Category Archives: Uncategorized

Focus on Forms: Annotated Bibliographies

Do you sometimes reach the end of a semester and can’t remember anything about texts you read at the start of the course? Or, have you compiled a long list of Works Cited for a project and find that the sources are starting to run together in your mind? An annotated bibliography could help with that! For this series, “Focus on Forms,” we’ll be highlighting writing forms you may encounter in your courses and delve into any unique qualities they hold, beginning with annotated bibliographies.

Annotated bibliographies are like Works Cited pages with opinions—housing collections of sources with a short synthesis that may include a brief summary, key themes relevant between items, and how these sources contribute to your project’s goal. This index of citations evolves from a static list with the added information that assesses the accuracy of the pieces and relevance to your overall research goals. They can also be a bit tricky because annotations depend on concise, powerful execution to not only capture key elements of the text but also reflect their importance to your research project or interests. This is a curated collection; the pieces selected should consider what is unique about each text and how it contributes to the collection as a whole. Annotating a bibliography can help solidify a text’s resonance with your research or assignment and bring out new directions for your project (or remind you what ideas belong to what text at the end of a long semester). All in all, an annotated bibliography can test your research skills, synthesizing abilities, and increase your capacity to write concisely and powerfully to create a highly useful reference document.

For more on the mechanics of creating an annotated bibliography, check out Purdue OWL’s excellent breakdown (with links to guidelines for MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations): .

Want to learn more about creating a curated source list? Chat with a librarian during their “Ask a Librarian” hours online, over the phone, or in person at the McNairy Library: .

Have questions about bibliographies, sources, citations and more? The Millersville Writing Center is ready to help: .

Black History Month Book Recommendations

Although the month of February is coming to a close, the importance of Black History Month should be recognized and discussed all throughout the year. The professors in the English department have provided some book recommendations that highlight different perspectives, narratives, and experiences. We hope you enjoy and possibly find a new favorite book!

Between the World and Me (2015)

Dr. Corkery recommends this book by Ta-Nehisi Coates that is presented as an epistolary novel, as it is a letter between the narrator of the story and his 13-year-old son. The intention of the letter is to prepare his son for his upcoming life as a Black man in the United States. Through the composition of this letter, the author goes through his personal, ancestral, and American history to deliver “an impassioned appeal to his son’s understanding of the truth about his racial identity in this country.”

When asked why he recommends this book, Dr. Corkery mentions that he points this book out to other teachers because of his use of it in his English composition courses. He states:

“Coates creates an ethos for himself that allows him to critique American race relations and expose many harsh truths about being Black in this country. He creates an image of himself as a concerned parent looking out for his son, not the angry black man. So, we hear many difficult critiques that might be hard for mainstream audiences to accept. Yet, audiences are invited to identify with him as a parent. His ranting and emotion come across as devotion and love for his boy, not hate for the country.”

Stamped from the Beginning (2016)

This novel, written by Ibram X. Kendi, is a recommendation by Dr. Mayers. He summarizes the novel as “a rich and detailed history of how racist polices lead to racist ideas, and how these ideas have become woven into the fabric of American society.” The author’s website states that this fast-moving narrative “uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti-racists.” This includes figures such as the Puritan minister Cotton Mather all the way up to American political activist Angela Davis, whose lives show how thinkers throughout history have either cemented or challenged racist ideas in America.

Dr. Mayers recommends this book because it “provides an excellent example of how meticulous scholarly work can both be readable and thought provoking.” He further states that “Kendi’s work challenges us all-regardless of our own racial identities and histories-to consider how racist ideas have shaped the ways we look at the world.”

Homegoing (2016)

This debut novel, by author Yaa Gyasi, is recommended by Dr. Pfannenstiel. She summarizes the story as “starting with two sisters in Africa, the book follows generations experiencing race across two continents.” The title of the book connects to an old African-American belief that “death allowed an enslaved person’s spirit to travel back to Africa” (Miller). The book splits the experiences of two sisters whose lives have taken two incredibly different paths in both Africa and America, and how their experiences bring up the discussion of different cultural and societal issues.

Dr. Pfannenstiel recommends this novel because:

“This book offers historical perspectives of race and the experience of race across generations. The stories are beautiful, the movement of people influenced by race, socio-economic status, and gender help the reader connect with the struggles and weight of complex life decisions. It is a beautiful book about family.”

