Widener English

The English Department at Widener University

Daniel Robinson Honored with University Outstanding Researcher Award

We take the greatest pleasure in sharing the news that Professor Daniel Robinson has been honored with the University Outstanding Researcher Award.  Faithful readers of our blog will know that Professor Robinson has undertaken a robust and internationally-recognized research 9780199662128_450agenda on the poetry of the Romantic period, including his current project of editing a major new anthology on the subject for Bloomsbury.

Kim, Emma, Victoria, Bill, Amanda, and Jeannie in the reading room of the Jerwood Centre.
Kim, Taylor, Emma, Victoria, Bill, Amanda, and Jeannie in the reading room of the Jerwood Centre.

Professor Robinson has also involved students in his research through the program he has developed for Widener English in Textual Scholarship.  Undergraduates at Widener have a unique opportunity to work with original manuscripts at the Jerwood Centre in Grasmere, England, supported and advised by Professor Robinson.

This award is highly competitive, with nominees evaluated by a distinguished panel of outside reviewers.  We are incredibly proud of Professor Robinson, and grateful for all he does for our students!

Professor Robinson with students Ashley DiRienzo (l) and Taylor Brown (r) at the awards ceremony on Thursday night.
Professor Robinson with students Ashley DiRienzo (l) and Taylor Brown (r) at the awards ceremony on Thursday night.

Prizes and New Publications for Ken Pobo

We are beyond proud to announce a banner week for Professor Pobo!

  • Circling Rivers Press has accepted Loplop in a Red City, a collection of ekphrastic poems, due to be published in Spring 2017
  • Grey Borders has announced Professor Pobo as the winner of their Wanted Works chapbook contest; they will be publishing Dust and Chrysanthemums
  • Encircle Publications has announced they will be publishing Professor Pobo’s chapbook Calligraphy with Ball in March 2017

Congratulations, Professor Pobo!


Welcome Back and Happy Fall Semester!

Welcome back from Widener English and Creative Writing!

Our faculty and students had a busy summer traveling, writing, presenting, and publishing.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Daniel Robinson, along with senior English majors Ashley DiRienzo and Taylor Brown, presented at the Wordsworth Summer Conference in August
  • Janine Utell presented at a conference on Letters and Letter Writing at Oxford University
  • Michael Cocchiarale presented at a symposium in Chicago on sports and civic identity sponsored by the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature
  • Mark Graybill presented at the annual conference for the American Literature Association in San Francisco
  • Ken Pobo won the LGBTQ Flash Fiction Contest at Sweater Weather Magazine (read here!), and had work published at Quail Bell Magazine (read here!) and GFT Press (read here!), among others
  • Kelly Helm published a piece with the Naval Historical Foundation on Godzilla and the Bikini Atoll (read here!)

Now that the fall semester is up and running, make sure you add these dates to your calendar:

  • 9/14 at noon: Welcome Back Pizza Party for English/Creative Writing majors and minors in LC 339
  • 9/15 at 7pm: State Street Reading Series at the Media Arts Center Gallery
  • 9/21 at 4pm: Lecture by Martin Holt, visiting professor from Greifswald, Germany, in Freedom Hall Theater
  • 9/22 at 7pm: Open Mic (in honor of Susan Hastie) in LC 1
  • 9/26 at 3:30pm: Fall Faculty Lecture by Dr. Utell in UC Room G

Hope to see you out at these events!  Stop by and say hi, or get in touch with news!

Literature and the Environment and Linvalla

This is a guest post by Professor Tara Friedman, Senior Lecturer in English.  Professor Friedman is ABD at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; she teaches a wide range of courses in Widener’s English department, and specializes in American literature.  

On Tuesday, May 2, I had the opportunity to bring 32 students, all of whom were enrolled in English 124: Literature and Environment, to Linvilla Orchards thanks in part to a Faculty Mini-Grant. These students participated in a Hayride Tour geared toward the topics of sustainable agriculture, deep ecology, and the history of farming and its practices in Pennsylvania.


