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Dr. Danielle St. Hilaire, Associate Professor, Chair of Department, Department of English and Theater Arts

By: Cameron Vayansky, Undergrad, Secondary English Ed, SP22

Dr. Danielle St. Hilaire is an Associate Professor and Chair of Duquesne University’s Department of English and Theater Arts. Dr. St. Hilaire attended Brandeis University for Undergrad and eventually went for her Masters and Doctorate degrees, at Cornell University. In addition to being an avid reader, Dr. St. Hilaire decided to study English because of the stories that are told. She enjoys imagining “how” and “why” the world operates. She also likes to analyze how people interact with each other and the reasoning behind it. Fictional works often provide answers or insight.

Dr. St. Hilaire has enjoyed her time at Duquesne University, and this is partly because of the community within the Department of English and Theater Arts. She describes it as a place where faculty can cultivate each other’s interests. Everyone is extremely friendly and there is a good amount of respect between one another. She enjoys the support from other faculty, and believes it is what separates Duquesne from other institutions. Dr. St. Hilaire teaches everything from first year writing all the way through to graduate level courses, which include Lit Theory and courses in the Renaissance. Dr. St. Hilaire loves to teach the course titled “Faith in the Renaissance” because as a class, they look at some of the theological controversies of the 16th century. She uses words like “fascinating” and “mind-blowing” to describe the texts in the course.

Read more of the interview transcript below.

What is your position in the Department of English and Theater Arts?

“I am an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department.”

Where are you originally from?

“I am from Maine. Auburn, Maine.”

Where did you attend college?

“I did my Undergrad at Brandeis University, right outside of Boston. Then I did my graduate work, both M.A. and Ph.D. at Cornell University.”

Why did you decide to study English?

“Well, the obvious reason being, I like books. I enjoy reading. I enjoy fiction in particular. I mean this broadly; I would say that narrative poetry is probably my favorite. I like stories because I enjoy imagining other ways in which the world could be. I find it very interesting to think about why people do the things that they do, or why they think the way that they do. Fictional narratives provide structures for thinking about those questions.”

How did you end up in Pittsburgh?

“I got the job. I was lucky in that I had a job soon after graduate school, but it was not a great fit for me, so I applied to Duquesne. I was really impressed with the Department, I thought it was a collegial place. I was impressed with the students as well. I am also a huge Penguins fan, so when I found out I got the job offer, I was like ‘yes!’ But this is how I ended up in Pittsburgh.”

What is your favorite thing about the Department of English and Theater Arts?

“I think we have a really strong sense of community. It is a place where we can cultivate each other’s interests. Academic departments can often be snarky and competitive, where a lot of people are defending their turf. That is not what this department is and that’s true at the level of faculty and at the level of students too. Everyone here is really invested in everyone else’s success. We really enjoy the work that other people are doing. It is a supportive environment up and down the line.”

What classes do you teach in the Department?

“I teach everything from first year writing through graduate classes. These include Lit Theory, courses in my specialty, which is the Early Modern Period or the Renaissance. So, I teach 200, 300, and 400 level courses too.”

What has been your favorite class to teach?

“I always love teaching in my content area, so my Faith in the Renaissance class is a real favorite of mine where we look at some of the theological controversies during the 16th century. This sounds boring, but it is in fact fascinating and mind-blowing. We also read some of the literature from that period that engages with the popular controversies of that time. I also really love my Shakespeare and Ethics course. We look at plays alongside philosophical texts and how the plays provide alternative ways of thinking.”

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t reading, writing, or teaching your wonderful Duquesne University students?

“Watch hockey. I am a big hockey fan, especially the Pens. I also really enjoy going outside and hiking.”

Do you have a favorite book of all time? If so, what is it and why?

This one is easy, John Milton’s Paradise Lost. It is a beautiful narrative poem and an amazing story. It is about Angels, Satan, and man’s first disobedience in the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world. I love reading it and I love teaching it. It’s my favorite thing ever.”

What book are you currently reading?

“I just finished Octavia Butlers, Parable of the Sower. It is a fantastic book, but it is not easy on the psyche.”

What is your favorite book to teach?

“My favorite book to teach is also Paradise Lost. It teaches beautifully. I have taught it at every level. I have taught it to first year students, as well as graduate students. I think it has stuff for everyone. There is lots of stuff to debate about, or even fight about. There are always new rabbit holes to go down. The thing I really love about teaching it is that because it is my favorite poem, when I teach it, I get to see it through people’s eyes for the first time again.”

What career path would you choose if working in Higher Education was not an option? 

“I think I would have to be in Education somewhere, I find a hard time imagining myself outside that orbit. I had considered teaching at the high school level, but I don’t do mornings very well. I am also interested in doing something with educational technology.”

Dr. Kathy Glass, Associate Professor, Department of English and Theater Arts

By: Jayda Benson, Undergrad, English Writing, SP22

Dr. Kathy Glass is a professor of English here at Duquesne University. She attended UCLA for her undergrad and completed her graduate work at UC San Diego. In college, Dr. Glass enjoyed her English courses and admired writers who challenged the world around them. Drawn by Duquesne University’s vibrant and inviting English Department and commitment to the Spiritan tradition, Dr. Glass moved to Pittsburgh

As a professor, Dr. Glass loves to discuss literature with her students, who bring their own unique experiences and insights into the classroom. She has taught African American literature, American literature, and writing courses. She places a particular emphasis on slave narratives and the importance of their blended creativity and historical significance. There is a lot these narratives teach a reader, especially a twenty-first century audience. My full interview with Dr. Glass is transcribed below.

Jayda: What is your position in the department of English and Theater Arts?

Dr. Glass: I am a professor of English

Jayda: Where did you attend college?

Dr. Glass: I attended UCLA as an undergraduate and completed my graduate work at UC San Diego.

Jayda: Why did you decide to study English?

Dr. Glass: Well, I really enjoyed taking English courses in college, and not only did I enjoy reading, but I also admired writers who used books to engage and challenge the world in which they live.

Jayda: How did you end up in Pittsburgh? That it a long way from California!

Dr. Glass: The Duquesne English department actually drew me to Pittsburgh. When I visited the department, it was so vibrant and welcoming. I was also impressed with the Spiritan tradition and its commitment to social justice.

Jayda: It’s so interesting to see where everyone came from and how they end up here. You kind of just touched on this, but what is your favorite thing about the department?

Dr. Glass: It’s really rewarding to discuss literature with our students who bring rich experiences and insights to the classroom. Our students are eager to explore ideas and to consider the broader social implications of literature. Facilitating this process is one of the best parts of my job – it’s fun!

Jayda: What classes do you teach in the department?

Dr. Glass: I teach a number of courses in the department from the undergraduate to the graduate levels. I have taught African American literature, American literature, as well as writing courses. It’s hard to select a favorite, but I do enjoy teaching the slave narratives course, which examines how formerly enslaved men and women documented their hardships but crafted these creative tales of triumph and freedom. These narratives are historical, but they’re also creative documents that demonstrate the narrator’s ability to craft persuasive stories. It’s always rewarding to teach this course. We have so much to learn from these narratives even in the 21st century.

Jayda: Every class I have taken with you has been insightful. I really enjoy the way that you teach, and you can tell you’re really passionate about what you’re teaching as well. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not reading, writing, or teaching at Duquesne?

Dr. Glass: I like to play the piano; I have one right back there. I also like to knit. In fact, I’m working on a scarf this weekend and I’m excited to wear it in the near future.

Jayda: I don’t know if you heard my dog barking earlier, but I want to start crocheting her sweaters. She is a wiener dog so she’s really long and a lot of sweaters don’t fit her, so I want to start making her extra-long sweaters.

Dr. Glass: That’s nice! And very thoughtful.

Jayda: What is your favorite book of all time?

Dr. Glass: It’s hard to narrow it down, but I really like Bell Hooks’ book titled, All About Love. It examines the love ethic and how the love ethic has historically informed social and political movements for freedom and justice. She also argues that the love ethic remains relevant in the 21st century and I think she makes a persuasive argument. This would be one of my favorites.

