From the August 2018 Desktop News | Dr. Catherine M. Roach, a professor of gender and cultural studies in New College, recently received a Fulbright award to teach and consult about curriculum at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.
The award was received as a part of her five-year appointment to the Fulbright Specialist Roster, for which she was selected in 2016. The roster consists of a select group of faculty and professionals who are activated and placed, on a case by case basis, on needed consultation projects around the world.
Roach was selected to work in Greece for two weeks during the summer, participating in the University of Thessaloniki’s fourth annual summer school titled “Discussing Gender: Confrontations and Challenges.”
“Thirty-five students and a handful of visitors participated in this summer school,” Roach wrote in her report to the Fulbright Board. “I prepared lesson plans, gave lectures, led discussion sessions, planned and carried out a hands-on ‘cut-up’ workshop, contributed to the course e-learning platform, evaluated completed student assignments, and worked closely with a School of English Ph.D. student as my co-instructor.”
The summer school was attended by university students as well as local secondary education teachers interested in professional development. While two of the other professors on the project taught about gender in relation to graphic novels and drag, Roach focused her course on romantic narratives.
“We analyzed how the narrative of ‘find your one true love,’ plays out in American culture,” Roach said. “It is a ubiquitous cultural storyline that you see everywhere in movies, advertising, in the wedding industry, and even in people’s lived experiences. We chase romance even when it’s not in our best interest. There is cultural pressure to adhere to the storyline and meld to the way that storyline shapes our notions of gender.”
For the course, the students studied Roach’s recently published Happily Ever After, which explores why the romance genre is so compelling to readers and what the study of the romance novel can offer in reference to happiness, love, and sex in American culture. The class also used Indigo, an African American romance novel about the Underground Railroad by Beverly Jenkins, as a case study.
“The students were extremely engaged and eager to learn,” Roach said. “And I was able to meet some wonderful colleagues doing great work in American studies.”
As a result of her trip, Roach has conceived of a potential conference and eventual edited book collection analyzing themes of religion in television and film. The conference is slated to take place in May 2019, and is a collaboration with UA’s Dr. Ted Trost and Aristotle University’s Dr. Betty Kaklamanidou, a film studies professor in Greece.
The University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences has a long-running collaboration and partnership with Aristotle University of Thessaloniki called the Greece Initiative. Through the Greece Initiative, the College of Arts and Sciences is working to move beyond brief study abroad trips and develop a formal, cross-disciplinary collaborative relationship with Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, one of Greece’s major research universities in Greece’s second largest city.