Photo courtesy of Derek Ettensohn
As we look forward to a new semester, some faculty and staff will be leaving, but Sewanee will also see the addition of new faculty in our midst. Dr. Derek Ettensohn will join the faculty this coming semester, focusing primarily on global Anglophone literature. Ettensohn’s work explores how authors balance global, humanitarian sentiment with the need to respect specific histories that can often get erased as a work receives transnational readership. For Ettensohn, this “often means considering how the novels engage in pressing socio-political issues, such as human rights and the environment, that are at once global concerns but also very particular and local.” Ettensohn studied at Haverford College, earning an English major and a German minor. After his undergraduate studies, Ettensohn spent one year on a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship in Germany before starting graduate school at Brown University.
While at Sewanee, Ettensohn is “looking forward to working with students and colleagues that challenge and refine” his current project, while also providing inspiration and focus as he develops his next project. While being at Sewanee will expose him “to new ideas, and that is always stimulating,” Ettensohn also hopes that he “can bring some fresh perspective on topics that are already being discussed on campus.” Outside of the classroom, Ettensohn is “looking forward to making a home in Sewanee and incorporating” himself within the broader community. The “breadth of cultural and intellectual activities on campus” also will provide him with “great opportunities to get involved.” Ettensohn believes “the appeal of a small, engaged seminar would be the perfect setting to develop new ways of approaching or thinking through ideas.” He likes to explore a problem or theme and see how various writers and thinkers from different historical periods approached it. Ettensohn sees “a course that shows the endurance and appeal of particular concepts to the human imagination as what makes the offerings in the interdisciplinary Humanities so compelling.”
As for the type of courses Ettensohn could teach, for global Anglophone literature, “the idea class would be more historically focused to give a better sense of the specific debates that shape contemporary literature,” and “depending on interest, working through a single author such as Kazuo Ishiguro or J.M. Coetzee would be exciting.” According to Ettensohn, “both writers have distinct voices, but you can also see how their thinking and aesthetic project evolves and tracing that evolution together with a class would be rewarding.” A part from what he would work on in the classroom, Ettensohn’s favorite authors “are those that create a distinct sense of place or world or moment to which you want to return, so, I always want to revisit the novels of Thomas Hardy.”
Ettensohn also finds himself drawn to longer works and trilogies that follow the fortunes of an individual, family, or nation, so his favorite work is Naguib Mahfouz’s The Cairo Trilogy. In the future, Ettensohn would also like to work on Elias Khoury’s Gate of the Sun. If Ettensohn had the opportunity to meet any writer, it “would have to be to travel with an author like Amitav Ghosh.” While Ettensohn has free time, “one goal would definitely be to start traveling to those locations that I’ve dreamed of visiting, (it’s a long list!).” The coming year will be an adventure as Ettensohn begins his career at Sewanee and becomes familiar with the campus and meets his students. Ettensohn is looking forward to his stay at Sewanee, especially because when he was a child, his “extended family would go camping in Kentucky and Tennessee every summer,” and now that he will be on one of the most beautiful college campuses, his “family is very excited and plans are already in the works for a big camping reunion this summer.” Welcome to Sewanee community! YSR.