Advice for Future ENGL 170 Students: 2018 Edition

Without further ado, here’s this year’s list:

  • Don’t be afraid to revise your thesis.
  • It’s not you, it’s your paper. Don’t take criticism personally.
  • Sleep, even if you don’t think you’ll be able to fit it in. Even a few hours helps.
  • Have an open mind about different kinds of literature
  • If you wouldn’t bet your life on what a word means, double check.
  • Believe that what you’re saying and writing about matters.
  • Write like you are doing yoga. Breathe, be flexible, and hold your position.
  • Don’t be shy when peer editing. You don’t help anyone by just saying, “Your paper’s good.”
  • Don’t lose hope because nobody’s perfect their freshman year. (Or ever, really.)
  • Don’t put off until next week what you could have been doing tonight.
  • Use the resources that Marywood provides. Get your money’s worth.
  • Keep up with friends and family.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the silly questions, because everyone else is probably wondering the same thing.
  • Just keep swimming. Nobody will let you drown.
  • You can and you will until you start thinking otherwise. Don’t be your own worst critic.

Credit to Paige, Niorka, Noah, Sarah, Gale, Korah, Katie, Emily, Anna, Shea, Colleen, Jake, Jessie, Sabrina, Tori, and Sam.  Happy Summer, everyone!!

Check out last year’s list here!


Senior Sem 2018!! A little something to whet your nerdy appetite…

Our Senior Seminar students will be presenting their work at a mini-conference in Swartz on Thursday evening (5/10) at 6p. Please join us! All are welcome!

Image result for writing

Curious about what our students have been so busy researching?? Read on to see their abstracts!!

Dominic Behler, “Writing Magic in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a book about books. Susanna Clarke details a fictional practice of magic using footnotes that reference a fabricated body of scholarship, which is studied by “magicians.” The texts and authors to which she alludes allow the reader to further consider the book in their hands, emphasizing the meta-textual nature of the novel. The system of magic represents humanist agency, political power, and the cultural heritage of England. Clarke sets the novel in England’s Regency era, which further presents the text as an act of revision, or writing history over. The cultural heritage of magic then becomes a part of the text’s conversation with the reader. Faeries and spells are not the true magic of Clarke’s England. Instead, the author implies that the act of writing and the novel’s very existence possess the spark of magic.

Ryan Calamia, “Dealing with Trauma through Letter Writing in Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower

My paper argues that writing can help one to cope with trauma. People who experience trauma sometimes have a hard time dealing with it. They often do not even know what the trauma is. To deal with trauma, people can consult a therapist or seek relief in medication. The Perks of Being a Wallflower represents writing as a form of trauma therapy. Charlie, the novel’s protagonist, comes to terms with his trauma through writing letters to a “friend.” A close analysis of the narrative reveals that writing is an effective way for people to cope with trauma.

Colleen Campbell, “Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu: Understanding the Struggles of Japanese Women in the Seventeenth Century”

I examine Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu to show how the film represents the social, gender, and religious issues that affected women in the male-dominated world of seventeenth-century Japan. The Life of Oharu recalls the experiences of Japanese women during this time to remind viewers that the long struggle for women’s rights is not over.

Devon Davis, “Fear, Morality, and Reluctant Readers: What Children Can Learn from Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Series”

Everyone has a campfire story to tell. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it rhymes, but far more often it is meant to scare those listening. Alvin Schwartz was a primary purveyor of these scary campfire stories for many years, and his series dedicated to adapting folklore still enchants children today. Through close analysis of three scary stories, this paper explores how Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series has had a positive impact on children, despite parental backlash.

Jillian Gratz, “The Fragility of Relationships in a Materialistic World: Emily Bronte’s Commentary on Society in Wuthering Heights

It is a well-known truth that we live in a materialistic society; the effects of this world, though, are not always apparent. The temptation to become caught up in material and monetary wealth for its own sake consumes some humans; others find wealth in their spiritual beliefs, passions, and relationships. Relationships, though not always regarded as the highest collateral damage of societal pressures, often suffer when one or all involved take their focus off the delicate makeup of interpersonal intimacy. Emily Bronte depicts this unfortunate reality in Wuthering Heights. Her characters Catherine and Heathcliff suffer under societal pressures to achieve status, and pay the price for their uninformed choices. Bronte’s views about this human phenomenon burn through her writing, giving it an honest and, at times, hopeless storyline that asks readers to stay true to their love and themselves and to forsake all that leaves a human being empty.

Hannah Moore, “Inaugural Addresses and the American Identity: Analysis of the Inaugural Addresses of George Washington and Donald Trump”

Through a rhetorical analysis of the first presidential speeches of George Washington and Donald Trump, I argue that inaugural addresses have remained consistent in content but have changed linguistically over time. All addresses similarly define national identity, particularly in relation to civil religion, American values, and beliefs about the country itself. However, since 1960 inaugural addresses have become simpler and more accessible due to changes in society and technology. To identify these similarities and changes, I offer a close reading of the addresses of our first and most recent presidents.

Jessie Rice, “The Value of Dystopian Societies”

My paper explores how George Orwell’s 1984 teaches readers the importance of literature and language and how they influence how and what we think. School curricula include 1984 today in order to demonstrate how powerful words can be. My presentation raises questions about political power, education, and freedom of speech.

