On The Books: The Graduate Alumni Newsletter

Letter from the Director

Welcome to the first electronic edition of the newsletter of the Villanova Graduate English Program!  Our hope for this newsletter is that it will keep you in touch with what’s happening in the program as a whole as well with individual faculty members, current students, and alumni.  In it, you can learn about some of the highlights of our past year, from the recovery project that Dr. Jean Lutes and some of her students have started, to an appearance by El Duderino in Dr. Sewell’s Ecopoetry and Environmental Criticism seminar, to awards that our students won.  It’s been a packed year!

I also want to introduce you to Mike Malloy, our new Graduate Coordinator (Brooke Erdman is now in the Graduate Studies Office, possibly drawing on her talks with you as she serves as the office’s first-ever Student Services Coordinator).  Mike has a lot of experience in education: he was an English major at Vassar College, earned a master’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Pennsylvania, and has taught in schools from Philadelphia to Kazakhstan.  He’s largely responsible for this newsletter, and you may have already heard from him as he reaches out to our alumni.

Please keep in contact with us—let us know what you’re up to, and of course let me or Mike know if you have any items for this newsletter or for the YAWP.  The YAWP, of course, is always a way you can keep up with what’s going on—subscribe, and you won’t miss a thing!

Evan Radcliffe


Congratulations to our 2019 Graduates!

Joseph Alicea, Timothy Austen, Brian Borosky, Alexandra Brodin, Angela Christaldi, Ashley DiRienzo, Alexandria Einspahr, Sara Kolojejchick, Christie Leonard, Nicholas Manai, Cassandra Modica, Sarah Morgan, Amelia Mrozinski, Elena Patton, Kyle Traynham, and Elizabeth Wood


Uncovering a Lost Work

Three student researchers examine a book

From left, Lucy Mileto, ’21 CLAS, Jackie Solomon ’21 CLAS, and Gia Beaton ’21 CLAS

With the help of her student research team, Dr. Jean Lutes is preparing a formal proposal to produce a first-ever critical edition of an unpublished short story collection, .  written The collection was written between 1899 and 1901,  by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, a ground-breaking African-American journalist, poet, fiction writer, dramatist, memoirist, and educator, whose extensive archive is housed at the University of Delaware.  Intended to be titled “The Annals of ’Steenth Street,” the story collection features vividly imagined children and parents living in poverty in an urban neighborhood.

The proposal for the collection has been solicited by the co-editors of Regenerations: African American Literature and Culture, a distinguished West Virginia University Press series devoted to reprinting editions of important African American texts that have either fallen out of print or have never received the attention they deserve. The students are working with Dr. Lutes to document the publication history of the 12 stories in the collection (several were published independently, both during Dunbar-Nelson’s lifetime and after), compare versions to establish a definitive text, conduct original archival work for the introduction to the edition, and identify historical documents to be published as appendices to draw the reader into the world of the author and the text.

Dr. Lutes’s student research team consists of Amanda Gerstenfeld, Micaela Grassi, Caleigh Manyak, Danielle Burns, Jackie Solomon, and Gia Beaton. “Our work is important,” said Micaela Grassi, “because Dunbar-Nelson's writing, which explores themes of race and gender, is still relevant today.” According to Caleigh Manyak, “Dr. Lutes encourages us to break the mold of the stereotypical tasks of undergraduate research assistants. At the moment most of the work involves transcribing texts and acquiring publication histories for each of Dunbar-Nelson's 12 short stories in her 'Steenth Street collection. As the groundwork for the research is completed, we will progress into more rigorous research like scholarly textual editing.”

“It was a student researcher,” said Dr. Lutes, “squinting at a microfilm reader in a dark corner of the library three summers ago, who confirmed my hunch about the publication history of ‘His Heart’s Desire,’ one of the stories we're studying. I recently gave an invited lecture on this project, and I used my undergraduate research team (past and present) as a brain trust; they were the practice audience for my lecture, and they gave me instructive feedback that improved the final lecture tremendously.”


Jeff Bridges smiles at the camera

Meeting the Dude

Members of Dr. Lisa Sewell’s Ecopoetry and Environmental Criticism class who attended the on-campus screening of the documentary Living in the Future’s Past were treated to a special event. Two of the documentary's luminaries, director Susan Kucera and producer/narrator Jeff Bridges, met with Dr. Sewell’s class via video chat to discuss various aspects of the film. You heard that right: the group got to virtually “meet” The Dude himself!

Living in the Future’s Past, which is described on its website as a “beautifully photographed tour de force of original thinking on who we are and the environmental challenges we face,” explores the pressing environmental issues facing our world. The film, which includes expert commentary from a diverse group of psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, and more, is driven by its core question: “What kind of future would you like to see?” LITFP has received overwhelming critical praise and recently qualified for consideration in the Documentary Feature category for the Academy Awards.

