On December 4th, I presented a selection from my current book project at the Siena College English Department’s annual faculty research Colloquium! There was a great turnout, and many students attended. My paper, titled “Woman Overboard: Depression and Suicide on the Mayflower” gave an overview of the main argument in my book and explored some of the dominant myths surrounding Dorothy May Bradford’s mysterious death in December 1620.
For the second year in a row, I joined my Siena colleagues in preparing a panel to advise Siena students who are interested in going to grad school in English. It was a fun conversation, and a great chance to mentor undergraduates as they consider the next step in their careers.
A journalist from the Promethean, Siena’s student newspaper, wrote a response in the paper:
English Graduate School Seminar
“Are you someone who isn’t sure what they are planning to do for the future? Has Graduate school been something you are interested in, but unsure of where to start? Well for starters, just know that you are not alone. There are plenty of students here on campus who look at their future with excitement, but also fear of the unknown. I myself am one of those students. That is why I attended the English Graduate School Seminar on Friday, November 22 during free period. There I was able to gain insight on the application process and experience of Graduate school from some professors who have recently gone through it themselves. Dr. Stacy Dearing, Dr. Shannon Draucker and Dr. James Belflower were there to answer questions and provide some tips.
As someone who is interested in Graduate school but wasn’t even sure where to start, this seminar was so helpful. Dearing, Draucker and Belflower answered questions that I didn’t even know I had questions about. They taught us to make sure to only go to programs that are funded, to ask about the curriculum, whether or not one will teach while they are going through school, the kind of support that students receive from faculty and so much more. We all have gone through the process of finding undergraduate study, but Graduate school is an entirely different being. For an MA it can take about 1-2 years. An MFA is usually about 3 years and a PhD is typically anywhere from 5-8 years, but that is something that differs for everyone but it truly does take time. To earn a PhD is a great achievement, but Dearing, Draucker and Belflower told us that it is not an easy task. Not only does it take time, but it takes a lot of effort. Not everyone who starts the program finishes it. However, they stressed that one should not feel ashamed if they do not finish this. It is better to realize that getting a PhD is not for them early on than completing it and hating the field that you are in. The professors told us the truth about continuing your studies after undergraduate school. It is not easy, it is not for everyone, but if it is truly something you love and want to do then it is totally worth it.
There were so many helpful tips and answers provided from the Professors that spoke at the seminar. They gave us handouts with a timeline to stay on track, questions to ask before applying for certain programs and how to ask current professors for letters of recommendation. The seminar was focused mainly on applying to an English-area for Graduate school, but I feel much of the advice embedded in this article can be used for other areas as well. Being able to learn and ask questions about something that I myself have considered was really helpful. Going down the path of Graduate school is not for everyone, but for those who are interested, be sure to look into it. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for advice, tips and of course letters of recommendation. Good luck to all of those unsure of the road they are going to follow and good luck to those deciding on Graduate studies!”
This essay provides a literary history of the restitution narrative in colonial New England; using Cotton Mather’s The Angel of Bethesda (1724), I argue that Puritan medical texts employ theological and medical epistemologies to enable patient agency. In these texts, individuals must be involved in reforming the sinful behaviors that they believed caused their conditions, and must also engage in a form of public health by sharing their stories so that others may avoid future sins—and therefore illnesses. Ultimately, recognizing how restitution has been historically defined allows for alternate understandings of recovery that place patients at the center.
Today is my last day as the Erikson Scholar in Residence at the Austen Riggs Center. To say I will miss this place, the fabulous people I had the privilege to work with, and the cottage I called home for the last three months, would be an understatement. It’s been great to form new links across disciplines!
While in residence, I collaborated with a fantastic group of psychologists, established a grounding in psycho biography and psycho history, read more than 100 sources, and wrote 90 rough-draft pages of my manuscript.
This afternoon I’ll head home. I can’t wait to see my dogs, and more importantly, to bring what I learned at Riggs into my courses at Siena this fall! The disease and disability in early American literature class is going to be fabulous!
On July 31, 2019, I gave a talk as part of the new Austen Riggs Center public lecture series on mental health. The series is an extension of the Riggs centennial, and was incorporated into their public exhibit: “The Hospital on Main Street: Human Dignity and Mental Health.”
In my talk, I gave an overview of attitudes toward mental health in the colonial period, beginning with Native American perspectives on mental illness, then covering colonial Puritans in Massachusetts, and ending with the development of secular mental health treatment in the early years of the American republic (pre-contact to about 1812).
My main argument for this research is that attitudes toward mental health have varied, but mental illnesses have always been present in America. At several points, mental illness has been viewed just like any other kind of illness. Colonial Puritans also believed they had a duty to support and care for one another for the good of society. The health of everyone mattered.
Studying the good and bad parts of the history of mental health in this country is valuable because it normalizes and de-stigmatizes mental illness. Putting all aspects of health back into our history can help us be more empathetic, remind us to care for one another, and to see each other as people.
One of Siena’s intrepid school of liberal arts students did a write-up on the “Thinking About Going to Grad School” panel I participated in the other day! I’m so glad our advice can reach a larger audience!
On Wednesday, November 7th, I will be joining two of my English department colleagues to talk to our students about graduate school. Together, we’ll be offering honest advice about whether or not to pursue an MA, MFA, or PhD, and giving tips on what to know prior to starting an academic career. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience and hearing what questions Siena’s students have about grad school!
I’m super excited about the courses I will be teaching at Siena in the spring. In addition to teaching Writing 100 again (with a theme of conspiracy theories which my students are really enjoying!), I am also teaching a Short Story class focused on science fiction, and I’m putting together a brand new course on Rhetoric and Social media! Stay tuned for syllabi and assignment sheets on my teaching page (coming January 2019).