After the tour, students took part in a Q&A while making their own biodegradable lettuce pots and sampling apples and cider from the orchards. They were then asked to each write a 1-2-page SOA (Summary, Observation, and Analysis) essay connecting what they learned at Linvilla Orchards to our class. It was such a joy to have students engage with the natural world outside of the classroom and our course readings – they didn’t even mind the light drizzle!


Editor’s Note:

ENGL 124 is offered regularly in the fall and spring.  Here is the course description:

The literary imagination has depicted the natural world in varied ways—as untamed wilderness, pastoral ideal, scenic and sublime landscapes, and the damaged and threatened environment of industrialized society.  Whenever human impact on the non-human environment has changed, authors have continued re-imagining nature’s significance and rethinking relationships between environment, self, and society.  In this course, students explore how the natural environment gets mythologized, celebrated, altered, lost, lamented, and recovered in works of classic and contemporary literature.  The course investigates the work of nature writing as a genre—its common tropes, archetypes, and aesthetic strategies.  Students use literary interpretation as a lens for seeing and reflecting on a range of environmental issues such as sustainability, ecology, urbanization, pollution, overpopulation, consumerism, tourism, climate change, animal rights, and land stewardship.  They are also asked to situate their own experience of nature into environmental discourse.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

The second-to-last week of the spring semester is one of the most joyful and rewarding times of the academic year.  This is when we celebrate the academic excellence of our English and Creative Writing students, when we recognize the commitment, passion, and accomplishments of those students and their faculty.

On Wednesday, we gathered in the Drost Room of Wolfgram Library to hear senior Creative Writing majors (and a minor) read from their portfolios:  the culmination of a semester-long senior seminar, and of four years’ worth of writing and revising.  Megan Lewis read from a series of episodic flash fiction pieces, and Sierra Offutt read from the first chapter of her YA novel in progress.  Minor Monica Colwell (who is a Political Science major) read a creative nonfiction piece about a moving encounter with an Alzheimer’s patient.  The students were advised by Professor Ken Pobo, who opened the event with a generous introduction and facilitated a post-reading Q & A about the students’ aesthetics.

l-r: Professor Ken Pobo, Monica Colwell, Megan Lewis, Sierra Offutt
l-r: Professor Ken Pobo, Monica Colwell, Megan Lewis, Sierra Offutt

Then, on Thursday evening, Humanities faculty gathered with students and their families for the annual Humanities Awards Ceremony.  This wonderful event, organized by the Committee on Recruitment and Retention and the Office of the Associate Dean, recognizes students with majors in the Humanities Division who have achieved a cumulative average of 3.5 or higher.  Nicole Crossey, a double History/Political Science major, gave the Distinguished Graduating Senior remarks, sharing reflections on how the study of History can help us understand our own turbulent times.  The Featured Alumni Speaker, Daniel DiPrinzio (’00), offered humorous and generous comments on the possibilities Humanities students can look forward to after graduation.  DiPrinzio, who is Director of Communications at Arcadia University and the author of several books, is well-positioned to share thoughts on success.

We were also pleased to present the two special awards given at the Humanities Awards Ceremony:  the winner of this year’s Allison Roelofs Award, given to an excellent early-career English major, was Emma Irving, and the winner of this year’s inaugural Justinian Society Award, given to a Humanities senior who plans to attend law school, was Christopher Ross, a History major.

Dan DiPrinzio and senior English major Christian Scittina, who introduced our speaker
Dan DiPrinzio and senior English major Christian Scittina, who introduced our speaker
Emma Irving, recipient of this year’s Allison Roelofs Award, and Professor Michael Cocchiarale, Co-Director of Creative Writing and Chair of the Humanities Recruitment and Retention Committee

Finally, today we celebrate Student Project Day, the annual showcase of undergraduate research.  Students working with Professor Daniel Robinson in Textual Scholarship shared their study of the history, theory, and practice of textual editing, their work preparing a text of William Wordsworth’s two-part Prelude, and their time at the Wordsworth Trust over spring break.  The students closed their presentation by reflecting on how much their work in English and Creative Writing means to them — we couldn’t agree more!


