Gatepost Interview: Lisa Eck, Professor of English

Please provide a brief summary of your resume and educational background.

I have a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College, which is a small liberal arts college in the west. I was a double major in English and philosophy. Also, I had concentrations in Asian studies and Scandinavian studies, so a lot of writing. Then, I got my master’s and Ph.D. from Washington University in Saint Louis, where I focused mostly on modernist texts and postcolonialism and, of course, my dissertation.

What motivated you to become a teacher?

Well, because I was also a philosophy major, I really liked the sort of big theoretical questions that you are never done asking and answering. And so for me, I almost went the route of philosophy, but I realized that literature is really the best teacher … So one day, I’m an historian, and the next, I’m a shrink. Then, I’m teaching psychology and culture. I love the interdisciplinarity of the field. The reason to be a professor is to engage and keep pushing yourself with the materials and by your colleagues. You can’t get stuck in a series of lesson plans.

What courses do you teach here?

I teach Expository Writing, which I love, because I love greeting fall freshmen. I teach that course always with themes about world culture and cultural difference. Then, I teach a research methods course, which is called Literary Study. My specialty, because we all have a division of labor in the department, is I teach contemporary world literature. I teach Contemporary World Literature by Women, and so you kind of get a bit of flavor.

Why did you decide to teach at FSU?

My father was a treasurer at Salem State College, and so I always had this appreciation for the mission of state colleges. I always knew they were animated, fabulous places with a lot of talent. I grew up in Massachusetts, went to school in Illinois and Missouri, and then I had my first job in North Carolina. So for me, it was a homecoming. To teach at America’s oldest teachers’ college – that really matters. It’s a place where your teaching is valued. Half the people in a classroom are going to be future teachers, and you just can’t put a price on that.

Do you have any hobbies?

My hobbies are modern dance – I’ve always been a dancer. I perform and I choreograph. I used to be in a professional dance company for 10 years, so it one of my languages. My other hobby is probably photography. I have been lucky enough to take students abroad, and part of being there is photographing what I am seeing, so I take pride in my photos.

Are you currently working on any projects?

I have a few projects. I am looking to publish a piece on Chinese short shorts, and they are like sudden fiction of 1,500 words or less, or in China, 1,600 characters or less. As an outsider looking in, these short shorts give you a snapshot of Chinese life, and they don’t allow you to generalize. I am also rewriting a piece on Salman Rushdie that I presented at a conference about “The Satanic Verses.” Then, I just pitched an idea to a conference this spring about what literary theory students in China should be using. Like, does theory import well? Is it hard to take American theories and translate them? And should the Chinese have “a theory of their own?”

Do you have any advice for students?

The main advice to give is to own your intellectual persona. That this is a place where you should be talking out loud about your interests and picking courses that combine in interesting ways. My advice is to be much more pro-active in why you are taking a course and what motivates you. You need to make sure your education is speaking to you because otherwise, I think it would just be boring. Taking writing-intensive courses is important because you should be testing your voice here. Go for the difficult classes. Get your money’s worth out of college.

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