The 2017 Ottoline Prize

Submit to win $5000 and publication by Fence Books


The 2017 Ottoline Prize opens to submissions today, November 15th. The prize is open until 11:59 p.m. EST on December 15th, 2015.

The Ottoline Prize awards publication and $5,000 to a book-length work of poetry by a woman writing in English who has previously published one or more full-length books of poetry. Previous winners of the Ottoline Prize are Stacy Szymaszek and Lauren Shufran. The submission fee is $28, and all entrants receive a complimentary subscription or renewal to Fence. The winning manuscript will be published in the Spring of 2017 by Fence Books.

Named for Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell (1873–1938), beloved under-sung patron of the Bloomsbury Group, The Ottoline Prize existed in previous incarnations as the Motherwell Prize, and the Albert Prize before that. A full list of winners can be found here.

Our mailing address is:
Fence Magazine, Inc.

SL-320, University at Albany
1400 Washington Ave
Albany, Ny 12222

Click here to submit to the Ottoline Prize

Our Recent MA Graduates.

In a survey, 80% of alumni respondents indicated that they are employed in an area that draws on the skills developed in their graduate studies at The College of Saint Rose.  We spoke recently to a couple of our graduates.  Here’s a sample of what they say.

Emily LaPointe, Communications Coordinator at Northern Contours: “I know that pursuing and earning my MA in English has enriched my life and emilywas a big factor in being hired for my current job. . . .  It’s something that precedes me in almost all introductions: ‘This is Emily. She has a couple of English degrees.’ It has given me confidence and credibility when it comes to a lot of the tasks associated with my job. . . .  I just always felt like my career options were really open if I had degrees in English. . . . My boss just said to me a couple weeks ago, ‘Man, I never knew how much we needed a writer around here!’ Score one for English majors! . . . I think the person I am today is largely a product of my course of study in English.”

Kelly Weiss, Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional at The College Experience Program:  “My English graduate study imbued me with kellya sense of confidence that I simply did not have before my experience at St. Rose. . . .  After graduation I began working at the College Experience Program, which is an innovative educational opportunity for students with disabilities.  The determination, self-discipline, time management, and advanced writing skills that I learned during my graduate studies proved to be invaluable to me at my current job. Much of my professional work involves writing and teaching. My experiences in the classroom as a student gave me the practical experience I needed to succeed. Ultimately, my time at Saint Rose turned out to be more meaningful for my career than I initially realized.

Recital: Halle D. Cairns, Soprano, BA in Music and English

Photo Dr, Brian Sweeney                                                                                                  Photo–Dr. Brian Sweeney

Halle D. Cairns, Soprano, at her Senior Voice Recital on Sunday, Nov 8, 2015, at the Massry Center for the Arts.  She is from the studio of Ms. Lucille Beer and was accompanied by Trevor Kahlbaugh on the piano.  Halle hopes to pursue a career as a music librarian.

Dr.  Brian Sweeney who attended the recital said, “I know from the classroom Halle’s talent for literary analysis. This was my first opportunity to hear her interpret texts as a vocalist. I always enjoy discovering how multi-talented our English majors are.”

Christina Romeo another English major and friend in the audience  said, “Watching Halle was enchanting. Her last piece from the Sound of Music had me tearing up. I could tell it was sentimental to her, and she projected that to the audience.”

The Midwest Graduate Students Conference on Writing.

The Midwest Graduate Students Conference on Writing.  

Radical Writes: Composition, Creative Writing, and New Media will be held April 14-16, 2016, at Southeast Missouri State University

Presentation Sessions: Friday and Saturday, April 15 & 16.  Keynote Presentation: Thursday night with Michael Martone!  Reception and tour of Faulkner Collection and Rare Book Room: Thursday.  Banquet and Open Mike: Friday night.  Panel on Saturday: Writers in the Workplace.  Drawings for books and prizes.  Another great line for your CV, to help you compete in today’s hiring market

Paper proposals

  • Graduate student proposals are due December 10, 2015.  Email
  • Any student currently enrolled in a graduate writing program may propose a presentation
  • Proposal abstracts are submitted electronically and should be 300 words maximum. May be a reading of original creative work with a brief introduction to its theme or raison d’etre or any topic on creative, technical, new media, literature, composition writings, such as: Intersections of cross genre writing; Blurring boundaries in writing; Contemporary literature; Innovative pedagogies;  MemWars: Defining fact and fiction; Creativity and composition; Friend Me with Your Best Shot: Social media strategies;  It Takes a Village: Collaborative Writing and/or Collaborative Learning; Gamification; Issues and Trends in Visual Rhetoric (documents, page layout, book covers, art/a/fact, etext, edesign, etc.)    Contact: Dr. Missy Phegley, or Dr. Susan Swartwout,

Conference Information Website:

Spring ’16 Graduate Courses: Talking to Dr. Chan, “Victorian Literature and Culture: Bad Girls and Patriarchal Proprieties” ––Jessie Serfilippi

Advisement Day and the time to sign-up for spring semester courses is upon us. You may be looking at your choices and wondering which one is best for you. I sat down with Dr. Chan in her office and asked her a few questions about the graduate level literature course she’ll be teaching this spring.

