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Department of English

Student Achievements

The English Department is pleased to announce the winners of its 2020-2021 awards. There were many eligible and competitive submissions for the writing prizes, and a strong field of candidates for all the awards. We congratulate this year’s winners, and thank our donors for their generosity.


Melissa Lauria – The English Merit Award

The Academic Merit Award, which recognizes the distinguished academic career, university and departmental service of a graduating English major, goes this year to Melissa Lauria. Lauria, an English Secondary Education major (with a Creative Writing minor), is the author of two honors theses: a scholarly thesis on Jack Kerouac, which she completed for Monmouth’s Honors School, and a creative thesis, for which she will receive English departmental honors upon graduation. Moreover, Lauria has long helped to cultivate the creative talents of other Monmouth students through her work as editor of The Monmouth Review, which she helmed through the pandemic. The President of Sigma Tau Delta, Lauria has also spent the past two years as a writing assistant at Writing Services. Her contributions to the department and to Monmouth have been considerable and varied.

Emma Varga – The English Award for the Academic Writing Prize

This year’s winner of the Academic Writing Award is Emma Varga, for her essay “The Beats: A Searching Generation.” Varga persuasively argues that “The Beats can perhaps best be defined by their subversive anti-materialism and socioeconomic politics and, concurrently, by their meditative search for spiritual value beyond the commodified parameters of their times. Indeed, their inclivity to buck materialist hegemony of the post-war epoch, and more importantly, in the subsequent search for a more meaningful alternative, is what made them the foremost countercultural movement in American history.” Varga, a graduating senior receiving her degree in English with a minor in Art History, is planning to pursue graduate study. In the long-term, she plans to publish her scholarly writing and to teach at the university level. “Basically, I think my goal is to never leave school,” Varga notes. Whenever possible, Varga attended readings and literary talks at Monmouth, and she recently attended a Theodore Dreiser Colloquium with students from the Russian State University for the Humanities. Varga, a new inductee into Sigma Tau Delta, is also a member of both Tau Sigma and Phi Theta Kappa.

Patricia Banfitch – The English Award for the Creative Writing Prize

Patricia Banfitch is the recipient of the Undergraduate Creative Writing award for her short story “Confessions.” The story follows a complex protagonist, Gabriel, on what turns out to be his last day at work before being fired. Gabriel is as keen an observer of others as he is myopic about his own motives. Prone to psychological projection, quick to react with disgust, smart but fairly un-self-aware, he makes for a compelling and mysterious main character. Banfitch’s narration is confident, her character interiority illuminating, and her sentences are scintillating: surprising, funny, and moving.

Sarah Curtis – The Rising Junior Award

The Rising Junior Award is given every other year to a sophomore English major who has demonstrated notable academic promise. This year, the Student Awards Committee is pleased to recognize Sarah Curtis, an English major concentrating in Creative Writing. “Writing and reading were two of my favorite hobbies growing up—they still are,” Curtis notes. She wrote her first novel at the age of 14, and before graduating from high school, she had completed two more manuscripts: a sequel to her novel and a poetry collection. After graduation, she plans to continue writing, “continue to be inspired—and hopefully, I will be able to inspire others, too.”

Kristina Bonadonna – The Caryl Sills English Teaching Award

The Caryl Sills Teaching Award, generously sponsored by English Department Professor Emerita and former Department Chair Dr. Caryl Sills, honors seniors double-majoring in English and Education who, in addition to academic excellence, exhibit great promise as teachers. This year, the award goes to Kristina Bonadonna, who has distinguished herself by demonstrating an uncommon drive to broaden her horizons, pursue her intellectual interests, and draw on these interests to inform and energize her passion for teaching. Over her four years at Monmouth, Kristina has somehow carved out the time to not only earn a 3.9 cumulative GPA in the English major and her Education courses, but also to complete an elective minor in Art History, to enroll and succeed as an undergraduate student in a challenging graduate-level Rhetoric of Science course, and to develop and articulate a compelling and coherent philosophy of rhetorical, critical, and community-engaged literacy education that contributed to her being selected as part of the 2021 Teach for America Corps. Kristina will spend the next two years helping to expand access and opportunity for low-income children by teaching at an urban public school in Connecticut, an experience we are confident will help orient and motivate her to remain committed to and excited about teaching as a means of empowering others, strengthening communities, and changing the world.

