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York Faculty Member Raises Eyebrows with her Research

Dr. Jennifer Nesbitt
Dr. Jennifer Nesbitt
10/26/2011 —

Jennifer Nesbitt, Ph.D., associate professor of English at Penn State York, isn’t surprised that eyebrows are raised when she mentions her research topic: rum as a symbol in literature. She after finding numerous references to rum in her studies of novels from the Caribbean Basin, the United States, the U.K., and Canada, decided the impact of the liquid was a topic worth studying.
“This project has allowed me to look at the ways popular texts—everything from 1950s tour guides to cookbooks to the film “Pirates of the Caribbean”—inform the way rum works as a symbol in literature,” said Nesbitt. “Even the song “Rum and Coca-Cola” has a really interesting story behind it,” she said.

Earlier this year, Nesbitt shared some of her research findings in a lecture entitled “Rum Histories: Drinking in the Past Postcolonial Atlantic Literature and Culture,” at University Park where she served as an Institute of Arts and Humanities (IAH) Resident Scholar for 2010-11. This is the first time a faculty member from York has been named an IAH Resident Scholar since the program began in 2003-04.

The IAH Resident Scholar program is jointly sponsored with the College of Arts and Architecture, the College of the Liberal Arts, and the commonwealth campuses. The program provides up to nine faculty members per year with one semester of release time from teaching, a $1,000 mini-grant for research expenses and/or materials, and the use of an office in Ihlseng Cottage at University Park.

Nesbitt joined the Penn State faculty in 2003 and specializes in twentieth century British literature, postcolonial literature and women’s literature. She has taught a variety of writing and literature classes, including first-year composition and rhetoric, introductory literature classes in the short story and women’s fiction, and upper level courses in literary theory, Caribbean literature, twentieth century British literature, and women’s literature. She earned an undergraduate degree in History and Literature in 1987 from Harvard University, Cambridge, Ma. and a doctorate in English with a certificate in women’s studies in 1999 from Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. She is originally from Winchester, Ma.

Nesbitt says with a smile, “Lots of people volunteer to help with my research.” 

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