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Bringing Tennessee Williams to Life

An interview with Albert Devlin, Professor of English

Professor Albert Devlin, a natural storyteller, sits back in his chair, crosses his arms, and proceeds to describe the fortuitous events that changed the trajectory of his professional life—that is, when in 1995 the estate of playwright Tennessee Williams placed the collection of his correspondence in the hands of Devlin and Nancy Tischler, professor emerita at Pennsylvania State University, giving them permission to edit these precious materials.

Reading the Visual

An interview with Nancy M. West, Associate Professor, English Department

The fact that Nancy M. West finds herself focusing so heavily on the visual in her research and teaching may at first seem to be “a sort of a curious thing,” but for the associate professor of English this fascination for the visual extends all the way back to a childhood devoid of photographs. “I love thinking about what photography means to people. Having grown up with very few photographs in my household, I’ve always been drawn to them,” she admits. It was no surprise, therefore, that West stumbled upon her first book project while scrounging through the bargain bin of an antique store: “I came across all of these old Kodak ads from the turn of the century, and I thought they were amazing. The images were just breathtakingly beautiful. The captions were unlike those we see now in ads. They were much more elaborate, much more descriptive. They addressed the consumer in very interesting, clever ways, and I just fell in love with them.” And at that serendipitous moment, the idea for Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia (2000) was conceived.

A Literary League of his Own

An interview with Speer Morgan, Professor of English

The life of Speer Morgan is a literary playground where fictitious dreams come true. The author of five novels and a collection of short stories, Morgan’s writings have earned him national awards and bylines in publications such as Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly. Along with these accomplishments, he has been the editor of the renowned literary magazine The Missouri Review for over thirty years.

Who Will Tell Native Stories, and Who Will Hear Them

An interview with Joanna Hearne, Assistant Professor, English Department

Native Americans have long struggled for accurate representation in media, particularly in film. Whether the uncredited performances of the “documentary” Nanook of the North or the familiar racism of traditional Westerns, Indigenous cultures have rarely been given much truthful, let alone positive, attention. However, Native people have been slowly cultivating their own voice in film, and that voice is what Dr. Joanna Hearne has spent her academic career studying.

The Untidy History of Sisterhood

An interview with Devoney Looser, Professor, Department of English

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a novel about the tribulations of two loving but very unalike sisters, ends on the happy note that “…though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.” Austen humorously addresses the reality of sisterhood—that any kind of sisterly accord or unity is not a foregone conclusion. For Devoney Looser, Professor of English and scholar of 18th-century women’s literature, the concept of “sisterhood” (figuratively and literally) in authorship is a complex exchange with positive and negative aspects. In fact, the “messiness” of women’s literary history is crucial to many aspects of her scholarship and teaching.

Ethnography's Embodiment

An interview with Elaine Lawless, Professor of English, Folklore Studies

An ethnographer’s work is metaphorically embodied; eye for detail and ear for story, to start, are crucial to writing about culture. Elaine Lawless, MU Professor of Folklore Studies in the English Department, shows us that ethnography also requires heart and nerve. Heart allows scholars to listen empathically to the perspectives and opinions of the people being written about, enriching scholarship with insider perspective; nerve for advocating social change makes scholarship ever relevant to the service of humanity.

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