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Volume 22, Issue 2

From (Under) The Chair’s Desk

Welcome to the undergraduate issue of Reading Matters, reporting on some of the many achievements of our undergraduate students and undergraduate programs. It was less than one year ago that the Board of Regents (finally) approved our new undergraduate major in English and Creative Writing, a major that is now up and running and attracting and serving top-rate students, alongside our existing major in English. We habitually reckon our number of majors from the Registrar’s official count in the third week of the fall semester, at which moment we had 787 declared majors. While we will have to await next fall’s census for a settled break-down between the two majors we now offer, it is interesting to drill down into current records in MAUI, which suggest that currently some 328 have declared the English and Creative Writing major, while some 403 students have declared the English major. Since 51 in the latter group are in the phasing-out Creative Writing Track, that suggests something very close to parity between the two majors. In another way of looking at that same energy, some 169 students are currently in the ten sections of the required introduction, Foundations of Creative Writing, and next semester’s multiple sections have been filling fast. Special thanks to Robyn Schiff for developing this introductory course and for overseeing the creative writing side of the new major, to Blaine Greteman for overseeing all aspects of the undergraduate programs as Director of Undergraduate Studies, and to Kate Torno for advising the buzzing flocks of students participating in this hive of intellectual and artistic activity.

The fruits of all that activity will be apparent throughout this number of Reading Matters, including the remarkable achievement of honors students and scholarship winners, who will be celebrated alongside our graduating majors at the English Department Undergraduate Honors and Achievements Ceremony on Friday, April 28, at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol. Warm thanks to Marie Kruger, Director of the Honors Program, and Lori Branch, chair of the awards and scholarship committee, for their work crafting this event, ably assisted by Hannah Rounds, along with all the faculty and staff involved in making our undergraduate programs such a success.

In addition to the excitement of the new major, two features stand out to me to reflect new realities of our undergraduate programs. One is the remarkable work that we all now put into explaining the degree options and cultivating the interests of prospective undergraduates. Special thanks to Blaine Greteman, Lena Hill, and Adam Hooks for offering sample classes to potential students who had been admitted to our program but not yet decided to come, to Bonnie Sunstein and Inara Verzemnieks and to participating graduate students in the NWP for organizing and conducting workshops that provide a sample of our strengths in writing, and to Robyn Schiff and Patricia Foster for reading from their work to rapt audiences of prospective students. Thanks, too, to Phil Round and the undergraduate recruitment committee that he chairs for their now-routine work of offering to prospective students and their families a taste of what Iowa English offers, and special thanks to Kate Torno for her tireless advocacy for the department and invaluable organization of all these efforts.

The other change that has been a slowly developing reality of undergraduate life is in the number of second majors, certificate programs, and minors that our majors are habitually pursuing. Of the 648 majors whose records we can currently access in MAUI, 527 students (or some 80%) are also getting another minor, certificate, or major, with most doing more than one of those things. 188 have declared and been admitted to the University Honors program. 57 are in Secondary Education or planning to be. A further 193 are doing a double major, and it is interesting to see the array of choices they place beside English or English and Creative writing, namely:

Cinematic Arts - 25 students
Pre-law - 20
Journalism and Mass Communication – 20
School of Art and Art History – 20
Theatre Arts - 17
Communication Studies - 10
Psychology - 7
Spanish- 6
Pre-Med - 6
History- 6
Political Science – 6
Dance – 4
French – 4
Philosophy- 4
Sociology – 3
Music - 3
Business/Management/Enterprise- 4

Almost every major in the university has at least one or two students from English taking it as a double major. No wonder English students are such an interesting group to teach!

I hope many of you will be able to join us in celebrating some of this energetic achievement and our graduating majors on Friday. Let me close with special thanks to three of those graduating students that some of us have seen a lot of over the last year. Nicole Jeffrey, Erinn Rogowski, and Zoie Schares have become mainstays of the English Department as they have smilingly and effectively maintained the front desk of our office for the past year. Best wishes to the three of you, and to all our graduating class!


Undergraduate Matters

Need a dose of optimism about our state, nation, planet, or the enterprise of higher education itself? Our graduating seniors are a wonderful reminder of all the ways that English matters in the arts and society. We have students going to work for the AmeriCorps RefugeeRISE program, going to law school at the UI, DePaul, and elsewhere, doing MFA programs in filmwriting, poetry, and fiction at USC, Texas, and the California Institute of the Arts. Our students are going to be teaching in Montessori Schools, attending the NYU Publishing Institute, managing IT for companies in Denver, doing Library Sciences at Iowa and Washington, and participating in graduate programs in higher education administration at Kansas and Wisconsin (presumably so they can become our new benevolent overlords).

