Widener English

The English Department at Widener University


Course Information

Information on upcoming English and Creative Writing courses.

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




Senior Seminar 2016: James Joyce’s Ulysses

The subject of this year’s Senior Seminar, directed by Professor Janine Utell, is James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses. In accordance with our tradition, Professor Utell, on September 29, presented the annual Fall Faculty Lecture on “James Joyce and Divorce Law,” which is related to her essay “Criminal Conversation: Marriage, Adultery, and the Law in Joyce’s Work,” forthcoming in an edited collection on James Joyce and the law later this year from University of Florida Press. Professor Utell’s lecture addressed late 19th- and early 20th-century adultery laws in relation to not only Joyce’s Ulysses but also his posthumously published Giacomo Joyce and his story “A Painful Case,” from Dubliners.

Professor Utell speaking on divorce in Joyce’s work.

On October 14, the seniors had the opportunity to visit the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, where they viewed pages from Joyce’s manuscript of Ulysses, issues of the serial publication and a first edition. Librarian Elizabeth Fuller discussed with the students the composition and publication history of Ulysses and provided some anecdotes about the Rosenbach brothers who founded the institution. Professor Utell has a longstanding relationship with the Rosenbach, having coordinated the annual Bloomsday event from 2005 to 2007.

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the English Department will host Temple University English literature Ph.D. candidate Ted Howell for a public lecture on how scientific discourse informs cultural production and expression in literary works.

Howell is also working on a dissertation about modernist fiction, early ecology and vitalist philosophy, which features a chapter on Joyce developed from material presented at three James Joyce conferences. He currently teaches in the Department of Writing Arts at Rowan University and leads a reading group on Ulysses at the Rosenbach. His course at Temple University on climate fiction, or “cli-fi,” has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ashley DiRienzo and Elizabeth Fuller at the Rosenbach

The Nov. 2 lecture by Howell will take place in Room A of the University Center from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. All are welcome.

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.

Wordsworth and the Lake District: Spring Break Scholarship for Widener English Students

During spring break a few weeks ago, a group of Widener English students had the opportunity to travel to the Lake District in England.  Sponsored by Professor Daniel Robinson, these students have been studying Romantic-period poetry, and some of them have been deeply involved in undergraduate research as part of our Textual Scholarship program, led by Professor Robinson.  (We’d like to acknowledge that this outstanding experience for our students is made possible by the Homer C. Nearing, Jr. Distinguished Professorship, held by Professor Robinson.)

While in England they spent several days at the Jerwood Centre, home to William Wordsworth’s archive, and under the expert guidance of Jeff Cowton, Curator, they studied the poet’s manuscripts, learned about papermaking and printing, and explored the landscape that formed Wordsworth’s imagination.  In a post for our national online undergraduate literary magazine, The Blue Route, Emma Irving talks about this transformative experience.  I’ll let her take it from here:

I cannot stop gushing about my trip; it was life-changing in so many respects, and I’ll take as much time out of my day as you want to show you my pictures and tell you my stories. But one of the greatest things I got out of this trip as an English major was the opportunity to truly connect with an author, to really get to know William Wordsworth as a human being who wrote poetry.

Hop over to The Blue Route to read the whole post, and check out this gallery of photos, courtesy of Professor Robinson.

A Night at the Opera for Students in English

On February 10, Professor Ruth Cary’s English 102/115 class attended the opera Cold Mountain, based on the book of the same name by Charles Frazier. Frazier’s novel is the 2016 One Book/One Philadelphia featured selection; this program supports a variety of cultural events all over the city related to the annual common read.

Students pictured: Matt Bader, Paige Davis, Peter Finta, Lamont Harris, Dylan Loveless, Lwin (Cindy) Hnin, Leigha Rushton, Joe Ruszkowski, Luke Sambucci, Kristin Saraceni, Alyssa Shaw, Evan Sing, Devon Sprague, Robert Troop, Shayne VanAken
Students pictured: Matt Bader, Paige Davis, Peter Finta, Lamont Harris, Dylan Loveless, Lwin (Cindy) Hnin, Leigha Rushton, Joe Ruszkowski, Luke Sambucci, Kristin Saraceni, Alyssa Shaw, Evan Sing, Devon Sprague, Robert Troop, Shayne VanAken

The novel tells the story of the odyssey of a Confederate soldier, a deserter, who journeys against great odds back to his home in the mountains of western North Carolina, where his true love has also undergone hardship and transformation. After reading the novel and attending the opera, these students are considering how the opera and novel portray similar themes using a wide variety of techniques.  Thanks are due to the Office of Student Affairs at Widener for a grant that subsidized the price of the opera tickets; the Performance and Lecture Mini-Grant Program supports enriching experiences that enhance teaching and learning for Widener students both in and out of the classroom.

Congratulations to Our Seniors!

