Parker Stoker, Chelsea Hawthorne, and Jenna Marco have been recognized for their intellectual accomplishments and contributions to their fields.
The English Department continues to attract and nurture superb PhD candidates. This year, three students received honors that are among the most prestigious offered by the College and the University. Chelsea Hawthorne and Jenna Marco were awarded Bilinski dissertation fellowships through the College of Arts and Sciences. These awards reward excellence and provide a substantial stipend for the completion of the PhD degree. Parker Stoker was named a Breakthrough Graduate Scholar, an award bestowed by the Office of the Provost and recognizing those who “demonstrate excellence in the classroom and make considerable contributions to research and scholarly activities in their field.”
Chelsea’s work examines the distinct and unconventional ways that contemporary YA literature and graphic novels portray young Black boys in America. Despite a long tradition in literature and popular culture of depicting African American male adolescents as overcome by trauma, violence, shame, and the pressure to be a “good man,” she argues that works by authors such as Jason Reynolds, David Baraclay Moore, George M. Johnson, and Jerry Craft create new spaces for growth that are rooted on the “outside.” Labeled as awkward, different, and misunderstood mavericks, these characters use their positions as outliers to find new forms of family, express the pain of bearing witness, explore their sexuality, and embrace the power of being permitted simply to exist as young Black men.
Jenna specializes in twentieth century British literature, with special emphasis in modernism, WWI/interwar literature, gender studies, and popular spiritualist movements. Her dissertation examines the connections between popular spiritualist texts, modernist literature, and supernatural fiction in the World War I and interwar period in Britain. She posits that in response to the new culture of mourning and questions over national identity that resulted from WWI, modernist literature availed itself of the genres of spiritualism and supernatural fiction in order to grapple with issues of death, dying, and subjectivity.
Parker’s 2019 essay, “Hemingway’s Dante Revisited” (Literary Matters, Fall 2020), won the Meringoff Prize for its original reassessment of debates surrounding the influences on Ernest Hemingway’s early short stories. Parker has also contributed extensively to the Bram Stoker Estate’s historical research and stewardship of his great-great-granduncle’s life, work, and legacy. His dissertation centers on representations of head and brain trauma in modern American literature, working at the intersection of narrative theory and disability studies. While recent headlines about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the military and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the National Football League may make the “hidden disability” of concussive brain trauma seem like a uniquely contemporary phenomenon, he argues that concussion is a central feature of literary modernism’s innovations in narrative form.