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MA in English Literature
“At first, I just came to Brockport to get a 'piece of paper'. But once I got here, I realized there was so much more I could do. My professors inspired me to push further and pursue a PhD.”
Nancy Caronia has been an actress, writer, journalist, director, poet and Tai Chi Chuan instructor. She has lived in Manhattan, on the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples, and in the South of France. She has won numerous awards for poetry and fiction, and published hundreds of non-fiction articles. She has talked on topics ranging from Bruce Springsteen to the role of Italian American women in cinema. She has performed a one-woman show about sculptor Ana Mendieta in New York, and written a play starring Oscar nominee David Strathairn.
And that's just for starters. Next to Nancy's impressive list of accomplishments, a graduate degree in literature might seem a cakewalk. But in reality, it's her next big challenge.
Born in Brooklyn, Nancy's first passion was the theater. Her undergraduate degree is from Hofstra University with a BFA in theatre, and she was an actress, director and playwright in Manhattan for many years. But, she says, “While living on Capri, I realized I wanted to shift my focus to writing. I liked the solitary pursuit of putting words on the page.” Since then, she has been published in anthologies and magazines, received numerous fellowships and awards and has worked as a freelance journalist. But after September 11, 2001 she refocused her priorities and decided she wanted to spend more time teaching. Although she had taught Tai Chi Chuan in New York City at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and conducted memoir workshops at New Jersey State University, she realized if she wanted to teach composition or literature, she knew she’d need to pursue a master's. She decided to go to SUNY Brockport “to get the piece of paper.” But she found so much more waiting for her.
As a fiction writer and degree poet, Nancy first enrolled in the graduate program in Creative Writing. But much to her surprise—she discovered a new passion—serious scholarship. “I surprised everybody, including myself,” she says. “But the level of scholarship within the English department inspired me to change to a Master's in Literature.” She recently completed her Master's Thesis, which focuses on the mythological and cultural differences of the Medea myth found in Greek, Roman, Shakespearian, and contemporary texts such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
With the encouragement of her professors, Nancy decided not to stop at earning a master's, but to continue with her studies and is planning on pursuing a PhD. In the meantime, she will start teaching at SUNY Brockport as an adjunct professor while applying to graduate programs at a multitude of universities, including Duke, Princeton and Harvard. Alongside these Ivy League aspirations, Nancy admits that if Brockport offered a PhD program, she would consider staying right where she is. “I would not hesitate to stay here,” she says. “The faculty are excellent and generous with their time. The entire department has a high standard for scholarly research, and they've all been incredibly open.” Nancy says she didn't take a traditional academic path and she likes the fact that her professors “haven't tried to shut me down because I'm an artist and a working journalist, not strictly a scholar. They're enthusiastic about my creativity and the way that I use it in my studies.”
Of course, just like everything Nancy takes on, she has excelled beyond all expectations, maintaining a straight 4.0 GPA and winning numerous awards at the College, including the Calvin Rich Award for Poetry and the Department of English Blaine DeLancey Award in 2007 and 2008. And she hasn’t given up acting completely, playing Lindsey in Brockport’s “Some Girl(s),” where she received a 2007 TANYS Award for Excellence in Acting. What’s a typical day in her graduate school life? ”I roll out of bed, go right to my computer, do research and writing anywhere from four to eight hours a day, depending on my teaching load.” Although she immersed herself in her thesis on Medea for 16 hours a day, Nancy says, “I thought I'd be sick of it, but I'm not. I want to stay with it and delve more deeply into the post-modern and subaltern connections between Medea and Sethe in Morrison’s Beloved.”
Actress, writer, poet, teacher, scholar, Tai Chi Chuan instructor—who knows what else Nancy will become in her life. But whatever it is, her drive and imagination, her unending curiosity, her commitment and passion will always reveal a woman of accomplishment.