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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Open House

We had a great time at today's Open House.  Many majors, as well as some students considering the major, dropped by and had a donut and coffee.  Lots of provocative conversation was had, from a discussion with Dr. Javadizadeh about the literary significance of the year 1959, to some thoughtful speculation about whether Game of Thrones has tried to present more empowering depictions of women in Season Six.  The lounge will continue to be open and available for student use from 9:00-5:00 Monday through Friday.  And, remember, if climbing all those stairs to the 4th floor of SAC looks like too much, there is an elevator!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Open House for English Majors

We're having an Open House in the Majors Lounge from 10:00-2:00 on Wednesday with cookies, coffee, and other treats. Come check out the new space and meet up with faculty and fellow majors!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dr. Evan Radcliffe Visits Norway

Dr. Evan Radcliffe spent two weeks in Norway in July.  Here are some pictures of him sporting the English department t-shirt.

Shipboard in the Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord.
At Myrdal, above the Sognefjord, on the spectacular Bergen to Oslo railway--the highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe. 
The Oseberg ship in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

New Lounge for English Majors

This summer witnessed a dramatic transformation of the English department's office space.  Most importantly, the former xerox room is now an inviting lounge for majors.  Stop by for coffee and conversation and check out the renovations, and read the story about the new posters in today's previous post!  A series of before and after photos follows.  The first five chronicle the heroic labors of Dr. Heather Hicks, Susan Burns and Sharon Rose-Davis to redesign the office;  the last five constitute the "reveal"!

The old xerox room.

The new lounge begins to take shape.
New lounge 1.
New lounge 2.
Coffee always available!
More new art.
The graduate lounge also experienced a face-lift.

The Story Behind the New Posters

New English chair Dr. Heather Hicks gives the story behind the new posters in the department's office suite:

Several years ago, I was visiting my parents for Christmas in my hometown in Maine.  My family has lived in this small rural town since the early 19th century.  One day, my father mentioned that he had to pay a visit to a local library where he was helping several volunteers with upkeep.  I had vague memories of this small library one town over, as my great grandmother had lived in the few rooms attached to it, and she had sometimes taken care of my brother and me there when we were very little.  I offered to come along with my father, and my husband also tagged along.

When we arrived, I had a surge of memories of the time I had spent in this space as a child.  I remembered the wooden cabinet, built into the wall of the parlor, where my grandmother kept cream pitchers she collected.  Some were tiny, some large, some shaped like cows, or birds, or delicately decorated with roses, or emblazoned with the names of various states, and they all had fascinated me.  Then we stepped into the library itself, and I was amazed.  I hadn’t remembered that this was a substantial space, full of shelf after shelf of books.  My father explained that this library had been created by one of our distant relatives, a minister who brought many of these books when he moved from Philadelphia in the late 18th century.   His descendants had continued to amass a personal library, much of which was later donated to the town and moved into this space, which had originally been a woodshed.

As I wandered among the shelves, I started randomly pulling out volumes, and I was in for another surprise.  Many of the books were stunningly beautiful.  The incongruity between the plainness of the bare-bones wooden room and the luxurious covers of many of these books was uncanny.  My husband and I came back with our camera the next day and began taking photos of some of the most elegant covers.  In all, we took more than 150 photos, and for years, I wondered what to do with this repository.  Then, after being selected as the new Chair of the English Department, I noticed that there were a number of blank walls in the English Department.   In consultation with Dr. Radcliffe, who was acting Chair, as well as Susan Burns and Sharon Rose-Davis, who are staff of the English department, I gradually selected a group of images to convert into posters.  Here are the ones we ultimately chose:

It became clear as I worked on this project that though the book collection in the library was a treasure trove, it did not do justice to the range of literature we teach in the English Department.  There were few female authors and no African American authors or other authors of color to be found there.  I began to research other avenues for locating interesting book covers, and in the process, I learned about the designers of book and magazine covers during the Harlem Renaissance, including Aaron Douglas. He produced many of the images for the magazine, The Crisis, which published many of the Harlem Renaissance’s renowned writers.  Douglas seems to have inspired Mexico’s Miguel Covarrubias, who made the image for Langston Hughes’s The Weary Blues you’ll see hanging in the Graduate Lounge.  Online research, a visit to a great used bookstore in Bucks County, and the generosity of my colleague Joseph Lennon, who lent me his copy of Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s Nobel lecture, Crediting Poetry, rounded out the collection of books that are represented on the walls of the English Department.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mary Grace Mangano ('14): ACE Teaching Fellows Program

From Mary Grace Mangano:
In 2014, I graduated from Villanova with an Honors degree in English, a Concentration in Writing and Rhetoric, and a minor in Italian. During my time at Villanova, I held various positions on the editorial staff of The Villanovan, including Editor-in-Chief my senior year. I was also actively involved as an English advisor, Honors advisor, and a student-athlete tutor for English. I was also fortunate to go on two service break trips, which I discovered through my involvement with Campus Ministry. Much of my service experiences, as well as my interest in Peace and Justice and time as a volunteer ambassador for Catholic Relief Services and as an intern at Catholic Charities in Philadelphia helped to grow my interest in service and mission-based ventures.