Works Cited

Miller, Laura. “A Sprawling Epic of Africa and America.” The New Yorker, 23 May 2016,

Romance Novel Recommendations – Spring 2023 

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but the love for a good book never fades away. Whether you spent the holiday curled up with a good romance novel or treated yourself to a classic love story, there’s always room for more love in our reading lives. With that in mind, here are some romance novel recommendations from the Millersville University Department of English and World Languages faculty members that will keep the love alive all year long. So grab your favorite mug of tea or coffee, cozy up in your comfiest spot, and get ready to fall in love with these heartwarming reads.  

A special thank you to Dr. Pfannenstiel, Dr. Mando, and Dr. McCollum-Clark for their recommendations. 

 Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas 

Recommended by Dr. Amber Nicole Pfannenstiel 

If you enjoy typical romance novels, Marrying Winterborne may have what you like plus a “frank discussion on social differences, class differences, and the plight of women of the Regency era.” This novel features a plot in which an “aristocratic, impoverished, neglected heroine falls in love with wealthy businessman.” What follows is an exploration of “social miscues, class differences, and what women do/do not have access to.” 

When asked her personal reasons for recommending this book, Dr. Pfannenstiel writes “it is enjoyable and informative. As an avid reader of romance, I have thoughts and opinions on TDTL [Too Dumb To Live] heroines – Helen is one of my favorites. Reading as her story unfolds and she navigates society, reading the tangential characters and their version of the plight of women is phenomenal.” 

This book is part of the Lancaster Public Library System collection in physical, eBook, and audio formats and can be accessed for free with a public library card. 

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins 

Recommended by Dr. Justin Mando 

Looking for something more daring and fanciful? Still Life with Woodpecker might fit that vibe. “This is the wild love story of Princess Leigh-Cheri and Bernard Mickey Wrangle (A.K.A. Woodpecker) full of explosive activism and an earnest crack at answering the question, ‘How do you make love stay?’” 

Dr. Mando relates “I read this book back in high school and just read it again recently, along with a handful of other Tom Robbins favorites. His books are always a fun ride.” 

This Tom Robbins book and others are available in physical form through the Lancaster Public Library System. 

Possession: a romance by A.S. Byatt 

Recommended by Dr. Kim McCollum-Clark 

If you are looking for something framed in a relatable context, Possession: a romance might hit close to your heart as it “features ENGLISH GRAD STUDENTS who find love letters from a (made-up) 19th century famous author and an early feminist author.”  Mixing narratives and poetry, “their 20th Century love story is juxtaposed with the earlier one beautifully!” 

When asked “why read it?” Dr. McCollum-Clark enthusiastically replied “Are you kidding?  English majors in love? And poets in love–and poetry to boot? The writing is gorgeous! It’s definitely a re-read!” 

Possession: a romance is available through the Millersville McNairy Library in physical form and the Lancaster Public Library System in physical and audiobook form. 

Upcoming Event: Graduate School Fair – Register Today!

Millersville University is hosting a Graduate School Fair for interested students and alumni Tuesday, February 14th, 2023 from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm in the Student Memorial Center, Reighard Multipurpose Room (MPR). Register to attend this event with 50+ Grad School representatives and free coffee and cupcakes from Lancaster Cupcake while supplies last. The fair presents opportunities for students to meet with recruiters to discuss topics like: how to get admitted, finance options, program specifics, and school/ town culture all of which can contribute to choosing the best program to meet your goals.

To register and see more details about the event and schools attending, login to Handshake with your Millersville credentials, lookup “Millersville’s Graduate School Fair 2023” under events, and click on join event in the upper right hand corner. Students can register the day of the event or even sign up today to communicate your interest.

