Widener English

The English Department at Widener University

Dr. Robinson’s President’s Lecture

On Monday, April 17th, Dr. Daniel Robinson delivered the Spring President’s Lecture, “What is a Romantic Poet Anyway?:  Editing the Romantics.”  This lecture was open to the entire university community.

The Spring President’s Lecture is for the winner of the Faculty Award for Outstanding Researcher from the previous semester. This award is a University-wide award given to a faculty member, after a lengthy and rigorous peer review process, who demonstrates excellence in research and scholarship in their field, particularly if that work involves student research and scholarship.  This past Fall Dr. Robinson won this award.

Dr. Robinson devoted some of the lecture to orienting the audience to aspects of English literature about which they might not be familiar, which in this case regarded the Romantic period.  He also discussed the theory and methodology of textual scholarship, with a particular focus on Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley.  He says,

The Romantic Period is unique in literary history in that its parameters traditionally have been established by the lives, careers—indeed, the personalities—of six writers, all men, all English, all poets. For much of the twentieth century, academic study of British literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries has centered on two generations: the first generation—Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge—who lived too long, and the second generation—Byron, Shelley, Keats—who died too soon. Feminist literary studies of the 1970s and ’80s would challenge the masculine monoliths; by the end of the century Romanticists were involved in a massive recovery of writers very different from the so-called Big Six: women writers, working-class writers, and writers who lived beyond the borders of England and who wrote beyond the borders of poetry. However, now that the dust has settled, the evidence suggests that, while scholars, instructors, students of Romanticism know about many more writers than the Big Six, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats continue to be the most studied, most read, most beloved writers of the period. In this lecture, I will discuss the challenges, questions, and issues involved in my preparation of the first wholly new anthology of Romantic poetry to be produced taking into account this new landscape. I also will discuss the ways I have involved my students in conducting the textual research and in making the editorial decisions that will result in the publication of The Bloomsbury Anthology of Romantic Poetry next year.

Dr. Robinson is Homer C. Nearing Jr. Distinguished Professor of English; at Widener University he teaches courses on British Romanticism, poetry and poetic form, Milton, and the rise of the British novel. He also recently created a certificate in Textual Scholarship—the only such program for undergraduates in the country—during the completion of which students work on scholarly editions of literary works for publication. Dr. Robinson is co-editor of A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750–1850 (Oxford UP, 1999); Lyrical Ballads and Related Writings (Houghton Mifflin, 2001); and, most recently, The Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth (Oxford UP, 2015). He is the textual editor of Poems, The Works of Mary Robinson (2 vols, Pickering and Chatto, 2009) and author of Myself and Some Other Being: Wordsworth and the Life Writing (U of Iowa P, 2014), William Wordsworth’s Poetry: A Reader’s Guide (Bloomsbury, 2010) and The Poetry of Mary Robinson: Form and Fame (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). He also is series editor for Engagements with Literature (Routledge) and Bloomsbury Editions (Bloomsbury). He is currently working on The Bloomsbury Anthology of Romantic Poetry, a new edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and an innovative edition of Wordsworth and Coleridge—all of which involve the work of his Textual Scholarship students.


Lowe Creative Writing Prize Winners Announced!

Congratulations to this year’s winners of the Lowe Creative Writing Prizes in poetry, fiction, and drama:

Poetry:  “Sonnet for the Modern Soul,” Kelsey Styles

Fiction:  “In Dedication To…,” Taylor Blum

Drama:  “The Evening Shift,” Taylor Blum

(No prize was given for nonfiction this year.)

Ken Pobo’s New Chapbook: Calligraphy with Ball

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new chapbook by Professor Ken Pobo:  Calligraphy with Ball.  Calligraphy with Ball, published by Encircle Publications, was a finalist in that press’s Annual Chapbook Contest.

UPDATED TO ADD: Read a brilliant review of another of Professor Pobo’s forthcoming titles, Loplop in a Red City, a collection of ekphrastic poems, here.

Congratulations, Professor Pobo!  Here’s a sample (and you can buy a copy here):


I dash back the long path
over 700 years. Would Botox
hide how dead I look? Your world

is crummier than mine despite
Emperors who kept me hopping.
Tu Fu told me he visited last year.
When you arrive, try
the tanning salon. It’s strange.

He’s never steered me wrong—
while in the bed I remember a night
I spent alone on a mountain
with the moon. Or
was I on the moon dreaming

of a mountain? I’m pretty
sure I was crocked and
in love. With everything from
a grass blade to a ripple.
Not many open areas here—

mostly drug stores, fast food
joints, and parking lots.
This tan will surprise
the ghosts back in China.
I’ll send you a poem. By

the time you get it, you’ll
be dead too. No problem.
Poems travel forever.

Distinguished Visiting Writer: Christine Butterworth-McDermott

This past Wednesday, poet Christine Butterworth-McDermott gave a reading at Widener.  Butterworth-McDermott, who teaches at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, is this spring’s Distinguished Visiting Writer.  She is the author of the collection Woods & Water, Wolves & Women, and has published a chapbook, Tales on Tales:  Sestinas.  You can read some of her poetry here.

