Welcome to the official blog for Villanova's Graduate English Program! Come back often for updates on conference opportunities, guest speakers, student accomplishments, alumni news, and more. Also be sure to check out our Facebook page for more updates.

January 8, 2018

Crystal J. Lucky

I teach 19th and 20th century African American literature, including fugitive slave narratives, contemporary novels of slavery, works of the Harlem Renaissance, the African American short story and the works of Toni Morrison and August Wilson.

While my teaching range is somewhat broad, my research interests are focused on the narrative and cultural productions of black women preachers. My current book project, On the Threshing Floor: African American Women’s Piety in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, seeks to trace the image of the pious black woman, whom I define as dedicated to enacting and promoting the tenets of Protestant Christianity, as both an historical and a cultural figure from her appearance in autobiographical and expository writing and visual images of the nineteenth century through her reinvention in American literary and popular cultural forms of the early- to mid- twentieth century. The study posits that fictionalized representations of black women’s piety often contradict the documented histories of black pious women as respected members of their civic and religious communities and as important contributors to the progression of the black church during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. From the 1830s to the 1890s, the black pious woman was most often identified as an itinerant preacher, public speaker and leader of her enslaved brothers and sisters in the narrative productions of a black women’s intellectual tradition. As the century progressed and transitioned into the next, however, popular representations of black women’s piety replaced the women’s own narrative depictions of themselves within an American cultural imagination. The pious black woman of the 1890’s through the 1950’s reemerged in hyper-sexualized, emotional, irrational, and blindly devoted iterations in fiction, film and visual images. Such representations belied the women’s earlier descriptions of themselves as clear-thinking, intelligent, faithful, and adhering to socially conservative middle-class deportment. Ultimately, I wish to draw conclusions about how black women's piety has functioned in American culture and how it has gained considerable capital in contemporary society.

November 9, 2017

Jean Lutes

I specialize in American women writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Inspired in part by my first career as a newspaper reporter, I have always been fascinated by the dynamic exchange between journalistic practices and literary work.  My first book, Front-Page Girls: Women Journalists in American Literature and Culture, 1880-1930, argued that the gritty, male-dominated vision of newspaper work associated with the rise of literary realism in the United States has obscured a vibrant alternative tradition of women’s reporting. That tradition featured not objectivity and detachment, but rather material embodiment and emotional engagement.  My interest in women’s reporting led to my second book: the first edited collection of the writings of daredevil stunt reporter Nellie Bly, which was published by Penguin Classics in 2014. I am now working on a book-length study of the personal advice column, a tremendously popular and enduring genre that women writers invented in the late nineteenth century. I am also helping to recover, with the help of a team of undergraduate researchers, the work of Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935), an African American journalist, essayist, and fiction writer.

I have co-directed Gender and Women’s Studies at Villanova and served as the book review editor of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers. In my professional service, teaching, and research, I seek to honor and nurture the interdisciplinary work of feminist scholarship, which has shaped my own research interests in profound ways.

September 20, 2017

Yumi Lee

I teach, research, and write on post-1945 and contemporary U.S. literature with an emphasis on Asian American literature and history, coming from a framework of critical race & ethnic studies. I'm currently working on a book titled Someone Else's War: Race, Empire, and the Korean War in American Literature. The Korean War, long considered the “forgotten war” of twentieth-century U.S. history, has been the subject of a newfound wave of interest in American culture over the past decade. In my book project, I read contemporary American literary works, including novels by Toni Morrison, Chang-Rae Lee, Rolando Hinojosa, and Ha Jin, to trace the transformative effects of the Korean War and U.S. militarism in Asia on U.S. racial formations from midcentury to the present. Examining the war’s impact on policies and practices around desegregation and immigration, I argue that the Korean War heralded a new mode of liberal inclusion for racial minorities in the United States. Through close readings of literary texts paired with a critical analysis of historical and legal documents, my book investigates both how and why we are remembering and retelling the Korean War in the present. It seeks not only to assess the war's significance for understanding U.S. racial formation in the past half-century but also to reveal what the recent literary reckoning with the Korean War’s legacy can tell us about endless war and U.S. empire in our current moment.

In addition to this book, I'm working on a few other projects: I'm currently writing an essay on incarceration in Asian American literature and culture. I've also begun research for a second book-length project, which investigates the institutionalization of ethnic literature as a site of knowledge production in and around the postwar university. Across all of these projects, I'm interested in both examining contemporary "ethnic" American literary texts and developing a critical understanding of our reading practices and their institutional histories.

