Earlier in the semester, the Department of English announced the appointment of several new faculty members. In this post, we get to know Dr. Spear as part of an ongoing “Q and A” series with our recent faculty additions.
Q: What can you share about your research area and your current projects?
A: My research deals with writing as a form of healing, for self and for others, and pulls from expressive therapy theories as well as autobiographical and trauma studies. I focus primarily on contemporary nonfiction texts by women authors who write about their traumatic experiences, including, but not limited to, illness and rape. One of my current projects examines a specific rape narrative, where the author blurs her personal story with a cultural call for change. Arguing that society’s dominant narrative silences rape stories and weaving her different storylines together, the author constructs a clever text, filled with stylistic choices aimed towards restoring her own agency as well as invoking a shift in how others perceive and discuss rape.
Q: What text has been most influential in your teaching?
A: While a number of texts come immediately to mind, I can, without a doubt, say that two have and will continue to have huge impacts on my teaching: Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress. Also, I should note that Henri J. M. Nouwen’s The Wounded Healer offered a framework for how I think about teaching and its purposes, being instrumental in my conception of a “wounded healer pedagogy,” a pedagogy that I outline to focus on healing and compassion through the use of personal stories.
Q: How might students explain your teaching style or your course?
A: I cannot speak for my students, and they would be better at answering this particular question. However, I can share that students’ comments have been positive and often highlight the challenge as well as the gain. To explain, I do hold students to high standards, and they constantly impress me. Also, I encourage them to be active participants in the course as well as their learning process, and together, every student assists in creating our classroom dynamic. In addition, I know I carefully construct courses to cover the material while working with informal and formal writing assignments, layering a number of objectives, and encouraging personal investment.
Q: What are you currently reading?
A: I spent my summer reading a number of books by some talented writers. A couple included Jemyn Ward’s Men We Reaped, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen. I had such an ambitious list. Sadly, I have not had the chance to finish everything on that list, but currently, I am enjoying Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir and Andrew Malan Milward’s The Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Q: What is one of your talents or an interesting fact about you that tends to surprise your students or colleagues?
A: I like to think that I am full of hidden talents and random facts, but perhaps an easy answer to this question is that once upon a time, I played basketball. I also danced, so I had the most graceful layups on the court.