The Department of English sponsors a number of awards each year.  For details about submitting work, see the English Essay Prizes webpage and the Creative Writing Awards webpage.

The Villanova English Department’s Core English Honor Roll recognizes students whom instructors have identified as exceptional students in their Core English courses.  This honor is for the one or two students in each Core English course who demonstrated the most aptitude in scholarly writing about literature.

Click here for the fall 2017 Honor Roll list.

The Edward McGrath Medallion, the English Department’s Medallion of Excellence, is awarded to a graduating senior each year. The 2016 Medallion of Excellence winner is Emma Pettit.

Previous Winners:  
2014 - John Szot
2014 - Christine V. Tergis
2013 - Alexa I Pastor
2012 - Theresa Donohoe and Nicole Battisti
2011 - Molly Schreiber
2010 - Max Stendahl
2009 - Joe R. Gonzalez
- Angela S. Allen
2007 -
Emily M. Trovato
- Thomas Emerson
2005 - Kathryn M. Rutigliano  
2004 - John Durnin
2003 - Mari Grace Crosby
2002 - Michael Foley
2001 - Kristin Suga
2000 - Christine Anderson
1999 - Thomas McKinley
1998 - John Giordano and Megan Norcia
1997 - Lisa Tomaszewski
1996 - Mark Spoonauer
1995 - Kelly Beissel

The Jerome J. Fischer Memorial Award is given annually to the most distinguished undergraduate essay written in a Villanova English course. The Fischer Award honors Jerome J. Fischer, who taught nineteenth-century British literature courses, as well as a variety of other courses, at Villanova from 1947 until his retirement in 1983. He died in 1984.  (For details about the essay competition, click here.)

Kevin Madden is a senior English major with minors in Gender and Women’s Studies, Spanish, and Honors. Hailing from the coastal beach town of Sarasota, Florida, he has acclimated surprisingly well to the Philadelphia region—so well, in fact, that he plans to return to Villanova in Fall 2017 to pursue his MA in English and a graduate certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies. In addition to working during his year away from the classroom, Kevin hopes to explore his voice as a writer and peruse the oeuvres of several impactful writers to whom he’s been introduced during his undergraduate career. He wishes to express his infinite gratitude for the outstanding and irreplaceable faculty members in the English and Gender and Women’s Studies Departments who have been positively instrumental in shaping his academic interests and educational trajectory, without whose guidance he might still be studying science.

Kevin wrote his essay,“The phallic hunting out”: Ravished Landscapes and Dominated Female Bodies in D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover," for Prof. Megan Quigley's course "Modernism and Its Manifestos."

Previous Winners:  
2015 - John Szot
2014 - Megan Plevy
2013 - Shanon Welch
2012 - Theresa Donohoe
2011 - Molly Schreiber
2010 - Max Stendahl
2009 - Jamie Kapalko
- Daniel E. Trucil
2007 -
Emily Trovato
- Stephen Cornell
- Kristy Wessman
2004 - Mark Napolitano
2003 - Valerie Kate Fernandez    
2002 - Rebecca Corcoran
2001 - Michael Foley
2000 - Corinne Welsh
1999 - Jennifer Joyce
1998 - Cara LaColla
1997 - Chris Eagle
1996 - Wendy Anne Tucker
1995 - [not given out]
1994 - Michael DiRuggiero
1993 - Rosemary Scalo
1992 - Mary Kovalchick
1991 - Peter Naccarato
1990 - Sarah Pines
1989 - Anne Marie Ryan
1988 - Jon Lemole
1987 - Jill Stevens

The Margaret Powell Esmonde Memorial Award is given annually to the most distinguished graduate essay written in a Villanova English course. The Esmonde Award honors Margaret Powell Esmonde, who taught at Villanova from 1974 until her death in 1983. She was a specialist in Renaissance literature who also taught courses in science fiction and children’s literature.  (For details about the essay competition, click here.)

AJ DeBonis is a first-year student in the English graduate program. Originally hailing from Orangeville, Pennsylvania, he earned his BA in Philosophy from Eastern University in 2010. After working for three years as a sexton at a lovely church in Wynnewood and studying theology at Villanova, he moved to New Haven, CT to complete an MA degree in religious ethics at Yale Divinity School. He still lives there and teaches in the Catholic Studies department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. He has presented papers at conferences hosted by the American Academy of Religion, the American Philosophical Association, and the International Congress on Medieval Studies. He is currently interested in intersections of literature and moral philosophy, meaning and literary form, and values in American literature. He is married to Patti.

