Category Archives: M.A. English

Barbara Ungar Reading May 21

College of Saint Rose English Professor Barbara Ungar will read from her work at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany on Thursday, May 21 at 7:30PM.


Barbara Ungar has published four books of poetry, most recently Immortal Medusa and Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life, both Hilary Tham selections from The Word Works. Her prior books are Thrift and The Origin of the Milky Way, which won the Gival Press Poetry Award, a silver Independent Publishers award, a Hoffer award, and the Adirondack Center for Writing poetry award. She is also the author of several chapbooks and Haiku in English. She has published poems in Salmagundi, Rattle, The Nervous Breakdown, and many other journals. A professor of English at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, she coordinates their new MFA program. For more information, please see

The event also includes an open mic.

Sign-up starts at 7:00PM, with the reading beginning at 7:30.

The suggested donation is $3.00.


MA Alumni Update w/ Lauren Davis

Interview with MA Alumni Lauren Davis by Rachel Simonds

Q: When did you graduate? With what degree?

I graduated in May 2014 with my Masters of Arts in English. (Undergrad is 2012 with a Bachelor’s of\Arts in English Adolescent Education).

Q: What career were you looking for when you graduated?

After graduating, I was looking for subbing positions in local middle and high schools in this area, assuming that permanent teaching positions were hard to come by. During the search, I found there was an opening at St. Pius X for a Literature teacher and was hired for that.

Q: What are you currently doing?

I am currently teaching Literature to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.

Q: How has your education helped or hindered you?

My education has helped me in a number of ways. Aside from helping build my own skills in reading and writing analytically and broadening my knowledge of literary topics and texts, it has also helped me gain an understanding of the types of skills that students can and should be developing early in their academic careers in order to prepare them for their future goals inside and outside the classroom.

I found during my own experiences studying literature in college that there were important skills that I needed that I had never formally learned. For instance, if you look at my books from my freshman year of college, its clear that I had never been taught how to annotate texts properly. I highlighted anything and everything, but I never wrote notes in my texts. Of course, I was practicing important skills like inferencing, connecting, visualizing, and analyzing as I read, but I had no idea how to translate that into viable notes that I could use later on. I also wasn’t really sure how to explain what exactly I was doing in my head. I was close reading, but I didn’t know that it was called close reading, and I didn’t know how to discuss it. While my own students are obviously not going to be analyzing literature in the same way that college freshman are, I am teaching them to annotate and we regularly work on making inferences and drawing conclusions from the clues in our texts. We focus heavily on authors’ purposes when writing and how that shapes their works. I also try to keep them writing and using evidence to support their ideas and conclusions.

On the flip side, having a Masters in English, as opposed to Education, often means that I often have high standards for my young students, sometimes too high. I get excited about ideas or connections that I make, and then try very hard to find ways to modify them for middle school use. Obviously, this doesn’t always work. I have to “kill my babies” pretty often when it comes to my lesson planning.

Sometimes, I want to do much more than we have time for and I want them to be able to recognize or analyze patterns and details in texts in ways that are still over their heads. In other words, its hard to think like a middle schooler.

Q: What advice do you have for about-to-graduate students?

What I found most stressful after finding a job was that I wanted to be perfect at it right off the bat. Its impossible to be perfect at teaching, no matter how long you have been doing it. There is such a learning curve and I can only imagine its the same for any job. My best advice, I guess, is to be willing to make mistakes. Don’t hold yourself to ridiculous standards and focus on getting through one day at a time. Give yourself time to adjust before you start to doubt yourself.

Upcoming Event: MFA student Sarah Sherman reading

College of Saint Rose student Sarah Michelle Sherman will read from her work at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 7:30PM.

Sarah Michelle Sherman is a writer, teacher, bartender, graduate student pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at The College of Saint Rose, and managing editor of Pine Hills Review. Her work has appeared in Nailed MagazinePloughshares OnlineThe Helix, and Decades Review. She is also a contributing writer for Albany’s alternative newspaper, Metroland.

The event also includes an open mic.

Sign-up starts at 7:00PM, with the reading beginning at 7:30.

The suggested donation is $3.00.

Getting To Know You: A Quick Conversation w/ MA student Josh Bovee

Are you local to the area? Where you from?  Why Albany?

I am not local. I am from Johnstown New York, a very small town about 45 minutes outside of Albany. Really I chose Albany because it is a reasonable commute between there and Johnstown and I’m able to keep my tutoring job at FMCC while attending classes.

Why a Master’s Degree in English? 

I’m getting a Master’s Degree in English for the simple fact that I love to read and write. So I guess through Master’s study I’d like to become not only a better reader and writer but a more persistent one and ultimately a more serious one.

Who is your favorite author?

This changes all the time, but for the moment I would have to say William Faulkner.

What do you hope to accomplish by the time you graduate?

I would like to become a better speaker. I still have a tremendous fear of public speaking which for some odd reason is heightened all the more by being in a classroom. This is not a good thing for someone who eventually wants to teach! So hopefully I can get past that and learn to speak clearly and coherently in front of an audience!

What are your long-term goals for your degree?

I would like to teach English at a community college. I went to Fulton-Montgomery Community College when I got out of high school and it was the best decision I ever made. I would have failed miserably if I had gone straight to a four-year college. I now work as a tutor at FMCC and I work with students who have the intelligence to succeed in the higher education system but for various reasons require smaller and more hands on learning in-order for them to develop. Community colleges offer this to those students and I would like to be a part of it.

What was the last good book you’ve read?

I recently read the Zuckerman Bound Trilogy by Philip Roth and loved every bit of it.

Josh Bovee

MA Advanced Project Update: Kristina Dufel

Kristina is in her fifth semester and is enrolled in the Advanced Project course, ENG 591. Here, she discusses her inspirations and the development of her project.

