All posts by madirector

Feedback wanted on possible new course idea: “Afropolitanism.”

One of the Program’s esteemed emeritus professors, Dr. Donald Morales, has contacted me with a new course idea. By his approval I’m sharing his synopsis here in hopes of measuring student interest in such a course. He writes: “I am working on a project that explores the term ‘Afropolitanism,’ a word coined by Taiye Selasi in a 2005 essay. The term murkily defines the young African artists who have settled in a number of cosmopolitan capitals in Europe and North America and, specifically in literature, have produced a number of intriguing works that describe their hybrid status and identity. The term has also engendered a lot of criticism and controversy. Some of the works include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, Teju Cole’s Every Day Is for the Thief and Open City, Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go. I would also include a study I did on transplanted African dramatists and actors in London who have created a number of powerful dramas and film appearances around the same subject.”

Update: link to related content concerning the mass Nigerian Girls kidnapping.

Please vote once in the poll below. If you don’t see the poll it means your internet security settings are blocking it (easiest solution–try looking at this page a different browser). If you are unable to get the poll working or if you have further comments, please feel free to contact me at cloots@mercy.edu.

Consider the fall course ENGL 515 DLA, Contemporary Drama: Shepard, Albee & Eno.

In efforts to encourage students to enroll in some of our more eclectic courses, I’ve asked Dr. Medoff (our drama specialist) to share a bit more about his fall 2014 Contemporary Drama course focusing on Shepard, Albee and Eno. You are not going to find a course like this anywhere else. Here’s what he wrote:

THREE AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHTS OF THE NON-BROADWAY TRADITION

Sam Shepard became involved in the Off-Off-Broadway theater scene in 1962. A habitué of the Chelsea Hotel scene of the era, he contributed to Kenneth Tynan’s ribald Oh! Calcutta! (1969) and drummed sporadically from 1967 through 1971 with psychedelic folk band The Holy Modal Rounders, appearing on Indian War Whoop (1967) and The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders (1968). Shepard’s early science fiction play The Unseen Hand (1969) would influence Richard O’Brien’s stage musical The Rocky Horror Show. Cowboy Mouth—a collaboration with then-lover, Patti Smith—was staged for one night at The American Place Theater in April 1971, providing early exposure for the future punk rock singer. Shepard accompanied Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue of 1975 as the ostensible screenwriter of the surrealist Renaldo and Clara (1978) that emerged from the tour. His diary of the tour (Rolling Thunder Logbook) was published by Penguin Books in 1978. A decade later, Dylan and Shepard co-wrote the 11-minute “Brownsville Girl”, included on Dylan’s Knocked Out Loaded (1986) album and later compilations. In 1975, he was named playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre, where many of his notable works (including his Family Trilogy: Buried Child [1978], Curse of the Starving Class [1978], and True West [1980]) received their premier productions.

Edward Albee was the first major author to come out of the Off Broadway theatre scene. He is known for works such as The Zoo Story (1958), The Sandbox (1959), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), and a rewrite of the book for the unsuccessful musical Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1966), an adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella of the same name. His works are considered well-crafted, often unsympathetic examinations of the modern condition. His early works reflect a mastery and Americanization of the Theatre of the Absurd that found its peak in works by European playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet. Younger American playwrights, such as Paula Vogel, credit Albee’s daring mix of theatricality and biting dialogue with helping to reinvent the post-war American theatre in the early 1960s. Albee continues to experiment in works such as The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2002).

