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Volume 24, Issue 6

From Planet English

The MA, PhD, and MFA accomplishments chronicled in this year’s graduate issue of Reading Matters are breathtaking!  From theses to conferences, publications, and awards, read on to see the amazing things that the English Department graduate students have accomplished in the past year.  And then, please congratulate them in person at the Graduate Honors Celebration, which will be held this Wednesday, April 24, from 5-7 pm at St. Burch Tavern.  

In addition to celebrating graduate student achievements, I would like to extend special thanks to faculty mentors for their support of English Department graduate students and programs.  Among faculty administrators, Kathy Lavezzo has plunged into the Director of Graduate Studies role this year, serving as an amazing advocate for the graduate programs.  Likewise, John D’Agata continues to direct the MFA in Nonfiction Writing Program with immense dedication and rigor.  Members of the graduate steering committee work tirelessly to maintain diverse areas of the graduate programs. Many thanks to Adam Hooks, Florence Boos, Marie Kruger, Peter Nazareth, Phil Round, Harry Stecopoulos, and Stephen Voyce.  Finally, thank you to Graduate Academic Coordinator Cherie Hansen-Rieskamp, for having an open door and being the heart, brain, and soul of the English Department graduate programs.


From the Director of Graduate Studies

This year, an amazing group of people contributed to the success of our program. A wonderful grad steering committee—Adam Hooks, Stephen Voyce, Phil Round, Marie Kruger, Harry Stecopoulos, Florence Boos, Peter Nazareth and John D’Agata—provided expert advice and recommendations. Marie Kruger, Phil Round and Stephen Voyce merit particular thanks for their respective work on Quals, Admissions and Grad Finance, as do Adam Hooks and Harry Stecopoulous for their respective work on Intro to Grad Studies and Placement. Adam and Matt Brown provided invaluable input on a possible track in Book Studies and Publication. AGSE representatives Meredith Stabel, Matt Helm, Paul Schmitt and Maddie McGann did a host of things to assist the graduate student community. A special shout out goes to Paul Schmitt and Enrico Bruno, who tirelessly weighed in with the DGS on various issues. Enrico deserves thanks also for his assistance with the revised Graduate Handbook and the new photo board in 308. The organizers of CCC this year—Kassie Baron, Torie Burns, Caitlin Simmons, Konrad Swartz and Rachel Walerstein—did an amazing job, particularly on the moving memorial to beloved faculty member Linda Bolton. Linda’s passing dealt a terrible and unexpected blow to our graduate community, which found so much inspiration in her work on ethics and literature. Several members of the faculty, mirroring the model of ethical behavior Linda so beautifully modeled, stepped up to assist grads who had been working closely with her as their advisor. Those faculty merit special appreciation: Laura Rigal, Stephen Voyce, Garrett Stewart, Naomi Greyser and Claire Fox.

Finally, and most importantly, Cherie Hansen-Rieskamp deserves unending thanks for her vital work as Graduate Academic Coordinator. To say that Cherie cares is a radical understatement.  Cherie goes above and beyond in her support to the graduate student community; she does everything in her power to ensure that our graduate students succeed not just as academics but as human beings.


MFA Graduates

Matilda Bathurst, "ART vs IRL: essays in the space between art and life” (Jeff Porter, dir.)
M.K. Brake, “Paracosmics” (Jeff Porter, dir.)
Daniel Cronin, “Great American Rage: A Memoir” (John D’Agata, dir.)
Julie Kedzie, “In Oblique Order” (Kerry Howley, dir.)
Nicholás Medina Mora Pérez, “América del Norte: A crónica of Anáhuac” (John D’Agata, dir.)
Aracely Mondragon, “Moving Toward Filomena: An Inheritance” (Inara Verzemnieks, dir.)
Alexander Pines, “MYTHOLOGIES” (Bonnie Sunstein, dir.)
Emmett Rensin, “Drought Conditions” (Bonnie Sunstein, dir.)


MFA Publications, Presentations, and Awards


Maryann Evans Award
Julie Kedzie

Graduate College Diversity Fellowship 
Brittany Means
Darius Stewart
Tiffany Tucker

MFA Summer Fellowship 2019
Julia Conrad
Julia Lucas
Tiffany Tucker

Iowa Arts Fellows 2019-2020
Gabriela Claymore
Jenny Davis
Jamila Osman
Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi

