Distinguished Professorship will Support Undergraduate Research in English

By Jessica Reyes, Assistant Director of Communications
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Professor Janine Utell, chair of the English and Creative Writing Department, will be the university’s Homer C. Nearing, Jr. Distinguished Professor in English. The two-year distinguished professorship will support Utell as she continues her research with undergraduate students.

Since arriving at Widener in 2003, Utell’s research has focused on narrative representations of gender and sexuality, and the ways gender and sexuality shape narrative discourse in 20th- and 21st-century literature.

Janine Utell
Janine Utell

“Undergraduate research is a priority in my teaching and scholarship,” Utell said. “The Homer C. Nearing, Jr. Distinguished Professorship will support not only my research, but also opportunities for English and creative writing majors to gain valuable experiential learning and professional development experience in gender and sexuality studies.”

The distinguished professorship financially supports a faculty member who is widely recognized for making significant contributions to his or her field and involving students in his or her research. Before his passing in 2004, Dr. Nearing was a professor of English at Widener and a well-known authority on historical English poetry.

Dr. Utell’s research will contribute in significant and impressive ways to the body of knowledge in her field. Equally important to the university community is her thoughtful commitment to our students’ intellectual development and success at Widener. Provost Andrew Workman

Utell has published three books – James Joyce and the Revolt of Love: Marriage, Adultery, Desire (2010), Engagements with Narrative (2015), and Literary Couples and 20th-Century Life Writing: Narrative and Intimacy (2019) – as well as an edited volume, The Comics of Alison Bechdel: From the Outside In (2020). Her most recent publication on cartoonist Alison Bechdel was the first work of scholarship on this groundbreaking and culturally significant figure in LGBTQ comics.

The distinguished professorship will support three of Utell’s current projects: a monograph on rhetorics of anger in 20th-century women’s writing, a new biography on pioneering gay comix artist Howard Cruse, and a digital exhibition exploring early 20th-century holdings in the Widener University Human Sexuality Archives.

“Dr. Utell’s scholarship is exemplary in every regard,” said College of Arts & Sciences Dean David Leaman. “Her peers in the field praise the ambition, freshness, and high quality of her work. As one wrote, Dr. Utell’s projects ‘add meaningfully to several pressing conversations within the humanities.’”

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