In our outcomes assessment survey of graduating seniors this year, 96% of respondents agreed that their education in our department led to their growth as an “ethical person and engaged global citizen.” They cited courses from throughout our curriculum that they believed contributed to that growth, from Post-colonial, to Shakespeare, to Norse mythology. This shows in their activities: our majors were instrumental in creating the Translate Iowa project, which translates original creative works into thirteen languages and hosts a world music show on KRUI. The English Society has been extremely active, even taking over Dey House for their most recent open mic, April 26, 7.00. And with Barbara Eckstein’s innovative use of a Community Impact Grant to pair students at Grant Wood Elementary with students in two sections of GEL as they toured campus and our classrooms, we are now inspiring an ever younger audience.

Blaine Greteman
Director of Undergraduate Studies


Recruiting and Advising Matters

Kate Torno continues to meet a steady stream of students in the main office, ever watchful of what they want, what they need, and ways that we can potentially serve them better. To that end she is setting up a Career Services station in the main office and has been working with Blaine Greteman to launch a new career and internship website for our majors. One of the exciting developments in advising is that next year she’ll be joined by a new advisor who will be split between English, Journalism, and Communication Studies, but housed in English.

Kate reports that it has been a busy year for advising, as she assisted the students in choosing the appropriate major. There are currently 650 students ranging from sophomores to seniors advised in the department. This load will be spread between two advisors starting in Fall 2017. This will allow an increasing focus on career development for our seniors and outreach to our incoming students. Kate continues to reach out to alumni who will speak to our career class, English @ Work, to speak about their career path or to offer advice. We hope for more partnership to help our majors explore business, non-profit and creative careers through internships. If you would like to speak to the class or know of an internship of interest to English majors, please inform Kate Torno,

Somewhere between recruitment and advising, this year has seen us partnering with the “Living Literature Community,” and we have tried to take a more active role in planning and participating in events, including an open mic and a visit to the UI’s rap Julius Caesar. Students on the floor are also getting a great introduction to the major and Iowa City through Loren Glass’s “City of Literature” course, which they take as a course in common.

Recruitment has gone well, as Kate and faculty meet regularly with prospective students. We hosted our largest recruitment event on December 9, with the assistance of Inara Verzemnieks, who helped select five Nonfiction MFA students to teach master classes to prospective students. Meanwhile, we entertained the parents by taking them to the Shakespeare’s Books exhibition organized by Adam Hooks as part of the First Folio! 400th anniversary celebrations.


Curriculum Matters

In addition to introducing the exciting new major in English and Creative Writing, this year saw the introduction of a Publishing Track, responding to our students’ overwhelming interest in a coordinated introduction to the field. The Publishing Track offers students in both majors the chance to learn the vocabulary and process of book publishing from start to finish.  It pairs nicely with the publishing internships that are currently being expanded. Speaking of publishing, English@Work is going strong exploring and explaining the range of career options open to English majors. In one exciting event, it partnered this year with the Mission Creek Festival and FilmScene for a standing-room-only panel on careers in publishing.


Writing Matters

Bonnie Sunstein reports on the first Lloyd-Jones Residency, coming up on April 27-29: We've arranged for seven high school teachers, each bringing four high school students to UI for three days to write in master classes--and then the "teachers" (four graduate MFA students and four undergrad English Ed students) will return the visits to their schools. This is an initiative of the Nonfiction Writing Program in honor of the late Richard "Jix" Lloyd-Jones, former English Department chair, who was a champion of teaching writing and a supporter of underserved Iowa schools and teachers. I see this opportunity as a very important way to continue the legacy of the link between English and Education on this campus, one for which Jix was nationally known.

The project has been two years in the making. The Provost's office of Outreach and Engagement's "Community Impact Grant" has given us a valuable supplement to Ms. Lloyd-Jones' generous grant in order to offer this opportunity.

Please join us, if you can, for the final reading by the students and teachers on Sunday, April 30, 10 a.m.-noon, in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol, an event which will be open to all, followed by a reception in the Old Capitol Museum rotunda. For further details, see the project website,


Honors Program Matters

Marie Kruger writes: With 19 students writing honors theses this spring and six honors graduates in the fall semester, the English Department’s Honors Program continues to thrive. Among the impressive repertoire of creative and critical projects completed this year are creative theses in various genres, ranging from bilingual memoirs to rock musicals, as well as critical theses on texts and authors as diverse as Marilynne Robinson, Edith Wharton, the Dada movement, or zines in the classroom.

