Category Archives: Student Spotlights

Student Spotlight: Barbara Farnworth

Hi, my name is Barbara Farnworth and I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the English Department. I completed my Qualifying Exams in April 2016 and am currently working on my dissertation proposal. I am examining humor in nineteenth-century British literature, more specifically, how women writers incorporate irony and satire in their fiction.  As I began examining humor in nineteenth-century fiction, I noticed that Jane Austen is the only nineteenth-century woman included in humor anthologies. When I developed my reading list for exams, my guiding question was: what happened to humor in women’s writing after Austen?  I discovered several non-canonical authors who included irony and satire in their works. I also explored canonical authors whose humor has not received a great deal of critical attention. For my dissertation proposal, I am concentrating on how these authors employed their narrators to communicate humor. Currently, I am reading narrative theory regarding free indirect discourse and its ability to express irony.

On the home front, my daughter, Chrissy, is in her senior year at Hampshire College majoring in either animal behavior or adolescent psychology, depending on when you ask her. This year she will complete her senior project which, at Hampshire, is similar to a master’s thesis. My husband Mike and I are known as the crazy dog people of the neighborhood. We have two golden retrievers, who are couch potatoes, and a black lab who is obsessed with retrieving tennis balls. Chrissy has a dog of her own, a black lab mix, so when she is home from college we have four (yes 4!) 70 pound dogs at our house.  Currently, Mike is attending a program with our youngest dog that will result in her becoming certified as a Pet Assisted Therapy dog.

I’m happy to report that, after several months of sitting on my butt and eating junk food while studying for my exams, I am finally exercising again. This summer I expanded my exercise routine with spinning and Pilates classes. Spinning is so addictive that I am participating in the 8 a.m. class at the Fitness Center with the undergraduates.  Of course, I’m still eating the junk food!

 

Student Spotlight: Danielle Sanfilippo

danielleHello to all! This semester I am working on my dissertation full force! I am currently working on a draft of a dissertation chapter on Marlowe’s Edward II and Shakespeare’s Richard II. My dissertation as a whole examines aristocratic masculinity in early modern drama. I love studying these plays so much. Edward and Richard have so much in common that they work beautifully together. Best of all, I am planning a trip to London and Stratford to do research! My dissertation is heavily focused on performance so I am seeing as many live performances as possible and consulting recordings when necessary. In January, I plan to see Love’s Labour’s Lost in London (preparing for Chapter 4) and viewing recordings of Edward II and Ben Jonson’s Sejanus. Securing the funding to do this is overwhelming but I am so excited at the prospect of visiting the U.K. again after almost ten years.

On the teaching front, I am all Brit Lit all the time this year. I am currently teaching Brit Lit I and I just found out that I will be doing Shakespeare and Brit Lit in the spring. So a busy year of teaching but I get to teach works that I love and that students aren’t likely to find elsewhere in their college careers. This semester, I am teaching Brit Lit with a more women-oriented focus. I am teaching as many female authors as possible. I just did a section on Marie de France and I am finishing the course with Eliza Haywood. I am looking forward to a great year at URI and I hope that everyone is having a great semester so far!

Student Spotlight: Amy Foley

img_20160908_163433-1I am a fourth year PhD candidate at URI in Literature and Cultural Studies. I am currently in the process of writing my dissertation, entitled “Doorways to Being: Modernism and ‘Lived’ Architectures,” on phenomenology and architectural experience in select modernist fiction. My dissertation work began during the summer after my first year, when I began reading and rereading the writings of Walter Benjamin, Franz Kafka, William Faulkner, and Virginia Woolf. I was struck by the ways in which these texts narrate our everyday bodily experiences with our material environment and the modernist proposal of a new ontology and engagement. I continue to explore and reimagine how phenomenology intersects with cultural studies, particularly in the philosophies of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Benjamin.

This fall, I will attend the International Merleau-Ponty Conference in St. Catharines, Ontario to introduce keynote speaker, Rudolf Bernet’s discussion on “A Portrait of the Writer as a Philosopher.” Much of my critical writing during the program has revolved around this very concern. I have presented on Rilke’s spiritual ideas and his philosophy of sound and silence in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge at NeMLA (Northeastern Modern Language Association). Also at NeMLA, I presented on Woolf’s temporal philosophy in Between the Acts. I continue to write on Woolf in a transatlantic, political, and philosophical context. In my long-term scholarship, the phenomenology of the body as it is philosophized in the modern novel is a burgeoning and ongoing concern; furthermore, I question to what extent fiction in its many forms instructs our “lived” motion in the world, borrowing language from Merleau-Ponty.

Modernism in a global and imperialist context is central to my research as well. In 2015, I won the URI Center for the Humanities Graduate Research Grant and the Hunt Scholarship from the Faulkner Society to study the architectures of Faulkner’s milieu in Oxford, Mississippi. While researching southern architectural history, I presented on Faulkner’s use of the mystery genre in relation to nineteenth century German southern mysteries at the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference. In addition to the Global South, I have written on the fiction and non-fiction of Colm Tóibín in relation to Irish identity and the postcolonial collective consciousness. In my interview, “An Austere, Whispering Power: An Interview with Colm Tóibín,” I ask the author about short fiction genres in relation to Irish identity, as well as many other subjects such as family and sexuality as they exist in his writing.

