Carnegie Mellon University

The Department of English is both inspired by the richness of the humanist tradition and dedicated to innovation. Our graduates enter careers in academia and other professions well-prepared to meet the changing needs of society with creativity, historical perspective, global awareness, and outstanding communication skills.

Department of English News

Fall Speaker Series from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards Welcomes Two Prestigious CMU Alumnae

For the second year, Carnegie Mellon University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards brought two distinguished writers to campus for the Fall Speaker Series. Department of English alumnae Shannon Gibney (DC 1997) and Sarah Valentine (DC 2000) were this year’s featured speakers. Both Gibney and Valentine held readings and Q&A sessions on their work.

Jane Bernstein, Creative Writing Professor: On Fiction’s “Reassuring Dream Life” and Her New Novel

Jane Bernstein, professor in the Carnegie Mellon University Department of English, has created a writing career across genres. The author of three memoirs, several novels, children’s literature, and a screenplay, Bernstein’s newest work is a novel: The Face Tells the Secret (October 2019). 

Shakespeare in the Holodeck: “Shakespeare-VR” Launches from Stephen Wittek, Assistant Professor of Literary & Cultural Studies

In October 2019 Stephen Wittek, CMU English assistant professor of Literary & Cultural Studies, officially launched "Shakespeare-VR.” A virtual reality project and educational tool, Shakespeare-VR allows students around the world to “step onstage” during performances at Blackfriars Playhouse, the indoor theater used by Shakespeare’s company.

The project, which is now available online at, entails streaming virtual reality media, a curriculum for classroom use, and a selection of readings on virtual reality and humanities education. 

Arts Greenhouse Program Re-Launches at Pittsburgh Schiller Middle School

After a year-long hiatus Arts Greenhouse has relaunched, coordinated through the CMU Department of English. The program held its first day of classes on October 8 at Pittsburgh Schiller, a STEAM 6-8 magnet school on the Northside. 

Instruction is divided into two semesters. In the fall, Schiller students will focus on writing original poems to be included in a student-edited and produced poetry anthology. The head instructor for the fall creative writing session is Julie Albright, CMU English Department alumna and owner of The Writing Studio. In Spring 2020, Pittsburgh-based hip-hop artist Shad Ali will teach students how to write and produce their own music. The curriculum in both semesters focuses on collaborative writing, self-reflection and critique.

Simon Initiative Tool Helps Students Polish Writing Skills

Carnegie Mellon University English Professor Chris Neuwirth is helping students learn to write clearly and think about word choices they make through the help of an online tutoring tool, which currently is available by invitation-only.

Announcing the Humanities@CMU Initiative

On October 2, Dietrich College of Humanities & Social Sciences Bess Family Dean Richard Scheines, with English head Andreea Rivitoi, announced the Humanities@CMU Initiative. The effort will promote and advance strengths in humanities disciplines at CMU. Just in time for National Arts and Humanities Month, read more here.

Department of English Puts Spotlight on Banned Books

"Every year the American Library Association tracks the number of challenges that come into school and public libraries and school curriculum," said Kathy Newman, a professor of English and literary cultural studies at Carnegie Mellon University. "Around 300-500 books are challenged annually."

Banned Books Week in 2019 starts September 22. Newman and the Department of English are also hosting a related event, with partners the Carnegie Library, ACLU, and the Book Fairies of Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, September 24: "Dangerous Ideas in Difficult Times: Rob Rogers and Yona Harvey on the Problems of Censorship."

Lauren Shapiro, Assistant Professor of English, Wins 2019 Editor’s Choice in CSU Poetry Center Book Competition

In late July the Cleveland State University Poetry Center announced the 2019 results of its prestigious book competition, selecting five winners for publication from nearly 1,000 manuscripts. The new poetry collection Arena from Lauren Shapiro, Assistant Professor of English in the Carnegie Mellon University Department of English, was selected as the Editor’s Choice.