What initially drew you to Victorian Literature as a main area of interest?

That’s a great question! I think it’s such a rich period for reading, history, and culture. The Victorian novel was so huge that you could live in that world for a very long time and I really liked that. When I got to graduate school it was a choice I had to make to do Victorian lit or to pursue Asian American lit, and I went with Victorian lit, even though it may not have been the most instinctive choice for everybody. Everybody who was in the administration at my grad school thought I was going into Asian American Lit, and while I enjoy it tremendously, Victorian literature had so much going on for it. It’s one of the information ages in British history. They’re also so much like us and so much unlike us, which is what I find so appealing.

What can you tell me about the course?

I wanted to vary the representation of females, which is one of the reasons why I decided Mary Barton might be a good way to balance out the more privileged females that we see, say in Middlemarch, Lady Audley’s Secret, or the African queen figure in She. I wanted to be sure that we had a decent mix of females represented rather than the usual kinds of white, British, middle/upper-middle class female. It’s not easy, but it’s a way to balance out Middlemarch. In fact, Daisy Miller, which is American, may be one of the stories, but I haven’t quite settled on it. Henry James is kind of funny that way; he’s sort of British and American at the same time.

Have you ever taught a combined undergrad and grad class before?

No, I haven’t ever done it before, but the undergrads at the upper levels have a blog, to make up their fourth credit. So they have more short writing where they will be evaluated and have their writing critiqued along the way. The grad students will be producing the longer paper at the end. I’m not sure that I have the grad students doing too many short papers at this point, but we will have a lot of workshopping.

When it comes to the grad students, in the past what I’ve asked them to do, besides reading and writing, is to present questions at a certain point for discussion and also to make a bibliographic presentation by looking at the criticism for the last ten years on a certain novel or aspect of the novel. This will be useful for the grad students because they’ll be producing a literary research paper and this will help with finding the research.

The other course this spring centers around Melville and Moby Dick. Some students will be deciding between the two literature courses and they might want to know why we should read Middlemarch?

You know what’s funny is Brian Sweeney and I didn’t think of it as an either/or situation. We thought of it as Moby Dick and Middlemarch. That’s how we conceived of this. In fact, we kind of laughed about this at first, then we thought, why not? Masters students are here to get breadth in their reading. Compared to Moby Dick, Middlemarch is interesting not just for the female figures, and the female author who created them, but we have people who are desirous to improve their world in one way or another, or to find order in the world.

Middlemarch is an older version of the Victorian world, probably not even Victorian, probably pre-1832. It’s a rather nostalgic kind of work by George Eliot looking back to the life she had in the midlands, in the countryside, and how these people were really eager to accomplish something. It will be up to the reader to see whether or not they did–– I’m not giving anything away. I think that in the effort to accomplish something on the parts of both males and females you go through a lot of emotional turmoil, and I think that’s what Middlemarch is kind of showing us. It’s a kind of psychological novel, and at the heart of Middlemarch there grows a kind of mystery, so there’s a little bit of detective work that’s involved.

What would you say to a student who wants to sign-up for your class, but is hesitant because they haven’t read much Victorian literature before?

If all you’ve read is one work, then you’d do well to open up to the variety that is actually truly available in Victorian lit. You know, I have a post-it here on my wall, and it says 50,000 novels were published in the Victorian Period. I thought that number was so significant that I put it on my wall. So you know, someone who is not well-versed in the Victorian Period might actually enjoy it. I tried to pick things that are appealing for different reasons.

Interested in learning more about the books you may be reading in this course? Check out the potential reading list here: Middlemarch by George Eliot, Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Branddon, She by H. Rider Haggard, Daisy Miller by Henry James, and Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

Spring ’16 Graduate Courses: Talking to Dr. Sweeney, “Melville”—Josh Bovee

Next semester, Dr. Sweeney will guide his graduate students through the works of Herman Melville—from the early, seafaring tales of Typee (1846) and Redburn (1849), to the short masterpieces “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” and “Benito Cereno,” through the largely ignored body of poetry which occupied nearly twenty years of Melville’s life as a writer, and finally on to the posthumously published Billy Budd (1924). Looming high above all the other works of the canon, Moby-Dick (1851) promises to take center stage among this critical examination of Melville’s staggering body of work. Through various cultural and historical perspectives, students will be engaging with the texts and world of one of America’s greatest writers. I’ve caught up with Dr. Sweeney, by phone and email, in order to discuss his inspiration and plans for the course, the legacy of Herman Melville, and the reasons why Moby-Dick is as relevant today as it was in 1851.

