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Kasey Evans

Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of English

Kasey Evans

I am continually inspired and humbled by the brilliance, generosity, curiosity, and compassion of my students, colleagues, and friends in the Department of English.”

Dr. Kasey Evans is the director of graduate studies (DGS) in the Department of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She is also an associate professor of English. Kasey received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and specializes in Renaissance literature. She offers courses on the English literary canon 1400–1800; the poetry and prose of Edmund Spenser; race and racism in the Renaissance; and theories of virtue and vice in Renaissance texts. She is also affiliated with the Gender & Sexuality Studies Program. In 2010, Kasey was awarded the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award. 

How long have you been in the DGS role?   

1 year.

What is the most rewarding part of being a DGS?

Having honest conversations with graduate students about their evolving professional goals and needs, and thinking creatively with them about how our department (and Northwestern more broadly) can serve them better.

What advice would you give to someone just beginning as a DGS?

I think the most vital part of my job is listening carefully to the concerns and priorities of both students and faculty and helping to foster a collaborative relationship between these two constituencies. 

What have you learned from being a DGS?

Serving as a DGS during this fraught moment—politically, economically, ideologically, and epidemiologically—has deepened my understanding of how our relationships inside of academia correspond to those beyond our walls. Academic institutions, especially privileged private institutions like Northwestern, are sometimes spoken of disparagingly in the popular press as ivory towers. But we are still a part of the world that is in crisis. Cultural capital doesn't protect our students (or our coworkers) from mortality, political factionalism, or economic precarity.

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?

I am currently working on fantasies of resurrection and reanimation in Renaissance literature. With a nod to the origins of the term in West African and then Haitian folklore, I sometimes say that I am working on Renaissance zombies.

Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.

My dissertation director in graduate school, the late great Janet Adelman, was a Shakespeare scholar who worked in the psychoanalytic tradition. Psychoanalysis offers us a vocabulary to talk about trauma and loss as central to the experience of individuation, and about the psychic fantasies we use to try to repair that loss. Resurrection is one such fantasy. The notion of resurrection might have had a special allure for the Christians of the Protestant Reformation, whose new faith denied the notion of Purgatorial suffering that could be shortened by prayer or indulgence. Reformed Anglicans thus had to seek other avenues, including literary narratives, to help sustain their sense of connection to the dead.

What books have been especially important to you?

The work that made me want to be a professor was Dante's Alighieri's Commedia, which I studied in an undergraduate course that was affectionately referred to as "the orgo of the humanities" (I say this with great humility and deference to actual organic chemists). Other works that have been important to me include Shakespeare's tragedies, everything ever written by Toni Morrison, and every book that leaves me feeling mournful at the end that there isn't another chapter to go.

What inspires you?

I am continually inspired and humbled by the brilliance, generosity, curiosity, and compassion of my students, colleagues, and friends in the Department of English. 2020 is not an easy time to be a person, but I am confident that I could not be in better company.

What do you like to do for fun?

Cook, run, hike, read, and laugh at the chaos of family life with my partner and our two small humans. 

Published: September 22, 2020 

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