CMU English Welcomes the Association for Computers in the Humanities (ACH) to Pittsburgh

This past July 23-26, The Association for Computers in the Humanities (ACH) held its first US-led conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While sponsored in part by Carnegie Mellon University, the Department of English also represented CMU’s digital humanities work, featuring innovative projects from over half a dozen members of the Department.

Video: CMU Department of English Launches Short Edition "Story Dispenser" Machine

Earlier this spring, Carnegie Mellon University's Department of English launched Pittsburgh's first Short Edition "story dispenser" machine, currently stationed in the Cohon University Center.

Printing short stories and poems from CMU English faculty, as well as international stories, the kiosk is connected to an online database of ever-changing content. Visitors can press a button, receive a short work on a scroll of biodegradable and heat-printed paper, and enjoy the discovery of their reading. 

James Wynn, Associate Professor of English and Rhetoric, Leads Citizen Science Workshop at the RSA’s Summer Institute

Though "citizen science" has been around for almost two centuries, the practice is not well-known — even to those doing the work. From Thursday, June 6 through Saturday June 8, 2019, Associate Professor James Wynn co-led a workshop on these topics at the Rhetoric Society of America’s (RSA) Summer Institute, Citizen Science and Emerging Rhetorics of Science.

Spotlighting English Graduate Students: Spring and Summer 2019

It may be summer on-campus at Carnegie Mellon University, but the last few weeks of spring and coming summer months continue to be filled with the accomplishments of the Department of English's graduate students, both M.A. and Ph.D.

Spotlighting English Undergraduates: Spring 2019

Each year English undergraduate students at Carnegie Mellon University achieve an array of departmental awards, external prizes, and professional opportunities in their fields. Several undergraduate students, however, are recognized through financial awards for distinctive project work or internships.

This spring was an especially exciting time for scholarship and grant recognition of CMU English's undergraduates.

Creative Writing Students Honored at Annual Adamson Awards

As one of the only undergraduate programs of its kind, Carnegie Mellon University’s Creative Writing Program in the Department of English highlights excellence in student writing through the annual Adamson Student Writing AwardsThis year’s 2019 Awards ceremony featured Daniel Borzutzky, 2016 National Book Award-winner, poet, writer and translator.

Diploma Ceremony Celebrates Department of English Class of 2019

On Saturday, May 18, 2019, 55 students received diplomas from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of English at a ceremony in McConomy Auditorium, with 95 students graduating this year.

2019 Inductees Join Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society

In an induction ceremony in April, 12 students from the Department of English joined the ranks of the Omega Tau Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society.

Kevin Haworth, Visiting Faculty Member, Publishes First In-Depth Work on Israeli Graphic Artist Rutu Modan

Kevin Haworth, Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of English, may have been a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Creative Writing, yet his five books span as many topics as his wide array of interests and research. Now his most recent, The Comics of Rutu Modan: War, Love, and Secrets (University of Mississippi Press; April 30) is the first in-depth exploration of the vibrantly-colored work by contemporary, living artist Modan, the acclaimed leader of Israeli comics. 

Kristina Straub, Director of Literary & Cultural Studies Program, Releases New Routledge Anthology

The work of Professor Kristina Straub, Director of Literary & Cultural Studies Program in the Department of English, spans feminist cultural studies, sexuality studies, performance studies, and 18th-century British cultural studies. Yet from the start of her career, Straub’s approaches have especially refigured understandings of European theater and the histories of Western entertainment as we know it today.

Earlier this year, Straub edited and released The Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama (co-edited with Misty G. Anderson and Daniel O'Quinn). Unlike any other anthology in its field, the book is a collection of plays with contextual materials that will allow readers to imaginatively reconstruct performance conditions of specific nights at the theater during the 18th century.

CMU Launches Undergraduate Program in Film and Visual Media

Carnegie Mellon University will offer a bachelor's degree of arts in film and visual media beginning in fall 2019. The program, based in the Department of English, will focus on the critical study of screenwriting and on films as cultural and political texts.

