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Volume 24, Issue 5

From Planet English

With great pleasure I introduce the year-end issue of Reading Matters dedicated to the English undergraduate programs. We have much to celebrate this year—from prizes, scholarships, fellowships, and accolades for English and English & Creative Writing majors to the everyday brilliance that English students, instructors, and staff demonstrate in the offices and classrooms of EPB and through their creativity and scholarship in the broader community. Congratulations, all, on enduring the long winter to savor the gentle warmth of semester’s end. We especially celebrate the May 2019 graduates, some now heading to graduate or professional school, others embarking on new careers, and still others exploring ways to sustain their creative practice while supporting themselves. Those of us who remain in EPB wish you the very best in your future endeavors!

 “What do you do when you’re not teaching?” is a question that I hear frequently from family members at holiday gatherings. Well, here is a big reveal of what some English faculty do when they’re not teaching, and even bigger thanks:  to Matt Brown for directing the English undergraduate programs, optimizing them, and generally preventing bad things from happening; to Robyn Schiff for fostering community among the instructors and students in the English & Creative Writing major; to Kathleen Diffley for gracefully shepherding the English Honors Program during a year of tremendous transition; to Lori Branch for administering the undergraduate awards and scholarships with professionalism and fairness; to Stephen Voyce and Anne Stapleton for sharing what our department has to offer with prospective students, along with undergraduate English Ambassadors Hannah Gellman, Amelia Johnson, Jacob Edwards, Tess Koetting, Austin Hughes, JJ Meyer, Elizabeth Chesak, and Kit Fitzgerald. And finally, thank you to the amazing staff who are committed advocates for English undergraduate students on a daily basis, especially to undergraduate advisors Kate Torno and Zach Hickman. 


From the Director of Undergraduate Studies

The vibrant work of our undergraduates this year calls to mind the late great J. Z. Smith. What Smith said of theory we might equally say of our calling: “literature is not life, but I know with perfect surety that it is liveliness.” The creative energy in a writing workshop, the back-and-forth over how a novel ends, the essay shared with peers and mentors—these lively dynamics show the multitudes within each of the department’s students. But built into each student is the collaborative learning happening in every classroom debate, every hallway discussion, and every coffee-shop chat. Undergraduates have traveled to South Dakota, Missouri, and Illinois to deliver conference papers. English and Creative Writing majors now benefit from a free-standing Honors track, serving motivated and ambitious writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid forms, through a range of dedicated seminars. Undergraduate majors affiliate with graduate student mentors, who provide counsel on further studies in higher education. Pioneered by Kate Torno and colleagues, “English at Work” hums along, displaying our savvy and thoughtful majors. The English Society and ATI continue to sustain community and generate fun. And read of the individual accomplishments below! Indeed, I want to take it back. It’s not just the liveliness: literature, when you spend time around these students, is life. All praise, oh mighty undergraduates!

Matt Brown
Director of Undergraduate Studies

Undergraduate Matters

Frederick Cherry, Jr. received the Dean’s Achievement Award for making “significant contributions to the university or surrounding communities through their vision and action.”

Christian Corcoran presented “The Memer” at Northern Illinois University’s Midwest Conference on Literature, Language, and Media (April 12-13, 2019).

Nick Dolan earned first prize in the British and World Literatures category at the 2019 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention for his presentation “Mad Humanists: Frankenstein and Naturphilosophie” (March 27-30, 2019).

Gillian Herrin organized EPX Con, a conference that gathered 200 participants on April 13, in a one-day exploration of the videogaming profession, with students, community members, and representatives of the industry in conversation.

Austin Hughes was named a Rhodes Scholar, one of the 32 recipients out of 880 applicants representing 281 American colleges and universities. He will study at Oxford University, beginning in the fall of 2019.

Marquise Jackson was accepted to the Skidmore Summer Writers Program, with a scholarship to attend the two-week poetry workshop in July of 2019.

Melissa Lauer was recognized with a downtown banner by the Dare to Discover campaign, for her research and thesis on the Wheatley-Provident Hospital, the first private institution in Kansas City to serve and train African Americans.

Wylliam Smith won the Iowa Newspaper Foundation's Iowa Master Columnist award.

Fatima Tall won the Kristin K. Lippke Memorial Scholarship administered by the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies and awarded at the Celebration of Excellence and Achievement among Women in April.

The Alpha of Iowa chapter is pleased to announce that the following English and English and Creative Writing students have been invited to accept membership in Phi Beta Kappa: Lillian Boenker, Betsy Butcher, Denise Cheeseman, Jessica Davis, Rose Deighton, Clarissa Dietz, Aubrey Essing, Abigail Evans, Emma Fenstermaker, Jason Fulmer, Sabrina Gafrick, Hannah Gulick, Amelia Johnson, Kathleen Kiesewetter, Joshua Meyer, Kylie Moss, Brandon Pahl, Amanda Redfoot, Lauren Sanfilippo, Elizabeth Sheridan, Andrea Shine, Phoebe Snydersmith, Benjamin Sulzberger, Austin Turpen, Clara Wertzberger, Rachel Zingg, and Nancy Zmek Lorenz.

