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A photo of Dr. Simon LeeDr. Simon Lee

October 2019

Wandering unfamiliar city streets to discover a new place is Dr. Simon Lee’s favorite hobby. “I love a big, messy city. You can get lost there and be completely anonymous,” he says of places like New York City. “Letting a city ‘pull you’ around and attempting to map its emotional valence,” he explains, is a concept called “psychogeography,” and it is closely related to the joy he finds in exploring unknown places. Dr. Lee’s fascination has also informed his scholarly interests: cities populated with members of the working class. Born in the small, working-class town of Shotley Bridge, in northern England, new English Department faculty member Dr. Lee focuses his academic study on “the parts of cities [he] is from, the industrial towns,” examining the intriguing relationship between physical spaces and class. 

Dr. Lee’s examination of writer Sid Chaplin as a precursor to Kitchen Sink Realism – a literary movement between the 1950s and 60s that features young male protagonists who are often angry with and disappointed by the state of modern society – revealed a surprising intersection between his work and his real life. Dr. Lee began writing about the literary movement, noting how little it had been investigated by scholars, only to discover Chaplin had passed away at the hospital in Shotley Bridge in 1986. At the time, Dr. Lee’s mother worked at the hospital and it was there that she gave birth to Simon. His scholarship on the movement includes “’Look at the State of this Place!’: The Impact of Domestic Space on Post-war Class Consciousness,” in which he discusses Kitchen Sink Realism through analysis of key plays and novels from the era: John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey. Often “the films and texts [he] studies as an academic are familiar to [his] family, because they grew up with them.” Often, as well, such portrayals reveal the complicated relationship between the working class and the broader public. In an article that will be published soon, he focuses on the film adaptation of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning to investigate censorship of genuine representations of the working class in film, noting that the film was given an X-rating from the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) for its portrayal of worker insubordination. 

Currently in his first semester at Texas State, Dr. Lee is teaching a course examining the intersections between nostalgia and the laboring class in British literature. Nostalgia, as a literary trope, comments on the collective memory of a people and culture. The course considers, in part, the intriguing presence of nostalgia among the working class in spite of peoples’ vastly different experiences. In a future semester, Dr. Lee will lead a graduate seminar on British Social Realism of the 1950s and 60s that will examine the 1950s as a “high point” of authentically portraying the laboring class. Recounting reactions to John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, Dr. Lee describes the resistance of the upper class to working-class voices making a space for themselves in art and literature: “People walked out of a play based on authentic working-class life because they were disgusted by an ironing board on stage. They found it vile.” 

Dr. Lee’s excitement for upcoming semesters and how they will contribute to his current scholarship is coupled with his excitement to continue working with Texas State’s intellectually engaged students. He reflects on the lecture he gave to students and faculty members last February as part of his on-campus interview for the position he now holds: “I had notes and a lecture planned, but I set them all aside because the students there wanted to talk, and I wanted to let them.” Adjusting to his new life in central Texas, he says that, in addition to enjoying the discussions he has had with students on campus, he is eager to add Austin to his list of favorite cities in which to get pleasantly lost.

Kennedy Farrell, English major


Dr. Nancy Wilson

Dr. Nancy Wilson

December 2018

 

In “Making Space for Diversity,” published in the journal College Composition and Communication, Dr. Wilson describes the backlash she faced when she revised the Writing Center website to highlight non-European-English languages and dialects. Critics felt these changes validated “incorrect” language. Dr. Wilson challenges the idea that language is ever "incorrect.” Because of her own blue-collar background, Dr. Wilson empathizes with underprivileged students, and her scholarship works to break down class barriers between those students and academia. 

Dr. Wilson attended college intent on becoming a high school English teacher. However, she initially struggled in this new academic setting, lacking familiarity with the paths for success at university that seemed natural to those from more privileged backgrounds. “People are judgmental about the poor,” explains Dr. Wilson. “Even about children. So you’re made to feel ‘less than.’” Additionally, when she visited high schools as part of her teaching block, she didn’t like the standardized testing or the state-mandated curricula. She opted out of teaching certification and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Oklahoma.

