by Zoë Roos Scheuerman ’24

Much like students are returning to the hallways and classrooms of Old Main, so are faculty members returning to Old Main 2! Several professors spent the past year away on sabbatical or writer’s leave. For this issue of The Words, we caught up with two such professors, Dr. Andrea Kaston Tange and Dr. Daylanne English about their sabbatical work and plans for this semester!

From Dr. Kaston Tange: Over my sabbatical, I found myself chipping away (as I’d planned) on a book project tentatively called Imagined Encounters: Public Impressions and Private Lives in the Age of Empire, which examines the work of several prominent Victorian women who wrote about their travels for an eager public. Somewhat unexpectedly, work on that project was punctuated by writing a series of much shorter pieces for less academic audiences, which were extraordinarily fun to work on. One explores the nineteenth-century practice of including, but apparently hiding, mothers in photographs of their children. I’ve started collecting these fascinating objects and have been thinking about them in terms of photographic technologies and also ideas of tenderness and parental connection in the period. The short essay for Psyche spawned a full-length academic article that’s in its final stages. I also published a piece on madcap Victorian Christmas cards for Slate, which I had a completely delightful time researching and writing, including interviews with a woman whose family has been in the card business since the 1840s. If you’ve never seen 19th-century greeting cards, you might be amused by the dancing foodstuffs and anthropomorphized animals on these. (Both of these articles include a lot of pictures, if you’d like visual images for yourself.) And because I can’t ever work on only one thing at a time, I also started researching a new project which has no tentative title or clear form yet, but which is about Miami in the 1920s.

This semester, I am most looking forward to being back in the classroom. I am so grateful to have had a break to focus on writing and thinking creatively, and I’m also very eager to be back in the halls with colleagues and students talking about books that excite our minds. I’ve loved detective fiction ever since I could read, so if you hear a lot of enthusing about whodunnits coming out of a classroom this term, that will probably be me and my new Great Detectives course.

From Dr. English: My 21-22 sabbatical was wonderful. I was able to recharge and to make lots of progress on my new book, finishing three chapters. Titled Soul Sounds: The Afterlife in African American Literature and Music, it is a sound studies-plus-religious studies, and of course literary studies, a project I have been planning for several years. It gained urgency for me in the wake (to allude to Christina Sharpe’s work) of the murder of George Floyd and the terrible, differential impacts of COVID on Black communities; in these contexts, the afterlife carries a powerful and potentially painful valence. Yet the project also carries joy within it, particularly in a brand-new chapter I just completed, “‘Scaled Perfectly to Eternity’: A Contemporary Black Poetics of the Afterlife,” that brings together the poetry of Ross Gay, Tracy K. Smith, and Danez Smith, among others. On another joyful note, the year afforded me lots of time to hang out with Gemma the dog and Padget the cat. But I am delighted (to allude to Ross Gay’s work!) to be back in the Mac classroom, too, and am really looking forward to the communities we build together in my FYC, Ecstasy & Apocalypse, and in ENGL 275.

The Words is so excited to hear from Dr. Kaston Tange and Dr. English, and we’re looking forward to seeing them around the department again!