The English department here at Plymouth State University has grown since last semester with the addition of Assistant Professor of Early American Literature, Abby Goode! To celebrate her induction into the Ellen Reed enclave, I asked Abby a few questions to learn a bit more about her. And of course I asked her what her favorite book is because English majors and bibliophiles alike always want to know the answer to that question…right? Anyways, onto the interview!
1. What do you teach at PSU?
Since this is my first year, I’m working on developing a range of courses, from Currents in American Literature I to Wilderness Literature to Composition to Critical Theory. Each course has its own distinct flavor and I bring my research interests of transnational American studies, gender studies, and sustainability studies to each of courses.
For example, this semester, I’m piloting a sustainability-themed composition course. Meanwhile, my “Currents” students have been working on challenging and redefining what constitutes American literature and asking if it makes sense to use national boundaries to define literary traditions. With these questions in mind, we’ll be working on re-anthologizing early American literature.
2. Why were you interested in teaching at PSU and what do you think sets it apart from other universities?
First of all, and I’m being totally honest here: I LOVE NEW ENGLAND! (especially, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont). I went to the University of Vermont for my B.A. and I’m originally from Maine. I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life in New York City and Houston, so it’s amazing to be back in New Hampshire, with a Hannaford’s down the road that sells Country Kitchen donuts and B&M baked beans (the foods of my childhood). Second of all, when I interviewed for the job here, I asked a faculty member to tell me the best thing about working at PSU. The response? “The people.” I’ve found so far that this is an incredibly supportive, welcoming, and social community of thoughtful instructors, productive researchers, and engaged students. I knew that being a part of this community would challenge me to try new things with my teaching practice, but also connect me with warm, interesting, and smart people!
3. If you could create your own English class, what would it focus on and why?
I am creating my own English class, and it’s called “Eating American Literature”! My hope was to create a special topics course that engaged my own research interests but connected them to broader, relevant debates. I’m working on a book about the history of agriculture, sustainability, and population control in nineteenth-century American literature. “Eating American Literature” features food writing and memoirs from the 20th and 21st centuries that shows how we are connecting sustainable practices with early American concepts of small farming and homesteading. I’m interested in learning what students have to say about that connection. (She’s teaching it in the spring, wink wink.)
4. What’s your favorite book? Why?
WHAT A QUESTION! I’m a sucker for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (it’s the first book I ever taught in a college classroom). But I also love Nella Larsen’s Passing because I find something new every time I read it. It links issues of class, race, gender, and sexuality so intimately, so disturbingly well. I just read Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer and loved it, and currently, I’m reading Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation.
5. If you could go back in time and tell your college self one thing, what would it be?
BE SOCIAL! Find what you care about and use it to connect with people. Join a club, participate in student government or political campaigns, tutor students in the community, become active. I loved college, and I really focused on reading and studying a lot. The reading and studying is an important piece, and finding what you care about in the community is arguably just as important.