Movie Recommendations for Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving break has finally arrived at Millersville, and the shift in temperature tells us that winter break is just around the corner. With the week of Thanksgiving being the last before the Christmas season goes into full effect, I would like to dedicate this blog post to movie recommendations for the last unofficial week of Fall. Thanksgiving break is the perfect time to curl up under a warm blanket and relax and recharge before the stress of finals week, so I hope you enjoy these recommendations and possibly discover a new favorite movie.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

I remember this film being described as “the personification of whimsy” and I can’t think of a better way to summarize this movie. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightful adventure that is told entirely through stop motion animation. The comedy, based on the novel by Roald Dahl, follows the main character Mr. Fox as his series of thefts results in his family and community being hunted down by three farmers. Directed by Wes Anderson, the colors, characters, and dialogue within this film is nothing short of brilliant, leaving a colorful feeling of wonder after watching this vibrant film.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

There are many films that people say, “you have to see,” but Dead Poets Society is genuinely one of those must-see films. This classic follows the lives of students attending the prestigious Welton Academy located in New England. When their new English teacher allows them to question both their education and themselves through his teaching of poetry, it inspires them to challenge themselves, and provides a means to cope through the changes and challenges that come with growing up. This summary truly does not do the film justice, as it is hard to encapsulate how truly wonderful and impactful this incredible movie is.

The Princess Bride (1987)

I had to include this film in my list of recommendations because it is my favorite movie of all time, as there are a few films I would regard as perfect, but this is definitely one if a “perfect move” exists. This fantasy film follows the love story between Princes Buttercup and her love Westly as told by a grandfather reading a story to his grandson on his day off from school. As the grandfather states in the beginning of the movie, it is much more than a “kissing book.” It’s a fantastical adventure that features the themes of friendship, love, corruption, murder, and, a happily ever after.


Why You Should Consider Majoring in English

It is hard to believe that the end of the semester is quickly approaching. The conclusion of this academic period provides a time to reflect on different aspects of your semester, such as your major. If you feel that your current major is not the best fit for you, I encourage you to consider majoring English, as it teaches and enhances many skills and values that are applicable to any career field.

Majoring in English presents an opportunity to develop and strengthen one’s confidence as a writer, speaker, and creator. The variety of courses that are offered within the major here at Millersville present an opportunity to practice and master necessary skills such as writing, analysis, critical thinking, and intensive reading. The lessons, skills, and values that are presented within each course are a jumping-off point for a career in a variety of disciplines, such as teaching, law, or public relations. Communication and collaboration are two skills that are interwoven within almost every career field. English majors are sought out after graduation as new hires because of their understanding of these skills. A study reported by CBS found that English majors are more wanted by employers than business majors. The study states “students in these majors (like business) may not be learning communication and critical thinking skills, which means they may lack the writing and reasoning abilities that employers want in new hires” (Picchi). This statement shows how valuable the skills learned within the major are in post-graduate career options, and how majoring in English provides the same, if not more, employment opportunities.

If you have an interest in pursuing a major in English, know that your involvement within the major allows for a strengthening of collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills, all of which and many more can be applied to any career you choose after college.

The Benefits of Journaling

In most of the courses offered here at Millersville, writing is almost always an important component of the class. Whether it be an English course or not, students are usually expected to write a paper, essay, or discussion post on a semi-frequent basis. Associating writing with these academic assignments can deter one from wanting to write for fun, as it has now become work rather than an activity. Although there are many options to channel writing in a more creative way, one of my favorites is journaling. Journaling comes in a variety of forms, and can be as personal or as organizational as you would like it to be.

There are many mental health benefits to journaling, which can be helpful to cope with the stress that comes with the end of the semester. It has been scientifically proven that journaling can reduce anxiety with continued use. Along with this benefit, it can also help with awareness, regulation of emotions, and encourages one to open up, which can help with emotional healing.

Now that you know the benefits to journaling, here are a few tips on how to get started. The first is to keep it simple- try journaling for a few minutes each day, and add on more time if you enjoy it. Pick a day or time in the week that works best for you, such as right before you go to sleep. The most important tip for journaling is that there is no set structure or rules. Do whatever you want to express yourself, write as much or as little you like, and customize your journal to fit your needs.

There are many different types of journaling that you could try to see which is the best fit for you. One of the most popular is reflective journaling, which is what probably comes to mind when you think about this type of writing. This type allows your journal to become a private place to reflect on your life and process emotions and experiences. Reflective journaling can seem overwhelming when you have a lot to write about, so it may be helpful to find some online prompts to help guide your journey. However, if you want a space where you can freely transfer the thoughts in your mind onto the page, stream of consciousness journaling may be a better option for you. If you’re looking for a more organized approach, bullet journaling is a great option. Using a grid pattern rather than a blank page as base, bullet journaling uses creative and organized layouts that combine several uses of journaling is a systematic way. It can be used as a daily dairy, a calendar, mood tracker, task manager, and place to reflect all at the same time. Having a specific intention for your journaling is something that is gaining in popularity, as seen in the rise of gratitude journaling. This type of journaling allows for a space to document everything you are grateful for, which is a great place to go back to when you are feeling down.

