New Faculty 2015-16: Jessica Kent


Congratulations on your full-time appointment in the department! How are you finding the change from part-time to full-time?

When I taught only one section at a time, I found it incredibly rewarding to develop a unique relationship with each student and to trace the progress of each over the course of the semester.  I worried that teaching three sections would mean less personal engagement, and less of a sense of the students as individuals.  I’ve been pleased to find that isn’t the case.  After a few conversations with colleagues early in the semester I decided to add more individual paper conferences, which have allowed me to get to know all of my students well and to offer targeted feedback.  It has been interesting to observe each section developing its own chemistry and tone as well – one group is full of skeptics, for example, and another is full of sharp close readers.

What have you found especially helpful during your transition?

Shared wisdom from WR faculty (old and new) has been incredibly helpful.  Comparing notes with my office-mates has proved inspiring and encouraging, and I’ve been grateful for the advice of my faculty mentor, Stephen Hodin, throughout of the semester.  The faculty seminar on visual rhetoric was a particularly great opportunity to hear about new pedagogical strategies, many of which I plan to try!

Can you tell us a little about the course(s) you are teaching?

This semester I’m teaching three WR100 sections on “The American Family I,” in which we discuss ideal and troubled families in the first half of the twentieth century by way of modern fiction by Chopin, James, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Larsen.  In the spring I’ll teach three sections of WR150, “The American Family II,” which will trace the institution from 1950 through the present.  We will continue to study fiction, but will also explore television, advertisements, films, a memoir and a graphic novel.

Jessica Kent received her PhD in English literature from Boston University.  Her dissertation, which she defended this spring, is entitled “Novelizing Henry James: Contemporary Fiction’s Obsession with the Master and his Work.”


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