This fall the English Department will be welcoming on board our first new full-time faculty member in over a decade. Because we’re all interested in learning more about our new colleague, we asked Laura Van Valkenburgh ’13 to interview Dr. Isaacson. So without further ado, here’s the interview:
Q: What originally attracted you to the field of education? What were your areas of study?
I come from a long line of educators--school teachers, librarians, ministers and college professors--and I’ve always known that this was something I’d be a part of. I’ve had so many wonderful people teach me, and it’s my way of giving back to others. When I was a college student--at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL--I majored in English and secondary education; I minored in Classics (with an emphasis in Latin). In graduate school, I primarily studied British literature, though of course I took classes in a wide range of things, including feminist theory, Southern literature, and Renaissance and Baroque architecture. I wrote both my Master’s thesis and my dissertation on non-Shakespearean drama, particularly a genre called city comedy.
Q: What attracted you to teaching at Heidelberg?
I myself attended a small liberal arts institution, and I think that the relationships developed at such institutions are incredibly important for students. Heidelberg is a school that emphasizes mentorship of undergraduates and their research, and that push for self-motivated, independent research is particularly important for a liberal arts education. The variety of opportunities for students and faculty alike are wonderful. What’s most important is that this is an institution where faculty and students enjoy working together in intellectual pursuits.
Q: What are you looking forward to about your Heidelberg experience?
There are so many things that it’s hard for me to pick just a few. But I’m excited by the emphasis that Heidelberg puts on developing leaders for the future. Leadership--whether it’s within the workplace, the community or the larger world--is something that takes practice. Heidelberg’s focus on the liberal arts and leadership highlights the importance of social responsibility with that leadership. I’m excited to become a part of that tradition.
Q: Describe your approach to teaching in one word.
I’m never good with single word descriptions, but, enthusiastic.
Q: What courses will you be teaching at Heidelberg?
I’ll be teaching a wide variety of courses, including British literature (especially British literature before 1800), Shakespeare, world literature, women’s literature, along with a bit of literary theory.
Q: What was the inspiration for the creation of the class Early Modern British Drama: or, Not Shakespeare?
As mentioned before, much of my scholarly work has been on non-Shakespearean drama, so it’s something I’m already quite passionate about. One of the things that I’ve learned in teaching the plays is that most people really don’t know that Shakespeare was writing at a time of a huge literary explosion--he wasn’t alone in writing for the stage in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. While Shakespeare has risen above all the rest—and I love his work--his contemporaries were wildly imaginative and writing an extraordinary range of plays. I’ve taught a number of the plays, and students have always been surprised (and, I hope, delighted) by the very modern themes and techniques. In the plays, we find broad comedy, slapstick, horror, intrigue and a broad range of human emotion.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of English literature and writing?
I spend a lot of time -- of course not nearly enough -- on photography and travel. I’m also a big fan of movies, from the high-brow (No Country for Old Men, Throne of Blood) to the admittedly less so (I’ve watched a lot of superhero movies and horror movies)