English majors April Burgess, Grace Holbrook, Tashmit Khan, and Lauren Gentile, and English & Creative Writing Major Emma Fenstermaker presented their research at the Undergraduate Research Festival held on April 17, 2019.  Pictured is Grace Holbrook, who presented her research on the Peoples’ Weather Map, which was conducted under the mentorship of Barbara Eckstein.


Grace Holbrook presenting her research on the Peoples’ Weather Map


Creative Writing Matters

Robyn Schiff writes:

The undergraduate major in English & Creative Writing celebrates another successful year of creative endeavors and community-building, culminating in the visit of NWP Alum Eula Biss, who gave an exciting cross-genre lecture on the art of research to a packed house of writers in late March. "Research is a mindset," she told the audience, entailing heightened curiosity and open-mindedness at all times. In the spirit of inspired inquiry, we wish a happy graduation to our creative writers; may your open mindset take you far in your creative writing, and into fulfilling creative lives. 


Literary Publishing Track Matters

The LPT is flourishing, with engaged students and creative instruction. An especially impressive achievement is the revamped Publishing II course. The English department took the reins of the class in 2018-19 and the fruits of this labor are genuinely inspiring. Shifting away from the chapbook approach, faculty sought a larger, multi-author project to employ and test the skills taught in the course. Working across their two sections, Bryn Lovitt and Alexander Pines led students in publishing a 150-page collection of high school writers from all of Iowa City’s local high schools. Soliciting and evaluating manuscripts, editing to produce fair copy, stitching pieces together with editorial commentary, designing the package—all student-driven, resulting in a unique anthology of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Class members are now working on marketing the book; a launch, with a reading and reception, will take place at Prairie Lights Bookstore on Monday, May 6 at 7 pm. Bravo Alexander, Bryn, John D’Agata, Bonnie Sunstein, and the mighty forty students in Publishing II!


Honors Program Matters

Kathleen Diffley writes:

It is a pleasure to announce this year's honors thesis writers and the advisors who have generously guided their projects. It's an out-sized roster and a moment in the department's history, the last class required to complete a thesis. They are joined by two students who have successfully completed the new honors requirements and also deserve warm congratulations.

Seniors Graduating with Honors in English, 2018-2019

Jacob Edwards

McKenna Coon, “New Women in the Anglo-Irish Novel, 1878-1901.”
Advisor: Florence Boos

Nicholas Dolan,  “The Pilgrim in Search of Beautiful Innocence: A Theological Taxonomy of Robert Lax.”
Advisor: Lori Branch

Tiphany Phan, “To Kill a Stereotype: An Examination of Canonical Literature and Racial Representation in the Classroom.”
Advisor: Amy Shoultz and Bluford Adams

Alexander Sladek, “Basically Sartre: Absurdity, Truth, and Existentialism in the Works of Joseph Heller.”
Advisor: Doris Witt

Eilidh Spery, “‘What Sort of a Woman Are You?': The Female Detective and Her Social Impact through Female-Authored Mysteries.”
Advisor: Miriam Thaggert

Seniors Graduating with Honors in English and Creative Writing, 2018-2019

Denise Cheesman

Jessica Albright, “A Modern Intimacy with Craft.”
Advisors: Doris Witt 

McKayla Boyd, “In Sickness and In Health.”
Advisor: Rebecca Hanssens-Reed

Rebecca Cammenga, “Gravity.”
Advisor: Jeff Porter

Fredrick Cherry Jr., “‘When Will We Be Free?’: Notions of Freedom and Liberation through the Fictive.”
Advisor: Samuel Fitzpatrick

Irene Enlow, “Conjured Creatures: Animal Magic in Charles W. Chesnutt’s Metamorphosed Menagerie.”
Advisor: Laura Rigal

Abigail Evans, “Carrier: MRSA Essays.”
Advisor: Anne Stapleton

Emma Fenstermaker, “Let’s Make a Deal.”
Advisor: Lucy Schiller

Aimee Fredericksen, “final, final frontier.”
Advisor: Ben Krusling

Hannah Gellman, “Code-Switching in the Poetry of Eduardo C. Corral and Zeina Hashem Beck.”
Advisor: Stephen Voyce

Gabran Gray, “Fireworks Over Le Claire.”
Advisor: Patrick Dolan

Gillian Herrin, “Crossing Cracks: An autobiographical graphic novel.”
Advisor: Laura Rigal