Skylar Daley – The English Award for Graduate Study

Every year, the English Department recognizes and provides financial support for a graduating senior English major beginning graduate studies by the fall of the upcoming academic year. This year’s winner is Skylar Daley, who graduated in Fall 2020 and was an active part of our department. Daley loves to discuss literature, is an avid reader, and excels at analysis. She is currently deciding which graduate program to pursue, as she has been accepted into several, including prestigious programs at American University, Fordham University, and Seton Hall University, and she is awaiting responses from several others. While pursuing her BA at Monmouth, Daley was also enrolled in the Honors School. She diligently worked through her coursework and completed an honors thesis with Drs. Starke and Jackson and also earned departmental honors working with Dr. Werner. Her English honors project revolved around digital literacies and the effect that technology has on students working in groups on service-learning projects. Her diverse work on these two honors projects is truly impressive, demonstrating a range of interest and knowledge in English Studies that few students show at the undergraduate level. Daley will use her grounding in literary research and criticism as well as rhetorical and composition methodology to pursue an MA and PhD in literary studies.

John Vurro – The English Award for Graduate Creative Writing

John Vurro is the recipient of the recently reinstated Graduate Creative Writing Award. In Vurro’s short story, “Mentors,” we follow a main character struggling with mental illness and grief. But it’s also an entertaining whodunit. From the very first page, you’ll know you’re in the hands of a uniquely talented writer with a lot to say—about being human, about being alive.

Nicole Mautone – The David Tietge Memorial First-Year Composition Academic Essay Award

Nicole Mautone is an English major from Bloomfield, New Jersey. Nicole has always been interested in the humanities and enjoyed English. Her academic essay, entitled “The Moral Struggle” is an examination of the fragility of morality and its ever-changing meaning throughout history. Focusing on different parts of history, the tragedy Hamlet, and current day issues, the essay shows how the moral struggle Hamlet faces is relatable to almost any time period. As she concludes, “Morality is molded by the society who believes in it. Common practices to some might be the most horrifying offenses to others. The most complex part of morality, and perhaps the most terrifying, is its ability to slowly shift into something else, to better fit a new generation.”

Abbigail Nechay – The David Tietge Memorial First-Year Composition Researched Essay Award

Abbigail Nechay is a first-year student here at Monmouth University, joining us from her home town of Hebron, Maryland. She is a business major who enjoys writing to inform others and to share her own opinions. Abbigail’s essay “Political Polarity in the U.S.” describes in detail the American tendency to politicize anything from Black Lives Matter Protests to Covid-19, as perpetuating division among American people. Moving forward from describing the dichotomy, Abbigail goes on to conclude that “If the people have responsible examples to respect and look up to, then perhaps they will be able to expunge their own biases and stigmas.”

Mary Schuld – The David Tietge Memorial First-Year Composition Researched Essay Award

Mary Schuld is an English and Elementary Education Major with a Minor in Spanish. She works as an Office Assistant and Social Media Manager for the Honors School, and she is a member of the MU Players Club. As a Monmouth student, Mary loves to challenge herself academically and enjoy the Monmouth University community. Her academic essay entitled, “The Role of Women in Society,” focuses on the role of women throughout history, with a special focus on Ophelia and Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.


Van Ness Book Cover

Sara Van Ness, student in the English Department’s M.A. Program, has written a book titled Watchmen as Literature: A Critical Study of the Graphic Novel, published by McFarland and Company in 2010.

The study began as a paper for an independent study and grew into her undergraduate thesis project, both under the direction of Dr. Stanley Blair of Monmouth University’s English Department. In addition, she completed some of her research and writing of the book during a graduate-level independent study with Dr. Blair in Spring 2009. The book explores the graphic novel’s reception in both popular and scholarly arenas, and how the conceptual relationship between images and words affects the reading experience. Other topics include heroism as a stereotype, the hero’s journey, the role of the narrator, and the way in which the graphic layout manipulates the reader’s perception of time and space.

Sara graduated summa cum laude in May 2008 from Monmouth University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and secondary education. Her thesis was awarded honors by both the Honors School and the English Department. As an undergraduate, she received the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences Award for Student Excellence and the New Jersey Distinguished Student-Teacher Award. She expects to complete her M.A. in English in Fall 2011.


MASTER’S THESES

Theses in Progress

Christopher D. Hankenson, “Long-Eared Epic: Watership Down and Questions of Readership.”

Theses Completed

Jason Aquino, You Could Have Hurt Me Better. Spring 2021.

Lisa Barthelme, O Father. Spring 2021.

Douglas Bornhoeft, No Scents of Magic. Spring 2021.

Chelsea Byrne, Killer Roadkill. Spring 2021.

Barbara Coleman, Wake up and Smell the Coffee. Spring 2021. Distinction.

Faith Earl, “Inventory of the Gone.” Spring 2021

Abigail Fenn, Red. Spring 2021.

Mallory Green, Keeping in Touch. Spring 2021.

Kaitlyn Lash, “No Sympathizing Movement to the Words: Wuthering Heights and the Problems of Adaptation.” Spring 2021.

Allison Long, “Superlative: Stories.” Spring 2021.

Damian Luboch, Tales of Jim Bum Bradley. Spring 2021.

Nicholas Morris, Telegony. Spring 2021. Distinction.

Jenna Puglisi, Totally Fine. Spring 2021.

Brittany Scardigno, “Intangible Violence: Manifestations of Silence in Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation.” Spring 2021. Distinction.

Katelyn Snyder, “Intermodernism and British Identity in Voyage in the Dark (1934) and Farewell Leicester Square (1941).” Spring 2021. Distinction.

Connor Surmonte, Freewheelin’. Spring 2021.

MacKenzie Svarrer, Adolescence of Elektra. Spring 2021.

Amanda Wassel, “Waging War not with Weapons but with Needles: Studying Contemporary Needlework as a Form of Invitational Feminist Rhetoric.” Spring 2021.

Brittany Cote, “Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits: Magical Realism or Gothic Hybrid?” Fall 2020.

Charles Chipman, Turnbuckle: A Novel. Fall 2020.

C. John Schoonejongen, Take This Longing. Fall 2020.

Jason Aquino, Deified. Spring 2020.

Courtney Ball, “’Waiting for the World to be Made’ through Folklore, Food, and Feminism:  An Analysis of Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Spring 2020.

Teresa Castellitto, “Morning Light.” Spring 2020. Distinction.

Madison Hlavach, “Emotions, Discomfort, & Ethical Responsivity: Taking the Risk to Care.” Spring 2020.

Jaimee D. Nadzan, “Haunting Space and Place in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching.” Spring 2020.

Robert Zadotti, “Midnight.” Spring 2020.

Mary Rademacher, “A Rethinking of the Burkean Parlor in the Post-Truth Classroom.” Fall 2019.

Patrick O’Neill, Time As It Passed. Spring 2019.

Susan Schuld, “Dracula: An Intertextual, Byronic Romance.” Spring 2019. Distinction.

Sally Taylor Tawil, “The Measure of a Moment.” Spring 2019. Distinction.

Kaitlyn Trebour, “Technology and Composition: How Digital Technology Effects Adolescents’ Writing Processes.” Spring 2019.

