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New prof focuses on Anglophone literature

10/1/14

Jenna SciutoMCLA’s newest assistant professor of English, Dr. Jenna Sciuto, says it’s important that students study literature to learn more about society and the range of cultures that make up the world in which we live.

It’s a passion she explored as an undergraduate student at Brown University, when she studied abroad in Oxford, England, and after college, when she taught English in two middle schools in the suburbs of Paris France.

“I have always loved analyzing texts and doing literary research,” Sciuto said.

At MCLA, she wants her students to think critically about the ways in which texts are “always already imbedded in social, cultural, and historical contexts.”

Her research investigates the cultural effects of transatlantic European colonialism that persist in the 20th century at three comparable sites—the U.S. South, Haiti, and Rwanda—as revealed in the work of William Faulkner, Marie Vieux-Chauvet and Tierno Monénembo.

“I analyze the literary depictions of racism, sexual violence, and colonial ideologies in these novels to make evident the shared global colonial inheritance and current structures of neocolonialism that span these diverse localities and cultures,” Sciuto explained.

In addition to teaching a class in “Introduction to Literature” and two sections of “College Writing” that also are First Year Seminars, this semester she is teaching an upper-level seminar called “Global Anglophone Language and Literature.”

“I most want students in my Global Anglophone Literature classes to learn about the range of cultural perspectives on literature in the Global Anglophone world, as well as to destabilize any static preconceptions they may have about canonical literature from the Global North and literature from the Global South,” Scuito said.

Sciuto first was drawn to MCLA because of its role as a small liberal arts school within the Massachusetts State University System, as well as its relationship with the community through programs like the Berkshire Compact for Education.

“The people that I met while I was visiting for my campus interviews were all friendly and interesting, and I liked the feel to the place,” she said. “Also, I have always loved the Berkshires.”

So far, Sciuto has found MCLA students to be very interested, engaged, and self-motivated.

“My students have such a range of interests,” she said. “Within my first week, I already had students inviting me to their soccer matches, asking me to read their short stories, recommending books to me, which was very refreshing.”

“I am impressed by the range of activities going on around campus, and I am excited to learn more about the vibrant campus community,” Sciuto added.

Her future research plans include an investigation of depictions of consensual interracial relationships in Global Anglophone Literature.

“What in colonial society is threatened by this sexual activity? I will consider whether and if the conversation changes—or the stakes in the conversation change—when both parties in boundary-crossing relationships relate on an egalitarian plane, deemphasizing racial differences,” she explained.

Sciuto’s other research interests include African Diasporic literatures, postcolonial theory, and gender and sexuality studies. She has an article forthcoming in Faulkner and the Black Literatures of the Americas, a collection of essays to be published by the University Press of Mississippi.