This past Wednesday, the department of English and World Languages hosted their first Faculty Focus Research Talk, a new event that will take place regularly throughout the semester. This event allows professors within the department to highlight either their current or past research projects, an opportunity to show a different side of their academic selves outside of the content they teach within their classroom. As a student conducting and participating in their own research, it is easy to forget that professors are engaging in those writing and researching processes themselves. This new event series provides a unique opportunity for students to connect with professors not only about the topic of their research, but also to ask them questions about it, which could help them to change or modify their own research and writing methods for the better.
For the first faculty focus research talk, Dr. Baldys and Dr. Rea presented their past research to a group of both students and faculty. Dr. Rea discussed rhetorical violence within a local Florida community titled “Striking Out in Ybor City: Baseball, Housing, and Rhetorical Violence.” This wonderful presentation prompted discussion that may not be found in a classroom, such as what is rhetorical violence, how can it appear in different conversations and modalities, why Dr. Rea chose to focus his research on this specific set of affordable housing in Florida, and why it matters to research this topic. Dr. Baldys shifted the conversation from a rhetorical to a literary perspective with her presentation titled “Disability and Victorian Feminism: Narratives of Resistance in the Novels of Mona Caird.” Mona Caird, a Scottish essayist and novelist, is not as well known in the literary world as she should be. Dr. Baldys’ research presented a different side of Victorian literature that may be overlooked in comparison to other texts that have been centralized in conversation in the classroom, such as more popular books and writers. In both presentations, Dr. Baldys and Dr. Rea showcased different fields, methodologies, and methods of research that show students not only how they could apply these to their own research, but also provide a space to ask questions and learn about new fields and writers they would not have encountered in the classroom.
One of the aspects of higher education that I was underprepared for was the opportunity to apply myself outside of the classroom. As an undergraduate speech communications major, I joined a few clubs and worked hard in class, but I wasn’t too concerned about how my time in college could cultivate my professional experience.
Now, as a student in the English master’s program, my peers and professors have been so supportive in making sure I’m not only aware of all the opportunities I can have to showcase my research and my academic work, but that I’m comfortable and prepared to do so. I recently was able to travel to Philadelphia for the 2023 Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association conference, and through the process of working with my fellow students and Dr. Pfannenstiel on our roundtable discussion presentation, it let me practice a lot of important skills that I don’t always get to work on.
Weekly meetings to prepare for the conference helped us put together a cohesive presentation, and talking out loud really helped me put my thoughts into words. In undergrad, I preferred to work alone and didn’t go out of my way for peer feedback, but over the course of this semester, my peers in the English department have been so inviting and supportive that it has allowed me to be more comfortable with collaboration as a necessary and constructive activity. Hearing their feedback made me feel more confident in what I was going to share at MAPACA, and hearing what they had researched gave me some ideas of my own.
These meetings and working together also gave me a structure each week, one built on making connections and spending time with others. Graduate school can be lonely – it can feel like it should be a solitary effort and like there aren’t a lot of moments to spend quality time with others outside of the classroom. I’m so glad to be a part of the English program at Millersville, because it’s been clear that while I’m here, everyone who’s a part of the department wants to see me succeed and wants to help me along the way. It can also be a little nerve-wracking (or, for me, downright terrifying) to present your own work in front of strangers, but working with such understanding classmates has helped me overcome that fear bit by bit.
Apart from the opportunity to travel to MAPACA as a way to learn more about what other academics in English studies are working on and willing to share, this whole experience has been an incredible way to build on my public speaking and research skills. Additionally, it helped solidify the fact that English is such a diverse field of study, one that has room for everyone and everyone’s unique interests. I feel very lucky to be a part of a department that understands this and allows room for us to pursue our interests, and a department that encourages me to attend events like MAPACA, even if initially I believed them to be outside of my comfort zone.