Michael Smith, “Reading the Dream Diary: Learning Empathy by Discovering Meaning in Yume Nikki

Yume Nikki is a cult classic indie game that uses dreaming as a lens to explore trauma, loneliness, and suicide, but you’d never guess any of these things just by looking at it. The graphics are antiquated, the hallways and hells they portray reveal nothing at a casual glance, and Yume Nikki does little to offer the player fun mechanical challenges. The structure of Yume Nikki presents a mystery to the player but refuses to provide a clear solution. By finding patterns, deducing underlying rules, and theorizing possible backstories for Madotsuki, the player engages in critical learning, and along the way comes to understand Yume Nikki’s protagonist far better than he or she ever could have through reading dialogue. This process of learning and the intimate understanding it creates evoke the powerful empathetic responses that have made the game an enduring influence.

Sam Temples, “’Oh, that dirty war’: Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises as a Trauma Novel”

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises can be read as a trauma novel, a genre that depicts the psychological injuries that war veterans suffer. By reading deeper into the text, we understand the trauma that haunts World War I veteran Jake Barnes and the charming Lady Brett Ashley. Jake and Brett grapple with loss as they try to piece together their shattered identities. Engaging in frivolous behaviors to cope with their suffering, they only mask their issues, leaving their traumas still very real and alive. By uncovering the deep trauma laced throughout The Sun Also Rises, I open conversations about how literature not only explores trauma but also suggests strategies to cope with it.

Alum Profile: Kendra Rafferty (’12)

KendraProfile by Colleen Campbell

Ms. Kendra Rafferty, an English graduate of Marywood University, is currently working at Emerson College as their Senior Assistant Director of Communications for their Graduate Admissions department. Her job is to handle all the external marketing and communications for the graduate programs. With the skills that she has gained through studying English, Kendra has been able to work collaboratively with other departments, including the larger central marketing team. In addition to this, she also travels year-round for recruitment purposes.

How did an English degree prepare you for your career path?

Kendra says, “My English degree and the liberal arts education I received from Marywood prepared me to take my career in almost any direction I wanted to go.” Kendra recognizes that the skills she has acquired as an English major have helped her to “communicate efficiently and effectively (with clarity).” She stresses that crafting language and recognizing the necessity of altering tone to match clients’ needs are skills that employers want from an employee.

Favorite Marywood Memory

Her favorite memories at Marywood include spending time with her classmates in the library while working on group projects and workshopping each other’s essays. Above all, Kendra raves about the essays she wrote in her Creative Writing class. She enthusiastically says, “I wrote some of my favorite pieces in Dr. Laurie McMillan’s writing class.”

Advice to current students

Kendra adds, “Be brave and unapologetic with your writing and your life choices.”  She advises us to be bold and not let fear cloud our confidence. In the interview, she stated that “the people you meet, the memories you make, and the skills you learn will shape the decisions you will make in the future.” Even more, she says to enjoy college life because soon you won’t have time to do the things you love. She asserts, “I find myself trying to sneak in an hour or two during the week to write or read the books I love.” Kendra insists that time is precious, so use it wisely.

What is your greatest personal accomplishment?

Kendra firmly says that “Working in a field related to my degree and using the skills I learned while at Marywood is an accomplishment not everyone can claim to have.” She insists that she could not be happier with her career and the time she spent at Marywood.

What are you reading now?

Kendra is currently reading Apology to the Moon by poet Jim Daniels. She says, “I love small presses,” and her favorite is Batcat Press. She loves them because they produce “fantastic handbound, limited edition works.” Besides Apology to the Moon, she is also reading- and loving Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. Kendra adds that “Her writing is magical.”

Alum Profile: Pat Kernan (’16)

Profile by Kayla Seymour

Black Coffee and Journalism: A Conversation with Pat Kernan


Pat Kernan: a man who enjoys tea more than coffee but drinks more coffee, black. You can catch Pat Kernan Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday writing the obituaries, or “obits,” for the Times Leader. The Times Leader is the local newspaper of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  On average, he edits fifteen obits a day. The funeral home will send Pat the obituary, and he will edit the grammar and polish it up into “newspaper style.” Pat did the math, and if he continues on this luxurious path of writing fifteen obits a day for a typical five day work week, he will be at four thousand a year.

On the weekends, Pat is on the hunt for a good story. He will listen to the police scanner, and if he hears a possible headline,he will go to the scene and get what information he can from the cops and the surrounding people. For an aspiring journalist, this directness may seem intimidating. Yet Pat says to “not be afraid of hearing ‘no.’ You’re going to hear it a lot. Just find other people. When a journalist loses that fear of rejection, he or she will get better at reporting.”

Pat got his start in journalism before he even graduated Marywood University in 2016 with his degrees (yes, degrees!) in both English and Communication Arts. The former Editor-in-Chief of the Times Leader visited one of Pat’s journalism classes and saw possibility in Pat. Originally, Pat was just supposed to be an intern for the Times Leader, but they ended up hiring him. Along with this golden career path, Pat also works for the Weekender. The Weekender is the local, free magazine for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. For the Weekender, Pat interviews local musicians. Pat would like to work with artists in the future and work in the field of music journalism. Are you curious about his favorite band? Right now, Death Grips.