"Over the past decades, in the field of English Studies and in the humanities at large, there has been increasingly more interest in the importance of media and text beyond print — with the moving picture occupying a central place," said Andreea Ritivoi, head of the Department of English.

CMU English Celebrates National Poetry Month: Spotlight on Carnegie Mellon University Press and The Oakland Review

April is celebrated as National Poetry Month across the U.S., drawing attention to the multi-faceted values of poetry in daily life — the social, political, educational, and of course the artistic. Carnegie Mellon’s Department of English is fortunate to house two institutions upholding the value of that work: Carnegie Mellon University Press, the school’s independent book publishing press (established in 1975), and The Oakland Review, the Creative Writing Program’s national literary journal edited and managed solely by CMU students (established in 1969).

Jim Daniels Launches New Collection THE PERP WALK at City of Asylum Event

Jim Daniels, Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English, launched his 23rd book The Perp Walk (Michigan State University Press; May 1, 2019) at an event mid-April at Pittsburgh's City of Asylum.

English Alumni Jodi Balkan and Meredith Paley Return to Campus for "Real Talk" on Professional Writing and PR

On April 5, two Department of English alumni, Jodi Balkan (1989), President and Founder of BOLD PR, and Meredith Paley (Wollins) (1989), VP of Public Relations for fashion retailer Talbots, returned to campus. The two gave a craft talk and Q&A session about their professional writing and public relations career trajectories — starting with how they built those careers from the ground up.

English Alumna Marion Mulligan Sutton Meets Student Recipients of Her Internship Award

On April 1, English alumna Marion Mulligan Sutton (MM 1965) visited the Department of English to meet the current student recipients of her generous scholarship award, The Marion Mulligan Sutton Internship Award for English/ Writing Majors.

The Oakland Review Debuts at the AWP Conference and Releases Volume XLIVI

In late March 2019, Carnegie Mellon University’s national literary-arts journal The Oakland Review announced the release of Volume XLIV. Edited, produced, and distributed entirely by Carnegie Mellon University students, Volume XLIV features poetry, prose, and art by writers and artists from around the world, produced by the Creative Writing Program in CMU’s Department of English. Additionally, senior staff recently attended the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference (AWP) in Portland, OR in late March.

Technology, Music and Art Come Together at TripTech

For three days, the teaching, coding and hip-hop worlds will converge at Carnegie Mellon University’s first-ever TripTech event.

“We thought it was important to highlight the contributions of creatives working at the forefront of STEAM-based community projects, especially those aimed at underserved and underrepresented groups in Pittsburgh and beyond,” said Richard Purcell, associate professor of English and one TripTech’s coordinators.

Taking place March 28–30, TripTech — in collaboration with Google — is organized by Ayana Ledford, director of diversity and inclusion for the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy; Purcell; and Stephen Wittek, assistant professor of English.

Carnegie Mellon Launches Global Communication and Applied Translation Master's Degree Program

Carnegie Mellon University's Departments of English and Modern Languages are now enrolling students in a joint Master of Arts in Global Communication and Applied Translation Program that will launch in fall 2019. The one and a half-year program is designed especially for individuals interested in becoming translation professionals whose careers involve content generation and state-of-the-art translation technologies.

Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Producer and Alumnus, Presents New Scholarship Award at Craft Talk

On March 6, 2019, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, producer and alumnus from CMU's Creative Writing program in the Department of English, gave a craft talk in The Gladys Schmitt Creative Writing Center and also presented the first Grillo-Marxuach Family Scholarship to the program. The inaugural scholarship was awarded to undergraduate student Anna Anderson.

The talk and award presentation also signified the launch of the new B.A. in Film and Visual Media in the Department of English.

