By Miriam Moore-Keish ’19

This coming school year, two of our faculty members will be taking a break from the English Department. Professors Amy Elkins and Wang Ping are taking sabbaticals and making the most of their time to fully immerse themselves in research, study, travel, and creative projects. The Words caught up with Professor Amy Elkins to find out more about her plans for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Generally what are your plans for your sabbatical?

During my sabbatical leave, I’ll be working on my book, Crafting Modernity: Remaking Feminist Time from Literary Modernism to the Multimedia Present. All of the women whose lives and works I study in my book call on craft processes to develop new, often radical, visions of modernity—visions that span numerous modes of creative, critical making. In crafting their visions, these writers use artistic mediums and processes—in practice and on the page—to resist oppressive cultural narratives and social norms. One part of the project that’s really new and that I’m excited about is a series of interchapters. During my sabbatical, I plan to interweave shorter, narrative accounts of my experiential, tactile approach to research. Taken together, the main text and interchapters form a unique account of making, demonstrating a hybrid approach to intellectual authority that reflects the feminist methodology central to my book’s claims.

Where will you be going?

I kick off the summer by going to Cardiff University in Wales, where I’ve been invited to speak about my work as part of a new initiative called Image Works: Research and Practice in Visual Culture. I’ll also be leading a workshop on creative pedagogy for graduate students and staff. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share ideas about hands-on learning in the humanities classroom.

Then, I’ll be doing some research at the British Library in London. The library has a series of long interviews with writers that you can listen to on-site, and I’ve talked with the curator about working with [British-Jamaican author] Andrea Levy’s interview. She recently passed away, and students who have taken British Multicultural Novels with me will know how much I love her work.

I’ll finish up my trip with a roundtable presentation at the British Association for Modernist Studies, where I’m slated to give a talk about the rationale for my book’s interchapters and what they might contribute to feminist research methods.

I was also recently awarded a short-term research fellowship at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, so I will be there for a month working with [modernist textile artist] H.D.’s needlepoint archive—a collection I helped to locate with the help of the poet’s grandson. In addition to working in the archive and writing, I’ll give a public talk to the University community about my work.

What do you think you’ll miss about the standard teaching schedule, if anything?

Of course I’ll really miss my students and colleagues in the English department, and I’m already planning my own “bagel Monday” to facilitate maximum writing productivity. One of my favorite things about teaching is the exciting exchange of ideas, getting to try out different perspectives and really take the time to work through a problem. My dog Oakley and cat Aspen are very attentive listeners, but they are probably going to get pretty tired of me talking to them about theory, current events, and art analysis!

Is there anything non-academic that you will have time to do in the year?

Creative energy is a big part of my work, so I always make sure to build in time for reflection, art and music, and reading for fun. I’ll definitely be kayaking the Chain of Lakes (my favorite Twin Cities summer activity!), making wheel thrown pottery, growing orchids, and doing aqua fitness. My alma mater’s motto is, ”εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον” in Ancient Greek, which translates to “Unto the Whole Person.” In my life, I take that very seriously and make sure I’m thinking of myself as a dynamic, intentional being on a range of levels.

Professor Wang Ping told The Words that she plans to travel to the Nile, Mount Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, Victoria Lake, and villages along Zambia River with the Kinship of Rivers Project, engaging with “poetry, art, music, and prayer flags for peace and clean earth.” She also plans to write and publish two books of poetry and one young adult (YA) manuscript, The Book War.

The Words and the entire English Department in general share in the excitement that comes with this full and dynamic break. Professors Amy Elkins and Wang Ping, you will be missed!