Wednesday, November 14, 2012

5 Questions Series - Kristen Pond

1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

I was watching Football Night in America and listening to a bunch of guys sitting around talking about football players around the league, including the latest girl Tony Romo was dating, and it suddenly struck me that they were gossiping, it just was not recognized as such because it was a) men in ties and b) sports. This made me interested to know what other assumptions we make about neglected discourses, so I started exploring silence, gestures, and laughter along with gossip. All this is to say that sometimes not doing academic things can be the best thing for your career.

Transitioning from the dissertation to the next big project has been one of the hardest things I’ve done, but the idea for this project was one that I simply could not ignore because it kept creeping in to every thing I wrote and taught. The tough part was just figuring out how to capture the more abstract ideas of ethics, difference, and sympathy in a concrete way, which eventually became the figure of the stranger.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

To read scholarly articles and books twice when possible – first for content, then for style. The earlier you figure out how scholarly pieces are put together, the easier it will be to get your own material published. I think the first few years in grad school you are just in survival mode trying to get through classes, and then you get very inwardly focused while you write your dissertation. It’s worth looking up and out to take notice of your field, what is going on and how it’s going on. Some practical ways to do this? Make time to read the leading journals and blogs in your field, keep track of who are the leading scholars in your field, and take note of the way successful articles, books, and conference presentations are put together.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

Quite honestly, I think many people in our field take themselves too seriously and this leads to petty infighting and territorial tiffs. It also makes professors unable to reach their students in any meaningful way. I find it very difficult to deal with this attitude, and terrifying that the longer I am in academia the more I will take on this attitude myself. The idealism you have as a graduate student is very hard to sustain in a tenure-track position when towing the line becomes part of survival. To all of this I would say, it has been vital for me that I remember what I love about academia, that I remind myself of that often, and that I continue to do the most essential things that make me who I am as a scholar and teacher, regardless of the institution or point in my career.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

This perhaps sounds cliché or nerdy, but I simply love to learn. I really enjoy the college environment built around learning about yourself and facing new ideas. I like nothing better than to walk across campus and see students throwing a football, sitting on blankets reading, skateboarding to their classes, or pouring out of buildings at class change time. I am constantly learning from new things I read and from the students in my classes. I also enjoy the combination of stability and change that comes with this job: the central aspects of my job do not change, but every semester I get a new schedule, new classes, new students, and new writing projects.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

This answer goes back to my first one, it may seem counterintuitive but setting academia aside on a regular basis is the best thing for my intellectual curiosity. Doing things in the world outside “the ivory towers” enables me to return with fresh ideas, and to avoid becoming stale and burned out myself. So I run, tutor kids, hike, take one day off a week, watch football, go out to dinner, go on a day trip in the middle of the week. I am not saying this is a program for becoming a top scholar in your field, but it is how I maintain my intellectual curiosity._______________

Kristen Pond is an Assistant Professor of Victorian Literature at Baylor University. She received her Ph.D from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in May of 2010.  She teaches British literature survey courses, as well as courses focused on the eighteenth-century novel and a graduate seminar on Victorian encounters with otherness. Her current project examines constructions of the stranger in nineteenth-century British texts, including settler narratives, newspapers, charity publications, and novels. She has two forthcoming articles in Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal and Victorian Literature and Culture.  You can check out her course blog at  and her personal blog at

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