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 cloots@mercy.edu. 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 cloots@mercy.edu 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 cloots@mercy.edu. 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 (cloots@mercy.edu).
  • 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 Alibris.com).
  • 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 cloots@mercy.edu.

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 cloots@mercy.edu.

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 cloots@mercy.edu. You can see the courses we’re running in the post directly below this one.

Spring 2020 Course Descriptions

Below are descriptions of the six spring 2020 courses. Fuller descriptions for some of these will be provided as they are submitted by the various professors.

  • ENGL 506: History of Poetic Forms (Dr. Fritz)

The course will study the major forms and conventions of poetry that have developed in literature from classical models to the present. Wherever possible, particular poems from different historical contexts will be compared and analyzed to demonstrate how these forms and conventions have developed and been adapted to specific personal, ideological, or cultural pressures. Fulfills the Writing & Literary Forms group requirement or an elective.

  • 514: Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Manuel Puig (Dr. Vasile)

This course examines the major contributions that the Argentine writers Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Manuel Puig have made to world literature. Argentina was not only the first country in Latin America with an urban culture but also the place where European modernity had a significant impact. Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Manuel Puig echoed and continued the experiments of modern European literature but gave to that tradition a particularly South American perspective. Issues such as politics and censorship, the fantastic in literature, and urban and rural conflicts will be examined through some of the major works of these writers. Fulfills an elective.

  • 524: Reason & Imagination (Dr. Sax)

This study of English literature between 1650 and 1850 examines Neoclassicism and Romanticism as two opposed aesthetic and philosophical stances. It traces the political, ideological, and literary roots of Neoclassicism in the English “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, the late seventeenth-century growth of rationalism and empirical science, followed by the flowering of Neoclassicism and then the shift in sensibility that led to the emergence of Romanticism. Fulfills a Literature Group 1 field requirement or an elective.

  • 525: Victorian Age in Lit (Dr. Dugan)

If one were asked to define the timeline of Victorian literature, one might be hard-pressed to do so. As literary genres are fluid, it is hard to determine when the Romantic Period ends and the Victorian Period begins, and when the Victorian Period ends and Modernism begins. Whatever the dates, a defining characteristic of Victorian England would be change, change matched with a belief in progress: societal, religious, economic, and artistic. While some benefited from these changes, others did not. The semester we will look closely at issues that challenge the notions of change and progress, notably the role of women, industrialism, gender roles, and poverty as shown in fiction, poetry, and drama of the Victorian age. Fulfills a Literature Group 1 field requirement or an elective.

  • 544: Frontiers of Lit: Cyberpunk, Tech-Noir, & Technoculture (Dr. Loots)

Each instance of ENGL 544 explores different “frontiers” depending on professor specialty. This instance of the course will focus on literature and media that tend to the frontiers of humanity and identity in the age of technoculture (the culture of our internet-era). Readings will include “cyberpunk” and other speculative fiction from the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s (e.g. writings of William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, and Neal Stephenson); and contemporary writings such as Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror and Dave Eggers’ The Circle. Visual media might include episodes of Black Mirror or Mr. Robot; TED talks; and films such as Ingrid Goes West, Blade Runner, or Ex-Machina. Altogether we will consider, through fiction and essay and film, the implications of humanity’s increasing interweave with computer technology, social media, artificial intelligence, and online/virtual realities — with the way that humanity is becoming posthuman or cyborg. Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or an elective.

  • 560: Toni Morrison (Dr. Morales)

Toni Morrison passed away on August 5, 2019, thus this course will examine her legacy and place in American letters [Jefferson Letters, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize awards]. It will look at several of her fictional works including Song of Solomon [National Book Critics Circle Award] Beloved [Pulitzer Prize], Jazz [Second in a trilogy about love] and A Mercy. We will also survey her non-fictional works, Playing in the DarkThe Source of Self Regard, her numerous lectures. Finally we will explore her expansion into other media: opera [Margaret GarnerDesdemona], film [BelovedThe Pieces I Am] and ode to music in general and jazz in particular Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or an elective. Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or an elective.

Dr. Boria Sax wins NCIS Eisenstein Award for Best Essay of the Year

I am thrilled to share with our graduate community that Dr. Boria Sax has been awarded the Eisenstein Award for Best Essay of the Year by the National Coalition of Independent Scholars (NCIS). The Eisenstein prize is awarded annually for the best academic journal article or book chapter published by a member of the NCIS. The essay must have been published in a peer reviewed journal or edited academic book to qualify. Dr. Sax’s essay is “When Adam and Eve Were Monkeys: Anthropomorphism, Zoomorphism and Other Ways of Looking at Animals,” published in The Routledge Companion to Animal-Human History, edited by Hilda Kean and Philip Howell (London, 2019). For the record, this is the second time that Dr. Sax’s writing has been so recognized by the NCIS and he is the only person to have been awarded this distinction twice.

