Loyola alumna Dr. Wallace featured on John Hopkins University Press (1/18/2023)
Dr. Cynthia Wallace, Loyola PhD alumna from 2012, was recently featured on the John Hopkins University Press blog to talk about her role as editor of the special Autumn 2022 Adrienne Rich issue of the journal Arizona Quarterly.
The Loyola English Department caught up with her to talk about her role in this project and how her time at Loyola prepared her to be the scholar she is today.
Dr. Wallace works as a professor at a small Catholic college, federated with a large public university and calls this Canadian university model “the best of both worlds” because she’s in a small community setting and also has access to the resources of a big university. She says she feels that Loyola prepared her for all the parts of her current teaching position and speaks highly of her time as a PhD student.
“I was the first person in my immediate family to go to graduate school, and so had I no background, no family preparation,” she says. “And I found Loyola Loyola's English program, in particular, just to be so welcoming.”
During her time at Loyola, she worked under the guidance of Pamela Caughie, who was her dissertation director, as well as Suzanne Bost, Micael Clarke and other tenured professors, all of whom she calls brilliant.
“All of these scholars, they’re at the top of their game, and they're really, really smart,” Dr. Wallace says. “They were also just kind, they were welcoming, and they wanted to teach us not only how to be good scholars and good teachers, but also decent, human people, at least in my experience. And I just loved that approach.”
She talks about being mentored to learn how to teach by emulating her Loyola professors.
“I learned from them how important it is to [give] lectures on history and context so students can understand what they're reading. I like to share this context, but I also just really love having conversations with my students,” she says. “And they usually tell me that that's their favorite part, that they really like the way that we make a community together in the space of a classroom where we can do the really hard work of unpacking the texts and trying to understand them together, but also trying to understand each other and trying to understand the world. I would say that I learned a lot of that from the teaching modeled by my professors at Loyola.”
It was during graduate school at Loyola when Dr. Wallace first encountered the poet Adrienne Rich (1929-2012), whom she found hard but extremely compelling. She says Rich’s writing feels relevant to things occurring in our society today.
“How come she's saying these things that I feel like people are just catching up with now? Why is it that these older generations of feminists have said so many really important things that I've never heard before? And that my friends are saying? Rich actually writes about that. She writes about this amnesia that surrounds women's wisdom and women's history, where generation after generation, we have to learn the same lessons because the world is structured in a way where we don't get to pass that wisdom down to each other,” she says. “I thought that was really interesting, and I wanted to learn more. So I just kept reading Rich and I'm still doing it.”
Dr. Wallace’s inspiration to create a special issue focused on Rich came during the lockdown in 2020, when she reached out to other scholars in the field and found an interest in exploring Rich’s work.
“We were all sort of in isolation and American politics were a mess. And I thought her prose and her essays have a lot of interesting political perspectives that I felt like ‘Wow, this is really relevant for us right now.’ And I wanted to see if other scholars were thinking about that and writing about that,” Dr. Wallace says. “So I put out a call for papers and there were other people thinking and writing about Rich's politics and her wisdom.”
You can read more on Dr. Wallace and the special Adrienne Rich issue here.