ENGL: 1200 seeks to cultivate in every student a lifetime habit of frequent, intelligent, and satisfying reading. The course focuses primarily on “ways of reading,” asking students to become aware of themselves as readers, to learn how to deal with different kinds of texts, and to understand how texts exist within larger historical, social, political, and cultural contexts. The central concern of the course is the act of interpretation, as students use and refine their skills of reading, speaking, and writing to respond critically and sensitively to literary texts. Books taught in ENGL: 1200 give students readings of quality and breadth. They come from several genres (fiction, drama, poetry, essay, etc.), more than a single century, and more than one country. The authors students read exhibit a significant diversity of race, gender, and social background.

Students in GEL are usually NOT English majors, but this introductory course asks big questions about the pleasures and purposes of literature, and sometimes it prompts students to pursue further humanities study. 

The Textbook Committee


Jeremy Lowenthal is an English PhD candidate and GEL program assistant and instructor at the University of Iowa. His GEL course “Literature in the Aftermath of Catastrophe,” which offers students credit towards the UIowa Resilience and Trauma-Informed Perspectives Certificate, explores the role that literature can play in the transmission of historical catastrophes to present-day audiences still reckoning with their aftermaths. Building from his work in the classroom, his research focuses on the manner in which twentieth-century writers from Toni Morrison to Sylvia Plath sought to (re)engage collective traumas through the unique allowances of inter- and transmedial forms.

Following the completion of his undergraduate at the University of California, Davis, Jeremy earned his MA in the humanities from the University of Chicago in 2015. Before joining the University of Iowa, he worked as an adjunct instructor at Harold Washington College and as a legal writer for the immigration law firm Hudson Legal Group. His work on the textbook committee represents an important extension of this advocacy.

Maddison McGann is an English Ph.D. candidate whose research cuts across ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, narrative theory, and the Victorian novel. Her other areas of interest include Victorian reviewing and print culture. In broadest terms, Maddison’s research extends recent scholarship in narrative theory and ecocriticism to illustrate how industrial and ecological forces shaped the narrative structures of Victorian fiction.

Before coming to the University of Iowa, Maddison earned an M.A. in the Humanities from the University of Chicago. She also holds an M.A. in English from the University of Iowa and a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida. She joined the textbook committee in order to help GEL instructors think about how they might incorporate nineteenth-century texts into their curriculum in new and accessible ways.


Reid Dempsey is an MFA Candidate in the Translator’s Workshop and a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Iowa. Skeptical of the conflation of literary studies with the English language, his research interests include applied linguistics, discourse analysis, and the poetics of translation. His current research explores the impact of translation discourse on 19th century primary education and life writing concurrent with the rise of industrial linguistic nationalisms. His most recent course in GEL, “On Margins: Limit, Annotation, and Experience in Literature” reflects on the margin as metaphor both for 20th century social structures and for the textual function of language. 

Before coming to Iowa, Reid earned a BA in Linguistics, German Studies, and English from the University of Arizona. He joined the textbook committee to raise the profile of translators and translation in the curriculum

Pedro Martinez is a PhD candidate in English studying in Modernism, Post– Modernism and the Avant– Garde. His literary interests include performance studies, phenomenology and its relationship with the body, as well as the dialogue between high and low art in pop culture. His research is concerned with alienation, liminality, and the depiction of pain as both a driving and depleting force in literature.

Before coming to the University of Iowa, Pedro earned his BA in English from the University of Leon (Spain). He then went on to do an MA in Advanced English Studies organized by the University of Salamanca and the University of Valladolid. Lastly, he earned his MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary’s University (Los Angeles).

Kathleen Shaughnessy is a fourth-year PhD Candidate and GEL instructor. Kathleen’s interests in 19th century British literature include medicine, crime, science, and the Gothic, and her current research revolves around depictions of caretakers in Victorian fiction. Her course “People are Strange: Troubled Identities in Literature” uses a Gothic lens to probe the establishment and instability of identity in works of fiction. She joined the textbook committee due to her interest in both the evolution of and movements away from literary canon.

Bronwyn Stewart is a PhD student in English studying digital and multimedia performance strategies. In particular, her research focuses on the entanglement of bodies with technology in performance spaces. Her interests include the avant-garde, cyborgs, cellophane, new media art, patchwork girls, the body in cyberspace, and other realities of being a digital girl in a digital world. Bronwyn’ GEL course “Boxes” uses a common and abstract image – the box – to discuss experiences of alienation, claustrophobia, and incarceration and how literature allows a vehicle for challenging the repressive boxes that structure such feeling. She also uses this course theme to make many box puns. 

Before coming to the University of Iowa, Bronwyn earned her BA in English from the California State University Northridge. She joined the textbook committee to help GEL instructors better incorporate performance and drama into their lesson plans. 

Bryanne Estes is a PhD candidate in English who specializes in early 20th century writing on mental illness. Her research focuses on tracing mental illness through the surrealism and occult traditions to understand how authors created private worlds to cope with the demands of modernity. At stake are questions of creative freedom, political responsibility, and theories of mind.Her most recent GEL course, "Biography of a Reader," explores the study of literature as a way of curating and narrating the self. In addition to teaching, Bryanne has worked as an editor for The Iowa Review and The Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies and translates from the Spanish. She is a member of the graduate Student Mental Health Committee.

She joined the textbook committee to help students understand the literary and critical traditions they receive as rooted in history and consciously develop individual perspectives that reflect their own values and interests.