Her interest in teaching resurfaced, however, when Dr. Wilson came to pursue her Master’s degree in Literature at Texas State University, for which she had to teach as part of her graduate assistantship. Initially, she was terrified about talking in front of students, but after her first lecture, Dr. Wilson realized she knew more than she thought she did, she was good at explaining things to students, and she’d finally found her calling in teaching college students.

In addition to student teaching, Dr. Wilson also began working at the Writing Center. Part of her work was training tutors, helping them grow as young professionals. Over the course of her time at the Writing Center, she watched some of her tutors go on to direct Writing Centers themselves. The other part of her job was one-on-one tutoring with students, helping them gain foundational writing skills.

When working with students, Dr. Wilson prioritizes explaining rules to students in straightforward ways. She recognizes that, although universities hold students accountable for knowing Standard American English, “it doesn’t really exist, and some grow up closer to it than others.” Students from underprivileged backgrounds often lack foundational writing skills, and academia can be laden with jargon that makes it difficult for such students to get help. To explore Writing Center scholarship, Dr. Wilson went on to pursue a PHD in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Texas--San Antonio.
In her scholarship, Dr. Wilson exposes the ways in which academia can fail to meet the needs of its communities. As one example, she compares writing centers to bodegas, small local stores located in barrios. Bodegas are multilingual to meet the needs of their customers. By contrast, Writing Centers can often be focused on state-mandated learning goals, ignoring the needs of the local community; and also tend to be monolingual, focused on Standard American English. 

In addition to her Writing Center scholarship, Dr. Wilson explores how reactions to student errors often reflect broader societal prejudices. For example, her article “Bias in the Writing Center: Tutor Perceptions of African American Language,” published in Writing Centers and the New Racism, analyzes how readers, when presented with different types of sentences, tend to scrutinize African American Vernacular English more closely than sentences with other types of “errors.” Teachers, she explains, should hold themselves accountable for their reactions to student error, rather than assume their students are intentionally or ignorantly making mistakes.

After working as the Director of the Writing Center from 1995-2014, Dr. Wilson became the English Department’s Director of Lower-Division Studies. She also teaches in the English Department’s study abroad program in Cork, Ireland. Her empathetic approach to students and their individual needs helps to close the common gap between underprivileged students and the realities of academia, and her scholarship works to hold those systems accountable. In doing so, she helps introduce new voices and new perspectives, advocating for everyone, regardless of their background, to have a place and a voice in academia.

 

by Gloria Russell, English major


September 2018

 

This fall, the Texas State English Department welcomed four new tenure-track faculty members. While each has origins in Texas, making their arrival at Texas State something of a homecoming, their scholarship attests to their pursuing very different research and teaching interests. From Irish Modernist studies to analyses of comic book superheroes, our new faculty ensure exciting new courses and research over their coming years at Texas State.

Dr. James Reeves

James Reeves

While he was earning his Master’s degree at Oxford, studying John Milton, Dr. James Reeves wandered into Blackwell’s Bookstore. The religion section shocked him. He grew up in Hutto, Texas, with an extended family of evangelical Christians, and though he had studied authors like Milton while earning his undergraduate degree at Texas Tech, he hadn’t considered the scope of religious studies. “From then, I was fascinated by how religions are related and how they represent each other,” he says.

Dr. Reeves changed his focus from Milton to 18th-century British literature, exploring authors like Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson, whose works deal with shifts in religious thought and secularization. After earning his Master’s degree at Oxford, he went to UCLA for his PHD, investigating how atheist characters were represented in that time period. Literature from the 18th century often imagined worlds dominated by atheism or with atheist characters, suggesting a shift towards secularization that manifested itself in its representation of atheist themes.

After earning his PHD and teaching at Franklin & Marshall, a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, he applied for a job posting at Texas State. He wanted to raise his family where he’d grown up and where his extended family lives, and he finds the public-oriented goal of state schooling compelling. At Texas State, he currently teaches First-Year Writing classes and a British literature course on the Restoration and Augustan periods.

His research projects include reshaping his PHD dissertation into a book and writing an article about how British abolitionists’ view of the slave trade impacted the concept of a Christian hell.

