Senior Seminar Presentations: Focus on Flannery O’Connor

Posted December 5, 2014 by Janine Utell
Categories: Course Information, News, Professoring

Tags: , , ,

This past Wednesday we were treated to an annual highlight of the end of the fall semester:  English major Senior Seminar presentations.  Professor Mark Graybill led this year’s seminar focused on Flannery O’Connor.  The work of the seminar kicked off with Professor Graybill’s lecture on disease and disability in O’Connor’s fiction, and

Taylor Brown introduces the seniors

Taylor Brown introduces the seniors

culminated with a panel of short talks from each student representing deep engagement with and original scholarly work on the author.  Class of 2017 English major Taylor Brown introduced the panelists, and each spoke on topics from race in O’Connor to intertextuality with The Sopranos.  See below for a complete list of topics — we are very proud of the range and rigor of work shown here!

Autumn Heisler, O’Connor’s “Complete Fragmentation”:  Characters Searching for Self through their Doubles

Rebecca Gelwan, Decoding O’Connor’s Attitudes on Race

Emily DeFreitas, “Unscathed by the City Interleckchuls”:  O’Connor and Her Intellectual Characters

Paul Madigosky, Satirizing Chronic Naivete:  O’Connor and Voltaire

Maria Klecko, “Torture the Women”:  Alfred Hitchcock and Flannery O’Connor

Graham Gifford, O’Connor Gives Chase:  “The Enduring Chill” and The Sopranos

Seniors field questions on their scholarship

Seniors field questions on their scholarship

Click here for a story on last year’s Senior Seminar presentations on William Wordsworth.

Jim Esch and Randall Brown Read in the State Street Series

Posted November 25, 2014 by Janine Utell
Categories: News

Tags: , , ,

Last week Jim Esch and Randall Brown performed in the second round of the State Street Reading Series at the Media Arts Center.  Esch read a short story entitled “Zig Zag,” and Brown read a selection of flash fiction.

Esch has received some recognition in recent months for his collaboration with Ken Pobo in the publication of Pobo’s most recent book, When the Light Turns Green, which came out with Esch’s Spruce Alley Press.  (Read a story about this project on the Widener website here.)  Esch’s work has appeared in a number of venues, including Martian Lit (read his story “Big Deal” here) and Stoneslide Corrective (read his story “Warning Light” here).

Randall Brown teaches Creative Writing at Rosemont College and blogs at  Pieces appearing recently online include “Origin” in Fiction Southeast and “We’ll Be Doing This Forever” at Spork Press.

Come to the Media Arts Center in January for the next round of readings:  January 15, 7pm.

And:  we’d like to take this opportunity to share that Widener English now has a YouTube playlist!  Check it out:




Malala Yousafzai Receives 2014 Liberty Medal

Posted November 10, 2014 by Janine Utell
Categories: News

Tags: , , , ,

by Jennifer Rohrbach

(Editor’s note: Jennifer, a first-year English major, had the opportunity to attend the Liberty Medal ceremony in Philadelphia honoring Malala Yousafzai, and shares her thoughts here.  Thanks, Jennifer!)

Malala Yousafzai has become a household name within the last decade since the young Pakistani woman began her journey, one that would spark a movement in women’s rights and the right to education. I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 Liberty Medal Ceremony in Philadelphia, where Malala Yousafzai became its youngest recipient ever. The ceremony was attended by diplomats, political officials, and various other public figures. Across the aisle sat a section of schoolchildren, and behind them sat students from universities all over the East Coast. Cheers erupted from the crowd as Malala joined other important speakers on the stage, such as Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Susan Corbett, and Minnijean Brown Trickey of the Little Rock Nine.

17-Year-Old Pakistani Activist Malala Yousafzai Receives Liberty Medal; image courtesy of Getty Images

17-Year-Old Pakistani Activist Malala Yousafzai Receives Liberty Medal; image courtesy of Getty Images

Malala was chosen as the 26th recipient of the Liberty Medal—an honor shared by Hilary Clinton, Muhammad Ali, and former president Jimmy Carter—for her “continued demonstration of courage and resilience in the face of adversity and for serving as a powerful voice for those who have been denied their basic human rights and liberties.” Malala follows 6 previous recipients of the Liberty Medal who have also subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize. At 17 years old, she is the youngest recipient of both awards.

