Alumni & Alumnae

Fordham PhD Alum Publishes Book on Piers Plowman

Fordham alum Arvind Thomas (PhD 2010) is receiving accolades for his new book (from Toronto University Press) Piers Plowman and the Reinvention of Church Law in the Late Middle Ages, which asks the question, “To what extent does the art of making poems share in the craft of making laws, and vice versa?”

Cornell English professor Andrew Galloway says, "This book offers an important excavation of how much canon law is part of the ‘dialogic’ range of discourse in and around Piers Plowman, both showing how the poem’s originality extends to how it refashions canon law and following implications that might have been treated by a prosaic canonist but that, fortunately, were instead unfolded by a brilliant poet. Arvind Thomas’ study thus also offers a new way to appreciate some of the range and depth of canon law itself."

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Arvind is grateful for his time at Fordham and for the mentorship he says that made this book possible. “I owe Wolfgang Mueller a deep debt of gratitude for encouraging me to compare the versions of the poem from the perspective of canonist thought. Wolfgang has consistently been a critical reader of this project, prompting me to engage the original canonical sources closely and to write in a language that historians would understand.”

“I am deeply grateful to Eve Keller, who served as a mentor and helped me shape the book’s conceptual methodology , clarify it in terms of the project’s ‘big picture,’ and shape the appropriate style. Her practice of form-attentive reading of premodern literature has served as a model for the book.”

“I owe a great debt to Lenny Cassuto, whose graduate mentorship enabled me to stay in academia to work on the book.”

“My thanks also go to John Bugg, whose feedback on the readers’ reports on the book manuscript was central to its revision process.”

Congratulations to Arvind on his remarkable accomplishment.

For more information, and to purchase the book, please click here: Piers Plowman and the Reinvention of Church Law in the Late Middle Ages.

Associated Press Recognizes Fordham English Alum

Christy Pottroff, PhD 2017, now an Assistant Professor at Merrimack University, is receiving recognition for her work concerning America’s first published poet Anne Bradstreet. Pottroff and her group of fellow professors and students are working to find the exact site where Bradstreet was buried and at the same time attempting to restore her legacy and, according to the Associated Press, “her rightful place in the pantheon of Western literature.”

In an interview with the AP, which ran in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and several other newspapers, Pottroff says, “Even though we don’t know much about her, she was a household name in the 17th century, both here and in England.”

The article simplifies what had been a much more complex conversation. That said, the fact that the project is getting coverage at all is, according to Pottroff, “mind blowing.” In addition to this, Pottroff and her team are putting out a collection of poetry (modern poets responding to Bradstreet's work) and a mobile game app (like, Pokemon Go, Anne Bradstreet edition). And they’ve actually found an archaeologist who is going to do a scan of Bradstreet’s family property to see if we can find the foundation of her home. 

Check out their Finding Bradstreet website here: https://www.findinganne.org

On top of this, Pottroff was one of eight people accepted into the First Book Institute at Penn State, where she’ll be workshopping her book project this summer with a distinguished group of early career Americanists.

Congratulations to Professor Pottroff on all her great work!

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A Fordham English Degree Opens Doors

Kamrun Nesa, Fordham ‘16, has only been out of school a short time, and she’s already making her mark on the publishing world. Kamrun is an associate publicist at Grand Central Publishing and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in USA Today and The Washington Post.

Kamrun Nesa, ‘16.

Kamrun Nesa, ‘16.

When asked about her experience at Fordham, Kamrun says, “Fordham’s English Department was instrumental in launching my career as a book publicist and freelance writer, namely three professors who provided a strong support system during my time at Fordham: Mary Bly, Elizabeth Stone, and Vlasta Vranjes.”

Kamrun took several journalism classes––taught by Elizabeth Stone––for Fordham’s award-winning student newspaper The Observer, which inspired her to take up freelance writing during college.

“I also took Mary Bly's Publishing: Theory and Practice class my junior, which introduced me to the many facets of publishing and also inspired me to pursue creative writing and craft my own stories. I received my first internship through that class, which put me on a trajectory that culminated in a full-time publicity job at a book publishing house after college. 

While the professional courses helped me hone my career (and craft!), the literature courses I took, namely Victorian and 19th-century literature, deepened my appreciation for books. I loved books long before college, but Vlasta Vranjes’ creative approach took that to another level and enhanced my understanding of subtext. This level of deep analysis is something I continue to use in my writing and my full-time job. It’s how I come up with angles for the projects I work on and write press releases.”

Click here see Kamrun’s most recent article in the Washington Post: "Misconceptions about arranged marriage abound. Romance authors are here to help."

Congratulations to Kamrun! We wish her continued success.

