C. S. Lewis is reported to have said “you can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” Like many English professors, I share that sentiment and have managed to make that childlike love of a good story the basis for my professional work. My research and teaching center on narratives—their shapes and structures, their language and implications, and their character-relationships that make story worlds come alive. Be it characterization in Beowulf, the construction of gender and desire in Donne, the conversation about just how men and women ought to relate to each other in the marriage-plot novel, or the ongoing struggle in contemporary serial television about all these issues and more, my teaching focuses on the ways in which literature not only mirrors the world but actively shapes society and human practice.
But this more than a theoretical opinion. Through mothering two small children, I’ve grown to appreciate the formative power of story all the more. Watching my children re-enact the scripts created by their reading and viewing, I am both awed and afraid of the power stories hold over us. Attention to the subtly and power of our narratives continually invigorates my professional work—by understanding how stories shaped the past, we will better understand how stories might also shape our future.
Explore the site to learn more about my research, teaching & contribution to the academy.
Jessica Ann Hughes