Jayda: That sounds so interesting. I’ve read some of her work in my philosophy courses, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Dr. Glass: Did you read some of her feminist works?

 Jayda: Yes.

Dr. Glass: She was very talented, and I’m sorry that she passed away so young.

Jayda: Do you have any upcoming research, publications, or projects that you wanted to talk about?

Dr. Glass: I’m currently doing research on August Wilson’s plays, so my next project will likely focus on his work. Wilson was such a talented playwright. This semester I’m teaching his Pittsburgh cycle, which poignantly highlights the Hill District and its residents. As a class, we’ve decided that our favorite play in the cycle is Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.

Dr. Emad Mirmotahari, Associate Professor, Department of English and Theater Arts

Written By: Cameron Vayansky, Undergrad, Secondary English Education Major, SP22

Photo courtesy of Dr. Mirmotahari

Dr. Emad Mirmotahari is an interesting man with an exquisite story. I have had the opportunity of knowing Dr. Mirmotahari for the past two years due to him being my English advisor. I have also had the chance to take a few of the courses that he teaches, including Global Lit Survey and Coming of Age Novels. His presence in the classroom is powerful. Dr. Mirmotahari is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Theater Arts here at Duquesne, and he directs the World Literature Minor. He acts as a professor, advisor, and mentor to many of the students that are a part of the English Department. Prior to coming to Duquesne, Dr. Mirmotahari completed his doctorate studies at UCLA. He also had a postdoc at Tulane University in New Orleans. While in school, he worked on a degree in comparative literature. This meant that he read texts in different languages and analyzed the relationships they had to one another. Focusing his attention on comparative literature allowed him to be fully immersed in different languages. It was not until 2002, that Dr. Mirmotahari decided to shift his focus to literature. He found it fascinating that everything he had ever learned in life derived from stories. Telling, writing, and sharing stories is a way in which to communicate with others. He is big on the belief that “stories are powerful.”

Dr. Mirmotahari teaches other courses as well, including Literature of the Americas, Immigrant Narratives, Social Justice Tutorials, and a course on Travel Narratives. Although he enjoys all his classes, he has a soft spot for his Global Literature Survey class because it is one of the few times where he has many English students. Some of his other courses are in the Honors program or are upper-level smaller courses. Dr. Mirmotahari enjoys his time at Duquesne, the main reason being the students. He loves how diligent and hardworking they are. He also explained that in comparison to other institutions, Duquesne students are rather serious when it comes to coursework. One of his favorite books to teach is Arrival by Shaun Tan because it is a picture book that emphasizes language and questions what it means to us. Our full interview is transcribed below.

What is your position in the Department of English and Theater Arts?

“I am an Associate Professor—I teach courses for the English Department (World Lit) and I also teach courses through the Honors College (Social Justice Tutorials).”

Where are you originally from?

“I am from Iran.”

Where did you attend college?

“During my Undergrad, I attended UC-Irvine. When I was in school for my Doctorate, I attended UCLA main campus. My degree was originally in Comparative Literature. The work was in different languages, which meant that I was forced to learn them all. I had never done anything like this before. I enjoyed my time at UCLA; however, the experience wasn’t personable. I was pretty much doing everything on my own.” 

Why did you decide to study English?

“It was around 2002 when I decided to focus on Literature. I came to the realization that everything I knew came to me through different stories. I noticed people tended to be moved by words and stories, rather than statistics and facts. I believe that stories are powerful.”

How did you end up in Pittsburgh?

“I was in New Orleans and saw the opportunity posted through Duquesne, so we packed up everything and moved to Pittsburgh.”

What is your favorite thing about the Department of English and Theater Arts?

“You guys (the students). I have honestly never met a better group of students in your age at different institutions. Duquesne students typically do what needs to be done and you seem to like what you do. Students very rarely complain. There’s a certain amount of maturity and discipline. You all have unique strengths and interests that make the class fun to teach.”

What classes do you teach in the Department?

“World Literature—Literature of the Americas, Global Lit, Immigrant Narratives, Coming of Age Novels, Social Justice Tutorials, and Travel Narratives.”

What has been your favorite class to teach?

“My favorite class to teach is the Global Lit Survey (taught every Fall). I enjoy it so much because it is the semester where I get to meet the largest number of English students and really make a connection with each of you.”

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t reading, writing, or teaching your wonderful Duquesne University students?

“I really enjoy gardening, running, and spending time with my wife.”

Do you have a favorite book of all time? If so, what is it and why?

“No, I do not have a favorite book of all time. The printed page is too powerful to have one favorite.”

What book are you currently reading?

“I am reading Chronicle of the Narváez Expedition by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish conquistador. It is considered one of the first pieces of writing in a European language on and about North America.”

What is your favorite book to teach?

Arrival by Shaun Tan. There are no words, just pictures. And this is perhaps why it asks some of the most important questions about language; what it is, how it works, what we expect it to do.”

What career path would you choose if working in Higher Education was not an option?

“This is different, and no one believes me when I say this, but I would have become an Airline Pilot.”

Dr. Thomas Kinnahan, Associate Professor, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, English

By: Brianna McDonagh, Undergraduate, English Writing, SP22

Dr. Thomas Kinnahan is one of Duquesne University’s Assistant Professors. Dr. Kinnahan is a fascinating professor with knowledge regarding history and literature. I had the honor of having Dr. Kinnahan since I was a sophomore at Duquesne, having American Literature Survey courses and Global Literature Survey.

Dr. Kinnahan’s ability to make topics about the early stages of America engaging and delightful to survey says a lot about himself! He creates lectures as a place where questions are welcome and an opportunity to become a better writer. Having him early in my college years permitted me to grow confident in my writing skills. He allows students to take possession of their education, which encourages us to become leaders in and out of the classroom. 

At Duquesne, Dr. Kinnahan is Director of Graduate Studies as well as other administrative work within the department. In his college years, he attended James Madison University (JMU) for his Bachelor of Arts. For his graduate studies, he returned to James Madison University (JMU). Then, finished his academic career at West Virginia University to receive his Ph.D. Between undergraduate and graduate studies, he worked in an editorial and writing position for the South Bend Tribune. Afterward, extending his talents to La Roche College, he worked in public relations, writing, and editing project management. 

Now, he passes down his passion for writing and reading to his students. As one of the many influential professors on campus, he has dedicated his career to guiding students to success. 

Below is the interview transcribed. 

Where are you originally from? 

I was born in Washington, D.C., spent a good bit of my youth there. Then, a little sidetrack to Roanoke, Virginia in Southwest Virginia. My family is based in Washington, D.C. 

Where did you attend school for your undergraduate studies? 

I studied English at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Shenandoah Valley. 

Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to study English? If so, what made you want to go on that track? 

After many years of being undecided, declared an English major. I’ve always been drawn to literature and was a pretty good writer. I was unsure what I wanted to do originally, didn’t want to pick up a professional school track, and get stuck in that. It just kind of came naturally to me. 

Where did you complete your graduate studies? 

After a year of working outside of school, I went back to James Madison University into their MB program and was a teaching fellow. I was there for two and a half years, finished my degree, worked professionally, and went back to pursue my doctorate at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. (This was after my wife and I moved to Pittsburgh, PA). 

What did you do in between undergrad and graduate school? 

I did a couple of things. I worked as a copy editor and feature writer at the South Bend Tribune in Indiana.  My then-girlfriend, future wife, Linda, was in school at the University of Notre Dame. I took a job in public relations, writing, and editing project management at La Roche College in the North Hill here in Pittsburgh. 

What is your favorite part about being an English professor? 

Interacting with students in and outside of the classroom makes it fun. College students keep the energy and creativity going. Some parts of the job can be tiring, but when I walk into a lecture or have a student come in, it is hard to be bored. Overall, my favorite part is interacting with the students I teach. 

What is your favorite course to teach? 

The course I enjoy teaching is Early American Literature. I find it challenging because students always think they are going to be bored. So, it is fun for me to make it more interesting. I also teach a course in literature and popular music that I enjoy. However, Early American Literature and American Survey I are my favorites. 

