Andrews Hall Alumni News

The Newsletter for the English Graduate Program | Summer 2022

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University Communications

Stacey Waite

Welcome to our English graduate program alumni newsletter, a place where we celebrate our current and former graduate students, and a place where our current students share their perspectives on their current graduate seminars. We are so proud of our graduate students, and we are very excited about creating this space to showcase their incredible work in and beyond our graduate program.

Stacey Waite, Chair of the Graduate Program in English

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Alumni Spotlight

Lenora Hanson

Lenora Hanson

2009 Graduate, M.A. in Literature

Dr. Lenora Hanson, who received an M.A. in literature and a certificate in nineteenth century studies from UNL in 2009, is an assistant professor of English at New York University. The forthcoming publication of their book, The Romantic Rhetoric of Accumulation, is set for this coming winter.

Dr. Hanson’s scholarship explores the intersections between British Romanticism, colonial Jamaica, rhetoric and rhetorical reading, and studies in Marxism, feminism, and colonialism. Of particular interest are accounts of dispossession and what Marx ironically referred to as “so-called primitive accumulation.”

They teach undergraduate and graduate courses at NYU, primarily on topics in, or in relation to, Romanticism, and work collaboratively on projects relating to higher education, capitalism, and alternative ways of organizing study and education.

What are you currently most excited about in your professional life?

Probably because of the COVID context of teaching, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on what the parameters of the classroom are and the ethics of assignments and grading, and the extent to which COVID has really clarified how thin of a boundary there is between the classroom and students’ outside lives.

And while that’s been disruptive in a lot of ways, for me, it’s been really clarifying and allowed for me to think about something that I already felt personally, but hadn’t really felt was intellectually meaningful before, which is just: how to give students space to bring in things from their outside lives and center them as intellectual components of the classes I’m teaching. That sounds really big, but at the end of the day, it’s (about) making small modifications to the class.

The COVID teaching world has definitely helped me to decathect even more from disciplinary orientations, which I never had a super strong commitment to, anyway. I feel like my own personal reasons for studying Romanticism are quite strange and not particularly academic. Maybe that’s true for everyone, but (I’ve been) just reflecting on my own personal orientation towards how I came to studying literature, which wasn’t in a particularly disciplinary mode, and thinking about (questions like): How can I craft assignments and grading… and these kinds of things in a way that speaks more to students’ own intellectual histories and backgrounds? And how to center those in a way that isn’t just about a student-centered classroom, but that helps us to move between literary texts that can feel pretty far away from them and their own backgrounds. I would say that’s something I’ve been spending a lot of the time this past year thinking about.

I co-taught a class with Dr. Fred Moten in Performance Studies here at the beginning of COVID, and we just made it (enrollment) wide open, like anyone can join. He’s a well-known, established person, so that meant we had like sixty people in the class… But the central focus of that class was really not having a syllabus and figuring out how to run a weekly discussion or conversation that is still focused on a topic, but a topic that can kind of branch out on the basis of whoever is in the class at a given point. And one thing that I really appreciated about it was just the demand to come to class every week and say, “What are we here for? What are we doing this week? Why do we want to be here?”

And you know, I felt like that was just a kind of refreshing approach to breaking away from the kind of mechanical things that we can get into when we think that our job is just to assess students or something. [...]

Read the full interview here

Madhumita Gupta

Madhumita Gupta

2018 Graduate, M.A. in Literature

Madhumita Gupta’s professional life is multifaceted and could be described as both Alt Ac and academic. After graduating with an M.A. in literature and a certificate in nineteenth century studies in 2018, she moved back to her home country of India. Today she works as an educator, a translator, an editor, and a freelance writer in the city of Alwar.

Her work as an educator has taken several different forms. She works with secondary school students in her roles as an assistant examiner for the International Baccalaureate, a global nonprofit educational organization, and as a writing mentor for Scholastic, the largest children’s book publisher in the world. Moreover, she educates teachers as a teacher trainer for the English Language and Literature Trainer, a training and development wing of Oxford University Press.

Gupta’s translation of a collection of Bengali stories by nineteenth-century writer Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury was published in 2021 as Tuntuni and Other Jungle Tales from Bengal. Additionally, as part of her position at Scholastic, she and her students crafted a Scholastic anthology titled Weavers of Wonder, which has recently been published.

What are you currently excited about in your professional life?

There are three things that I’m doing currently. I’m an assistant examiner for the International Baccalaureate. Here, what I’m enjoying most is how articulate these kids are—the topics they are picking up, the way they are speaking, the depth of knowledge they have. I am learning so much from them! I feel like less of an examiner, more of a student. So that I find most exciting. Another thing is that I’m getting students from all over the world; that adds to it.

The second thing is that I am a writing mentor for Scholastic. So again, young kids, such bright minds, and I get a chance to spend twenty hours with them, talk to them. That I really enjoy—being with younger people. And… I will show you my first book! (holding up Weavers of Wonder, the Scholastic anthology that resulted from her work with students as a writing mentor) It arrived today. This was (from) the first group (of students) which I mentored, and the book just came out. It’s the first. I am looking forward to many more!

