Jen Katz ’19
The English Department is welcoming three new Visiting Assistant Professors this fall: Emma Törzs, Beth Weixel, and Sally Franson. Students have the opportunity to learn from the trio’s rich set of experiences and knowledge, and those of us here at The Words want to introduce them to the community!
Professor Törzs, an alumna of the class of 2009, is excited to return to campus to see lots of new and old faces. Meeting old professors and observing the ways in which the Macalester student body has changed while still remaining essentially the same has been “delightful on all accounts.” (According to Törzs, our attention spans are shorter now that we all have smartphones, but we still share the same concerns and campus traditions, like midnight trips to the Leonard Center swing set.)
Törzs brings to the department an interest in gender studies and “transformative works,” which she defines as the study of adaptation and “literary forms of fanfiction”—think the works of Shakespeare and Moby Dick cropping up in dozens of modern-day novels and adaptations. This influence shapes her approach to teaching Intro to Creative Writing this fall, in which she teaches students about the evolution of the sonnet from the days of Shakespeare to Shane McCrae. Agha Shahid Ali’s ghazals, a type of ode of Arabic origin, have also been very popular with students.
Törzs is excited to have the opportunity to teach Intro to Creative Writing, especially to a group of predominantly first years. “I like teaching Intro, because I know it’s the first time a lot of them will encounter creative writing,” she said. “It’s really exciting for me—it’s kind of an honor.”
Professor Weixel likes to use the early modern English metaphor of a “world in miniature” to describe her approach to leading class. The idea that, “everything in creation was summed up and contained in each individual person or one life” was central to the poetry of John Donne and other poets, and provides a framework for students to consider the classroom its own world in miniature.
“For me, talking about ‘nasty women’ and the Me Too movement goes hand-in-hand with Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, just as the antipathy toward immigrants in [Sinclair] Lewis’s Main Street needs to be connect[ed] to our current political climate,” Weixel wrote in an email to The Words.
While she is not on campus this fall, Weixel will be teaching ENGL 125: Studies in Literature with a focus on Early Adulthood in the spring. The class focuses not on young adult fiction but on works “written primarily for adult audiences that explore the early experience of adulthood in all its struggles and discoveries,” as Weixel describes them. Students should keep this course in mind when putting together their spring schedules not just for its fascinating and layered subject matter, but also because Weixel is a baker who often brings gifts of homemade cookies to class.
Professor Franson specializes in women’s fiction, humor writing, and journalism. She published her debut novel, A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out, to critical acclaim earlier this year and she is already hard at work on her follow-up novel. This fall, Professor Franson is teaching a section of Intro to Creative Writing.
We at The Words want to offer the warmest of welcomes to our new Visiting Assistant Professors as they join the English Department family, and we hope that you will do the same!