September 15, 2017

Mary Mullen

I teach and write about the relationship between literature, history and politics with a particular emphasis on nineteenth-century English and Irish writing.  My current book project, Novel Institutions: Realism, Anachronism, and the Nineteenth-Century Novel, focuses on anachronisms, institutions, and nineteenth-century English and Irish realism.  Studying the novel’s confused chronologies and out-of-date characters, this project argues that realism locates its opposition to institutions in the very anachronisms that institutional time creates. It offers new readings of canonical novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and Charles Dickens alongside lesser-known Irish novels in order to reappraise the supposedly failed Irish realist novel. I examine nineteenth-century representations to throw light on our relationships to institutions today, claiming that nineteenth-century realism invites readers to imagine modes of inhabiting contemporary institutions without accepting their narrow futurity.

I am also in the early stages of a project on the university that tracks the endurance of Victorian forms of cultural authority in contemporary higher education. Studying a moment when the university first became the subject of a public discourse, the project examines periodical literature, pamphlets, essays, and college novels from the nineteenth century alongside contemporary discussions of higher education to reveal the amnesia that accompanies neoliberalism’s “time-space compression.”

Both of these projects show my interest in thinking about the afterlives of Victorian social and literary forms through diverse methodologies: postcolonial and queer theory, Irish and Victorian studies, formalist and Foucauldian theory.

November 19, 2012

Chiji Akọma

Chiji Akọma, PhD (Binghamton University—SUNY)
Associate Professor
My field is contemporary Anglophone African and African Diaspora literatures, including African oral performance studies. I’m particularly interested in Caribbean folklore and literary traditions, African oral literature, drama, fiction, postcolonial studies; and lately, I have been looking at black British literature, with its complicated yet dynamic delineation of blackness. But in my most recent research efforts, I have been drawn into the task of recovering Igbo language fiction, especially as this body of literature from south eastern Nigeria appears to have been drowned out by the resounding success of such writers as Chinua Achebe, Elechi Amadi, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who are Igbo authors, addressing the Igbo experience, but writing in the English language. In light of this imbalance, I am working on a book on Igbo popular theatre based on a television series set in the colonial era. The work attempts to find new uses for postcolonial theory even as it privileges the exploration of Igbo folk aesthetics in drama.

My first book, Folklore in New World Black Fiction, examined the fiction of two Americans, Toni Morrison and Jean Toomer, and two Guyanese, Wilson Harris and Roy Heath, for the myriad of ways they call attention to the intersections between orality and literacy, especially in relation to African oral performance aesthetics. The book organizes the major works by these writers around a grammar of meaning that I locate within an African Diaspora sensibility. I like the dynamism of oral performance, and I’m especially grateful for the fact that Africa and parts of the Caribbean still have artists who continue to maintain and expand the creative and intellectual capacities of African oral traditions, despite the seeming dominance of the written tradition. As the Vice President of the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA), I’m privileged to have the front view of the exciting research going on in the field. I am also co-editing with Nduka Otiono a collection of essays on the subject entitled, Beyond Text: Issues in African Oral Literature and Diaspora Studies. The volume is in honor of the work of Isidore Okpewho, one of the influential scholars of African oral traditions.

I have a passing interest in African cinema, but the more I observe the wildly popular Nigerian movie industry, commonly called Nollywood, the more I more I rub my gray beard in contemplation and say, Hmmm…

Michael Berthold

My current research focuses on nineteenth-century literary representations of Johnny Appleseed, the iconic alter-ego of real-life nurseryman John Chapman. The cultural exaltation of Johnny Appleseed stands as a sustained exercise in American hagiography that since the nineteenth-century has transfigured Chapman the man (in the words of various commentators) into a “patron saint of the American orchards” and “one of America’ half-dozen favorite folk heroes.” But the legend has been mainly inscribed in children’s literature and sweetened and attenuated in the process. 

My intention is to recover the irreducible strangeness of Johnny Appleseed and argue for the adult importance of the figure by examining his earliest appearances in American literature. In an essay I published earlier this year in The Journal of American Culture I examined Appleseed’s literary debut in James M’Gaw’s little-known 1858 novel Philip Seymour. I am currently working on an article about Denton J. Snider’s extensive revision of the narrative. Snider, one of the St. Louis Hegelians, recasts Appleseed as both a neo-Hegelian World Spirit and orphic poet—a “new-World fate-compeller” in Snyder’s words. I think Snider’s Appleseed might be the most ambitious (and possibly bizarre) rendering of the figure that American literature has witnessed.

