May 24, 2022

Class of 2022: Stellar Student Stories, Part 1 of 3

The Class of 2022 began freshman year like any other, swept up in longstanding University of Mary Washington traditions like Move-In Day, Eagle Gathering and Honor Convocation. That all changed when they were sophomores. Classes went online, study abroad trips were postponed and everything – activities, internships and volunteer experiences – became virtual. But these […]

Barrenechea Presents at University of Glasgow Symposium

Professor of English Antonio Barrenechea

Professor of English Antonio Barrenechea

On April 11, 2022, Antonio Barrenechea, Professor of English, was an invited speaker at the University of Glasgow symposium “Fictional Maximalism and the Americas: New Voices, New Perspectives.” His presentation, “Literature of the Americas as Maximalist Discipline” discussed scholarly and historiographical encyclopedism in hemispheric American literary studies.

Richards Leads Book Discussion at Tennessee Williams Festival

Professor of English Gary Richards

Professor of English Gary Richards

Gary Richards, Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English and Linguistics, led the Books and Beignets forty-person discussion at the Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival on Saturday, March 26, 2022, in New Orleans. To mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of A Streetcar Named Desire, the group analyzed that play, focusing particularly on its form.

Barrenechea Publishes Enclopedia Entry on Literature of the Americas

Professor of English Antonio Barrenechea

Professor of English Antonio Barrenechea

Antonio Barrenechea, Professor of English, recently published “Literature of the Americas” in The Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Fiction, 1980-2020. Ed. Leslie Larkin, Stephen Burn, and Patrick O’Donnell. London and New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2022: 835-44.

UMW Gives Student’s Bookmobile Project a Lift

Hollis Cobb’s days growing up were bookended. He read each morning before school and snuggled in for family story time before bed. “I can appreciate how important it was that we had access to books and parents who had time to read to us,” said Cobb, now a junior English major at the University of […]

Blevins Presents at Flagship Composition Conference

Assistant Professor of English Brenta Blevins

Assistant Professor of English Brenta Blevins

Assistant Professor of English Brenta Blevins recently presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication 2022 Virtual Conference. Blevins presented as part of the cross-institutional panel “Informal Reading Groups as Inclusionary Practice for Facilitating Graduate Students’ Disciplinary Access and Professionalization.” Analyzing an informal, multi-year reading group, the panel identified how professional reading groups produce multiple disciplinary preparation benefits and provided suggestions for implementing reading groups.

Colin Rafferty: A Penchant for Presidents

As a third-grader, Colin Rafferty once pointed out to an autograph dealer that a plaque in his shop had incorrectly listed Abraham Lincoln as the 18th president.

Associate Professor of English Colin Rafferty

Associate Professor of English Colin Rafferty

“He humored me by looking it up, but I can still remember his face when he realized I was right,” said Rafferty, now an associate professor of English at the University of Mary Washington.

Hired at the height of the 2008 election, Rafferty, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s from Kansas and Iowa State universities and an MFA from the University of Alabama, said he brushed up by reading biographies of each chief executive. After all, his new home of Virginia was birthplace to eight presidents – and in play to put another into office. A friend told him, Rafferty said, “I hope you get a book out of it.”

That he did. His essay collection, Execute the Office, hit bookshelves last spring to critical acclaim. Rafferty recently spoke on the international radio show With Good Reason about his experimental compositions, ranging from a movie script for Reagan to telling the presidency of Eisenhower – a fellow Kansan – through the characters of The Wizard of Oz.

Colin Rafferty's 'Execute the Office'“The general perception of creative nonfiction is that it’s mostly memoir,” said Rafferty, who included a Mad Libs-style, fill-in-the-blanks type of epilogue for last January’s inauguration since the book went to press before the election. “I wanted to throw the doors open and show how much more this genre could be.”

His extensive research tackled both the famous commanders in chief and those often forgotten. Some of his favorite discoveries were personality quirks, Rafferty said, like John Quincy Adams swimming naked in the Potomac or that cottage cheese was Nixon’s favorite snack.

What surprised him the most? Finding out that even leaders he admired had flaws, he told With Good Reason host Sarah McConnell. “By deflating my ideas of these heroic presidents, it let me see all of them as human.”


In his research for 'Execute the Office,' Rafferty visited the graves of 28 presidents, toured the homes of another 16 and had the privilege of handling a four-page letter written by George Washington.

In his research for ‘Execute the Office,’ Rafferty visited the graves of 28 presidents, toured the homes of another 16 and had the privilege of handling a four-page letter written by George Washington.

Q: How did you get into nonfiction writing?
A: I needed two more credits to keep my undergraduate scholarship. I was going to take glassblowing until I saw a poster for a new creative nonfiction course. After graduation, I worked for a news station in sales, but I found myself writing essays during every meeting and thought, “I should go to grad school.”

Q: What advice do you give aspiring writers?
A: Write the work you want to read. And don’t be afraid to try weird stuff – or fail.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: Finding the piece of an essay that unlocks it for me. I love helping students do that, too.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Finding time for everything.

Q: What’s your favorite thing in your office?
A: A bingo card my students made with all of my quirks. I was self-conscious for about 30 seconds before I realized it was created with love.

Q: What have you learned about Mary Washington, the person, since coming to UMW?
A: As much as she’s venerated as the mother of one of our Founding Fathers, she’s just a mom. George still asks her permission to do things and tries to get out of helping her move. It’s that humanity again.

Rafferty Showcases Presidential Essay Book on ‘With Good Reason’

Colin Rafferty's 'Execute the Office'Associate Professor of English Colin Rafferty appeared on the latest episode of With Good Reason, which was entitled, “The Highest Office.” Rafferty spoke about his recent book of experimental essays, “Execute the Office,” which was published last year by Baobab Press. The episode also featured faculty from UVA Wise, Northern Virginia Community College and Old Dominion University. Listen here.

Lorentzen Publishes Review in Victorians Institute Journal

Eric Lorentzen, Associate Professor of English

Eric Lorentzen, Professor of English

Eric G. Lorentzen, Professor of English, published a review of Adam Grener’s new book, Improbability, Chance, and the Nineteenth-Century Realist Novel, in the latest volume of the Victorians Institute Journal (48). Grener’s novelists (Austen, Scott, Dickens, Trollope, Hardy) were committed to a mode of fiction that primarily foregrounded chance and coincidence to “represent a historical and contingent world,” rather than creating a convincing tale of ordinary and conventional probability.

Fallon Presents at Linguistics Society of America Conference

Associate Professor of Linguistics Paul Fallon

Associate Professor of Linguistics Paul Fallon

Paul Fallon, Associate Professor of Linguistics, presented a poster on “Proto-Agaw in relation to Bender’s Proto-Cushitic” on January 8, 2022 at the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, held in Washington, D.C.