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:

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

  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 Thank you.




Fall (and Summer) Course Schedules


  • 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 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 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.

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.