Welcome to the official blog for Villanova's Graduate English Program! Come back often for updates on conference opportunities, guest speakers, student accomplishments, alumni news, and more.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dept. Spring Colloquium, Tonight!

Herman Beavers is a Professor of English and Africana Studies at Penn.  His latest book, Changing the Order of Things: Geography and the Political Imaginary in the Novels of Toni Morrison, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017. He has published numerous scholarly articles on August Wilson, Charles Johnson, Ralph Ellison, and Toni Morrison. He has also published poetry in MELUSThe Langston Hughes ColloquyVersadelphia, Cleaver Magazine, and The American Arts Quarterly

Suzana Berger is a theatre artist and educator who focuses especially on community-based (and community building!) arts. She is Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Dragon’s Eye Theatre, and has directed numerous plays. She has developed thought-provoking, original theatre with young people through Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Mural Arts Program, and InterAct Theatre Company, Epic Theatre Ensemble and Vital Theatre (New York), and Shakespeare Theatre Company (Washington DC). She is currently the Coordinator of the Urban Arts, Culture, & Humanities Partnership Program for Penn’s Netter Center of Community Partnerships.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

GWS Event 2/22

Come by tomorrow, Wednesday February 22 at noon for a great lecture by our own Dr. Joseph Drury. Co-sponsored by the Gender & Women's Studies and English departments.

"Libertines and Machines in Enlightenment Britain"

Dr. Drury's talk is drawn from a section of his forthcoming book, Novel Machines: Technology and Narrative Form in Enlightenment Britain. It reads the seduction fiction of Eliza Haywood, published in the 1720s, as a critique of male libertinism that responds to the two competing interpretations of Hobbes's materialism circulating in early eighteenth-century Britain. Like Hobbes, Haywood's characters are machines, whose wills are entirely determined by the desires produced in them by external objects. But her characters draw very different conclusions from this basic premise. Her male characters tend to be "libertine machines," who claim that because their transgressions are determined by external causes, they cannot be blamed or held responsible for them. Her heroines, on the other hand, are "thinking machines," who argue that although people’s actions are indeed entirely determined by external causes, they can still be held responsible for their actions so long as they are voluntary—that is, as long as they proceed from the will following a thought or deliberative process in the mind. Haywood thus exposes the cynicism of the libertine’s claim to be a blameless automaton and shows that his failure to deliberate results not from the intensity of his passion but from the double standard in social attitudes towards male and female sexual transgression.

Please RSVP to the GWS coordinator at  gws@villanova.edu. Lunch will be provided.

See you all tomorrow in Falvey 204!

Valentine's Coffee Break

This past Tuesday we celebrated the holiday of hearts with an English Department Coffee Break. Grads, undergrads, faculty, and staff got together for cookies, candies, coffee and good company.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Come see award-winning poet James Richardson

To kick off the 19th Annual Villanova Literary Festival, we are pleased to host poet James Richardson at Tuesday January 31st at 7PM.

James Richardson's newest collection, During, which appeared in January 2016, was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola prize for the best manuscript in progress. His other books include By the Numbers: Poems and Aphorisms, which was a 2010 National Book Award finalist and a Publishers Weekly "Best Book of 2010;" Interglacial: New and Selected Poems and Aphorisms, which was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award. He is a professor of creative writing at Princeton University.

The reading will be held in the Radnor/St. David's Room in the Connelly Center.

We're Delighted to Announce this Year's Literary Festival Line-Up!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December Colloquium

On Thursday December 1st the English Department was pleased to host Rachel Sagner Buurma (Swarthmore College) and Laura Heffernan (University of North Florida), who presented “What Was Distant Reading?: Critical Counting and Poetic Making in Caroline Spurgeon’s ’The Art of Reading’ and Shakespeare’s Imagery."

