English Graduate Students


M.A. Students, 2016-2017

Sarah Forner: I am a first-year M.A. student who holds a B.A. in English from John Carroll University (2016). My interests include poetry, feminist theory, eco-criticism, and nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature and culture. In addition to my inclination toward American writings, I am also concerned with the ways in which historical developments and practices of the early modern period have influenced our present environmental situation.

Blaire Grassel: I am a first-year M.A. student with a B.A. in Creative Writing from Malone University. My interests lie mainly in English literature, particularly in the medieval and Victorian eras, though I also have an interest in American confessional poetry.

Kim Grogan: I am a first-year M.A. student with a B.A. from Case Western Reserve University in Cognitive Science (2016). My interests lie in the intersection between literature and cognitive linguistics, with a focus on the ways in which conceptual metaphor, force dynamics, and semiotics manifest and function within poetry and the novel.

Mark Mowls: I am an M.A. student with academic interest in poststructuralism, film, queer theory, and the effects of technology. I have B.A.s in English (2002) and in Film Studies (2002) from The Ohio State University.

Jack Rooney: I am a second-year M.A. student with a B.A. in English from Case Western Reserve University (2011) and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law (2014). My interests include Romanticism, poetry and poetics, lyricism, and poetic subjectivity. I plan to focus at least some of my research on deconstructing and reexamining the theories of the voice and subject in lyrical poetry heretofore proposed or assumed.

Joey Rooney: I am a second-year M.A. student with B.A.s in English and Religious Studies from Case Western Reserve University. In my graduate career here at Case, I wish to explore my interests in narratology and biblical exegesis. Of special concern to me are the ways in which authors of English works of literature draw upon biblical narratives in the construction of their own narratives. My “post-secular” research goals will hopefully allow me to uncover the theological agendas embedded in these works of literature.

Sabrina Skelly: I am a first-year M.A. student with a B.A. in English from the University of  Mount Union (2016). My interests include modernist and postmodern literature, Southern Gothic literature, feminist theory, queer theory, and the shifting constructs of masculinity.


Ph.D. Students, 2016-2017

Erin Blakeslee: I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Writing History and Theory (WHiT) program. Prior to beginning my studies at CWRU, I taught writing for several years at Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana. I have taught a broad range of courses, including developmental writing, advanced composition, second-language writing, and multi-genre creative writing. I earned my B.S. in Cinema and Photography from Ithaca College and my M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Purdue. My research interests include writing pedagogy and genealogical writing, storytelling, and archival conventions. My studies focus primarily on writing situations that occur outside of the classroom and the workplace: in community writing groups, in family archives, in queer feminist performance spaces, and on hobbyist websites. I serve as the webmaster for the English Graduate Student Association.

Evan Chaloupka: I am a Ph.D. student interested in cognitive disability and narrative. My previous work has focused on representations of cognitive disability and normalcy in naturalist and modernist American fiction as well as early 20th century popular science texts. In 2012, I earned my M.A. in English from The University of Akron. In 2010, I earned my BA in English from The Ohio State University. I have taught composition at Lakeland Community College, Lake Erie College, and Ursuline College and served as an organizing committee member for the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association.

Michael Chiappini: I am a Ph.D. student whose research areas include classic and contemporary rhetorical theory, medical rhetoric, and literature of the AIDS Crisis.

Maya Cope-Crisford: I am a first-year Ph.D .student focused on 18th-20th century British literatures, with concentration on Romantic and Gothic texts. I hold a B.A. from the University of North Texas (2013) and an M.A. from the University of Akron (2016). My research focuses on the idea of an “Other” as it appears through character, theme, environment, or use of scientific and supernatural discourses. Using ecocritical theory, I take specific note of the ways natural geography affects both folklore and politics of the British Isles, and how these ecocritical lenses translate across gender, culture, and historical bias. I also take into account the scientific upheaval of the period, and explore the connections between the natural world and burgeoning scientific knowledge as it appears in discourses of gender, botanics, and the body/politic. My Master’s thesis explored embodiments of female “monstrosity” across English and Scottish works, and used historical as well as folkloric tensions to define gendered monstrosity. Additional interests include folklore studies, poetics, ecofeminism, the unexplainable and strange, gender and sexuality, scientific narratives, transnationalism, and postcolonialism.

Thom Dawkins: I am a Ph.D. candidate at the dissertation stage working on early modern theology and poetics. I was an inaugural recipient of the Dean’s Fellowship, which supported my research at the nearby Allen Medical Library, where I researched medical texts contemporaneous to the poets I study. I have had the opportunity to teach a great variety of topics at CWRU, including courses that privilege professional communication (ENGL 398), ESL (ENGL 148), and Creative Writing (ENGL 203). I recently served as the president of the English Graduate Student Association, and have held posts as Events Chair and as a representative on the Graduate and Undergraduate Curriculum Committees through the organization. Before coming to CWRU, I completed my M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Chatham University and my M.T.S. at the Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Philip Derbesy: I am a second-year Ph.D. student serving as EGSA Vice President and as a representative to the Graduate Council of Arts and Sciences. I hold a B.A. in English from Northwest Nazarene University (2013) and an M.A. in English from the University of Missouri (2015). My research focuses primarily on twentieth-century American literature, especially on how literary modernism interacts with popular culture. For instance, I argue in my master’s thesis that William Faulkner defined his literary project in opposition to filmic storytelling techniques, and my article in Religion and the Arts (co-authored with Benjamin Fischer) argues that the popular religious writings of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton are formulated as a response to modernist aesthetics.