Fordham Teaching Fellow Releases Book

Congratulations to Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow and English PhD alum Caroline Hagood, whose book Ways of Looking at a Woman will be released March 1st by Hanging Loose Press, the same publishing house that launched such notable authors as Maggie Nelson and Sherman Alexie.

In Ways of Looking at a Woman, a book-length essay that interweaves memoir with film and literary history, Hagood assumes the role of detective to ask, what is a “woman,” “mother,” and “writer”? By turns smart, funny, and poignant, Ways of Looking at a Woman is a profound meditation on the many mysterious layers that make up both a book and a person.

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Here’s what people are saying:

“A profoundly unique and honest piece of work, somehow executed with an astonishing lack of ego. She will break your heart with her naked sincerity; a masterful, singular writer who sheds light with every page.”

—Mary-Louise Parker

“This book is for the poetry lovers whose brains have gone fractured after childbirth, fractured by love and focus and television and books, every influence jostling for precious space. Is this a poem? Is it a memoir? Is it a book on art and motherhood and love? Yes. I’ll shelve it next to Maggie Nelson, on the shelf marked Necessary.”

—Emma Straub

“A riveting portrait of a mind at work. Referencing high and low culture, family, academic syllabi, and most importantly, her body, Hagood has made something entirely new and all her own.”

—Elisa Albert


Congratulations to Dr. Hagood on this fantastic accomplishment. For more information on her book, click here: http://hangingloosepress.com/newtitles.html

Fordham PhD Alum Celebrates Book Launch

Congratulations to Fordham Ph.D. recipient Dr. Michael Andindilile, now the Dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Dar es Salaam, who’s recent book launch received national recognition on iTV Tanzania.  

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As Dr. Andindilile explains it, his book, The Anglophone Literary-Linguistic Continuum, explores “the various uses of the English language on the African environment to represent various and diverse experiences on the continent.”

After the panel discussion and celebration at the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr. Andindilile expressed his joy and gratitude for the entire publishing process.  

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“I’m grateful to enter the world of publishing because I used to think it was mission impossible, but now it’s mission possible.” 

With the publication of the book, Dr. Andindilile looks to the future and the positive impact he can have on young writers in Tanzania. “I know I can inspire others, and since my book came out, so many people are coming to see me, and I’ve been encouraging them. Also, I know I can mentor some of them, so they can also end up publishing."

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Congratulations, once again, to Dr. Andindilile on this remarkable accomplishment. 

For more information about his book, click here:  https://goo.gl/oLtBJr

Fordham PhD Alum Inspiring Undergrads Through Collaboration

Recent PhD graduate Kate Nash inspires students every day in Boston University’s General Studies Program. Collaborating with computer engineering and psychology undergraduate students on her various projects, Dr. Nash is leading the next generation of thinkers and researchers, while also gleaning new perspectives from students of a wide variety of disciplines.

Nash is currently working on a critical analysis of Muriel Spark’s 1963 novel, The Girls of Slender Means, and she’s employed the help of Psychology/English major Coleen Ilano, to collect research materials for the project.

Kate Nash with Coleen Ilano.

Kate Nash with Coleen Ilano.

Ilano says she loves her classes with Nash—so the project was a perfect fit: “I am able to learn more about the subjects I love while also being able to assist a professor who I greatly admire and respect.” Ilano says that working on this project has taught her “the ways that women in fiction can exercise agency and maintain autonomy over their bodies” even when those acts might also conform to “restrictive social standards.”

Nash is also collaborating with her students on a book she’s writing “on how twentieth-century writers—among them Virginia Woolf, Betty Miller, and Muriel Spark—incorporated wartime food ephemera into their fiction. During the austere years of World War I and World War II, governments aimed to manage food consumption through mass-media campaigns. Nash looks at how women writers incorporate these propaganda materials—from posters to infant feeding manuals to domestic pamphlets—into their writing as they confront how the state regulates femininity and the female body in service of the nation. In the books that Nash studies, young women use chocolate as a form of currency during the hungry years of wartime London, and a restaurant meal becomes a symbol of racial discrimination.”

For more information on Kate Nash and her current projects go here:

https://www.bu.edu/cgs/2018/05/04/a-look-at-undergraduate-research-women-writers-food-and-wartime/

Q&A with Fordham Alum, Naima Coster, Kirkus-nominated author of Halsey Street

Naima Coster (GSAS), acclaimed author of Halsey Street, isn’t interested in asking the easy questions. Her debut novel tackles gentrification, explores psychological complexity, and invites self-interrogation on the part of its readers. Halsey Street has brought Coster critical recognition, including a Kirkus Prize nomination and a place on the must-read lists of publications across the country.

This week the Creative Writing program spoke with Coster about the thought process underlying the novel and her experience of writing about flawed humans in a very real world.