Many thanks to those colleagues who mentored the honors students and guided their projects for the past year: Doris Witt, Matt Brown, Lori Branch, Inara Verzemnieks, Jeff Porter, Jake Andrews, Kevin Smith, Loren Glass, Eric Gidal, Phil Round, Stephen Voyce, Jordan Smith, Jen Buckley, Lisa Schlesinger, Corey Creekmur, Ryan Tucker, May Lou Emery, Marie Kruger, Brooks Landon, Anne Stapleton, Megan Knight, Florence Boos, and Pat Dolan.

Thanks also to those faculty who provided invaluable feedback as second readers: Bluford Adams, Stephen Voyce, Corey Creekmur, Mary Ann Rasmussen, Anne Stapleton, Harry Stecopoulos, Dave Wittenberg, Ryan Tucker, Hodna Nuernberg, Chloe Livaudais, Robyn Schiff, Blaine Greteman, Kathleen Diffley, Garrett Stewart, Megan Gogerty, Dan Fine, Florence Boos, and Doris Witt.

Chester Wyatt Billingsley, “Sleep at Night.”
Advisor: Kevin Smith

Jessie Bowman, “Madame.”
Advisor: Jeff Porter

Heaven Chandler, “In God We Trust...? Examining the Connections Between Capitalism and Religious Morality within Little Dorrit.”
Advisor: Lori Branch

Chloe Cable, “I Sing of Misogyny and Sexual Assault: Rape Culture in Contemporary American Pop Music.”
Advisor: Loren Glass

Ashton Duncan, “’Nothing Odd Will Do Long’: Networked Sociality in Tristram Shandy.”
Advisor: Eric Gidal

Keegan Gormally, “Iowan Settlers & Chief Che-Neuse's Band: Familial Exchanges, Meskwaki Exiles, & the Importance of Storytelling.”
Advisor: Phil Round

Katie Heffner, “Zines in Public Schools: Classrooms, Youth & Print Culture.”
Advisor: Stephen Voyce

Katie Hitchcock, “Is there a Balm in Gilead? The Relationship between Faith and Loneliness in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead Trilogy.”
Advisors: Lori Branch (English) and Jordan Smith (Religion)

Emma Husar, “In The Spirit of Dada: Man Ray, The Ridgefield Gazook, and Tnt.”
Advisor: Jen Buckley

Sara Katschka, “Anywhere But Here.”
Advisor: Jeff Porter

Sophie Katz, “Swan Feathers.”
Advisor: Lisa Schlesinger

Meg King, “Reimagining the Dark Continent: Women and the Salem Witch Trials in Literature.”
Advisor: Marie Kruger

馬知韻 / Zhiyun Mary Ma, “Confirmation.”
Advisor: Inara Verzemnieks

Jey Moriconi, “Nice, but Not Necessary: An Examination of Narrative in Horror Games.”
Advisor: Corey Creekmur

Kaycee Pancake, “The Storyteller’s Apprentice.”
Advisor: Matt Brown

Miranda Pederson, “Quanta.”
Advisor: Ryan Tucker

Randi Proescholdt, “Sweepstakes: A Play.”
Advisor: Lisa Schlesinger

Laura Townsend, “Another Summer.”
Advisor: Jen Buckley

Katie Twaddle, “The Doorway Dilemma: Uncanny Crossings in Edith Wharton’s Tales of Men and Ghosts.”
Advisor: Mary Lou Emery

Celine Uhl, “Good Grief – How to Lose the Ones You Love.”
Advisor: Pat Dolan

Nathan Woolard, “Lost Soul: The Process of Revision in Fiction.”
Advisor: Jake Andrews


English Society Matters

Congratulations to these students for a job well done in leading the English Society: President Jacob Koch, Secretary Melissa Lauer, Treasurer Wendy Lee, Writing Chair Austin Hughes, Writing Chair Caitlyn Winkler, Webmaster Nick Dolan, and Publicist Zoie Schares. We're grateful for their contributions to the department's vibrant undergraduate culture.


Honors Society Matters

The Alpha Tau Iota (ATI) Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, International English Honor Society, continues to be active on and off campus, this year guided by faculty co-sponsors Linda Bolton and Anne Stapleton. Sigma Tau Delta’s central purpose is to confer distinction for high achievement in English language, literature, and writing.