English and Creative Writing junior Jennifer Rohrbach gave the introduction; we’ll let her take it from here:

Christine Butterworth-McDermott is a master of transformation. In her book of poetry, Woods & Water, Wolves & Women, she transforms fantastic tales into anecdotal quips that comment on the humanity in the supernatural, the extraordinary in the everyday. She reveals new sides of characters we know and love, and gives voice to characters from whom we’ve never heard: the Ogre’s wife, the Frog Prince’s secret lover, the Prince Charming of shoe-makers. Her fairy-tale characters could pass for a next-door neighbor. In the poem “Snow Speaks,” Snow White says, “Let me tell you what I’ve learned. ‘You don’t know / what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’ and all that crap / happens to be true, especially when you wind up / the housemaid for seven tiny men / whose bathroom etiquette leaves much to be desired” (1-5, p. 19).

Butterworth-McDermott’s literary charm has earned her poetry and fiction spots in many journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Bellowing Ark, Cabinet de Fees, California Quarterly, Magazine of Speculative Poetry, North Atlantic Review, Portland Review, RATTLE, and Tales of the Unanticipated. She also teaches poetry, literature, and fairy-tales as an Associate Professor of English at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas. In addition, she is the poetry editor of the literary journal REAL and the founder and co-editor of the literary magazine, Gingerbread House, which publishes quality poetry and fiction with magical elements. In 2010, her chapbook Tales on Tales: Sestinas, was published by Finishing Line Press, followed by Woods & Water, Wolves & Women, published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in 2011.

Perhaps one of the most important things about her work is that it is accessible. Her poetry, while maintaining a high literary quality, is fun. It’s exciting. It’s inviting. And yes, sometimes it’s sad. In the poem “Rose,” Briar Rose laments her inability to have children after her cursed sleep. “In this war of my own,” she says, “nothing accounts / for bleeding, some endless punishment / for stopping blood and breath with / a spindle’s prick—that hundred years / of aborted life claims this payback” (26).

Growing up as a lover of Disney movies, it never occurred to me to wonder what happens after the happily ever after. What do the prince and princess say to one another after they ride off into the sunset? What happens to those left behind? Of course, I was like 5 when those movies came out, so I wasn’t exactly thinking analytically. It seems perfect, then, that we get to read these poems, experience these tales again, as adults. It gives us the opportunity to become re-enchanted with the stories we once loved, but to bring our own realities to the myths. Christine Butterworth-McDermott is a master of transformation, not only of fairy-tales and the fantastic, but of our means of perception. And through her work, tales as old as time become new.


Reading for Unity at Widener

On Saturday, April 1, Widener students gathered with undergraduate writers from other colleges in the Philadelphia region to read works inspired by the call for social justice and the power of writing.

Dr. Ken Pobo performed some of his original poetry as the keynote.  The full program was:

Iyanna Rosado, Widener University, “What Does an Illegal Immigrant Look Like?” by Christy Namee Eriksen

Maya Arthur, University of Pennsylvania, Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

Andrew Nguyen, Haverford College, “where you are planted” by Evie Shockley and “Ka ‘Ba” by Amiri Baraka

Kelsey Styles, Widener University, “Mimesis” and “Scarecrow” by Fady Joudah and “Things that Have Been Lost” and “Wildpeace” by Yehuda Amichai

Jennifer Rohrbach, Widener University, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Michaela Kotziers, University of Pennsylvania, “Poetry is Not a Luxury” by Audre Lord

Jasmine Kouyate, Widener University, “Dancing with Strom” by Nikky Finney

Natalie Kawam, Bryn Mawr College, the Nobel Lecture of Toni Morrison

Photos courtesy of Professor Michael Cocchiarale

Save the Dates: English and Creative Writing Events

The next few weeks are BUSY here at Widener English and Creative Writing.  Save the dates!

  • The Reading for Unity is being held tomorrow, Saturday, April 1, at 2pm in the Webb Room in University Center.  Widener students along with undergraduate writers from other colleges in the Philly region read works inspired by the call for social justice.
  • The Distinguished Visiting Writer, poet Christine Butterworth-McDermott, will be reading Wednesday, April 5, at 4pm in LC 1.
  • Dr. Daniel Robinson will be giving this spring’s President’s Lecture on his scholarship in the editing of Romantic-period texts.  This takes place on Monday, April 17 at noon in Lathem Hall.
  • The Creative Writing Senior Seminar reading will take place on Thursday, April 20 at 4pm in the Drost Room of the Library.  Kelsey Styles, Evan Kramer, David Kelly, and Aly Amato will be reading their original work.
  • Our annual Humanities Award ceremony will take place on Thursday, April 27—we will be recognizing the winner of the Roelofs Award at this event, as well as our first recipient of the Hastie Award.
  • The final reading for the 2016–2017 season of the State Street Series will take place on May 18 at 7pm in the Media Arts Gallery.  Come here the work of Sham-e Ali Nayeem and Curtis Smith.