Jeremy Mancino, “Terra Incognita.” Fall 2018.

Dawn McCloskey, “Conversing on Disability: Analyzing and Exploring How Scholars are Discussing Disability Studies, Discovering Disability in YA Literature, and Finding Disability Analyses in Composition Classrooms.” Fall 2018.

Daniel Murphy, Who is Daniel?  Fall 2018. Distinction.

Michael Sefack, “What Do You Mean This Class Doesn’t Count? Negotiating the Challenges of Writing Placement in Two-Year Colleges.” Fall 2018. Distinction.

Connor White, “Waiting for the Sun.” Fall 2018.

Sara Basgaard, “Tentative Language Use in the Classroom: Who and Why, the Effects, the Influence of Gender, and Why Educators Need to Care.” Spring 2018.

Victoria DePaolo, “‘Thank You For Calling, How May I Help You?’ A Burkean Analysis of Agency as Established though Call Center Soft Skills Training Materials.” Spring 2018.

Christine DiBiase, “The Feminist Gothic: An Analysis of The Handmaid’s Tale. Preface: An Introduction to The Argument for Feminist Gothic.” Spring 2018.

John Francis, “The Queer Heroes of Horror: Gothic Entanglements with Queerness in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Let the Right One In, and Palimpsest.” Spring 2018.

Daphne Keller, “‘An Art of Humanity’: The Henry Street Narratives of Lillian D. Wald.” Spring 2018. Distinction.

Colleen King Oliver, “Unripe, Unsweet, Delicious.” Spring 2018.

Kimberly Morgan, “A Feminist Enquiry into Female Representations of the Sublime in Moby-Dick.” Spring 2018. Distinction.

Elizabeth White, “‘Jem told me I was being a girl, that girls always imagined things’: Female Narrative Voice and the Young Adult Literary Canon.” Spring 2018.

Jenna Risden, “Re-gendering the Monarchy as The Queen’s Three Bodies: Spenser’s Use of the Body Politic as a Metaphor For England’s Political State in
The Faerie Queene.” Fall 2017.

Brian Turczmanovicz, “‘Their ruin! Hence I will excite their minds:’ Mind Reading and Machiavellian Intelligence in Milton’s Satan and Shakespeare’s Cassius.” Fall 2017.

Kathryn Gehrsitz, “The Quest for the Female Hero and a Feminist Genre in Modern Young Adult Dystopian Literature.” Spring 2017. Distinction.

Ivy Hollander, “Incorporating Modernism into the Secondary Education Classroom through Studying The Sun Also Rises and Mrs. Dalloway.” Spring 2017. Distinction.

Kevin Holton,. Absolute Zero. Spring 2017.

Avi Lejbik,” Pride Prejudice and Zombies An Evaluation of Austen’s Vision of Socially Circulating Rhetoric.” Spring 2017.

Talon Ribsam, A Warm Chill Threatens. Spring 2017.

David Robbins, Cascadia. Spring 2017.

Nicholas Segreto, Monster City. Spring 2017.

Sara Haight, “Bipolar Chronicles.” Fall 2016.

Stefanie Kyak, “The Play’s the thing, Wherein I’ll Catch the Conscience of the King”: Mise en Abyme and Psychoanalysis in Christopher Nolan’s Inception and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.” Fall 2016. Distinction.

Heather Altz, “J.M. Synge’s Subversive Archetypes.” Spring 2016. Distinction.

Philip Blizzard, “The Guarantee Group.”  Spring 2016.

Courtney Castelli, “Every Colored Girl Had Been Born With One.” (Un)doing Race, Gender, and Sexuality in James Baldwin’s Another Country. Spring 2016.

Taylore Glynn, “Orchidelirium.” Spring 2015. Distinction.

Rebecca Gokberk, “Food for Thought: A New Approach to Analyzing Literary Cookbooks.”  Spring 2016.