Englert Nonfiction Fellowship
Daniel Cronin

Provost’s Fellow 2019-2020
Julie Kedzie

Roxanne Mueller Award
Emmett Rensin

Carl Klaus Teaching Award
Alexander Pines

Hellas Fellow
Jessica Kibler

Buckley Fellows
Lulu Dewey
Bryn Lovitt
Julia Lucas
Darius Stewart

Houston Scholarship
Tony Andrews
Matilda Bathurst

6th Annual Herodotus Research and Travel Award
Matilda Bathurst
Julia Conrad
Louisa Dewey
Amelia Gramling
EmmaJean Holley
Cassandra Jensen
Kofi Opam
Ian Shank
Rachel Sudbeck
Lei Wang

Edwin Ford Piper Memorial Scholarship
Brittany Means

Magdalena Award
Brittany Means

New Amsterdam Award
M.K. Brake
Cassandra Jensen

Geneva Fellowship
Dan Cronin
Julie Kedzie
Brittany Means
Tiffany Tucker

Prairie Lights Nonfiction Award
Lei Wang


2019 Incoming MFA Students

Andrew Cardenas
BA, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, 2018

Gabriela Claymore
BA, New York University, 2015
Cultural Reportage & Criticism

Jenny Davis
BA, Wesleyan University, 2017

Carey Dunne
BA, Barnard College,2012

Jonathan Gleason
BA, Northwestern University
English and Radio/Television/Film

Gyasi Hall
BA, Otterbein University, 2019
Creative Writing

Jessica Kraemer
BA, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2016
Theatre Performance

Dylan McGonigle
BA, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2015
English Literature

Jamila Osman
BA, Portland State University, 2012
Criminal Justice and Sociology
MT, Pacific University, 2013

Tatiana Schlote-Bonne
BA, University of Iowa, 2018
Health and Human Physiology (Exercise Science)

Sanjna Singh
BA, Bryn Mawr College, 2000
Political Science and French Literature

Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi
BA, Duke University, 2017
English Literature


MA Graduates

Reid Dempsey
Jonathan James
Evelyn Millard
Maheen Rasheed
Benjamin Staniforth


PhD Graduates

Chelsea Burk, “Poetics of the Document and Documentary Poetics: Documentary Poetry by Women, 1938-2015” (Stephen Voyce, dir.)

Gemma Goodale-Sussen, “The Town, the Prison, and the Collection: the Case for a Criminological Modernism” (Harry Stecopoulos, dir.)

Lisa Jackson, “Ocean Views: Women’s Transnational Modernism in Fiction by Elizabeth Bowen, Hagar Olsson, and Katherine Mansfield” (Mary Lou Emery, dir.)

Stefan Schoeberlein, “Cerebral Imaginaries: Brains and Literature in the Transatlantic Sphere, 1800-1880” (Ed Folsom, dir.)*

Bethany Smith, “Guilty Pleasures: Piety, Profanity, and Incongruity in The Land of Cokaygne, The Miller's Tale, and the King of Tars” (Jonathan Wilcox, dir.)

Katlyn Williams, “American Magic: Authorship and Politics in the New American Literary Genre Fiction” (Harry Stecopoulos, dir.)

*August 2018 graduate


Upcoming Summer PhD Graduates

Ian Faith, “Gaming Literature: How Digital Games Have Changed Literary Fiction and Performance” (Stephen Voyce, dir.)

Corey Hickner-Johnson, “Out of the Attic: Mental Disability, Neurodiversity, and Contemporary Women’s Writing” (Doris Witt and Douglas Baynton, co-dir.)

Akia Jackson, “The Mobility of Memory and Shame: African-American and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Fiction 1980s-1990s” (Miriam Thaggert, dir.)

Miriam Janechek, “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: becoming an adult in four Golden Age children’s novels” (Lori Branch, dir.)

Katherine Nesbit, “Listening to Reading Aloud: Literacy and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century England” (Garrett Stewart and Judith Pascoe, co-dir.)

Spenser Santos, “Translating the Past: Medieval English Exodus Narratives” (Jonathan Wilcox, dir.)

Anna Williams, “My Gothic Dissertation: A Podcast” (Jeff Porter and Judith Pascoe, co-dir.)


