Widener English

The English Department at Widener University



Happy End of the Semester: Looking Back, Looking Forward

It has been our pleasure to keep the Widener English blog for quite a few years to share and to celebrate the work of our students and faculty.  We’ll be taking some time in the spring to reboot and redesign a brand-new site for Widener English and Creative Writing—an exciting online space that will reflect our mission, vision, and plans for the future.

Before we go, take a look at some of the incredible things that happened for us this past fall!

  • The semester began with a kick-off welcome for English and Creative Writing majors and minors, featuring a visit from Career Services helping us answer the perennial question, “What can you do with an English and Creative Writing major?” (the answer being, of course, lots).
  • We were delighted to welcome back English and Creative Writing alums for two amazing events.  First, Professor Nicole Cirone, an instructor of English and Creative Writing, facilitated a writing workshop for students and alumni.  Then, our Homecoming Weekend Open Mic drew a great crowd and featured students and alumni reading original work.
  • Lone Brick Theatre put on a shattering performance of Tracy Letts’s Bug, turning the mainstage of Alumni Auditorium into an intimate black box for one of the final performances to be held in that space before a much-needed renovation.
  • As part of our First-Year Common Experience, Nancy Ayllón-Ramírez, an attorney for Justice at Work in Philadelphia, gave a lecture on how students can think about using their voices for social justice and advocacy, especially on labor issues and workers’ rights.  Professor Ruth Cary played an integral role in bringing Ayllón-Ramírez to campus as part of her teaching of writing, sustainability, and food justice.
Nancy Ayllón-Ramírez from Justice at Work speaks in the Webb Room
  • FACULTY PUBLICATIONS!  Professors Michael Cocchiarale and Kenneth Pobo each saw new work out in the world this fall.  Michael Cocchiarale had a new collection of short stories published, Here is Ware, and Kenneth Pobo had a new chapbook of micropoems published, Threads.  Professor Pobo also kicked off the semester with new work in Toasted Cheese.
  • Our Distinguished Visiting Writer for the fall was Philadelphia poet Cynthia Dewi Oka, who led tutorials and gave a breathtaking reading of new, unpublished work based on her investigations into archival material related to political violence in Indonesia.  Check out this inspiring look at the powerful impact Oka had on our campus by senior Carlie Sisco, along with an in-depth interview, published on the blog for The Blue Route.  (We are still talking about this visit!)
  • Once again our students rocked the annual meeting for the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors, this year at Susquehanna University.  Kelly Bachich, Carlie Sisco, Rohan Suriyage, and Sarah De Kok were all in attendance for a roundtable on our two literary magazines, Widener Ink and The Blue Route, as well as a poetry reading and workshop led by Martín Espada.
Widener Ink Editor Kelly Bachich and The Blue Route Editor Carlie Sisco speak at FUSE along with faculty advisor Professor James Esch
  • SENIOR SEMINAR!  Professor Mark Graybill ushered in senior seminar season earlier this fall with the Fall Faculty Lecture, entitled “Nostalgia, Race, and Authoritarianism in O’Connor’s Fiction and Trump’s America.”  Looking at several less-frequently studied Flannery O’Connor stories, particularly “The Displaced Person,” Professor Graybill argued for the profound relevance of the author’s work for our time.  And we end our action-packed fall semester, as always, with stellar senior seminar presentations, led by Professor Graybill:  ten seniors sharing original scholarship on the work of Flannery O’Connor, on topics ranging from Southern literature and the grotesque, to intertextuality and Biblical allusions in O’Connor’s work, to considerations of O’Connor’s form and characters.

We wish everyone a happy end of the semester and a restful break—and we look forward to seeing you in the spring!


Honors Week with Widener English & Creative Writing

Honors Week is always an exciting time for Widener English & Creative Writing as we celebrate the accomplishments of our students. The week begins every year with the induction of new members into our honor society, Sigma Tau Delta.  (Photos credited to Michael Cocchiarale.)

The Sigma Tau Delta leadership: seniors Emma Irving and Jennifer Rohrbach
Thomas Rathburn receives his certificate from Ilene Lieberman, Director of the Honors Program in General Education











Then, on Thursday night, members of this year’s Creative Writing Senior Seminar—Jennifer Rohrbach, Haley Poluchuk, and Taylor Blum—organized one of our most successful open mics ever.  Taylor Blum emceed, and the evening included readings from several Widener English & Creative Writing alums.  It was standing-room only for poetry, fiction, and music.  (Most of the photos credited to Michael Cocchiarale.)


O’Connor Scholar Daniel Moran Speaks at Widener

On October 26, Flannery O’Connor scholar Daniel Moran spoke at Widener on the subject of his book, Creating Flannery O’Connor.  His lively and engaging talk offered a tour of his monograph, looking at how reviewers, editors—even obituary writers, pop-culture mavens, and GoodReads users—have shaped our perception of this essential American writer.  Writer of the South?  Woman writer?  Catholic writer?  All of the above? 

