Student Profiles

MA Students

Ciarra Bona
I am a first year MA/PhD student and hold a BA in English with a speciality in Advanced Literary Studies from Saint Leo University (2016). My main interest is in 18th-century British Literature, particularly the rise of the novel.

Sarah Forner
I am a second-year MA student interested in poetry, eco-criticism, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. I earned my BA in English Literature from John Carroll University (2016).

Garrett Graber
I am a first year MA student and have a BA in English from the University of Mount Union (2017). My interests include 20th century to contemporary American literature, film, and narratology.

Blaire Grassel
I am a second-year. MA student with a BA in Creative Writing from Malone University. My interests lie mainly in English literature, particularly in the medieval and Victorian eras, though I also have an interest in American confessional poetry.

Ellen Liebenguth
I am a first year MA student with a BA in English Literature from John Carroll University (2017). My interests include nineteenth century British literature, specifically Romantic and Victorian novels, and Renaissance literature.

Mark Mowls
I have BAs in English and in Film Studies from Ohio State University (2002) and interests in film studies, visual culture and rhetoric, and British and expatriate American modernism. I am an MA candidate with academic interest in poststructuralism, film, queer theory, and the effects of technology.

Sabrina Skelly
I am a first-year MA student with a BA in English from the University of  Mount Union (2016). My interests include modernist and postmodern literature, Southern Gothic literature, feminist theory, queer theory, and the shifting constructs of masculinity.

Mary Hanna Stephenson
My bachelor’s degree was competed at Crown College with emphases on philosophical and religious studies as well as nursing and health sciences. I am a first year MA student with interests in history and philosophy of science, fantasy, fairy-story, and science fiction genres, and how our personal and cultural understanding of the physical world influences the stories we tell.

Hayley Verdi
I am a second-year MA student with interests in Victorian and Edwardian literature and culture, children’s literature, and literature and writing pedagogy. I earned my BA in English from Grove City College in 2010 and my MEd in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2012.

Annika Weder
I am a first year MA student. I have a BA in English with a specialty in North American Literature from the University of Bern (2017). My main interest is in postmodern and contemporary American literature.

PhD Students

Erin Blakeslee
I am a PhD candidate in the Writing History and Theory (WHiT) program. Prior to beginning my studies at CWRU, I taught writing for several years at Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana. I earned my BS in Cinema and Photography from Ithaca College and my MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Purdue. My research interests include writing pedagogy and genealogical writing, storytelling, and archival conventions. My studies focus primarily on writing situations that occur outside of the classroom and the workplace: in community writing groups, in family archives, in queer feminist performance spaces, and on hobbyist websites.

Evan Chaloupka
I am a doctoral candidate in Writing History and Theory. My research explores the narrative functions and aesthetic effects of cognitive and intellectual disabilities in American literature, journalism, and popular science writing. My work has appeared in The Journal of Narrative TheoryDisability & Society, and The CEA Critic.

Michael Chiappini
I am a PhD student whose research areas include classic and contemporary rhetorical theory, medical rhetoric, and literature of the AIDS Crisis.

Maya Cope-Crisford
I am a second-year PhD candidate focused on long 19th-century British literature, with concentration on Romantic and Gothic texts. My research focuses on the idea of an “Other” as it appears through character, theme, environment, or use of scientific and supernatural discourses. I take specific note of the ways natural geography affects both folklore and politics of the British Isles, and how these ecocritical lenses translate across gender, culture, and historical bias. I also take into account the scientific upheaval of the period, and explore the connections between the natural world and burgeoning scientific knowledge as it appears in discourses of gender, geopolitics, and the body/politic. My MA thesis explored embodiments of female “monstrosity” across English and Scottish works, and used historical as well as folkloric tensions to define gendered monstrosity. Additional interests include folklore studies, poetics, ecofeminism, the unexplainable and strange, gender and sexuality, and scientific narratives.

Leah Davydov
I am a first year PhD student. I hold a BA in Classical Civilization from Oberlin College and an MA in English Literature from Cleveland State University. My research interests focus on intersections of medicine and literature, and I aim to specifically explore how competing models of medical hypnosis may have affected the literary treatment of mesmerism, somnambulism, and other trance-like states in popular fiction of the late nineteenth century.