Although Pat’s career is budding, it still has its challenging aspects. Pat explains that sometimes his job gets “depressing, because obviously obituaries,” and sometimes the news is not always good. Pat looks at me with solemn eyes: “Kids get shot…the challenge is disassociating yourself from it. The reporter is not a part of the situation; they’re just there for the story.”

In other news, Pat is currently reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson created gonzo journalism. Gonzo journalism is a form of journalism in which the reporter becomes a part of the story.  Rolling Stone sent Thompson on an assignment to cover drag racing. Thompson took a smothering amount of drugs and recorded everything he saw.

For the future journalists of Marywood University (or any other institution), Pat gives some advice. English and Journalism (or Communications) are a great combination of degrees for this career path. Pat explains that a journalist is a “historian working in today. A journalist is writing today’s stories to talk about.” This is a big role to fill! So, being well-rounded is important.

Pat also emphasizes something iPhone screens and televisions of today try to distract us from—getting involved. Every group you are in is something to put on a resume. What matters on a resume more than grades, especially in communications, is what the applicant did (clubs, events, volunteering, et cetera.) Pat explains that what got him the job at the Times Leader was all the work he put into the Wood Word (Marywood’s school newspaper.)

Furthermore, Pat gives Marywood his warmest regards. Marywood has prepared him to not only be a better writer, but also a fine-eyed researcher. He advises student writers to “find as many sources as possible.” For example, finding twenty sound resources is much better than finding the required amount of three. This sort of technique follows Pat when he is finding a story for the Times Leader: “When I’m out I’ll ask as many people as I can.” By doing this, Pat has a bulk amount of information to work with. This allows him to weed out the best information and, thus, write the better story.

Thanks to Marywood, Pat explains how all the professors in the English department left fingerprints on who he is today as a journalist.

“Dr. Brassard really tightened up my writing. Dr. Bittel and Dr. Sadlack helped me with finding the best research. Dr. Conlogue helped me read more critically. Dr. Wotanis helped with her background in hands-on journalism.”

In the abyss of April, with many student obligations coming up, it was refreshing talking to Pat, especially talking to him about his greatest personal accomplishment: “My greatest personal accomplishment is actually getting paid for what I want to do now. For example, writing for the Wood Word was one thing, but making money for my writing is another. I’m happy that I can pay rent and eat just based on writing.” Pat then goes on to explain that it is better to worry more about the bigger picture. “Do not worry about the paper, but worry about the class,” he explains, “Worry about things as a whole, and figure out what’s important based on that. Worry more about the experience than the grade.”




Alum Profile: Kasey Lee Lynn-Gadzinski (’14)

KaseyProfile by Sydney Toy (’20)

Getting into Teaching

Kasey Lynn is a 10th and 12th grade English teacher at a high school in Virginia, but she did not always plan on becoming a teacher. When asked about her major and original plans for her future, Kasey says, “I came to Marywood as an English Literature major and really wanted to be a speech writer for politicians.” After graduating from Marywood, she went to Georgetown University to get her master’s in American Government. During the summer of 2014, Kasey went to work for the Ready for Hillary super PAC. Regarding the work she did there, Kasey explains, “Another girl and I were in charge of the digital aspects. We created the Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, and posted to them. We then looked at all of the numbers and the data and analyzed what got the most likes or retweets in order to generate more posts. We also helped to launch the Ready for Hillary bus which was really cool.” When she finished up her work on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Kasey went to grad school. While in grad school Kasey worked for telecommunications firm called Stone’s Phones, a non-profit that worked with politicians. Kasey explains, “I was a ghost writer while working here. I was writing different scripts for politicians who would host telephone town halls to talk to constituents or get more people to volunteer and vote.” After completing grad school, Kasey worked in Public Relations for The Merit Group. While working there, Kasey realized she did not enjoy her job. She says, “I didn’t really like the hours working there. That’s when my husband, who went to school for teaching and is a teacher now, suggested I try teaching. Because of my background in English, all I had to do was take some online classes to get my degree, and now I’ve been teaching for two years.”

Favorite Marywood Memory

When recalling her favorite Marywood memory, Kasey lists her Senior Seminar class. She says, “It was lots of fun. One day my classmates brought in balloons and we made a video about an author we were reading about. The professor was even in on it. We just made the best of it and it made writing my Capstone paper more fun.” Kasey also mentioned any class she had with Dr. Bittel because of her stories about her daughter.

Life Outside of Work

Outside of her job as a teacher, Kasey is also the assistant girls’ varsity soccer coach for the high school she teaches at. She says, “I played soccer at Marywood but never played in a game because I tore my meniscus for the second time and couldn’t play anymore. But I’m happy that I was able to get back into it as a coach.” Aside from soccer, Kasey spends a lot of time reading short stories that she could use as material for her class. The school that Kasey works at is very diverse so she tries to find short stories that are easy for everyone to comprehend and to relate to. Regarding the diversity at her school, Kasey says, “About fifty-six different languages are spoken at the school where I work. There are kids there from Vietnam, Guatemala, Egypt, Ghana, El Salvador, the Middle East, South America, and Africa. A lot of these kids have also had interrupted education, so they don’t know simple grammatical rules like we would know; so I have to pick out stories that they could easily understand and relate to.” Aside from reading for class, Kasey does a great deal of curriculum writing for her work as a teacher, which she finds very enjoyable because she “loves creating assignments.” Kasey is also working on rewriting the curriculum for the English department at her school as well, which takes up a good amount of her time. On a more relaxing note, Kasey loves spending time with her French Bulldog Lola and her husband and especially loves taking Lola to the beach.

