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In Case You Were Wondering...

Background

Bonjour!Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, I went through the public school system during the height of the Bilingualism and Biculturalism movement of the late 60's and 70's. I recall activity-filled French lessons in primary school -- painting!  drama! -- and had several opportunities in my early teens to travel and live in Quebec. Then, thanks to a wonderful high school teacher, I found a summer "au pair" job with an amazing family who was restoring a 15th-century farmhouse, or mas, near Aix-en-Provence. That did it! I fell in love with France and the French people, culture and language and put aside my plans to study natural sciences in college. I earned a B.A. and M.A. in French from the University of Toronto and later a Ph.D. from Harvard.  In between, I took a break and spent a couple of years teaching English in Toulouse. Never really planned on staying in the States, but I've been at OU since 1987...

Teaching Interests

I admit that I love grammar. Many people think it's dry, but the patterns and structure have always intrigued me -- especially French grammar with its dizzying combination of regimen and revolution, strict rules and outrageous exceptions. By the time students advance to FR 3110 and 3120, they are confident enough with the basics to appreciate some of the idiosyncrasies and that's where the fun starts! Literature courses, however, will probably always be my favorite. No matter the level, it's incredibly rewarding to see how 15 different minds can interpret the same text in 15 different -- and equally interesting -- ways. I don't think that literature can really be taught. So, I focus instead on the tools of literary interpretation, on teaching students to read critically and to test their ideas against the details of the text. Once a person has acquired the skill to read a text analytically, then s/he will never read in the same way again and every text will begin to make some sort of sense. I may not succeed in helping every student achieve this, but it remains my primary goal in literature classes. My personal favorites? First the novel, especially 19th-century realism and naturalism, with the post-Romantic poets a close second. If I could have a conversation with a dead author, I would choose Baudelaire.

Research Interests

My Ph.D. dissertation examined the representation of space in Julien Gracq's fiction. The subject continues to fascinate me and provide material for a book, which I work on during blocks of uninterrupted time, usually in the summer. More recently, I've developed an interest in the short stories of Barbey d'Aurevilly and have presented papers, published articles, and reviewed books on this late-19th-century author. In addition to literary research, I've also explored a number of pedagogical topics. These always stem from classroom experiments, such as integrating multimedia into conversation and composition courses, using popular fiction (I like detective novels!) to introduce techniques of literary analysis, and teaching contemporary Quebec culture. My current research project involves using technology to improve how I teach language and literature to information-age students -- in most cases, YOU! I'm not a techie by nature and I had to learn to think in different ways just to create online components for my courses, but I'm awestruck by the interactive possibilities of blogs, YouTube clips, instant messages, chat, wikis, and texting. These resources can enrich and complement what we do in the classroom and I'm getting new ideas for dovetailing electronic delivery with old-fashioned, in-person teaching. I'm also very excited to have created our Department's first online course, which is being offered Spring semester 2014.

Personal Interests

I live near Athens with my husband, David Sharpe, and our house rabbit, Duffle.  At the end of the school year, we all migrate north to our summer cottage, a 60-year-old log cabin near Georgian Bay, Ontario.  I love hiking, camping, canoeing, watching wildlife, and just being in, around, or on the water.  A slower lifestyle from the hectic pace of OU!  During the semester, I enjoy television, films, restaurants, and sometimes even cooking.  I also volunteer my time with a nonprofit organization, the Buckeye House Rabbit Society.  We take in domestic rabbits abandoned at animal shelters, socialize them, get them spayed/neutered, and then find permanent indoor homes for them, where they'll be an integral part of the family, like a dog or cat.  Totally different from my real job, but just as rewarding in its own way!

And, just for fun ...

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