PhD Qualifications

Kassie Baron
Ivo Ivanoff
Jeremy Lowenthal
Maddison McGann
James O’Neil
Margaret Sheppard
Bronwyn Stewart


PhD Comprehensive Examination Completed

Ryan Furlong
Brady Krien
Paul Schmitt
E Mariah Spencer
Meredith Stabel
Konrad Swartz
Bambi Whitaker*

*May 2018


PhD Fellowships and Departmental Awards 2019

Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminar
Dissertation Fellowship

Enrico Bruno

Ballard and Seashore Dissertation Fellowship
Alexander Ashland
Matthew Blackwell
Ian Faith
Rachel Walerstein
Anna Williams

CLAS Dissertation Writing Fellowship
Lydia Maunz-Breese

Huston Diehl Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship
Makayla Steiner

Marcus Bach Fellowship
Caitlin Simmons

Graduate College Post Comp Research Award
Paul Schmitt
Konrad Swartz
Bambi Whitaker

Graduate College Summer Fellowship
Enrico Bruno
Laura Hayes
Danielle Kennedy
Caitlin Simmons
Makayla Steiner

Graduate Research Excellence Award in the Arts and Humanities
Ian Faith

NHC Summer Residency Program
Enrico Bruno

English Department Best Essay Prize
Heidi Renée Aijala

Elizabeth Dietz Poetry Essay Prize
Katherine Nesbit

Edwin Ford Piper Memorial Scholarship
Heidi Renée Aijala

Frederick P.W. McDowell Dissertation Scholarship
Alexander Ashland

Freda Dixon Malone Dissertation Scholarship
Heidi Renée Aijala

Prairie Lights/Sherman Paul Dissertations Research Scholarship
Enrico Bruno

Jakobsen Conference - 1st Place Winner
Maria Capecchi

Jakobsen Conference - Honorable Mention
Oral Presentation Category

Jaclyn Carver

Jakobsen Conference - Honorable Mention
Digital Humanities Presentation

Brady Krien

PhD Summer Professional Opportunities Awards
Brady Krien
Maddison McGann
E Mariah Spencer

Graduate College Iowa Recruitment Fellowship
Anne Burkhart

Center for Diversity & Enrichment’s Student Leadership Award
Corey Hickner-Johnson

2019 Adah Johnson/Otilia Maria Fernandez Scholarship
Caroline Cheung


Department and College Teaching Awards

John C. Gerber Teaching Award
Darius Stewart

W.R. Irwin Teaching Award
Torie Burns
Maria Capecchi
Margaret Sheppard

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
Caroline Cheung
Matthew Helm
Maddison McGann

Council on Teaching Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
Maria Capecchi

Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award
Brady Krien


MA and PhD Publications, Presentations, and Awards

Heidi Renée Aijala is honored to receive the English Department’s Frida Dixon Malone Fellowship and the Edwin Ford Piper Memorial Scholarship, both of which will support the completion of her dissertation on Victorian women writers and nineteenth-century energy science. In addition, Heidi Renée’s article, “Loom(ing) Tragedy: Precarity, Sympathy, and Poetic Exchange in Ellen Johnston’s Autobiography, Poems, and Songs,” earned her the English Department’s Best Essay Prize. Her short article on sentimentalism in Victorian reform literature was published on The Victorian Web late last spring. Heidi accepted a position as Assistant Professor of English / ESL at Pierce College, where she began teaching last fall.

Maria Capecchi presented her paper "Redaction as Power: Dramatizing Hannah Crafts’s Writing and the Quest for Authenticity" at the Jakobsen Conference, where her paper won the first prize in the humanities. She also presented her paper "Practicing the Work of Worms: Lyric Voice, Grievable Lives, and Exile in Solmaz Sharif's Look" at CCC. Maria is a recipient of the 2019 W.R. Irwin Teaching Award. Her greatest accomplishments this year were sending her daughter, Flora, to preschool and watching her son, Ronan, learn to crawl.

Jamie Chen is a first-year PhD student. Over the last nine months, she has moved across an ocean, survived her first Midwestern winter (complete with polar vortex), and delivered a paper at her first conference. With fellow cohort members Philip and Kathleen, she volunteered and attended Chicago MLA 2019, and plans on doing the same for Seattle 2020. Her paper has been accepted by the International Society for the Study of the Narrative, and she will be presenting this summer in Pamplona, Spain, where she will attend panels including speakers such as Kent Puckett and Rita Charon while studiously avoiding running bulls.

Congratulations to PhD candidate Caroline Cheung who received the 2019 Adah Johnson/Otilia Maria Fernandez Scholarship administered by the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies and awarded at the Celebration of Excellence and Achievement Among Women in April.

Harrison Dietzman published "To Smolder, Burn Slow," a photoessay about wildland firefighting, in Guernica magazine, and has an article forthcoming in The Emily Dickinson Journal (28.1) titled "'[A] wholly new and original poetic genius’: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Emily Dickinson, and Literary Immortality.”