(Seniors graduating this academic year in bold; *indicates Dec. 2016 graduation; ** indicates a graduate who remained active as an officer)

With many thanks to this years' members: Dorothy Armstrong, Molly Arndt, Jessica Ausnehmer, Patrick Brosnan, Emmalyn Brown, Joseph Buss, Brooke Clayton, Claire Dietz, Ashton Duncan, Irene Enlow, Keegan Gormally, Elizabeth Halverson, Katie Heffner, Austin Hughes, Meg King, Hannah Leonard*, 馬知韻 / Zhiyun Mary Ma, Caroline Mangum*, Hope Miller*, Sara Miner, Rachel Noe, Kaycee Pancake, Miranda Pederson, Cheyenne Puetz, Steven Raines II*, Rebecca Rhodes, Elli Ruen**, Ryan Schroeder, Lindsay Schwab, Heidi Stofer, Janel Stone, Alex Walgren*, and Nathan Woolard.


Undergraduate Matters

And finally, a taste of Friday’s festivities. Lori Branch took charge of our online scholarship process this year. Congratulations to the following winners, who we will celebrate, along with all of our graduating seniors and their faculty mentors at the Undergrad Recognition Ceremony.

The Louise P. Herring Scholarship
Established in honor of Louise P. Herring, who earned her master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1930 and her doctorate in 1932. It recognizes excellent students with a commitment to English studies as a preparation for life.
Alexandra Lemoine

Helen K. Fairall Scholarships
For Iowa born and educated juniors or seniors with preference to students interested in literature from 1900 to the present.
Rose Deighton, Hannah Gulick, Clarissa Klostermann, Melissa Lauer, Sara Miner, Leah Waughtal

Ruth Gulden Holsteen and Charles Sophus Holsteen Memorial Scholarship
Established by Jon Holsteen and Nancy Holsteen Lerner in honor of their parents, Charles Sophus and Ruth Gulden Holsteen, natives of Burlington, Iowa. Mrs. Holsteen graduated with a degree in English and this award honors students who share her commitment to excellence in the field.
Lillian Boenker, Rebecca Cammenga, Leon Hedstrom

The Golden Pledge Scholarship
This scholarship is given to an undergraduate from Iowa who has demonstrated commitment to and excellence in English.
Molly Arndt, Katherine Chanez, Jacob Edwards, Hanna Grimson, Megan Koch, Morgan Musselman, Olivia Peters, Tiphany Phan, Rachel Zingg

Helen Aicher and Kenneth Ward Nelson Scholarship
This award is for individuals who intend to teach at the high school level following completion of their studies.
Elidh Spery

Margaret Leuz and Fred Einspahr Scholarship
Established by John Einspahr in honor of his parents Margaret Leuz and Fred Einspahr. Margaret graduated from Iowa in 1912 with high honors in English, and this award recognizes excellent students who plan to pursue a career in teaching.
Nicholas Dolan, Aubrey Essing, Austin Turpen

The Scott A. Anderson Memorial Scholarship
Scott Anderson received his B.A. in English with highest distinction from the University of Iowa in 1984. He was an honors student, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a winner of the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion, and, after graduation, he worked as a writer for the UI Foundation and in the television industry in New York and Los Angeles. This scholarship honors students who share his love of writing.
Denise Cheeseman, Irene Enlow, Emma Fenstermaker, Jason Fulmer, Emma Geary, Robyn Henderson, Austin Hughes, Rose Simonson

Sherry Simmons Loring Memorial Scholarship
Established by Eric Loring, in honor of his late wife, Sherry Simmons Loring, who earned her BA in English at Iowa in 1970. The award recognizes students who, like the Lorings, have demonstrated their commitment to and pleasure in the life of the mind at the University of Iowa.
James Baker

Emily Wagner Scholarship
This award honors Emily Wagner, who received her B.A. in English from the University of Iowa in 2002. After graduating, Emily pursued her love of reading and writing by joining Teach for America, and continued her career as an inspiring English teacher, challenging and engaging middle-school students until her death in 2010. This scholarship supports an English major who shares Emily’s love of literature, demonstrates academic excellence, and is a graduate of an Iowa high school.
Grace Ridnour

Darwin T. Turner Award
Established in honor of Dr. Darwin T. Turner, chair of the African-American World Studies Program and Professor in the Department of English. The award recognizes outstanding students of color who best combine Dr. Turner’s devotion to literature and scholarship with his exemplary qualities as teacher and leader.
Muhammad Effendy