How has English helped you?

Looking back on her degree and how English has helped her prepare for her career, Kasey believes that her degree has helped her a great deal with her job and the work required of her. When recalling the most important skill she has learned from her degree, Kasey says, “The analytical skills specifically gained from my degree in English. My bosses love it and are impressed by it.” Aside from her degree in English, Kasey also has another degree in Spanish. This helps her communicate with the students who only speak Spanish or very little English; it also helps her teach these students how to write correctly in English.

Greatest Personal Accomplishment

Reflecting back on her life and the choices Kasey has made since graduating college, Kasey says her greatest personal achievement is that she “is the only person to have a master’s degree in her entire family, and I’m the first person in my immediate family to go to college.” Kasey also feels that what she does for her career is a great personal accomplishment for her as well. Kasey specifically cites “teaching students and helping students apply to college. I love to share my personal experience with my students to show that I can relate to them. I also love seeing the looks on their faces when they understand something or when they finish applying to college.”

Life and College Advice

Kasey offers up some advice regarding both college and life that she has found to be very true. Regarding college, she says to “take time and enjoy it.” She says the key is to balance both work and fun because it will help you in the long run. Kasey also says to “be fully prepared to do the work involved with your major and to go the extra mile because it will pay off in the end.” When talking about life, Kasey says that it is “unpredictable, so be willing to move with it wherever it takes you and have fun along the way.”

Alum Profile: Tom Borthwick (’05)

Profile by Jillian Gratz (’18)


Tom Borthwick found English to be an amazing major and life pursuit. Now a teacher at Riverside School District, an adjunct professor at Marywood, and published short story writer, Tom reflects on his major and the opportunities it has given him with fond memories and a love for the literary way of life.

“English prepares you for anything in life,” Tom believes. “It encompasses philosophy, history, and psychology.” Tom also strongly advocates and praises English for its ability to assist in critical thinking. He advises current English majors to “Read, read, read,” passionately professing that English majors are given the opportunity to read and encounter “innumerable perspectives from writers across the spectrum.” Tom believes that all English majors “are the thinkers and, perhaps more importantly, the artists and creators who are able to bring reason to disorder.” His belief in English and its ability to change people and the world is inspiring and hopeful.

Tom’s fondest memories of Marywood are many. From his time as the Editor-in-Chief of the Bayleaf, to all of the lifelong relationships forged with teachers and students, Tom remembers his time at Marywood as the experience that “helped shape me into the man and teacher that I am today.”

In his free time, Tom enjoys reading, writing, traveling, spending time with family, and many other ventures. His simplest enjoyment is “sitting on my porch with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) reflecting on life.”

When asked whether or not his desired career path changed after graduation, Tom stated that he “was lucky enough to get a teaching job immediately after graduation, and I’ve been in the field since.” Teaching is not a field he sees himself parting from. However, his dream job is that of travel writing. Tom has a passion for traveling that has taken him to “England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Croatia and, in particular, Italy.” On his travels, Tom was very inspired by the cultures of the countries he visited. “I’ve learned so much about other cultures and would love to share in the beauty of the places I’ve seen, the people I’ve met, and the history I’ve absorbed,” he reflects.

Within the many accomplishments Tom has accumulated, including completing the writing of his novel Flash Mob, marrying his wife Michelle, and many more, one new accomplishment stands out: “My son, Tom, was born two weeks ago.  Ushering him into the world is by far the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”

Tom is currently reading Sleeping Beauty by Ross MacDonald. “A few months back, I bought literally every book he wrote,” Tom notes, “and I’ve been plowing through them since!”

Dear New English Major (2017 edition)

This morning the students in our gateway course (ENGL 170: Introduction to Literature and Writing Studies) closed the semester by compiling some points of advice for next year’s class. They also enjoyed Devon’s homemade cake pops 🙂

Some highlights from our discussion are below:

  • Read. Do the reading. All of it. .
  • Don’t procrastinate. It’s not worth it. Get your stuff done. When you hear the birds chirping, it stops being fun.
  • Ask for help. If something is unclear or you don’t know the information, ask.
  • Try to take something out of every item on the syllabus. Even if you hate it, it’s on there for a reason.
  • Breathe. There’s no reason to hyperventilate.
  • Write every day in small and big ways. Be sure to develop your own voice.
  • Accept the views of others (re: literary analysis), even when they are not your own
  • Eat the cupcake.
  • It’s okay to be a nerd. You’ve found your tribe.
  • Don’t apologize unless you really should.
  • Sometimes the readings you don’t like have the most to teach you.
  • Look intently, think critically, and know your sources. This takes time. So see #2.
  • Even the most seemingly insignificant detail can change the way you read something.
  • Cake pops by prescription. Also Cheeze Balls.
  • Know your limits. Take breaks when you need to. Practice self care.
  • Write from your heart and edit from your head.
  • You know you’re in deep when you start laughing aloud at the Jane Austen memes.
  • Pet all the dogs.
  • Tears are not weakness.
  • May the force be with you. Also the course.