Creative Writing Professor Jane Bernstein’s Newest Works: From Experience to Imagination

When most writers publish a range of genres in as short a span as Jane Bernstein has done over 2018, people tend to call it a “prolific” year. For Bernstein, however, Professor of Creative Writing in Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of English, the last year seems more a true representation of her career’s ongoing, wide array of writing styles and capacity: more the rule of how she writes rather than the exception.

Exploring Languages and Cultures Speaks to CMU Students

Forty-eight percent of 2018 Carnegie Mellon graduates took a Modern Languages course. Nationwide, there are only 7.5 modern language course enrollments per 100 students, according to the most recent report conducted by the Modern Language Association.

This fall our partners in the Department of Modern Languages will launch, in collaboration with our Department of English, a new Master of Arts in Global Communication and Applied Translation.

A Few of the Latest Cool Classes in the Dietrich College

Shared from the Dietrich College, this sample of humanities courses—including English offerings such as "Data Stories" and a Grand Challenge Seminar—highlights ways students learn about data and rhetoric through both storytelling and politics.

Professor John Oddo Publishes New Book on Political Rhetoric's "Game of Telephone"

While most Americans would prefer to believe they are not as susceptible to political propaganda as their fellow citizens, a new book by Carnegie Mellon University Associate Professor of English John Oddo argues those influences are far more complex than the public realizes. Published in November 2018, “The Discourse of Propaganda: Case Studies from the Persian Gulf War and the War on Terror” (Penn State University Press) argues “propaganda” is more than just misleading rhetoric generated by one person or group — but rather an elaborate process of keeping discourse alive and effective.

Keynote Addresses from the Creative Writing Program's 50th Anniversary

Carnegie Mellon University’s Creative Writing Program in the Department of English celebrated its 50th Anniversary during Homecoming Weekend this past October. Over 100 alumni returned to campus to take part in panels, readings and meet-ups with their creative writing community and peers, Oct. 25 - 27, 2018. 

The keynote speeches by alumni Elizabeth Currid-Halkett (‘00, Chair of Urban and Regional Planning and Professor of Public Policy at the University of Southern California) and Javier Grillo-Marxuach (’91, Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and producer) immediately addressed news of that weekend's Tree of Life Synagogue tragedy and the importance of the humanities disciplines.

Two Rhetoric Ph.D. Students Bring Home Major Awards

This past fall two students in the Department of English’s Rhetoric Ph.D. program, CP Moreau (2021) and Laura McCann (2024), were awarded major honors for their research and writing. 

Alumna, Writer, Director, Named Marshall Scholar

Kaytie Nielsen, an alumna of Carnegie Mellon University and international filmmaker, is adding to her impressive list of credits. The 2016 graduate is the fourth CMU student to earn the highly selective international Marshall Scholarship, which funds up to two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom.

Two Department of English Students Named Andrew Carnegie Society Scholars

Earlier this fall, two seniors in the Department of English were selected to represent the Dietrich College of Humanities & Social Sciences as 2018-19 Andrew Carnegie Society (ACS) Scholars. Congratulations to Margaret (Maggie) Mertz and Valene Mezmin on receiving this honor.

First Writers Visit in New Speaker Series from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards

This past October, Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of English helped host acclaimed writers Hanif Aburraqib and Cameron Barnett as the first guests in the new Speaker Series presented by the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards.

Creative Writing Program Celebrates 50 Years

Over the days of Thursday, October 25 through Saturday, October 27, the Carnegie Mellon University campus prepared to celebrate several major milestones: From the CMU Homecoming and Inauguration of its 10th President, to the Department of English’s 50th Anniversary of the Creative Writing Program.

As one of oldest the only undergraduate programs of its kind, the Creative Writing Program's alumni gathered from around the country at Baker Hall to share in the camaraderie, success and profound experiences the writing program has given them.

On the last day of celebration on Saturday morning, news of the immense tragedy at nearby Tree of Life Synagogue reached program director Sharon Dilworth, associate professor of English. As CMU Homecoming events were cancelled, Professor Dilworth moved all Creative Writing plans to her personal home, including the keynote speeches.

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