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.


Semester Begins on 9/4, But Course Sections Now Visible For Fall Semester.

Although the semester doesn’t begin for another two weeks (on Wednesday 9/4) Mercy Online has opened the fall 2019 Blackboard courses to students today (8/21). I’m still not totally sure why this happens or what’s to be gained from it, but please note that professors have no obligation to have their courses ready for student-viewing anytime sooner than the start of our actual semester on 9/4. So prior to 9/4 if you look at your Blackboard courses you might see anything ranging from a default shell which appears unready for fall, to a course that’s been customized and carefully prepared (which would mean hidden from student view for the most part) in preparation for this 8/21 unveiling, to a ramshackle behind-the-scenes look at a course-in-creation that the professor forgot to hide from student view.

The only positives that I imagine could come from unlocking the courses two weeks ahead of the semester is that students might get a look at the book requirements to secure them, and at the first few weeks of reading to get a jump on the reading. But for our MA program you can already see all the book orders in this earlier blog post. And reading ahead is sometimes actually detrimental, because your professor might want to prep you for the readings, contextualize them in a way, during the course of the semester before you encounter them.

Bottom line: classes open on 9/4, and 9/4 is when professors are obligated to have their Blackboard sections sorted. Until then, please be patient with whatever you see in your course shells. Any questions: talk to me at cloots@mercy.edu. I’m here to help.

Book Orders for Fall Courses

Below is a list-in-progress of books required for your fall courses. I will update this throughout the summer whenever I get new book info from the different professors. Your professors will eventually provide their official book orders to the college bookstore but the bookstore only lists the titles, doesn’t reveal information such as edition, ISBN, etc. They do this purposefully I think to try and force you to purchase the books through them. But with the info below you can purchase your books anywhere. Keep in mind that while many of the books below will be expensive if purchased new, you can purchase most of them used for cheap (I use Alibris.com). If you prefer to purchase new books I encourage you to first check into Powell’s or a local bookstore before you purchase from Amazon. You can also check many of these out from a library, if that works better for you.

ENGL 500 Theory
  • Leitch, Vincent B., et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 3rd ed. Norton, 2018. ISBN: 978-0393602951.
ENGL 509 Perspectives on the Essay

One book is required for the 509 course:

  • Jameson, Leslie, and Robert Atwan, editors. Best American Essays 2017. Best American Paper, 2017. ISBN: 054481733.

A recommended (but not required) book that Dr. Keckler suggests as a complement to the required reading is The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, by Phillip Lopate (ISBN 038542339X).

ENGL 521 Themes and Genres of Medieval Lit
  • Black, Joseph, et al, editors. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature Volume 1: The Medieval Period. 3rd edition, Broadway Press, 2014. ISBN 9781554812028.
ENGL 540 Magic in Lit
  • Aromatico, Andrea. Alchemy: The Great Secret. Translated by Jack Hawkes, Harry N. Abrams, 2000. ISBN: 0810928892.
  • Hesiod. Theogony & Works and Days. Translated by M. L. West. Oxford UP, 1991. ISBN: 9780192817884.
  • Hoffmann, E. T. A. The Golden Pot and Other Tales. Translated by Ritchie Robinson. Oxford UP, 1991. ISBN: 0199552479.
  • Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic, 1997. ISBN: 0439708184.
  • Sax, Boria. Imaginary Animals: The Monstrous, the Wondrous and the Human. Reaktion Books, 2013. ISBN: 9781780231730.
  • Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Penguin, 2000. ISBN: 9780140714890.
  • Yates, Frances, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age. New York: Routledge, 2003. ISBN: 0415254094.
ENGL 545 Lit of the Left Bank Paris

PDFs of many shorter or out of print works will be provided. These will include works by Nancy Cunard, Hilda Doolittle, Richard Wright, Edith Wharton, Frantz Fanon, Zelda Fitzgerald, Janet Flanner, James Baldwin, James Joyce, and Henry Crowder. Students will be required to secure the following books:

  • Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. Vintage, 2013. ISBN: 0345806565. (Or any version will do)
  • Benstock, Shari. Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940. U of Texas Press, 1987. ISBN: 0292790406.
  • Breton, Andre. Nadja. Grove Press, 1994. Translated by Richard Howard. ISBN: 0802150268. (Or any version will do)
  • Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. Scribner’s. Either edition will do, the original version (ISBN 9780684824994) or the newer “restored” edition (ISBN 9781439182710).
  • Loy, Mina. The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997. ISBN: 0374525072.
  • Stein, Gertrude. Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein. Vintage, 1990. ISBN: 0679724648. (We’ll specifically be studying The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas within this collection but everything in here is wondrous).
ENGL 560 Contemporary Slave Narratives

