Christy Tidwell is Associate Professor of English & Humanities. You can learn more about her research and teaching at her website.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
I typically research and write about speculative fiction, environment, and gender. My dissertation was about feminist science fiction and feminist science, for instance, and since then I’ve co-edited and written for two books on speculative fiction and the environment: Gender and Environment in Science Fiction and Fear and Nature: Ecohorror Studies in the Anthropocene. I have an ongoing interest in dinosaurs in popular culture, especially as dinosaur stories relate to ideas about extinction, and I also sometimes write about Black film/media and disability.
In my work on science fiction – whether related to environmental issues, gender, race, or disability – I look at how we respond to the problems in the present and how we might imagine different possibilities in the future. In my work on horror – again, no matter which of these issues I’m addressing – I look at how our fears (for instance, fears of the natural world or fears for the natural world) shape our lives.
What’s one of your favorite courses, topics, or specific texts to teach? Why?
One of my favorite regularly scheduled courses is Science Fiction (ENGL 250). I love the genre, and teaching this class gives me a chance to talk about books, stories, movies, and music that I love. Plus, there’s always new science fiction coming out that I want to share with students! I’m also looking forward to teaching an upper level course on Horror Film in Fall 2022. This course is not in my regular schedule, but it’s another opportunity for me to spend time discussing material I really enjoy with students. The only problem in both of these classes is that we only have 15 weeks – we can’t fit in everything I’d love to discuss!
I’m also always looking for opportunities to include either Jurassic Park (1993, dir. Steven Spielberg) or Godzilla (1954, dir. Ishirō Honda) in classes. They are such fun to watch and talk about, and they raise lots of really important questions.
What’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?
Professionally, I’m really proud of my work with ASLE (the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment). I co-organized an online nearly carbon neutral conference affiliated with ASLE a few years ago and I’m currently the Digital Strategies Coordinator for the organization. What that means is that I have the chance to help share other ASLE members’ work and that I get to connect with lots of people who are doing very cool work in fields related to mine. It’s really rewarding to be able to help people show off the work they’re doing!
Personally, I am proud of my history as a singer. I don’t perform any more, but when I was younger, I sang with a choral group that recorded several albums. We were pretty good, and I loved the processes of rehearsing and recording, as well as performing for live audiences.
Tell us about a book you’ve read recently, a movie you’ve seen recently, or another work of art or media you’ve engaged with recently that you really enjoyed and would like to recommend.
I always want to recommend cool media to people! But I will limit myself to just two suggestions here.
First, a book. I’ve just finished reading All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler by Rebecca Donner. It is a fascinating history of both an individual – Mildred Harnack, an American living in Germany as WWII began – and the movement she helped lead. She, her husband, and many others fought against Hitler and the Nazis. She helped people escape Germany even while she chose to stay, and she was ultimately beheaded at the direct order of Hitler himself. I learned a great deal about the period, the rise of the Nazi party, and the bravery of people like Mildred Harnack in this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Second, a movie. Pig, directed by Michael Sarnoski and starring Nicolas Cage, is – as far as I’m concerned – the best movie released in 2021. I am a huge fan of Nicolas Cage and will watch pretty much anything he’s in, but this is a truly great film and does not require Cage fandom. It is a story of a man living a pretty isolated life, hunting truffles with his pig, and then his pig is stolen. Although it sounds at first like the setup for a Taken-style action movie, it is ultimately much more thoughtful and moving than that. Its core idea is simply that “we don’t get a lot of things to really care about.” With this line, the movie asks us to think about what matters that much to us. What do we really care about? And what would we do as a result of that care?
Tell us something about yourself outside of work. What do you enjoy doing? What’s a detail about you that your students might not already know?
In addition to my past as a singer and my abiding love for Nicolas Cage, the thing my students might not already know that I am currently most excited about is that I’ve recently bought a teardrop camper and am planning plenty of road trips in it! I don’t love camping, but I do love traveling. I think a small camper like this is the perfect solution.