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Quest10s: An interview with Kathleen Chamberlain

by Adam Alley on 2020-05-14T09:51:00-04:00 | Comments

I hope everyone's is enjoying the warming weather, the chirping birds, and the blue skies. Its already starting to feel like summer! Continuing on my Emory and Henry journey, I have the next interview ready for you the read! For our second interview I paid a visit (via email - remember to practice social distancing!) to the English Department and shared my ten questions with Professor Kathleen Chamberlain. Once again, the following content has been unedited, unabridged, and uncensored for your enjoyment, entertainment, and curiosity! Without further ado, on to the first question:


-photo courtesy of E&H College

Question #1: What is your name, department and area of study, and an odd or unique fact about your field of study that isn’t commonly known?

Name:  Dr. Kathleen Chamberlain

Department:  English and Women's/Gender Studies

Specialties:  Nineteenth-Century British literature, women's literature, popular culture.

Interesting Fact:  As a scholar of popular culture, I study things like Star Trek, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, the Three Stooges, Nancy Drew -- and I get to call it "work."


Question #2: Recommend a favorite book, movie, tv show and hit me with your best elevator pitch. 

Choosing just one is very difficult! But I'll go with something that I think is appropriate for our current situation of quarantine and disruption.  In such times, I want to keep up with important news, but I also want to read and watch things that comfort me.

In times of uncertainty and stress, I often return to the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.  Virtually every English speaker has heard of Sherlock Holmes, the great detective, who solves mysteries and crimes through his amazing observational and logical skills.  Yet a lot of people haven't yet had the pleasure of reading the original stories.

I highly recommend them:  not only are they fun and intriguing and a perfect time machine to immerse us in the Victorian past, but they also are very potent psychological medicine.  They comfort us with the idea that no matter how confusing and mysterious and seemingly impossible a problem is, there will be some brilliant person -- some metaphorical "Sherlock Holmes" -- who will come along and use science and reasoning to give us all the solutions.

Is this idea a fantasy? Of course. Mostly. But science and reasoning actually do give us a lot of answers to vexing problems, and Holmes embodies that process.

So that's why the Sherlock Holmes stories are like a lovely, warm security blanket to me, especially these days.

Even better, you can read all of Holmes (56 short stories, four novels) online for free at Project Gutenberg:


Question #3:Do you have any pets? If you don’t have any pets, what is your favorite animal? Why?

Pets:  None.  I love cats, but I'm allergic to them.

Favorite animal:  I'm rather partial to elephants.  They look endearing, and they're very smart. 


Question #4:What is your favorite food dish to make? Would you be willing to share the recipe?

I'll be honest, I'm not much of a cook.  Dinner for me during the school year is just whatever I can get together fast, like sandwiches or soup.

When I do cook for myself, I usually make a big pot of curry on a Sunday and eat it all week.  It's easy -- I start with a prepared curry simmer sauce from a jar (I like Sharwood's or Patak's; Kroger's store brand is pretty good, too.)  Then I add whatever meat and/or vegetables I have on hand or that I like best (it's a recipe easily adapted to carnivores or vegetarians.)  

My favorite combo is chicken, broccoli, green pepper, red onion. Sometimes I add potatoes. I chop up the veggies and meat, pour on the sauce, and simmer until everything is tender.  Then I mix in some brown rice and top with toasted almonds and a nice spicy chutney.  (I usually use Trader Joe's Mango-Ginger Chutney.  It's got a good bite to it.)

Of course, many people actually do like to cook, and if you prefer to make your own simmer sauce and chutney, it's not hard.  Lots of good recipes online.


Question #5:If you were to write an autobiography, what would be the title? How would it begin? 

It would be called Do It Later:  How I Learned to Celebrate and Embrace My Inner Procrastinator.

Chapter 1 -- "I've intended for years to write my memoirs.  But I keep putting it off."


Question #6:What initially drew you to Emory & Henry College? 

The chance to teach Victorian literature in a small-campus setting. 


Question #7: What is your favorite thing to do on campus?

Take walks!  There's no prettier campus anywhere.  I'm also a big theater buff, so I love watching live plays and musicals and concerts at the Arts Center. And lunch in the cafeteria with my rollicking colleagues is always fun.  Compared to my undergrad college cafeteria, Van Dyke is a gourmet paradise.


Question #8: How would you best define the E&H Community and describe what it means to you to be a member of it?

The E&H Community is always a source of support to me.  It's genuinely a family, a place where I feel I belong.  Of course, no family is perfect (sometimes your loved ones just get on your nerves), but I'm not looking for perfection.  I'm looking for a home.  I've found it in Emory & Henry. 


Question #9:Will you be teaching online courses? Do you have any advice or tips for students who may be experiencing online courses for the first time?

What we're doing this spring isn't really "online teaching" so much as it is "emergency distance learning."  But real online teaching offers a lot of flexibility for students, and I'm sure we'll all be doing more of it in the future. (Although to me, the heart of Emory & Henry will always be the chance to work one-on-one, face-to-face with students.  Our faculty and administrators are equally committed to that personalized experience, so we'll never become a solely online campus.)

My advice for students would be to participate in the opportunities for community that an online course can offer:  discussion boards, chats, Zoom meetings with professors and classmates, the chance to Zoom with some exciting visitor.  For instance, Dr. Bremner in the Theatre Department recently had some of her professional actor friends Zoom in to talk with her class about Shakespeare; Dr. Sarah Fisher in Political Science invited Robert Thomas-Garcia, an alum of the College and a member of the Board of Trustees, to talk about his career as a State Department diplomat.  

So I'd say to students:  online courses don't have to be impersonal; you can build excellent communities in them. 

Question #10: You have been given the opportunity to address the entire campus community; what words of wisdom, encouragement, or inspiration do you have to share?

Usually when people consciously try to be inspiring, they're not.  So I won't try.  I'll just pass along a lesson that I've learned through many years of experience.

From childhood on, we're often told, "Never give up.  Don't quit.  Keep going no matter what."  Well, sometimes that's good advice, but often it's not.  It's true that you don't want to quit solely out of fear or frustration, but it's also true that there's no virtue or value in continuing to fight a lost cause.  

So -- Learn what you're good at.  Learn what you actually want to do. Then give yourself permission to step away from what's not working.  Knowing when to quit is just as important as knowing when not to.


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