Christine Weidner is about to make a major transition. She is leaving her job as Library Building Operations Specialist at American University, leaving the East Coast entirely, for an MA/PhD program in English at the University of California Santa Barbara. In this program, she will be specializing in affect theory with emphases in modernism and global studies.
As you might expect, she is excited and a bit nervous. A life-long East Coast resident, Christine grew up in Johnstown, PA, a small city about an hour and a half away from Pittsburgh. As a rising high school freshman, she visited DC as a part of the National Student Leadership Conference. During this conference, she and the other students stayed in the dormitories on the AU campus. When she returned home for the summer, Christine knew that she wanted to come to college at American University.
She began her college career with a major in International Relations, but with each passing semester, she accrued more and more credits in Literature, until it clicked that she had found her passion. For Christine—“Literature is extremely interdisciplinary, providing an avenue of access to a variety of disciplines, including politics and international relations, while offering a methodology that intrigued me. Every day, we’re reading and accessing written information reflexively and this act is worth studying.”
Christine’s experience in a film class taught by Dr. Jeff Middents left her with a profound appreciation for the intersections between film and literature; an interest that influenced her choice in graduate programs. The program at Santa Barbara encompasses both literature and film studies, allowing Christine to further explore her fascination with the “shifting conversation between high and low forms of art, completely different genre expectations within both forms, and the emotional effect of consumed material. Both literature and film shape our definition of intimacyand our construction of beliefs.”
The AU Library has been a “huge part” of Christine’s academic life thus far. She began working at the Library as a student assistant during her sophomore year and accepted a full time position upon graduating in 2014. As a young professional, Christine describes some of the biggest challenges she faced as “extending my education beyond graduation and discovering my identity away from grades and class schedules.” Her job at the Library gave her a “chance to be around people who aren’t afraid to be passionate about their professional work and hobbies.” During her year off, Christine audited two courses, spent lots of time reading books and watching films, and realized along the way that she longed to return to academia.
Her time at the Library provided Christine with a greater familiarity with the academic resources available to her at AU, resources that she found invaluable in her search for an ideal graduate program. She researched the work of various scholars in her field, looking for work that inspired and excited her. As an undergraduate, Christine worked with faculty, particularly in the Literature Department, who nurtured her intellectual interests and left her with a strong desire to teach others. “I want to be the kind of professor that I had at AU—passionate, spreading a desire for knowledge, and sharing what I love with other people.” Recognizing the impact that these instructors had on her goals, she knew the importance of good mentors and focused on searching for a graduate program with advisers who could “help me to become my best self.”
As one of the pleasures of working in academia is watching the next generation of scholars grow and blossom within an intellectual environment, the Library takes great pride in seeing our student workers develop into young professionals and academics. In her time here, Christine has moved from student assistant to library professional to PhD candidate—and we are excited to watch her future unfold.
NW by Zadie Smith. I wrote my thesis on Smith’s first novel, White Teeth, but NW is equally as enjoyable, while still being vastly different because of its experimental style. Smith uses the rich culture of her native northwest London to narrate the friendship of two girls whose lives both converge and diverge from their birthplace.
Interpreter of Maladie by Jumpha Lahiri. This collection of short stories rightly won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. While the stories vary in content, each confronts the pleasures and anxieties of intimacy. My favorite story is “Sexy” in which a child claims sexy “means loving someone who you don’t know.”
Kiss of the Spider Woman is a 1976 novel by Argentine writer Manuel Puig. This metafictional novel focuses on the conversations between two prison inmates and explores their burgeoning relationship as they recount films they’ve seen to each other.
Dil Se is Mani Ratnam's 1998 Hindi film depicting the supposedly discordant themes of love and terrorism. The film dramatizes the fraught attraction between two characters occupying central and peripheral political positions. Gorgeous cinematography (including a dance scene on top of a moving train filmed without any CGI) and astounding music by A.R. Rahman make this a transfixing film about deferred desires.