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. 


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 —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.