Reflections on the Department’s first Faculty Focus

Wednesdays’ Faculty Focus: Research Talk was a casual event with cupcakes and two presentations from Dr. Rea and Dr. Baldys in the Department’s new Student Lounge. This was a cozy chance to hear about these professor’s unique avenues of research and gain insight on possible methods, ideologies, and works to expand my growing understanding of English scholarly research.

Dr. Rea’s presentation on his research project “Striking Out in Ybor City: Baseball, Affordable Housing, and Rhetorical Violence,” laid out a linguistic analysis of narratives of displacement and how they permit and enact violence on marginalized groups. His theoretical approach to “rhetorical violence” creates new language to define oppressive trends in discourse surrounding affordable housing using Ybor City as a case study. Beyond the interesting theories and methodologies presented, Dr. Rea also shared a moment of what he called “research resiliency” as he discussed how his original research plan to perform ethnographic interviews had to pivot in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This prompted a meaningful discussion about how research approaches require flexibility and adaptability in the face of the unexpected.

Dr. Baldys presented an overview of her recently published work “Disability and Victorian Feminism: Narratives of Resistance in the Novel of Mona Caird.” Watching Dr. Baldys interweave modern terminology and ideas with Victorian writers is always a pleasure and creates avenues of connection and understanding with long passed artists. Mona Caird is no exception with Dr. Baldys relating that one of Caird’s articles (on the failure of marriage) went “viral,” receiving thousands of responding letters. Dr. Baldys also frames her comparisons with an acknowledgement of the limitations of working with historical figures and that there are always going to be elements of an individual’s life that we will be unsure about. However, Dr. Baldys thoughtful exploration of Mona Caird’s works highlighted surprising perspectives from an 18th century writer –particularly on her representations of disabled women—and how these representations may have contributed to early works that reframe ideas of marginalization and lives by resisting certain trends of representation and presenting alternate futures for these characters.

Placing these two vastly different research projects together created opportunities for the development of interesting perspectives on rhetorical trends and patterns surrounding marginalization that were further explored in conversations after the presentations. This discussion was useful not only for its content but also for the practical experience of navigating discussions in this casual/ professional space. As an undergrad, these types of events always left me a bit intimidated (who am I to discuss a professor’s research with them?) but now, in grad, I see it more as an opportunity to engage with profs and get to talk with them about something they are excited about. Furthermore, exchanges with faculty and students like this give me hope and help me envision multiple ways in which research can be conducted and create meaning.


Thanks again to Dr. Rea and Dr. Baldys for sharing your time and work with us!!

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