Alice Dailey

My primary field of study is early modern literature, with a secondary field in literature of the Middle Ages. My research coheres around a broad set of questions about how stories of violence are told and retold. I’m interested in the literary structures that organize and rehearse acts of violence, especially structures that rely on the audience’s recognition of an old death in a new form. In particular, my work looks at sixteenth- and seventeenth-century reiterations of historical, literary, and religious scenes of violence that are inherited from earlier models, be they biblical, patristic, medieval, or relatively contemporary. My work considers the forms reiteration takes in the context of discrete historical moments of literary production, considering how both sedimented and emerging literary structures exert constitutive pressure over historical events.

These interests have led to two main projects focused on rather disparate literary materials. The first is a forthcoming book, The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution, which studies the development of English martyrological literature from the late Middle Ages to the execution of King Charles I in 1649. This book considers how the martyrological form—traditionally defined by strict paradigm repetition—attempts to reconcile the broad range of individuals, beliefs, and persecutions seeking legitimation through martyrdom during the tumultuous period of the English Reformation. My current research project focuses on Shakespeare’s English chronicle plays. This work brings together theories of performance, memory, trauma, and somatics to think about the representation of dead, dismembered, and remembered historical bodies on the early modern stage. These two projects likewise summarize my principal teaching areas: hagiography and martyrology, religious polemics of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, medieval Passion drama, Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and Shakespeare in performance.

Joseph Drury

I teach courses on eighteenth-century and Romantic British literature. I have a particular interest in the history and theory of the novel, the history of science and technology and its intersections with literary culture, material culture and "thing theory," and the history of sexuality. I am working on a book, titled Novel Machines: Technology and Form in Eighteenth-Century British Fiction, which explores how novelists responded to the new prominence of machines in eighteenth-century British culture, and shows in particular how the distinct narrative dynamics of the period’s fiction were shaped by the effort to turn the novel itself into an Enlightenment machine.

Travis Foster

I write and teach about American literature up to roughly 1900. My current work focuses on how popular literary conventions influence social life. I’m particularly interested in those moments when widespread aesthetic forms challenge normative modes of social, familial, and national belonging. Hence the project I’m completing, Democratic Affections: Literary Convention and the Politics of Friendship in Civil War America, identifies a body of widely circulating yet critically neglected texts that depart from dominant postbellum historiography by fermenting dissent and division rather than national reunion and racialized fraternity. Because the project’s archive—campus novels, regionalist sketches, gospel sermons, and over one-hundred Civil War elegies—resists dominant close reading methods, I’m also interested in critical practices more attentive to the conventional, including distant reading, uncritical reading, genre criticism, and performance studies.

My next project—tentatively titled The Queer Lives of Plants: Sex, Botany, Literature—takes up another popular (and popularizing) nineteenth-century discourse, botany. In my research so far, I’m finding that writers from Erasmus Darwin to Henry David Thoreau to H.D. used botany for two overlapping purposes: first, to represent gendered and sexual deviance among humans and, second, to construe ecology as a set of affectively rich exchanges between humans and other carbon-based life. My overarching aim here will be to trace a 150-year genealogy of queer ecological thought that de-naturalizes “nature” and conceptualizes intimacy beyond the interpersonal to what we might broadly call the inter-material.

Heather Hicks

I teach and do research in the areas of post-1945 American and global Anglophone fiction, apocalyptic literature, feminist fiction and theory, postmodern theory, science fiction, and contemporary film. I’ve recently taught courses on the question of whether fiction since 2000 meets the criteria of the “postmodern;” 20th century science fiction; recent feminist fiction (yes, it exists!); and an undergraduate course on apocalyptic literature from pre-history to the present day.

In my scholarship, I’m interested in literature about various forms of contemporary crisis. My most recent book, The Post-Apocalyptic Novel in the Twenty-First Century: Modernity Beyond Salvage (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), analyzes how major novelists since 2000 have imagined the fate of modernity in the wake of global catastrophe. My first book, The Culture of Soft Work: Labor, Gender, and Race in Postmodern American Narrative (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), examined the ways that a wide range of cultural texts from comic strips to films to major novels responded to the changing nature of the American workplace (and American workers) after World War Two. I’ve recently become interested in a more transhistorical approach to literary study, and I’m working on a new book on the history of apocalyptic fiction, covering the evolution of this genre from the early 18th century to the present. I’m especially interested in how depictions of gender and race have figured in this fascinating body of literature.