The English and World Languages Department is happy to announce the successful defense of a thesis by graduate student Kristy Davis. She defended her thesis “Edutainment in Podcasting: A content analysis of education and entertainment in the Serial Killers podcast” on March 16th for her MA in English. Her thesis committee members include Dr. A Nicole Pfannenstiel (chair), Dr. Justin Mando, and Dr. Kerri Farkas.
This Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Millersville alumni Tyler Barton, a writer who is hosting a fiction reading event of his debut short-story collection Eternal Night at the Nature Museum. This literary event takes place on March 28th at 7pm in McNairy Library at the alumni reading room (room 100).
Eternal Night at the Nature Museum received its interesting title based off of one of Barton’s previous works which is featured in this short-story collection. “It’s a short little one-page story” he describes, “that could also be considered as a prose poem because it’s very lyrical and shifting in a lot of different directions in a single page.” This almost-poetic short story is about a person being in a nature museum when a nuclear disaster strikes, and explores what it would be like to survive if that became your home for such an event. Although the collection of short stories don’t have a connecting thread, such as all the characters living in the same place or time, they do all share a common theme of home. Barton further explains this by stating all the stories deal with home by “either losing it, deciding to leave it, or finding it in a place you didn’t expect.” These stories differ in content, as they follow the lives of a variety of characters in disparate circumstances, such as having their house explode, or being evicted and accidentally joining a cult, but comes together as each character seeks to define what home is to them.
Barton started his writing career when he was a freshman in response to his feelings of disconnection and uncertainty of his community at Millersville. His practice of writing allowed him to connect with other students, like his now best friend Elliot White, whom he would trade stories with to get feedback. With his involvement in with creating creative writing clubs on campus, along with being a part of the creative writer’s guild, Barton left Millersville with an excitement for writing. After he graduated, Barton explains how he got the “bug” for writing and started publishing stories online. This led to him getting his MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato where he wrote all the stories that became the Eternal Night at the Nature Museum. The book was then published in 2021.
At the fiction reading event for Barton’s collection of short stories, students can expect the author to read some pieces from the book. He explains that although some don’t enjoy live literary readings, even some writer’s themselves, he finds they provide a space for readers to “engage with and understand the work better when hearing from the author’s voice.” At the event, Barton will also take questions and talk to students about their own interest in writing.
We are so happy to welcome Tyler back, and hope to see you at the event!
On Wednesday, October 12th two professors within the English department here at Millersville hosted a book-talk event centered around the graphic novel Everything is an Emergency by Jason Adam Katzenstein. These book-talk events are a series that occur each semester and are based upon the concepts of bibliotherapy, which is an expressive arts modality. Although it is not therapy, it is also not a typical book club, as it draws from the book and incorporates messages and themes in discussions centered around personal, professional, and developmental growth.
Although I’m a graduate student at Millersville, this was my first time going to a book-talk event, and I deeply regret not going to more in my undergrad years. At this particular book-talk, the author of the graphic novel was in attendance, and was so inviting of any and all questions we had about his novel. Katzenstein’s book Everything is an Emergency is centered around his journey with OCD, as he recounts different events and moments in his life that have both positively and negatively impacted his mental health. Both the book’s content and the presence of the author allowed for some interesting questions and discussions, such as “what was it like to write about your mental health” and “how much control did you have over the editing a publishing process.” The most unique and unexpected aspect of the book-talk was the sense of community and understanding that was built within the two-hour zoom call. Everyone who was in attendance, including professors, graduate students, and undergrad students all seemed to connect through the discussions which made for a lively event.
Does a beautiful day move you to write about the nature that surrounds you? Do you find that writing about your emotions helps to relieve them? Have you ever felt the urge rhyme within a verse or a line? If you said yes to any of these scenarios, you may just be a poet!
The American Academy of Poets is hosting their annual student poetry contest, and both undergraduate and graduate students at Millersville are encouraged to apply. This is a great opportunity to showcase your poetic talents, along with the opportunity to strengthen your work and potentially become published. To enter, you must submit up to three of your own poems to Dr. Farkas. The way to submit your entry is by emailing her at email@example.com with the subject line Poetry Contest. Remember to include your name, MU number, and email address with the email; however, do not include your name or identifying information in the poems. The deadline for the event is Friday, March 3rd, 2023. The prizes for winning the contest include $100, a year membership in the academy of poets, your poem published on www.poets.org, and listed in the Academy’s annual report. If you have any questions, contact Kerrie Farkas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-871-7399. Best of luck to all those entering!
