Saying Goodbye: Samantha Martens, ’19


Being an English major has taught me how to write on so many different levels. Looking back at some of my papers from freshman year makes me cringe a little, but that’s what the English program is all about. It’s about improving yourself, expanding your repertoire, reading novels that are outside of your favorite genre, and so much more. I feel like I have a much better understanding of a broader field of topics than ever before thanks to the English major.

It’s really hard to narrow down which English professors have impacted my time at Witt, especially because I’ve learned such different things from each of them, but Dr. Kate Polak has been there for me since day 1 (literally) as my FYS advisor, English 101 professor, and my academic advisor. I’ve learned about some fascinating topics in her other classes as well, and she always pushes her students to think outside the box. Then there’s Dr. Robin Inboden, whose specialty is in Victorian literature, and that really spoke to my interests. She’s an incredible professor in every way imaginable, and as my thesis advisor, she has been a bright and guiding light, and it has been an honor to work with her throughout the semester. Last but not least, Dr. Rick Incorvati has also always been a great influence, especially regarding community involvement. His “Writing for Social Change” class was truly eye-opening, and I learned a lot about how I can impact my community as an individual.

White Noise by Don DeLillo is one of the novels that sticks out to me from all the English classes I’ve taken. I’ve always enjoyed the way that dystopian novels make you question the structure of your own society, and in White Noise, the dystopia really bleeds into the small college town where the story takes place. There are still aspects of normal life, but it’s all changing so subtly! The beauty within the changes of the novel combined with DeLillo’s use of imagery has always enamored me.

The most important thing I’ve learned as an English major is that the major is so versatile! Don’t get me wrong, I have loved every English teacher I’ve ever had, but the question, “So you want to be a teacher?” can sometimes feel limiting. Trust the English majors! We’re taught to read analytically, write to the best of our abilities, and connect ideas in ways that other majors aren’t always exposed to. We can accomplish whatever we want to with the skills we’ve gained.

I went to the “What Can You Do with an English Major?” colloquium last semester, and one of the alumni gave a piece of advice that really stuck with me. She said: “Read everything. Read everything you’re assigned.” That sounds obvious with schedules becoming overwhelming and homework piling up, but the books and articles that I’ve had to read for my English classes have been so interesting and eye-opening. I likely wouldn’t have found them on my own, and when else are you going to be assigned to read novels for homework? Take advantage of the materials being presented to you.

Regarding life post-graduation, I have accepted a job working with a tourism company called Christian Tours Europe in Germany for one year starting this September. I got to intern for this company while I was abroad on the Witt-in-Wittenberg semester program in 2018, and I’m so thankful that I’ve been presented with the opportunity to go back to Germany and work with them. When I come back to the States, though, I would love to work for a non-profit organization and help them with their grant-writing and fundraising. I would also love to stay in the Springfield area because it’s really a city with a lot of potential.


TOMORROW: Seniors Present at Creative Writing Capstone

Tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. in Founders Pub, two seniors, Bayleigh Thompson and Jennifer Ryan, will read a selection from a piece they have been revising all semester. Thompson will read from her piece, “Beautiful,” while Ryan will read from her piece, “God Told Me.”

As always, English majors can receive colloquium credit for attending! This will be the last chance for colloquium credit for the 2018-2019 calendar year.


Recap on Senior Symposium

On Friday, April 12, the senior class presented their senior theses at the English Department’s annual Senior Symposium.

Here is a quick look at the panelists and their presentations. For more information on the presentation or for a look at a senior’s thesis, please email the senior and ask for further information.

Pictured in the upper-lefthand corner from left to right, seniors Courtney Eden, Jennifer Ryan, and Olivia Wilcox presented in a panel entitled “Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know: Stories that Can Save Your Life.”

Eden presented “Love, Death, and the Whole Darn Thing: Life Lessons from Romeo and Juliet.” Ryan presented “Into the Water: A Creative Study of Young Adult Literature and Its Misrepresentations of Mental Illness.” Wilcox presented “Utilizing the Power of Language in Sylvia Plath’s Short Stories.”

In the upper-righthand corner, John Uible, Atolani Ladipo, and Logan Bliss presented in a panel entitled “We Are Family: Writing Past Trauma.”

