of the term and they don’t even yet have a direct-hit of the virus. All around the world authorities are recognizing that gatherings of any significant sort are bad news and need to be canceled, and are doing so. One of many unfortunate aspects of this is that it is unclear when this all might end or de-escalate to a stable scenario.

As a result, the college has moved courses and most operations online for the rest of this semester (at least), has canceled all campus events and activities, and as a result the symposium is canceled too.

Six graduate students expressed intent to travel here to present their scholarship. Several other students expressed intent to attend in the audience. Numerous faculty expressed their intent to attend and several of them expressed a hope of presenting work alongside the grad students. There were plans to bring an undergrad student or two into the mix as well. It was shaping up to be the largest symposium we’ve seen in nearly twenty years.

If anyone already purchased air tickets please let me know and please contact your airline asap to inquire about refunds. It’s possible that canceling the tickets will be a penalty-free option during this crisis. But please let me know what is happening. I want to help, as I might.

ENGL 500: How to Get a Seat in the course, And who must Get a seat

ENGL 500 is one of two courses that everyone in the program must take (599 Master’s Thesis is the other one). The course runs once each year, in the fall semester. We reserve seats in the course for students who are on schedule to graduate that fall, the following spring, or the following summer. Anyone who will be in the program beyond that point will be eligible for the course the next time it comes around. So, everyone currently in the program who is on-schedule to graduate in fall 2020, spring 2021, or summer 2021, and who has not already taken ENGL 500, must take the course this fall 2020. The good news is, everyone who meets that criteria will get a seat, without fail, in the course. The bad news (or just annoying news) is that in order to get the seat, I have to give you a permit in our computer system. In order to get a permit, you need to write to me at cloots@mercy.edu. If anyone is unsure about their time-to-degree, or has any questions, please also write to 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.