Miriam Gilbert Award for Shakespeare Studies
This award is given each year for the best essay on Shakespeare, renaissance literature, or drama and performance, in honor of Professor Gilbert, who taught Shakespeare at Iowa until 2013.
Jessica Russick

McGalliard Medieval Prize
This award is given to an English or comparative literature major who submits the most outstanding essay on a medieval subject.
Hannah Gellman, Tiara Kane

Jix Lloyd Jones Fellows
Rex Connor, Sierra Jefferson, Laura Keuter, Andrew Winkers


Faculty Matters

John D'Agata, Ed Folsom, and Claire Fox were named in the "Dare to Discover" campaign that showcases researchers, scholars, and creators from across the University of Iowa, including a series of banners throughout downtown Iowa City. More can be read here.

John D'Agata was selected as the next M.F. Carpenter Professor of English, a three-year non-renewable appointment. John’s achievement was celebrated at the Faculty Honors Celebration on April 17. With thanks to the Krause Family Foundation - and additional congratulations to John - on securing a substantial donation that will help facilitate the continued vitality of the NWP. This achievement ensures the continuation of the Visiting Writer Series, which brings great writers to give readings, workshops, seminars, and masterclasses to the NWP, in addition to providing funding for the annual Essay Prize. Further details are available here.

In January, Ed Folsom traveled to New York City to visit with Columbia Prep juniors and seniors in Eric Conrad's (PhD '13) course Containing Multitudes: Walt Whitman and His Influence. By examining Whitman's attempt to reconcile the mass carnage of the Civil War alongside the poet's democratic poetics of diversity and connectivity, Folsom challenged students to consider Whitman's continued relevance to 21st-century readers. ​Ed's commentary was also featured in the New York Times article titled, "In a Walt Whitman Novel, Lost for 165 Years, Clues to ‘Leaves of Grass."

Patricia Foster was awarded the 2017 Clarence Cason Award for Distinguished Nonfiction by the University of Alabama (for body of work) and the Theodore Hoepfner Award from Southern Humanities Review for her essay "The Problem." She served on the Nonfiction Prize Jury at Yale University for the 2017 Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes. Her essay "The Lost Years" was named a 2016 Notable Essay in The Best American Essays, and she has essays forthcoming in Ploughshares and Antioch Review. 

Claire Fox was profiled in the piece from the Obermann Center titled, "A Symposium Bears Fruit: New book and an inter-institutional grant the latest results of The Latino Midwest." It can be read here.

Eric Gidal, co-authored with Michael Gavin (University of South Carolina), both an introduction and a contribution (“Topic Modelling and the Historical Geography of Scotland”) for a symposium on “Spatial Humanities and Scottish Studies” published in the most recent on-line issue of Studies in Scottish Literature Vol. 42 Issue 2 (2016):

Loren Glass edits new book, After the Program Era.

Blaine Greteman published an article in Slate Magazine on teaching poetry after the election. It can be read here.

Lena Hill named as the Iowa City Press Citizen's Top 11 to Watch in 2016.

Lena and Michael Hill penned an opinion piece in the Press Citizen titled, 'For Our People' celebrates African-American experience at UI.' They were also part of the Sunday Speaker series for the Johnson County League of Women Voters.

Michael Hill was featured on the front page of the Daily Iowan in an article titled, "When Socializing Meets Activism."

Kathy Lavezzo publishes new book, The Accommodated Jew: English Antisemitism from Bede to Milton.

Robyn Schiff's book, A Woman of Property, was named as one of the top books in 2016 by the Chicago Tribune and the New Yorker. Robyn was also named as a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in Poetry.

Inara Verzemnieks pens the article "Life in Obamacare's Dead Zone" for the New York Times. She was subsequently interviewed by Nieman about her NYT Magazine story.

Stephen Voyce has been selected to receive a 2016-17 Collegiate Teaching Award in recognition of his exemplary performance as a teacher. This and other awards will be recognized at the Faculty Honors Celebration, Monday, April 17, 3:30 p.m. in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. 

Jonathan Wilcox published Anglo-Saxon England and the Visual Imagination.


Upcoming Matters

Celebration of Undergraduate Achievement, Friday, Apr. 28, 3:30-5:00 pm, Old Capitol Senate Chamber:

Celebration of Patricia Foster on the occasion of her retirement, Thursday, May 4th, 3:30-5:30, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Click here to visit the News and Events on the English Department website for more details.