Michelle Lyons-McFarland Awarded 2017 J. Paul Hunter Prize


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Ph.D. candidate Michelle Lyons-McFarland has been awarded the 2017 J. Paul Hunter Prize for the best graduate paper delivered at the Daniel Defoe Society Biennial Conference in New Haven, Connecticut, September 7-9 2017. Her work, “Rising Up: Roxana and Social Mobility,” is an excerpt from a chapter of her dissertation.

This monetary award is given every two years and is assessed both based on the high quality of the scholarly paper given as well as the mode of presentation. The prize is judged by the Executive Board of the Defoe Society.


CWRU English at MMLA 2017


English Ph.D. students made a strong showing at the 59th Annual Convention of the Midwest Modern Language Association in Cincinnati, Ohio, November 9-12, 2017. This year’s conference theme was “Artists and Activists.” Congratulations to all of our presenters!

Michael Chiappini: “‘The Age of AIDS’: Deploying HIV and AIDS as Devices in Kathy Acker’s Empire of the Senseless

Philip Derbesy: “‘That’s Just the Way I’m Staring: Filmic Quotation in Kerouac”

Megan Griffin: “Once and/or Future Kings: Richard II, Henry V, and the Suspension of Time” and “‘So when someone proposes a war, remember’: The Continuing Influence of K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs Series”

Michelle Lyons-McFarland: “Rising Up: Defoe’s Roxana and Social Mobility”


Three of the Department’s full-time lecturers also presented at the convention:

Cara Byrne (CWRU Ph.D. 2016): “From The Journey to Why Am I Here?: Humanizing Immigration and Encouraging Activism in Contemporary Picture Books”

Lucy Biederman: “Suzan-Lori Parks: Writing in Public” in the special session Biederman chaired, “Surface Writing” and “‘Who would I show it to’: The Elegy in Deep Time”

Joe DeLong: “The Self across Language: Jeffrey Angles’ My International Date Line” in the special session DeLong chaired, “The Poetic Activist Self”

Writers House Hosts Dinner with Julie Orlemanski


On Thursday, November 2, 2017, several English graduate students joined visiting colloquium speaker Julie Orlemanski for a mentoring conversation over a lovely dinner at L’Albatros Brasserie. This opportunity was generously funded by Writers House, an initiative to construct a university-wide hub centered on the act of writing in all of its rich permutations. John Orlock, Samuel B. and Virginia C. Knight Professor of Humanities, currently serves as the inaugural director of Writers House.

Dr. Orlemanski is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Chicago, where she specializes in late-medieval literature and literary theory. She has just completed a monograph entitled “Symptomatic Subjects: Bodies, Signs, and Narratives in Late Medieval England,” and her new book project is “Things without Faces: Prosopopoeia in Medieval Writing,” which addresses fictional bodies in the Middle Ages. Her work has appeared in Exemplaria, postmedieval, JMEMS, Textual Practice, JEGP, and numerous edited collections. For the academic year 2017-2018, she is a Visiting Associate at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Orlemanski discussed her own academic career and research and shared advice on coursework, teaching, publishing, conference presentations, graduate student activism, and work-life balance. Students enjoyed her and one another’s company in advance of Orlemanski’s colloquium the next day.

“Embodying Fiction and the Limits of Literary Theory, in the Middle Ages and Beyond”
Date: Friday, November 3, 2017, 3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Location: Guilford Parlor

What, exactly, is fiction? And does fiction have a history? Recent scholars have argued that fictionality only “arose” or “emerged” in the nineteenth century, with the rise of the realist novel. Against this claim, Professor Orlemanski argues for the importance, but also the difficulty, of investigating medieval fictionality. One way such an investigation might proceed is through medieval literary theory, or the corpus of commentaries, prologues, and treatises in which medieval thinkers described the nature of textuality. Though Orlemanski attends to this body of thought, she also points out its limits. The practice of fiction-writing in the Middle Ages, especially in the vernacular, often developed at a remove from such explicit theorization. Accordingly, Professor Orlemanski explores how concepts of fiction are embodied, immanently, in medieval poetic writing. In particular, she shows how the fictional bodies of literary characters incarnate ideas about these characters’ ontology, or the nature of their being. Finally, Professor Orlemanski turns back to the charge of anachronism that might be leveled at her approach, and she seeks to address the question of whether fiction can truly be said to have a history.


Melissa Pompili Wins the 2017 Neil MacIntyre Essay Prize


The winner of the 2017 Neil MacIntyre Essay Prize is Melissa Pompili!

Congratulations go to Pompili, a fourth-year Ph.D. student, for her essay “Strange Encounters with Dead Selves: Medical Memoir, Apostrophe, and (Re)animating Subjectivity.”

Please join the entire Department on Friday, December 8, 2016 for a presentation and celebration of this winning essay.

Melissa Pompili’s research focuses on the sometimes contradictory subjectivities that are required by the biopolitical state from the early twentieth century to the present moment. Her dissertation, “Internal Medicine: Bioaffect, Medical Discourse, and the Making of a Physician,” attends to the paradoxical subject position that physicians come to occupy through medical training, and the aesthetic products that they produce during their education in order to affectively (as in emotionally and psychologically) accommodate that subjectivity. Her theoretical investments include biopolitics and affect theory, and her work falls at the intersections of literary studies, the rhetoric of health and medicine, and the medical humanities. Pompili also currently serves as the President of the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA).