One new English prof, worlds of expertise

The English and Comparative Literature departments have acquired new faculty expertise in areas including post-World War II German cinema, nationalism in British novels, colonial literature, early children’s literature, and Canadian literature.

Remarkably, this influx of knowledge comes from only one new faculty member, Katie Trumpener of the University of Chicago. The 40-year-old scholar has accepted a senior offer at Yale and will begin teaching in January 2003.

“The only problem is that she can only teach x number of courses at a time,” English chair Ruth Yeazell said. “She’s a wonderfully enthusiastic person and amazingly young.”

Trumpener currently is studying at the Berlin Academy in Germany and has accepted the prestigious Humboldt fellowship to study in Germany next fall before she comes to Yale.

Faculty and administrators seemed unanimous in their acclaim of Trumpener — in fact, both departments approved her appointment unanimously, Comparative Literature chairman Michael Holquist said.

“I think she’s a real catch,” Holquist said.

And Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead had even more effusive praise.

“Katie Trumpener is legendary for her brilliance, her range of interests, and her generosity as a teacher and colleague,” Brodhead said in an e-mail. “We’re very lucky that she’s decided to come to Yale.”

Trumpener said she left Chicago because she was drawn to many unique features of Yale.

“Since the advent of comparative literature as a discipline in North America, Yale has always had the preeminent department in the field,” Trumpener said from Germany in an e-mail. “I’m especially eager to get involved with its famous undergraduate literature program, with its new World Literature course, and with the new initiatives in film studies.”

She also praised the philosophy of the English department, which she said creates a different environment from the one she experienced at Chicago.

“I’m very impressed with its (now-unusual) retention of an undergraduate curriculum that is still based — as it was in my own undergraduate days [at the University of Alberta, Canada] — on poetry and on literary history,” she said. “I learned a great deal from teaching at Chicago and expect to find myself reshaped intellectually, yet again, by teaching in Yale’s very different curriculum.”

Trumpener has published one book, “Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire.” The work examined how nationalist debates helped shape the British novel in Britain and then throughout Canada and the colonial world. It won the Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book.

She will soon publish her second book, “The Divided Screen: The Cinemas of Postwar Germany,” and she has written several essays on 18th- and 19th-century children’s literature that she said she may develop into a book.

Although Trumpener praised the opportunity she hopes to find at Yale to teach on a wide range of topics, she also found other aspects of the University enticing.

“I’m very taken with the architectural beauty of New Haven and, having grown up in Western Canada and lived for years in the American Midwest, the thought of living in a place that actually had a 17th and an 18th century,” she said.

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