By Alice Asch ’22
If it’s been your life’s dream to read a 19th century sensation novel about fraudulent marriages, you’re in luck! Melissa Merte has joined the English Department faculty as a visiting assistant professor this semester, and she is currently guiding her “Novel: Madness and Anger as Transgression” class through the thrills of Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.
Professor Merte comes to Macalester from the University of Minnesota, where she spent five years completing her PhD and teaching before defending her dissertation in May. In an email to The Words, she said that her areas of research include “Victorian literature that centralizes female plots of economic ambition,” with a focus on storyline and form. She specializes in Women’s Studies and the history and theory of the novel.
These interests shine through in the syllabus for Professor Merte’s “Novel” course this module, which contains works by Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf that examine “how society has labeled and judged transgression.”
In her “Nineteenth Century British Literature” class next module, students will have the opportunity to explore themes of empire, class, and gender norms, while reading authors such as the Bronte sisters and Oscar Wilde.
Professor Merte said she’s already been delighted by the tight-knit community that she’s observed at Macalester. She’s grateful for the chance to create close relationships with her students, and has been inspired by their determination in the face of challenges posed by remote learning.
She extended her gratitude to the IT department, especially liaison Ben Voigt ’10, who gave her and other faculty members a lot of tech-related preparation over the summer.
“I always want my students to have the best possible experience in my courses, but I feel that responsibility even more acutely this semester,” she said, noting the intense “personal and societal pressures” Macalester students are dealing with right now.
Professor Merte mentioned that in the age of virtual classes, “all your interactions have to be planned and very deliberate […] that intentionality, however, is important and can be deeply gratifying.”
Students can check out Professor Merte’s article, “Plotting an Economic and Romantic Path Forward: Miss Matty’s Tea Shop and the Gendered Cycles of Cranford” which can be found in the Fall 2020 issue of Texas Studies in Literature and Language.
The Words gives a large thank you and a warm welcome to Professor Merte!