Peace out, friends!!  And when you’re done studying for finals, watch for the rest of this semester’s alumni profiles (crafted by our gateway students) right here on our blog.

Alum Profile: Trish Dickert-Nieves (’05)

Profile by Devon Davis (’18)


The Draw to English

Trish Dickert-Nieves started in the English program as a placeholder of sorts; she had to attend college, so beginning in the English program was an easy choice. Without any solid direction of what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, she studied for the sake of studying and for the sake of enjoyment without a “profession in mind.” She started taking classes in other majors that interested her, such as Philosophy and Criminal Justice, and this dabbling eventually earned her enough credits to result in a Philosophy minor. She tried many different classes and spoke of her time at Marywood as seemingly transformative and pivotal in how she would later connect with others in her community. She reminisced, “I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I loved the conversation I was having, and that alone was changing my world.” Looking back on her time spent at Marywood and of the more gratifying experiences, she recalled managing to balance such a heavy course load. She attributes her wide range of skills today to the diverse and numerous classes she had as an undergrad, claiming, “If I just focused on one thing, I’d probably end up in a different position then I am now”.

Terra Preta: Live Well, Eat Well

The professors of Marywood, more than anyone else, she cites as creating an environment where “there never once was a time where I felt too overwhelmed to really focus on myself and learn new things.” Being able to branch out and try multiple routes was made possible by the support of the Marywood community.

After graduation, fresh from the support of this tight-knit community, Trish fell ill for some time and started to focus on eating and living healthy. As she recovered, her father was looking into opening another restaurant in Scranton, and Trish took the opportunity to inspire her father to look into health food. Though it was never her intention to become involved in the restaurant business, she “ended up falling in love with the idea and visualizing and creating it,” so her father handed over the reigns, and Terra Preta was born. Conceptually, Terra Preta started out as a wellness center with a small health food element, but today Trish can’t imagine a world without Terra Preta the restaurant. She feels nothing but love for the restaurant that has opened so many doors. “We are able to use it as a vessel to reach out to the community and nonprofits, collaborating with different partnerships,” she explains.

Community Work

While also being her biggest source of pride, Terra Preta is also how both Trish and her husband reach out to the community. They have worked with Catholic Social Services and the University of Scranton’s campus ministry office to reach out to refugees from Syria relocated to our area. Trish and her husband have the refugees create a menu from their home country, and they make the food for them in an effort to reconnect the refugees with homes they have left. Other organizations they work with through both fundraisers and collaboration include the Rainbow Alliance, The Women’s Resource Center, and Pennsylvania For Sustainable Agriculture. She credits Marywood with her ability to reach out to all of these organizations. “It’s a little bit of everything, which seems to go back to my studies,” she continues, “the broad range that I was able to cultivate while I was in school … I was then able to put in practice [here].”

Though most of her time is spent at the restaurant and working with the community, the small spare moments she gets are spent with family, her dog Rocky, and an unwavering dedication to staying healthy. She wished she had more time for creative pursuits and physical activities like yoga, dancing, and hula-hooping, but she stressed that spending time with family is “the most important thing” to do in almost non-existent spare time.

Advice for Undergrads?

Trish gave these bits of advice to current and future students of the English program: “Be aware of your time management,” “Leave time for social activities,”and “Get involved in activities on campus.” A former commuter, Trish regrets not being a bit more active with campus activities, as she advises students to “make sure you have time to enjoy [school].”

Senior Seminar Night, 2017 Edition

Please join us in celebrating many of our graduating seniors on Tuesday, May 9 from 6-8p in the Swartz Center (adjoining Loughran Hall). Students enrolled in our Senior Seminar (ENGL 495) will be presenting their capstone research projects to faculty, friends, and family.

Abstracts of the students’ research are included below, for your reading pleasure.

Image result for book cover watchmenImage result for book cover rupi kaurImage result for book cover watership downImage result for book cover harry potter

Alicia Belch

 Fostering Empathy through Modern Intersectional Poets Dean Atta and Rupi Kaur

To live responsibly in an interdependent world, empathy surely tops the list as a necessary quality a student must possess. By teaching modern poets who are multicultural or have aspects of intersectionality—the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as   race, class, and gender—within the formal education system, students and teachers alike would be able to unveil the inherent value of poetry within contemporary society. Fostering empathy through modern intersectional poetry within formal education system will help to alleviate the current social and racial tensions within the United States, as well as work to promote abstract and critical thinking. For example, Dean Atta, a homosexual black artist in his early thirties, and Rupi Kaur, an Indian-Canadian 24-year-old “Instapoet” are two modern intersectional poets that students should study in order to spark discussion on the current issues of gender identification, sexuality, body-shaming, violence, racism, and love in the twenty-first century.

Through their strong messages of cultural and sexual acceptance, Atta’s collection, I Am Nobody’s Nigger, along with Kaur’s collection, Milk and Honey, inspire readers to connect emotion and meaning to modern day issues. Therefore, these poets deserve their place in the standard curricula alongside traditional poets so that students may be equipped with enough empathy and understanding to enter into “the real world” with a love for diversity and variety of life. Especially with the current refugee crises here in the United States, and an increase in violence against and objectification of women, incorporating modern poetry that is relevant to students’ lives is extremely important for molding future social justice advocates and critical thinkers who can solve problems with an empathic mind.