He wrote his essay, “Determinism and Subjectivity in Ann Petry’s The Street," for Prof. Crystal Lucky’s "African American Women Writers" course.

Previous Winners:  
2015 - Eric Doyle
2014 - Theodora Hermes
2013 - Rebecca Hepp
           Cara Saraco
2012 - Alexandra Edwards
2011 - Benjamin Raymond
2010 - James McAdams
2009 - Don James McLaughlin    
- John Breedlove
- Rebecca Steffy
2007 -
Rebecca Burnett
- Karen Y. Lee
- Marc Napolitano
2004 - Victor Sensenig
2003 - Deborah Gross
2002 - Brian Sweeney
2001 - Patricia Crouch
2000 - Laura Giuliani
1999 - Sharon Cournoyer
1998 - Marc Schuster
1997 - Mary Ann Quigley
1996 - Robert Duggan, Jr.
1995 - Gale White
1994 - Gale White
1993 - Daniel Hipp
1992 - Helen Goff
1991 - Sr. Elaine Marie Glanz, I.H.M.
1990 - Katrien Conlan
1989 - Janet Wallin
1988 - Anne Gallagher
1987 - Gregory Sullivan
1986 - Ellen Wilmot

The George D. Murphy Award in Creative Writing honors a longtime faculty member in the English department (see below).  The winner is chosen each year by a panel of Villanova faculty and Philadelphia area.

The award for 2015 goes to Maria McGeary. Maria was born and raised in Bolton, Connecticut, approximately twenty minutes outside of Hartford. She is currently a junior at Villanova, pursuing a major in English, with minors in Irish Studies, Writing and Rhetoric, and Creative Writing. She is also on the editorial board of The Villanovan and the Polis Literary Magazine. In spring 2016 she was an editorial intern with Main Line Today Magazine.

Here is an excerpt from "Promise You'll Come Back":

By 5:00 on November 23rd everyone in Hartford knew that Derek Ramos was dead.

At 7:25 Tara Murray stepped onto the platform of Union Station with a duffel bag in one hand and the strong urge to turn around and leap back onto the train. The wheels began to turn slowly, giving the momentary illusion that she was moving as well until they picked up speed, leaving her behind with nothing but the receding particles of exhaust from the engine’s heavy sigh.

Tara walked across the rickety wooden panels holding the ancient platform together and peered over the railing. The street below was dark and deserted. Tara felt the harsh sting of snowflakes on her wrist, landing on the inch of skin between her glove and jacket sleeve. The sky had turned white somewhere in New York, and already it had gathered in rows and piles along rooftops and railings. The Hartford skyline was a disordered haze of falling and fallen and Tara stood beneath it, recalling something she hadn’t thought about for years. Snow was the only thing that made Hartford beautiful.

Years ago this street would have been teeming with night lifers of varying ages and levels of sobriety, walking to and from shows and concerts. Cabs would cruise through the crowd honking their arrival, and music wafted from doorways of bars and restaurants, collecting into the street for a one-night-only concert of unintentional harmonies that would never find each other in quite the same way again. Those were the memories of another generation, before the richest city in the nation gave way and the poverty line swallowed entire families faster than social programs could drain the coffers trying to save them. Tara’s Hartford was quite literally an urban myth. Twenty minutes from the safety of her suburban cow town it was a place to drive through on the way to somewhere else, with the doors locked and the windows rolled up.

Movement in the corner of her eye caught Tara’s attention and she turned, staring toward the end of the street. A sea of lights flickered at the corner of Union and 9th, swaying in tandem with a rhythm Tara couldn’t feel. At least thirty people were huddled closely together, spilling from the sidewalk across the street. The streetlight above bathed them in a recurring hue of green, yellow, and red, though no car attempted to pass.

Tara drew her eyes away from the street and walked across the platform to the staircase leading down to the station. The terminal was entirely deserted, with the exception of a woman who might have been mistaken for a pile of blankets if not for the empty tuna fish can a few inches in front of her, and the cardboard sign that read “God doesn’t bless all. Please Help.” Her face was young, hidden mostly by the hood of a thin red sweatshirt, and her arms clutched a tattered orange backpack. Tara moved quickly past her and through the station to the heavy oak doors.

George D. Murphy received his B.A. (1949) and M.A. (1951) in English from the University of Notre Dame and his Ph.D. in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. He joined Villanova’s English Department in 1954 and retired in 2000 after 46 years of service. His scholarly publications focused on American writers of the 20th Century. While at Villanova, he was known for his exquisite sense of humor and a singular gift for recalling and recounting a host of humorous tales. While an undergraduate at Notre Dame, he was on the editorial board of its literary magazine—The Juggler of Notre Dame—and contributed a number of poems, short stories, and critical essays. He returned to creative writing at the end of his life as a way of coping with grief over his wife’s death and produced many first-rate poems.