Brooke Hunter

Hunter undertakes the typical peregrina (pilgrim) activity of washing clothing at the end of a day of walking while on the 500 mile traditional medieval pilgrimage to Compostela de Santiago this summer.
I teach and write about medieval literature, especially the vernacular literature of the fourteenth century and the movement of philosophical and scholarly works into the vernacular. Nearly all of my scholarship is somehow connected to the work of Geoffrey Chaucer. My research looks at the multiple avenues through which intellectual texts were received and digested: in vernacular translations of scholarly works (e.g. Chaucer’s Boece or Treatise on the Astrolabe), Latin commentaries, teaching texts, medieval writings that ventriloquize the voices of auctores (e.g. Pseudo-Boethius or Pseudo-Aquinas), and the spoof texts and in-jokes of humorous university writing. I am working on a project about the reception of Boethian and Pseudo-Boethian works as school texts, vernacular translations, and spoofs—right now I’m writing about the unlikely topic of Boethian humor! Psychoanalytic theory informs much of my thinking, especially the ways in which misrecognition and affective responses to scholarly work from the Middle Ages reflect on contemporary university research and education.

Chaucer; Medieval Romance; Literature of Heaven and Hell; The Fabulous Middle Ages; British Tradition, I.

“Remenants of Things Past: Memory and the Knight’ s TaleExemplaria 23.2 (2011)

Ph.D. from University of Texas at Austin in 2010.

Kamran Javadizadeh

My teaching and research focus on modern American poetry, though my interests often lead me out from that center—both horizontally (into twentieth-century American literature and culture) and vertically (into the long history of poetry and poetics). My current book project, Bedlam & Parnassus: The Institutional Life of Modern American Poetry, begins by observing the historical coincidence that, from where they sat in 1950, both Ezra Pound and Elizabeth Bishop could observe the dome of the United States Capitol. What makes that coincidence fascinating is the stark difference in their circumstances. Bishop was serving a one-year term as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (the position we now call Poet Laureate); the view from her corner office was meant to signal her proximity to power. Pound, on the other hand, was an inmate in St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He would be confined there for thirteen years in order to avoid being prosecuted on treason charges for his wartime radio broadcasts, and he could just barely make out the dome of the Capitol, three miles away, through the hemlocks outside the window in his cell. What would it mean to think of these two poets—together—as a composite figure for the American poet at mid-century? I begin with that question—and wind up answering others, too, along the way: What did Robert Lowell see when he looked in the mirror? How did Weldon Kees disappear? And why does Sylvia Plath’s voice sound so odd?

In my next project, I plan to think about the surprising resonance between the lyric poem and epistolary writing over a period which spans the distance, roughly, between the introduction of airmail (and modernism’s global imagination) at the beginning of the twentieth-century, and of email, Facebook, and Twitter (and our culture’s anxiety about the loss of solitude) a century later.

My work has appeared so far in The Yale Review and Arizona Quarterly.

Joseph Lennon

Joseph Lennon, Director, Irish Studies Program
Associate Professor, Department of English
I specialize in Irish Studies, but my research also generally follows the influence of colonialism and its effects in Ireland, Britain, and India. I have written primarily on the Irish Literary Revival, including authors such as W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, August Gregory, James Stephens, and James and Margaret Cousins. But as with the range of my first book, Irish Orientalism: A Literary and Intellectual History (2004, 2008), my research interests stretch back to medieval origin legends and up to modern and contemporary Irish writing.

My work on Irish Orientalism has led me to investigate the origins of the ideas and practices of cross-colonial hunger striking in Ireland, Britain, and India. My current book project focuses on the first modern hunger strike by the Scottish artist Marion Wallace-Dunlop in London's Holloway Prison in 1909. After discovering her diaries and letters in a London attic, the book project was born; it closely reads texts of the day—plays, novels, newspapers, histories—situating her own writing, paintings, and protests within the intellectual moment of 1909. I am especially interested in how these texts, like the protests of the time, articulate matrices of power. This work, as well as my work on hunger representations in Ireland and India, examines how the cultural production of desire, hunger, and gender impinge on modern consumer culture.

I also write poems and have an interest in contemporary poetry and drama, particularly that of Ireland.

October 23, 2012

Megan Quigley

My classes at Villanova focus on literary modernism, 20th-century British and Irish Fiction, and the relationship between philosophy and fiction. I am currently fascinated by the fact that James Joyce thought it was a good idea to translate a section of Finnegans Wake into Basic English, C. K. Ogden's 'simplified' English language, and the translation actually appeared in 1932. How could a language with only 850 words, mostly nouns, designed to facilitate international communication and favored by Winston Churchill and Henry Ford, possibly translate Joyce's puns and word-play? My book, entitled Modernist Fiction & Vagueness,  grapples with this translation as one of many works where philosophical and literary ideas about language's possible precision collide. I focus on the general modernist dream of precision in figures such as Bertrand Russell, Ezra Pound and James Joyce as well as its converse, the praise of the 'vague,' the blur, and the fuzzy, in writers stretching from William and Henry James, to Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and T. S. Eliot.

