Nelson to succeed West as Director of the Center for Gender StudiesBy Jennifer Carnig
Deborah Nelson, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature, has been appointed Director of the Center for Gender Studies. She will succeed Rebecca West, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, who has served as director since July 2002.
Nelson, who earned her Ph.D. from the City University of New York, has been teaching at the University since 1996—the year the Center for Gender Studies was created. She has consistently been involved with the center in some way since she arrived, and she currently serves as the center’s Faculty Associate Director.
“She has been a large part of our history,” said Gina Olson, the center’s Assistant Director. “She’s been involved at all levels, from planning curriculum to conferences, and she brings with her a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. We’re all really excited to continue working with her.”
Nelson’s main research and teaching interests lie in late 20th-century American literature, gender studies, American ethnic literature, poetry and poetics, autobiography, photography, and Cold War history. She is the author of Pursuing Privacy in Cold War America (2001), an examination of the discourse of privacy beginning with its emergence as a topic of intense anxiety in the late 1950s.
Nelson will be on leave during the next academic year, at which time George Chauncey, Professor in History and Chair of the center’s Lesbian and Gay Studies Project, will serve as Interim Director.
Under the direction of Chauncey and then Nelson, the center will most likely continue to focus on sexuality as a major area of study, Olson said.
“We’re in a period of continued expansion right now, and we’re hoping that our work in sexuality will engage even larger groups of faculty, staff and students,” Olson said.
“I want to express my deepest thanks to everyone who has been involved in the center’s activities over the last three years,” West wrote in the center’s most recent newsletter. “You have made it a pleasure and a genuine learning experience for me, and I hope that the new connections we have made will continue for a long time to come.”
The Center for Gender Studies was established in 1996 to consolidate work on gender and sexuality, as well as feminist, gay and lesbian, and queer studies. Along with fostering teaching, research and discussion at the University, the center seeks to reach out into public areas where gender and sexuality come together with political, artistic and intellectual concerns.
Ongoing activities at the center include weekly brownbag presentations, featuring faculty, students and individuals from the Chicago community; the Gender and Sexuality Studies Workshop; a film series that screens the work of artists involved in Women in the Director’s Chair; and social hours that present art, music and dramatic readings by students.
Special events planned for next academic year include an avant-garde queer film series, which the center will present with the Committee on Cinema & Media Studies, and a one-day conference on transgender issues.
The center also offers fellowships and teaching opportunities to graduate students working on dissertations and an undergraduate concentration in Gender Studies.