Preparations for family weekend are in full swing here at Millersville, as it is an exciting time for parents and students to reunite on campus. While spending time with parents on campus, it is easy to reflect on what their college days might have been like. What songs were popular at the time, how often did they oversleep for their 8am, and what did they do for fun are all questions that may come to mind. Although much has changed between their college years and now, there are a few things that never go out of trend. One classic that will always remain is the need for a good book recommendation. This month, I asked two professors in the English department which books they would recommend undergraduate students should read in their college years. Their responses reflect different ways to be successful in college in ways that students might not expect.
Dr. Mando recommends that undergrads read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. He provides a brief summary of the nonfiction novel, stating that the “subject matter is immense.” “On one page she dives deeply into the soil to explore the fecundity of macroinvertebrates” Dr. Mando explains, “on the next she’s in the stars floating through realms of philosophy and spirituality searching for the present moment.” This vivid depiction of this nonfiction narrative showcases how it covers many different areas, but you may be wondering why this was recommended for under grad students. “Dillard is a close observer, a researcher, a teacher, and an explorer; these are all important traits of students.” Pilgrim at Tinker Creek encourages students to explore the traits Dillard presents throughout her novel, and inspires us to take a closer look into the smaller details of life.
Dr. Corkery and graduate students from his Spring 2021 Drama class attended a showing of Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat at the Fulton Theater on April 8th. Most of the characters in Sweat are working class people from Reading, Pennsylvania. The plot focuses on the troubles they face when they are laid off from the job they have all worked at for many years.
By attending the showing of the play that they have read for their class, the students were able to enrich their understanding of the play itself, further enhance their learning from the classroom setting, and experience the play rooted in community.
This shows the value of experiential learning, a high-impact practice that all students, graduate or undergraduate, should take part in (https://www.aacu.org/trending-topics/high-impact). The graduate students were able to make real-world connections by viewing a play read in class, on a much larger scale (the Fulton). The graduate students engaged as audience members, at a theater filled with spectators who have personal and impersonal connections to Reading, PA. This community-based experiential learning helped us showcase and apply our interpretations, connections to the community, and our extension of class learning in a very real, community focused way. Students, myself included, also gained experience by organizing this event in coordination with Dr. Corkery.
After reflecting on the experience, I noticed differences between experiential learning for graduate students and undergraduate students. I experienced the play as a graduate student and community member; I wasn’t just a student identifying the characters and themes of this work, I was sitting in a theater rooted in community values, experiencing the plot and characters alongside Lancaster County community members sharing an interest in telling the stories of our experiences in Pennsylvania communities. I have discovered immense value in experiential learning and invite others to work with our graduate faculty planning future community-based experiential learning events.
On March 21st, the English & World Languages department hosted a virtual celebration for World Poetry Day. Guest poets Michele Santamaria, Michael Garrigan, and Barbara DeCesare read their poetry and discussed creative writing and the publication process.
If you would like to view the virtual event, the video recording is included below.
World Poetry Day Reading by Michele Santamaria, Michael Garrigan, and Barbara DeCesare. Moderated by Dr. Kaitlin Mondello. Hosted by the Department of English & World Languages at Millersville University.
Featured below is a bilingual poetry reading provided by Dr. Christine Gaudry, Dr. Marco Antolin, and Dr. Wilfredo Valentín-Márquez of the World Languages department.
World Languages faculty read poetry in the language they specialize in and a translated English version to provide a cross-cultural poetry experience for World Poetry Day (March 21, 2022). A special thank you to Dr. Christine Gaudry, Dr. Marco Antolin, and Dr. Wilfredo Valentín-Márquez for their assistance in this project.