2009 Graduate, M.A. in Literature
Dr. Lenora Hanson, who received an M.A. in literature and a certificate in nineteenth century studies from UNL in 2009, is an assistant professor of English at New York University. The forthcoming publication of their book, The Romantic Rhetoric of Accumulation, is set for this coming winter.
Dr. Hanson’s scholarship explores the intersections between British Romanticism, colonial Jamaica, rhetoric and rhetorical reading, and studies in Marxism, feminism, and colonialism. Of particular interest are accounts of dispossession and what Marx ironically referred to as “so-called primitive accumulation.”
They teach undergraduate and graduate courses at NYU, primarily on topics in, or in relation to, Romanticism, and work collaboratively on projects relating to higher education, capitalism, and alternative ways of organizing study and education.
What are you currently most excited about in your professional life?
Probably because of the COVID context of teaching, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on what the parameters of the classroom are and the ethics of assignments and grading, and the extent to which COVID has really clarified how thin of a boundary there is between the classroom and students’ outside lives.
And while that’s been disruptive in a lot of ways, for me, it’s been really clarifying and allowed for me to think about something that I already felt personally, but hadn’t really felt was intellectually meaningful before, which is just: how to give students space to bring in things from their outside lives and center them as intellectual components of the classes I’m teaching. That sounds really big, but at the end of the day, it’s (about) making small modifications to the class.
The COVID teaching world has definitely helped me to decathect even more from disciplinary orientations, which I never had a super strong commitment to, anyway. I feel like my own personal reasons for studying Romanticism are quite strange and not particularly academic. Maybe that’s true for everyone, but (I’ve been) just reflecting on my own personal orientation towards how I came to studying literature, which wasn’t in a particularly disciplinary mode, and thinking about (questions like): How can I craft assignments and grading… and these kinds of things in a way that speaks more to students’ own intellectual histories and backgrounds? And how to center those in a way that isn’t just about a student-centered classroom, but that helps us to move between literary texts that can feel pretty far away from them and their own backgrounds. I would say that’s something I’ve been spending a lot of the time this past year thinking about.
I co-taught a class with Dr. Fred Moten in Performance Studies here at the beginning of COVID, and we just made it (enrollment) wide open, like anyone can join. He’s a well-known, established person, so that meant we had like sixty people in the class… But the central focus of that class was really not having a syllabus and figuring out how to run a weekly discussion or conversation that is still focused on a topic, but a topic that can kind of branch out on the basis of whoever is in the class at a given point. And one thing that I really appreciated about it was just the demand to come to class every week and say, “What are we here for? What are we doing this week? Why do we want to be here?”
And you know, I felt like that was just a kind of refreshing approach to breaking away from the kind of mechanical things that we can get into when we think that our job is just to assess students or something. [...]
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2018 Graduate, M.A. in Literature
Madhumita Gupta’s professional life is multifaceted and could be described as both Alt Ac and academic. After graduating with an M.A. in literature and a certificate in nineteenth century studies in 2018, she moved back to her home country of India. Today she works as an educator, a translator, an editor, and a freelance writer in the city of Alwar.
Her work as an educator has taken several different forms. She works with secondary school students in her roles as an assistant examiner for the International Baccalaureate, a global nonprofit educational organization, and as a writing mentor for Scholastic, the largest children’s book publisher in the world. Moreover, she educates teachers as a teacher trainer for the English Language and Literature Trainer, a training and development wing of Oxford University Press.
Gupta’s translation of a collection of Bengali stories by nineteenth-century writer Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury was published in 2021 as Tuntuni and Other Jungle Tales from Bengal. Additionally, as part of her position at Scholastic, she and her students crafted a Scholastic anthology titled Weavers of Wonder, which has recently been published.
What are you currently excited about in your professional life?
There are three things that I’m doing currently. I’m an assistant examiner for the International Baccalaureate. Here, what I’m enjoying most is how articulate these kids are—the topics they are picking up, the way they are speaking, the depth of knowledge they have. I am learning so much from them! I feel like less of an examiner, more of a student. So that I find most exciting. Another thing is that I’m getting students from all over the world; that adds to it.
The second thing is that I am a writing mentor for Scholastic. So again, young kids, such bright minds, and I get a chance to spend twenty hours with them, talk to them. That I really enjoy—being with younger people. And… I will show you my first book! (holding up Weavers of Wonder, the Scholastic anthology that resulted from her work with students as a writing mentor) It arrived today. This was (from) the first group (of students) which I mentored, and the book just came out. It’s the first. I am looking forward to many more!
The other thing, which is with Oxford University Press, is that I am a teacher trainer. The exciting part there is that I get to travel all over India. They take really good care of their mentors, and I get to see a lot of new places I never thought I would ever visit! … For the last two years, it has been online (because of COVID), but before that, I was traveling, and that was cool. And I was able to stay in those swanky hotels, interact with teachers all over India, and visit so many schools. I did not like traveling that much (previously), but this was fun.
It’s fun interacting with both sides (teachers and students). You hear the teachers, hear the students. Then I get to hear my students gripe about teachers, teachers gripe about students… (chuckling)
What comes to mind as a favorite memory from your time at UNL?
Apart from the classes I took, the best part was also teaching. When I was teaching my first class, I was worried (that the students might think), “Here is an Asian person. My native language is English. What is she going to teach me?” And then the quick acceptance that they have—that was the most wonderful part. In a matter of days, they were like, “Yes, we are ready to listen to you.” That was lovely… such a wonderful experience. I look back at that with a lot of satisfaction. It was a lovely period. [...]
Read the full interview here