Buurma and Heffernan wrote:

This talk is drawn from our book project “The Teaching Archive: A New History of Literary Study.” “The Teaching Archive” offers a new archive for disciplinary history: the twentieth-century English literature classroom’s syllabi, lecture notes, exams, and assignments. Our presentation turns to the teaching and research of Caroline Spurgeon, the first female professor in the UK and author of Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us (1935).  Shakespeare’s Imagery, we argue, is important early work of distant reading. To prepare it, Spurgeon and her research team spent more than a decade combing through Shakespeare’s corpus in order to index the vehicles of the plays’ metaphors -- the stars, jewels, and seas that seem to exist only to lend their properties to lovers’ eyes or enemies’ ambitions. Spurgeon used this literary data in order to trace connections between the plays and the material objects of Shakespeare’s everyday life.  Literary critics have long disparaged Spurgeon’s masterwork for literalizing literary devices. Yet when we restore the context of her teaching, the critical force and sophisticated conceptual claims behind her work’s interest in reference and indexing snap into focus. Turning to the introductory “Art of Reading” course Spurgeon taught at Bedford Women’s College in 1913, we describe how Spurgeon guided her beginning students through the process of academic research, teaching them to browse library shelves, take notes, and create polished personal indexes. In Spurgeon’s classroom, we see that the seemingly specialized work of indexing actually models John Henry Newman’s ideal of liberal education as the “extension” of knowledge; indexes not only show students how a work was made, but also suggest how they might make it differently. By returning to these scenes of early critical-maker culture, we both restore to the history of distant reading one of the many women mainstream accounts have forgotten, and consider the challenge that Spurgeon’s liberal-educational vision of counting holds for thinking about distant reading and digital humanities today.

To prepare for the talk and the conversation, our own Dr. Mary Mullen hosted an informal reading with graduate students to discuss Buurma and Heffernan's previous article, "Notation After the “Reality Effect”: Remaking Reference with Roland Barthes and Sheila Heti."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Happy Holidays from Villanova's English program!

Last Wednesday the English department hosted a holiday decorating party. Students, faculty, and staff stocked up the lounge with food, drink, and cheer! Vegetarian chili, three layer dip, vegetable meatballs and potstickers. Plus tons of festive dessert. 

Grads and undergrads got together to decorate the office tree and cover the ceiling in glittering snowflakes. We're delighted at the turnout of what we hope will be an annual Villanova tradition. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Harry Potter Coffee Break

Chocolate-peanut butter wand pretzels and Snitch Chocolates

The English Department took a break this past Wednesday to get a witchy with this Harry Potter themed coffee hour. Our own Brooke Erdman made the chocolate and peanut butter pretzel wands, as well as the (chocolate) golden snitches! 

It was a great opportunity to get grads, undergrads and faculty together. Additionally, the English department was a stop on the Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt hosted by Falvey Library!

We can't wait to see you all next time.

Grad Laura has caught the golden snitch! 150 Points to the English dept!

Hello, Brooke!

We are happy to welcome the newest member of the English department staff, Brooke Erdman. As Program Coordinator, Brooke will be working on a range of initiatives to improve the functioning of the graduate program as well as heighten its visibility.

Brooke received her MA from the Villanova Liberal Studies program where she specialized in the Digital Humanities. She worked for two years after that in the Graduate Studies Office before joining us in English.

We are delighted to have Brooke with us, and we hope you stop by soon to introduce yourself!

The Great Catsby

Every year in the beginning of the fall semester, English undergrads and grads work together to engage freshmen with an introduction to college-level literary discussion. Using a text most freshmen have read (this year was Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, while last year tackled Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye), students perform an excerpt from the work and then lead freshmen into small discussion groups in order to discuss the text, as well as answer questions about the English program here at Villanova.

Freshmen students piling into the event
Lead by the wonderful Dr. Jean Lutes, volunteers from the English department performed the famous scene of Gatsby and Daisy's reunion. 

Our very own Nick, Daisy, Gatsby and narrator

The event was a huge success, marking our best turnout-to-date, with 163 freshmen in attendance! 

Not only do events like "The Great Catsby" open a dialogue with freshmen considering taking English classes, they also offer a leadership opportunity for undergrads and grads to facilitate a scholarly discussion with Villanova's newest students.

We miss you, Susan!

After 29 years working at Villanova, our beloved Susan Burns has retired. Susan has worked as the administrative assistant of the Graduate Department, doing all the work behind-the-scenes that kept the English Grad program running so smoothly.
Left to right: Dr. Heather Hicks, Susan Burns, current grad student Laura Tscherry and visiting Irish Scholar Victoria Brady

You are sorely missed, Susan! Hope you're enjoying retirement!