My work has appeared in The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism, Modernism / Modernity, Philosophy and Literature, and the James Joyce Quarterly. In 2011-12, I was at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin to look at the James Joyce Papers. and in Spring 2013 I was a fellow at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles. In July 2013 and 2016, I lectured at the T. S. Eliot International Summer School in London.  I am working on a new project on the relationship between T. S .Eliot’s poetry and narrative fiction.

Evan Radcliffe

Evan Radcliffe reading the Times Literary Supplement while
traveling in Brazil, where he grew up.
My field is Romantic literature, and my main focus is on the relation of this literature to the controversies around the French Revolution—in particular, the ways in which Romantic literature reflects and responds to the political and moral-philosophical debates of the 1790s, debates about such topics as patriotism, the value of local affections, the ideal of universal benevolence, and the ways in which traditions enable or constrict moral choices. The essay on which I am currently working grows out of a conference presentation on Wordsworth’s play The Borderers. I contend that although supporters of the French Revolution attempted to enlist both justice and sympathy for their cause, they could not escape the conflicts between the two ideals that earlier moral philosophers first outlined. These conflicts, I argue, were made especially pressing by the way that the constant presence of vengeance in France undermined ideas about justice. I am pursuing how, by exploring these issues in The Borderers, Wordsworth sets up his own future stance as a narrative poet, a stance that is not only specifically literary but also has significant affinities with the ways in which modern philosophers discuss the relations between acting and refraining from action, and between doing and allowing harm.

Much of my scholarship considers questions of narrative, questions that are also becoming more important in my teaching. Along with Romantic literature I teach Greek classical literature, and my interest in literature in relation to moral philosophy has (together with the collaboration between the English department and Villanova Law School in hosting two Law and Literature conferences) resulted in my regularly teaching a session on literature, narrative, and ethics in a course at the Law School.

October 21, 2012

Lisa Sewell

My focus is on contemporary poetry and poetics, both as a scholar and practitioner. In the graduate program, I teach courses on 20th century poetry movements, contemporary poetry, contemporary women poets, critical theory, and feminist theory. At the undergraduate level, I regularly teach poetry writing and introduction to creative writing. I have published critical essays on a number of contemporary poets including Louise Glück, Brenda Hillman, and Frank Bidart, and I recently contributed chapters to The Cambridge Companion to Post-1945 American Poetry, A Companion to Poetic Genre, and the Dictionary of Literary Biography. I am co-editor, with Claudia Rankine, of two essay collections that focus on 21st century North American poets and we are currently at work on a third. My most recent critical interests center on the work of contemporary poet Martha Ronk in the context of ecopoetics – an area I am just starting to explore.

I have also published two full-length collections and a chapbook of poetry, which won the Keystone Award. My poems have appeared in journals such as the Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, Paris Review and most recently, Harvard Review and Drunken Boat (an on-line journal). I have also received grants and awards for my work, including a Leeway Foundation grant and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. I just completed the manuscript for my third book of poems and hope to begin work on two more projects in the coming months: a collection of poems about endangered species and a mixed-genre memoir.

October 17, 2012

Lauren Shohet

My fields of teaching and research interest are early-modern poetry and drama (especially in England, and especially Shakespeare and Milton); adaptation studies, the history of material texts, and genre studies. My current work on these topics has taken me into ecocriticism, digital humanities, and translation theory as well. Recently, I’ve written on early-modern women’s elegy, human-non-human networks in Renaissance pastoral, the power of poetic forms at English Renaissance courts, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials in relation to Paradise Lost, “You-Tube and the Idea of an Archive,” and patriarchy in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and its box-office-movie adaptation Scotland, PA. I published Reading Masques: the English Masque and Public Culture in the Seventeenth Century with Oxford University Press in 2010 and recently edited an Othello i-pad app for Luminary Shakespeare LLC.

I’m drawn to study and teach literature because it sponsors conversations: between the present and the past, between forms (like sonnets) and historical events (like revolutions), between scholarly analysis and popular debate, between selves and others, between "what" and "what if." I find our present moment of rapid technological and cultural change both baffling and exciting, and I am interested in exploring ways that canonical texts of English literature and well honed tools of literary analysis can offer archives, tool boxes, and inspirations for considering vital questions confronting us today.

Having studied harpsichord performance and comparative literature as an undergraduate (Oberlin College BA 1986, B.Mus. 1987), I received my graduate degrees in English from Brown University (MA 1992, Ph.D. 1995). My work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Shakespeare Association of America, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Huntington Library, the Bogliasco Foundation for Humanistic Study, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. I’m the first holder of Villanova’s endowed Luckow Family Professorship in English.