Bryanne Estes is a second-year PhD student with a focus on the 19th and 20th century British novel. She has worked for Pearson, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, and the Quad-City Times. She recently presented on epistemological violence in Charlotte Bronte's Shirley for the 2019 Craft, Critique, Culture conference. In addition to teaching Rhetoric, she translates from Spanish and is an associate editor for The Iowa Review and the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies

Matt Helm received an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for his work in the Rhetoric Department as a Rhetoric Instructor, Writing Center Tutor, and Professional Development Graduate Student Co-Leader. He presented his research at the Craft, Critique, Culture Conference. Matt also serves as the Executive Editor of the graduate student publication Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, the latest issue of which comes out this Spring.

Corey Hickner-Johnson's article "Not With the Program: Sandra Cisneros on Feeling and Being a Latina Writer in the Program Era" was published in Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature in Fall 2018. In January of 2019, she presented her work on reframing postmodern iterations of schizophrenia from a disability studies lens at the Modern Language Association on a panel she organized. She will defend her dissertation, Beyond the Attic: Mental Disability, Neurodiversity, and Intersectional Contemporary Women's Writing, on May 7.

This year Brady Krien was awarded the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award as well as being recognized with an Honorable Mention Digital Humanities Presentation award at the Jakobsen Conference.

Maddison McGann was awarded an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for her work in Rhetoric, as well as first place in the Vcologies Early Career Paper Prize Competition. She presented her work at MMLA and CCC, and later this summer, she will be presenting at ASLE, as well as attending Dickens Universe in July.

Kate Nesbit had a paper on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh published in the Winter 2019 issue of Victorian Poetry and another on Elizabeth Gaskell and the social-problem novel accepted for publication in English Literary History. Kate earned an Honorable Mention for the Walter L. Arnstein Prize, a national award for dissertation research in Victorian Studies. She presented material from her dissertation at the 2018 North American Victorian Studies Association Conference and at Yale's British Studies Colloquium. 

Katie Ostdiek has two articles being published. The first, “Mathilde Blind, the Highland Clearances, and the ‘Trappings of Nationality’ in the British Isles,” will be published in MMLA: Journal of Midwestern Modern Language Association (vol. 51, no. 2) and the second is forthcoming from CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture. Katie was also recognized for Innovation at Bellevue University for her contributions to their employee Wellbeing Council and received the employee Circle of Excellence award for her work on the design and implementation of the Style and Editing Guides for Bellevue University's Department of Design & Development.

This year, Katherine Randazzo presented at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, and also had an article based on her research published by the website Anime Feminist.

Spenser Santos has had a paper accepted for the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan: his poem "Litany against Fear" is forthcoming in the anthology Puerto Rico en mi Corazónhe has completed his MFA in Literary Translation; and he defends his dissertation in May.

Paul Schmitt passed his Comprehensive Exams in December and was awarded a Graduate College Post-Comprehensive Research Fellowship for Fall 2019. The Terry Trueblood Wetland Exploration Trail Adaptation Plan he worked on with a group of Urban and Regional Planning students was submitted to the City of Iowa City in May 2018. Paul presented “Tender Buttons, the Gastro-Georgic, and Poetics of Contamination” at MMLA in Kansas City, and worked on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault at this year’s CCC Conference. Collaborating with undergraduate ATI President Nick Dolan, he established a Graduate/Undergraduate Mentorship collective of seven graduate students across the PhD and MFA programs that held a grad school application workshop for interested undergrads in November.

Kathleen Shaughnessy participated in multiple AGSE events and fundraisers since coming to Iowa. She delivered papers at the 2019 Jakobsen Conference and at the 2019 Craft, Critique, Culture Conference, and will deliver a paper at the 2019 Midwest MLA Conference. She served as a moderator at Lori Branch’s Undergraduate Tolkien Conference as well as at the Craft, Critique, Culture Conference, and served as a volunteer at the 2019 MLA Conference.

Margaret Sheppard presented at three conferences this year: Matrices, a joint conference for the Friends of Dard Hunter and American Print History Association; International Open Access Week; and the Annual Ambrose Women for Social Justice Conference. In the Fall, Margaret served as a co-leader in the Rhetoric Department’s Professional Development Program. This Winter, Margaret published an article in Hand Papermaking Magazine and her work was featured on the cover. Most recently, Margaret and her collaborator Raeleen Kao received a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for their Summer-Winter 2019 program “Underpaper Papermaking and Printmaking: with Margaret Sheppard, Raeleen Kao, and Awakenings.” Their program involves a workshop for survivors of trauma, an exhibition of works created, and a panel presentation at Awakenings, a multi-media art gallery featuring the artistic expressions of rape and sexual abuse survivors.

Caitlin Simmons completed the first chapter of her dissertation this year, is nearly done with her second, and will continue working on her project through the Summer and Fall semesters with the help of a Graduate College Summer Fellowship and the Marcus Bach Dissertation Fellowship. She helped co-coordinate a successful Craft, Critique, Culture Conference, which honored Dr. Linda Bolton, and presented her own papers at the WLA and MMLA conferences in St. Louis and Kansas City.

