All posts by madirector

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 If anyone is unsure about their time-to-degree, or has any questions, please also write to me at

Writing/Image/Text (WIT) 2020 Graduate English Symposium AND $600 Travel-Grant Opportunity

This year’s WIT Graduate English Symposium will be held on Wednesday, May 20th (the day before commencement) in Maher Hall on the Dobbs Ferry campus of Mercy College.

I am happy to also announce that the Chair of the Department of Literature & Language, Dr. Keckler, has secured a $600 travel-grant, funded by our Office of the Dean of the Liberal Arts, to help cover travel expenses for one student to attend and present a paper. We are holding a contest to determine who will receive the travel grant. The procedure for entering the contest will be detailed at the bottom of this post.

The WIT symposium is a casual mini-conference at which MA English students and alumni gather to read aloud a scholarly or creative paper (a paper that you’ve written for any of your MA courses will do just fine), as well as to meet some fellow grad students and program faculty. Family and friends are welcome to attend too. MA students interested in attending but not reading aloud a paper are of course welcome to do so. Graduate students and professional scholars often attend and read at local, regional, national, and international conferences, so this symposium provides a friendly small-scale introduction to the conference experience.

For anyone who reads a paper, it becomes a valuable line-item you can list under the scholarship section on your CV (click here to read more about the CV). Anyone who aspires to continue into a doctoral program or to pursue other professional outcomes from their graduate English studies must be working to build up even a few line-items for the scholarship section of their CV. Scholarly activities are the coin of the realm.

The symposium title “Writing/Image/Text” signals that you don’t have to just focus on literary analysis, but might instead present work involving other media, other types of texts.

The event typically involves a morning session and an afternoon session of presentations, with a catered lunch in between. If the weather is good we usually have that lunch on picnic tables under canopies on the lawn outside of Maher Hall. It is very pleasant.

  • Anyone who plans to attend, whether as a presenter or audience member, please let me know as soon as possible and no later than March 20th at I need to begin tallying how much catering to order, and how many presenters to schedule.
Travel-grant contest application procedures:

To be considered for the $600 travel grant, you must:

  • Be an active student or graduate of the Mercy College MA program.
  • Be certain that you will attend and present at the symposium, should you receive the travel grant.
  • Submit one written work, whatever you feel is your single best paper produced for one of your MA courses here at Mercy College, to by the deadline of March 20th. Please leave identifying information on your submission, including information about the course and professor for which you wrote the paper. Note that the paper you submit for consideration does not have to be the paper you present at the symposium (but it could be, if you want it to be).

Email any questions about the symposium or the travel-grant contest to the Program Director at For those considering walking in commencement on Thursday 5/21, information on that can be found here.




Spring 2020 Semester Starts Today 1/22

Welcome back, everyone. I hope you all had a restful winter break from your studies and are looking forward to another semester exploring literature, story, film, and all the rest together. Here are a few things to note here at the start of the spring semester:

  • Everyone taking an ENGL 599 thesis tutorial, just double-check to make sure that you are enrolled and see the 599 tutorial on your schedule. If it’s not there, or if anyone in the program sees a problem with their schedule, let me know (
  • In the next week or two we’ll be determining and announcing the date for this year’s Graduate English Symposium. In the past we’ve held it close to commencement, after the semester actually ends, but we might change the date this year, especially if another time earlier during the semester works better for more students. If anyone is hoping to attend and read a paper please share with me what days of the week, and weeks in late April through mid-May, might work best for you. (Note: any paper you’ve written for any of your courses would do, and reading it aloud at an event like this provides you with a line-item for the scholarship section of your curriculum vitae).
  • Starting in fall 2020 we will be instituting a Teaching Assistant (TA) feature that will allow a few MA students to receive a small stipend for performing TA work in online undergraduate English composition courses. We are working with our College administration to figure out the details and will share them once they are settled, but basically anyone who is interested in gaining some TA experience and making a little bit of money for doing so, keep your eyes on the blog for the next announcement about all of this. I should be clear about this: whatever type of financial support we’re going to be able to provide will be small, so this will to large degree be the sort of thing that will be most valuable for those who want TA experience for their resume and to develop some aspects of their teaching skills.

Here’s to a great spring semester, everyone.

Spring 2020 Book & Media Lists

Below you can find information on the book and media orders required for each of the spring MA courses. Some of these lists are still in development and will be updated as professors provide more information. Note that in many cases professors will be providing additional readings within their class in the form of PDFs or through links (meaning, this list doesn’t necessarily represent the full extent of what you’ll be studying in each class).

ENGL 506 History of Poetic Forms

  • Boland, Evan, and Mark Strand, eds. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. ISBN 9780393321784.