Uible presented “God is Dead and The Boy Killed Him in McCarthy’s The Road.” Ladipo presented “‘The Fire Inside’: The Baptism of Memory and Trauma in Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing.” Bliss presented “‘Brother William Did All He Could’: Sibling Relationships and Inherited Trauma Incidents in The Life of A Slave Girl and Salvage the Bones.”

In the middle-left, Olivia Racanelli, Garrett Stout, and Lexi Gallion presented in “Grow A Pair: Female Energy vs. Toxic Tropes.”

Racanelli presented “Ecofeminism in Corporate Capitalism: The Destruction and Survival of Equality and Ecology in Atwood’s The MaddAddam Trilogy.” Stout presented “David’s Masculine Performance: The Many Masks of Masculinity in Giovanni’s Room.” Gallion presented “A Kaleidoscope of Non-Binary Bodies: Working Through Trauma in Tristram Shandy.”

In the middle-right, seniors Lexie Cole, Charisse Ponder, and Kim Estenson presented in the last panel of the day entitled, “Speak Your Truth, Change the Story.”

Cole presented “‘This Is What I Chose’: Reading Trauma in The Handmaid’s Tale.” Ponder presented “In Which Readers Encounter Trauma in The Jane Austen Book Club.” Estenson presented “‘Old Wives’ Tales’: Feminist Revisionist Retellings of Lilith, Beowulf, and Carmilla.”

In the bottom-left, seniors Jessica Stormoen, Ashlee Eckenrode, and Kristen Feigel presented in “I Know You Are, But What Am I: Questioning Gender Roles.”

Storemoen presented “Subversive Masculinity within Yu Yu Hakusho: The Power of Friendship for a Male Audience.” Eckenrode presented “Saint Theresa and the Basil Plant: Equating Dorthea Brooke and Rosamond Vincy in George Eliot’s Middlemarch.” Feigel presented “The Female Delicacy: Traumatized Women and Gender Identity in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.”

In the bottom-right, seniors Bayleigh Thompson, Sierra Sanchez, and Sam Martens presented in “Deviating from the Script: Gender and Relationships.”

Thompson presented “‘Excluded Middles’: Gender, Sexuality and Power Dynamics in The Crying of Lot 49.” Sanchez presented “Woman Hollering / La Gritona: The Reinterpretation of Myth in Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street and Woman Hollering Creek.” Martens presented “Say ‘I Do’ to Happiness: George Eliot, Radical Marriage, and Middlemarch.”

Not pictured are seniors Andy Elliott, Johnathon Jacobsen, Kieran Mouritsen, and Harley Bakken who presented in “‘Make It New’: Creation, Destruction, & Technology.”

Elliott presented: “Connecting the Disconnected in Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.” Jacobsen presented “Reinventing the Novel: Creative and Destructive Tendencies in Ulysses.” Mouritsen presented “Crakers and Humans: The Philosophies of Transhumanism in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam.” Bakken presented “‘Trampling on the Floorboards Above’: Assimilating the Female Birth Experience in Tristram Shandy.”

“‘Speak Your Truth, Sis!’: The Lived Experiences of Women of Color” Shades of Pearl Symposium Reflection

Last weekend, Shades of Pearl hosted the “‘Speak Your Truth, Sis!’: The Lived Experiences of Women of Color” symposium. Hear a recap of the event from one of the presenters, senior Atolani Ladipo.


During the weekend of March 30th, I had the opportunity to be a part of Shades of Pearls’ “‘Speak Your Truth, Sis!’: The Lived Experiences of Women of Color” Race, Class, Gender & Sexuality Symposium. This is the first of its kind at Wittenberg; a one-day event that allowed women of color to share their truth. At least that’s how I took it.

I participated in this event by speaking on a panel about identity crisis/politics being a black woman of Nigerian descent, and also sharing three poems from a collection I’ve been working on titled “Ivory & Iron: Poems that Explore African Diasporic Womanhood.” It was a no-brainer for me to send in a proposal to perform at the symposium—this was something I wasn’t aware I had been waiting for during my four years at Wittenberg.

As this is my last semester at Wittenberg (unbelievable), I’ve been thinking long and hard about my future and what I want my next steps to be. It might be public knowledge now because of the symposium, but I have aspirations to be a published author of both novels and poetry. However, this was something I didn’t really share with a lot of people outside my friend groups. However, I’m taking an activism in poetry class with Dr. Kate Polak and it’s really allowed me to hone in on social justice issues important to me (not discounting the others), and write poems on them.