Megan Hitch, “Golden Age.”
Advisor: Patrick Dolan

Austin Hughes, “Inferior Seeking an Inferior.”
Advisor: Robyn Schiff

Melissa Lauer, “All This Living.”
Advisor: Inara Verzemnieks

Emily M. Marvin, “The Climb.”
Advisor: Brooks Landon

JJ Meyer, “$29,000 Kids.”
Advisor: Stephen Voyce

Grace Moore, “What We Leave Behind.”
Advisor: Lucy Schiller

Jose Sebastian Romero, “On Private Rooms and Free Fighting: A Bildungsroman.”
Advisor: Tameka Cage Conley

Jess M. Roy, “Venetia.”
Advisor: Corey Creekmur

Liana Salgado, “The Girl Machine.”
Advisor: Corey Creekmur

Melissa Trepa, “Shameful Insights: Examining female essayists and the crafting of credibility in the nonfiction genre.”
Advisor: Rebecca Hanssens-Reed

Austin Turpen, “You and Me in Effigy.”
Advisor: Kerry Howley

Sean Wojtczak, “Belated Romanticism.”
Advisor: Eric Gidal


English Society Matters

Congratulations to these students for a job well done leading the English Society this year: Co-President Carla Seravalli, Co-President Rose Simonson, Treasurer Naomi Smullen, Education Chair John Lyons, Event Manager Cailyn Snodgrass, Social Media Chair Kate Struckman-Johnson, Publicist: Madeline Berner, Publicist Cassandra Chia. We're grateful for their contributions to the department's vibrant undergraduate culture!


ATI Honors Society Matters

Anne Stapleton writes:

While ATI officers built on past successes to host perennial favorites such as Jeopardy- style literary evenings (fall and spring) and food drives to benefit the Iowa City Free Lunch Program (fall and spring), they also created exciting new opportunities for undergraduates to engage in scholarly exchange and interdisciplinary exploration. Guests from the Departments of Classics and History, College of Medicine, and UI Libraries offered an array of fascinating talks. Graduate student Ryan Tribble (Classics) presented on Virgil’s poetry; Professor David Tucker (History) introduced a screening of Frankenstein Conquers the World, celebrating the bicentennial of Shelley’s novel; and, most recently Professor Jack Stapleton (Internal Medicine) and AIDS activist Donald Baxter (UI Libraries) had an evening of conversation with students to launch “HIV/AIDS in Iowa City: Thirty Years and Beyond,” a series of events marking the 30th anniversary of care at the University of Iowa AIDS Clinic. Several chapter members also benefitted from a fabulous mentoring workshop, where our department’s graduate students (Paul SchmittEnrico BrunoAracely MondragonCaitlin SimmonsTiffany Tucker, and Rachel Walerstein) worked one-on-one with seniors as they prepared materials to apply to graduate schools. These and other activities reflect the vision, vim, and vigor of this year’s chapter!

In addition to orchestrating events on campus, ATI President Nick Dolan garnered national attention at the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention in St. Louis, where he won FIRST in the category of British and World Literatures for his essay “Mad Humanists: Frankenstein and Naturphilosophie!" Nick’s professional delivery and thoughtful responses to pointed queries by attendees earned his audience’s respect, especially given the early panel time of 8:00 a.m. Likewise, Austin Hughes gave an excellent reading of his poetry, “Adam’s Other Bones: Notes on Creation,” and Megan Hitch and Sarah Weeks provided collegial support and participated with enthusiasm in myriad convention events.

Finally, the chapter was delighted to welcome fifteen new members this year: Cassandra Bertolini, Matthew Breja, Jay Biggs, Ryan Chaglasian, Payton Dowell, Jacob Edwards, Laura Fadness, Jason Fulmer, Marisa Koontz, Megan Lilly, Brigid Martin, Gabbie Meis, Susan Pierson, Sarah Weeks, and Sean Wojtczak. Please also congratulate the following officers for the fabulous job they have done this year: Nicholas Dolan (President), Emily Buttolph (Vice President and Treasurer), Grace Holbrook (Secretary), Megan Hitch (Historian), and Laura Timm (Publicist). Next fall will no doubt unfold another exciting semester under the leadership of incoming officers Emily Buttolph (President), Megan Lilly (Vice President and Membership Officer), Sarah Weeks (Publicist), Alex Chasteen (Secretary), and Cassandra Bertolini (Treasurer and Historian). Seniors, we will miss you and wish you all the best as you set forth from the University of Iowa!   