Welcome to the 2019-20 School Year

Welcome, graduate students new and returning, to the 2019-20 academic year. By now you’ve each hopefully checked into your fall courses and have begun your studies and explorations and conversations. Before I say anything else, anything practical about the new year ahead, I want to commend each of you in the graduate English program for your courage to pursue graduate literary studies. And I do think it takes a type of courage to be here. As many of you know from first-hand experience, being an English graduate student isn’t always easy in our world today, not just because of the cost of education but because of the current cultural tone. I mean have you ever had to explain yourself to your family or friends who could not fathom why you would invest in graduate literary studies? Some of you have, I know from conversations. But we can understand why others might doubt, can’t we? In an era and American culture that increasingly seeks to find ways to measure the economical value of this or that, and that is increasingly skeptical of pursuits or qualities that elude easy measurement or precise monetary valuation, the fruits of advanced literary studies might seem too subtle for many to appreciate or even detect. The irony of that should not be lost on us whose field of literary studies in part teaches us to feel-for and value the subtle, as much as to critically deconstruct and investigate what anyone might even mean by value (or measurement) in the first place.

But each of you here reading this, each of you now embarking on your fall-semester explorations into literature ancient to recent: you surely feel the value of it. In some unique and personal way you feel the power of words, writing, language; feel something of the mystery and immeasurable forces amid which we all dwell, to which the great literature of all humankind tends in its infinitely diverse ways. There is a value to our graduate literary pursuits, and some of the value is actually readily perceivable (e.g. the college teaching positions for which the MA qualifies you, or the PhD programs to which you can apply after earning your MA degree) but the greater value might be more subtle. And so I commend each of you in the MA program for your adventurer’s spirit and your courage to embark on such a journey as this, at such a time as this, in pursuit of what might often seem like subtle and mysterious things.

Okay now for the more practical stuff!

As you proceed into your fall-time studies you might keep in mind the School of Liberal Arts (SLA) theme for the 2019-20 school year, VOICE, and use that theme (whatever you interpret it to mean) as something to which you tend with your research and writings, your term papers, perhaps even a presentation at our 2020 Graduate English Symposium in May. Or not! But as I’ve said in the past in regards to the annual theme: if you’re looking for a way to increase the sense of connectivity across your courses, the feeling of being a part of a larger academic community, then writing toward the theme in the knowledge that others across the program are doing the same might help. The annual SLA theme is something started by Dr. Tamara Jhashi, who was our dean for the past five years but who just this summer moved across the Hudson to become the provost at another institution (a big step up the administrative ladder for her; a big loss for us as she was a stalwart proponent of English and literary studies, and of our MA program in particular). This year we have an interim dean, a faculty member from our Music Technology program, Steve Ward, holding down the fort while a national search is conducted this year for the next proper dean of the SLA.

Although the school year has just begin it is never too early to bring up the assessment criteria we use internally in the MA program when evaluating the final ENGL 599 thesis papers, which each of you will eventually write during your final semester in the program. These criteria are only systematically applied to the 599 thesis paper but they can still be useful for all of you to know and keep it in mind when writing any paper for any class: because as you can see in the assessment rubric we use, the criteria correspond to the program’s five “program outcomes,” which are the big-picture things we hope you are learning throughout your time the program. The criteria are also just the basic things all literature students should be working to address and improve in all of their scholarly papers, not just their final thesis paper. So I encourage everyone to download and look over the 599 rubric to see the sorts of things we look for and measure through it. The rubric and the outcomes and our 599 assessment practices are, if you’re curious, requirements for our college’s accreditation.

Before signing off let me provide you with links to some of the resources available to graduate students here at Mercy College. This information repeats information found elsewhere on this blog but some of you might find it helpful to have it repeated here all at once. Okay this blog post here contains a rundown of resources and contact-info that Mercy College provides for its students, whether on-campus or online. On this post here you’ll find critical information about the incomplete “I” grade which some of you might occasionally receive. For those approaching their last semester, you must pay attention to your required comprehensive exam, to the instructions for how to enroll in the final 599 course, and to the application you must complete in order to graduate. For those hoping to enter the college teaching job market check out this post here where I introduce a variety of resources and information on that topic. If you’re going to be applying to anything in any academic field you’ll need to have your curriculum vitae (CV) polished up and also need to know the difference between a CV and a resume. I talk about that here.

Finally, remember that although you can get advising from Student Services, I serve as faculty advisor to every student in the MA program. I am here to help and to answer any questions at cloots@mercy.edu. 

Have a great school year and fall semester, everyone. Check this blog regularly for program news and info. In good time I will be putting up a post sharing recent student and faculty achievements (and please, anyone with anything to share in that regard, let me know at cloots@mercy.edu). In just several weeks I will be putting up the course schedule for spring, so be sure to check that out in order to start planning your spring semester. Once I know the registration-opening date for spring I will post that here too (and the only way to ensure you get your first-selection of courses each semester is to pay attention to the registration-opening dates, and to register promptly once registration opens. Some classes fill up quickly, within hours of registration opening, so be aware). Onward we go. Cheers, all.


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.