Each month we highlight one of the outstanding professors in the English department. February’s professor of the month is Dr. Kate Lechler, an English literature professor from Chattanooga, TN. She earned her BA in English from Union College in Nebraska. After she graduated, she taught for one year in South Korea. Dr. Lechler earned her MA from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI and her Ph.D., specializing in Early Modern Drama, from Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. She now teaches Women in Literature, Literary Interpretation, Introduction to British Literature: Romantics through Modern Era, Renaissance Drama, Studies in Contemporary Lit: Science Fiction, Studies in Popular Lit: Fairy Tales, and Introduction to British Literature: Antiquity to Eighteenth Century. She also writes sci-fi and fantasy.
Ally: Why is literature important to you?
Dr. Lechler: Literature is important to me because my life is limited. I only get one life, one body, in one particular place and time on earth. But, like most people, I’m greedy for more. Reading is a way of experiencing the thoughts and conditions of people separated from me by centuries, continents, or the impenetrable distance of a consciousness distinct from my own.
Ally: Why is literature important to the world?
Dr. Lechler: Literature is important to the world because it is an expression of personal and cultural desires. This probably sounds very clinical, but it’s not. Those desires drive us–to marry, kill, vote, have children, make art (or sandwiches). Literature is just one way of expressing and sharing those desires. But, because I love language, it’s one of my favorite expressions.
Ally: Why does literature need to be taught?
Dr. Lechler: Literature needs to be taught because symbols are how we communicate. Symbols and language, whether spoken, written, or signed, are the only ways of bridging the gap from one person’s head to another’s. Anything that helps us understand how language can be used–how to build a better bridge so that my thoughts can speak more directly to yours–helps us to empathize and understand our fellow human beings and, I think, ourselves.
Ally: What sparked your interest in literature?
Dr. Lechler: I’ve always loved reading. When I was in elementary school, I could cruise through a whole Nancy Drew novel in a day. I loved reading fairy tales, too. When did that transform into an appreciation for the “literature” the way we English teachers talk about it? I’m not exactly sure but maybe it was in fourth grade, when I decided to memorize Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” to recite it for class. Memorizing and speaking that poem aloud was very exciting for me; I felt thrilled and accomplished (even though I mispronounced the word “quoth” several times).
Dr. Lechler also has a blog: www.katelechler.com
Congratulations, Dr. Kate Professor of the month.