Tang-Quan discusses faith and inspirations

Posted By Horizon Staff April 16th, 2013 in Editors Pick : 0 COMMENTS

Caitlin Postal

Guest Writer

Sharon Tang-Quan joins Westmont’s English Department this fall after receiving her doctorate in English from U.C. Santa Barbara. Tang-Quan focuses on American Race and Ethnic Literature, Romantic/Victorian Literature and the Mind Theory. She joins us after Dr. Stephan Cook’s retirement earlier this year. I was able to ask her a few questions so the Westmont community can get to know its new professor. Keep an eye out this fall for a new face in Reynolds Hall!

Can you tell me about yourself and what led you to pursue a doctorate in English?

I learned to love literature at an early age. My parents read frequently to me when I was young; our trips to the library were always a treat. I love how literature enables me to be imaginative and to enter into the imaginative worlds of authors as I try on new perspectives. In high school I was fortunate to have English teachers who inspired me with their creative approaches towards literature. My college professors inspired me with their ability to articulate themes that I was only beginning to unpack while I read our texts. Those lectures and seminars helped me understand the special role literature plays in training us to read and interpret the world around us and to spark the imagination so we can develop solutions for pressing issues in this world.

Can you tell me a little bit about the Mind Theory and how you use that to do American, Ethnic, Romantic and Victorian Studies?

As I’ve studied English, American, and Anglophone literature I began pursuing a specialization in “Literature and the Mind Theory,” which considers psychoanalytic, philosophical, and neuroscientific approaches to literary study. The community of scholars discusses how language structures the mind’s representations and re-workings of reality. I’m curious as to how literature influences the imagination and our experience of the world. When I focus on narrative theory, for example, I consider how language plays a role in articulating certain events, emotions and reflections. Studying literature and the mind also helps me think through how reading can teach us empathy and compassion especially when we read the literatures of ethnicities different from our own.

What author, novel, poem or character inspires you?

My favorite authors are King David (the poetic intimacy of the Psalms) and Jane Austen (her narration and wit). Maxine Hong Kingston’s novel, “The Woman Warrior,” changed the way I understood creating culture and talking story. One of my favorite poems is the epic, “The Cleaving,” by Li-Young Lee for its representation of the Eucharist. In this last year I co-facilitated a Chronicles of Narnia book club and developed a deeper appreciation of Lucy Pevensie. I think it is her faith that enables her to find Narnia through the Wardrobe, and to notice that Aslan grows bigger because she is older. The metaphors are so rich! I am looking forward to working so close to the Wardrobe in Reynolds Hall.

You’re joining us as Dr. Stephan Cook retires. What are some things you’re looking forward to as you join the Westmont community?

Dr. Cook leaves behind a remarkable legacy. In a recent conversation he and I enjoyed sharing teaching notes and discussing future seminars in American race and ethnic literature. I see joining the Westmont community as a special opportunity to participate in the spiritual formation of students. My goal is to help reveal the depths of our lives with God: how does a relationship with God engage our minds, bodies, and souls?

How do you think your faith will interplay with teaching and life as a Westmont professor?

The hope and faith I have in Jesus Christ deeply affects my scholarly work and teaching. My pedagogy and syllabi respond to a question I ask myself; that is, “How can the framework of literature help my students know how to love and desire the Kingdom of God?” Clarifying the ways in which our course themes and ideas are integrated with this vision is one of the ways in which I engage students and train them to be thoughtful and gracious scholars.

Are there worship or prayer practices you utilize to keep yourself grounded and healthy? 

To keep myself grounded and spiritually healthy I surround myself with community. I’m blessed to have a church family in Santa Barbara Community Church where I have grown from the Sunday School, morning prayer and homegroup ministries. Meeting regularly with two graduate groups who discuss faith and academic inquiry has sharpened me through thought-provoking discussions and encouragement. In being intentional about community, I value hospitality, service and acts of mercy. It’s important that I begin my day with Scripture and prayer. For me, prioritizing my faith enables a deeper understanding of my academic work and teaching, and this illuminates my relationship with Jesus Christ.

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