Ivy League alums to join English faculty

When four new junior professors join the Yale English Department this fall, they will bring with them a diversity of interests, but will share one common bond — Ivy League backgrounds.

In what English chairwoman Ruth Yeazell called “an excellent year” of hiring, the department recruited Columbia University doctoral candidate Nicole Rice ’95, Lloyd Pratt of Harvard University, James Kearney of the University of Pennsylvania, and Mokhtar Ghambou, who is already at Yale on a postdoctoral fellowship.

“Initially, we were only looking for two people,” Yeazell said. “But we ended up making four offers. We wouldn’t have made four offers if we weren’t really pleased with the candidates.”

Rice, who specializes in Middle English literature, will teach a section of English 125, “Major English Poets,” and an undergraduate seminar on medieval women.

Rice said that in addition to the department’s strong reputation and comprehensive resources, she is looking forward to returning to her alma mater and becoming a member of Yale’s closely-knit department, a welcome change from Columbia’s currently fractured department.

A recent New York Times article said Columbia’s English Department was ravaged by a “civil war,” characterized by ideological battles and a struggle to fill its senior faculty ranks.

“I haven’t really experienced the trauma or controversy at Columbia that much,” Rice said. “But I think Yale’s department seems to be quite collegial and not as ideologically fragmented.”

Rice said she feels very fortunate that Yale chose her, but added that she will miss her home in New York City.

“Moving from Brooklyn to Connecticut will probably be the most tragic part,” Rice said.

Pratt, a lecturer at Harvard, will also be making the transition from a major metropolitan area to New Haven, a change he says is welcome.

“I’m just looking forward to being at Yale,” Pratt said. “The students are interesting and Yale just has a collection of really top-notch faculty.”

A specialist in antebellum literature, Pratt will teach a section of English 127, an introductory course on American literature. He will also teach an undergraduate seminar on 19th-century American literature.

Pratt said he was especially attracted to Yale because of the department’s high level of interaction with other departments, such as American Studies, African American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Kearney, a Renaissance specialist, will teach English 125, as well as English 129, “The European Literary Tradition.” He will also offer a seminar on William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

Yeazell said she is excited about Kearney’s arrival because he will strengthen the department’s offerings in post-colonial drama.

“It’s an area which could be stronger,” Yeazell said. “We’ve been looking for a number of years now and we’re glad that we’ve found someone we’re happy with.”

Kearney, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Penn, said he is excited about the transition from Penn to Yale because of Yale’s “intellectually invigorating environment.”

“I’m not sure really what to expect,” Kearney said. “They’re both Ivy League institutions, so I’m expecting that they’ll have certain similarities, but every department has its own unique character and I’m looking forward to seeing what Yale’s is.”

Ghambou, who could not be reached for comment, will also offer a section of English 127. A specialist in post-colonial world literature in English, Ghambou has studied in Morocco and has taught American literature in France.

“He has a very intriguing background since he’s studied in Morocco and at the Sorbonne,” Yeazell said. “So I think it’ll be very interesting to see his perspective on American literature.”

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