What is your favorite book to teach? 

Oh, wow! That’s a hard one. I have taught Herny David Thoreau’s Walden. I like that one, but I do not do the whole book in some courses. It is too hard to do.  When I teach American Literature I, I like to have the class read the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, a famous slave narrative.  If I teach a purely early American course that goes up to the 1820s, I enjoy using Ben Franklin’s autobiography. 

Do you have any hobbies? 

I play the guitar and a little bit of piano. I’m not a serious musician, but it’s a great way to relax.  It’s hard to think about anything when you’re playing music. I started playing the guitar in high school casually. I’m not a serious musician or played in a band. As an adult, I decided to try my hand at the piano. 

Are you working on or have you worked on any publications? 

I’ve published several articles in the American Literature and American Studies Journal on early nineteenth-century American literature. I have been involved in teaching and administrative work for the past few years, which caused publishing to take the backseat. I have been the director of first-year writing, which is a big job. I have also been on multiple University and departmental committees. I’ve been the Director of Graduate Studies for the past three years. That has kept me pretty busy. So, I am hoping to get back into some scholarships next year. 

What words of wisdom do you have for students who are studying English? What would you advise for students wanting to teach? 

That would depend on the teaching track. If you mean higher education, students would need to pursue a Ph.D. They should go into it with their eyes wide open because the job market is tough. We have people who get jobs, but it is very tough. I would say to consult with faculty mentors about career and job markets. The more information they can get from their faculty mentor and other people in the field will help. 

What is your favorite thing about the English Department at Duquesne University? 

My favorite part about the English Department at Duquesne would be my colleagues and the students. I had many bright, cooperative, and easy to work with students. Everyone is great, and there is a sense of community here in the department amongst faculty and graduate students. The department and students build a powerful environment where you feel connected to Duquesne.

Dr. Jim Purdy, Associate Professor of English, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts,
Director of the Writing Center

By Kaya Cammerata, English Major, ENGL 447 Capstone

Dr. Jim Purdy is an associate professor of English and director of the Writing Center here at Duquesne University with more than twenty-two years of teaching experience. His specialty is in Composition studies with a focus on digital writing and research practices. Dr. Purdy began his journey in academics through his work at Penn State’s writing center during his undergraduate years. It was there that he found an interest in how individuals write and learn to write, especially when digital technology is involved. 

By teaching at Duquesne University, he follows in the footsteps of his mother and wife, both of whom earned their undergraduate degrees at the institution. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Purdy was excited to return to the city after multiple other living situations. Now, after thirteen and a half years at Duquesne, Dr. Purdy is an integral part of the English department. He teaches classes that range from first year writing to theories of composition, courses on intellectual property, authorship, and digital authorship. As the director of the Writing Center, Dr. Purdy consistently teaches and encourages students, staff, and faculty to develop their writing skills. He describes the Writing Center as a space where individuals can feel supported in their academic endeavors as well as acting as a calm space for students to stop by throughout the school day. (For more information on The Writing Center, check out their blog post under the blog’s Student Opportunities Tab).

For a shortened video clip of this interview, check out the English Department’s Instagram page @duqenglish. For the full transcribed interview, scroll and read below.

Kaya: Hi! Can you please introduce yourself? Your name, your job here at Duquesne and your specialty or focus? 

Dr. Purdy: Hi my name is Dr. Jim Purdy and I am the director of the university writing center and an associate professor in the English department. And my area of specialty is writing studies, also called composition studies, or rhetoric and composition, and within that I study issues of technology, digital writing, and research practices. I’ve been working here at Duquesne for 13 ½ years.

Kaya: Awesome! So why did you choose academics? How did you get here? 

Dr. Purdy: I choose academics actually through my writing center work. I started working at the writing center as an undergraduate at Penn State and I was introduced to the field of writing studies through my training to work at the writing center. I thought it was fascinating and I was so interested in what folks were publishing about how we write and how we learn to write and particularly how digital technology has affected that. I had not heard of the field before my work at the writing center and so it seemed really amazing that it’s something that I could continue to study and that I could do so continuing to work as a writing center professional. 

Kaya: Yeah, I actually didn’t know that that was even a field of study until I asked you. Okay, so you mentioned that you’ve worked here at Duquesne for 13 years?

Dr. Purdy: Yup! 13 ½ years.

Kaya: How long have you been teaching overall?

Dr. Purdy: Overall? Well, let’s see. If you count graduate school, the time that I taught as a teaching assistant, I’ve been teaching since 2000. 

Kaya: So, like 22 years. 

Dr. Purdy: That includes my time in graduate school, a previous position before I was here at Duquesne, and my time that I did working in different writing center administration positions. 

Kaya: Cool! So, while we’re speaking about Duquesne. Why did you choose Duquesne?

Dr. Purdy: Several reasons. I like the mission of Duquesne, particularly its concern with outreach into the community. Particularly its consideration of underserved populations and respecting diversity. The serving God by serving students [mission statement], and its ecumenical embrace of students from multiple backgrounds. I like the fact that the English department at Duquesne follows kind of an English studies model, and by that I mean it includes multiple subfields of English, so literary studies, room for writing studies, creative writing, even a little bit of linguistics, film, theater, and I like the idea of all of those different subfields being together in the same department rather than kind of bracketed apart. Also I like the fact that Duquesne is in Pittsburgh. I like Pittsburgh as a city. I grew up in the Pittsburgh area and so it was really exciting to be able to come back. 

Kaya: Where in Pittsburgh were you born?

Dr. Purdy: I was born in the South Hills area.

Kaya: Same! I went to Mount Lebanon! 

Dr. Purdy: I went to Upper Saint Clair High School

Kaya: Our schools are enemies!

Dr. Purdy: Yes yes, I know they’re big rivals! Oh, and also, I wanted to note that my mother went to Duquesne and my wife went to Duquesne! Both before I got here. 

Kaya: Oh cool! What did they study?

Dr. Purdy: So my mom was in business education. She actually taught typing and shorthand, things that we don’t really even have very much of anymore. Then my wife is a physician’s assistant, so she got her degree in physician assistant studies from the Rangos school.  

Kaya: There are lots of Duquesne connections! So, here, other than the writing center, what classes do you teach?

Dr. Purdy: I teach a range of classes. Everything from first year writing, both of the Bridges courses. I teach theories of composition. I teach writing for digital media. I teach courses on intellectual property, authorship, and digital authorship. I really get a nice range of courses that I get the opportunity to teach.

Kaya: What’s been your favorite to teach out of all of them?

Dr. Purdy: That’s such a hard question! 

Kaya: That’s really interesting. So, we already talked a little bit about the writing center. Fun fact, Dr. Purdy is my boss at the campus’ Writing Center. What got you interested in them? I know that you said that you worked there, but what really grabbed you? I mean this is your thing now. 

Dr. Purdy: It is my thing! And it’s been my thing. Once I started working there, I never left, and this happens to writing center professionals. I was exposed to the writing center as a sophomore at Penn State University and really, through a friend and being with colleagues in English classes, and hearing folks talking about it, I decided to interview for the position and was selected to take the training course. I then met Dr. Jon Olson, who has been one of my mentors ever since then and is a fantastic human being and scholar. So, as I mentioned before, I got introduced to the field of writing studies through my work at the writing center, and I like the community of people who work there. I like the community of scholars who did work in that area and so I kind of got hooked. I really liked talking with writers. I liked being able to see their progress in growing as writers. I like the philosophy of helping them learn rather than just fixing things for them. Getting to know writers and their work overtime was really cool. I learned a lot about a lot of different subjects. I learned a lot about how to be a better writer myself. And so that interest never waned. I continued working at writing centers in graduate school, where I was fortunate to be able to have some of my teaching assistant positions there [at the Writing Center]. I was also fortunate to be an assistant director for the writing center while I was in graduate school.

Kaya: Yeah, I’ve learned a lot at the writing center. I was talking about that the other day with Hannah [another consultant that works at the writing center]. I think that my own personal writing, by helping people, has been improved immensely

Dr. Purdy: That’s great.

