I have recently been awarded the John B. and Thelma A. Gentry Award for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities by the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities at Clemson University. The award is one of Clemson University’s most prestigious teaching awards and recognizes “an outstanding humanities faculty member and provides an annual competitive fund to support projects, materials and activities that will improve and enrich teaching in the humanities.”
As a comparatist and Renaissance scholar, I am acutely aware that the past can seem at once impenetrable and strangely familiar. My classes put Shakespeare’s plays in conversation with other Renaissance and modern texts as a means to examine the cultural and political imbrications of early modern subjectivities and power relations. Over the past seven years, I have designed and taught several English and world literature courses. At Yale, I taught a course entitled “Cultures of Excess” which explored various discourses and practices of excess across several historical periods and disciplines (anthropology, history, sociology), from primitive sacrificial rituals to baroque art and contemporary reality shows. The course was mentioned in a New York Times piece on art gallery teaching at Yale.
At Clemson, I have designed and taught four British and world literature courses:
“Banned Books” focuses on fictional, philosophical, and cinematic investigations of censorship, from Plato and Shakespeare to George Orwell, J. M. Coetzee, and François Truffaut.
“Renaissance Revenge Drama: Ethics, Politics, and Poetics” explores how revenge as a political, cultural, aesthetic, and psychological category is dramatized in various Renaissance plays, from Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.
“Cross-Cultural Encounters in World Literature” explores European and non-European narratives of contact from the ancient world to the present. It examines rhetorical and visual constructions of otherness (always imagined as savage, primitive, bestial, innocent, etc.) in relation to the constant re-imagining of geographical space and historical time across various cultural and historical periods.
“Literature and Alterity” examines textual and visual constructions of otherness in the history of world literature. The period under scrutiny ranges from ancient literary representations of the Middle East to twentieth-century European portrayals of colonial Africa. The course pays close attention to the ways in which literature and film construct alterity and portray intercultural contact in their specific cultural, political and historical contexts. It also explores critical responses to the literary and cinematic works discussed and seeks to uncover the social, political and cultural forces that shape the production and circulation of artistic works and the ways in which literature and film respond to and/or shape historical conditions.