Norwich University Office of Communications
February 3, 2016
A specialist in modern British literature with a PhD from Tufts, Assistant Professor of English Amy Woodbury Tease has a soft spot for junk television and a fascination with surveillance culture. This year her courses include two new classes, “Art in the Age of Surveillance” and “Paranoid States,” which examine contemporary surveillance society, conspiracy, terrorism, and anarchy through the lens of art. Required reading/watching ranges from Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent to the Brazilian TV series 3%. Woodbury Tease also directs the Undergraduate Research Program at Norwich and is currently writing a book about surveillance society and culture. She shares the backstory of nine items found in her Webb Hall office:
1. Assorted Virginia Woolf-abalia. Woodbury Tease wrote her undergraduate senior thesis on the 20th-century English author, sparking years of Woolf-themed gifts from friends and family. Today, her collection includes a finger puppet/magnet, a poster, assorted dolls, and a “creepy” pillow.
2. Nerd-Affirming Thermos. Swag from the 2014 Norwich University Undergraduate Research Symposium. Tease launched the symposium, known today as “From Students to Scholars,” to inspire early-career students to undertake ambitious, independent research with faculty mentors. “Undergraduate research is important to every student. But specifically students at Norwich, I think, because they are such active learners.”
3. Muriel Spark’s The Girls of Slender Means. A gift from recent graduate and standout research mentee Hannah Bell ’16, who was the first Norwich student to present findings at the annual Posters on the Hill conference in Washington, D.C. “[Hannah] put it in the mail with a little note that said, ‘I was at a used bookstore unwinding, and I saw this book. It was the first book that I read in your class, and I couldn’t resist sending it.’”
4. Mark Rothko Print. A holdover from Woodbury Tease’s days as a graduate student. “It just brings light into the room. Underneath it, I have paintings that my son, who is now 3, did that I thought were Rothkoesque.”
5. Tiny Post Box Replica. Purchased at a vintage store, it’s a nod to French philosopher Jacques Derrida, author of The Postcard, among other works. “He does a lot with language and the ways in which language kind of circles around itself and there is no kind of outside to language. Some people find his work maddening, other people [like me] find it incredibly engrossing.”
7. Squashy Armchair. In the morning, Woodbury Tease likes to relax with a cup of coffee and re-read text that she’ll discuss with students later that day. “That chair is really old, from an apartment I had in Queens before I got my PhD. It’s colorful, so it brings a little bit of brightness into the office.”
8. Children’s books. Before starting her PhD program, Woodbury Tease spent three years working in New York as an editorial assistant in the children’s book division of Harper Collins. “I was actually really lucky, because my editor traveled a lot. So she gave me more responsibility.” A highlight was working with artists and seeing their original work.
9. Vintage Telephone, Circa 1930. The working phone was a gift from a grad school friend on the eve of Woodbury Tease’s English PhD defense. Her dissertation explored technology, technical snafus, Modernism, and machines. “I had several chapters that dealt with the telephone and phone calls,” she laughs. “So for a while I was known as ‘the call girl.’”
Text and photographs by Sean Markey