Kaya: Okay, so here are the fun questions. If you weren’t a professor what do you think that you would be doing right now?

Dr. Purdy: This is tough! I think I would probably still be teaching, probably at another level.  Maybe at the secondary level? I was kind of always interested in teaching. I did for a while explore potential careers in technical and professional writing. I did some work at a number of companies, particularly over the summer periods. I worked at IBM for a while. I worked for a company called Development Dimensions International for a while. And that was interesting work, but it didn’t quite have the interpersonal component that I really enjoyed about education. It did involve working on educational materials, just in a very different kind of way. 

Kaya: So you’ve always been kind of in the field of education in English?

Dr. Purdy: I have. I actually started undergraduate [school] as an English major. I never left. 

Kaya: Oh wow, yeah I came here undecided. *laughs* What did you want to be when you were little? Like when you were a kid?

Dr. Purdy: When I was a little kid, well, I mean I think little kids like positions like doctors and that, so I wanted to be a doctor. I probably also wanted to be a singer at some point. I was involved in performing.  

Kaya: Do you sing?

Dr. Purdy: I do sing, yeah. I actually sang for quite a long time. I was in this, and this is really getting into my personal life, but I was a member of the Pittsburgh Boychoir when it existed. That was a long long time ago, but I actually continued [singing] in all the different institutions where I worked and where I attended. I was involved in choral organizations, though I haven’t been able to do that at Duquesne because I have kids and now I’m helping them follow their pursuits and dreams. 

Kaya: Yeah I totally understand that. Okay, so for the last question, do you have anything to plug? Publications, events, things going on around campus, or at the Writing Center?

Dr. Purdy: Well of course I’m going to plug the writing center and invite everyone to come for assistance with your writing to grow as a writer. We have awesome folks that work there, like Kaya and some of the other consultants, and it’s really great to get to work with folks outside of the classroom setting. So, if you have questions, or are looking for feedback, or would just like some advice on how to grow as a writer, you can get another set of eyes on your writing. It’s also just a space that’s supportive and fun, and you can stop by to get some snacks and coffee, or just stop by to kind of relax and take a breath and as you move throughout your day. We’ve worked really hard to cultivate a supportive atmosphere for learning for the writers and learners here in Duquesne. We like to celebrate writing events throughout the year. We do it for the National Day on Writing, which is in October. We do it for all holidays as well! All kinds of fun stuff like that. 

Kaya: Yes and the prizes are good. 

Dr. Purdy: *laughs* We do have good prizes and stuff from the bookstore. 

Kaya: Well, thank you so much!

Dr. Purdy: You’re welcome! Thank you for interviewing me.

Remember to check out @duqenglish on Instagram for a short video segment of this interview!

Dr. Sarah Breckenridge Wright, Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of English and Theater Arts

Written By: Cameron Vayansky, Undergrad, Secondary English Education, SP 22

Dr. Sarah Breckenridge Wright

Dr. Sarah Wright is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies here at Duquesne University. She teaches a variety of literature courses in the Department of English and Theater Arts, including Medieval Literature, Environmental Literature/Ecocriticism, Science Fiction, and History and Structure of the English Language. She also oversees the Capstone, which is an English internship through Duquesne that encourages students to think about how they might use their academic and personal strengths to achieve their post-baccalaureate goals. Dr. Wright enjoys her time on campus and notes that the students and faculty are what make the job so much fun. Dr. Wright is a very caring and enthusiastic person, and this is evident whenever one is in her presence. I have had the pleasure of taking a few of Dr. Wright’s classes and not only did I learn a lot, but I got to form a great relationship with her. Building relationships and learning alongside each other is another reason as to why Dr. Wright enjoys her time at Duquesne University.

Dr. Wright attended the University of Connecticut during Undergrad and majored in English and Japanese studies. The latter was a major that combined Japanese literature, language, philosophy, and history. This major also included a summer long study abroad in Japan. She then moved on to Penn State for her Doctorate degree, where she focused on Medieval Literature. She explained that reading and writing have always been passions of hers. Her interest in Medieval Literature, though, really came to fruition during her freshman year at UCONN. She went on a 10-day excursion to England for an Arthurian Literature course. During this trip, she explains that she learned a lot and was able to form an even deeper connection with literature. She loved the idea of the landscape telling its own story.

When Dr. Wright is not working at Duquesne, she is typically at home spending time with her husband, two children, and dog. She enjoys doing things with her family to sustain a happy life and healthy Earth. Dr. Wright and her family grow their own produce; and are working toward a zero-waste household. Dr. Wright is not only making a positive impact on students, but also on this world. Get to know more about Dr. Wright with the interview transcription below.

What is your position in the Department of English and Theater Arts?

“I am an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies.” 

Where are you originally from?

“I am originally from New England; however, I have lived all over the East Coast including upstate New York. I also lived in Pennsylvania prior to moving to Pittsburgh, as a graduate student at Penn State.”   

Where did you attend college?

“During Undergrad, I attended the University of Connecticut, where I majored in English and Japanese Studies. The Japanese Studies major was an individualized major that I created to satisfy my interests in Japanese literature and culture. It included a study of literature, language, philosophy, and history. As part of my studies, I did a semester abroad in both England and Japan, which were very cool experiences. I received my Doctorate at Penn State, where I focused mainly on Medieval Literature.”

Why did you decide to study English?

“I have always loved reading and writing, but I really knew I was interested in becoming a professor during my freshman year at UCONN. I went on a 10-day excursion to England for an Arthurian Literature course. During this trip I was able to see the sites where Arthurian legends are said to have taken place, and I was struck by the ways that the landscape acts as a palimpsest, written and overwritten with stories that we can see and experience if we look hard enough. This trip not only secured my love of medieval literature, but also my interest in thinking about space, the environment, and movement, which informs a lot of my scholarship.”

How did you end up in Pittsburgh?

“I was looking on the job market for three years after completing my PhD, during which time I worked as a Visited Assistant Professor at Skidmore College. In the year that my Visiting Professorship was ending, I saw that Duquesne was hiring and my husband and I were both really excited. We loved the idea of returning to Pennsylvania. I also really admired Duquesne’s mission statement—its commitment to serving the community—and felt that it would be a great fit.”

What is your favorite thing about the Department of English and Theater Arts?

“We are a strong department with faculty who write interesting scholarship and develop fascinating classes. The students are also fantastic. It is such a joy to work with them. I love that we’re able to have such strong critical conversations during class, conversations that often inform my own scholarship. It’s always fun to be able to list a class in my acknowledgments. I’ve also really enjoyed forming positive relationships with many of the students as Director of Undergraduate Studies. This work makes my job even more enjoyable.”

What classes do you teach in the Department?

“I have been able to teach a wide variety of courses such as History and Structure of the English Language, Medieval Romance, Chaucer, Medieval Ecocriticism, Environmental Literature, the Capstone Course, and Science Fiction. I have done a lot, but it is all in my ‘wheelhouse,’ and in an interesting way it reflects the things I loved growing up: fantasy and speculative fiction, being outdoors… it’s neat to see how one’s passions can all come together.”

What has been your favorite class to teach?

“This is a hard question because I love all my classes. One of the classes I teach every year is History and Structure of the English Language. It is amazing and so much fun to teach because it changes every time I teach it, and I learn something new alongside my students. I also really love teaching Medieval Ecocriticism, because it combines my love of medieval literature and the environment.” 

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t reading, writing, or teaching your wonderful Duquesne University students?

“I have two children and a dog, and they keep me very busy. I love inhabiting the imaginary worlds my kids create. I also really love to travel and spend a lot of time thinking about how we represent and experience the world. I also work hard to make our lives and Earth much more sustainable, by doing things like growing and preserving my own fruits and vegetables.”

Do you have a favorite book of all time? If so, what is it and why?

“This is such a hard question. I don’t think I can answer that because I love everything I read. Every book we read speaks to us differently depending on where we are in life when we read it. This is why I re-read books: it gives me the opportunity to fall in love all over again. If I had to choose, I would say The Lord of the Rings.”