Playing with different forms and emulating other poets’ works birthed my “Princess of Yoruba” poem. For this poem I drew inspiration from the Yoruba oral tradition of Moremi Ajasoro, a Nigerian woman who had to sacrifice her son in order to save her people from the neighboring enemies. In this poem, I was working with motherhood, sacrifice, beauty and I wanted it to start a conversation about a black mother’s sacrifice.

My other two poems, “Ivory and Iron” and “The World Ended” dealt more with the black female body and the precarity of black childhood. I worked on these two poems outside of the class on my own and with a few others, my collection started forming itself. For the collection, I wanted the common focus to be the many complex issues that exist within the African diaspora and how they affect black people, especially black women. Colonialism, slavery, motherhood, and sacrifice are some of the major motifs (especially in the poems I presented) but my hope is to combat issues of colorism, animal abuse/degradation, poverty, and immigration—just to name a few.

Leading up to my performance, I was pretty nervous. I’m not one to shy away from standing in front of a crowd—I love the attention, I can’t lie—but this one was a whole ‘nother ballpark. For one, I’d never performed poems and two, I didn’t know what the outcome of speaking on things important to me (and which would affect me as well) would be. And I invited a lot of people to come out, even though I was jumpy. Working with Dr. Polak, Dr. Sha’Dawn Battle, and Dr. Kim Anderson and having run-throughs with other performers helped alleviate some of my anxiousness. Funnily enough, I think I had stressed so much about it that when the time came to get up in front of everyone, all I felt was composed and ready. My friend had helped design a beautiful pamphlet with my poems on it, my roommates sat through countless read-throughs, and my friends/family were relentless in their encouragement. The outpour of support was immense, and I was super grateful for it.

I didn’t just perform my poems, I was also a part of a roundtable discussion which was titled, “Where Does My Name Come From?: Identity Crises of People of Color” where we discussed our experiences being women of color from West Africa and having to mold our identities to the culture in America, starting with our names. This powerful conversation was thought up by my friend/roommate and I’m so glad—and honored—that I was able to discuss my own experiences having to grow up in America and not be called by my first name because it was “difficult” to pronounce. I love both my first and middle name, but I didn’t realize how much I preferred being called “Atolani” until my mom started calling me “Victoria” because everyone around us was. That’s when I knew I had to reclaim back my first name.

When our roundtable discussion ended, we actually had a few people from the audience (including a professor) share some experiences struggling with their cultural identity and that was the most moving part for me. We’re all facing some kind of battle and there’s healing in sharing your story with others, especially those who personally understand.

Needless to say, it was an amazing, important day; the symposium had received a warm reception from both students and faculty at Wittenberg and visitors alike. Wittenberg definitely made a turn for the better and I hold out hope that with more symposiums in the future to come, more people will be open to accepting that there is not one life to live and one story to tell. I don’t think I’m speaking for myself when it felt like us black women felt visible, and not in a bad way, even if it was just for one day. It’s not a feeling I’ll let go anytime soon.

Here are the three poems that Atolani read during the symposium.

“Ivory and Iron”

To poach the tusks from my face is to rid me of my worth.

To leave me in the stranded safari depleted of my crowns of glory,

is to ignore my hemorrhaging iron on this metal table. You see,

I’ve just given birth to another one of my kind’s own—no one

has cut my umbilical cord, yet there was no hesitation in taking

my ancestor’s ivory. My pain is immeasurable, yet they’ve been

taught to think unhinged pleasure is the thing arching my back

into a bridge, the promises of gold residing on the other end.

Ridden, I take many on a journey through the sands of time

but once again my story is neglected; the last one to be told.

Eternally silenced until a moan reverberates from deep inside my gut

because I can no longer take it anymore. Now they think

I’m mourning—I’m the one about to die! body temperature

dropping like the value of my stolen goods; I’m not so

limited anymore. Soon enough, you’ll be able to check the

Black market but only after I close my eyes and release a sigh

of essence into my newborn—only! because you decided to save

their life, instead of mine. Here I am, this is how

you’ll find me: ivory tusks and iron blood.


“The Princess of Yoruba”

My mother never would’ve been beautiful in peace

suitors amassing at her father’s door at the

peak of dawn

up until the remnants of light disappeared.

Yet the sun stayed on her skin

butter melting cocoa

caressing her silhouette like a lover.

