Introducing Amanda Bailey

Introducing Associate ProfessorAmanda Bailey
  Amanda Bailey

What is your current project, and what led you to it?

My research and teaching interests include early modern drama, especially Shakespeare, early modern literary and political history, as well as the histories of gender, sexuality, and affect.  I just completed a book on the intersection of literary and legal forms focusing on the common law adjudication of debt and how it inflected the history of self-sovereignty.  My newest project takes up the idea of personhood in ancient, early modern, and contemporary political thought, as I investigate how various discourses came to shape how we think about consent and embodiment, which in turn, informs our assumptions about the human and the posthuman.  I am drawn to dramatic characters that would have been legally illegible or incapacitated; those unable to make decisions on their own behalf or whose choices are antithetical to their self-interests.  For instance, I have written essays on the possessed Macbeth and the metamorphosized Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as figures that allow us to imagine disembodied personhood.   

You’re coming to us from the University of Connecticut;  tell us a little bit about how this experience has shaped you as a teacher and scholar, and what you hope to bring with you as you start anew here.

At the University of Connecticut I taught large lecture survey courses on Classical and Medieval Literature, Early British Literature, and Shakespeare.  I have also taught smaller undergraduate seminars on "Shakespeare and the Age of Globalism," and "Shakespeare's Women,” as well graduate courses on "Reading Shakespeare/Reading Theory," "English Renaissance Drama, 1580-1630," "The Meanings of Early Modern Manhood," and "The Revenge Tragedy."  At the University of Maryland, I would love to teach undergraduate courses on themes that cut across time periods, such as a course that asks “What is Justice?” or a course on the meanings of money.

Can you tell us a little about your approach to teaching the ancient and medieval literature, or how you are approaching your teaching of Shakespeare?

Only after devoting many years to teaching undergraduate and graduate students did I come to a profound realization that students do not want information; they do want to work collaboratively on an engaging and urgent problem.  This revelation has resulted in a radical shift in the way I approach literary texts and my classroom time.  Rather than writing out copious lecture notes, I now prepare by designing innovative and compelling ways to involve students in a series of inquiries.  In my undergraduate courses, I spend a lot of time in group discussion, even in a large lecture course, and small group work.  I incorporate film and You Tube clips and regularly use various online resources.  In teaching Shakespeare, I emphasize that his plays were scripts performed by actors and ask that everyone participate in a collaborative scene project, which entails a series of written assignments, line memorization and a final scene performance.

What interests you most about working with graduate students?  Do you have any advice for our incoming graduate cohort?

My work with graduate students has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my teaching life. The graduate seminars I have taught have helped me immensely in framing my own thinking about particular texts, and I have found the high level of discourse invaluable.  I always include a professional development component in my courses and ask that my students produce an annotated bibliography and literature review, in addition to a full-length research paper, and at the end of the semester present their work to the community in a symposium that is open to the public.  I always begin my graduate seminars telling my students what I wish my professors had said to me when I was in graduate school:  no comment, no question, no idea is “stupid.”  This is the time and place to say what you think and to follow your instincts.  You have an entire career ahead to impress people and perform an identity, but the graduate seminar should be like a laboratory, a place for the open exchange of ideas, intellectual experimentation, and bold risks – and yes, that often means getting it wrong.