Will Eno is a Brooklyn native and a protégé of Edward Albee. His The Flu Season was produced by The Rude Mechanicals Theater Company at the Blue Heron Arts Center, New York City, from January 29, 2004 to February 22, 2004. The play won the 2004 Oppenheimer Award, presented by New York Newsday, for best debut production in the previous year in New York by an American playwright. Although some of his plays were originally produced in Britain, Eno has been making headway in New York City theatre ever since the 2004 debut of Thom Pain (based on nothing). Charles Isherwood, theatre critic for The New York Times, called Eno “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.” Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Middletown opened Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in November 2010 through December 5, 2010, and Eno won the 2010 Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play. Title and Deed (a collaboration with the Gare St. Lazare Players of Ireland) made its American premiere Off-Broadway at the Signature Theatre Company from March 2012 to June 2012. His adaptation of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt titled Gnit had its world premiere at the 37th Humana Festival of New American Plays in March 2013. In his Broadway debut, The Realistic Joneses began previews at the Lyceum Theatre on March 13, 2014 and officially opened on April 6, 2014, after a run at the Yale Repertory Theater in 2012. The New York Times reviewer of the Broadway production wrote: “don’t come to the play expecting tidy resolutions, clearly drawn narrative arcs or familiarly typed characters…. While the Joneses — all four of them — have all the aspects of normal folks, as their names would suggest, they also possess an uncanny otherness expressed through their stylized, disordered way of communicating… But for all Mr. Eno’s quirks, his words cut to the heart of how we muddle through the worst life can bring.”

I encourage everyone interested in drama and in 20th-century writing and concerns to sign up for this one of a kind course offering.

How to register for more than one 514 or 515 course during a semester

As some of you may have noticed, the online registration system prevents you from enrolling in more than one 514 or 515 course during a semester (currently we’re running two 515s for the fall). This is because the software isn’t smart enough to know that multiple instances of the course code are different courses, it only sees a repetition of the same course code and so locks you out of signing up twice for what it thinks is the same course. You of course can sign up for two such courses, and the way you do that is by using the online registration system to sign up for one, then contacting me at cloots@mercy.edu and expressing to me that you would like to be enrolled in the other as well. Provided that the other has seats open, I can make it happen easily.

Anyone Hoping to Graduate this Spring Must Have Completed the Comp Exam By Now

Hi all, the Comprehensive Examination is a requirement for the degree. Everyone needs to take it and the proper time, determined by the Registrar’s Office, to take it is before the beginning of ENGL 516, your final-semester Thesis Seminar course. That means everyone taking the Thesis Seminar should have completed the Comp Exam by this point. If you are in ENGL 516 and you have not completed the Comp Exam, you must contact me immediately. I will send you the exam and you will administer it to yourself. At that point, whether or not the Registrar processes the result in time for spring graduation is entirely in her court. Contact me if you have any questions about this at CLoots@mercy.edu. Thanks all.

Course Offerings for Fall 2014

Registration for the fall (and summer) 2014 opens on March 5th at 9:00am Eastern time. Please note that you may see an ENGL 501 course on the offerings, but this is in the process of being removed from the schedule. If you enroll in it, you can expect that it will be cut.

Course for fall 2014 are as follows:

  • ENGL 500 DLA, Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism. This course is run by Dr. David Kilpatrick and is a requirement for the degree.
  • ENGL 503 DLA, Reason and Imagination. This course is run by Dr. Boria Sax, and studies the development of literary ideas from the Enlightenment to the Romantic era. This course can count as an elective or as a British Lit/Group 1 requirement.
  • ENGL 506 DLA, History of Poetic Forms. This course is run by Dr. Alison Matika and will study poetic forms as they emerge in British literature and move up through British and American literature over the centuries. This course can count as an elective or as a Writing & Literary Forms requirement. If necessary it can also count as either an American or British requirement.
  • ENGL 507 DLA, Narrative Strategies in the Novel. This course is run by Dr. David Fritz and will study the novel and the narrative method over the centuries and across the British and American traditions. This course can count as an elective or as a Writing & Literary Forms requirement. If necessary it can also count as either an American or British requirement.
  • ENGL 514 DLA, Ulysses. This course is run by Dr. Christopher Loots (aka me). In this course we’ll spend the semester reading what many consider one of the greatest novels ever written, and studying some contextual history around it and James Joyce. This course can count as an elective or as a British/Group 1 requirement.
  • ENGL 515 DLA, Contemporary American Drama: Shepard, Albee, and Eno. This course will be run by Dr. Richard Medoff, a dramatist and an expert in theatre studies and performance. This course can count as an elective or as an American/Group 2 requirement.
  • ENGL 515 DLB, Working Women’s Literature in the US: 1865 to Present. This course will be run by Dr. Miriam Gogol, an expert in this field of Women’s literature and American Realism.  This course can count as an elective or as an American/Group 2 requirement.