Thomas A. Collins

Warren Peace: Leadership, Utopian Society, and the Hare Apparent in Watership Down

A warren, the underground home of rabbits serves as a sanctuary hidden from the potential threats of the natural world. Above ground, rabbits have many things to fear, a slew of predators eager to become the cause of their demise, one thousand enemies in fact, if the myth of the legendary rabbit El-ahrairah is to be believed. Animals, when injected into a fantastic world such as a fantasy novel, become far more than ordinary creatures. British author Richard Adams’ masterwork Watership Down magically teleports the reader to a fantasy world of displaced rabbits who seek a warren in which they can fully participate, while simultaneously offering invaluable lessons of inclusive community and a universal leadership model through the trials and tribulations of a fictional society in search of collective happiness.

From the violent world of Tolkien, to the looking glass of C. S. Lewis, fantasy novels mirror the export of consciousness that humans absorb during dreams as readers seek respite from their less extraordinary waking world. Whether based upon dreams, or the resultant nightmares, fantasy novels are engrained in society’s exploration of who they are and who they wish to become. Dreams, like the fantasy novels, have an uncanny way of rapping on the door of our subconscious, offering alternative imaginings to supplement the reality of human existence. Keeping in mind Albus Dumbledore’s advice to young Harry Potter “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” the correct approach to exploring the world of a fantasy novel is a careful one. Therefore, what lies ahead is not an exposition on dreams but an invitation to explore leadership within the incredible nonexistent boundaries of the fantasy genre.

Amanda Duncklee

Who Saw the Monsters? An Analysis of Perspective in Late Victorian Horror Novels

If seeing is believing, what happens when we cannot see, yet are expected to believe? In Victorian horror/gothic novels Dracula by Bram Stoker and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, there is no omniscient third person narrator who tells us exactly what is happening in the works; instead, multiple characters within the texts give their accounts of the action. The characters experience evil firsthand and embark on tremendous adventures to combat horror while the audience sits outside the pages, anxiously reading the lines from the characters’ perspectives. We read chilling accounts of the supernatural Dracula’s plans to create more vampires and puzzling observations of Dr. Jekyll’s duality of character; yet, due to the lack of omniscience, we readers are removed from the stories and must challenge ourselves to seek truth within the narratives.

Only through letters, telegrams, diary entries, and oral storytelling do the characters in these novels give their versions of what occurs in their respective worlds. The multiple communication media and the lack of omniscience resulting from the various narrators adds another layer of mystery to these works. Readers can read the story, but they are removed from the events due to the shifting perspectives and must constantly question the accounts they are given. In this paper, I will examine how this unorthodox use of perspective in Dracula and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde challenges the readers to pay close attention to the text in order to determine the truth of the action as well as how the authors’ use of perspective contributes to the horror and mystery of these works. 

Sally Jellock

 Harry’s Heroines: How the Female Character in the Harry Potter Series Nurture and Shape His Identity

The story of Harry Potter depicts the harrowing journey of a child on his discovery to find out who he is and where he belongs. Throughout seven novels, readers of all ages can experience the happiness, the sadness, and the terror surrounding the life of Harry Potter. Along with Harry, readers can attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; they can communicate spells and interact with fantastic beasts. However, Harry would not have been able to succeed if it was not for the role of women throughout these novels; these characters help Harry to succeed in a way that he might not have discovered on his own. Because of these women, Harry is able to learn what love is and experience the idea of family like he is never known before.  In a story about a motherless hero, I will explore how the author, J.K. Rowling, includes women in Harry’s life that help nurture and shape his identity, allowing him to become one of the greatest wizards of Wizarding World.

Dave Kruman

All for One, One for All: Why the Three Musketeers Still Stick Together

The Three Musketeers was published in 1844.  The Three Musketeers revolves around three of King Louis XIII’s guards and one young man aspiring to join their ranks. D’Artagnan, the lead character in The Three Musketeers, is interesting to the readers because he is not one of the three musketeers that the novel was named after.  D’Artagnan’s character grows from the beginning of the novel as a young, Gascon to an admired and loyal guard of the King.  The character is talked at with a lack of respect from his peers because of where he is from, how much money he has, and his age.  D’Artagnan challenges his early labels by his own development throughout the course of the novel.  As a reader, I question, why is it that the novel is named after three supporting characters instead of the lead?  These characters, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, will prove to be equally important characters for D’Artagnan, allowing the reader to further understand the protagonist and his rise to becoming a hero.  The very concept of overcoming social status is the force which motivates d’Artagnan to rely on his three friends.

The novel is set in the 1630’s in France, a time where the common people were confused about who the true ruler of the country was; King Louis XIII or Cardinal Richelieu. This heroic tale is set to take place over two hundred years before the novel was published.  The novel is a period piece, sharing with the reader a criticism of France in these revolutionary times.  Dumas places himself in the novel by recreating d’Artagnan as a hero with finite abilities.  Much like d’Artagnan, Dumas himself had to persevere social oppression in order to achieve the success he met in life.  After looking deeply into the characters, their position in society, and Dumas’ own personal experience, the reader will then be able to understand why this story has been adapted into twenty-four movies and a television series.  Through a close reading of the novel, I will prove that even great heroes need help, especially if they are rising from nothing.

