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SVC English Grad Completes Ph.D. Dissertation

SVC English Grad Completes Ph.D. Dissertation

by Sophie Neubert, sophomore English major, from St. Marys | December 15, 2021

LATROBE, PA – Rachel Maley, C’11, recently completed her Ph.D. dissertation titled “Transforming the Cultural Economy for Little Readers: Print-Based Adaptations for Little Readers in Nineteenth-Century America.” Her dissertation explores both the content and the contexts of 19th century literature that has been adapted for children.

“I analyze these books and their content, but I also closely examine their material properties and their contexts of production, tracing publishing firms, advertisements and reviews,” said Maley. “Looking at abridged children's editions, toy books, hybrid products like paper doll books and publishers' catalogs, I argue that the myriad of print transformations produced from transatlantic and domestic sources showcases textual and material interventions and innovations meshed in the development, not on the periphery, of 19th century children's literature.”

Maley explained that her education and experiences with the Saint Vincent English Department prepared her well for her graduate program. “I can think of many instances from interactions with my English major cohort in classes and at Sigma Tau Delta conferences to the numerous teacher-preparation courses and field experiences in the Education department. My education at Saint Vincent College proved to be incredibly important to my preparation for my graduate program as a researcher and educator.”

As a student, Maley found the inspiration for her dissertation while working on her senior capstone project titled "Little Gerty Grows Up: Revising Cummins' The Lamplighter from a Women's Novel to a Children's Picture Book.” “As it turns out, my paper, ‘Gerty,’ presented the germ for this dissertation that was expanded on and even adapted in its own way over the years.”

Sara Lindey, professor of English, mentored Maley, preparing her for graduate school during Maley’s time at Saint Vincent. “Rachel’s dissertation extended her senior thesis and broke new ground in analyzing how 19th century children’s literature entertains and instructs its young readers. Her dissertation is a window into the 19th century, but it says a lot about our own, particularly in the ways that books can be toys and children can take control of their play.”

Maley also spoke to the influence Lindey’s courses on her research. “When I took a class with Dr. Lindey called Sentimental Politics in my junior year, we read a book called ‘The Lamplighter’ by Maria Susanna Cummins. Turns out, there was an adaptation produced shortly after the novel's publication called ’The Lamplighter Picture Book.’ It was an amazing ‘discovery’ for me as an undergraduate: I could bridge together my interest in 19th century women's literature and my excitement for children's literature.”

English department faculty members have played a large role in guiding Maley through her undergraduate and research experiences. “I also want to praise the incredible mentorship that I received from Dr. Lindey and the enduring support from Dr. McDaniel, Fr. Wulfstan and other professors at Saint Vincent. Dr. Lindey in particular shepherded me through the graduate school application process, provided me with an honest assessment of grad school life, and helped prepare me in methods of archival research and writing when she took me on as a research assistant.”

Lindey expressed excitement for Maley’s post-dissertation plans. “Rachel’s time at Pitt has helped her become an effective and compassionate teacher. She’s been hired by Pitt to continue teaching there, and I look forward to following her career.”




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Saint Vincent College