Villanova Gets Real About PhD. applications

Every fall the Villanova English department hosts a forum for students to learn about the PhD process. The faculty are different every year, and each applied and finished their doctoral programs at different times, so the variety of their experiences is a crucial resource to current masters students considering continuing their higher education. Plus, there is always pizza!

Department Chair Dr. Heather Hicks explains the tenure track job market

The faculty at Villanova are dedicated to giving grad students the best possible shot at getting into and completing a PhD. program. Information sessions like this one don't shy away from the reality of doctoral programs in the humanities. Not only do they discuss the scarcity of tenure track positions on the job market, they encourage you to consider the other positions, both in and outside of academia, that a student can pursue with a doctoral degree. 

Dr. Brooke Hunter and Dr. Jean Lutes talking PhD. admissions

Monday, September 12, 2016

First Fall Coffee Hour

For those new to the program, several times a semester the English Department hosts a Coffee Hour to get our grads, undergrads, and professors together.

 It's a great opportunity for students and faculty to catch up and relax - with coffee and cookies, of course!

This past Thursday was our first of the year, but we can't wait to see you all again soon.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Welcome Grads!

Last Friday the English Department welcomed grads, new and returning. The reception had a great turnout of students and faculty. It was the first opportunity of the year to chat and eat together, with many grads meeting their cohort for the first time.

We look forward to seeing everyone together again as semester unfolds!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Villanova English: The Story Behind the New Posters

New English chair Dr. Heather Hicks gives the story behind the new posters in the department's office suite:

Several years ago, I was visiting my parents for Christmas in my hometown in Maine.  My family has lived in this small rural town since the early 19th century.  One day, my father mentioned that he had to pay a visit to a local library where he was helping several volunteers with upkeep.  I had vague memories of this small library one town over, as my great grandmother had lived in the few rooms attached to it, and she had sometimes taken care of my brother and me there when we were very little.  I offered to come along with my father, and my husband also tagged along. 

When we arrived, I had a surge of memories of the time I had spent in this space as a child.  I remembered the wooden cabinet, built into the wall of the parlor, where my grandmother kept cream pitchers she collected.  Some were tiny, some large, some shaped like cows, or birds, or delicately decorated with roses, or emblazoned with the names of various states, and they all had fascinated me.  Then we stepped into the library itself, and I was amazed.  I hadn’t remembered that this was a substantial space, full of shelf after shelf of books.  My father explained that this library had been created by one of our distant relatives, a minister who brought many of these books when he moved from Philadelphia in the late 18th century.   His descendants had continued to amass a personal library, much of which was later donated to the town and moved into this space, which had originally been a woodshed.

As I wandered among the shelves, I started randomly pulling out volumes, and I was in for another surprise.  Many of the books were stunningly beautiful.  The incongruity between the plainness of the bare-bones wooden room and the luxurious covers of many of these books was uncanny.  My husband and I came back with our camera the next day and began taking photos of some of the most elegant covers.  In all, we took more than 150 photos, and for years, I wondered what to do with this repository.  Then, after being selected as the new Chair of the English Department, I noticed that there were a number of blank walls in the English Department.   In consultation with Dr. Radcliffe, who was acting Chair, as well as Susan Burns and Sharon Rose-Davis, who are staff of the English department, I gradually selected a group of images to convert into posters.  Here are the ones we ultimately chose:

It became clear as I worked on this project that though the book collection in the library was a treasure trove, it did not do justice to the range of literature we teach in the English Department.  There were few female authors and no African American authors or other authors of color to be found there.  I began to research other avenues for locating interesting book covers, and in the process, I learned about the designers of book and magazine covers during the Harlem Renaissance, including Aaron Douglas.  He produced many of the images for the magazine, The Crisis, which published many of the Harlem Renaissance’s renowned writers.  Douglas seems to have inspired Mexico’s Miguel Covarrubias, who made the image for Langston Hughes’s The Weary Blues you’ll see hanging in the Graduate Lounge.  Online research, a visit to a great used bookstore in Bucks County, and the generosity of my colleague Joseph Lennon, who lent me his copy of Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s Nobel lecture, Crediting Poetry, rounded out the collection of books that are represented on the walls of the English Department.

(Reposted from the Undergraduate English blog.)