Welcome to the blog for the Villanova English department! Visit often for updates on department events, guest speakers, faculty and student accomplishments, and reviews and musings from professors and undergraduates alike.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prof. Crystal Lucky on Lecturing at Graterford Prison

Shortly after I arrived on Villanova’s campus in 1996, I started getting typed and handwritten requests from inmates at Graterford Prison, asking me to come and teach a course on African American literature.  Unnerved by the requests – how did they know I existed?  -- I chose to ignore them and focus on my new life on campus.  Over the years, I’ve never forgotten those requests and have admired my colleagues who have taught in the university’s program at the prison facility.  So when I got another request, this time from Jill McCorkel of the Sociology department, to participate in the prison lecture series she organizes, I decided it was time.  Nervous that I might be the one who felt imprisoned, put on display, worried that my heart would be broken to see so many black men forced to live beneath their potential, half-heartedly expecting to see someone I knew, I accepted the invitation to present on the development of the Harlem Renaissance and its literary figures.  Jill prepared me for the tedious security procedures and the long, long walk to the auditorium.  She also assured me that once I began to speak, I’d no longer see the inmates’ brown uniforms; instead I’d see students.  She was right.  The men were smart, engaging, engaged and so interesting.  They interrupted my lecture with thoughtful questions, and after the Q&A, which could have lasted another hour, I decided to send back more material for them to read.

Prof. Crystal Lucky in her office.
I took away an important lesson, one that Jill began to teach me at dinner.  I’ve often been guilty of quipping, ‘Of course the inmates should read everything they’re given: they have nothing else to do.’ However, when I walked through the long corridors of Graterford, I realized that there is a whole world behind those sliding doors and bars, a whole lot to do.  When we passed the rap concert, church service, choir rehearsal, and folks just milling about, I realized that people have choices, no matter where they are, about how they spend their time.  Those who attended my lecture wanted to learn about what I was presenting.  They could have chosen to go to the library; they could have chosen the rap concert; they could have chosen cable television.  I was very grateful that they chose to come and listen to me.  At the end of a long semester and a long walk down very long corridors, I received a long overdue privilege.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dan Cummins ('90) on Majoring in English

Attorney Dan Cummins graduated cum laude with a B.A. in English from Villanova and obtained his law degree from the Dickinson School of Law.  He now practices law with the Scranton law firm of Foley, Comerford & Cummins and currently focuses his practice in motor vehicle accident and premises liability matters. His blog, "Tort Talk," has been selected by the ABA Journal as one of the 100 best blogs in the United States for a legal audience (click here to visit the blog).  Cummins also writes a bi-monthly award-winning civil litigation column for the statewide legal news publication, the Pennsylvania Law Weekly.

From Dan:
I am really glad I have found a career and other outlets that allow me to utilize my writing skills honed as an English major at Villanova. While the practice of brief writing in the law does not foster creative writing as much as it does analytical writing, I have been able to participate in column writing for a legal newspaper in addition to maintaining the blog.

My four years of study as an English major at Villanova analyzing in great detail novels by Salinger, Twain, and Dickens, short stories by Joyce and Poe, plays by playwrights from Shakespeare to Miller, and poems by Keats, Yeats, and T.S. Eliot, created skills that I continue to use every day in analyzing cases in the practice of law through legal research. Majoring in English also helped me to craft a writing skill and, more importantly, editing and re-editing skills that I continue to utilize on a daily basis.

Dan at a Civil Litigation conference.
Nowadays, I continue to try to read for pleasure whenever I can but it is sometimes difficult to do with all the reading I do at work—gotta’ give the eyes a rest sometimes. But whenever an anxiously awaited new novel comes out by John Irving or Pat Conroy, two of my favorite authors, I always purchase a copy hot off the presses. I also enjoy going back to the classic works of the great writers noted above for another read at times. Those works continue to provide reading enjoyment, and I am always surprised to see something new or different with each read.

I couldn’t have picked a better major than majoring in English at Villanova. It has both provided me with the skills to succeed in my profession and exposed me to the intense study of a wide variety of great works of literature that I might not have been otherwise exposed to and, for that, I am eternally grateful.