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.

Laura Evers
I graduated from the College of William and Mary with a BA in History and Sociology. After teaching in Romania as a Fulbright Scholar, I earned an MA in International Education from Columbia University, Teachers College. As a first year MA student, my areas of interest include professional writing, rhetoric and composition, and writing pedagogy.

Rachael Frances
I am a first-year MA/PhD student with a BA in English Literature, Film, and Culture from Penn State Behrend (2016). My main interest is in Deindustrialization Literature, especially concerning the American steel industry and the authentic representation of evolving Rust Belt culture.

Garrett Graber
I am a second 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 and film studies.

Michelle Koski
I am a part-time MA student and hold a BA in Creative Writing from Ohio University. I am interested in modernist and postmodern literature, and the theory and practice of poetry, fiction, and prose.

Ellen Liebenguth
I am a second year MA/PhD with BA in English Literature from John Carroll University (2017). My interests include both Renaissance and 19th century British 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.

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.

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.

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 second-year PhD student focusing on 19th century British literature and its relationship to medical history, particularly with regards to trends in psychiatry, medical hypnosis, and the understanding and treatment of trance-like states. I hold a BA in Classical Civilization from Oberlin College and an MA in English Literature from Cleveland State University.

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 fourth-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).

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 am a fourth-year PhD candidate, writing a dissertation on the didactic strategies of American Romanticism. I hold an MA in English from Baylor University and a BA in English and Writing from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Melissa Pompili
I am a fifth year PhD candidate 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, “Uncomfortable Subjects: Bioaffective Attachments, Aesthetic Remainders, 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 work falls at the intersections of literary studies, the rhetoric of health and medicine, and the medical humanities. I hold an MA in Literature from Eastern Michigan University, and a BA in English from Lourdes University. Read more at

Camila Ring
I am a first-year PhD student whose research interests include modernist and contemporary poetics, creative writing pedagogy, body studies, and the role of orality and the body in the creation and experience of a poem.

Brita Thielen
I am a third year PhD candidate with a concentration in Writing History and Theory (WHiT). This year I am also serving as President of the English Graduate Student Association. 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).

Hayley Verdi
I am a first-year PhD student whose research interests include poetry, 19th and early 20th Century British literature, and writing studies. 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.

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.