What book are you currently reading?

“I am always reading a book for pleasure, in addition to the books I’m reading for a class. After reading N.K. Jemison’s Broken Earth Trilogy I’ve picked up The City We Became. I’m really enjoying it because its characters literally embody the boroughs of New York City. It’s hard not to think about it as a scholar given the work that I do.”

What is your favorite book to teach?

“I would say that my favorite book to teach is any book that will surprise my students. For example, this semester I’m teaching Richard Coer de Lyon (Richard the Lionheart). You expect it to be a crusade narrative, but it surprises you with stories of cannibalism and Richard I tearing a lion’s heart out of its throat. Most medieval literature has an element of surprise, since it’s filled with things that are weird and fantastic.”

What career path would you choose if working in Higher Education was not an option? 

“This is a great question because I often think about career choices, especially now that I’m teaching the Capstone. I think that I would become a travel writer. I love travelling and thinking about how we inhabit different places and interact with different people. Every place has a story, and learning these stories is really satisfying to me.”

Dr. Stuart Kurland, Associate Professor of English, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

By Kaya Cammerata, English Major, ENGL 447 Capstone

Dr. Stuart Kurland is an associate professor of English here at Duquesne University with more than forty years of teaching experience. He specializes in literature and drama from the 16th Century English Renaissance and is Duquesne’s residential Shakespearen. Although Dr. Kurland began his studies in academics thinking he would be a lawyer, his dual major in English and History would point him in the direction of literature and drama. 

After thirty-five-years of teaching at Duquesne, Dr. Kurland has taught a variety of classes in the English department including introductory, Mid-level, cross-listed, and graduate literature classes. He has also planned several Spring-Break away courses where he and a group of students study a play and then go see it performed live in London. 

For a shortened video clip of this interview, check out the English Department’s Instagram page @duqenglish. For the full transcribed interview, scroll and read below.

Kaya: Hello! Can you please introduce yourself to the camera with your name, your job here at Duquesne, and your specialty or focus of studies? 

Dr. Kurland: Hi. I’m Stuart Kurland and I’m an associate professor of English, which means I’m a tenured member of the faculty, and I’ve been here at Duquesne since 1988, so that’s almost 35 years. 

Kaya: Okay and why did you choose academics? What got you here?

Dr. Kurland: Boy, that’s a good question. I think I started college thinking I would be a lawyer, but I don’t know why I thought that. Then, I got really interested in English as an undergraduate, and in history actually. I was a double major and did most of my work in history, which has actually sort of defined my scholarship since. I think I got interested in the academic world because I always wanted to be a teacher. It was always just a question of at which level. 

Kaya: So, was history how you found your love for Shakespeare? 

Dr. Kurland: Yeah, when I started grad school, I wasn’t actually 100% sure what I would do, and I was sort of shopping around for my masters and there was a combination of things, but I found myself coming back to [Shakespeare] and it just sort of happened. By the time I finished coursework I think I was moving in that direction, so I do drama, I do the English renaissance, particularly the 16th century, but, yeah, I’m a Shakespearean

Kaya: That’s really cool! Okay, so why did you choose Duquesne?

Dr Kurland:  Well, I got lucky, and Duquesne chose me. When I finished my last few years of graduate school, I was teaching full time and working on my dissertation in the summer, and then I was lucky enough to get a full-time teaching job for a year or so because someone was on leave. Then I got another full-time teaching job for a year, and then a third, and a fourth, all in different states. Duquesne was the first permanent, or potentially permanent, job that was tenured track and in my field. It’s also in a great city and so you know, it just fell into my lap at a moment when I was really desperate to settle down. On personal terms, I met somebody the first few months I was here and we’ve been married over 30 years. 

Kaya: Well then that worked out perfectly. Okay, and then did you say that you’ve been working here for 35 years, or was that just teaching overall?

Dr. Kurland: Oh no, I’ve been here for 35 years, well, actually closer to 34. I came in the Fall of 1988 and now we’re in the Spring of 2022. Overall, I’ve been teaching for something like 42 years all together. 

Kaya: Since you’ve been at Duquesne, what classes have you been teaching or are currently teaching?

Dr. Kurland:  Things have changed a lot over time. When I started, about a third of my load was writing classes, including freshmen writing. The other thirds were introductory/Mid-level literature classes and graduate programs. Now, we’re teaching more cross-listed courses and we have a lot of freedom with those. Those of us in the department get together and talk about what we really need and then a professor will propose a class that they’re interested in teaching that will also fulfill the needs of the current students. 

Kaya: What’s been your favorite to teach so far?

Dr. Kurland: That’s a good question. I mean I’ve obviously loved teaching in my own field. At the graduate level, and I’m going back a ways, we were able to do this seminar on a single play. It was about that kind of depth. There was a course in Tudor and Stuart drama, and I talked my chair into allowing me to split [the course] into two, so we were really able to get into depth. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed working in the honors college and doing both parts of the early sequence [classes] including a course called “Body and Mind in Shakespeare” which discussed medical approaches to the plays. I’ve also now taught two Spring Break Away courses where we study certain plays that we knew were going to be performed in London when we would be there. We were able to see first rate productions of the material that we were studying and then come back after Spring Break and try to draw the pieces together. Those were enormously rewarding. 

Kaya: That’s so cool that you’re able to travel with your class and really get to see the material in person. Okay, so now for the fun questions. I know that you already mentioned being a lawyer, but if you weren’t a professor right now, what do you think you would be doing?

Dr. Kurland:  Right now? I would be retired.

Kaya: *Laughs*

Dr Kurland:  It’s still fun to come to work, but I don’t know. I actually had a graduate student once who outed me to another class. He came in on the first day of class and told everybody that I really wanted to be a firefighter, and there’s some truth in that. I spend a lot of my time, and I have for almost 30 years, as a volunteer firefighter. It uses a different part of the brain that’s very active. It also has immediate efforts and results. You have to do something right away. Teaching is a bit more indirect. You could have a good class and you have no idea whether anyone will remember it a week or a month later. Every once in a while, a previous student will contact me saying that they’re doing such and such, and it’s terrifically rewarding, but it’s not immediate. Anyways, would I actually be a career firefighter? I don’t think so. I tried it once, or I applied for the job, and didn’t get it, but it’s nice doing both. 

Kaya: That’s really interesting! I didn’t know any of that. Okay, so for the last question, do you want to plug any publications, events, or anything that’s going on or around campus?

Dr. Kurland: Actually, I want to plug the foreign study programs, and not just my own. It’s been a terrible couple of years as everybody knows, and I’ve actually had one that’s been in the planning stages for about three years now called “Shakespeare in Italy” and I’m hoping *knocks on wooden desk* that I’ll be able to do it in the Spring of 2023. I thought it would be fun to take a group to try to experience first-hand the places that Shakespeare only knew about through books. I’m really looking forward to that and I hope enough students will think “hey, that’s an interesting way to see Italy!” Obviously not the whole country, but we’ll start in Rome, end in Venice, and in between the two will go to Verona, which is of course where Romeo and Juliet was set, and a few other cities. 

Kaya: Awesome. Thank you so much! 

Dr. Kurland: No, thank you! 

Dr. Matthew Ussia, Teaching Associate Professor, Director of First Year Writing Program, Department of English and Theater Arts

Written By: Cameron Vayansky, Secondary English Education Major, SP22

Dr. Matthew Ussia

Dr. Matthew Ussia is a Teaching Associate Professor and the Director of the First Year Writing Program here at Duquesne University. While he is originally from South Plainfield, New Jersey, Dr. Ussia considers himself to be from Pittsburgh because he has lived here for more than half of his life. For Undergrad studies, Dr. Ussia attended St. Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania. For both his Masters and PhD degrees, he attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and focused on Literary Criticism. Dr. Ussia chose to focus his studies on the Field of English because of its proximity to culture. He explains that the idea of culture and the meaning that it conveys is extremely powerful. He explains that he is addicted to the world of ideas and the meaning behind it all.