Maria Lawrence

The Superhuman Power of the Written Word in Watchmen

Allow me to take you back to the year 1985, to an alternate world where Richard Nixon has remained president, tensions between the United States and Russia are at an all-time high, and superheroes are real. In the comic series Watchmen, costumed crime fighters exist but are unappreciated, unwanted, and forced into retirement. Writer Alan Moore’s fictional universe—crawling with crime and corruption, its people full of fear and frustration—is not so unlike our own.

Each character’s life is overwhelmed by media, which is a feeling our society knows too well. The news plays on every television, graffiti decorates the streets, and newspapers litter the sidewalks. This relentless exposure to media affects characters and readers alike, with each medium creating its own consequences. Readers are allowed into the heads of the characters through various means including journal entries, psychiatric notes, and an autobiography. There is even the opportunity to read another comic within the story alongside the character of a little boy. This comic parallels Watchmen’s world, which in return parallels our world.

In this paper I will discuss the impact literature and the media have on society in Watchmen, and how relevant this is to our society today. These institutions have the potential to educate and enlighten, yet they also alter the ways in which we perceive the world around us. I will argue that by providing insight into all of these different forms of media, Moore shows us how much control they have over our actions, and how greatly influenced we are by our exposure to them.

Jessie Linde

It May be Scary, but It’s Reality: A Discussion about Mature and Dark Children’s Literature

Not all children’s books are filled with thought provoking themes and pictures of knives. Fortunately, there are some children’s writers who are incorporating mature subjects within their books because they want to expose their young readers to the harsh reality of the real world. Writers Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman are known for writing books that contain more mature content which they present to their readers by using dark humor to make their readers comfortable with bad figures who commit awful acts, but also provide good figures to guide the child along the way.

For my paper, I will look at Dahl’s The Witches which is about a little boy and his grandma who work together to eliminate all of the witches in England, who are, simultaneously, trying to eradicate all of the children in England. Additionally, I will be looking at his well-known book Matilda about a young girl with secret powers, who is neglected by her parents, chastised by her cruel principal, but adored by her teacher who helps to further her intellect. I will also look at Gaiman’s Coraline which follows a young girl as she tries to discover herself and the “other world” she finds hidden behind a door in her drawing room. Further, I will also discuss Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which follows Nobody “Bod” Owens, a boy whose family was murdered by the man Jack, and his life in a graveyard being raised by ghosts as he is hunted down by the man Jack. Through these works, I will discuss how previous literary critics highlight the values or lessons and dark humor that both Dahl and Gaiman use in their work. However, they fail to underscore who teaches these lessons. Therefore, I will show how Dahl and Gaiman write about mature subjects that pertain to the adult world by using dark humor to allow their readers to be comfortable with the bad figures presented, but are ultimately guided by good figures who shows the readers hope.

Rose Mrdjenovic

Textiles and Talking: Heroines in the Work of Diana Wynne Jones

Heroes venture out on journeys; they are called to greatness and face great evil. They do not weave while there is action going on, or read books while their friend travels the globe, or sew while talking to inanimate objects, as the heroines in the novels of Diana Wynne Jones do. Heroes are supposed to be people such as Hercules, Odysseus, or Superman. They face danger after danger on their harrowing journeys. Heroes aren’t supposed to be Odysseus’s wife Penelope, beset by dozens of suitors who assume her husband is dead. Penelope weaves every day and unravels her work each night to delay them. She doesn’t go out and have a journey and she doesn’t slay any monsters, but during those ten years, Penelope remains constant. She uses her own guile and wit to trick over one hundred men.

The traditional image of the hero roughly conforms to the picture Homer paints. However, the heroines presented in the work of the British fantasy novelist Diana Wynne Jones suggest a different female hero, one modeled after characters like Penelope. Throughout her works, we see heroines who save the world and those important to them without following the traditional hero’s journey—they do great feats through feminine qualities and women’s work. These heroines stay in one place, they weave fabric, they sew and talk. Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle, Tanaqui in The Dalemark Quartet, and Polly in Fire and Hemlock all use traditionally feminine modes in their acts of heroism. I argue that Diana Wynne Jones defines a new kind of hero for female characters, who do not follow the traditional hero’s journey and have female characteristics that are essential to their heroism.

Cathrine Owens

Who are we? Where are we? Redefining the American Literature Canon World Wide

The classic American poem “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman begins, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (Section 1). At first this seems shockingly egotistical, but the last line softens that with an idea that is central to American culture: we are all ourselves, but we must be ourselves together. One way to represent this value is through American literature. To read the works of a country is to experience its people, its past, and its values. For students living in America, this is should be another layer on their greater understanding of the place in which they live. For students around the world, however, exposure to American literature can be crucial to their overall knowledge of the culture of the United States and how that culture interacts with, conflicts, and enlightens their own

In exploring the idea of what American literature stands to represent, I will examine the state of the debate surrounding the American literature canon, what purpose it serves, and how educators reconcile that when planning what to teach. This will culminate in an exploration of one foreign country, Poland in this case, and how American literature can be used to enlighten a country that is currently embarking on a journey that has litered America’s past; Europe is becoming a place to immigrate to instead of from. All of this goes to show that while we may be seperated by time and distance from works of literature, they have a way of uniting us, even those outside the states.