PDFs of supplemental scholarly articles will be provided in Blackboard. The following books/films will need to be secured by students:

  • Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. (This is available for free online here: https://english.hku.hk/staff/kjohnson/PDF/JacobsINCIDENTS1861.pdf; if students want a paper copy, it’s very important to buy this particular edition: ISBN 1503277941).
  • McQueen, Steve (director). 12 Years a Slave. (2013 film; ASIN: B00G4Q3KOC)
  • Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a Slave. (This is available for free online here: http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/slavery/Twelve_years_a_slave.pdf); if students want a paper copy, it’s very important to buy this particular edition: ISBN 1631680021).
  • Tademy, Lalita. Cane River. ISBN 0446615889
  • Tarantino, Quentin (director). Django Unchained. (2012 film; ASIN: B016YVJUJU)
  • Williams, Sherley Anne. Dessa Rose. ISBN 0062011251.

Anyone on schedule to graduate Before Fall 2020 Take Note

Just a reminder that anyone who plans to graduate before fall 2020 (so whose last semester will be fall 2019, spring 2020, or summer 2020) must complete the ENGL 500 Theory course this coming fall, if you have not already completed it. Enrollment is locked for the course in order to reserve all seats for students who must have the course this fall to graduate on schedule. Because everyone moves at their own pace toward the degree, and because students might opt to take a lighter/heavier courseload during any particular semester or opt to take summer courses (or not), we ultimately need each of you to self-identify if you plan to graduate prior to fall 2020. If you do, then claim a seat in the fall 2019 instance of the course by writing to cloots@mercy.edu. Anyone graduating between fall 2020 and fall 2021 is guaranteed a seat in the fall 2020 instance of the course.

Year End Honors: Thesis of the Year, Program Honoree, Online Student of the Year

At the end of each school year the MA English Lit. program awards two distinctions: the Thesis of the Year award, and the Christie Bowl Program Honoree award. As well, at the end of each school year Mercy College bestows a number of distinctions to students across the college. One such distinction is the Online Student of the Year award, and this year an MA student has received it. I would like to announce and celebrate the recipients of each of these distinctions here.

The Christie Bowl Program Honoree award is named for the late Joannes Christie who established and for a long time chaired Mercy College’s English Department. The annual awarding of a Christie Bowl (it is an actual bowl) to an undergraduate English program-honoree has long been a tradition at Mercy College. Last year the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, Dr. Tamara Jhashi, extended the distinction into our graduate MA program. The award, determined by the collective graduate faculty, recognizes one graduating student for their consistent academic excellence, classroom presence, and other contributions to the program’s scholarly learning community throughout their time in the program.

  • The winner of the 2019 Christie Bowl is Alissa Greenwood.

All theses completed for ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial courses during the summer and fall of 2018 and spring of 2019 were eligible for the Thesis of the Year title. The final paper is selected by faculty who have no thesis students’ papers in the running, who were not second-readers on any of the eligible theses, and who read over drafts from which all identifying information had been removed.

  • The winner of the 2019 Thesis of the Year award is Jennifer Fiore for her paper: “If These Scars Could Talk: Giving Voice to Women’s Trauma Through the Personal Essay.”

Finally: each year, from out of the thousands of distance-learning students at Mercy College (not just in MA English Lit program but across all of the dozens of undergrad and grad programs here), the College recognizes one student for their extraordinary quality in the online academic environment. This year, for the first time in our MA program’s history, Mercy College has recognized one of our own for this distinction.

  • The winner of the 2019 Mercy College Online Student of the Year Award is Richard Kovarovic.

I hope everyone in the program will join the faculty in congratulating Alissa, Jennifer, and Richard. 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 three honorees let us please also recognize all members of the graduating MA class of 2018-19 for their hard work and dedication that has gotten them to this moment of completing their MA degree in English Literature. Congratulations, everyone, and here’s to a summer of rest and exploration, in whatever parts you prefer.