O’Connor is many things to many people and difficult to pin down.  She resists the attempts of critics and common readers to understand her work and her beliefs in any kind of a monolithic way.  Moran’s take on reception theory and practice, as well as his modesty and humor as a reader of O’Connor, show us new ways of grappling with this complex figure.

Daniel Moran speaking on O’Connor

Moran teaches history at Monmouth University. His work on G. K. Chesterton and John Ford has been published in academic journals and he has contributed articles to a variety of teaching guides, including Poetry for StudentsShort Stories for Students, and Drama for Students. His most recent study, Creating Flannery O’Connor: Her Critics, Her Editors, Her Readers (University of Georgia Press, 2016), examines how a literary reputation—and the image of a cultural icon—have been made, not only by O’Connor herself, but also by her readers, reviewers, critics, publishers, and filmmakers.

He was brought to Widener and introduced by Professor Mark Graybill, our specialist in Flannery O’Connor who is currently teaching a course on Southern literature.

Mark Graybill introduces Daniel Moran

Ken Pobo Reads Loplop in a Red City

We are delighted to link out to the blog at The Blue Route, Widener’s national undergraduate literary magazine, to share a post about Ken Pobo’s recent reading from his new book Loplop in a Red City.  The reading from Dr. Pobo’s collection of ekphrastic poems inspired by surrealist painting was performed to a standing-room-only crowd at the Widener University Art Gallery.

As author Nicole Gray so eloquently put it, “When one person has such a passion for art, it can become contagious and that is what happened that day at the reading.”  Read the rest of the post here!

And while we’re at it…congratulations to Dr. Pobo for being recognized this fall for thirty years of teaching at Widener!

Ken Pobo honored at the September meeting of the Arts & Sciences faculty for 30 years of service

Welcome Back!

We here at Widener English and Creative Writing are very excited to get back in the classroom—to meet new majors and minors and greet returning ones.  There are already a number of exciting activities on the horizon, and we encourage you to stay in touch and get involved.

Below you can find a run-down of everything on our events calendar.  In the meantime, seek out opportunities at our literary magazines The Blue Route and Widener Ink, our digital-first student-run media site The Blue & Gold, our theatre company Lone Brick Theatre, and our undergraduate research opportunities in digital humanities and textual scholarship.  We are here to help, with everything from courses to careers, and we look forward to seeing you on the third floor of Kapelski!

Save the dates:

  • English and Creative Writing majors and minors opening meeting:  September 6, noon, KLC 339 (pizza will be served!)
  • State Street Reading Series:  September 21, 7pm, Media Art Gallery (more info here!)
  • Fall Faculty Lecture:  Dr. Daniel Robinson on the Shelleys:  September 28, 3:30pm, UC Room F
  • Ken Pobo Poetry Reading:  October 5, 4pm, Widener Art Gallery (to be confirmed)
  • Open Mic:  October 19, 7pm, LC 1
  • Reading:  Distinguished Visiting Writer Stephanie Powell Watts:  November 15 at 4pm (learn more about her work here!)

End of Year Achievement: Humanities Awards and Student Project Day

Last week we were delighted to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of English and Creative Writing students and faculty at the annual Humanities Awards Ceremony and Student Project Day.

On April 27, English and Creative Writing students were recognized at the fourth annual Humanities Awards Ceremony.  This was a particularly special event for a number of reasons.  The very first Distinguished Alumnus Award was given, to Pat Manley (English, ’99).  The inaugural Susan Hastie Memorial Award was given to Evan Kramer, a double major in English and Creative Writing; this award recognizes a senior who has evinced a dedication to the study of literature and writing, a quiet seriousness, and a maturity that enhances the pursuits of the program.  The winner of the Allison Roelofs Award was Carlie Sisco, double major in English and Creative Writing; this award recognizes a freshman or sophomore who demonstrates great potential and early excellence in the major.

We were also pleased to present the first-ever Certificates in Textual Scholarship to Kimberlee Roberts and Taylor Brown.  Kim and Taylor have been working, under the direction of Dr. Daniel Robinson, on the production of scholarly editions of Romantic-period texts, have traveled to England to study original manuscripts, and have presented their work in multiple venues.  Kim will be attending graduate school for library and archival science at the University of Denver, and Taylor will be pursuing a masters degree in digital humanities at the Loyola University of Chicago.

As the winner of the first Distinguished Alumnus Award, Pat Manley spoke about the need for the humanities not only in the workforce but as a way to enrich our understanding of what it means to be human.  He was followed by Kelsey Styles, who gave remarks as a distinguished undergraduate Humanities major.  Kelsey offered a passionate and inspiring speech about the necessity of the humanities for empathy, particularly in our current moment.

Then, on April 28, the scholarship of English and Creative Writing students was featured at Student Project Day.  Taylor Brown, Emma Irving, and Christine Lombardo presented a panel on David Lynch, family dynamics, and the uncanny.  Students from Annalisa Castaldo’s course on Renaissance Literature spoke on gender and race and connections we might make to our own time.

Photos of the Humanities Awards Ceremony courtesy of Paul Goldberg

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.


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

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.


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