Students asked Bridges and Kucera a range of questions about filming strategies, the creative choices behind the visual components of the film, the team’s process for arriving at the film’s positive and even hopeful tone, plans for future promotion of the film, and more.


Faculty Publications

Alice Dailey, “‘Little, Little Graves’: Shakespeare’s Photographs of Richard II,” Shakespeare Quarterly 69.3 (2018): 141-166.

Heather Hicks, "Smoke Follows Beauty": The Femme Fatale and the Logic of Apocalyptic Affiliation in Claire Vaye Watkins's Gold Fame Citrus, ASAP/Journal 3.3 (2018): 623-651.

Brooke Hunter, Forging Boethius in Medieval Intellectual Fantasies. Routledge, 2018.

Kamran Javadizadeh, “The Atlantic Ocean Breaking on Our Heads: Claudia Rankine, Robert Lowell, and the Whiteness of the Lyric Subject.” PMLA, vol. 134, no. 3, 2019, pp. 475-490

Jean M. Lutes, "Lovelorn Columns: A Genre Scorned," American Literature 91:1 (March 2019): 59-90.

Mary Mullen, Novel Institutions: Anachronism, Irish Novels and Nineteenth-Century Realism. Edinburgh University Press, 2019.

Megan Quigley, “Reading The Waste Land with the #MeToo Generation.” Editor and Introduction, print plus cluster for Modernism/modernity. March, 2019.

Lauren Shohet edited the essay collection Gathering Force: Early Modern British Literature in Transition, 1557-1623 (Cambridge University Press). The book includes her essay "Old Rituals, New Forms: Masques, Pageants, and Entertainments." She also published “Reading Milton in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” in Milton Studies (Penn State University Press).

Catherine Staples, “In a Hurry,” “Hurricane,” and “After Seeing the Irish Dance Theatre’s Lear.” The Yale Review, vol. 107, no.1, January 2019, 49-51.


Student Publications

Alexandria Einspahr, “The Mute Aisling: Staging Sociopolitical Shifts through Disability in the Abbey Theatre’s Productions of Translations” in Concept

Nicholas Keough, “Masques and Metamorphosis: The Theatricality of Revenge and How It Shapes Identity” in Concept online

Nicholas Manai, “‘The Truth Lies’: The Affordances of Secrets in Caleb Williams” in Concept online “Get out of Town: The ‘Itinerant Concerns’ of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure’ in Modern Horizons, June 2018

Cassandra Modica, “Compositional Collaboration: The Benefits of Integrating African American Vernacular English into Rhetoric and Composition Education” in Concept

Sarah Morgan, “Imago Torem: Creation Theory and Ethics in Paradise Lost and Frankenstein in Concept online

Amelia Mrozinski, “Appropriating Tenement Dublin: Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock on the 1990s Abbey Theatre Stage” in Concept online

Jesse Schwartz, “Trans Utopianism and the Utopia of Transness in Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues” in Concept online

Kristen Sieranski, “What Future? Imagining the Child of Color in Response to Lee Edelman’s No Future” in Concept


Student Conference Presentations

Joseph Alicea, Northeastern Modern Language Association, “Sensing Inter-Actions en la Frontera: Nuyo/Ame/Diaspo-Rican Aesthetics”

Angela Christaldi, VU Gender and Women’s Studies Conference, “Waking the Feminists: Katie Roche, the Abbey Theatre, and Gender Politics in Contemporary Irish Theatre” and Comhfhios Boston College, “To Digital Humanities and Beyond”

Alex Einspahr, Interdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies Conference, “Enforcing a Steady Hand: Illness, Incarceration, and Reparative Space in Harriet Martineau and Austin Reed”; Comhfhios Boston College, “To Digital Humanities and Beyond”; Northeast American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, “Holding a ‘lump of deformity’: Rearing Monstrous Biopower in Gulliver’s Travels” and VU Gender and Women’s Studies Conference, “‘Flesh that needs to be loved’: The Episteme of Disability and Pain in Sula and Beloved

Sarah Beth Gilbert, Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association Conference, “Transcending the ‘Bloke Utopia’ of Sci-Fi: Bill Pott’s Intersectionality in Doctor Who

Amelia Mrozinski, American Conference of Irish Studies South, “Appropriating Tenement Dublin: Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock on the 1990s Abbey Theatre Stage” and VU Gender and Women’s Studies Conference, “Emma’s Revolutionary Reading and Writing: Women’s Suppression in Mary Hays’s Memoirs of Emma Courtney

Matthew Ryan, South Central Modern Language Association, “‘My Only Way of Loving Them’: Class, History, and Tragedy in Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark”

Daniella Snyder, College Art Association, “Edges of Media” panel; Witness Conference at the University of Maryland, College Park, “40° 54' 52.1" N, 76° 50' 24.2" W" and VU Gender and Women’s Studies Conference, “Four Blank Walls and a Roof: Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s Criminal Domesticity”