    Carla Spataro performing at the March State Street Reading
Rahul Mehta performing at the March State Street Reading

English and Creative Writing Celebrate Honors Week

This week is Honors Week at Widener—our annual celebration of academic excellence.  Every year, we kick off the festivities with the induction of new members into Sigma Tau Delta.  This year, six new members were inducted:  Michael Brant, Dana Schweizer, Carlie Sisco, Taylor Blum, Nicholas Demkin, and Haley Poluchuk.

The keynote was delivered by Chapter Vice President Taylor Brown.  Her remarks were a stirring call to action for students in English and Creative Writing, and the humanities more broadly.  She said that those who love literature have found “the code for honest, loving, fulfilled lives,” and that we have a responsibility to show the value of what we know and love about literature, to be “warriors” for the humanities.

The induction was followed in the evening by the Honors Week open mic, hosted by Kelsey Styles (Creative Writing and Communication Studies, ’17) and Evan Kramer (English and Creative Writing, ’17).  Students and faculty read original work, as well as pieces by others that have inspired them.


Here’s the full text of Taylor’s remarks:

Four years. Four years to catch it, read it, learn it, bring it inside of you, and spit out something new. Four years is enough time to change the world—for better or for worse. Four years is enough time to meet yourself hundreds of times over. Four years is all it takes to become a completely new person, watching the world open up around you. The truth is, four years is an eternity and a second, and what you do with it is completely up to you.

The Humanities are going to see some impacts within the next four years, and I fear that it will become our responsibility as students of literature, history, language, and art to stay focused and resolved against those who feel our knowledge is not valuable. It isn’t news to many of you sitting before me that a degree in English is not exactly considered fool proof by the American public, but in my eyes I can’t see a better way to spend four years. I have gained access into every point of view imaginable, every consciousness, every culture, every family, every life, and it is all thanks to my education in English. I think humans have unlocked the code for an honest, loving, infallible life and we’ve hidden it away in books. When you make a habit of reading, you make a habit of knowing how it feels to be something or someone else. Willingly leaving yourself behind to experience the life of another—a state of true imaginative empathy. This is something the world needs more of, and I hate to tell you guys, but it’s kind of up to you to remind everyone what we’re here for. In the meantime, take these four years and turn them into greatness. Become the best version of yourself so that others can learn from your example. Most of all, spend this four years surrounding yourself with people that know your mission and see the impact a life of books can have on the soul because these are the warriors and they will know the fight when they see it.

Undergraduate Night at the State Street Reading Series

The second half of the 2016–2017 State Street Reading Series season opened with our first Undergraduate Night.  Writers from Cabrini, Swarthmore, Villanova, and Widener shared their fiction and poetry to a packed house.

Michael Cocchiarale introduces Undergraduate Night

Widener was represented by two seniors:  Kelsey Styles (Creative Writing/Communication Studies) and Evan Kramer (Creative Writing/English).  Each read original works of fiction.


  • The next State Street Reading will take place on March 16 at 7pm, featuring Carla Spataro and Rahul Mehta.
  • Undergraduate writers from around the region will convene at Widener on April 1 at 2pm for a Reading for Unity.  Students will read inspiring works on the theme of social justice.  Open to all in the Webb Room of the University Center.


Ulysses: Senior Seminar Fall 2016

This past Fall, senior English and Creative Writing majors closed the semester on a high note as they presented their Senior Seminar Thesis’. This year’s Senior Seminar was led by Professor Janine Utell, with a focus on James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Junior English major Emma Irving introduced the evening, providing background on Joyce’s work with a comic twist. Students then presented the results of a semester’s worth of research and writing on the modernist novel which takes on an unbelievable process of thinking. The eight episodes show a stream of consciousness that is carefully constructed will immense characteristics and humor. The group decided to switch things up this time and present in pairs in the form of a discussion with questions for one another. This made the atmosphere more relaxed, but yet still professional.

Joyce’s work through the minds of these scholars presented the audience of faculty, family, and friends with important themes of perception, transcendence, aesthetics, theory, intertextuality and more. We’d like to congratulate them on their hard work, and wish them a successful last semester as they prepare for graduation!

Here is the full program:

Kimberlee Roberts: “As Others See Us”: A Phenomenological Reading of Dismemberment and Perception in James Joyce’s Ulysses

Taylor Brown: “All are washed in the blood of the sun”: Pursuing Reconciliation and Transcendence in Joyce’s Ulysses

* * *

Tyler Goodwin: What If She Can’t Say Yes:  Consent, the Male Gaze, and Perceptions of Women in Ulysses

Dana Schweizer: Aesthetic Judgment and Theory: Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom as Artists

* * *

Evan Kramer: Ulysses, Privacy, and Surviving the Awkward

Nicholas Demkin: Anti-Semitism, Violence, and Nation-Building in James Joyce’s Ulysses

* * *

Ashley DiRienzo: From “My Son Leopold” to “Mayor of Bloomusalem”: Using Cognitive Theory to Explore Family as a Social Unit in Ulysses

Jeannie McGuire: “Like Another Ulysses”: Shakespearean Intertextuality in Ulysses

* * *

Amanda Joseph: Joyce, Coleridge, and Wordsworth and the Romantic Themes In Ulysses

Joshua Schneider: Analyzing Video Game Narrative Through Modernism and Ulysses



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