Megan Griffin: As a Ph.D. candidate, my main area of specialization is in Early Modern literature, with a particular focus on issues of genre and on the development of the rhetoric of sovereignty from the English Reformation to the English Civil War. I also have a secondary interest in 20th and 21st century sci-fi/fantasy literature and television.

Ray Horton: I study American literature, contemporary fiction, religion and literature, secularization, and aesthetics. My dissertation, “American Literature’s Secular Faith,” argues for a new way of understanding the relationship between religion and aesthetics in 20th century American literature. It considers how writers such as Mark Twain, Willa Cather, James Baldwin, Don DeLillo, and Marilynne Robinson vivify quotidian experience by fusing religious and aesthetic concerns to elicit new modes of attention. Where American literary history is traditionally conceived as a history of secularization, on one hand, or as an archive of religious ideas that resist secularity, on the other, this project shows how religion’s persistence over the past century has served as a resource for aesthetic form. In addition to my dissertation, I am interested in interdisciplinary approaches to teaching literature, critical pedagogy in teaching composition, ESL pedagogy, critical university studies, and the role of graduate students in addressing issues of shared governance and academic labor. I am co-chair of the American Religion and Literature Society, and I have served as president of the English Graduate Student Association, as president of the Graduate Council of the Arts and Sciences, and as vice president of the Graduate Student Senate at CWRU.

Lara Klaber: I am a Ph.D. student in the Writing History and Theory (WHiT) program, with B.A.s in Communication, Film & Digital Media, and English, and an M.A. in English, from Cleveland State University. I take a cross-disciplinary approach to my work, combining elements of rhetoric and composition, literary theory, film theory, and communication theory in my analyses. My Master’s thesis focused on “the Monster as Romantic Hero in Contemporary Fiction,” and I am particularly invested in the use of popular fiction and media to interrogate cultural norms and values. Additional interests include multimedia narratology, technical communication, interactive composition, and the use of contemporary young adult fiction to promote higher literacy rates. I also harbor a great love of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery genre writing.

Daniel Luttrull: I earned a B.A. in English and Writing from Indiana Wesleyan University (2009) and an M.A. in English from Baylor University (2011). Currently, I am a second-year Ph.D. student interested in American Romanticism, religion, and ekphrasis.

Michelle Lyons-McFarland: A Ph.D. candidate, I hold a B.A. in English and Humanities from the University of Washington (2010) and an M.A. in English from Case Western Reserve University (2012). My area of focus is 18th-century British literature. Academic interests for me include thing theory, gender and sexuality studies, gothic literature, games and new media, reader/author/publisher communities and relationships, and composition.

Melissa Pompili: I am a Ph.D. student in the Writing History and Theory (WHiT) concentration. My research focuses on the sometimes contradictory subjectivities that are required by the biopolitical State from the early twentieth century to the present moment. My dissertation attends to the paradoxical subject position that physicians come to occupy through medical education, and the aesthetic products that they produce during their training in order to affectively (as in emotionally and psychologically) accommodate that subjectivity. My theoretical investments include biopolitics and affect theory, and my work falls under the domains of medical rhetoric and the medical humanities. I am also the creator of the Chopin in the Century website, a digital archive of Kate Chopin’s short fiction published in The Century magazine. During the 2016-17 academic year, I will be teaching ENGL 398, Technical Writing for Engineers, and I will serve as the EGSA Social Chair. I hold an M.A. in Literature from Eastern Michigan University, and a B.A. in English from Lourdes University. Read more at https://melissarpompili.wordpress.com/.

Jessica Slentz: I am a Ph.D. Dean’s Fellow focusing on digital rhetoric and the rhetorics of display. My dissertation is an ethnographic study that will use observation and interviews to investigate the rhetorical experiences composed by and through interaction with digital haptic interfaces in spaces of cultural exhibition, particularly my two research sites: The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. My secondary research interests include new media and digital literacies, digital writing research, multimodal composition, visual rhetoric, and professional and technical writing. I hold a B.A. in Professional Communication and Information Design from Nazareth College, an M.A. in Creative Writing from Kingston University, London, UK, and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Rochester.

Brita Thielen: I am a first-year Ph.D. student focused on 20th and 21st century fiction. I received my B.A. in English from the College of Saint Benedict (2011) and my M.A. in English Literature with a Certificate in the Teaching of Writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2016). My academic interests include women’s writing, feminist theory, dystopian fiction, literary fairy tales, genre studies, composition pedagogy, and privilege and whiteness studies. In my Master’s thesis I argue that the genre definition of dystopian fiction in some ways prevents the inclusion of writing by groups who contemporaneously experience systematic oppression (such as women, people of color, and the LGBQT communities), instead focusing on constructions of oppression imagined by those occupying positions of privilege.

Megan Weber: I am a Ph.D. student with a B.A. from Wittenberg University and an M.A. from the University of South Florida. My focus is Restoration and 18th-century British Literature. My primary research focuses on the development of language through the period, examining shifting gender roles and definitions of masculinity. Using plays and novels, I explore the gap between the public and private, and the different language used in each.