Aaron Riley

Destiny or Not? The Debate of Fate versus Free Will in Shakespeare’s                 Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear

A man is on trial for attacking another man. The defense attorney explains how the man was bound by fate to harm the other man and cannot be held responsible for something he had no control over. However, the prosecutor explains that the man was not bound by fate and was in full control of his actions. Who is right? Fate has long since been accepted as being the definitive guiding force of the world, yet that has since become challenged by the emergence of free will. Many writers have debated as to which principle is the true guide of human life, and Shakespeare is no exception. He has explored both through his many plays. These works, in particular the tragedies, all display aspects of fate and free will in some way or another. The tragedies all share common elements, such as the tragic and brutal deaths of their characters and fearsome struggles for power, both for political and personal reasons. These elements and their implementations have led to many scholars debating whether or not these actions are predetermined or caused by the willful intentions of their doers.

That is what will be the focus of my analysis. The three tragedies I will use for this analysis will be the tragedies King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet. These tragedies were selected because of their similar elements, all dealing with the debate of fate versus free will, and contain characters that have traits debated for each side of fate versus free will. For this analysis, I will examine several aspects of the plays in order to establish that Shakespeare is saying how free will is the true guiding principle of life and that fate is merely limited to determining the ultimate end of everyone. In order to support this point, I will draw attention to several of the tragedies’ aspects, such as the portrayal of astrology, the changes that occur in the main characters and the use of supernatural elements. I will use these in order to prove how free will reigns supreme in Shakespeare’s works.

Emily Roche

“A Cinderella Story”: The History of Fairy Tales and How We Perceive Them

If I asked you to think of the story of Cinderella, the first image that comes to mind is likely that of a beautiful, young blonde girl in a pale blue dress. As most people are aware, this is an image of the fairy tale’s usual main protagonist that comes directly from Walt Disney’s first ever adaptation of the tale from 1950. But what most people do not know is where the story came from and why this piece of fairy tale history has stuck around so long, there is a lot more to be gained from “Cinderella” when you look beyond the image Disney has built up over the last 67 years. Had you have been born in a different time or place, you might have known the character as someone quite different: Ye Xian, Cendrillon, or maybe even Aschenputtel, to name just a few.

In my paper, I will look closely at two different variations of “Cinderella” to show why a deeper appreciation for the fairy tale is needed in a world where the tale is still as popular as ever. The first of these two “Cinderella” stories is one of the earliest known variations of the tale that comes from ninth century China, and the second is a later, more well-known European variation from Charles Perrault; the variation that inspired Disney’s groundbreaking adaptation. Looking at these two variations is important to understand the “Cinderella” story as a more diverse, cultural tale, and as a tale with universal messages that have driven the story’s popularity for many, many years. By doing so, we can not only gain a deeper appreciation, but we can better understand our own society today and identify how a little bit of magic can connect us all.

Alum Profile: Megan McDonnell (’15)

Profile by Nicole Sobolewski (’20)


Current occupation

Megan McDonnell is currently a graduate student at Marywood, working on her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. After graduating Marywood with an English and Spanish degree, Megan was “unsure what to pursue.” Having no idea what to do, she took a Focus 2 test to see where she would work best. After realizing she belongs in a psychology field, she decided to get a master’s degree. She recognized that this degree can potentially allow her to get a job that can someday help “save someone’s life,” which brought her great joy.

How an English major helped her succeed

English has helped Megan prepare for her master’s degree. It has allowed her to “think critically and write effectively.” Having been consistently reading, writing, and developing ideas as an undergraduate student, Megan developed the skills she now needs for her degree.

Best part about getting a master’s degree

The best part about getting a master’s degree is the ability to “learn so much about one topic.” Megan is constantly learning about her field, even outside of school. She is able to apply her school material to the outside world. In addition, it is amazing to have other students who “love the discipline” and have the ability to see “professors conducting research.”

Advice to current English majors

Megan advises students to “get involved as much as possible.” In college, “you only get out what you put in.” Although this sounds a bit clichéd, it is true. “Opportunities will not present themselves unless you seek them out,” she notes. Furthermore, Megan advises students to take the Literary Criticism and Theory class. Megan considered this class to be a “boot camp for English majors.” The class has taught her strong analysis skills that she uses to this day.

Life outside school

By the age of twenty-two, Megan had written her own novel. However, since she is currently concentrating on her master’s degree, she hasn’t had time to publish it. Eight agents are interested in her novel, and she hopes one day to do so. In addition, Megan works for Crisis Text Line. This text line allows individuals to seek help through a “less personal communication” process. Megan has already helped many, and she hopes to keep helping others.

Greatest personal accomplishment

Megan’s most memorable achievement was the moment she received her college diploma. Megan had many doubts about the career path she should take, constantly changing her mind. At one point, she took three semesters off to try to figure out what to do. So when Megan finally graduated, she was “happy to see the diploma, especially since it was worth so much.” She was proud of herself for succeeding.