Kingswood Oxford has a new name on campus!
No, not a new student. Nor a new staff member.
Recently, English teacher Heather Wayne completed her defense of her dissertation, finishing the final step in a seven-year-long process to obtain her PhD in English.
Dr. Wayne has always enjoyed English, even at a young age.. “I was always such a bookworm when I was little,” she said, “so much so that my punishment for my parents if I got in trouble was to take away my books, so that’s the degree that I loved books.” Even with her love of love of literature at such a young age, she never really thought about pursuing it as a postgraduate degree. “I think that when I was a teenager I didn’t even know that graduate school was a thing,” she said. “I was just immersed in my own high-school life. So it wasn’t until my end of my college years that I started thinking about it.”
After double-majoring in Art and English at Furman University, Dr. Wayne knew she wanted to continue her studies in more detail, but she was unsure as to which field of study to persue. “I was actually thinking about grad school in art, as well, and I was trying to decide which direction to go it. I was a painter and was really interested in doing like an MFA in Painting or something,” she said. As a high-schooler, she sold paintings and portraits that she had created, and thought seriously about making a career out of it.
To help her make her decision, she worked as a high-school English and Art teacher. As part of her job there, she did murals and paintings for the school. “That year helped me learn a little about myself in terms of where I saw my career going, and I realized that I really loved teaching English,” she said. “I loved doing Art, I didn’t love teaching Art so much. And so that’s what made me decide: Okay, I really want to pursue English on a higher level.”
In 2010, Dr. Wayne received herM.A. in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. “I really enjoyed that opportunity to dive deep into literature and study it on a serious level,” she said. ”I really enjoyed doing research, and I felt like I hadn’t had enough time to do that kind of in-depth research so I wanted to go even further with that.”
Of course, that’s not to say that Dr. Wayne gave up painting as a hobby entirely, she still enjoys painting in her free time. Many such works are displayed in her office along. It’s easy to see why she was considering becoming an artist: I was surprised to discover that she had created them by herself Needless to say, it’s remarkable that any teacher could find the free time to do paintings, especially one who’s pursuing a PhD.
In addition to her continued interest in painting, Dr. Wayne found another way to incorporate her love and knowledge of art into her English work. As she was in the early stages of planning her dissertation, she had to narrow down dozens of books that she read into a smaller list of books that she could analyze. “My criteria for choosing novels was that they had to depict commodities in some way: so cotton, wheat, gold, etc…” she said. “But then they also had to depict visual art in some way as well, so they had an artist character, or they mentioned specific paintings or works of art, or they engaged in sort of discussion of iconography or art history in some way or another.” Her resulting dissertation, entitled “Gilded Chains:
Global Economies and Gendered Arts in US Fiction, 1865–1930,” is the summation of many years of research, writing, reading, and editing, and boasts a work count of over 300 pages.
The dissertation is about commodities in late 19th– early 20th century american literature, and how the authors inclusion of such commodities, including art, allowed them to reflect upon and engage with the increasingly globalized economy. We tend to think of the globalized economy as a fairly recent occurence, but part of Dr. Wayne’s argument includes the idea of the global economy predating what we would generally consider ‘the start of globalization.’
One example that comes to mind transpires in “The Story of Avis” by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. “She was a best selling novelist during her time, but now, nobody’s ever heard of her,” Dr. Wayne notes. In the novel, a character shows her husband her favorite shawl, and ponders the lives that were yielded to produce it. “It’s made from the crushed bodies of these beetles that are harvested in Mexico, and she thinks about these beetles who were sort of crushed up and used to create this dye for this shawl,” Dr. Wayne said, “and there are other sort of references to imperialism and colonialism elsewhere in the book that I argue are connected to that kind of global vision.”
There were numerous other hurdles that Dr. Wayne needed to pass on her journey to becoming Dr. Wayne, including a foreign-language translation, where she was required to translate a scholarly essay from French into English using a dictionary. She also had to do research into a many different subjects, including economics, biology, history, and sociology. For example, she had to study cochineal insects, the beetles that she mentioned earlier were commonly used to produce Carmine, an expensive bright-red dye that was popular among the upper-class due to its vivid color.
After many, many years of hard work, Dr. Wayne has finally received her well-deserved recognition. Congratulations Dr. Wayne!