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Graduate Student Testimonials

Sarah Hancock

Hometown: Monroeville, PA

Year: Alumna

Degree: MA in English Literature

I did my undergraduate work at Chatham University, a small liberal arts school in Pittsburgh. At Duquesne, I've had the opportunity to fill in some of the gaps in my English literature education, which has forced me to think more critically about how I read and what I look for when I read, regardless of genre or time period. I've found that I'm really interested in examining the role of the natural world in literature. I like to investigate the material consequences or material manifestations of the theoretical ideas that are present in different texts. Right now, I'm working on a thesis project, where I'm using descriptions of garden design and practices in 18th century popular literary journals to consider the evolution of British attitudes towards colonization in the Caribbean. Throughout this thesis process, I have been continually encouraged by faculty in the program to explore my interests in material culture, post-colonial theory, and eco-criticism. This program has helped me to focus my interests in literature. I am currently applying to PhD programs so that I can continue to explore these interests.

Rachel Luckenbill

Hometown: Harrisburg, PA

Year: ABD

Degree: PhD in English Literature

My dissertation focuses on the often tense and ambiguous representations of Christianity in contemporary American Indian literature by women. I examine how Linda Hogan, Louise Erdrich, Diane Glancy, and Joy Harjo engage in or resist cross-cultural reconciliation in the wake of Christianity's involvement in colonization and its perpetuation of patriarchal hierarchies. Ultimately, I argue that imaginative writing makes space for dialogues of reconciliation that are otherwise stifled in the midst of complex and historically tense cultural and socioeconomic circumstances. My methodological approach is deeply historical and cultural, enhanced by archival research on the history of missionary interactions with Native Americans, cultural immersion experiences, and interviews I conducted among American Indian women in Oklahoma about the relationship between faith, gender, and culture.

Kayla Firm

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Year: Alumna

Degree: MA in English Literature

My primary research interest is examining fashion as a language. I'm really interested in how we communicate and express ourselves to one another and how we construct our identity through clothing. One thing I've enjoyed about my time at Duquesne is being able, in many of my classes, to talk about the things that interest me. In Spring 2014 I got to take a class on Eighteenth Century Drama and Material Culture. For that class, I wrote a paper on how clothing (in the case of drama, costume), especially shoes, function as characters themselves in the plays. I examined how actors and actresses can use material props, like shoes, to assert their identity and communicate with both other actors and the audience. Next semester, I'll be doing an independent study, focusing on Fashion Theory. After I finish my MA, I want to pursue a career in fashion journalism. I think having a master's in English is great for a writing career. In a class I'm currently taking, Feature Writing, I feel really inspired and I'm thinking that writing could really be a career for me. With the type of writing we're doing in that class, I don't feel limited by the more restrictive rulebook of academic writing. I can insert myself in the writing and talk about the things that really matter to me.

Nathan Shuey

Hometown: Medford, OR

Year: Alumnus

Degree: MA in English Literature

Broadly speaking, I'm interested in Medieval Literature. Most specifically, I have a sustained fascination with the way texts construct and represent otherworlds and underworlds. In the past I've written on the relationship between the natural and the supernatural in the medieval romance poem Sir Orfeo and done an allegorical reading of the same poem in order to elucidate its concluding events. I chose Duquesne because I wanted to experience life on the eastern side of the country and from the research I did I could tell that Pittsburgh was a city that I would enjoy-with the abundance of great architecture, cultural opportunities, its size, and its "up-and-coming" status. There was also more than one professor with whom I shared research interests here, and I was offered the fantastic opportunity to go to school for free while gaining valuable teaching experience. The people here are my favorite part of the program. The professors genuinely care about your life, both inside and outside of the academy, and the grad students graciously welcome newcomers. My ultimate goal is to get a PhD. I'm thinking about applying to both programs in English and in Medieval Studies, and perhaps I will get another MA in the latter before getting a PhD in the former. Right now, I'm just trying to take full advantage of all the opportunities that I have here.

Theresa Sullivan

Homewtown: Rochester, NY

Year: Alumna

Degree: MA in English with Concentration in Journalism and Media Arts

I chose Duquesne because of the JMA program. In my undergrad I studied English Writing and Communications Journalism. I thought that Duquesne's program would be a great way to marry those two undergrad majors into one graduate course of study. It allowed me to follow my interests both in literature and digital composition and technology. In my JMA classes, I've really enjoyed learning more about composition pedagogies, the influence of digital technologies on the writing process, the effect of digital technologies on the development of the writerly voice. To pursue these interests further, next semester I will be doing a directed reading to examine how digital technologies play out in the field of writing and publishing, how these affect the development of story, narrative and the writing process, and how the definition of story changes in a digital age. I'm especially interested in what elements of a story are mainstays despite changes in technology - what themes or messages are timeless and universal. I've also loved working at the University's Writing Center as the graduate online Nursing Consultant. It's given me a chance to help other students develop their personal voice. I believe that each person has a distinct writerly voice and should engage the opportunity to share their perspective through the medium of writing.