The other thing, which is with Oxford University Press, is that I am a teacher trainer. The exciting part there is that I get to travel all over India. They take really good care of their mentors, and I get to see a lot of new places I never thought I would ever visit! … For the last two years, it has been online (because of COVID), but before that, I was traveling, and that was cool. And I was able to stay in those swanky hotels, interact with teachers all over India, and visit so many schools. I did not like traveling that much (previously), but this was fun.

It’s fun interacting with both sides (teachers and students). You hear the teachers, hear the students. Then I get to hear my students gripe about teachers, teachers gripe about students… (chuckling)

What comes to mind as a favorite memory from your time at UNL?

Apart from the classes I took, the best part was also teaching. When I was teaching my first class, I was worried (that the students might think), “Here is an Asian person. My native language is English. What is she going to teach me?” And then the quick acceptance that they have—that was the most wonderful part. In a matter of days, they were like, “Yes, we are ready to listen to you.” That was lovely… such a wonderful experience. I look back at that with a lot of satisfaction. It was a lovely period. [...]

Read the full interview here

Current Students

Samantha Gilmore

Samantha Gilmore

Third-year Ph.D. Student, Literary and Cultural Studies

Samantha “Sam” Gilmore hails from Pennsylvania and has quickly become a key contributor to the department’s intellectual life.

A scholar of nineteenth-century American literature and culture, Sam came to us with experience in digital scholarly editing from working for The Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson, and quickly settled in here as a research assistant for The Charles W. Chesnutt Archive and The Walt Whitman Archive.

Sam's dissertation will tell the stories of nineteenth-century U.S. periodicals that shared one key feature: their short lifespans. Harper’s and The Atlantic are familiar to many of us, but most magazines flopped in that volatile media environment. Still, they played important roles: What might these periodicals tell us about the ambitions of their founders, the aspirations of their communities, or the ephemerality of media both then and now?

In the past year alone, Sam’s research has been published in scholarly journals like American Periodicals and The Eighteenth Century. And she has earned the rare honor of being selected for a 2022 internship with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

UNL is lucky to have Sam Gilmore among our many stellar graduate students!

By Dr. Matt Cohen, Professor, Co-Director of the Walt Whitman and Charles W. Chesnutt Archives, and Affiliate Faculty in Native American Studies

Mark Houston

Mark Houston

Fifth-Year Ph.D. Student, Composition and Rhetoric

Mark Houston is a rising star in Composition and Rhetoric, as his 2021 article in College Composition and Communication attests. Mark is at home in rhetorical theory while being finely attuned to the realities of teaching. His work helps writers to see how they can make a difference through their words – and why they might want to.

Mark’s commitment to teaching and rhetorical listening extends far beyond the university classroom. Through the Nebraska Writing Project (NeWP), Mark has worked with veterans in Nebraska Warrior Writers, with elementary and secondary students at the Prairie Visions Writing Festival, and with secondary teachers rewriting the Language Arts Standards for the Nebraska Department of Education. Mark now serves on the NeWP Advisory Board.

His dissertation, tentatively titled “Listening Matters: Embodiment, Materiality, and Practices of Non-Antagonistic Rhetoric in First Year Writing Classes,” explores ways to guide writers past the confrontational rhetorics that surround us all these days. It’s no surprise that a student in one of Mark’s classes received the Ted Kooser Award for a breathtaking essay about racial tensions and monuments in her Missouri hometown.

We are all already learning from and with Mark, and we look forward to learning more.

By Dr. Robert Brooke, John E. Weaver Professor and Director of the Nebraska Writing Project

Uchechukwu Okonkwo

Uchechukwu Okonkwo

First-Year Ph.D. Student, Creative Writing - Fiction

The English Department has been so fortunate to welcome so many amazing first-year doctoral students this year. Uchechukwu "Uche" Okonkwo, who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, joined our graduate program in creative writing this past fall. Uche comes us with an M.F.A. in fiction from Virginia Tech and an M.A. in creative writing from the University of Manchester in the U.K.

She has already received impressive recognitions for her work—this past year, she was named a Steinbeck Fellow, and she was previously a Bernard O'Keefe Scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Her work has been published in One Story, Ploughshares, A Public Space, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019, Lagos Noir, Ellipsis, Saraba, and others.

Working as a consultant in the UNL Writing Center and as an instructor of first-year writing, Uche has taught compassionately and skillfully this year under the often unpredictable circumstances of the evolving pandemic and its impact on teachers of writing and students at our university.

We are so very lucky to have Uche teaching and learning in our English program. And we are excited to welcome a new cohort of incoming graduate students next year! We can't wait to introduce some of them in next year's alumni news!

By Dr. Stacey Waite, Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program


Please join us in congratulating these students and recent graduates on their accomplishments!

Chaun Ballard, a Ph.D. student in poetry, has been selected to attend a National Endowment for the Humanities institute as an NEH summer scholar.