There are many more types of journaling other than the few I have highlighted here. If this blog piqued any interest for you, I encourage you to try as many as you like to find the best fit for you!

English Classes to Take Next Semester

Registration for the Spring semester is right around the corner, and deciding which classes to take may be more frustrating than waking up at 6am to sign up for them. This upcoming Spring, the English department is offering four upper level English classes. Keep reading to see if any of these interesting courses would be a perfect fit for your schedule next semester. 

English 483- Politics, Film, and Media 

This film course taught by Dr. Craven is to take place on Mondays from 6 to 9pm. Politics, Film, and Media explores how power and privilege intersect in the political realms through the lens of film. Some of the films that will be viewed and discussed within this course include On the Waterfront, The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, I am not your Negro, Isla das Flores, and Casablanca. This course also fills the Perspectives requirement. 

English 430- Ethnic American Lit Since 1954 

This online literature course fulfills the perspectives requirement, as it examines the ways in which prose writers, playwrights, and poets from the so-called “ethnic minority” groups question viewpoints that traditionally define American culture and history. Taught by Dr. Jakubiak, this course will  analyze how these writers use literature to acknowledge difficult historical experiences of American minorities and to show that these experiences contrast with traditional and celebratory views of American culture, condensed in the idea of the “American dream.” This approach will help students understand  what the “American dream” looks like from the perspective of Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans etc. Some readings featured in the course include  Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, Luis Valdes’s Zoot Suit, and John Okada’s No-no Boy. 

English 411- Romanticism 

This literary course taught by Dr. Mondello will be offered each Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 4:15pm. The Romantic era of poetry and literature is identifiable with its themes of nature, emotion, and individuality. These themes and more will be explored and discussed through reading works by poetic greats such as Wordworth, Coolridge, Shelley, Blake, and many more. 

English 336- New Dimensions to World Literature 

This course, taught by Dr. Jakubiak each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11-11:50, will explore the issues of representation and power in selected works of non-Western literature written in the 20th and 21st centuries. The leading theme of the  course is the call from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s well-known TED talk lecture “The Danger of a Single Story.” Through novels, short stories, and plays coming from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, students  will consider the “dangers” of interpreting cultures, traditions, spiritual beliefs, and political systems using a single lens, and  will discuss the value as well as limitations of seeking multiple perspectives. For example, the novel I, Tituba, the Black Witch of Salem  by the Guadeloupian writer Maryse Condé will allow students to imagine the unbiased story of Tituba from the Salem witch trials, while Home Fire by the Pakistani-British writer Kamila Shamsie will be an introduction  to the dilemmas of young Muslims in contemporary London.

Fall Break Reflection

Fall break has finally arrived here at Millersville,  giving students and faculty some well-deserved time off. Before these few days of relaxation begin, I encourage you to reflect on your semester so far. This break provides a unique opportunity to acknowledge the halfway point in the term. Looking back on the last seven weeks can help enhance the rest of your semester, as understanding what is creating a positive or negative impact can help alter the remainder of year for the better.

Within your reflection, there are no certain aspects that you must consider, as this should be tailored personally for you. It can be overwhelming thinking of everything at once, so some areas I would recommend include academics, social life, and your emotions. College can be filled with stress, drama, and anxiety that can become incredibly overwhelming when not addressed. Reflecting on these different aspects of collegiate life provides a safe space to understand how each of these areas positively or negatively effects your life. There are many different mediums to complete your reflection, such as using a journal, using the notes app in your phone, or creating a digital diary in google docs or word. If you have not done a reflection before, one of the most challenging aspects is thinking of different questions to ask yourself. To help start your potential reflection, I have created some questions in each of the areas previously mentioned that you could potentially consider.


  1. Do you like your grade in each of your classes? If not, how could you improve it?
  2. Are you enjoying the classes specifically for your major?
  3. What is your favorite class this semester?

Social Life

  1. Do you enjoy living with your roommates?
  2. How do you feel about your relationships with the people closest to you?
  3. Are there any clubs you would like join next semester?


  1. What about college stresses you out the most?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel on average each day?
  3. What are some healthy ways to process and cope with your feelings?