Episode 72: Life After the Ph.D. with Dr. Steven Mentz, Dr. Meghan P. Nolan, Dr. Melissa Rampelli, & Dr. Daniel Dissinger

In Episode 72, Dr. Steven Mentz of the Saint John’s University English Department interviews three SJU Alums about what academic, writing, and teaching life is like after the Ph.D. This was a special episode for Dr. Mentz’s graduate theory course, and some of these questions come straight from his students.

Steve Mentz is Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches Shakespeare, the environmental humanities, literary theory, and poetry. His recent publications include the book Ocean, part of Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series, and the collection of essays, A Cultural History of the Sea in the Early Modern Age (2021). He is currently writing an Introduction to the Blue Humanities for Routledge Publishing. He tweets @stevermentz and blogs at The Bookfish.” Follow the link for a full bio.

Meghan P. Nolan, MFA, MA, PhD is an Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Writing Center at State University of New York, Rockland. She is a Persona Studies scholar and multigenre writer who focuses on fragmented perceptions of self-hood and written identities through academic works, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She is the author of the poetry collection, Stratification (BlazeVOX Books, 2008); her essays have recently been published in Persona Studies, ThreadThe 100 Greatest Detectives, Exquisite Corpse: Studio Art-Based Writing in the AcademyTransnational Crime Fiction, andMean Streets: A Journal of American Crime and Detective Fiction. 

Melissa Rampelli is Assistant Professor of English at Holy Family University where she teaches courses in British literature and first-year composititon. She is currently at work on her book manuscript, Plots of Pathology, and her article “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and the 2008 Recession” is forthcoming in the Winter 2021 issue of Modern Language Studies. Her research interests include nineteenth-century British literature and culture, the history of psychology, gender studies, medical narratives, and the novel. 

Daniel Dissinger is an Assistant Professor in the Writing Program at the University of Southern California. He earned his PhD and MA from Saint John’s University as well as an MFA from The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University.  Dan’s dissertation examined the early, pre-On the Road novels of Jack Kerouac and the reflective writing properties of the “Duluoz Legend.” Dan’s poetry has been published in a variety of journals, and his first chapbook, tracing the shape…, was published by Shadow Mountain Press in 2012. He is the co-host/co-creator of both Writing Remix Podcast & The Nostalgia Test Podcast. Dan co-created The Humanities Podcast Network, which hosted their first-ever International Humanities Podcast Symposium October 2021.

This episode was recorded on July 27th, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

Texts & People Mentioned in the Episode

“The job of a graduate student is to figure out the question and then answer it.”
–Steven Mentz

“For me the seeds are still in [my] dissertation […] it’s just branched off in five different directions”
–Meghan P. Nolan

“It’s been like really amazing to kind of be almost like an archivist in many ways.”
–Dan Dissinger

“Academic work, in the broader sense, is all about creating communities.”
–Steven Mentz

“When something bugs you like that, then I know to pursue it.”
–Melissa Rampelli

“I was always curious how, you know, you see scholars on their fourth or fifth book and you ask them, ‘How did you get these ideas?’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, it came from the previous book.’ And I think until you actually get that moment you can’t really appreciate how that can organically happen.”
–Melissa Rampelli

“Academic work emerges out of the […] coming together of different discourses.”
–Steven Mentz

“[Writing] process is different depending on your situation and what kind of person you are.”
–Meghan P. Nolan

“I think it’s an interesting thing to think about in the academic life, there are things you think you’re supposed to be doing, then the things you want to do, and then there are expectations on both sides and you’re kind of like balancing this really weird ecosystem.”
–Dan Dissinger

“I also think academics and students and graduate students are really susceptible to the kind of panoptic paranoia, that you always think you’re supposed to do one more thing or one more project you can take on.”
–Steven Mentz

“The culture of academia is like a culture of overwork, and I think it’s important to know that and set up some human boundaries.”
–Steven Mentz

“The purpose of a critical review, even a review that says, ‘Hey, we’re not going to publish this right now’ the purpose is always to make the piece better.”
–Steven Mentz

“One of the other things I say to younger writers is this; you may think you have it written the way that you want it, but really ask yourself is making this change going to change the entire piece because if not, just make the edit. Don’t fight it. Stop fighting it, stop arguing over every minute detail.”
–Meghan P. Nolan

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