Alexandra "Alex" DeLuise, a Ph.D. candidate studying composition and rhetoric, has accepted a position as an instructor of English at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, CT.

Saddiq Dzukogi, a Ph.D. student specializing in poetry and ethnic studies, has been hired as an assistant professor of English at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS. He was also a recipient of UNL's Student Luminary Award.

Isaac Essex, an M.A. student with specializations in poetry and in women's and gender studies, received the Women's and Gender Studies program’s Karen Dunning Scholarly Paper/Creative Activity Award. They are starting their Ph.D. in American Studies at Brown University in the Fall.

Nicole Green, a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program in composition and rhetoric, has been hired as the writing center director at Denison University in Granville, OH.

Claire Jiménez, a Ph.D. candidate specializing in fiction and ethnic studies, has accepted a position as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of English Language and Literature and the African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.

Olufunke Ogundimu, a Ph.D. student specializing in fiction, was awarded a 2022 Digital Incubator Summer Fellowship by the Center for Research in the Digital Humanities.

Lydia Presley, who recently graduated with a Ph.D. in literary and cultural studies, has been hired as full-time English faculty at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, NE.

Emily Rau, a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program in literary and cultural studies, is now an assistant professor in Digital Humanities for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries and the editor of the Willa Cather Archive.

Featured Courses

Spotlighting African American Women Writers

Spotlighting African American Women Writers

ENGL 845B: African American Women Writers, with Dr. Kwakiutl Dreher, Associate Professor

Dr. Kwakiutl Dreher’s “Topics in African American Literature” spotlights African American women writers from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

From Phillis Wheatley, the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry, to Dorothy West, one of the youngest Harlem Renaissance writers, female authors who have not always been given their due are foregrounded.  

As a foreigner in America, I came to the class with only shaky knowledge of African American history and culture, but through the lens of these groundbreaking women and their work, I have learned a lot about African American politics, history, and society from that period and its rippling impact on our present era.

The discussions promote a lively and engaged dynamic where deep reflection on these artistic expressions can be examined with the care, enjoyment and necessary scholarly rigor they deserve.

One of the best things about this class is the attention to the wholeness of African American female experience. Through close reading of their texts and external material, these deeply inspirational women become more than just blurry historical figures. They become real people, with hopes and aspirations realized through an abundance of means still instructional today.

By Zainab Omaki, First-Year Ph.D. Student, Creative Writing - Fiction

Literary Studies for a Planetary Shift

Literary Studies for a Planetary Shift

Engl 817: Climate Change Literature, with Dr. Tom Lynch, Professor and Place Studies Liaison

We are in the midst of climate crises, ocean acidification, and a massive rate of species extinction, among other catastrophic planet-wide changes caused by human societies—but literature and literary studies have largely been inattentive to these realities until very recently.

In Dr. Tom Lynch’s course, “Climate Change and Anthropocene Genres,” we engage with the demands on literature that are leveled by our geologic era, which scientists have dubbed the “Anthropocene.” Can the human imagination fathom the parameters of the climate crisis? And does literature have the capacity to facilitate that imagination? How?

After an intense foundational survey of ecocritical theory, we are engaging with nonfiction and fiction by writers such as the eco-journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, the internationally popular Richard Powers, the experimental and genre-bending Matt Bell, and the renowned Aboriginal Australian writer Alexis Wright.

As we work on our final projects—and individually and collectively roller-coaster toward a post-human literature in a post-nature epoch—we have already begun to miss Dr. Lynch (pictured with Dr. Emily Rau, above), who is retiring at the end of the Spring semester. He has unlocked for us an indelible and necessary ecocritical perspective.

By Kasey Peters, First-Year M.A. Student, Creative Writing - Fiction

In Memoriam: Margrethe Ahlschwede

Margrethe Louise Plum Ahlschwede, an alum with a B.A. (1963), an M.A. (1987), and a Ph.D. (1991) from UNL, passed away January 22, 2022. Margrethe was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1941, and moved to Lincoln with her family in 1949.

Her B.A. was in journalism, as was her first M.A., which she earned from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She subsequently returned to Lincoln, where she served on the Lincoln City Council and entered the graduate program at UNL. Here, she earned a second M.A., this time in English, and then completed a doctorate in English at the age of 50.

After graduation, she taught writing at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where she was named the Hardy M. Graham Distinguished Professor. When she retired in 2007, she came back to Lincoln once again. In retirement, she was active in the First United Methodist Church and the Harmonics Quilt Group, and she returned to the UNL campus to volunteer at the International Quilt Museum. She passed away at the age of 81.

Books by Graduate Students and Alumni

A sampling of the fantastic writing and editing by English graduate alumni and current students. Visit our alumni books gallery to view more—and if we haven't added your book publication yet, please share it with us!

Cover image for More in Time
Cover image for I Have Always Been Me
Cover image for Farm
Cover image for The Other Names of Grief
Cover image for In This World of Ultraviolet Light
Cover image for MFA Thesis Novel