Dr. Sara Ramirez

Sara Ramírez

Although she claims San Antonio as her home, Dr. Sara A. Ramírez grew up in Dallas. She attended Notre Dame as a first-generation college student with the intent to become a medical doctor, but her passion for literature, outstanding performance as a writer, and urging from her English professors convinced her to become an English major.

After she graduated from Notre Dame, Dr. Ramírez attended graduate school at UT-San Antonio, where she began to “cultivate a sense of Chicana feminist consciousness.” She wrote her thesis on madwomen in literature, and when she went to Berkeley for a Master’s and then PHD in comparative ethnic studies, she began to understand madness as a reaction to trauma. Because of this understanding, she began studying Chicana representations of historical and intergenerational trauma, an interdisciplinary endeavor involving psychiatric and indigenous interpretations of madness.

While doing dissertation research in San Antonio, she worked in the Women's Studies program at UTSA from 2013-2017. She then pursued a postdoc at the University of Minnesota before applying to work at Texas State. Texas State stood out to her as a Hispanic-serving institution, or HIS, because it meant she could relate to and mentor Latinx/Chicanx and first-generation college students. “On the first day I ask them what they need to know about college,” she says, “because I had no one to talk to when I went.” At Texas State, she teaches First-Year Writing and a class on Chicano Narratives and Social History.

Currently, Dr. Ramírez is writing a philosophical article on how Chicana subjects can recognize themselves through indigenous (Nahua) ideas of the self.

Dr. Julie McCormick Weng

Julie McCormick Weng

While she was earning her Master’s at Texas A&M, Dr. Julie McCormick Weng came across an article by John Eglinton (William Kirkpatrick Magee). The article, titled “Mr. Yeats and Popular Poetry,” discussed the connection between literature and new technologies and sparked her interest in machines’ representations in Modernism. “Modernism rethinks not just style and form but also the way we relate to the tactile and technological world around us,” she says, “and that captivated me.”

She went on to earn her PHD at the University of Illinois, where she looked at the intersections of Irish Modernist literature with questions about science and technology. She attended Georgia Tech for her postdoc, and there explored the possibilities of digital pedagogy. Her students created podcasts, dramatic recordings of poetry, and infographics of literary texts. “This media lets students explore a range of possible responses to literature from different angles,” says Dr. Weng.

After completing her postdoc at Georgia Tech, she came to Texas State University. She wanted to teach in her home state, and the Texas State student body’s reputation for friendliness promised innovative and creative classroom discussions. She teaches First-Year Writing and twentieth century British literature.

Currently, Dr. Weng is editing a collection of essays titled Science, Technology, and Irish Modernism, which is scheduled for release in 2019. She is also working on an article concerning digital student projects in the classroom, as well as a book manuscript about Irish modernism, transportation technologies, and gender politics of the early twentieth century.

Dr. Samuel Saldivar

Samuel Saldivar

When Dr. Samuel Saldivar left his hometown of Weslaco, TX to go to college at Ohio

State, he was surprised to find that there was a whole area of study focused on the very community with which he had grown up. For this reason, when he worked on his Master’s in English with a specialization and certification in Chicanx studies at Ohio State, he first was interested in Victorian literature, but felt drawn by “the opportunity to talk about authors of color who have been forgotten over time.”

After his Master’s, he pursued a PHD in Chicanx Studies at Michigan State University, writing his dissertation on Chicanx representation in American media. Specifically, he studied the shifting ways Chicanx people are portrayed for American audiences. As a result, his work is extensive, ranging from 1970’s poetry by Corky Gonzales, to Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldua, to even modern-day comic book representations of Chicanx/Latinx superheroes.

Dr. Saldivar worked as an associate professor and undergraduate coordinator at the University of Michigan for a year and half before coming to Texas State. He was eager to return to Texas and explore how students at a predominantly Hispanic institution would respond to his field of study. At Texas State, he teaches First-Year Writing and an American literature course spanning from 1930 to the present day.

His current research includes researching a Puerto-Rican superhero named Vibe from the DC franchise and exploring how Vibe’s representation over time has changed since he first made his appearance in the 80’s. Dr. Saldivar is also working on book chapters focused on Chicano heroes and their representation in American film; and just finished a short piece on the diversity of Tejanx people, highlighting the largely ignored Afro-Latinx associations of the term.

by Gloria Russell, English major