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Greetings Comrades,

The end is in sight. As I write this I have less than a month left of teaching. Which I suppose means I have less than a month before I need to start grading final papers. Alas. This has been a challenging year for us all, but it very much feels like we are coming out the other side now. With mild weather and vaccinations, hope springs anew. I know that I am looking ahead to the summer months to keep myself grinding through these last couple of weeks. This is just to say, keep your head up. 

As we come into the final months of this school year, I want to take a second to congratulate all of those who have passed exams and defended dissertations. I am so impressed with your abilities to persevere in the year that it was. Secondly, I want to welcome and congratulate the incoming EGSA board:

  • President:  Sara Judy
  • Vice Presidents: Kyriana Lynch
  • Professionalization Chair: Jenny Thorup
  • MFA Professionalization Chair: Mary Dwyer
  • Quality of Life Chair: Alex Chun
  • GSU Representatives: Marie Shelton and Laura Barrett
  • Social Chair: Nathan Phelps
  • Treasurer: Abby Rawleigh

I have had the pleasure of working with most of these good people and I know we are in the best of hands. 

Take care of yourselves. Beannachtaí,


New Student Spotlight

Daniel Hellstrom
PhD Medieval Literature


If you could live in the world of one folktale or myth, what would it be?

My research interest in folklore is grounded in the medieval period, but if I had to choose a world to live in, I’d opt for the much more modern setting of a Hayao Miyazaki film, probably My Neighbor Totoro. I love the idea of stumbling across this gigantic, furry, benevolent forest spirit right in your backyard. I’ve always appreciated this movie and his whole cinematic universe as a form of modern myth-making that seems to (from the little that I’ve read on the subject) draw loosely from settings and characters in Japanese folklore, while managing to be an entirely novel creation in itself. To create this impression of a rich folkloric history while innovating so drastically is a testament to both the endurance and the malleability of stories, and it’s such a joy to watch.

What's your favorite song?

The song I’ve had on repeat for weeks is “All the Best Debts” by the Fever Dolls. I was introduced to this band a few months ago via an article from Vox, and they’ve been rocking my world ever since. The song has everything I want: an interesting story, a great melody, strong vocals and fun harmonies… it’s been the subject of many a post-pandemic live music fantasy. It’s also nearly seven minutes long, and I’ve always had a soft spot for longer songs.

If you could describe your research interests as a food, what food would you choose and why?

Oh, gosh… I’ll go for a croissant. Working with the medieval is working with layers. You’re trying to cultivate an awareness of the biases of modernity that render the medieval unintelligible. To roll it all out takes so much patience and effort, because you don’t want to lose any of your layers!—instead, with each turn and fold, your goal is to refine your knowledge so that the tension between understanding and uncertainty becomes productive rather than obstructive. Mostly, though, I find that the two processes (researching the medieval and making croissants) are similar in that they are frustrating and yet so rewarding.

What do you like to do for fun?

Recently, I’ve been watching Kitchen Nightmares with my partner. It’s so cringey and wonderfully chaotic. Watching everything go horribly wrong in these restaurants is so (oddly? sadistically?) empowering in this late-stage pandemic era. Like, I may be anxious and burned out, but at least I’m not a delusional restaurant owner with mountains of debt who is hated by all my employees and who can’t even cook a pot of penne! Also, I think that Gordon Ramsay is one of the most perennially misunderstood cultural icons—he’s really such a sweetheart underneath it all!

Austyn Wohlers
MFA prose candidate


Naming characters – a hassle or moment of sudden clarity?

Lately I feel like names always need to take some time to grow onto the character before you know if they’ll stick. Every time I name someone I tell myself it’s a placeholder name and I’ll find the right one later; about half the time I end up actually changing it. So it’s a hassle because I’d rather know if a name is right instantly! I used to go about designing characters very deliberately—dressing them up and writing little profiles before I set them loose into the story—so everyone arrived with their names nice and fitted. My process has become a lot more fluid, and so has building characters—now they spawn within the text.