This course is designed as a single author seminar, surveying the career of Herman Melville. What were the main draws for you in designing the course in this manner?

I don’t often teach single author courses; I prefer to design syllabi that place diverse voices in conversation. So this course is a bit atypical for me.  I think one of the main draws for me was the chance to teach Moby-Dick. I’ve been wanting to teach it for a long time. The tricky thing is that Moby-Dick is a text that demands three weeks to a month. I feel in any other course context the novel would completely dominate. And so it seemed to me the one way to teach Moby-Dick, and not have it crowd out all the others voices, would be to put it in the context of Melville’s career. Melville really lends himself to this in some ways because he’s such a versatile writer. He’s one of the great nineteenth-century poets, but many people don’t know that.

Another thing that led me to offer this course is that Melville is a local author. I’ve been planning a number of site visits. We’re going to be visiting Melville’s house in Troy, where he lived when he wrote Typee. It’s open only two hours a month, but the people who run the house have agreed to open it up for a private class tour in February. And the New York State Library has an excellent Melville collection that they will be displaying for us and that students will be drawing on for their research.  I remember one of the courses I took as an MA student at Villanova was on Franklin and Swift. And my favorite memory of that course was this exhausting but amazing day that we spent, towards the end of the semester, visiting numerous Philadelphia sites related to texts we had been studying. I’ve always wanted to replicate an experience like that for my own students, and I’m really looking forward to that aspect of the class.

What are you most interested in, regarding the works of Melville?

I am interested in restoring Melville to the controversies of his time—something that since the Melville revival of the 1920’s people have tended to resist. You know: “Melville wasn’t a man of his time. He was a man for our time and all time.” But Melville was a writer of his time, regardless of what the modernists wanted to make of him!  Melville was one of the best travelled writers of the nineteenth century, and he travelled the globe, not as a wealthy tourist, but as a common sailor. And perhaps because of this, his writings are particularly insightful about emerging global capitalism; about the exhaustion and exploitation of the environment in the service of profit; about class, slavery, labor.  I’m interested in seeing how these insights come out of his intellectual engagement with questions that concerned people in the nineteenth-century. I think it is Melville’s refusal to see his art as an escape from history that is actually one source of the power his work has for us now.


Perhaps more so than any of the other great American writers, Melville always seems to stir up excitement in people. His works always seem relevant. What do you think it is about Melville that does this?

I guess that’s really one of the paradoxes of Melville. His works are extremely engaged with questions of his moment. And yet, in engaging such questions, he produced work much of which seems perpetually relevant and new and fresh. During the Occupy Movement, there were these moments where people who were camped out would read from “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” So here’s an example where this text published in 1853, written by the grandson of Revolutionary war officers, is being embraced as a text that can give us insight into what it is to be caught up in the capitalist system in the 21st century. To me that’s extraordinary.

As we know, Dr. Chan will be teaching a course on Victorian Literature next semester, in which students will read George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Moby-Dick and Middlemarch: two of the great nineteenth-century novels in one semester! How do you compare these two works? Why should we read Moby-Dick now?

Those of you taking these two seminars: watch out! You’re in for something. Middlemarch, for many readers, is the nineteenth-century novel form brought to perfection. Moby-Dick is perhaps the nineteenth-century novel that does the most to turn the novel form inside-out, to stretch it to and even beyond its limits. Even to call Moby-Dick a novel is questionable. It begins novelistically enough with this ironic and smart and likeable narrator who has gone to sea to escape suicidal depression—a figure familiar to us from other Melville texts.  Yet soon enough we’re reading chapters written like scenes in a Shakespearean play, complete with dialogue and stage directions.  And then we whiplash back to narrative, but our first-person narrator has disappeared, and now we have access to the private thoughts of others characters. And then of course there are all those chapters on whales.  What genre is this? It’s so bizarre, formally. Melville is often a brilliant miniaturist, but here he is clearly set on producing a work whose aim is largeness, both in terms of sheer size and in terms of its ability to burst the ropes of any single genre.  But for all this vaunting quality of the book, my favorite moments center on moments of human smallness and need: Ishmael’s friendship with Queequeg; the captain of the Rachel pleading with Ahab to help him find his lost son; the cabin boy Pip—left for dead in the middle of the vast Pacific—losing his mind as he watches the ship disappear over the horizon.

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Melville House in Troy

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Copy of the first US edition of Typee, owned by the NY State Library, which Melville wrote while living in Troy.

Photographs by Dr. Sweeney

Poetry Reading with Bernadette Mayer & Barbara Ungar.

Come out and listen to poetry by Bernadette Mayer and Barbara Ungar.

October 23rd, 2015
7:00 pm in the Standish Rooms
420 Western Ave
The College of Saint Rose