Welcome to the 2014-15 School Year:

Welcome, everyone, to the 2014-15 school year of the Mercy College Master of Arts in English Literature program. I hope all of you have had a fine summer and are returning (or coming for the first time) to our virtual campus full of curiosity and energy.

For some of you this online learning environment might be a new thing. Even for some of you who have been with us for a time, the online learning environment presents its own set of challenges. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for one another in your virtual classrooms, for anyone who seems to be struggling with the technical (or other) aspects of virtual learning, and that you won’t hesitate to reach out to one another to say hello and see if you might be of some help. Of course there are a number of technical support features available (look in the left-hand menu of your Blackboard sections for helpful links). And you should feel free to contact your professors with specific issues and questions. But even just a note to another student through the Blackboard email feature can sometimes make the difference between a student feeling like they’re on a virtual island, and feeling like they’re connecting to the course and to the student community.

One thing I’d like us to work on increasing this year is the feeling of an online student community. And toward that end the faculty are working on some initiatives behind the scenes (still trying get approval for an informal, non-Blackboard real-time chat room for all MA students). In the meantime I encourage each of you to try and build your own student-to-student connections in the class and outside of it. Trade email addresses, trade phone numbers if you’re comfortable doing that; create informal study groups on your own, through your own email or skype exchanges.

Of course all of you should know that as the Program Head I am here for you. And each of you can write to me at any time if you have any questions, issues, worries, or comments concerning your experience or progress in the program. Additionally, although each of you has an academic advisor, I can also assist each of you in understanding program requirements and course selection. I’m happy to hear from you, and happy to talk or (much more easily) trade emails. I work with the advising department to try and make sure each one of you is taken care of and is on track for the degree. Just think of me as your personal faculty advisor.

Let’s talk about some program news:

As those who read this blog know, we’ve been working behind the scenes here on a slightly evolved program structure that will give you more freedom and choice when it comes to determining how you will earn your degree. That was approved by the College this past spring and I’ve received word that the Registrar is updating our program information in her system right now, and that the new structure will take effect in Spring 2015. How will that effect you and your progress toward the degree? Either not at all, or only positively. The changes only expand the options students have for meeting degree requirements.

So for example all students in the current/old structure are required to complete ENGL 510, Theory and Practice of Expository Writing. That’s a fine class, and we’ll still continue to offer it. But it’s always bothered some of us here that there are no alternatives to it. It can provide invaluable preparation for students who aspire to teach composition and expository writing, but that doesn’t describe the ambitions of every student in our program. Some of you are creative writers and are here primarily to hone and inspire your craft. Some of you are really here just for literary study, and might not want to devote one of your ten required courses to a class more associated with a Composition and Rhetoric pursuit. We know for a fact that many of you agree, based on the surveys and polls I sent around last year (I sent survey links to all of the student email addresses on file with Mercy). And so in Spring 2015, rather than being required to take 510, you will have a choice of courses to take to complete what we’re calling your “Writing and Literary Forms” requirement. You may take 510 to meet that requirement, or you may elect to take Advanced Creative Writing instead; or to take any one of the literary forms courses we offer (on the epic, poetic, essay, narrative, and dramatic forms). All of the upcoming changes will be just like this: expansion of choices. No one will lose anything. All completed or in-progress work will count toward your degree as it has.

Throughout this school year I will post updates and other information about these changes on this blog, as they are implemented. Once we have the final word from the Registrar I will finalize the draft of the Student Handbook currently available on the left-hand side of this blog, and will replace that draft with an official Student Handbook that will detail every little thing you might want to know about all of this. And as we roll out the new structure, you can and should of course contact me personally at any time with any questions you have about any of it. I will make sure you’re taken care of, and that your progress to your degree will be clear.

Upcoming course offerings:

Within the next week I will be posting here the Spring 2015 course offerings. There will be seven courses total. In addition to some program standards, we’ll be running a selection of eclectic courses which I hope you’ll find interesting. As a quick preview: Professor Sax will be running a Magic in Literature course. Professors Sax is one of the world’s foremost scholars on animals in literature, and on esoteric, hermetic, and mythological literatures. Dr. Kilpatrick, who over the past year has presented and attended conferences from Istanbul to England on topics involving the philosophy of sport, will be leading a special running of the course Sport Literature. Professor Dugan will be running a new course focusing just on the writings of Henry James and D. H. Lawrence. And Professor Emeritus Donald Morales will do our program a great boon when he returns to teach a course on the subject and literature of Afropolitanism, on which he has been presenting this year at conferences in Ghana, England, and Finland. Check here soon for a complete list of Spring 2015 courses, and for more details about what each one of these courses will cover. I’ll also share with you the day and time that spring registration opens.