The winner of the English & Honors Award in Creative Writingr is chosen each year by a panel of Villanova faculty and Philadelphia area.

The award for 2016 goes to Marianne Donley and Holly Blakley.  Two poems by each appear below their biographical notes.

Marianne Donley is a sophomore English and Chemistry double major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her hobbies reading comic books, listening to the Hamilton cast album on repeat, and staying up until the early hours of the morning writing poetry and lab reports. If she’s not in the library or the chemistry labs, Marianne can probably be found with the Villanova Band, where she’s a saxophone player and pep band director. She witnessed Kris Jenkins’ historic three-ball first hand and still doesn’t entirely believe it happened. Marianne would like to thank her amazingly supportive parents for reading her bedtime stories and being her first editors, and Catherine Staples for her encouragement, insight, and friendship. She would also like to apologize to her middle school math teachers for reading under her desk during their classes.

Holly Blakley is a 21 year old female student from Long Island, New York, who has studied nursing and Spanish during her undergraduate career at Villanova. She describes writing as “one of her first loves” and a hobby that has excited and enriched her life since she was little. She loves poetry in particular because it allows her to “re-see” and encounter the ordinary, and also dabble with the pliability and playfulness of language. While the Villanova nursing curriculum does not leave much room for additional courses, Blakley says she has always found it important to make time for the things that give her life, namely prayer, writing, and music. She is particularly inspired by poets such as Sarah Kay, Phil Kaye, and Derrick Brown who are well known in the world of spoken-word poetry. The first writing course she took at Villanova was “The Writing of Poetry” with Dr. Lisa Sewell during the spring semester of Blakley’s senior year. Sewell has served as a source of guidance and encouragement for Blakley’s growth as a writer. After graduation, Blakely will be serving as a nurse and full-time volunteer in Houston, TX at Casa Juan Diego, a hospitality house for immigrants and refugees operating in the spirit of the Catholic Worker Movement. She hopes to write for their newspaper and continue her work as a poet-nurse-disciple.

Two poems by Marianne Donley

Allegro Con Brio

My grandfather drove a Yellow truck.
He used to talk about the days when, exhausted,
He pulled into small town truck stops
And grabbed a cup of coffee and a shower.
A stopover, an hour or so, then on the road again,

A road like the slightly curving line of a bird’s wing.
The woman at the table holds the bird up to me,
Points out the distance between wingtip and shoulder.
A chord, she says, like in mathematics, but I
Can only see the lines on a staff, strung up,

Pulled out between the tune’s start and end
Like a net between two trees. Notes caught,
Tail down, low, like a cardinal entangled,
Bright red notes, a paintbrush dipped in blood
Flashing furiously across a page of sheet music.

The cardinal’s beak snaps a staccato, chomps
At an imaginary bit. The woman’s hands relax,
The grip falls loose. He doesn’t realize, she says,
Doesn’t know he’s free, and he doesn’t, until,
Like a racehorse out of the gate, he leaps and flies

Out of the stopover point of her palm. I hear
In the distance, catbirds screeching, and another
I do not know, that sounds like a record scratch,
Sped up to match the cardinal’s speed. It raced
Through the air, down the road, allegro con brio.

Dedication of St. Bavo’s, Haarlem

It was holy before sanctification:
Crisp white columns and wispy pastel
Tiled floor of slightest blush, palest green,
Sandy tans just darker than ivory.
Not one inch blemished—even yet unpainted.
Not given the time for imperfection,
Free of any original sin
Yet baptized all the same.

With no mice to amuse them
In chase and evasion, the dogs
Touched snouts or trotted by
Their masters; men in wide, black hats,
Austere but costly coats. Statesmen
With their wives, sporting dresses
Dyed as deeply as priests’ vestments,
Striding through the vast, cavernous hall

With the ease and privilege of owners—
For indeed, they were the Master’s children.
Their coins laid the marble, carved the wood
That gilded the nave’s ceiling with heavenly geometry.
Latticed glass, stained with dainty translucence
Held in the emptiness, without pew, without organ,
Sacramental altar and tabernacle absent;
Their future dominion guarded by heaven’s gates.

Whispers of first prayers burrowed into the stone,
Promises of hymns hung in the air, and rose
Up into the arches, to the tower taller than any other—
The last great church all Haarlem could be proud of.

Two poems by Holly Blakley


When you were little,
I’d stand outside your bedroom door
wondering who you’d become,
who you already were.
At that age, it was me you wanted
to tuck the covers under your chin.
not your mother.

