Sharon Tang-Quan Joins English Department

Sharon Tan-QuanYou are interested in “Mind Theory.” How do you use that in literary studies?

“As I studied English, American, and Anglophone literature I began pursuing the specialization in 'Literature and the Mind Theory,' which considers psychoanalytic, philosophical, and neuroscientific approaches to literary study. The community of scholars discusses how language structures the mind’s representations and re-workings of reality. I’m curious as to how literature influences the imagination and our experience of the world. Studying literature and the mind also helps me think through how reading can teach us empathy and compassion, especially when we read the literatures of ethnicities different from our own.”

Your dissertation concerns the development of Asian-American immigrant literature since the middle of the twentieth-century. What are the major changes that you see in the development of this literature? What are some of its landmark works ?

"As I look at theories of utopia in the works of contemporary transnational immigrant authors I see how re-imagined representations of migration and land-orientation signal the emergence of new hope, one that is less nation-based and more invested in a global and spiritual identity. Some of the landmark works include Lin Yutang’s Chinatown Family, Li-Young Lee’s “The Cleaving,” Nieh Hualing’s Mulberry and Peach, Wang Ping’s Of Flesh & Spirit, and Ha Jin’s A Free Life. These texts engage transnational histories and histories of American capitalism and American democracy to shape a new transnational immigrant sensibility in U.S. literary studies. Studying immigrant attempts to achieve a utopia 'of one’s own' puts pressure on the US as a presumed utopian site and reframes the conventional image of the country as a promised land."

What author, novel, poem, or character inspires you?

“My favorite authors are King David (the poetic intimacy of the Psalms) and Jane Austen (her narration and wit). Maxine Hong Kingston’s novel The Woman Warrior changed the way I understood creating culture and talking story. One of my favorite poems is “The Cleaving,” the epic by Li-Young Lee, especially with its representation of the Eucharist. In this last year I co-facilitated a Chronicles of Narnia book club and developed a deeper appreciation of Lucy Pevensie. I think it is her faith that enables her to find Narnia through the Wardrobe. I am looking forward to working near the Wardrobe in Reynolds Hall.”

While you have focused recently on contemporary immigrant literature, I am sure that you have favorite American books from the early twentieth and nineteenth centuries. Can you share a few of them?

"If I had to choose a dozen, then I would go with Zitkala-Sa's American Indian Stories, Sui Sin Far's Mrs. Spring Fragrance, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Jean Toomer's Cane, Emily Dickinson's poetry, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, and Langston Hughes's poetry."

Westmont is different than UCSB and Berkeley, the universities you attended for your education. How do you anticipate adjusting to a full-time teaching position at a different institution?

“At UCSB and Berkeley I was grateful to have a number of faculty mentors who were generous with their time and who invested in me. With their example and the high standard of my Westmont faculty colleagues, I hope to mentor students. The hope and faith I have in Jesus Christ deeply affects my scholarly work and teaching. My pedagogy and syllabi respond to a question I ask myself, that is, 'How can the framework of literature help my students know how to love and desire the Kingdom of God?'"

Are there worship or prayer practices you utilize to keep yourself grounded and healthy?

“To keep myself grounded and spiritually healthy I surround myself with community. I’m blessed to have a church family in Santa Barbara Community Church where I have grown from the Sunday School, morning prayer, and home-group ministries. Meeting regularly with two graduate groups who discuss faith and academic inquiry has sharpened me through thought-provoking discussions and encouragement. In being intentional about community, I value hospitality, service, and acts of mercy.”