Thom Dawkins
I am a PhD candidate at the dissertation stage working on early modern theology and poetics. I was an inaugural recipient of the Dean’s Fellowship, which supported my research at the nearby Allen Medical Library, where I researched medical texts contemporaneous to the poets I study. I have had the opportunity to teach a great variety of topics at CWRU, including courses that privilege professional communication (ENGL 398), ESL (ENGL 148), and Creative Writing (ENGL 203). I recently served as the president of the English Graduate Student Association, and have held posts as Events Chair and as a representative on the Graduate and Undergraduate Curriculum Committees through the organization. Before coming to CWRU, I completed my MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Chatham University and my MTS at the Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Philip Derbesy
I am a third-year PhD candidate. My dissertation investigates the influence of film on the post-45 American novel. I hold a BA in English from Northwest Nazarene University (2013) and an MA in English from the University of Missouri (2015).

Megan Griffin
I am a PhD candidate with a focus on early modern British literature, from the late sixteenth century to the Restoration. My dissertation, “Fictive Sovereigns and Fictions of Sovereignty,” explores contradictory and complicated depictions of sovereignty in literature from Shakespeare to Behn. I received both my BA (2010) and my MA (2013) from John Carroll University.

Lara Klaber
I am a PhD student in the Writing History and Theory (WHiT) program, with BAs in Communication, Film & Digital Media, and English, and an MA in English, from Cleveland State University. I take a cross-disciplinary approach to my work, combining elements of rhetoric and composition, literary theory, film theory, and communication theory in my analyses. My PhD project focuses on pedagogical practices in use in Writing Centers, and I hope to run a University Writing Center after I complete my PhD. Additional interests include multimedia narratology, technical communication, interactive composition, and the use of contemporary young adult fiction to promote higher literacy rates. I also harbor a great love of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery genre writing.

Daniel Luttrull
I earned a BA in English and Writing from Indiana Wesleyan University (2009) and an MA in English from Baylor University (2011). Currently, I am a third-year PhD candidate working on a dissertation about didacticism and moral philosophy within American Romanticism.

Michelle Lyons-McFarland
I am a PhD candidate with BAs in English and Humanities from the University of Washington (2010) and an MA in English from Case Western Reserve University (2012). My dissertation, “Literary Objects in Eighteenth-century British Literature,” focuses on authorial use of object representations in fiction to signpost and subvert social and cultural boundaries. My areas of focus are 18th-century British literature, material culture, gender and sexuality studies, gothic literature, games and new media, reader/author/publisher communities and relationships, and composition.

Marcus Mitchell
I earned my BA in English from Illinois Wesleyan University (2008) and my MA in English from Case Western Reserve University (2011). I am currently a PhD student focusing on Victorian and Edwardian literature and culture. My research examines conflicting attitudes toward women’s muscularity and athleticism in Victorian fiction and the periodical press, as well as the significance of these attitudes in relation to the gender ideologies underpinning Victorian physical culture.

Melissa Pompili
I am a fourth year PhD student in English with a concentration in Writing History and Theory (WHiT). My research focuses on the sometimes contradictory subjectivities that are required by the biopolitical state from the early twentieth century to the present moment. My dissertation, “Internal Medicine: Bioaffect, Medical Discourse, and the Making of a Physician,” attends to the paradoxical subject position that physicians come to occupy through medical training, and the aesthetic products that they produce during their education in order to affectively (as in emotionally and psychologically) accommodate that subjectivity. My theoretical investments include biopolitics and affect theory, and my work falls at the intersections of literary studies, the rhetoric of health and medicine, and the medical humanities. During the 2017-18 academic year, I will be teaching two university seminars. I designed “Internal Medicine: Memoir and Medical Education (Summer 2017) and “Rendering Life Itself in Literature, BioArt, and Scientific Data” (Fall 2017). During the 2017-18 academic year, I will also serve as the President of the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA), and the Communications Chair for the Graduate Society of Medical Humanities, an organization of which I am a co-founding member. I am also the creator of the Chopin in the Century website, a digital archive of Kate Chopin’s short fiction published in The Century magazine. I hold an MA in Literature from Eastern Michigan University, and a BA in English from Lourdes University. Read more at

Brita Thielen
I am a second year PhD student whose research interests bridge both literature and writing studies. I received my MA in English Literature with a Certificate in the Teaching of Writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2016) and my BA in English from the College of Saint Benedict (2011). I am also serving as the English Graduate Student Association Vice President for the 2017-18 academic year.

Megan Weber
I am a PhD student with a BA from Wittenberg University and an MA from the University of South Florida. My focus is Restoration and 18th-century British Literature. My primary research focuses on the development of language through the period, examining shifting gender roles and definitions of masculinity. Using plays and novels, I explore the gap between the public and private, and the different language used in each.