As you proceed into your classes this school year, I want each of you to recognize and be proud of the fact that you are an adventurer, are an explorer. It takes a certain courage and an adventurous spirit to pursue a graduate degree in the arts. As with adventurers from ages past, it’s likely that some of you have people in your life who don’t quite understand or appreciate your pursuit. It’s often difficult to explain to someone else just why literature and the study of it is so important to you; why your pursuit does matter, deeply. There are some practical ends that the M.A. can lead to: with it you can apply to full-time professorships at junior colleges and other teaching opportunities; it can look good on a resume when applying to traditional English-based careers like editing, publishing, and various writing positions. But aside from all of that, and very often before all of that, I think the first burst which propels someone into graduate literary study is a pure love of literature, of words, of writing, and of thinking. You don’t have to explain your love of these things here among the virtual halls and your fellow students and faculty. You are among friends. You have only to get into the joyous work of reading, thinking, discussing, and exploring these things together with one another. Have a great year everyone,

Christopher Loots
Program Head, Master of Arts in English Literature

The Incomplete “I”:

Sure, you thought this was going to be about the strangeness of the ego and the I, but instead it’s just a post about the “I” grade-placeholder some of you sometimes get. Let me explain here all about the “I.”

An “I” is something that a professor might give to a student temporarily in place of a final grade. The “I” signals “incomplete” and is not therefore a real grade of any credit or GPA significance.

It can only be given in cases where a student has met all attendance requirements and completed most of the other course requirements, but for some reason was unable to complete some of the written work by the final semester deadline. Typically in graduate English an “I” might be given to a student who completed most all course work successfully and on time except for the final term paper. In these cases the student may contact the professor and politely request a temporary “I.” Even in such situations, a professor does not have to grant the temporary “I” and rather often gives a real final course grade (A through F) based upon the student’s semester of work. It is not a student’s right to be granted an “I.” The granting of an “I” should be a special and rare event as it causes issues which extend beyond the semester and into future semesters. Students should never presume that an “I” will be granted and should aim to complete all work during the semester so as to avoid the issue of the “I” even being raised.

In the rare cases where an “I” is granted the student must complete the missing work which led to the “I” and submit that work to the professor as soon as is possible. As a general rule the work should be completed and submitted before the start of the next semester. The ultimate time limit for turning a graduate level “I” into a real grade is 12 months. But again, consider that if you’ve left unfinished work until the 11th month you’re now having to research and write on topics which you were studying almost a year ago, and you’re now asking your professor to consider work related to a course from almost a year ago. Again, in the rare event that you do need an “I” and are granted one by your professor, please be diligent and remedy it prior to the start of the next semester.

If the incomplete “I” is not remedied within the twelve month limit it cannot be turned into a real grade. In that case it remains a permanent “I” on the transcript and the student receives no credit for the course.

It is the student’s responsibility to be wary of the time limit for remedying an “I,” to submit all missing work to the professor within that time limit, and to maintain a record of the timely submission of such.

If you have any further questions about this, feel free to contact me at cloots@mercy.edu.

Wondering how you actually apply for graduation, and when?

Mercy College confers degrees three times a year: in May, which is the traditional time to receive the degree and is for those completing the program in the spring; in August, for those who are completing the degree over the summer; and in February, for those completing the degree in the fall. There is no advantage or disadvantage to receiving a degree at any of the three times, it’s all the same and is simply based on when in a calendar year you complete the requirements for the degree. In order to be eligible for degree conferral at any of the three times you must submit your degree conferral application on time. Information on all of these degree conferral dates and procedures can be found here on the Mercy website.

If you’re planning to miss the fall semester, you must enroll in ENGL 899 Maintenance of Matriculation:

Just a note that students, if necessary, are allowed to skip a total of two semesters during the course of earning the MA degree. You must maintain matriculation, though, for each semester missed by enrolling in ENGL 899 and paying the fee of, I believe, $100 to remain active in the system and eligible to proceed to the degree upon returning to the program. If you stop attending and don’t maintain matriculation, and if you intend to return at some point for your degree, then a number of bad things can happen. Most likely the Registrar would simply deactivate your account and you would no longer be a student at the College. So please, if you plan to skip this or any semester, make sure you maintain matriculation by enrolling in ENGL 899. Thanks, -CL

Just a Reminder: Fall 2014 Semester begins on Wednesday, September 3rd.

As the title above states, please just take note of when the fall 2014 semester begins: Wednesday, September 3rd. Most online professors will open their first course unit on that Wednesday. As this is distance learning you don’t all have to check in on that first day, of course, since most professors run their units on a weekly schedule. You should check in as early as possible that week, though, to make sure you’re clear on everything for each course.