I am also a writer of fiction. My stories are concerned with memory, the power of things, aloneness, permission and  the nebulousness of knowledge and events, the intersection of similarly and oppositionally politicized identities, and friendship. I am continually studying the relationship between my scholarly study of modernism and its effect on my fiction. My work has been published in The Journal of Popular Culture and Hotel Amerika, and is now under review with the Mississippi Quarterly and the Journal of Modern Literature.

I have enjoyed a range of teaching environments and experiences in my career. As an adjunct faculty person prior to my time at URI, I taught at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Monroe Community College, Roberts Wesleyan College, and at the U.S. Coast Guard in Rochester, New York. I have been fortunate to teach an array of courses at URI and elsewhere, such as Introduction to Literature, World Literature, The Short Story, Mythology, Ethnicity and Cultural Difference, Composition, and Advanced Composition. At URI, my role as Teaching Assistant Mentor allows me to regularly exchange pedagogical concerns with my graduate colleagues. The time I have spent with faculty and students at URI has been essential for my growth as a writer, scholar and teacher; I so look forward to another astonishing and stimulating year with everyone

Student Spotlight: Alyssa Taft

alyssaHello there! My name is Alyssa Taft and I am a second year masters student in both the English Department and the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. I am currently working towards my MA in English and my MLIS with a concentration in School Library Media and Youth Services. In spring of 2015 I was awarded a research assistantship with the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies to work on a grant-funded project titled Media Smart Libraries, in which we develop and implement continuing education programming for school and public librarians on media and digital literacy topics. I also work part time at the URI Carothers Library in the Curriculum Materials Library where I teach URI 101, co-teach EDC 102, and provide reference services to URI’s education department.

My professional interests include media and digital literacy, contemporary fiction, genre studies, creative writing, children’s literature, library advocacy, censorship, intellectual freedom, and collection development. My time in the English department has been spent working on sharpening my creative writing and exploring intersections between literature and education, and literature and adolescence. I complete my English coursework this coming spring and next fall I will be putting together my portfolio. This will be followed by a semester of student teaching in two of Rhode Island’s public schools as a school librarian before graduation in May 2017.   

In addition to my studies, I am also the School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) student board member, co-chair of the English Department’s graduate social committee, a member of the English Department’s graduate writing group, and a member of the Middletown Author’s Circle. I am involved in a number of professional organizations and committees including URI’s chapter of Student ALA, URI’s Graduate Student Conference, the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators, and SLRI’s advocacy committee. In Fall 2015 I was awarded the RI Coalition of Library Advocates Scholarship.  

When I’m not working or studying, I can be found reading for (gasp!) fun, playing with my rescue pup Bernie, or spending time with my husband Lee.

Student Spotlight: Jenna Guitar

Greetings!  My name is Jenna Guitar and I am a second year Ph.D. student in the English department.  I am also working on a certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies.  As I am nearing course completion, I am actively attempting to narrow the topics of my academic interest.  However, I can broadly say that my interests lie in contemporary literature, film, television, pop culture and trans* theory. 

jenna

In the past I have presented several papers at the National PCA/ACA.  Past conference papers have been “Exploring Non-Normative Desire in Season Six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Identity as a Fluid System in Glee,” and “TheOriginals: A Pop Culture Examination of Colonialist Discourse.”  Next year I will again be attending PCA/ACA in Seattle and presenting my paper “GenX Takes the Stage: Exploring Trans* Agency in ‘90s Musicals” a paper that grew out of Professor Mandel’s ENG 590 Special Topics course on GenX Literature and Culture.  Additionally, I have published a chapter in an edited collection: Glee and New Directions for Social Change.  My chapter was entitled “Glee Goes Gaga: Queering Concepts of High School Identity Formation.”  I am the co-chair of URI’s freshly launched Professionalization Committee along with Elyse Nelmark.  The professionalization committee has been responsible for creating and curating a Sakai site that hosts a wealth of information including but not limited to: samples of exam lists and rationales, job market materials, conferences, teaching syllabi examples, etc.  The Professionalization Committee has also held two panels, one in the spring covering how to prepare for exams and summer productivity, as well as a panel this fall concerning publishing.  Both events allowed URI faculty and graduate students to have detailed and focused conversations about the ins and outs of these important career moments.

I am also the co-chair of the URI Graduate Conference for 2016 along with Serap Hidir.  The Graduate Conference Committee is currently working hard to organize an exceptional conference for the spring of 2016.  Our theme for the conference is Trans(form): New Insights and New Directions.  I look forward to providing everyone with more information as the conference grows and develops.  Last year for the Graduate Conference I served on various sub-committees as well as presented my paper: “The Monstrous Feminine: Understanding Lady Macbeth’s Body.”  I am excited to be even more closely involved with the conference planning this year.