You were nine
the first time you asked why
the coffee stained my teeth purple.
One hand on the mug,
     One on the wheel
It’s my driving juice, honey, I’d joke.
you never laughed,
but kept your eyes on cars passing by.

One night I dumped your mother’s clothes into the hall, beating the walls of our oversized house.
Your sister cried.
Your brother told me to Shut the hell up and go back to sleep.
in your Yankees tee, with bleary eyes
 you looked at me from the doorway
wondering who I’d become,
who I already was.
How many years does it take a child to know her father?
You and I ask ourselves the same question.

Heavy Boots

We share the corner seat on the bus,
wheels floating above the ground.
Snow has turned the evening sky white
Maybe this is strange, but these hands
haven’t been held for so long.
His thumb paints
invisible circles on my palm.
gently he treads the surface
of skin, veins, knuckle hills
and toothpick bones.
I am a map he holds upside down
I am braille he wasn’t taught to read.

He leads me off the bus and says let’s walk home.
Snow has turned to sleet and I am scared my boots will fill with rain,
too heavy for carrying me.

The front door creaks open
the hallway is unlit
 I don’t know
if this is my house or his—
I just know it isn’t ours.

The Core Literature and Writing SeminarEssay Award is given each semester to the best papers written for English 1975.

The Fall 2015 winner is Frank Fazio.
Frank's essay, "Fake Plastic Trees," was written for Prof. Heather Hicks.

The Spring 2015 winner is Ciara Earrey.
Ciara's essay, "August Wilson Analysis," was written for Prof. Ellen Bonds.

Previous winners:  
Fall 2014 - Sean Campbell and Kevin Madden    
Fall 2013 - Patrick Ciapciak  
Fall 2012 - Paige Kennedy and
Danielle Sekerak
Spring 2014 - Nicole Conway
Spring 2013 - Roderic Hutton

The Literary Experience Essay Award is given each semester to the best papers written for English 1050.

The Spring 2012 winner is Nicholas Cho.
Nicholas's essay, "The Excavation and Expulsion of Exploitation in Latin America" was written for Prof. Ellen Bonds.

The Fall 2012 winner is Alissa Foti.
Alissa's essay, "Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Metaphysical Poetry" was written for Prof. Cecilia Ready.

Previous winners:  
Fall 2012 - Alissa Foti
Fall 2011 - Monica Solis
Fall 2010 - Lien Trieu
Fall 2009 - Ellie Garbade
Fall 2008 - Greg Cappa
Fall 2007 - C J Hodukavich
Fall 2006 - Jennifer Latz
Fall 2005 - Stephanie Cody
Fall 2004 - John Zurbach
Fall 2003 - Nadia Nauss
Fall 2002 - Adrienne Sanetrik  
Fall 2001 - Matt Nespoli
Fall 2000 - Michael Knerr and Ryan Zitnay  
Fall 1999 - Kate Schramm
Fall 1998 - Megan Knecht
Spring 2012 - Nicholas Cho
Spring 2011 - [not awarded]
Spring 2010 - Anne Stohlquist
Spring 2009 - Michael Tomae, Nakoya Wilson
Spring 2008 - Kailee Fowler
Spring 2007 - Marissa Zator
Spring 2006 - Christina Park
Spring 2005 - Christian Skonier
Spring 2004 - Emily Trovato and Kerri White
Spring 2003 - Monica Borgone
Spring 2002 - Elizabeth Micklow
Spring 2001 - Matt Varga
Spring 2000 - Andrea Flood
Spring 1999 - Jocelyn Trufant

The English Honor Society is composed of senior English majors with high GPAs both overall and in English courses.  Members are selected in the spring of their senior year.  (They do not have to apply.)

  Casey Berner
Robert Bunting
Amanda Eliades
Gabrielle Faragasso      
Mary Kate Fields
Rose Friel
Rachel Fulton
Eugene Gonzalez
Gregory Habeeb
Bernard Jacobson
Yun-Hwa Jan
Allison Kuse
Karen Loor
Kevin Madden
Samantha McGuire
Georgina Morgan
Kristina Sumfleth
Emily Tifft
Elise Van Arsdale
Patrick Wall
Sarah Weiss
Hindley Williams
  INDUCTED 2015:
Marielle A. Alexander
Casey L. Berner
Sean D. Campbell
Nicole Conway

Brenna E. Diaz
Emma J. Pettit
Kristina E. Sumfleth
Maria McGeary
Maria McGeary, winner of the first-ever George D. Murphy award in Creative Writing