Faten Hafez, “Jane Austen: The Acts of Implication in Two Centuries of Criticism.” Spring 2016.

Abigail Maguire, “Doll Parts.”  Spring 2016.

Christina Riso, “Welcoming Alternative Media into the Academy: Benefits of the Zine.”  Spring 2016.

Kayla Sorbara, “The Poem and the Pomegranate: How Ancient Greek Myth Influences Feminist Theory in Evan Boland’s ‘The Pomegranate’ and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill’s Persephone Suffering from SAD.'”  Spring 2016.

Ariana Tepedino, “Gilded Trans-America: The California Gold Rush and Maupin’s Tales of the City.” Spring 2016. Distinction.

Erin Fu, “Looking Through the Kaleidoscope: Into the Genre(s) of Moll Flanders,” Fall 2015. Distinction.

Md. Shahriar Kabir, “Carol Kennicott’s Articulation of Voice in Main Street by Sinclair Lewis,” Fall 2015.

Emily Scarano, “The Rhetoric of Slam Poetry and its Potential in the College Writing Classroom.” Fall 2015.

Lisa Sofranko, “Taking Care.” Fall 2015.

Chris Bogart, “The Beast,” Spring 2015.

Eric Brown, “The Movement of Words: Misprision, Re(mis)interpretation, and Meaning in Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker and Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz,” Spring 2015.

Lauren Freda, “Alice Walker’s The Color Purple: Fourth Wave Feminism,” Spring 2015.

Amara Hand, “The Other Side of the Game: The Rhetorical Alterity of Contemporary Hip Hop,” Spring 2015.

Megan Miguelino, “Through the War-Drobe: The Restoration of National Identity and Hope in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Spring 2015.

Danielle Pelose, “‘Fire Is Catching’: Rhetorically Igniting the Spark between Young Adult Literature and “L”iterature,” Spring 2015.

Amy Schulze, “‘Such Odious Subjects’ as Sex and Sapphism: The Obscene, Unseen, and Mundane in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness,” Spring 2015.

Hannah Tichansky, “Paranoid Rhetoric and Spatial Obsession: Elizabeth Bowen, Kenneth Burke, and the Blitz,” Spring 2015.

Kerry Bogert, “Therapy for Muggles: Exploring Representations of Trauma and Mental Illness in Fantasy Fiction,” Spring 2014.

Corinne Cavallo, “Homeless Texts of Trauma: Elie Wiesel’s Night and the Argument of Omittance,” Spring 2014. Distinction.

Amanda Connelly, “Who the Fuck is Moi? The Effects of Consumer Culture on Identity and Reality in Brett Easton Ellis’s Glamorama,” Spring, 2014. Distinction.

Eric Farwell, “Minor Pisces,” Spring 2014.

Samantha Glassford, “‘Mysteries of Word and Glance’: Verbal and Nonverbal Traumatic Coping Mechanisms in DeLillo’s Falling Man,” Spring 2014.

Kayla Helfrich, “The Fire Starter,” Spring 2014.

Michael Mifka, “Chronicling Chinaski: Bukowski’s Ham on Rye and Lower-Class, Ethnic Male Adolescence,” Spring 2014.

Joshua Rademacher, “Were Here, We’re Queer, But Who Are We?,” Spring 2014.

Candice Belluscio, “Bound to Marriage: A Critical Analysis of Marriage in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice,” July 2013.

Alessandra Chai, “Writing the Self for Healing in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Are You My Mother?,” Spring 2013

Martyna J. Dobkiewicz, “Bite,” Spring 2013. Distinction.

Matthew Hall, “Bear in the Basement,” Spring 2013. Distinction.

Anita Komareth, “Clarissa’s Exemplary Morality,” Spring 2013.

Jennifer Lyons, “Of Canons and Cauldrons: Harry Potter, National Culture, and Canon Exclusivity,” Spring 2013.