Be sure to read all of the syllabus information for each of your courses. Make sure you’re clear on when each next unit opens, and what is required of you for each unit. Each professor will run her or his course a little differently, and have different methods and requirements, even different unit-opening days (e.g., I tend to open mine on each next Thursday, while others might open theirs on each next Wednesday). Just take the time to read all of the information available to you in each course and make sure you’re 100% clear on what is required of you, and when, at the start of the semester.

For those of you who plan for fall 2014 to be the final semester in the program, take special note of the next blog post below.

For Students Planning to take the 599 (formerly 516) Thesis course this Fall:

To all M.A. grad students who plan to take the 516/599 this fall, which is to say for all students for whom the fall 2014 semester will be your last, please note: before the start of your final semester you must request from me and successfully complete the Comprehensive Exam requirement. Quite simply you just email me at cloots@mercy.edu requesting the exam. I email it to you and you then have ten days in which to administer it to yourself and email me back your responses. Also, with about two or three weeks to go before the semester begins, now is the time to finalize your thesis mentor selection and your thesis paper topic. Read the section here on enrolling for the Thesis Seminar for more information. Please let me know at cloots@mercy.edu if you have any further questions about the exam or the seminar enrollment after reading through the related posts on this website. Thanks all, and I hope you’re all getting ready and excited for another semester of exploring some great literature and yourselves.

For those of you taking Ulysses this fall:

If you’re enrolled in Ulysses this fall, I strongly recommend that you read Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man this summer in preparation. Portrait is a bildungsroman of a character, Stephen Dedalus. Stephen will feature prominently in Ulysses. You don’t have to try and pre-read Ulysses and it might be better to leave Ulysses off until we can engage it together in the fall. But reading Portrait is essential. It doesn’t just contain the beginnings of Stephen, it contains the beginnings of themes of Ireland, religion, artistry, and much more which bloom in Ulysses. You might also find it worthwhile to read Homer’s Odyssey, as the epic tale of Ulysses (or Odysseus in the Greek) attempting to find his way home forms something of a background to the doings in the Ulysses novel.

Summer 2014 session starts this week

Just a reminder to all students taking summer courses: the summer session begins this week. Classes will all be starting up right about now, so be sure to check into your summer courses. For everyone else, just enjoy your summer and come back in the fall refreshed and ready to begin another school year. -CL

Congratulations to our 2014 graduating class!

It was wonderful to see those of you who came and walked at commencement today. I hope I didn’t say anyone’s name too terribly wrong. Hey I empathize: my last name is Loots and most assume it rhymes with boots, or chutes, but it actually rhymes with boats, or coats, or totes. Anyway for all of you who earned the degree and were awarded it over the past school year, on behalf of all of the faculty in the program let me offer you our warmest congratulations. Not everyone makes it to the end of the program; many wander off along the way to the MA. It’s not an easy thing to earn. It takes time and resilience and dedication. Bravo to all of you who earned the degree this year. Whether you’re here in the area returning from commencement, or there in your home, which could be so many places in the country or world what with our wonderful global spread, I hope you’ll be good to yourself tonight and do something to celebrate. Indulge a little (or a lot!) if you can. You deserve it.

Thesis of the Year Award.

The M.A. program is pleased to announce both the creation of an annual “Mercy College Master of Arts in English Literature Thesis of the Year” award, and the first recipient of the award.

All thesis papers written for an ENGL 516 seminar during summer 2013, fall 2013, and spring 2014 were given consideration. From all of the outstanding papers written by our thesis students during that cycle a committee selected a group of papers which demonstrated an exemplary combination of (1) originality of research and approach, (2) effective writing and organization, and (3) clear and accurate MLA formatting. These papers then had all identifying information removed–student name, professor name, and course name–and were handed off without comment to an impartial faculty judge, a judge who had no student or stake in the proceedings. This judge then read the papers “blind” and informed the Program Head of the winner based upon the three criteria points listed above.

It is important to note how difficult a process this is for all involved, at each stage. Determining one winning entry from a stack of exceptional papers, top to bottom, all of which are commendable and reflect the high skill of writing and scholarship required to achieve the M.A. degree, is a challenge. And because this is literature, not mathematics, there is always room for debate about what sets one paper apart from another. We believe we have created as fair and neutral of a system for evaluation as we can; but as students of literature you of course know that the debate is never really over. This is all only to say that the faculty applaud all of our thesis students who have completed the thesis and have achieved the M.A. degree.

The winner of the 2014 Thesis of the Year award is Amy Warren for her paper “Romantic Marxism and the Psychology of Freedom in The Grapes of Wrath.” Congratulations, Amy. We will begin a new cycle of consideration starting this summer.

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.