Professor Robinson introduces the Textual Scholarship students
Professor Robinson introduces the Textual Scholarship students
l-r: Ashley DiRienzo, Kimberlee Roberts, Emma Irving, Victoria Giansante, Jeannie McGuire, Taylor Brown
l-r: Ashley DiRienzo, Kimberlee Roberts, Emma Irving, Victoria Giansante, Jeannie McGuire, Taylor Brown


Hot Pepper Shakespeare!

Come to the Drost Room on May 6 for Hot Pepper Shakespeare!

Not sure what it’s all about?  Check out these classically trained British Shakespearean actors try to recite some of the most amazing lines in all the English language…after eating entire handfuls of hot peppers.



Congratulations to Our Creative Writers!

We are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Mervin R. Lowe Prizes for Creative Writing:

  • Poetry:  “Handsewn,” by Jennifer Rohrbach
  • Fiction:  “Dirt,” by Katherine Rogan
  • Creative Nonfiction: “Hollow Bones,” by Jennifer Rohrbach

We would also like to extend special congratulations to Jennifer for the publication of her essay, “Cycle of Living in ‘Some Cool Heaven’,” at FlashFiction.Net, one of the premier venues for this genre.  Her Rohrbach Headshotthoughtful analysis of technique and symbolism in Emma Smith-Stevens’ flash fiction shows the kind of power the form can achieve in its compression and focus—and it shows the mind of a great critic at work.  Read Jennifer’s piece here.

In addition to her own writing, Jennifer devotes time to working as the Managing Editor for News for the Blue & Gold and as an editor for The Blue Route and Widener Ink literary journals.  Her previous post for Widener English shared her thoughts on attending the 2014 Liberty Medal ceremony in Philadelphia, where Malala Yousafzai was honored.

Ken Pobo: Reading on the Road for Poetry Spring

Our regular readers know that Widener English is home to an abundance of talent.  In addition to hosting distinguished visiting writers each semester, including our most recent guest Iain Haley Pollock, our own faculty are themselves distinguished visiting writers in other places.

This spring the University of Tennessee hosted Ken Pobo as part of their Poetry Spring.  In addition to reading from his own work, Professor Pobo shared his thoughts on the publishing of poetry, particularly the role of the chapbook.  Fans of Professor Pobo’s work are probably familiar with his chapbook, When the Light Turns Green, and he has won numerous chapbook awards, including the 2009 Main Street Rag Poetry Chapbook Contest, the 2011 Qarrtsiluni Poetry Chapbook Contest and the 2013 Eastern Point Press Chapbook Award.

You can experience Professor Pobo’s reading for yourself here.  And check out his newest publication:  “Cardboard Jeff,” in The Citron Review.

Ken Pobo reading at Poetry Spring at the University of Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Kallet.
Ken Pobo reading at Poetry Spring at the University of Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Kallet.


Congratulations to 2016 Sigma Tau Delta Inductees

Honors Week is a celebration of academic excellence at Widener, and always one of the high points of our spring semester.  As in years past, on Monday afternoon we held our induction ceremony for the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta (ably led by Professors Ken Pobo and Patricia Dyer).

We were pleased to welcome seven new students to Sigma Tau Delta:  Taylor Brown, Ashley DiRienzo, Evan Kramer, Jeannette McGuire, Kelsey Styles, Emma Irving, and Jennifer Rohrbach.

Sigma Tau Delta President Kimberlee Roberts was the keynote speaker.  Her themes were the importance of curiosity and finding a community of thinkers, writers, and scholars who support and share our curiosity.  She urged audience members to think of the English and Creative Writing major as a platform for finding and sharing their passion, and to see it as a place to find and give support for the identity we are all trying to forge through our love of literature and writing.  She called upon the inductees to “keep doing what you love,” a sentiment echoed by Professor Ken Pobo when he thanked Kimberlee for reminding us that we can find “joy in a common interest.”

This Friday don’t miss English major/Creative Writing minor Jen Rohrbach speak at noon in the Webb Room as part of Honors Week student presentations: her talk is entitled  “The Evolution of the Unreliable Narrator in The Bell Jar.”

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