Prior to being in the Pittsburgh area, Dr. Ussia lived outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he worked at Ocean Freight for a year. He also worked as an editor for a law firm, but he did not find himself enjoying any of these jobs. As a result, Dr. Ussia applied to as many jobs as he could in the Northeastern part of the United States. He eventually secured a job as a publication assistant at the Journal of Materials Research in Cranberry, Pennsylvania and has been in the Greater Pittsburgh area ever since.

Dr. Ussia has enjoyed his time at Duquesne University because of the friendliness amongst the faculty and the sincerity that everyone seems to have. He explains that at many other institutions, or jobs in general, there is a lot of animosity between colleagues. At Duquesne, everyone works with the same goals in mind and the environment is welcoming which makes his job worthwhile. Some of the courses that Dr. Ussia teaches are Composition 1 and Composition 2. He also teaches the Honors 101 course. A few other courses include 21st Century Graphic Novels and Narratives, Poetry Workshop 1, Fiction Workshop 1, and a 400 level Lit Theory class. Dr. Ussia has also overseen a few film classes over the years at Duquesne. When he is not spending time at Duquesne, Dr. Ussia enjoys collecting books, movies, and records. This too coincides with his love for English and the idea of culture being a powerful thing.

Read the transcript below for more on Dr. Ussia.

What is your position in the Department of English and Theater Arts?

“I am Teaching Associate Professor. I am also the Director of First Year Writing Program.”

Where are you originally from?

“I am originally from a town called South Plainfield, New Jersey. It is sort of near where Rutgers (University) is. I have not been back there since 2000. So, I kind of consider myself from Pittsburgh now because I have lived more of my life here in this city.”

Where did you attend college?

“I did my undergrad in St. Francis College in Loretto, PA. Then I got my Master’s and PhD from IUP. The Master’s and PhD were both in Literature Criticism.”

Why did you decide to study English?

“This is a hard question. For me, it was falling in love with the idea that culture means something and the capacity to convey meaning. I got addicted to the world of ideas and power of culture. I felt like being an English major would help set me up for being a writer, but also for explaining the meaning of culture. When I was a younger, there were a lot of things that resonated with me and felt very powerful. Things like books, music, and movies especially. These things helped me discover myself and I could never let that go.”

How did you end up in Pittsburgh?

After college, I lived outside of Philly for a year. I worked at Ocean Freight for a year. I tried being a proofreader at a law firm as well. I did not like any of those previous jobs. I applied for basically every job in the Northeast that I could. I ended up being a publication assistant at the Journal of Materials Research in Cranberry. That is what brought me to Pittsburgh in the Summer of 2000.”

What is your favorite thing about the Department of English and Theater Arts?

The really strong sense of collegiality. Academia can be quite famous for being territorial and cutthroat and mean to one another. Duquesne is not like that; it is mission driven and there is this meaning to the work that we do. We all have a common goal besides our career goals. Everyone is very kind and so welcoming; I was blown away.”

What classes do you teach in the Department?

“I teach Comp 1 and Comp 2 which used to be called UCOR 101 and 102. I also teach the Honors 101 course. For the Learning Communities, I do a special topics course on 21st century graphic novels and narratives. I also oversee Poetry Workshop 1, Fiction Workshop 1, and 400 level Lit Theory classes. I also taught a film class on teachers in film.”

What has been your favorite class to teach?

“I think it is Lit Theory. I believe it is the one that connects back to the idea of why I want to be in the Field of English. We explore the trapdoors of Western metaphysics. You get to engage these big ideas that call into question everything. We try to answer these questions and you feel as if you are discovering some sort of secret.”

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t reading, writing, or teaching your wonderful Duquesne University students?

“I think for me it’s all about participating in culture. I am a book, movie, and record collector. Most of the bookstore and record store owners know my name. Prior to the pandemic, I would try to see one movie and one live music performance weekly. I do not think I have been bored in almost 15 years. I am fascinated with culture and experiencing remarkable things.”

Do you have a favorite book of all time? If so, what is it and why?

“This might be a weird one, but it is actually a theory book it is not literature. But it would have to be Modernity and Ambivalence by Zygmunt Bauman. I read that book and it made me question the basic assumptions of living in the modern world. It opened all sorts of doors for me in terms of the scholarship I did and ways I think of life and modernity.”

What book are you currently reading?

Poems from 1960-1967 by Denise Levertov. The purpose of the book is to display how she has grown overtime.”

What is your favorite book to teach?

“I think because I have done it so much, it would have to be Tender by Belenda McKeon. It is the plot that sits well with me. It takes place in Ireland during the 1990’s on a college campus. It also reflects the ideologies and experiences of college students extremely well. It teaches valuable lessons while incorporating Gen X pop culture too. It is always fascinating to see how people react to the novel.”

What career path would you choose if working in Higher Education was not an option? 

“At one point I looked at a PhD program in Philosophy. I wanted to be a Philosophic Psychotherapist. There are only two schools in the US that do this. It is a major based around exploring and discussing people’s metaphysics. I also think being an ambulance driver would be a fun career too.”

Dr. Laura Engel, Associate Professor, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, English

Kaya Cammerata, English Major, ENGL 447 Capstone

Dr. Laura Engel is an associate professor of English here at Duquesne University who specializes in 18th century British literature and theater, performance studies, gender studies, and material culture. During her 18 years of teaching here, she has held a multitude of positions ranging from the director of Women’s and Gender Studies to the director of Graduate Studies, as well as running class sequences for the Honors College and directing Freshman learning communities. She has taught and continues to teach a variety of classes: Intro to Drama, 18th century film, fashion and the body, and theater, classes on Jane Austen, and classes focused on gender studies and queer studies. Her favorites of these being the theater and social justice classes because they prioritize empathy, as well as a class that she is teaching right now titled Woman in 19th Century Theatre. 

Wanting to be an actress and growing up as an avid reader who loved to write, and loved the aesthetics of material culture and art, Dr. Engle was able to foster and combine her passions in academics. Within her field of 18th century women and celebrity in theater, she has been able to research and write a variety of different books, construct a diverse selection of classes, and inspire her students’ growth.

For a shortened video clip of this interview, check out the English Department’s Instagram page @duqenglish. For the full transcribed interview, scroll and read below.

Kaya: Hi! Can you please introduce yourself? Your name, your job here at Duquesne, and your specialty or area of focus? 

Dr. Engle: My name is Laura Engel. I’m a professor here at Duquesne, and I specialize in 18th century British literature and theater, performance studies, gender studies, and material culture. 

Kaya: Awesome. Okay, and why did you choose Academics? What got you here in this field? 

Dr. Engle: I’ve always been an avid reader. I started reading when I was really little, and it was always a joy and an escape for me. I’ve also always loved to write, and I love art. I’ve always been really inspired by visual images. My mother is an artist, and I started going to museums when I was really little. I also was really obsessed with theater when I was young and I wanted to be an actress so interestingly enough, the combination of wanting to be an actress, loving art, and also loving to read and write all of the time, lead me into this interest of 18th century women and celebrity in theater. Then I realized if I went to school for this, I could be reading, writing, and teaching all the time using the things that I love. 

Kaya: That’s the dream, honestly. So, how long have you been here at Duquesne? 

Dr. Engle: I’ve been here at Duquesne for 18 years, which is quite a long time and sort of the majority of my academic career.

Kaya: And how long have you been teaching overall? 

Dr. Engle: Well, before Duquesne, I was at McAllister as a visiting professor for a couple of years. I also taught at Columbia University when I was a graduate student there. I also taught high school and middle school at a school in New York. So, I think overall I’ve probably been teaching for something like 25 years now. 

Kaya: Great, and why did you choose to teach at Duquesne? 

Dr. Engle: I chose it basically because they chose me. I mean they had a job in my field, and they hired me. I was super fortunate to come into this department because people have been incredibly supportive and really lovely and energizing since the very beginning.

Kaya: Cool, so you’ve said that you’ve been teaching here for about 18 years, what classes have you taught since then and/or are teaching now?