Who was her king

in the realm of a fortress that exalted and believed

in her sacredness?

She mounts an onyx steed who molds himself

to fit her growing legs and they are formed,

an àkùré that is all black and equates


moving to one accord

each step sending tremors

and ripples through the earth

as they glide

until she is trapped in a monsoon

awakened by the moon.

She spoke life into


wishes granted by a

burning star, invisible orisha

she was not vain

yet her father sang his gospels.

Mother stop screaming

Mother stop screaming

Mother stop screaming for I am your greatest sacrifice

a prince who descended from the heavenly caverns.

She is

crystal and ivory and dirt

made from minerals

of an earth that could not sustain

the naturality of her



“The World Ended”

The world ended

the day the white man planted

his feet in our ivory dust, sword

refracting the inverse rainbow

forged in the sky. Tears of ice

shattering my mama’s ebony

cheeks, eyes sharp like stones

piercing my fetal heart—

I was just but a child. Mayhem

rolled in the forms of clouds

the color of iron, the scent of ire

a tasteless clash against the blue

which never ended but spanned

over the seas and the trees—

what corruption! Daddy whose

skin a shadow of the darkness

that just arrived, wrapped

his thick fingers around his war

spear tightly, the same way he

curled them around my mama’s

breasts and growled, predator

that he was. Prey that he is.

Splayed in ashes, deepred cascades

from the waterfall in his chest

the same way brightred trickles down

my legs—I was no longer a child.

Screams echoed by the birds

snakes lions never heard before

and visceral ragged coughs

choking on air-blood-helplessness

louder than the ticking bomb in

my chest; a sudden explosion in

the exterior followed by fire burning

water, sorcery. Black bodies floating

like feathers to the grains of our

abundant land and one after another—

my brethren never stood a chance.

I was just but a child when the world


The Winners of the 2019 Literary Awards

Yesterday evening, professor Dr. Lori Askeland announced the winners of the 2019 Literary Awards to a packed Founders Pub. Afterwards, SAGE Co-Presidents Lexi Gallion and Jenn Ryan presented English Department faculty with superlative awards.

Scroll below for a list of winners and superlatives. Congratulations to all of our winners!

Ostrom Expository Awards:
English 101 Prize: 1st Place – Katie Slyh
Sophomore Prize: 1st Place – Breann Webb, 2nd Place – Aliza Johnson, 3rd Place – Emily Schinker
Junior Prize: 1st Place – Samantha Reynolds, 2nd Place – Clay Waidelich
Senior Prize: 1st Place – Kim Estenson, 2nd Place – Sierra Sanchez, 3rd Place – Victoria Ladipo

Creative Writing Awards:
Poetry: 1st Place – Nikki Howard ’20, 2nd Place – Emily Schinker ’21, 3rd Place – Reese Harper ’20
The Sherwood Anderson Prize for Fiction: 1st Place – Kim Estenson ’19, 2nd Place – Jenny Larrick ’20, 3rd Place – Emily Schinker ’21
Non-Fiction Prose: 1st Place – Jenny Larrick ’20, 2nd Place – Hannah Reynolds ’19, 3rd Place – James Hagerman ’20
Playwriting/Screenwriting: Tie for 1st Place – Sophie Reutter ’20 & Sierra Sanchez ’19, 3rd Place – Reese Harper ’20
The Lester S. Crowl Creativity Award: Samantha Reynolds ’20

Professor Superlatives:

Dr. Kate Polak: Most Likely to Interrupt Class for a Meme

Dr. Lori Askland: Most Likely to Have a Cozy and Inviting Office

Dr. Sha’Dawn Battle: Most Likely to Have Her Students Face Off in A Rap Battle

Dr. Michael McClelland: Most Likely to Wear a Joutfit (Jean Outfit)

Dr. Robin Inboden: Most Likely to Rant About Keats

Dr. Cynthia Richards: Most Likely to Quote Love Poetry that You Wouldn’t Send to a Valentine

Dr. Scot Hinson: Most Likely to Throw His Office Phone Out His Window

Dr. Kim Anderson: Most Likely to Compare Tattoos with Her Students

Dr. Rick Incorvati: Most Likely to Be in a Kickin’ Rockband

Dr. Michael Mattison: Most Likely to Teach a Class that Counts as “Academic Hazing” (English 242)

Prof. D’Arcy Fallon: Most Likely to Hear Her Laugh Out in the Hallways

Christina Reynolds: Most Likely to Have Her Shit Together

Saying Goodbye: Courtney Eden, ’19


When I first became an English major my freshman year, I only had the goal to become a bestselling author. As time progressed, I decided to pick up an education minor so I can be a middle school and/or high school English teacher. This major has shaped me to be an advocate of the Language Arts and to teach the one thing I am very passionate about.

