New professor Jean Franzino talks literature, identity
Moving to Beloit was a homecoming for Visiting Assistant Professor of English Jean Franzino. Before attending the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia, she grew up in the Midwest — Michigan and Indiana mostly. She then made the transition to D.C. and Virginia as an adult for some non-for-profit work in the public health sector.
Teaching a wide variety of American literature as well as several other classes, Franzino is “particularly interested in literature in relation to social identity and social issues, so [she] tends to teach on literature and gender or literature and race or disability,” she says. This semester she is teaching a new class about literature and work, “trying to think about what that tells us about ourselves as humans.”
Franzino is particularly interested in teaching about disability within novels and the significance of disabilities within a narrative, which she looks forward to teaching during the spring semester. Franzino says that disability in literature “helps people see some canonical texts in new ways.”
Her unique perspective is largely a result of her extensive work in D.C., which is where she became interested in teaching literature. Franzino says about this realization, “I loved literature as an undergraduate. And when I was working in DC, I found myself kind of wandering to this bookstore near my office at my lunch breaks and looking longingly at the books I no longer had time to read. So I went back to graduate school, but I think brought with me my interest in identity from the work in the public health field, but I hope that through teaching to get students excited about literature and the way that it excited me.”
Students are always welcome in Franzino’s office, whether it be for office hours, or just to chat about life at Beloit. Student energy and enthusiasm is one reason she has found herself truly loving her time at Beloit so far. “I love that the students seem really great at making connections between what we’re talking about in the classroom and other stuff going on in the world, so that’s exciting,” she said.