I received my MA in English at SUNY New Paltz where I also taught Composition for 2.5 years.  Prior to that, I have two bachelor’s degrees from New Mexico State University in Theatre Arts and English.  As a native New Mexican, my time in the ocean state has been quite a new experience, water!?  In my free time, I enjoy hiking and exploring the beauty of Rhode Island with my husband Mike and enjoying as much live theatre as we can see.  I am also the proud cat Mom of two fantastic felines, Crookshanks and Moo.

 

Student Spotlight: Jason Shrontz

Profile-Pic-1-e1328930129560Hi, my name is Jason Shrontz, and I’m a 4th year PhD student in the English department. I completed my exams late in the Spring of 2014. My field is the contemporary novel with a focus on new media ecology. I’m interested in the rhetoric used to describe the historically precarious position of the novel within its media ecology: the novel is dead, the novel’s not dead, witness the death of the death of the novel! My dissertation investigates how novelists assert and scrutinize their print-based technology within this new media ecology. The first chapter turns to 9/11 novels such as Jess Walter’s The Zero and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It’s my argument that literary representations of the 9/11 attack have offered a place for novelists to discuss their craft within an increasingly connected and digitized world. The proliferation of media images juxtaposed by the consummation of paper in these novels provides a fertile metaphor for exploring the anxieties of a world void of print media. Another chapter investigates how the language we use to describe our social networks and media ecology—touch screens, staying connected, losing touch—mask an increasing absence of physical contact and interaction. New media hardware is increasingly moving away from physical interaction with our environment and data (think: touch screens, apple watch, google glasses, etc.). Looking at Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, a novel in which “the days of losing touch are almost gone,” this chapter focuses specifically on the relationship between figurative and literal understandings of touch. Other chapters, which I’m still developing, focus on the novel and remediation, as well as experimental print novels that integrate new media devices.

In addition to my scholarly pursuits, I’m also an ENG 999 mentor, a graduate liaison, and an associate editor for the Ocean State Review. I have an MFA from Northern Michigan University. Though I’m currently unable to write creatively as much as I want to, my position with the OSR affords me the chance to read and think about craft. I currently teach a class on the novel and new media at URI, and I’m hard at work twitter-stalking various authors to convince them to make a digital appearance in my class. While all this stuff keeps me busy, my absolute joy comes from my family: my wife Stacey, daughter Beatrice, and son Harper. Balancing family and scholarly time is always a challenge, but I don’t think I could realize the importance of maintaining this balance without my family and their support. It helps that I’m married to someone with unlimited patience and focus and a knack for making lists and schedules. Plus, at ages two and four, I’ve found that Harper and Bea have almost exactly the same interests that I do: books, things that beep when you push buttons, air-guitaring to rock’n’roll music, and running.

Student Spotlight: Mike Becker

Today, we’re introducing a new segment on the URI English blog entitled “Student Spotlights”. These spotlights highlight the exciting and important things our graduate students are doing on and off the campus. The first spotlight is focused on PhD candidate Mike Becker, who is slated to graduate this May. We asked Mike to give us a little background about his scholarly interests and activities, as well as a sneak peek at his fascinating dissertation project involving “tastes” within British Modernism .

mikeHi, I’m Mike Becker and I’m currently completing my  final year as Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rhode Island in the English Department. My primary field is British Modernism and my dissertation project explores both literal (gustatory) and figurative (social and aesthetic) tastes in British Modernist novels. In my first chapter I focus on the character Leonard Bast, a hungry modern autodidact attempting to balance comestible and cultural consumption, in E. M. Forster’s Howards End (1910), arguing that Bast engages in a type of snobbery through his judgments in taste and his efforts to gain cultural capital. In my second chapter on Not So Quiet… (1930), written by Evadne Price (under the pseudonym Helen Zenna Smith), I explore the importance of location in literary depictions of WWI food consumption, analyzing characters that rely on supplemental food products sent to the front trenches in care packages and, later, return to dine in the grand hotel restaurants in London as WWI continues to rage. Focusing primarily on the famous Boeuf en Daube scene of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927) and drawing upon both culinary science and the kinetic molecular theory of matter, my third chapter identifies and highlights Woolf’s “liquid aesthetic” as a central concern in the novel, an aesthetic experiment that allows Woolf to draw disparate individualized characters into community without collapsing their separate identities. My final chapter on Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight (1939) explores the three parallel figures of the passport, the international exhibition, and the interwar Parisian restaurant to explore how Rhys’s novel theorizes national identity in a complex, interwar, cosmopolitan context.

While conducting my research on British Modernism and issues of taste, I am teaching with the Department of English — ENG 201 (Principles of Literary Study) this Spring 2015 semester. I am also co-chair, along with Miryam Yusufov (Ph.D. candidate at URI in Clinical Psychology), of the 2015 URI Graduate Student Conference. In addition to my research, teaching, and service at URI, I work on multiple other projects. Together with my fellow English Ph.D. candidate Derick Ariyam, I am a co-founder of the website CFPlist.com —launched in 2011 — which organizes academic calls for papers from around the globe by geography as well as topic and date. In the fall of 2014, Derick and I launched a small business that provides software solutions to large regional humanities conferences, streamlining their membership databases and conference planning.