In a special weekly series, the College of Liberal Arts is featuring a faculty member from one of our 13 departments. We asked questions about why they are passionate about the subjects they study and teach, and how they found their path to CSU. See all “Faculty Friday” features here.
Assistant Professor, Department of English
1. Why do you research and teach early American literature? What do you like most about it?
I love to study and to teach early American literature because it provides me with an opportunity to see the origins of institutions and ideas that have come to shape the United States. My mother is probably to blame for my fascination with all things early American; I grew up in Massachusetts, and she took me on regular outings to Plymouth Plantation, Concord Green, and other historic sites.
2. Which class is your favorite to teach and why?
My favorite class to teach is probably a class on witchcraft because it takes a topic that students are already excited about from their exposure to popular culture and helps them peel back the cultural history of things like Halloween and Harry Potter to recognize the gendered assumptions and sexual violence underlying what are otherwise innocent and popular phenomena.
3. What did you want to be when you were little? When did you know you wanted to go into higher education/research?
When I was little, I think I wanted to be a lawyer—but after John Grisham persuaded me that the law was a profession peppered with corrupt or ethically compromised individuals, I decided that I wanted to be a high school English teacher and basketball coach. When I got to college and fell in love with research, I simply shifted those ambitions from teaching in high school to teaching in college. Sadly, the only basketball coaching I do is in recreational leagues. But I’ve always loved to read; when I was a child and my parents felt a need to punish me, they would take away my books and tell me to go play outside with my friends.
4. How did you get to CSU?
Serendipitously! While I knew little about Fort Collins or CSU when I applied for this job as a postdoctoral fellow, it was love at first sight, once I arrived.
5. What is one thing students would be surprised to learn about you?
Students are generally surprised to learn that I have seven kids of my own. But I think they’re also surprised to learn that I (and other professors) still read for fun. I remember, as an undergraduate, “catching” a professor reading a mass market paperback in his office—and when I talk about reading bestsellers or sci-fi/fantasy novels in my spare time, students usually look taken aback, as though they thought their own bookshelves are the only spaces where Virginia Woolf and Brandon Sanderson might co-exist.