When Danielle Spratt moves to California in August to begin her career as an assistant professor of 18th century literature, it will mark her first academic home away from Fordham.
Spratt first came to Fordham as part of the accelerated master of arts program, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English in 2002 and 2004, respectively. She began working on a doctorate in 2005, and this year, doctorate in hand, she will report for work at California State University, Northridge.
Her dissertation, “The Scientifically Marked Body,” analyzes how literature intervenes in—and then critiques—the rhetoric of science in the 18th century.
“The rhetoric from that time period puts forth the belief in unbounded scientific progress—the notion that everything is getting better as a result of scientific advancements. But the literature I’m looking at asks for whom is this good, and for whom is this bad? In particular, the literature looks at colonial acts that subjugate people,” she said.
“We all know Gulliver, right? He was a surgeon and an explorer, which would categorize him as a kind of scientist of the time period,” she said. “He’s going on travels and trying to subject people to his sense of what everyone should be like, which is a prototypical British man—the ‘enlightened’ man. But it always pushes back on him.”
She credited her interest in the subject and her continued work to professors Frank Boyle, Ph.D., Eve Keller, Ph.D., and Susan Greenfield, Ph.D., among others. The Department of English at Fordham, she noted, has a wealth of faculty members who focus on 18th century literature.
“Most universities have one or maybe two faculty members on staff,” she said. “It’s pretty extraordinary that Fordham has five, and they’re all incredibly well respected.”
She said that the pedagogy aspect of her studies, which was overseen by Moshe Gold, Ph.D., associate professor of English, was particularly strong. She reported feeling well prepared to teach in a classroom—a key aspect to her landing a tenure-track position at Cal State.
Working closely with her dissertation committee also made the process of creating it more enjoyable.
“After you’ve taken orals and you’ve written your proposal and your proposal is accepted, you’re at a point where you’re faced with the prospect of writing a 250-page dissertation, and it’s difficult to know where to go,” she said.
“I was lucky in that I had people giving me advice about archives to check and online databases and articles to look at. So even though I had to figure out on my own where I was going with the project, I always had someone to bounce ideas off of,” she said.
“If I didn’t have that, I would have felt a lot less secure about my ability to carry out a project like that over two to three years.”