In March, E Mariah Spencer’s review essay, “Margaret Cavendish’s ‘Earth’s Complaints’ and other SF Poems” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Fiction Studies. Mariah has also received multiple awards for extended research this summer. She will spend parts of May and June at the British Library and Oxford University Libraries in England examining autograph manuscripts and first edition literary texts of Margaret Cavendish with the aid of a Stanley Student Travel Award for International Research. From England, Mariah will travel to the International Cavendish Society annual conference held in Trondheim, Norway to present the paper “Women ‘die like Worms’: Cavendish Responds to Gendered Violence.” In early July, Mariah will spend two weeks at the Newberry Library in Chicago supplementing her research on Cavendish’s self-published work with the support of a Judith P. Aikin Award for study at the Newberry and Folger Libraries. She will end the summer with a week of training at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia studying scientific illustrations printed before 1800 with the aid of a William T. Buice III tuition scholarship.

This year Rachel Walerstein presented at two conferences: the Midwest Modern Language Association and the Literature/Film Association. She was also a co-coordinator for this year's Craft, Critique, Culture Conference. Rachel was awarded the Ada Louise Ballard and Seashore Dissertation Fellowship for Fall 2019. Finally, she wants to acknowledge all the support her cat has provided by sitting on books she needs to read and demanding pets at stressful times.   

Anna Williams will defend her dissertation on May 1, 2019. Titled My Gothic Dissertation, the project is (to her knowledge) the first PhD thesis to be produced in podcast form. In November 2018, she presented a portion of it at the Fates of Frankenstein conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. She received a Ballard-Seashore Dissertation Fellowship for Spring 2019. 


2019 Incoming PhD Students

Anne Burkhart
BA, Minnesota State University Mankato
International Relations
MA, University of Colorado at Boulder

Rajorshi Das
BA & MA, University of Calcutta

Kyler Dill
BA & MA, California State University-Chico
English Literature

Joshua Foley
BA, Kalamazoo College
English Literary & Cultural Studies
MA, University of Southern California
Cinema & Media Studies

Conor Hilton
BA & MA, Brigham Young University
English Literature

Tianyu Ma
BA, Washington, U. of Saint Louis, 2017
MA, New York University, 2019


Positive Impact Matters

Our graduate students created a new award this year, the Outstanding Mentor Award, which honors the hard and often unseen work English faculty do to guide students through their graduate program journeys. Graduate students submitted nomination letters detailing how their mentors go above and beyond not only in providing individual mentorship to their mentees, but also in their willingness to support graduate student learning throughout the department. While it is undoubtedly the case that all the faculty who were nominated merit recognition, this inaugural award goes to Professor Stephen Voyce. Stephen volunteers regularly for faculty panels and information sessions. His genuine care and concern for graduate students extends to his advocacy work on improving graduate student working conditions, his service on many—so many!--comps and dissertation committees, and his efforts to  engage students on a holistic level.  Stephen expertly schools his mentees on maintaining a balance between research and teaching; he fosters in his students an appreciation of the value of graduate education despite its many challenges, especially during this time of crisis in higher education. In his nomination letter, one of Stephen’s mentees wrote that he is, “more than deserving of the inaugural Outstanding Mentor Award. Knowing that he has the best interest of me and my colleagues at heart has been reassuring to many of us throughout the tumult of graduate school, and our ability to navigate the challenges of a rigorous program has only been enhanced by his steadfast support of our learning.”


Placement Matters

Chelsea Burke has accepted a position as an academic coach in Military and Veteran Student Services at the Center for Diversity and Enrichment at the University of Iowa.

Kate Nesbit has accepted an Assistant Professor (TT), position with the Central College Department of English, Pella, Iowa.


Alumni Matters

Zachary King (PhD ’16) has accepted an Assistant Director of Annual Giving at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.

Lisa Jackson (PhD ’18) has accepted a Development Coordinator at Peace House, Park City, Utah.

Bethany Johnson Smith (PhD ’18) has accepted a Fellowship Coordinator, with the Honors Program at University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

Jennifer Shook (PhD ‘16) has received a fellowship next year at the Center for Humanities and Information at Penn State.


Faculty Matters

Blaine Greteman wrote an editorial, "Oil puts food on the table. What has Shakespeare ever done for me? Plenty, and the University of Tulsa should keep that in mind," for the Tulsa World which discusses the value of a liberal arts education and Shakespeare.


Upcoming Matters

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

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.