Sept. 23rd, 2019
Dr. Victoria Smith, who became Chair of the English Department this Fall, has always loved traveling and exploring new places. During the senior year of her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Greece, and this passion for immersing herself in another culture only grew. Each morning she woke up in her apartment on Democritus Street, the smell of warm bread filling the air as it wafted up from the bakery below. On Thursdays, beginning in the early hours of the morning, this aroma scented the bustle of vendors setting up their stalls for the weekly street market. Excitement on the street grew equally with anticipation for the market and the desire to socialize, which is characteristic of the very expressive Greek people. Dr. Smith reflects on this formative experience by noting that “being immersed in that culture and being able to travel and learn about it was one of the best experiences of my life.”
Dr. Smith describes herself as an “army brat.” Traveling from France, to Italy, to Washington DC, to New Orleans, she had no choice but to adapt to the different places and cultures she encountered. Exploring the world during her adolescence taught her an invaluable lesson that shaped both her current outlook on the people around her and her career path. Still a lover of exploring, Dr. Smith finds joy in traveling because “it reminds [her] that people are different.”
She carried this important lesson forward as she pursued her college education, realizing that cultural differences don’t make one group better or worse than another. Dr. Smith earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from Pomona College; a Master’s degree in English from the University of Texas-Austin, with a minor in Radio-Television-Film; and a Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness from the University of California-Santa Cruz. While pursuing her Ph.D., she explored how Modernist female authors write about loss. She investigated the social traditions that instruct this demographic’s characterization of loss as a consciousness represented in their writing, aiming to prove that women writers internalize society’s limitations of their gender and write about loss in a melancholic way.
Dr. Smith’s respect for cultural differences also informs her current scholarship and teaching. In “The Heterotopias of Todd Haynes: Creating Space for Same Sex Desire in Carol,” she analyzes the film employing Foucault’s concept of “other space,” exploring how a queer counterspace is created through the film’s “framings, textures, color, and spatial relations.” In another project, “Highways of Desolation: The Road and Trash in Boys Don’t Cry and Monster,” she considers how familiar tropes and genres such as melodrama and the road movie make characters accessible to an audience. Dr. Smith explains that this project evaluated how speaking to an audience’s understanding of social class and norms allows the characters’ transgressions to “draw attention to the larger hierarchical structures of power in American society.” Scholarly projects in Film Studies and Gender Studies that examine portrayals of sexuality and race suggest Dr. Smith’s varied interests, which she also incorporates into her English classes such as her Fall 2019 course on Mainstream Queer Film.
Dr. Smith laments that she will miss teaching as often as she’d like now that she has taken on the administrative responsibilities of Department Chair. “I love teaching, so [becoming Chair] was never a goal of mine,” Dr. Smith explains, reflecting on her new position. Even so, she hopes her new role will allow her to continue promoting diversity; over the next two years, she plans to work with her colleagues in the English Department to revise the English major curriculum – “to improve the curriculum, change it, make it more reflective of what student needs are and how students have changed.” Dr. Smith explains the English major “hasn’t been changed in twenty-one years,” and she hopes a new curriculum will formalize the offering of classes that promote diversity – classes often taught in the English Department but under the current curriculum only scheduled as “topics courses.” Such courses reflect the rich complexity of the English Department and Texas State University as a whole, diversity of the University, and the varied interests of its students and faculty.
Kennedy Farrell, English major