Malala grew up in Mingora located in the Swat District of Pakistan. In 2009, she began writing anonymously for a BBC blog about her life under Taliban rule. She was, and remains, a consequential advocate for the right to education and equality for women. However, the progressive views of Malala and her father, who also advocated for right to education, made Malala a target. In 2012 she was shot by the Taliban in an attempt to silence her influence. She was sent to a hospital in the United Kingdom where she made a miraculous recovery.

However, this incident is not the only reason Malala has inspired millions to join her campaign. Despite threats and attempts on her life, Malala continues to fight for childhood education and especially for girls’ rights to education. Her portrait hangs outside our own Kapelski Learning Center, and her activism exposes the inequality of basic human rights in other countries that we, as Americans, often take for granted. “I speak for those without a voice, I speak for girls who have been persecuted,” said Yousafzai to a room of 1,400 teachers, politicians, students, and everything in between. The audience applauded and cheered as she accepted the 2014 Liberty Medal and closed the evening with her famous statement: “One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.”

(Editor’s note:  You can watch Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel speech here.)


Disease and Disability in Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction: A Talk by Professor Graybill

Posted November 5, 2014 by Janine Utell
Categories: News, Professoring

Tags: , , ,

Our own Professor Graybill delivered the English Department Fall Faculty Lecture on October 23.  The lecture, “Disease and Disability in Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction,” offered critical and biographical insight into

Professor Graybill talks with Senior Seminar students Autumn Heisler and Maria Klecko

Professor Graybill talks with Senior Seminar students Autumn Heisler and Maria Klecko

illness and artistic vision in some of the author’s best-known stories.  Read all about it in What’s Up @ Widener (story appears on page 5).

Lone Brick Opens Lysistrata This Weekend

Posted November 5, 2014 by Janine Utell
Categories: English Club Cool Stuff, News, Upcoming Events

Tags: ,

Come out for Lone Brick Theatre’s production of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata this weekend!  Widener’s student theater company puts a burlesque twist on this ancient comedy.  The play runs November 7, 8, and 9 at 10624728_648365501948085_715602549659076924_n8pm.  Visit the Facebook page for more info on the event, and read a press release here.

Career Advice from Widener English Alums

Posted November 2, 2014 by Janine Utell
Categories: Careers, English Club Cool Stuff, Internships, Ruminations

Tags: , , , ,

“Be flexible.  Be versatile.”

“Just say yes.”

“Get involved.”

“Know that there are lots of different paths:  ask yourself, where do I see myself?”

These pieces of advice, and so much more, were on offer from two Widener English alums:  Ashley Babcock, Director of the Writing Center at Montgomery College, and Emma Ricciardi, a final-year grad student in Library Science at Rutgers and a former intern at the Library Company of Philadelphia.  Ashley and Emma took time from their busy schedules to visit campus last week and share stories about and strategies for building a career with an English major.

What skills from that English major did these successful alums highlight?  They include:

  • editing
  • critical thinking and analytical skills
  • independent thinking
  • managing information
  • being able to read people and situations
  • writing
  • being able to defend ideas
  • listening well to others

Ashley began by tracing her path from English and Creative Writing major to full-time faculty member at the Art Institute in Washington, DC, to a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership, to a position combining faculty work and administration.  A major theme that emerged from her story was the importance of saying yes to opportunities that allow for the demonstration of flexibility, initiative, and drive.  She also highlighted the need to balance setting clear goals with being willing to change course and follow the unexpected.  Her current work in qualitative education research allows her to draw on her background as an English major especially in the use of narrative inquiry, and she is envisioning developing a new phase of her career publishing that research and teaching courses in higher ed leadership.

Emma described knowing from early on what she wanted to do:  develop a career as an archivist by gathering up as much different experience in the field as possible.  Key ideas from Emma’s story included being versatile, and seeking out experiences and opportunities that let you develop that versatility.  She suggests using every chance you can to train yourself to do and make new things, to show that you are both trainable and that you don’t need to be trained.  Emma made the excellent point that employers don’t want you to be able to do just one thing, and being able to learn new things quickly is the best quality a new member of the career force can have.

Both women highlighted the necessity of knowing all kinds of technology and tools:  social media, blogging, Excel (ESPECIALLY Excel!).  Both women stressed the importance of extracurricular involvement, even in interests outside the major:  these activities provide the chance to develop “soft skills” and expose you to a wide range of other enriching experiences that make you interesting and can lead to unforeseen opportunities.  They also give you a chance to be a leader.

And both women said majoring in English was invaluable for finding a job:  it is basically the universal sign to any employer that you can write, read, and think.  All in all, it was wonderful to see the success these alums have found after graduation, and we were grateful to them for sharing their wisdom.


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