Amanda Bennett Morey, “No Child Left Behind as a Rhetorical Situation: ‘Accountability and Flexibility’ Will Leave Schools Behind,” Spring 2013.

Bernadette Sabatini, “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue: Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse in the Middle Ages,” Spring 2013.

Lauren Schmidt, “(Ir)Responsible Rhetoric: Ron Unz and English for Children,” Spring 2013.

Patryk Zielonka, “The War to End All Boys,” Spring 2013.

Christine Bryant, “Lost Daughter,” Spring 2012.

Nicholas Cariddo, “The Morro Castle” a full length play, Spring 2012.

Erin Carroll, “Oranges, Lemons, and the Decline of the Traditional Mother Figure in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Fall 2012.

Matthew Cinnirella, “Sleep With Me,” Spring 2012.

Nicole Evegan, “The Best American Short Stories: Illustrating the Tension in Race Politics,” Spring 2012.

Maria Geiger, “Chaucer’s Orthodoxy in the Age of Lollardy: Gentilesse in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, The Parson’s Tale, and “Gentilesse, Moral Balade of Chaucier,” Spring 2012.

Bruce MacBeth, “Making Me Sick: The Rhetoric of Pharmaceutical Marketing,” Fall 2012.

Audrey Marcu-McGowan, “Small and Large Collaborative Group Work to Promote Learning In Freshman Composition Courses at Community Colleges,” July 2012

Amy B. Monahan, “How to Polish the “Perfectly Polished Floor” and Write About It, Too: Life, Death, and the Domestic Aesthetic, or Poemesticity, of Linda Pastan,” Spring 2012.

Kimberly Morté, “Jumping the Great White: Kiana Davenport’s Shark Dialogues as American Literature,” Spring 2012. Distinction.

Linda Johnston Muhlhausen, “MY OUT- CAST STATE, An Elizabethan Tragedy. A play in III acts,” Spring 2012.

Elizabeth Myers, “Negotiating Between Adult Author and Young Adult Audience: Characterization in House of Many Ways,” Spring 2012

Pamela Quillamor, “Will the Real Prufrock Please Stand Up? Misogyny in the Poetry of T.S. Eliot and Eminem,” Spring 2012.

Kristin Dexnis Rosengrant, “Double Duty, A Novel in Progress,” Spring 2012.

Mariana Sierra, “Isla,” Spring 2012. Distinction.

John A. Tesauro III, “From the Inside Looking Out: Society’s Fringe,” Spring 2012.

Frank Gogol, “Broken” and “Weeds”: Short Fiction, Fall 2011.

Sara Van Ness, “Ah Pook is Where? Authorship, Textuality, and Contingency,” August 2011. Distinction.

Alexis Anderson, “Deconstructing Post Race, Reception and Language (Linguistics): Richard Wright’s Native Son,” Spring 2011.

Nicole Gough, “Cajun Dialect and Identity in Ernest Gaines’ A Gathering of Old Men,” Spring 2011.

Veronica Guevara, “Genre Subversion in Where the Senoritas Are: A Play in Two Acts,” Spring 2011.

Sara Krainski, “Waste,” Spring 2011.

Lois Levine, “Charlotte Temple and the Making of America’s First Best Seller,” Spring 2011.

Tracy Lisk, “The Role of Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote in the Progression of Female Characters and Writers from Romance to Novel,” Spring 2011.

Sharon Murphy, “Gender Entrapment in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and Jane Campion’s The Piano,” Spring 2011.

Walter Przybylowski, “Written Screen/Filmed Page,” Spring 2011.

Brianne Sardoni, “Pedagogy of Composition Theory and Synthesis of Methodology,” Spring 2011.

Heather Steimel, “Domestic Disturbances,” Spring 2011.

Matthew Wheeler, “Enchanting Masculinity: Women and Warrior Culture in Malory’s Morte Darthur,” Spring 2011.

Shanna Williams, “Postcolonial Feminism,” Spring 2011.