Welcome, all you masters students, to the 2013-14 school year of Mercy College’s Master of Arts in English Literature program. This is Professor Christopher Loots writing as the new head of the MA program. Before we move forward into our new year, please let us recognize the hard work done by Dr. Richard Medoff, our exiting director who moves on to become Chair of Communications and Arts. I would also like to recognize the continuing work of all our graduate faculty: Dr. Boria Sax, Dr. David Fritz, Professor Celia Reissig-Vasile, Professor Adam Fitzgerald, Dr. Sean Dugan, Dr. David Kilpatrick, Dr. Kritsen Keckler, Dr. Yunus Tuncel, and Dr. Alison Matika, our newest member.
This letter marks the first of what will be periodic letters from me concerning program news, upcoming courses, things to keep in mind when proceeding toward your degree, etc. I will also reach out to you now and then for feedback and news about any scholarly or creative achievements you may be earning.
On that note, please consider this an open invitation to share with me any such activity. This can include, for example, any English literary conferences you might be attending. I know we have a number of active poets in the program, some of whom are out there in the community participating in poetry events, open mic sessions, and other such creative endeavors. Please let me know about any participation in such things. I know we have many creative writers in the program. And all of you are scholarly writers—you write scholarship every semester when you write your term papers. So please let me know if any of you see any of your creative or scholarly work published or recognized. I would like to maintain a view of all such activity going on within our program’s learning community, so that we might celebrate it in future announcements such as this, and so that it might inspire and encourage us all. I also want to share such things with our Dean, and the surrounding Mercy College community. Just drop me a note at CLoots@mercy.edu.
Our graduate student body includes many traditional literary scholars, some of whom aim to teach at community college, or to adjunct at senior (4 year) colleges. Both of these pursuits can be pursued with the M.A. Some of you aspire to pursue a Ph.D. after the M.A., perhaps in hopes of one day applying for faculty positions at senior colleges. If any of that describes you, it’s a good idea to try and get involved in conferences, as they’re good for a resume (or curriculum vitae–CV–as we call them in the field). At the same time, though, our masters students come from a variety of life-situations, not all of which involve time for or interest in these traditional academic and literary pursuits. And that’s okay. You all have your own varied reasons for being in the program, and your own private ideas of what you hope to achieve through the program. Some of you are here to explore literature as a supplement to your life, family, or career. Some of you are already in education, are teachers who are here to strengthen your existing subject knowledge, or earn credits that might enable you to earn more or be eligible for promotion. More than a few of you are poets and creative writers who know that one of the only trusted ways to improve your own writing, other than writing a lot, is to read and study the great writings of the past. Some are here because the M.A. is a useful degree for aspirations in many fields such as editing, publishing, journalism, copy writing and editing, etc. On some level all of us are here out of love for literature; or as one of you put it so brilliantly in a course introductory thread: the “world seems brighter, sharper, and more enriched when studying literature and the arts.” Indeed. No matter your reason for being here, if you are here, you’re in the right place.
For if I may, I think beneath it all, we might also be here because at some point in our lives we heard what Gatsby heard when he listened for one last moment to that tuning-fork struck upon a star. There is great meaning and mystery in all of literature, as much as in all our lives, the exploration of which involves traveling what Whitman called the journeywork that connects the stars. As students of literature, we know that not everything can be measured or quantified, and that perhaps the most meaningful things are the things least quantifiable, most ephemeral. Masters of Arts students, you walk forward in a world where art and literature are at risk of being devalued because their value is neither obvious nor easily weighed. I applaud you for caring, and for carrying forward the study of literature. By doing so you are part of a long and storied procession of scholars just like you, stretching back to ancient times.
And so on behalf of all the graduate English faculty, welcome, again, graduate Mercy literature students, to the 2013-14 school year. As you go out into your classes this fall, I would only encourage you to make the most of this time, of these weeks and months ahead. In an online program such as ours, much power is in your hands to make of this experience what you will. So read, think, write, discuss, and have fun exploring together.