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Department: English



The English department of Notre Dame of Maryland University focuses on developing in students an appreciation of the art of literature and a capacity for solid research and writing about literature. Understanding that literature is rooted in nuance and mystery, the English department encourages students to explore the possibilities of meaning in a novel, a play, a poem, an essay. Students are taught to analyze a work in a way that respects the integrity of the work and, at the same time, acknowledges the validity of multiple interpretations. All of this is done in the context of literary theory and literary history.

English majors are also taught to write about literature. Expected to synthesize critical sources in substantive research papers, they learn systematic methods of literary research. They also learn to write clear and effective essays about literature and are expected to demonstrate facility in creating at least one literary form.

It is the intent of the English department to shape majors who can read comprehensively, think critically, speak effectively and write persuasively. The English department does this in the context of the liberal arts tradition to which the University is committed.

The English department offers a major in English and minors in English and drama to students in the Women’s College. Women’s College students may also pursue a preparatory program for secondary certification in English.  Around the core of required English courses, each student can construct a program with an emphasis on either literature or writing, or a balance of both. Special features of the English department are opportunities in creative writing and drama.


The Frances Haussner Writing Scholarship: open to incoming students.

The Margaret Dempsy McManus Scholarship: open to incoming students.

The Ladonna W. and Raymond J. Baginski Centennial Scholarship: open to incoming students.

The Sister Maura Eichner Scholarship: open to incoming first-year students, and open each year to a rising junior.

The Clare and Robert Moore Scholarship Fund: open to both current full-time students and incoming first-year students.

For More Information: Contact Sr. Margaret Ellen Mahoney, SSND, English Department Chair.

English Faculty in the News

Shelley Puhak Named Baltimore's Best Poet

Puhak, author of the Anthony Hecht-prize-winning “Guinevere in Baltimore,” was named Best Poet in the City Paper's 2014 Best of Baltimore edition. 

"Poetry is, perhaps, the most beleaguered of the perpetually beleaguered arts. How do you seriously engage with printed verse in the age of Instagram? Shelley Puhak can ... show you how—with wit, humor, pathos, intellect, and sexiness. In her Anthony Hecht-prize-winning “Guinevere in Baltimore,” she brings the myth of the love triangle of Guinevere, Arthur, and Lancelot to contemporary Baltimore nearly as successfully as Joyce brought Odysseus to Dublin, making it, as Joyce’s benefactor Ezra Pound put it, new. And, as a result, she makes the whole form of broken lines on a page feel not only fresh, but utterly necessary. We fell in love with her writing and keep scanning poetry magazines for her byline."

Read more about Shelley and her work at her website, ShelleyPuhak.com

City Paper on Dr. Gene Farrington's Blue Heron

"Veteran professor of English and drama at the Notre Dame of Maryland University, he boasts an impressive familiarity with all things lit that not only bleeds through the pages of his new novel, The Blue Heron, but inevitably pokes in and out of his everyday vernacular...It is this linguistic tension between the archaic and the vulgar that opens The Blue Heron, the local author’s just-released, epic 585-pager that explores the fictional parallels between a pair of 20-something online chatters, David and Molly, and their ostensible historical predecessors. David and Molly are hotly contesting the many uses of Farrington’s favorite curse word when their chat room is intruded on by an unlikely guest: 16th century Native American Opechancanough."

Read more about Professor Farrington at GeneFarrington.com

Ray Bossert on Geek Lit

Excerpted from the Baltimore Sun:

Recognizing the popularity of speculative fiction works such as the “Harry Potter” series of books and “The Hobbit,” as well as comic books, video games and graphic novels on college campuses, Ray Bossert, Ph. D., a part-time English faculty member at Notre Dame of Maryland University wanted to create a class for self-proclaimed “geeks” that would fit into a liberal arts curriculum. After developing a similar class at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., he started teaching “English 274: Geek Lit” at Notre Dame of Maryland through the honor’s program. The course involves a series of required texts and video games with class discussions and three papers required.

“I did not want to pull a ‘bait and switch’ and get students excited about the coursework and then switch to something more traditional. I want them to explore pop culture and determine what is worth reading and why. I tell them that this is one of the few classes and last chances to read what you really want,” he says. Bossert says that he expected some initial pushback from parents, but “parents recognize the value of a liberal arts education. Students are drawn to this course because they are hungry to talk about geek literature in a more formal setting instead of just posting comments on an Internet board on the subject,” says Bossert, who will teach a course on the graphic novel medium this summer.

“I want my students to be able to talk intelligently and sophisticatedly about his new medium. It may be a narrative, but it’s obviously a unique one.”

Shelley Puhak: Guinevere in Baltimore

What if characters from King Authur's medieval court went to Lexington Market and Fort McHenry? In her latest book Guinevere in Baltimore, Baltimore poet Shelley Puhak has placed Arthur and Guinevere in those very spots.

In this interview, Puhak—a Notre Dame of Maryland University creative writing professor and Anthony Hecht Prize winner—speaks with Tom Hall of WYPR's Maryland Morning.

Listen to the interview. Also, listen to Shelley read "Lancelot En Route Stopping Off at Fort McHenry."

Shelley has also been profiled in Baltimore Magazine, and the City Paper reviewed Guinevere in Baltimore, which it called "a book easy to fall in love with and one that makes one want to memorize dozens of its delicately fierce lines."

Read more about Shelley and her work at her website, ShelleyPuhak.com

Jeana DelRosso: Unruly Catholic Women Writers

Jeana DelRosso, Ph.D., of Notre Dame’s English faculty, along with her two co-editors, was named a finalist in the 2013 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards in the Anthologies category for their book, Unruly Catholic Women Writers: Creative Responses to Catholicism.

Unruly Catholic Women Writers features a collection of short stories, poems, personal essays, and drama in which the contributors describe women’s struggles with Catholicism and contemporary understandings of women’s relationships to their faith. In the recent issue of Universitas, the magazine of NDMU, Dr. DelRosso said these unruly Catholic women writers can often be found “mixing things up a little, creating some difficulties in a good way.”

“I think [Unruly Catholic Women Writers] speaks to a lot of the issues that those of us who were raised Catholic and who have also come to some sort of feminism in our lives struggle with,” she said.