Student Profile: Maria Rovito

Maria Rovito is a grad student here at MU and works as the head graduate assistant. A few of her poems were recently published on a website called Ex-Ex Lit and in the magazine Brave New World. 

I am an MA student in English interested in American literature and disability studies. I have been a student at Millersville since 2012 and I plan on graduating in May 2019. After that, I hope to complete my PhD and find a job somewhere as either a literature/disability studies/medical humanities professor, or as an editor or publisher. I have also been a graduate assistant to the English department since 2017, and this year I was fortunate enough to become the head graduate assistant. It’s a lot of work but I enjoy working with faculty and students in class and for research projects.

Being a grad student is almost a completely different experience from being an undergrad—not only do you have to complete assigned readings, you usually have to do extra work in order to supplement the readings you are assigned. For example, most of what I have learned about disability studies has been a product of my own independent research: meaning I incorporate this knowledge into my classes, but I haven’t directly learned about it through my coursework. Luckily, Dr. Emily Baldys was hired this year, and I now have a mentor who researches and teaches critical disability studies and the theoretical implications of medicine and medical knowledge. It’s a growing field, but hopefully one day I will get hired and use what I have learned in an academic setting.

My poetry is considered conceptual or cyberpoetic—meaning that I work more as an information processor rather than a traditional “author.” I was a fan of conceptual and post-language poetry before taking Dr. Halden-Sullivan’s postmodern American poetry class, particularly authors such as Matthew McIntosh and Claudia Rankine. I find the Internet to be a fascinating place for the sheer amount of information one is able to find, and this is reflected in my poetry. Who is responsible for this information? Why do we have access to certain things, and others are blocked? I believe the Internet and technology is destroying what we deem to be classic “literature,” as we are writing less for humans and more for cyborgs, robots, and aliens—beings that are considered post-human and postmodern.

I particularly enjoy Kenneth Goldsmith’s concept of “uncreative writing”—meaning a process of writing where nothing is original, and everything is taken from an outside source. Some of my poetry is taken from medical documents, such as the DSM, or from random places on the Internet: government websites, chatrooms on Reddit, or I look at the source code for websites and transform it into code poetry. I find that the author as a processor objectively looks at this information and copies it directly into their poetry—there is no subjective, emotional involvement in conceptual poetry. I have read a thousand poems about grandma’s death or someone’s love life; we don’t need any more. Not to say these emotions aren’t valid; however, I am not interested in universal human experiences.

I submitted three of my poems to Ex-Ex-Lit, and the editor contacted me and said they wanted to use one of my poems in a magazine called Brave New World.

Right now I am more focused on getting my academic work published in research journals, rather than getting my creative work out there. I wrote over a hundred poems for Dr. Halden-Sullivan’s class, and I think I have years of content for submissions to magazines. I’m not sure how helpful getting creative work published is for literature and critical theory academics. I think the more diverse my skills are, the better chance I have of landing a solid academic job. I submit abstracts to as many conferences and journals as I can in the hopes that my research is making a positive impact on the discipline. I don’t think I’m the future Foucault or Derrida, but I do think my work is challenging traditional notions of what we call “literature” and all its implications.

Maria Rovito