After graduating, I had plans to enter the nonprofit world and so I began a Master’s in Management at the University of Notre Dame. However, during my year-long Master’s program, another opportunity that I had turned away from during my senior year began to call my name again. I decided to learn more about the Alliance for Catholic Education’s Teaching Fellows program. Through this program, Teaching Fellows serve in under-served Catholic schools around the country for two years, while also earning a cost-free Master’s in Education from the University of Notre Dame.

The program’s three main pillars are community, spirituality, and teaching. When I applied, I knew it was not the path I had originally intended, but the one that I felt was my calling — to learn to be a teacher and serve students and communities that are in need. I also knew that I could be placed in any of the 30+ cities that ACE serves and that I could be teaching any grade level. This both scared and excited me. In the spring of 2015, I found out that I was accepted to serve at Saint Ann School in Chicago, Illinois as a middle school Language Arts and Religion teacher.

I began classes at Notre Dame that following summer and started teaching last Fall. It has been an incredible and challenging year of growing and learning to be the teacher my students need me to be. My community members have helped me to be better and to continue striving. Their support was invaluable during the first year of teaching. Now, going into my second year of the program, I am excited to try new things with my students and to be reminded of the constant privilege I have of watching them discover who they are, and who God is. I always come back to Saint Augustine — being a Wildcat at heart — and know that my heart — and my students’ hearts — are restless until they rest in God. Teaching, especially through a program like ACE, is a blessed way to help children find rest in God.

I would be happy to talk in detail about my experience with anyone who is interested in ACE, or to answer any questions you might have (mmanga03@villanova.edu). Please check out ace.nd.edu and ace.nd.edu/teach/chicago for more info! Go Cats!

Mary Grace Mangano

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Long Live English Majors!

Reading books is tied to a longer life, according to a new report.  Read the full article here.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Patrick Walsh Wins Sue Winge Playwriting Competition

Recent Villanova graduate and English major Patrick Walsh has been named the winner of this year's Sue Winge Playwriting Competition.  The Villanova Theatre Department sponsors the yearly competition, offered exclusively to Villanova students, alumni, faculty and staff. Pat is the first undergraduate winner of the competition (he was a Villanova senior when he submitted the play).

The goal of the competition is to foster creative endeavors within the Villanova arts community. The funding and support for this project are provided by the Sue Winge Playwriting Grant. The Sue Winge Playwriting Grant and Competition was established in memory of beloved Villanova University employee, Sue Winge, who served the university for many years in the Theatre Department and the President’s Office.

Pat's play, The Fluttering Pulses, will receive a live reading on October 3rd at 8:00 pm in Vasey Studio.  Philadelphia director Seth Rozin will oversee the production of the play, which the VU Theatre Facebook calls an "important, impressive new work."

Here's Pat's synopsis of the play:
The plays follows ambitious college student Ben Kenny as he seeks to unban a controversial fiction novel about a school shooting that inspired the real-life school shooting that tragically killed his aunt. Ben believes the book gives a voice to the victims and that the killer's interpretation should not alter how the world sees the book. His family proves to be less than supportive of the campaign, disagreeing with his interpretation, and begging him to stop. With few on his side, he attempts to track down the location of the author, whose whereabouts are unknown, to prove his point and unban the book. The play "invites a deep conversation" about gun violence, gun control, and mass media reactions to such tragedies, and asks us all to re-think our role in these situations.

Pat Walsh on stage.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hawthorne's Salem with Kevin Madden

Recent Villanova English major Kevin Madden ('16) spent a summer day in Salem, Ma., visiting the Custom House (which employed Nathaniel Hawthorne and served as the inspiration for his famous preface to The Scarlet Letter), the house of the seven gables, and Hawthorne's own birthplace.  Several of Kevin's pictures follow.

Kevin on the steps of the Custom House with the English department t-shirt.

The building behind Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables.
Kevin, in English t-shirt, at Hawthorne's birthplace.