Dr. Engle: Well, I teach a variety of classes, from freshman to graduate students. I teach a lot of different versions of Intro to Drama: love and madness, gender and drama, drama and social justice. I also teach in my area, so different modes of 18th century classes like 18th century film, 18th century fashion and the body, 18th century theater. Regularly, I also teach classes on Jane Austen, who is somebody I’ve written about and worked on a lot. I also teach classes on material culture, gender studies, and queer studies. I was actually the first person to teach a queer theory course at Duquesne in the English department like on queer theory and performance theory which was a course about Camp.

Kaya: That’s so cool and really important. What are your favorite classes or what have been your favorite classes to teach so far?

Dr. Engle: Oh my gosh that’s really hard. I love different classes for different reasons. The theater and social justice classes are great because they prioritize thinking about different people in the world and issues that are really crucial and important to people through drama. It’s always really fun to teach because you can read it out loud, you can participate in it and those classes have been really great because often people come into the class thinking one way about the world and then they leave thinking other ways. I love to teach courses on material culture and visual culture because I love to show pictures. I think people really get excited about being immersed in the past through portraits, paintings, and fashion. Right now, I’m teaching a Woman in 19th Century Theatre class which has actually been one of my favorite classes that I’ve taught here at Duquesne. Partially because of the range of materials that we’ve been able to cover from the different actresses and their lives to fashion and photography, to thinking about the theater and the social world of the 19th century. It’s just been really fun.

Kaya: It’s been a really great class so far! 

Dr. Engle: Aw, Thank you!

Kaya: Yeah, it’s definitely outside of my realm of typical studies and so it’s been nice to be able to experience that. And I’ve already told you this, but I’m in love with Sarah Bernhardt and I had no idea that she even existed before this class. 

Dr. Engle: I know, she’s amazing.

Kaya: How has it been teaching about the 19th century instead of your typical studies of 18th century literature and theater?

Dr. Engle: It’s been awesome. I mean I started out being a Victorian lit person and I thought that I was going to specialize in the 19th century, but then I got kind of seduced back into the 18th century. My work sort of spans the very long 18th century, and actually right now, I’m thinking about pearls and images of frustrated actresses in the 1680s, but my most recent book that I wrote is about things all the way up until the early 20th century. So, I’m kind of expanding my horizons. 

Kaya:  So, since you’ve been here at Duquesne have you held any other positions or been a part of any clubs?

Dr. Engle: Yes! So I was the director of Women’s and Gender Studies for about three years. I was the director of Graduate Studies for about two years. I used to run the Honors 104 writing sequence. I’ve also been the director of two different learning communities, the material culture learning community and Artes learning community. 

Kaya: Which was mine! That’s how I originally met you!

Dr. Engle: Yes, that was Kaya’s learning community! 

Kaya:  Okay, now for the fun questions. If you weren’t a professor or if you hadn’t gone down this path into this field, what would you be doing right now? Or what would you want to be doing right now? 

Dr. Engle: Well, there are two fantasy answers and one potentially realistic answer. One is that I would have loved to have gone into the theater and I would have either become an actress or become a director. I’ve done some directing and actually right now my favorite projects that I’m involved in have to do with directing and putting together an exhibition. During the pandemic it was canceled, but it was co-curated with a colleague of mine from Franklin and Marshall, and it was called “Artful Nature Fashion and Theatricality.” I was supposed to direct a play that was in conjunction with the exhibition that also got canceled, but now we’re talking about reviving it and it. It’s a performance piece based on an 18th century play written by a woman named Mary Berry called Fashionable Friends and it stars Duquesne alumni. So yeah, that is actually something that I’m trying to do. Another avenue to explore would be to be a novelist. I’ve written fiction in pieces. So, I have a feeling that that might be somewhere in expanding my horizons in the future. Perhaps the more practical thing is that I’ve always been really involved with animals, and with cats specifically, so I could also have been a director of some sort for a nonprofit or cat shelter because I really love cats. Working at a nonprofit in general would be something that I could see myself doing. Maybe a nonprofit centering on women’s rights or social justice. 

Kaya: I love that! That’s awesome. Okay, and for the last question, is there anything that you want to plug that going on around campus, or any publications or events? 

Dr. Engle: I’m really excited about the gender-neutral fashion show. It’s been a historically important and contested event. I’m so glad that it exists and I’m excited that this year is just about the people walking in the show, and not about people presenting, even though it was lovely to present in the past couple of years. There are also always wonderful readings going on campus. I know we just had the alumni poetry reading that was sponsored by the english department. Also, all of the shows that the Red Masquers do are fabulous so should go and see them. 

Kaya: Thank you so much!

Dr. Engle: You’re welcome! 

John Fried, Associate Professor, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, English

Kaya Cammerata, English Major, ENGL 447 Capstone

John Fried is an associate professor of English, faculty advisor to :Lexicon literary magazine, Co-runner of The Coffeehouse Reading Series, and starting next semester, the Director of Undergraduate Studies here at Duquesne University. His specialty is in Fiction Writing and Film studies, both of which he teaches here on campus, and has been for the past seventeen years. He began his career as a magazine writer, editor, and reporter, before starting as an adjunct professor at a few different universities. Eventually, he followed his wife, Dr. Laura Engle, to Duquesne and filled the position of both the Fiction and Film Professor. Among the classes that he teaches here are: Fiction Writing (for beginners and Advanced), Multi-genre Creative Writing, Feature Writing, Magazine Writing, Intro into Film, Horror Film class, and director focused classes on Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and the such.

Fried has been writing creatively since he was a child and favors his Fiction classes because he is able to foster that love and drive in his students. Specifically, he loves teaching Fiction I because he can watch his students create a new relationship with writing, where they pay attention to the process rather than just the final product. He also believes that writing, specifically fiction writing, causes the writer to use more empathy, which is a necessity in the world.

For a shortened video clip of this interview, check out the English Department’s Instagram page @duqenglish. For the full transcribed interview, scroll and read below.

Kaya: Hi! Can you please introduce yourself? Your name, your job here at Duquesne, and your specialty or area of focus? 

John Fried: Hi, my name is John Fried. I’m an associate professor at Duquesne University and I focus on creative writing and film studies. 

Kaya: Cool. So why did you choose Academics? What led you here? 

John Fried: So, I was in magazine writing for 10 years, and an editor, writer, and reporter. Then my wife got a job teaching in Minnesota, so I went there, and I was a freelance writer. There were a couple of universities in the town where we were and I started adjunct teaching and I really liked it. I was teaching composition, some film, some creative writing, and a little bit of magazine writing. I just kept doing it and then I finished my MFA. Then my wife got a job here at Duquesne University and I came along and there were two people who left at the same time: the film professor and the creative writing professor. So, I was kind of the ideal person for that. 

Kaya: Wow, okay well that was perfect. So, that kind of answers how you got here to Duquesne, so how long have you been working here?

John Fried: I’ve been here for about 17 years.

Kaya: And how long have you been teaching overall?

John Fried: About 19 years. 

Kaya: How long do you think you’ve been writing? 

John Fried: Oh well, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. When I was in second grade I had a teacher who made me keep a journal every day and I would write about what happened that specific day. Every sentence started with the word “Today,” like “Today, I kicked a ball.” But, yeah, I’ve been writing for a very long time. However, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a fiction writer or a scriptwriter for movies.

Kaya: Nice. So, what classes do you teach here at Duquesne?

John Fried: I teach a lot of fiction writing classes. I teach Fiction I and Advanced Fiction. I teach Multi-genre Creative Writing. I teach feature writing, magazine writing at the upper-level- undergraduate and graduate level, I also teach classes on the film side. So classes like Intro into Film, a Horror Film class, and one about Film Noirs. Then I teach some director classes, like I teach a class on Stanley Kubrick and a class on Alfred Hitchcock, but I haven’t done that in a while. 

Kaya: That’s so cool! I actually didn’t know that we even had most of those classes. So, what’s been your favorite class to teach so far?