Course Offerings: Summer 2014

Registration for the summer opens on March 5th at 9:00am Eastern time.

As of this moment we’re planning to run five courses over the summer. This is an ambitious amount of courses, as summers tend to have low enrollment (many students, like many professors–like me–follow the traditional fall/spring schedule). It is therefore highly possible that not all five courses will gain enough enrollment to actually remain open and run by the time the summer semester begins. Some may even be cut very early into registration if they attract little early interest. Two of the reasons I have five courses listed is to see (1) if in fact we have enough interest in summer courses to warrant this many courses, and (2) what courses students are interested in. If one of these classes fills up immediately and the other class attracts three students, the course with three students will have to close and this will also indicate that the first course is something our students want and the second course is largely not. I’ll use this information when scheduling future semesters. So here, as of this moment, are the summer listings:

  • ENGL 509, Perspectives on the Essay, run by Dr. David Kilpatrick
  • ENGL 510, Theory/Practice of Expository Writing, run by Dr. Sean Dugan
  • ENGL 514, 20th Century American Poetry, run by Dr. Alison Matika (Note that this might appear as “Major Authors” on your registration screen–that’s just the generic title associated with the code. It’s 20th Century American Poetry).
  • ENGL 515 DLA, Sport Literature, run by Dr. David Kilpatrick
  • [Sorry, administration cut this course]

  • ENGL 515 DLB, Advanced Creative Writing, run by Dr. Celia Reissig-Vasile (This might show as “Special Topics” but again, as with the 514, that’s the generic title for the course code. It is Advanced Creative Writing).

A note on the new MA Program requirement structure

As some of you know, I’ve been working on a slight revision to the current structure of the program. The revision has been approved by the many layers at the College and will be implemented in fall 2014.

The reason for this (minor) revision is two fold.

For one thing, I and the previous three Directors have all felt that the current structure, which though generous in electives, requires that all students take a relatively strict sequence of required courses. The courses it funnels you toward are valuable for building a comprehensive foundation of literary knowledge. However not everyone is here for the same reason, and not everyone wants the same thing out of the program. And so we felt was time to open things up a little and give students more freedom to customize their individual paths toward the degree. Some things will still be required–everyone will need ENGL 500 Theory, and everyone will need ENGL 516 Thesis Seminar (which will be renamed to the more accurate Master’s Thesis Tutorial). But more choices will be added for fulfilling the other currently required areas.

The second reason is because I sent around a survey to current and former students in the fall asking for feedback on this, and the response was almost unanimously in favor of this evolution.

Going forward, the program will still continue to offer all of the courses we currently offer. And so in the future a student will still be able to earn the degree in exactly the same way you are currently required to earn the degree. But you will now have the choice over whether to take the traditional sequence or a more eclectic sequence.

We are working to implement this new structure in fall of 2014. Students have nothing to worry about concerning this implementation: the change will be seamless and everything about it will take place behind the scenes and without any of you needing to do anything at all. All currently met requirements will of course still count. All you’ll find next year is that you may have more choices about how to meet your remaining requirements. This is a pro-student evolution of the program.

You can get a look at the new structure in the working draft of the 2014-15 Graduate Student Handbook downloadable from the left-hand side of the screen. You will see all sorts of new courses in the curriculum section, with new and different numbers for some existing courses. Please keep in mind that this handbook is a prototype and is not currently implemented. The new courses, the renumbering of courses, the new 30-credit degree structure in there: none of this is in the official system and won’t be until next year. And some of this could still change. I mean to say if you go asking your adviser about any of this they will have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about because I’m giving you a look at something which is still technically in development.

I just wanted to keep you all updated on the latest and give you a look at the handbook prototype.

The Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Exam is an essay exam which all students must take and pass in the time between the penultimate and ultimate semesters in the program. All students preparing to enter their final semester and hoping to take their ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial  must pass the Comp Exam in order to do so. The Comp Exam therefore functions as a gateway to the final semester.

So how do you take the exam? Upon completing your penultimate semester, contact me (cloots@mercy.edu) and request the Comp Exam. I will then send you the exam instructions as an attachment. You then have ten days in which to open the attachment and respond to its instructions. There’s no big secret here: the exam asks you to write two essay responses to your choice of a list of topic questions. The questions are phrased in a way where you can apply anything you’ve studied in the program to your answer. Students don’t always read the same exact materials over the course of the program and this is taken into account in the phrasing of the questions. The questions don’t exactly “test” you as much as they give you a platform to really show us what you know and how you think.

Though you have a ten day window in which to administer the exam to yourself, the exam itself only allows four hours. This gives you time to write two brief essays that show what you know. The exam is administered on the honor system: we trust students on their honor to adhere to the four hour limit, and to keep the questions confidential.  The essay responses must be returned within ten days at which point the Director assesses them.

How to register for the ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial

Anyone getting close to the end of the MA program needs to start thinking about the ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial. Let’s look at some basic points about what it is, what you have to do to enroll in it, and what you do once in it:

  • The course is a three credit course and is a requirement for the 30 credit MA degree.
  • The course is always taken during whatever you intend to be your final semester in the program.
  • The course is actually a one-on-one tutorial between one student and one professor, during which the student must write one 25 page thesis paper on a topic of her or his choice operating under the guidance of the mentor.
  • To pass your course your thesis paper must receive final approval from your mentor and from a second reader, appointed by your mentor. Both the mentor and second reader might request or require revisions to your thesis paper during the course of the seminar semester.
  • You enroll in 599 using a different process than for any other course in the MA program:
  1. First, during the semester prior to your final semester, think up a general topic or idea for your thesis and write it down. Your thesis topic can be based on a paper written for another course earlier in the program; you can even use that paper as the first draft for your thesis paper.
  2. Contact any professor in the program and ask the professor if he or she would be your Thesis Tutorial mentor. Include your general topic idea with your request. If s/he says yes, you will then work up a more formal thesis proposal with that mentor; If your selected professor cannot mentor you, you can either ask another professor or can contact me and I will assign you to a mentor.
  3. In the meantime, be aware that all students must take and pass the program’s Comprehensive Exam in the time between the penultimate and ultimate semester in the program. So while you’re developing your thesis proposal with your mentor, also start thinking about the Comp Exam which you must request from the Director upon completing your penultimate semester. Students must complete their Comp Exam before beginning their 599. Those taking 599 in the summer or fall can request the exam when the spring semester ends; those taking 599 in the spring can request the exam when the fall semester ends. The program director typically keeps track of these things and sends out the comp exams to students about to take 599; but own your education, and be responsible for your timing: it is ultimately your responsibility to request the exam of the Director at the correct time.
  4. Once you have developed a formal thesis proposal under the mentor’s guidance, and once the mentor deems it acceptable, the mentor will contact me and I will automatically enroll you in a 599 course with the mentor as professor. It is therefore impossible to be “closed out” of a 599 as each is opened on an individual basis. The only way a student who needs to be in 599 Thesis Tutorial might not get into one is if the student doesn’t do these four steps in a timely enough fashion to have this all settled by the start of the final semester. So plan ahead. As always, contact me directly if you have any questions about any of this.

I’m Here to Help

All students in the MA program should know that as the Director I’m happy to help each of you with any questions or issues you might have about anything related to the program. Each of you has a Student Services or Graduate Admissions adviser, and I know a few of them and the few that I knew are very good. But I can also advise you on course selection or look over your transcripts. Don’t hesitate to drop me a note at cloots@mercy.edu anytime if you have a question. Sometimes I know things that advisers don’t. I want to help make your experience in the program the best that it can be. So don’t hesitate to drop me a note if you’re ever in need. Again: cloots@mercy.edu