Info about summer course: ENGL 510 Theory/Practice of Expository Writing

We run on regular cycle two courses that directly involve theory: the 500 Theory of Literary Criticism course required of each student, and the optional 510 Theory and Practice of Expository Writing course that can work to complete either the Writing and Literary Forms requirement or an elective. Dr. Dugan, the professor running 510 this summer, knows from experience that many students aren’t quite sure, even from reading the catalog description of it, what the 510 course will be about. As such he has provided the following write-up to help those considering the class this summer. He writes:

I have had the pleasure of teaching this course several times in past summer semesters, and I have enjoyed it more each time. I hope that you will enjoy it as well, but I do want to provide you with an overview for you to decide if this course will meet your expectations and academic and professional goals.

First, the main text, and the only required one, is Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing by Irene Clark, 2nd edition, published by Routledge, 2012 (ISBN 978-0-415-88516-4). It is available from the Mercy Bookstore, which will sell or rent you the text, or from other outlets. There is also an eBook version. This book has eleven chapters, so it fits nicely into our ten-week summer semester [director’s note: summer semesters run on compressed 10-week schedules but require more work each week in order to be equivalent to the regular fall and spring semesters]. The chapters focus on processes, revisions, audience, assessment, and other topics. We will discuss one unit each week.

Second, a recommended text for those interested in literary theory is Critical Theory Today by Lois Tyson, 3rd edition, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415506755. It is available to rent or to buy-new or used- from several sources, and there is an eBook as well.

Thirdly, I a firm believer that learning about theory, composition or literary, is made more valuable when one has a source to write about. Therefore, I will provide weekly non-fiction pieces for you to read. But, if your interests lean more to literature, I am (strongly) recommending that you have a copy of The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald. And, I recommend, less strongly, that you have a copy of The Bluest Eye or Beloved by Toni Morrison. Any edition is  fine.

By now, you may be asking yourself: how does this course really play out online? Allow me to explain.

Each week, you will be assigned a chapter from Concepts in Composition, which we will discuss as a class. Then, you have a choice to apply the teaching of writing concepts to either the non-fiction or one of the novels or the play in the framework of composition theory.

However, if you wish to focus on literary criticism, a chapter from the Tyson book will be assigned and a discussion thread provided.  Tyson analyzes Gatsby from different theoretical perspectives, but she also brings up Morrison, among other authors. If this interests you, the discussion questions will be on the theory and then how to teach the literary theory in conjunction with the composition theory.

If all this sounds complicated, it is not. (At least, I hope it isn’t!) It is planned to allow you to pursue your own interests and your professional need, and to give you choices. As a final note: there will be three short (2-3 pages) essays assigned and one longer (4-6 pages) final paper. Discussions are graded weekly.

Recent Student Achievements

In a few weeks I will be sharing with you some year-end awards that the program and college confer (thesis of the year, program honoree) but here I would like to note some student and alumni achievements. I do this for a number of reasons, including to celebrate the accomplishments and activities of our students and alumni, and to give everyone in the program a look at the sort of things you all might pursue beyond the MA program. I should note that publications and presentations such as those listed here carry much weight on a curriculum vitae. In no particular order:

  • Current student Theresa Hamman‘s poetry chapbook All Those Lilting Tongues was published by Finishing Line Press. (You can read an interview of Theresa by clicking here.) Theresa as well will see her work published in the 2018-19 edition of Red Hyacinth, the college’s literary journal.
  • Current student Cornelius Fortune presented his paper “Perfecting Humanity, One Genome at a Time – the Curious Case of Rebooting an Entire Culture” at the (Re)Imagining Popular Culture conference at Wayne State University in 2019. Cornelius too will see some of his work published in Red Hyacinth this spring, and his poem “Storm Drain Honey (Anatomy of a Breakup)” was awarded an Editor’s Prize for innovation.
  • Alumna Angela Colmenares has been accepted to present scholarship on Whitman’s Leaves of Grass at the 2019 South-Central Modern Language Association convention, and on “The Uncanny Nature of Cyberpunk” at the 2019 Midwest Modern Language Association convention.
  • Current student Emily Anderson‘s short story “Daughters of Morrigan” was selected for publication in the upcoming edition of Red Hyacinth
  • Alumna Elisha Baba has been accepted to present scholarship at the Philadelphia Theatre Research Symposium 2019 at Villanova.
  • Alumna Franchesca Guzman was awarded a fellowship at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI).

Some of our graduating students and alumni will be moving on to other programs of study:

  • Kate Oscarson has been accepted into Marquette University’s English PhD program, claiming one of only three available seats for incoming students this fall.
  • Cheryl Kennedy has been accepted into Texas Tech’s PhD English program.
  • David Hatami has been accepted into the EdD program at Nova Southeastern University.
  • Marisa McDowell has been accepted into the MDiv program at Loyola University, Chicago.