Q: Your debut novel Halsey Street has been lauded for its skilled depiction of family, loss, and renewal. What motivated you to tackle the messiness of life and relationships and in the way that you did?

One of the reasons I love fiction is that it’s one of the only avenues we have for slipping into the consciousness of another person. We’re stuck inside our own heads, our perceptions, memories, and reactions the rest of the time. But while this is one of the pleasures of fiction, it’s also uncomfortable. It can be troubling, it can hurt, to inhabit someone’s mind, to become so well acquainted with the inner life of another. I knew that if I was going to be writing so close to my characters, the book would become difficult, charged with all the emotions and wounds and aspirations the characters are carrying. But there’s no other way I’m interested in writing. And the difficulty, the discomfort of being so close to these complicated characters, is fitting for the novel. Halsey Street is in part about unbearable emotions and the ways we attempt to cope. In the book, characters lose themselves in music, turn to gin, run, make art, garden, seek intimacy. Sometimes we’re not sure how to hold the messier facts of our lives, our difficult emotions, but fiction can hold it for us, and so can other literary forms.

Q: You alternate between the perspectives of Penelope and Mirella in Halsey Street. What was the experience of alternating consciousnesses like in writing the book, particularly for two characters in such different physical and mental states? What did you hope to reveal through these particular voices?

At the level of the prose, the two perspectives in the book sound quite a lot like one another. The perspectives differ chiefly in terms of the quality of mind of each of the characters. There were periods of time when I wrote solely in Penelope’s point of view for long stretches; there were times when I was looking only at the sections of the book that belonged to Mirella. The trickier moments were the ones where their points of view collide later in the book. I hoped that these voices would complicate and illuminate one another to tell a moving, fraught, sticky story of a broken family. Neither of their versions is quite right, but they’re both telling the truth from where they’re standing. And this truth telling is essential if the women are ever going to find their way back to one another.

Q: In your work you address gentrification in Brooklyn, an issue that has gained much attention and media coverage in recent years. How have your themes changed with and been influenced by the world around you?

I knew there was no way I could write a book that would tackle every potential facet of gentrification--it’s too huge. I also knew the pressure to represent the issue could squeeze out any nuance or depth from the book. Gentrification is the context pressing in on the lives of the characters, but the story told here is actually quite small: about one neighborhood record store that closes, about two families: one old and one new. I let the lives of the characters shape the fiction, although I was always collecting details from news stories, anecdotes from friends, my own time in New York City. Anytime I thought I’d perhaps gone too far in my depiction of gentrification, the real world corroborated my fiction. I wanted to make the book bold but not didactic; I wanted to raise questions for the reader, unsettle any easy ideas about gentrification and its impact.

Q: Halsey Street has been able to reach a wide and diverse audience as it has been on the must-read lists of publications including People, Bustle, and Kirkus Reviews. What kind of effect do you hope your work has on readers, and what would you like them to take away from the novel?

I hope that my readers will be able to locate themselves in my work. I think that’s a bit different than relating to the characters; rather, it’s about being able to see more clearly how you’re operating in the world, in your neighborhood, in your family, with respect to yourself, after spending time in the fiction. I’ve heard from fathers who told me they wanted to spend more time being emotionally attentive to their daughters after reading Halsey Street because they saw themselves playing the role of material provider above all in their families; I’ve heard from young transplants to Brooklyn that they’re reevaluating how they regard their neighborhood after reading about the newcomers to Bed-Stuy in the book. The richest books, to me, are the ones that in some way leave me thinking about myself, the people around me, and how I want to live. Fiction isn’t self-help, but it can lead to self-interrogation and self-reflection, which, I believe, are invaluable.


Q: You said in another interview that you probably wouldn't write about gentrification again. Going forward, what kind of themes, questions, and mediums are you looking to explore through your writing, and has the experience of writing your debut novel influenced how you address these topics?

I’m certain that I’ll continue to be interested in family and memory, race and belonging, place and how it forms us, and the interior lives of women. But even with these thematic commitments, anything is possible. I have two novels that I’m working on now. One is a story of how the integration of a local public high school in contemporary North Carolina brings together two different families and intertwines their lives and fates forever. The other is a work of speculative fiction, and it’s about a young woman’s quest to save her family. While she is on this journey, she’s learning how to be tender at the same time that the world requires that she be hard. In both of these works, I’m paying careful attention to the physical world, to the social forces that shape my characters’ lives, and to their interiors, their relationships.

Halsey Street is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Author Naima Coster, pictured above, delves into themes of “family, loss, and renewal.“

Author Naima Coster, pictured above, delves into themes of “family, loss, and renewal.“

Cover of  Halsey Street.

Cover of Halsey Street.