John Fried: I love teaching Fiction Writing. Especially the beginning Fiction Writing [Fiction I] because a lot of the people come to the class and they’ve never done anything like it before. It’s a different kind of class than any other you get in College because we’re not about the grades, we’re about the process, and that’s something you don’t always get. It just asks students to do different kinds of things than they’re used to doing and I really like that because I want my students to have a different relationship with writing. I don’t want them to feel like it’s something they get measured on all the time.

Kaya: Yeah, I’ve taken Fiction for four semesters now and I think the classes have been one of the most beneficial that I’ve taken. Not even just validation wise, but just knowing that you can do it even when it’s not your best story. It’s really rewarding because you eventually get a piece of work that you really care about and it’s because you were given the time and encouragement to do so. 

John Fried: Yeah, you know I make the pitch in class, and I’m sure that I’ve made it in your class, that I really believe that Fiction Writing makes you a better person because it asks you to exercise empathy and put yourself in someone else shoes, and we need more empathy in the world. 

Kaya: I couldn’t agree more. Okay, so aside from your professorship here, have you held any other positions while working at Duquesne? 

John Fried: Like Titles? Well, I’m the faculty advisor for :Lexicon, the literary magazine here. I sit on the publication’s board as a non-voting member, and I helped run the Coffeehouse Reading series with my colleague, Dr. Faith Barrett. Oh, and I am about to become the director of undergraduate studies. 

Kaya: Ohhhhhh! You heard it here first! That’s so exciting! Okay, okay, can you explain :Lexicon a little bit and same thing with the Coffeehouse Readings? 

John Fried: Sure! :Lexicon is a literary magazine that is published out of the publication board, not necessarily the English department as some people think, and it’s a publication that is made up exclusively of Duquesne students, alumni, and faculty. It contains fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, and photography, so it’s all kinds of artistic forms that one could get put out on a semester by semester basis. The Coffeehouse Readings… Well, I was actually hired to run the series, so it’s been many years. They’re events where we invite about two people, every month or so, to read for an audience of anyone who wants or is able to come. It’s  usually a mixture of poetry, fiction, and/or nonfiction, and occasionally in the past, we’ve had music. It’s really just another way that we’re trying to bring the arts to the community here at Duquesne. 

Kaya: Awesome, and for the last question, is there anything that you want to plug? Publications, events, or anything else going on around campus?

John Fried: Yes, please come to the Coffeehouse Reading Series. It’s once a month in the Genesis theater. Also, get involved with the :Lexecon! You don’t even have to be an English major or a  creative writing person. Anyone can submit and we have a reading party at the end of the semester to celebrate. 

Kaya: Yes, and there’s food! Okay, thank you so much! 

John Fried: Yeah, thank you!

Dr. Linda Kinnahan, Professor, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, English

By: Brianna McDonagh, English Major, ENGL 447 Capstone

Dr. Linda Kinnahan is one of Duquesne University’s professors in the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts in the English Department. Dr. Kinnahan’s enthusiasm for literary studies makes her lectures attractive to many students. I am privileged to say that I  have Dr. Kinnahan as a mentor through the English Department and a professor this semester in the advanced section of the poetry workshop. Dr. Linda Kinnahan’s mastery in assisting students in reaching their “untapped” potential is exceptional. Working with Dr. Kinnahan, I have grown more confident in my ability as a writer and as a student at Duquesne Univerisity. The encouragement and support she provides students allow us to challenge ourselves and have faith in the process.  Thus, when alumni rave about her, it is no surprise why. 

Dr. Kinnahan is not originally from Pittsburgh, PA. She was born in West Virginia but grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia when it was a small college town. Staying within Virginia, Dr. Kinnahan completed her undergraduate studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. At James Madison University, she double majored in art and English, with a minor in education. Dr. Kinnahan saw herself pursuing art more than English growing up. However, it became more apparent that teaching was her calling when she taught art to high school students. Going back to James Madison University, she received her master’s degree, then her P.h.D at the University of Notre Dame. Choosing literary studies during her graduate and doctorate years, she found it was more engaging with minds and gives many individuals an opportunity to unite. Besides her love of literature, Dr. Kinnahan knew it was in her future to be an educator having parents who also taught.  

Dr. Kinnahan’s shared her gratitude for having the opportunity to teach many different courses, making it difficult to choose her favorite. She remarked that she could not rank them because each course has a personality, making each unique. Yet, her passion falls with 20th-century poetry. Similarly, choosing her favorite book to teach was another difficult question. Listing a few authors, William Faulkner, Marion Moore, Meloy, and T.S. Elliot made their way to the top of her list. Dr. Kinnhan mentions that each author brings something unique through their writing, and into the lecture. 

Outside of lectures, you can find Dr. Kinnhan painting, drawing, or making quilts. Her artistic skills can also be encountered in the kitchen, cooking new dishes. Her love for trying new things is ongoing, which encourages students. 

Below is the full transcription of the interview. 

Dr. Kinnahan, where are you from originally?  

 I was born in West Virginia, but I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a small college town then – the University of Virginia is there – and a great place to grow up. 

Where did you attend school for undergraduate studies? What did you major in? 

I went to James Madison University and double-majored in art and English and minored in education. 

Did you know from the start that you wanted to be involved in literary studies? 

I thought I wanted to be an artist <laughs>, but I loved English, too, so I double-majored. When I finished my undergraduate work, I became a high school art teacher. I honestly thought I was going to be an art teacher forever, and then I decided to go to graduate school. I felt more confident studying English than art at that level, and my graduate school experiences led me to want to teach English in college.

So, what made you want to be a professor in literature? 

I just love literature. I love how it opens our minds, and how it gives us ways to connect. Although I was a high school art teacher, I also was assigned one literature class to teach each year since we were short on teachers. Those classes made me realize how much I love teaching literature as well as art. And I had always known I would  be a teacher. My parents were both teachers, and growing up in a household of educators, I knew I would follow the same path. Although I was happy thinking I would be a high school teacher for most of my life, graduate school opened up a world I had not thought about and led me to college teaching. 

Where did you go to graduate school? What was your favorite class that you had during your graduate studies? 

 I went to James Madison University for my master’s degree, then I went to the University of Notre Dame for my P.h.D.  My favorite course was focused on three poets – Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop. I loved the course because it was a deep dive into each poet. Plus, the other students in the course were so invested and interesting. We had great weekly conversations about these poets. I felt like I learned a lot through exploring and collaborating with others. So, for today, I will say that was my favorite course. If you ask me tomorrow, it might be something different. 

What would you say is your favorite class to teach at Duquesne? 

Well, I am very fortunate because I get to teach creative writing as well as literature classes. I love teaching poetry writing workshops and am so grateful I get that opportunity. I also love teaching literature classes, so it is hard for me to rank the different types of classes. Of course, my passion lies with early twentieth-century Modernist poetry, so I am always happy to teach courses in that area. 

What would you say is your favorite book to teach with? 

I like to teach a lot of different authors, and I’m particularly drawn to writers who explore issues that remain relevant, ranging from gender & race to economics & class, to art & visual culture. Right now, I love teaching the poets Mina Loy and Marianne Moore. There is something different about each author I teach, though, and each text brings something unique to the classroom. 

Aside from teaching, do you have any hobbies? 

I continue my love of art by painting and drawing. I also quilt. Right now, I am working on a big monster quilt. It has grown out of control and is way too big and messy. Actually, I enjoy anything I can do with my hands. I also love to cook and garden. I have a flower garden that has perennials, bulbs, and anything that will grow back after winter. At my house, we do not have a good yard for vegetables, although I always try to grow tomatoes, greens, and herbs every summer 

If you could give advice to your 20 to 22-year-old self, what would you say? 

I would say, listen to that little voice in your head. Just listen to it, because it usually knows what’s what. And don’t get in your own way.

What is your favorite thing about being involved in the English Department at Duquesne? 

Students. I have great colleagues, too, but the students just amaze me all the time. Because I get to teach relatively small classes, I get the chance to get to know many students. I have a lot of admiration for the students here. They work hard. They are interested in ideas and language and literature, and they want to think in new ways. 

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