I’d like to further note that admission to any such program tends to be very competitive, that seats can be difficult to secure. There will always be far fewer applicants accepted into any such program than apply. Take heart, those of you who might have applied and not received acceptance into a doctoral or other program this year. You might find success if you re-apply to your desired programs in the future, or you might find success if you apply to a different selection of programs in the future. Anyone seeking advice when applying to doctoral or other programs beyond our MA program, feel free to contact me at cloots@mercy.edu (and it’s also customary to ask your thesis mentor for advice about the same).

Please, all students and alumni, now or at any point in the future keep me informed of any activity you’ve been up to, including conference presentations, publications, acceptances into doctoral or other subsequent programs, work activity, and the like. It’s important for us here in the MA program to maintain a view of how our students and graduates are faring beyond the program, and to celebrate your achievements.

[POSTPONED TO 2020] 2019 Mercy College Graduate English Symposium: Call for Papers and Attendees


Based on the responses I received to the previous post asking for date-preference, this year’s Writing/Image/Text (W.I.T.) Graduate English Symposium will be held on Monday May 20 here on the Dobbs Ferry NY campus. May 20 is the day before the School of Liberal Arts and the School of Education commencement ceremony. You can read about last year’s symposium here, if you’re interested.

The symposium is a casual mini-conference at which interested 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, though it must be edited to no longer than 10 pages), as well as to meet some fellow grad students and program professors. Family and friends are welcome to attend too. And 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, and national conferences, so this symposium provides a friendly small-scale introduction to the conference experience. And for anyone who reads a paper, it becomes a line-item you can list under the scholarship section on your CV (click here to read more about the CV).

The symposium title “Writing/Image/Text” signals that you don’t have to just focus your presentation on literary analysis, as you traditionally would at an English conference, but might instead present work involving other media, other types of texts.

Anyone planning to attend and/or present, please let me know by sending a note as soon as possible and no later than Friday April 19 to cloots@mercy.edu. I need to establish asap who all will attend, how many people will present, and how many overall to expect so that I can reserve the appropriate room space, order the right amount of catering (lunch provided courtesy of the MA program), and establish the necessary time-length for the entire event. Because of some changes in how our facilities services operates at the college I must know the attendee numbers by Friday April 19. Contact me at cloots@mercy.edu if you have any questions about any of this.

A Few Things: The 2019 Symposium; & Any News About Achievements?

Just a bit of program business here:

First, we’re beginning to plan for the annual Graduate Student Symposium. In the past we’ve held this the day before commencement, and we’ll likely do the same again this year, which would mean the symposium would be on Monday May 20th. That date is still highly tentative. We’ll settle this up in the next few weeks, but for now just start thinking about if you might be able to attend and/or present a paper at the symposium in mid-May. Details and a more thorough call-for-papers will be coming soon.

Second, I’m collecting information on any recent student or alumni achievements and activities (e.g. acceptances into doctoral programs or subsequent master’s programs, presentations, speeches/talks, publications, etc.) to share sometime soon on the blog. Please send any such news to cloots@mercy.edu so that we can celebrate and salute our students and alumni, and inspire others among us to their own achievements and activities.

ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial: How To Enroll

Just a reminder here: 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:

  • ENGL 599 counts for three credits, like any other course, and is a requirement for the MA degree. Unlike any other course in the program, 599 is run as a one-on-one tutorial between each student and a chosen professor (mentor).
  • The tutorial is always taken during whatever you intend to be your final semester in the program.
  • During the tutorial you have one responsibility and goal: writing a 25-page thesis paper on a topic of your choice, involving primary and secondary sources that you select, all operating under the guidance of your mentor.
  • To pass the tutorial your thesis paper must receive final approval from your mentor and from a second reader selected from the MA faculty.
  • 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 teaching in the program and ask the professor if he or she would be your mentor. Include your general topic along with your request. If the professors 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 just ask another professor or can contact the program director at cloots@mercy.edu and a mentor will be assigned.
  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 program director upon completing your penultimate semester. Students must complete their Comp Exam before beginning their 599 tutorial.
  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 the program director who then opens up an individual 599 section for each student with the mentor as professor. It is therefore impossible to be “closed out” of a 599 as each one is opened on an individual basis. The only way a student who needs to be in ENGL 599 might not get into one is if the student doesn’t do these steps in a timely-enough fashion as to have this all settled by the start of the final semester.

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.