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

Jamie Chen is an English PhD Candidate and international graduate instructor at the University of Iowa. Her GEL course “The Cosmopolitan Codex: Writing Back to the Canon” considers the living conditions of reading and writing—what goes into the creation of a text, and what does it mean to read it now? Her research applies a corresponding focus on readership and materiality to contemporary Anglophone novels (she often pauses and Chensplains this as “20th and 21st century novels from Britain and former colonies”), specifically the political potential in unintended textual circulation via a cosmopolitan reader or a novel gone rogue abroad.  

Before coming to the University of Iowa, Jamie completed her BA in Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Taiwan University. She considers her work in the textbook committee an important extension of working with different methodologies of reading and different readers, providing materials that intentionally span a variety of cultures, nationalities, and writing practices.  

Philip Zaborowski is a PhD candidate in English who studies Medieval literature and the History of the Book. His research primarily focuses upon how textual and material elements of medieval manuscripts intertwine in the making of meaning. His current project explores the afterlives of medieval books—how they’re reinterpreted and reconstructed in later periods—to establish what it means to “get medieval” over the longue duree.  

Philip’s GEL course, “Gods and Monsters: Inhumanity for the Public Good” examines what we can learn about the human experience through reading about the inhuman. He joined the textbook committee to advocate for the inclusion of premodern texts which aren’t written by William Shakespeare. 

Riley Hanick is a writer and doctoral candidate in English at the University of Iowa. His research focuses on intersections between literature, book history, visual art, and information science in the Americas during the twentieth and twenty-first century. 

During the 2021-2022 academic year Riley's GEL course focused on shifting definitions of kinship and attachment in the work Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Grace Paley, Danez Smith, Eve Ewing, Ed Roberson, and Henry David Thoreau, among others.

Camille Davis (she/they) is a second year PhD student in the English Department at the University of Iowa. They are specializing in international poetic communities with a focus on network theory and book history. Previously, she has worked as a rare book librarian at the Kislak Center for Special Collections at the University of Pennsylvania, a Program’s Associate at Rare Book School, and even as a web developer for David’s Bridal.

Matthew Blackwell is a Visiting Assistant Professor specializing in 19th- and 20th-century American literature and book history. His research interests include African American literature, canonization, editorial theory, and U.S. Cold War culture. His General Education Literature courses have included "The Writer's Work," on representations of labor in literature, and "From Country to City," about urbanization and mass migrations and their effect on publishing and authorship. 

Matthew received his Ph.D from the University of Iowa in 2019 and a graduate certificate in book studies from the UI Center for the Book in 2015. While writing his dissertation, he taught in the American Studies department at TU Dortmund University in Dortmund, Germany. Before coming to Iowa, he received his M.A. from the University of Missouri and his B.A. from the University of Arkansas. He joined the Textbook Committee to help new instructors teach challenging texts to the University of Iowa's diverse undergraduate population.

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.

Katherine Randazzo (she / hers) is an English PhD student, GEL Instructor, and Writing Tutor studying trauma studies, fandom studies, and speculative fiction. In particular, Katie has examined traumatological readings of works in the hurt/comfort fanfiction subgenre, while also analyzing superpowers as trauma metaphor. Katherine’s GEL course, “The Fantastic Around Us,” puts a speculative spin on the GEL syllabus, foregrounding works with fantastic, science fiction, or magical elements—while also bringing in connections to media not often considered “literary,” such as fanfiction, song lyrics, and much more. She has also written pieces for websites like Anime Feminist, bringing a lens of literary analysis to pop culture works not often discussed in academic spaces.

Before coming to the University of Iowa, Katherine received her BA in Literature, Culture, and Digital Media Studies from The College of Wooster. Katie hopes to bring in creative and fascinating ways for students to connect with material as part of the textbook committee, while also sharing resources with instructors.