What novels/authors have strongly influenced/informed your writing… and why?

Clarice Lispector’s novels and stories totally blew open what narrative can do for me, in ways I feel like I’m still paying for. My favorite fiction is about people reaching for things so abstract and intangible that the piece itself becomes an exercise in describing that abstract thing. I never want things to be clear anymore, but to asymptotically grasp at something everyone can feel but not articulate. Maybe all fiction does that in a sense, but these internal, phenomenological conflicts Lispector turned me onto have become so compelling to me. People sometimes think her writing is elusive, but to me it’s so much more direct than traditional narrative: looking for language for every contour of a feeling.

More recently, I’ve been interested in how Lucia Berlin develops colorful, playful language without billowing lyricism, which is something I’ve been trying to do more. Lydia Davis in her introduction to A Manual for Cleaning Women identifies Berlin’s monosyllables, her jolty pacing, her unpredictability. It’s minimal in a sense—she doesn’t waste words—but without the kind of drab monochrome feeling a lot of minimal writing can inspire.

What research methods have been most fruitful to you?

Sometimes I think researching is just learning enough about a topic that you feel confident in writing about it. If you’re researching too close to the text, it can be hard not to plop things into the novel that feel inorganic to how the story is developing because you want to prove you know what you’re talking about. But the opposite approach—just writing along and doing research when you come up against a specific detail you need—can preclude you from developments you might have considered had you known more about your topic. So I think optimally a research phase is very absorptive, and you try to get to the point where you are generally knowledgeable about whatever it is instead of working with that information directly for the story. I’m having to make a lot of details of orchard life/farming less obvious for my novel right now. The best “in the moment” research results in great description, I think—so for me—just going to an orchard and writing down interesting ways of describing apples.

An underappreciated novel you love?

Severo Sarduy’s novel Beach Birds is a beautiful, abstract allegory about AIDS—the illness Sarduy died from a month before its publication—that I wish more people knew about. It’s totally surreal, moving, playful, and ambitious, thinking about geologic scales of time in the same breath it makes crass jokes about sex.

Any non-writing hobbies?

I play music—that’s the big one. I cook a lot and take pride in stews and curries. I admire and kind of collect ceramic objects, vases my friends make or earthenware cooking stuff—a sake set, a tagine, a donabe. I also like dancing to house and techno, film, games of all kinds.


We’ve concluded professionalization programming for this academic year, but if you have suggestions for next year’s professionalization chair, please feel free to send them to

Jillian Fantin’s poem titled Jeff Bezos is published on Timber Journal 

“like warehouse workers 

who chews on waxed daffodils,

recite poetry, piss their pants 

for him, for his pure imagination--” 

And Austyn Wohlers’ Two Moments Above and Below can be found on Cincinnati Review 

“I’d like to sit by one river for ten thousand years and only then move on to the next thing.”

Quality of Life

The final GSC meeting of the year will be held on Thursday, April 29.  If you would like EGSA representative Jake McGinnis to raise any concerns or questions with the committee, please contact him at

We want to hear from you!
Do you have any announcements or messages you would like to share with all of us? Send our President, Julian Dean (, a quick email so we can feature your announcement in our next newsletter.  
Also, don't forget to visit our website! Here you will find information about our goals and even a copy of our constitution, keep up-to-date with our events by following our Google Calendar, find incredibly useful links and resources shared by our different chairs, and more!
EGSA Website
Those are all our announcements for now. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to reach out to us any time. Follow us on Facebook too, where we will be posting updates and pictures of our activities. 
We hope to see you in all our events! 

The English Graduate Student Association Board
President: Julian Dean
Vice-President: Oliver Ortega
Treasurer: Joshua Wright
PhD Professionalization Chair: Sara Judy
MFA Professionalization Chair: Valerie Vargas
Quality of Life Chair: Jake McGinnis
GSU Representatives: Marie Burns & Kyriana Lynch
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