When Erika Rothberg, M.A. ’16 applied to the Graduate Program in English, she included her undergraduate senior thesis among her materials. Titled “What the Hell to Expect When You’re Expecting,” the paper analyzed demonic pregnancies in film and literature. She met with Robin Miskolze, English professor and then director of the graduate program, and warned her that her writing sample was about the Antichrist. “Is that okay?” she remembers asking. Miskolcze assured her she was excited to read it. That’s when Rothberg knew she had found her people.
Rothberg’s eclectic interests include Gothic studies, horror, graphic novels, and critical theory. “A lot of what I’ve done is cross-cultural studies in film,” she says. “That’s the beauty of the English department at LMU: they’re so open-minded. You can write about anything you please.” In her critical theory course with English professor Steven Mailloux, she wrote a reception study on The Walking Dead using the graphic novel as the main text and the TV show as the reception. Another paper, a Freudian analysis of Hitchcock’s Psycho, was published in the literary criticism journal, Critical Insights. She plans to present another paper at the Comics Arts Conference, the academic arm of WonderCon/ComicCon. That paper presents a framework for teaching Michel Foucault using the graphic novel, Watchmen.
Rothberg hopes to pursue doctoral study in English, and says that LMU’s graduate program is preparing her well. “They make sure that you’re aware of the market,” she says, “and that you’re in a good place when you leave.” She expects to have published three papers and presented at five conferences by the time she graduates.
In addition to producing scholarship, Rothberg is also getting experience teaching. Last semester, she co-taught a course in graphic novels, and this semester she is incorporating Watchmen into her rhetorical arts course.
“It was amazing that at 24 I got to teach a class that was already in my field of research,” she says. “I am really thankful that LMU gives us this flexibility; they know that it’s important to teach what you love.”