Lenni Steiner, a Bloomsday sponsor, stands with Alex Einspahr, a Villanova student

Lenni Steiner, a Bloomsday sponsor, stands with Alex Einspahr and a cut-out of one of the Rosenbach brothers

A Cause to ReJoyce

Alexandria Einspahr, 2019 graduate of Villanova’s graduate English program, won the Rosenbach Museum's Bloomsday Essay Contest with for her paper, “The Tap-Dancing Tuning Fork: Disability and Narrative Structure in Ulysses.” The contest is open to undergraduate and graduate students from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and awards two prizes, one for a graduate paper and one for an undergraduate paper.

“Receiving The Rosenbach’s Bloomsday 2019 Graduate Essay Prize was a particularly memorable experience because it encapsulated my time at Villanova,” said Alex. “My essay... was originally my seminar paper for Dr. Quigley’s Fall 2017 Ulysses course and the first paper I wrote during my master’s program. I joined Villanova’s English department primarily to develop my interest in Disability Studies – an interdisciplinary community that is currently experiencing an exciting amount of new scholarship.

“In this sense,” said Alex, “The Bloomsday Prize was both a unique opportunity for me to go back to where I started and a crucial reminder of the value of rest. Editing my seminar paper, I found myself easily answering questions and scrapping sentences I hummed hemmed and hawed over for weeks on end only a year prior. But, I also found myself creating new questions, upsetting arguments that I originally thought were irrefutable, and of course, caught myself cringing over my writing more than once. It wasn’t until I distanced myself from my writing that I could decipher and unpack what my argument was actually saying rather than what I intended it to say.”

A Villanovan won last year's prize as well. Christie Leonard, who recently graduated from Villanova's MA program, won the contest with her paper, “‘Corpse of Milk’: The Abject in Hades and Lestrygonians.”


Avni stands by the gates of the British Museum

Interrogating Empire

Avni Sejpal, a Villanova English MA student, was awarded a Graduate Student Summer Research Fellowship for summer 2019, which took her to the British Library in London. Here’s Avni’s description of her research project:

“This project, ‘Indentured Imaginaries,’ studies postcolonial literary narratives and memoirs alongside colonial records of labour and migration archived at the British Library in London. By engaging this archive, I was able to look closely at the ways in which dispossessed subjects of empire—in particular, indentured workers shunted from British colonies in Asia to sugar plantations in Africa and the Caribbean—are figured in both historical documents as well as the postcolonial writing of Amitav Ghosh and Gaiutra Bahadur.”

Avni described the library as an exhilarating place. “Since the British Library is a thriving hub for scholars who study empire, I found myself working away amidst a large community of graduate students and professors on a daily basis. Overall, it was exhilarating, and occasionally overwhelming, to be in a place where historical record—in all its minutia—takes centerstage. Of course, I quickly learned that such archives can only yield imperial narratives, and it is important to read for their silences. Finally, although the British Library is that rare archive in which records are systematically ordered and easily accessible, there remains a quality of the unexpected to what you find, and that's what makes it so thrilling.”

Avni presented the results of her research at Villanova during the Graduate Student Research Symposium on September 13th. “I want to say thanks,” said Avni, “to the English Department, and especially to Dr. Heather Hicks, for supporting the project and helping me visit an archive at such an early point in my graduate education.”


Recent Alumni in PhD Programs

Joseph Alicea (19), U.C. Santa Cruz

Stephen Reaugh (18), Washington University in St. Louis

Casey Smedberg (18), University of Connecticut

AnneMarie Jakubowski (17), Washington University

Laura Tscherry (17), Indiana University

Caitlin Moon (17), Trinity College, Dublin

Kenneth Roggenkamp (17), Binghamton University


Other Alumni Activities

James Butler, class of 2017, had a short play included in the 2018 edition of NC 10 by 10: A Festival of 10-Minute Plays. He also had an essay published in the August 2019 issue of the online film magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room.

Don James McLaughlin, class of 2009, was awarded the Hench Post-Dissertation Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society, 2018-2019, for the purpose of conducting research in their collection of early American newspapers, rare books, and manuscripts, as he turns his dissertation into a book. He was also awarded the Diane Hunter Prize for best dissertation in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

Zachary Wright, class of 2010,  was named Philadelphia’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2013 and has written many articles for Education Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Education Leadership.


Contact Us

Villanova University
Department of English
St. Augustine Center
Room 402
800 Lancaster Ave.
Villanova, PA 19085

Dr. Evan Radcliffe
Graduate Program Director

Phone: (610) 519-4648

Mike Malloy
Graduate Program Coordinator
: michael.malloy@villanova.edu
Phone: (610) 519-7826

Books written by our faculty