 Sigma Tau Delta award winnersNick Dolan speaks at Sigma Tau Delta convention

Anne Stapleton and Sigma Tau Delta convention attendees

Award Matters

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.
John Lyons

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.
Nichole Shaw

Helen K. Fairall Scholarships
For Iowa born and educated juniors or seniors with preference to students interested in literature from 1900 to the present. The English Department has nominated the following students:
Madeline Berner, Ajla Dizarevic, Natalie Holmes, Nathan Kouri, Meagan Lilly, Brandon Pahl, Rachel Zingg
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.
Cassandra Bertolini, Lauren Chesire, Sabrina Gafrick
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. 
Rose Simonson, Clara Wertzberger
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.
Molly Hill, Gabrielle Meis

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.
Molly Allen, Amelia Johnson, Elizabeth Johnson, Ashleigh Monaco, Emily Parker, Nichole Shaw, Fatima Tall, Mary Walz

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.
Natalia Cruz-Aguayo

Sean Wu Memorial Scholarship
This award was established by Dave Wu and Una Yang in honor of Sean Wu and is used to support a freshman English and Creative Writing major who shows promise in this area. 
Jeffrey Piekarz
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 the Teach for America Corps, 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 Barker
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.
Lily Farmer 

Hogan Family Scholarship
Fatima Tall 

Lennis J. Holm Scholarship
Shay Shafer 


Advising Matters

Academic advisors Kate Torno and Zachery Hickman used a new tool with English majors this year. MyPlan is an interactive planner that allows advisors to map out a student’s potential coursework  over their remaining three years. Students can drag and drop courses to re-arrange them. Once they have plugged in specific courses for a semester they can hit one button to move them all to a “cart” and then see possible computer-generated schedules. From here, they can pick one, save it, and enroll with one click on their registration day.

It allows students to see the big picture, helping them finish in four years and take ownership for their plan of study. Additionally, Kate can see reports that show how many students have a certain course in their carts, which may assist with curriculum development and faculty planning. MyPlan will also save trees as it reduces the number of paper sheets the advisors will use with students.


Faculty Matters

Matt Brown gave a talk titled “A Poetics of Colportage: Pamphlets and Chapbooks in Revolutionary-Era British America” at the University of Pennsylvania on March 25. The presentation was part of the History of Material Texts workshop series.

Jennifer Buckley has been named a Dean’s Scholar, a recognition given to exceptionally strong faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences upon promotion and tenure. Congratulations, Jen!

Congratulations to Eric Gidal who has been elected to a three-year term on the CLAS Undergraduate Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee!

Loren Glass has a forthcoming 33 1/3 volume on Carole King's Tapestry In addition, Loren's essay “Grove Press and Samuel Beckett:  A Necessary Alliance,” has just been published in Lise Jaillant’s Edinburgh UP edited collection, Publishing Modernist Fiction and Poetry. 

Congratulations to Chris Merrill who received the Guggenheim Fellowship to complete his book, The Trials of Roger Williams

Bonnie Sunstein has received the 2019 CLAS Outstanding Outreach and Public Engagement Award! The Dean’s citation describes her achievements with the Lloyd-Jones Residency as well as her leadership in community-based writing instruction. Congratulations, Bonnie!


Upcoming Matters

Walt Whitman at 200: The Bicentennial Symposium, Ivy Wilson - April 23, 2019 | 3:30 pm | UI Main Library Gallery

Graduate Award Celebration - April 24, 2019 | 5:00-7:00 pm | Saint Burch Restaurant

William Rhodes public talk, "Medieval Poetry and the Ecology of the Early Modern World” - April 25, 2019 | 3:30 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Faculty Meeting (tbc) - April 25, 2019 | 3:30-5:30 pm | 331 EPB

English Undergraduate Recognition Ceremony - April 26, 2019 | 3:30-5:00 pm | University of Iowa Old Capitol Building

White Fragility Reading Group - April 29, 2019 | 12:30-1:30 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Walt Whitman at 200: The Bicentennial Symposium, Zachary Turpin and Lindsay Tuggle - May 1, 2019 | 3:30-5:30 pm | UI Main Library Gallery

Faculty Meeting (tbc) - May 2, 2019 | 3:30-5:30 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

The Krause Series in Contemporary Nonfiction: Leslie Carol Robers - May 2, 2019 | 7:00 pm | Prairie Lights Books

Barbara Eckstein Retirement Celebration - May 3, 2019 | 4:00-6:00 pm 

Publishing II Anthology Reading - May 6, 2019 | 7:00 pm | Prairie Lights Books 

Walt Whitman at 200: The Bicentennial Symposium, Panel on the Walt Whitman Archive, Kenneth M. Price, Matt Cohen, Kevin McMullen, Ed Folsom, and Stephanie M. Blalock - June 18, 2019 | 7:00-8:30 pm | UI Main Library Gallery

Walt Whitman at 200: The Bicentennial Symposium, Matt Cohen and Kenneth M. Price - June 19, 2019 | 3:30-5:30 pm | UI Main Library Gallery


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