The most enriching aspect of this program is how much I’ve grown as a reader, writer, and thinker. The faculty members are all so incredibly brilliant, and their passion for literature and writing is invigorating. It just seems like the faculty really excel at fueling discussion here. The other enriching factor is how difficult this program has been to complete. I really did not expect to have to think so hard and write and read so much, but I am the better for it.

My Advanced Project took a while to come together. Initially I was exploring a project that was completely different than the one I’m doing now. I thought I wanted to explore Amazon Kindle self-publishing writing communities, and, while I still find the topic interesting, it was outside the scope of anything I would be capable of completing for an Advanced Project. I just knew that that wasn’t really what I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t think of what I did want to write about.

However, in Dr. Palecanda’s Lit theory class in Fall 2012, I wrote a paper about the TV show Glee, and I realized that, since that paper, I was still watching the show and thinking of extensions and new developments of my argument. I thought, hey, why not? It’s important to pick a topic that you find really interesting for the advanced project because you spend a lot of time on it, and, at the time, I thought I would never get sick of talking about Glee.

For my Advanced Project, I’m analyzing the television show Glee with a focus on how the show participates in the construction of ideology, similar to how Althusser suggests ideological state apparatuses perform. I extend Althusser’s theories and combine them with Mary Louise Pratt’s concept of contact zones, which are essentially spaces where dominant and marginalized cultures clash or interact, to suggest that television performs as an ideological contact zone where ideologies clash and interact, resulting in shifts in ideology. My focus is on hetereonormativity, which is the ideology that perpetuates heterosexuality as the norm in our culture and is usually an ideology integrated with our perceptions of gender norms.

Looking at instances of “coming out” on Glee, I suggest that heteronormative ideologies are being mediated, and audiences are exposed to more queer understandings of sexuality, meaning that they are able to perceive sexuality outside of a binary system of straight/ gay, as well as identify the imbalanced social hierarchy created by heteronormativity. Specifically, I am suggesting that it is difficult to find queer readings in ideological contact zones like television, but a consideration of television’s complex narrative structures (i.e. acknowledgement of plot lines that arc not only episodes or even seasons, but the entire series) allow for more potential to find queer readings on television.

As far as work for the project, I’ve done a pretty substantial amount of research into the areas of study that intersect in my paper, mostly the big ideological theorists like Althusser and queer television studies. The other big part of this project has been thinking. You wouldn’t believe how much I just think about this topic or how much I talk about it with other people. Remember when I said I didn’t think I would ever get sick of talking about Glee? I was wrong. Obviously, I’ve also watched a lot of episode, of which I am also beginning to get a little tired of. I can’t imagine if I had decided to focus on something I didn’t enjoy as much. I probably would have snapped my Kindle in half by now.

MA Advanced Project Update: Rachel Simonds

2012-05-119511-39 (1)In order to complete the English MA program, students must research and write an Advanced Project. Rachel Simonds is in her last semester at Saint Rose, and these are her thoughts regarding her Advanced Project, as well as her inspirations behind it.

I’ve been commuting to Albany from Caroga Lake since I started my undergraduate work at Sage College.  This is my final semester at Saint Rose, I’ll be completing the MA English program.  I have enjoyed the variety of classes offered and have found that each class is enriching to every other class.  There is always a connection (or several!) between classes.

My Advanced Project is more of a theory based project.  I’m discussing the aesthetic theories of the sublime proposed by Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant in the late 18th century and relating it to the work of the Hudson River School painters during approximately the first half of the 19th century.  I am attempting to figure out the relationship between the idea of the sublime and how it is manifested in the physical world.  The discussion centers around the question of how/if/when/why is the sublime communicated.  But, of course, this could all change as I continue with my project.

My Advanced Project has required the basic things of any project, lots of reading and lots of thinking.  In addition to that though, I have also spent a lot of time looking first hand at work done by the Hudson River School painters in order to really see how the theories of the sublime have influenced the work.

I have been interested in the idea of the sublime since my first semester here at Saint Rose.  I took a literary theory course with Dr. Vaneeta Palecanda (who is the director of my advanced project right now, and Dr. Robert Shane is the research consultant) and she first introduced me to the sublime and I have not been able to let go of it since then.  It seems as if every class I take, whether it be theory or literature, has something to do with the sublime! Ask Dr. Sweeney about the sublime in Uncle Tom’s Cabin!  So I chose to work on the idea of the sublime for my Advanced Project to satisfy at least some of my curiosity on the subject.

The Financial Value of a Liberal Arts Degree

For those of us with college and graduate level degrees in the humanities, like an English degree, we know how difficult it is to defend our choice. There is a prevailing assumption that there are no jobs for humanities graduates; four or more years have been wasted on an education that has no practical use in the job market. But those assumptions are starting to change due to new reports comparing earnings over the length of a career with degrees and majors.

“How Liberal-Arts Majors Fare Over the Long Haul”, an article posted online in The Chronicle of Higher Education, cites a report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities that finds graduates’ earnings with various degrees in the humanities, based on salaries over the course of a career, are on the same level as graduates with professional degrees.

“How Liberal-Arts Majors Fare Over the Long Haul” also points out that the level of education matters. Humanities graduates directly out of college, in 2010 and 2011, earned an average of $26,271 and increasing to $66,185 at peak earning age. While humanities graduates with only a bachelor’s degree start out earning less that graduates in fields like engineering, the report finds that humanities graduates that also earn a master’s degree see a significant increase in annual earnings, “median annual earnings rise of $19,550” according to the report.

As the report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows, the prospective job market for humanities majors is not so bleak after all. We English majors can carry our theory books, poetry volumes, and our own half-written novels knowing that all our hard work is worthwhile.

By Rachel Simonds