I believe the process of shaping the sometimes random and confusing events of our lives and the world around us into narrative is essential to the human experience. My driving questions are: how can I tell better stories? Truer stories? How can I connect people across the borders of experience, language, and culture through the sharing of narratives? As a graduate student, teacher, and advocate for the humanities, I strive to answer these questions.
My Duke story began with the FOCUS program in the fall of my freshman year. I elected the “Medieval and Renaissance Worlds” cluster and was placed into classes of four and six students working closely with some Duke’s top faculty. Our group met on Wednesday nights to fence, dance Renaissance jigs, and talk about what we were learning. It was then that I fell in love with Shakespeare, one of the world’s greatest storytellers. The Battle of Agincourt in Henry V arrested my attention, especially Hal’s line: “This story shall the good man teach his son;/ and Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,/ From this day to the ending of the world,/ But we in it shall be remembered”(4.2.232-5). The playwright immortalized a moment in history with his pen, with his ability to bring the monarchs and moments of the past to life on the stage. Each time the Welshmen rush the stage, leeks in their hats and victorious smiles on their faces, the battle and the soldiers live again. I resolved to write stories like that, stories that live.
My love of Shakespeare propelled me to London in Summer 2012, where I participated in the "Duke in London: Drama" program. In conjunction with the Olympics, the World Shakespeare festival brought theatre troupes from around the world to my doorstep. A genuinely Elizabethan Richard III at the Globe, a Twelfth Night set in back-alley Miami, and a Winter’s Tale that turned the sheep-shearing scene into Woodstock—these iterations transformed plays written in England four centuries ago into instruments of national identity in the great cultural pageant of the Games. One thing led to another: I studied abroad at the University of Oxford in Spring 2014, where I began research for my senior thesis, "Every Dram of Woman's Flesh: Paulina's Role and Remedy in The Winter's Tale." I returned to Oxford for a Master's in 2015.
I'm now a PhD student in English at Harvard. In my teaching and research, I seek to tell new stories about (and through) Shakespeare. Because of Shakespeare's cultural status, probing his works' original context––as well as their interpretation and performance over time––reveals a lot about how people conceive of power, identity, themselves, and their world. The free, open-enrollment online course I developed with my advisor at Harvard for edX, "Othello's Story" (launching September 2018), explores many of these themes through Shakespeare's Othello. On trial in Venice, Othello testifies that Desdemona fell in love with him after hearing “the story of my life, / From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes, / That I have passed” (1.3.146-8). Whether online or in the classroom, I hope that my students fall in love with Shakespeare's stories; more importantly, I hope they are empowered to tell their own.