Who am I? Well…
I’m Amy Rubens.
I’m a PhD candidate at a large university in the Midwest where I study late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century American literature (and culture, too). I’m finishing my dissertation, Making Medicine in America: A Literary Account, 1870-1950.
Research. In my project, I look at the literary representation of contagious disease against the backdrop of the “pre-antibiotics” era. Beginning during the germ theory’s emergence in the 1880s and culminating with the widespread availability of antibiotics in the 1950s, the pre-antibiotics era was a peculiar moment in medical science: while (accurate) knowledge about contagious illnesses was increasing rapidly, few affordable, safe, and expedient treatments were available. My project explores how anxieties related to this “knowledge-action gap” took shape in a broad range of American literature, including novels, essays, and drama. Since I’m a scholar of American studies and somewhat of a new historicist, my project is interdisciplinary and also draws heavily from archival materials (medical textbooks, hospital records, newspaper articles, advertisements and other ephemera, etc.). I use these primary source documents to examine how the prevailing understanding of specific illnesses (and their treatments) are reconfigured (or not) in the literary record: what was known about an illness like tuberculosis (TB) in the late 1910s, for instance, and how does Eugene O’Neill’s play, The Straw, transpose this information? What does O’Neill preserve or reinvent–and why?
Teaching. Throughout most of my tenure as a graduate student, I’ve been a teacher. I’ve taught introductory composition (including a thematic course on contemporary memoir and identity performance), professional writing, and literature courses. For the past few semesters, I’ve taught an introductory fiction course for non-majors. And I’ve been in charge, too: for nearly all of these experiences, I’ve been the “instructor of record.” That means I design the syllabus (select textbooks and arrange readings) and evaluate students’ work for a grade. Currently, I have one teaching gig with my home department, but I have taught at a community college for several semesters–a position I really enjoyed!
Interests. Before I started dissertating, I freelanced as a writer/editor, tutored student-athletes, and worked as a front desk/reading room attendant for pretty famous rare book library on campus. Now, I like to save my (precious) spare time for my cat Velma, a feral rescue that I rehabilitated. I also spend time backpacking, cooking vegetarian meals, watching Star Trek and a host of other TV shows on DVD, and now, I guess, writing this blog!