Every fall we close out the semester with one of the high points of our year here in English and Creative Writing:  thesis presentations by English majors finishing up Senior Seminar.  This year’s Senior Seminar was led by Professor Annalisa Castaldo, with a focus on the early modern playwright Christopher Marlowe.

Seniors huddle with Professor Castaldo right before beginning their presentations.
Seniors huddle with Professor Castaldo right before beginning their presentations.

Junior English major and Sigma Tau Delta President Kimberlee Roberts introduced the evening, providing background on Marlowe’s work and his turbulent life.  Students then presented the results of a semester’s worth of research and writing on the dramatist, focusing on Dido, Queen of Carthage and Edward II, as well as offering a panel consisting of a trio of papers on Doctor Faustus, concentrating on the question of the protagonist’s damnation.

Marlowe’s work in the hands of these emerging scholars presented the audience of faculty, family, and friends with important themes of agency, knowledge, the limitations of redemption, and the arrogance of youth.  We’d like to congratulate them on good work, and wish them a well-deserved winter break!

Here’s the full program:

Sierra Offutt, “‘Reward’st thou virtue so?’:  Godly Manipulation of Human Will and Agency in Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage

Megan Lewis, “The Hidden Protagonist:  A Character Study of Christopher Marlowe’s Queen Isabella”

Christian Scittina, “Unbecoming Irony:  Marlowe’s Despair of Calvinist Negation in Dr. Faustus

Brittany Cassidy, “The Quest to Damnation:  Doctor Faustus’ Limit to Knowledge”

Alan Parkerson, “‘Never too late, if Faustus can repent’:  Damned by Youth, Not Providence”

Senior Seminar Presentations: Focus on Flannery O’Connor

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.

The Blue & Gold: Reporting on News and the Arts

Widener’s student-run digital-first news site The Blue & Gold is keeping its finger on the pulse of arts and culture not only on campus but in the Philadelphia region.  The site is helmed by English/Communication Studies major Maria Klecko (managing editor, news) and English/Creative Writing major Autumn Heisler (managing editor, arts and entertainment), and features the work of many of our English and Creative Writing majors.

Sam Starnes serves as the advisor for The Blue & Gold and teaches courses in arts journalism and feature and magazine writing for the English department.  He is also the editor of Widener Magazine, which has garnered numerous awards under his leadership.  Prior to joining Widener, Sam freelanced for The New York Times and also had work appear in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Philadelphia Inquirer, among other papers and a few national magazines. From 1994 through 2006, Sam worked for PR Newswire, the largest of the national and international press release wire services, including seven years as national director of media relations.  From 1989 through 1994, he worked for two small-to-midsize Knight-Ridder newspapers in Georgia and Florida, winning a number of Associated Press and Georgia Press Association awards for his work.

Arts Journalism students meet with John Timpane at the Inquirer
Arts Journalism students meet with John Timpane at the Inquirer

This semester, Sam is offering Arts Journalism.  Students are focusing on events around campus, including creating a package of stories to run in October around the first-year common experience and visit from author Jena Osman; a preview was recently published on the site here.  In addition, students have had the opportunity to visit the newsroom of the Philadelphia Inquirer and meet John Timpane, a writer and editor there.  Timpane shared with the students an early look at the newspaper’s planned redesign of its Arts section. Timpane gave students a tour of the newsroom and led a 90-minute discussion offering advice on writing reviews, profiles, and other stories focused on the arts, as well as addressing a wide range of topics ranging from covering a production of Othello, the new U2 album, and singer Iggy Azalea.

Sam will be teaching Magazine Writing in Spring 2015.  The Blue & Gold holds its editorial meetings every Monday at noon in Freedom Hall — get involved!  You can also follow the site on Twitter.

Experiential Learning in English: Textual Scholarship

On Student Project Day last Friday, students in Professor Daniel Robinson’s Textual Scholarship course gave a presentation on work they have been doing all semester:  learning the principles of scholarly editing, and assisting in the production of a new edition of the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge (a project of Professor Robinson’s, forthcoming from Bloomsbury).

Maria Klecko, Jillian Benedict, Josh Meo work on Wordsworth
Maria Klecko, Jillian Benedict, Josh Meo work on Wordsworth

Jillian Benedict, Maria Klecko, and Josh Meo have had a unique opportunity in experiential learning through their work in this brand-new course, one that complements and enhances their study as English majors.  During Student Project Day, they spoke about the ways in which working as editors deepened their knowledge and appreciation of the authors they worked on, gave them insight into publishing for both scholarly and general audiences, and offered a chance to practice analytical skills in a whole new way.  They even shared some informed thoughts on where scholarly editing might go in the digital age.

Opportunities such as this, for experiential learning and undergraduate research, are one of the things we are proud of in English, and at Widener, and we’re excited about our ability to offer further opportunities next year.

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