Author & Interviewer: Nethra Rammohan
NR: When did you cultivate an interest in literature, and what prompted you to pursue it as a profession?
NH: I always loved reading, and as an only child I spent a lot of time with books. In middle school and high school, I was really involved in theater and wanted to become an actress. My high school English teacher was encouraging me to apply to acting schools, which was not something my parents were thrilled about — they told me I had to go to college first. In college, the classes I found most interesting and stimulating were in the humanities and I had some really engaging and inspiring professors. I became an English and Art History double major and then went on to graduate school — where I realized I really loved teaching and research and could put my creative and performative skills to work in a path as a literature professor.
NR: In addition to teaching, you’re a certified yoga instructor, and a co-founder of our school’s wellness initiative - WELLMC. How do yoga and mindfulness intertwine with your academic discipline?
NH: I’ve been practicing yoga for much of my life and teaching since 2004. I continue to study yoga, meditation, and other healing modalities, and my recent research is on the history and cultures of these practices. While I used to think of my yoga practice as separate from my academic work, the two have become increasingly connected. My yoga practice supports my well-being and productivity and in turn supports the environment I create for students at GT. Yoga practices cultivate awareness and encourage individuals and communities to thrive. It’s exciting to do this work in a moment when people are more open to recognizing how practices like meditation and yoga can support our healing and growth and also help us become better versions of ourselves. These practices also intersect with issues of social justice and help us build more sustainable and healthy communities. Contemplative practices like yoga and meditation enhance our intuition and creativity and help us work in collaborative and empathetic ways. They align with the work we seek to do in the humanities and are increasingly important, particularly as we navigate this pandemic and working so much online. I’ve never limited myself to doing just one thing. Bringing these worlds together allows me to grow creatively and amplify the various things I love.
NR: If you weren’t specializing in academia, what career would you have pursued?
NH: A career in film or art and design, public relations, or something related to alternative medicine and healing.
NR: You’ve taught a wide array of LMC courses, ranging from STAC seminars to Victorian literature classes. What’s your favorite course to teach and why?
NH: One of the things I love about teaching in LMC is the opportunity to teach such a diverse range of courses and to be creative while planning them. I love how GT students can be really earnest, curious, smart, and open to learning new things. I’ve enjoyed teaching some of the senior seminar courses because they have been a way to share more research interests more fully with students and usually these are smaller, discussion based classes. I taught one on Cultural Histories of the Body and one on Cultures of Race and Empire (I’ve also taught this as a Global Media and Cultures graduate class). I recently taught Literature and Medicine and enjoyed every moment of it, especially since the topic is so timely. But my all-around favorite course to teach is Victorian Literature and Culture — when I teach this class I feel like I’m really in my zone and there is so much to cover and share with students. We draw so many connections to our current environment and culture through reading texts about the nineteenth century. And Victorian novels may be long, but they are fun and immersive and help us know ourselves better.
NR: As a lover of literature and culture, what sort of books (or other media) do you keep in your personal library? Do you have any favorite authors or works, both within and outside of your academic wheelhouse?
NH: Oh my gosh so many books! My office and home are both pretty full of them. I have lots of books on nineteenth century literature and art, critical theory and gender studies, books by South Asian and postcolonial writers, and books on yoga and nutrition. I’m also collecting old Victorian health guides and domestic manuals. It’s hard to say what the favorites are because there are so many, and I hate favorite questions — too hard to choose!
This story was written by third year LMC major and Editorial Intern for CoLab, Nethra Rammohan.
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