Spotlight Interview: Dr. Anne Stewart

Congratulations to Dr. Anne Stewart on completing her first year in CAP! She was part of the Individual and Society and Political Science, Philosophy, Economics (PPE) streams. In celebrating her first year anniversary with CAP, here is a short Q&A with her.

Can you introduce your course in 50 words or less?

Behold the glittering metropolis! Glass skyscrapers. Monumental architecture. Street life. Street food. Walkability scores. Freeways and food deserts. Car culture. Commuter culture. Alienation. Multiculturalism. Mixed development. Racial violence. Colonial history. Protest. Parade. Night life. Neon technoscapes. Flows of capital. Hyperconsumption. Hyperdevelopment. This course explores the literature and culture of cities.

What draws you to your research area and why do you think it is relevant to students?

My research area is contemporary U.S. literature, and how novelists from different backgrounds represent the connections between cities, racism, and climate crisis. What is the relationship between how racism takes place and how we treat the physical environment? The answers aren’t obvious, but it’s by asking these types of complex, interdisciplinary questions that we produce interesting and important scholarly work.

Why should students study English? Why is it important?

The philosopher Pierre Bourdieu says that few areas more clearly demonstrate the usefulness of relational thinking than art and literature. He means that studying art and literature help us understand the world around us through making connections. What is the relationship between the economy and the environment, or mass psychology and technological progress? Because of its capacity to show us how to think through these relationships—and to think relationally—literary study is one of the fields with the most opportunity for interdisciplinary work in the university. Studying English can be a launching pad for identifying and solving the biggest problems facing our society today, and that’s what we’re here at UBC to accomplish.

What is your favourite thing/highlight about CAP so far?

Definitely the people! My students, colleagues, and the whole culture here at CAP are welcoming and challenging. A great way to build community for first-year students, and for faculty!

How would you describe your teaching style?

My style is built around trying to get a group of people in a classroom to see what is interesting or important in a literary text, and to extrapolate from there into real-world problem solving. Humans get better at reading and writing byreading and writing, and by talking about reading and writing, so that’s what we do in my class. We read and write and talk until things that seemed complex and inaccessible in September become easy (and even…fun?) by exam time in April.

What do you most look forward to in your second year with CAP?

I look forward to the energy and excitement of life on campus. There’s nothing quite like being part of a campus community. It’s kind of like a small, ideal, intentional city. I love introducing my students to all the resources (a.k.a. free stuff!) they have access to as part of the UBC Vancouver campus, and I hope they make use of every pool, garden, library, and museum at their fingertips!

What advice would you give to incoming first year Arts students?

First-year is all about laying the foundation for the rest of your degree, but it’s also about figuring out who you are and what you want out of life. You’ll probably find yourself in a very different place (mentally, emotionally, professionally) at the end of the year than you were at the beginning, and it’s going to get harder to balance life and school. My advice is to anticipate this challenge and plan for how you will make schoolwork and life stuff part of the same routine, rather than opposites that have to struggle against each other. Finding that balance will be key to success in this first year.

Click here to learn more about our CAP streams.