ENGL 514 Borges, Cortázar, and Puig

  • Borges, Jorge L. Ficciones. ISBN 9780802130303.

ENGL 524 Reason & Imagination

  • Bacon, Frances. Francis Bacon: The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics). ISBN 0199540799.
  • Blanning, Tim. The Romantic Revolution: A History. ISBN 9780812980141.
    Clarke, Susanna. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. ISBN 0765356155.
  • Sax, Boria. City of Ravens: The True History of the Legendary Birds in the Tower of London. ISBN 9781590207772.
  • Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. ISBN 0486282112.
  • Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. 2 ed. ISBN 0140137440.

ENGL 525 Victorian Age in Lit

  • Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. Aurora Floyd.
  • Dickens, Charles. Hard Times.
  • Elliot, George. The Mill on the Floss.
  • Stevenson, R.R. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. ISBN 9780486266886.
  • Wilde, Oscar. The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Dover, 1993. 9780486278070.

ENGL 544 Cyberpunk/Tech-Noir/Technoculture

  • First, note that the class will involve visual media such as episodes of Black Mirror and likely several other shows and films (TBD). To view these, students will be need a Netflix subscription for at least one month (about $10); and students might find it convenient to purchase the relevant films to stream through Amazon or elsewhere when the time comes. Students can also rent the assigned films from your local library.
  • Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. ISBN 9780307887443.
    Please note I am removing Cline’s book from required reading.
  • Eggers, Dave. The Circle. ISBN 9780345807298.
  • Gibson, William. Neuromancer. ISBN 9780441007462.
  • Scott, Melissa. Trouble and Her Friends. ISBN 9780765328489. (this is out of print so a PDF will be provided in class, but you can find used copies for cheap on
  • Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash. ISBN 9780553380958.
  • Numerous other shorter works will be provided as PDFs in Blackboard.
ENGL 560 Toni Morrison
  • First, students will need to view the documentary on Toni Morrison, The Pieces That I Am, during or prior to the first week of the semester. The film is streaming on most major platforms (Amazon, Itunes, etc) for a small cost. Currently the film can be purchased to stream on Amazon for $6.99. Costs vary by platform.
  • Morrison, Toni. A Mercy. ISBN 9780307276766.
  • —. Jazz. ISBN: 9781400076215.
  • —. Song of Solomon. ISBN 9781400033423.
  • —. The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations. ISBN 9780525521037.
  • —. Sula. ISBN 9781400033430.

Approaching your final semester? Time to prepare for the 599 Tutorial

For anyone whose final semester in the program will be spring 2020, now is the time to start sorting out your 599 Master’s Thesis tutorial situation (if you have not already).

You don’t enroll in the 599 course as you do any other course in the program. You can read up on the process for getting into the 599 tutorial here on the blog. In the time between your penultimate and final semester (so in this case, sometime during the first few weeks of January) you will also need to complete the program’s comprehensive exam. You can read up on the comp exam here on the blog.

If after reading those two posts anyone approaching their final semester has any questions about the 599 tutorial or the comp exam, or needs help securing a 599 thesis mentor, let me know at

Registration for Spring 2020 is now open

Registration for spring is open as of this Wednesday morning, 11/6. The servers were overwhelmed for the first hour or so from extraordinary demand, so if you experienced registration issues at that time, that was why. It should be working now. Be sure to register as soon as possible to ensure you get your preferred selection of courses. If you find yourself closed out of a preferred course you can get on the waitlist for that course, but in the meantime should select the next best schedule you can find of what is available. Be sure to check the course descriptions in the post down below. And any creative writers or artists, be sure to check out the call for submissions for the college’s creative journal in the post directly below this one. Any questions or issues with registration, let me know at

Call for Creative Writing Submissions: Red Hyacinth Journal of Mercy College

Creative writers take note: the Red Hyacinth literary journal of Mercy College is currently accepting submissions for publication-consideration for the 2019-20 edition. Last year there were numerous submissions from MA students and alumni and many of those made it into the publication. Getting work published in the journal can provide great personal satisfaction, as well as a valuable line-item for the “publication” section of a curriculum vitae.

The faculty in the program strongly encourage any creative writers to submit something for consideration. You can submit fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and artwork/media of any printable sort. The deadline for the current round of submissions is November 15! Submissions guidelines and instructions can be found on the journal site, linked here.

Spring Registration Opens November 6

Spring registration will open on Wednesday November 6. It usually goes active at around 9am eastern time when the Registrar arrives to begin work that day. Some classes fill up rather quickly, and most of the classes eventually reach max capacity, so the only way to ensure you get your first-pick of courses each semester is to register as soon as possible once registration begins. If anyone has any questions about course selections I can help at You can see the courses we’re running in the post directly below this one.