This Week in English | February 14-20, 2022

This Week in English | February 14-20, 2022

Caroline Bicks Imagines Common App Essays by Shakespearean Characters 

In her latest piece for the humor site McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Caroline Bicks imagines what Shakespeare characters would write for their Common App essays. You’ll be smiling from Juliet Capulet’s response to this prompt onward:

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 

On a more serious note, Dr. Bicks will be giving a virtual talk on memory, girlhood, and the traumatic history of Pericles for the Harvard Mahindra Humanities Center’s Shakespearean Studies seminar on March 4th at 4:00pm. You can register for this free event here

Writing Center Update

The Writing Center wishes all the writers on campus a Happy Valentine’s Day. Let us treat you to a free one-on-one consultation in writing, editing, peer reviewing, public speaking, research, and document design.

Visit our “About the Consultants” page to see our specializations and schedule an appointment on our Writing Center website. We’re here to help!

A Glimpse into English 541 with Professor Lukens

Margo Lukens is back from a well-deserved sabbatical in the fall and is leading the biennial graduate seminar on Colonial and Early National American Literature. She writes:

This group has settled very well into a lively conversational process, which I think is helped by everyone’s contributing a weekly piece of informal writing to a communal Google doc in our Shared Google Drive. The piece is due on the weekend, and then everyone (including me) gets to read the submissions and respond via comments on the whole document—and that’s a lot of leavening that happens before the actual Monday night meetings. We plan to continue the practice even after we return to face-to-face meetings.

We spent the first week (face to face, with a break for small group work in separate offices) dealing with papal bulls from 1455-1493 that formed the basis for the set of practices and laws known as the “doctrine of discovery.” In Week 2 our central text was The Broken Spears, an edited account of the 1519-21 Spanish conquest of Mexico/Tenochtitlán drawing on texts in Nahuatl and Mayan languages; we also read works by colonizers of New Spain (the Caribbean, North America, and South America) contained in The Heath Anthology. Week 3 we read Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America, an English translation of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación of a nine-year odyssey starting in 1527 as a conquest of Florida that went from shipwreck to worse; out of 300 men, only Cabeza de Vaca and three companions survived the trek which took them from the Gulf Coast through what is now Texas and the US southwest all the way to Spanish settlements on the California coast. We also sampled texts from New France, including the voyages of Samuel de Champlain, and the death of Fr. Isaac Jogues at the hands of the Mohawks, as chronicled in the Jesuit Relations.

Each student has volunteered to bring a piece of secondary work to bear on our readings of Colonial lit—starting in Week 4 with our first foray into Dutch and English colonial writers.

In addition to the graduate seminar, Dr. Lukens is also teaching a section of ENG 342: Native American Literature this spring.

A Glimpse into English 280 with Professor Rogers

And here is Deborah Roger’s account of her section of Introduction to Film this spring. 

My class is overachieving!  

In the first four weeks of the semester, we’ve watched (in class or for homework) more than sixteen films (When Harry Met Sally, The Apartment, Some Like it Hot, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, His Girl Friday, Adam’s Rib, Groundhog Day, Philadelphia Story, Witness for the Prosecution, Dark Victory, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Adam’s Rib, The Godfather, North by Northwest, Call Me by your Name, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) plus extra credit films.

This week it’s musicals including Singin’ in the Rain, A Star is Born, The Wizard of Oz, and Top Hat—and some great extra credit films (My Fair Lady, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Music Man, Wizard of Oz, Rocketman, and Bohemian Rhapsody. Now if only I could get Spielberg’s West Side Story!

And we’re gearing up for the Oscars!  I’m hoping to show as many of the Oscar-nominated films in important categories as I can access.

Dr. Rogers is also teaching a section of English 206: Descriptive and Narrative Writing this spring.

English Majors Pursuing Internships in the Spring

Dr. Katie Swacha directs the English internship program. Seven students are representing the English department this semester, as they undertake professional writing internships with various organizations around and beyond Maine. The work that these interns are undertaking represents a wide breadth of professional activities that an English degree prepares students to pursue! 

  • Chloe Shields and Emma Crawford are writing proposals and creating video content for Welcome to Housing, a non-profit furniture bank that supports people in need across Maine.
  • Alex Fountain is writing animal adoption profiles, creating web content, and drafting grant proposals for the Bangor Humane Society.
  • Cassidy Fraser is doing web development, writing PR content, and illustrating a children’s book for The Lighthouse Gallery, a community-based art gallery and arts education center in Bucksport.
  • Keeva Jacques is copy-editing and quote checking for Paideuma: Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, an academic journal edited by Professor Ben Friedlander.
  • Aimee Ouellette is writing press releases, managing Instagram, and writing weekly newsletters for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Sherralyn Robbins is conducting research, writing research reports, and creating social media content about issues of diversity in the field of Technical Communication for TCCamp, a non-profit devoted to bridging the gap between scholars and practitioners of Technical Communication.

Several of these students are supported by generous King Chair Internship Grants made possible by Stephen E. King Chair, Dr. Caroline Bicks. They are also learning professional writing strategies and supporting one another via the ENG 496: Field Experience in Professional Writing course. Stay tuned for updates on their work as the semester progresses! Please contact Dr. Katie Swacha ( for more information about internships for English students.  

Dylan Dryer Presents in Sweden

Dr. Dylan Dryer led (virtually) a seminar on inter- vs. trans-disciplinarity two Fridays ago at the Division for Language & Communication at Chalmers University in Sweden, in which he made the case that the best reading of the prefix “trans” was not “above” (as in transcend) but as “motion” and “work” (transportation, transformation, transfer, etc.). 

This spring, Dr. Dryer is teaching ENG 579: Theorizing & Researching Composing, in which

we are heavily into the theorizing phase—developing a working model of the relationship between events of writing and reading (practices) and understandings and ideologies of writing and reading (representations). Key data for our theory-building so far have included the multimodal doodlings of an Israeli soldier (Fraiberg 2017), a disparate impact analysis of first-year placement scores (Poe et al. 2014), the erasure of the researcher-identities of 10 female PhD candidates (Lawrence 2017), correlations among handwriting fluency, self-regulation, and writing quality among Portuguese middle-schoolers (Cordeiro et al. 2018), a large survey of the digital writing practices of undergraduates (Gold et al. 2020), among others. This week we will test the explanatory power of our theory against writing practices in a healthcare clinic (Campbell 2017) and women’s writing surreptitiously harvested by a fertility app (Novotny & Hutchinson 2019), among others.

Dryer is coordinator of the MA Program in English, which is currently considering applications for the cohort that matriculates in fall of 2022.

MA Students Balestra and Houdlette Lead “Gender Matters” Community Seminar 

English Department Masters students Lydia Balestra and Taylor Houdlette gave a one-day seminar, “Gender Matters: Gender and Sexuality Presentation and Discussion,” on Thursday, February 10 to the Penobscot Valley Senior College. More than twenty students gathered on Zoom where Lydia and Taylor shared a powerpoint lecture presentation on contemporary perspectives on gender issues followed by an animated discussion. The presentation incorporated materials from the Safe Zone Project and explored strategies to foster productive discussions surrounding gender and tips on navigating pronoun use.   

This Week in English 120  was sent to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the department on Monday, February 14, 2022. If you would rather not receive these weekly bulletins, please reply with <unsubscribe> in your subject line. Earlier installments are archived on our website. If you’re on Facebook, please consider joining the newly formed English Department Group.

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