The one professor I will always go to for advice, and who has shaped me, would be Dr. Scot Hinson. He was the first English professor that I had a pleasure of learning from. Each English professor has their topic that they are more interested in, and Dr. Hinson was the one professor I was able to connect more to.

I can’t choose a specific book, but I love the author Octavia E. Butler. I have always loved science fiction, but she has definitely changed my perspective of many different topics. I have read so many different alien sci-fi stories, but this one was very interesting with the interaction between humans and aliens. It makes me wonder if aliens are real and how they would interact with us. After reading Dawn, I couldn’t help but keep reading all that she has written to continue analyzing her works.

My advice to new students is: don’t be afraid to question your professors. They may be scholars in the area, but if you find a different meaning in a text that you can argue, go for it with passion; they have been in your shoes! Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! Your time here at Wittenberg will go too quickly, and as a senior, you won’t know where all your time has went.

I plan on going into work right away once I get my teaching license. I hope to be in a high school setting since that is where I seem to thrive more in, but I am applying for junior high positions as well.

Saying Goodbye: Atolani Victoria Ladipo, ’19


As corny as it might sound, becoming an English major truly changed my life. When I declared the major, I was coming into the English Department with only two English classes under my belt, one of which was English 101. However, I am so glad I took the plunge because every English class I have taken has taught me something valuable that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The professors also really care about each and every one of us and it shows in their passion to spread the knowledge they have amassed onto us. I know so much more about myself, the world, and the craft of writing because I decided to pursue a degree in doing the things I love the most: reading and writing.

Picking an influential professors is so hard because every professor in the English Department is FANTASTIC and I love them all; however, Dr. Rick Incorvati was my first introduction to the English major and department, as he was my professor for English 101. The topic for the 101 class was Social Justice and Diversity and he really challenged us to think and reach outside of our comfort zones and the Witt Bubble. But besides this, he is a catalyst for social change in the real world and I admire that at any event that has to do with raising awareness on social justice issues, Dr. Incorvati is always there! Plus he’s my advisor and working with him these last two years has shown me how much he cares about seeing me succeed in every endeavor I embark on.

Beloved by Toni Morrison is my favorite novel, hands down! This book changed my life the moment I finished it—I even had nightmares about it that same night. Not only is Morrison an ICON (in my mind at least) but she has a way with words and her haunting fictionalized account of infanticide committed by a slave mother only reaffirms this; this book won a Pulitzer Prize and Morrison is a Nobel Prize winner, so don’t just take my word for it. Read it if you haven’t yet and if you have, go read it again.

I’ve learned so much in each English class I’ve taken but I think the most important thing I’ve taken away is that every individual’s experience is singular and remarkable and there’s a lesson that could be taught from it, no matter how similar it is to someone else’s. Each and every person has a story to tell.

Take classes in every subject taught by the English Department whether it’s a Creative Writing, African-American fiction, or Contemporary Women Writers course.  Even if it sounds like something you probably aren’t interested in, I promise that there is something you can learn from that particular class and you might just end up loving it. Also, participate in the class discussions. Not only will it help with public speaking but your opinion matters and it might spark up an interesting conversation.

I plan on teaching abroad either in the Middle East or Asia and traveling for a couple of years before going back to school to continue my studies by first earning a MFA in Creative Writing and later my Doctorate in English.

Submit to the English Department Literary Awards

Submissions for the Wittenberg English Department Literary Awards are now open! Submit your best work – whether it be academic essays, poetry, short stories, or more – to the English Office (Hollenbeck 102) by Tuesday, March 12th at 4:30 p.m. to be considered for a prize.

New this year, winners of all categories may receive awards for first, second, and third place. That’s three times the chances to win!

The first member of each graduating class to submit their work will also receive an English Department Mug. Refer to the photo below for submission guidelines (and this link!) for a description of each prize. If you don’t have a manilla envelope, stop by the English Office to grab one.