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Professor Patrick Harwood
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Professor Valerie Frazier

Raul Carillo Professor Valerie Frazier

Making Brains "Hurt" in Lit Class
By Lauren Adderley

Recently tenured Valerie Frazier says that her teaching philosophy is to push students out of their comfort zone. As an English professor, Frazier doesn't expect generic responses from her students.

One student said of Frazier in an anonymous end-of-course evaluation, "She makes my brain hurt but it's fun."

So, if you love new literary experiences, then you may consider a class with this professor. Frazier specializes in African-American, multicultural, and women's literature. You will discover new worlds, ideas, and approaches in a class where students are pushed to offer a response that reflects how they really feel about the literature.

Out of the classroom, Frazier likes to read (surprise!), shop, bake, and home decorate. But in class it's all about making brainwaves buzz- she's always asking, "What do you guys think?"

Teaching and learning in Frazier's class is a source of inspiration to her.

"I am inspired when I help students think outside of the box and push their critical and analytical skills," she says. "This is a moment of epiphany for students and teacher that is wonderful and enriching for both sides."

Express yourself is the rule in Frazier's class. In a way, it has to be since most of ethnic literature is a constant declaration of thoughts that at times resist the status quo.

"It is essential to explore all literatures, oral and written, if we are to get a broader picture of the cultures around us," Frazier says. "We live in a globalized environment, and literature is one lens through which we can find out about other ethnic and cultural groups."

Frazier recently organized the "(Re)Roots and (Re)Routes: Transatlantic Connections in Language and Literature," an event for the College Language Association (CLA).

The CLA was founded in 1937 by a group of Black scholars and educators as a group for collegiate English and foreign language professors. The organization's annual convention for presentation of scholarly papers, exchange of ideas, and dialogue is an annnual highlight for CLA members.

"The College Language Association Convention was an international gathering of 350 scholars of African American literature and foreign languages," Frazier says. "Top scholars in the field attended and read papers on their current research, centering on slavery and abolition."

Frazier says it was an honor for the convention to be held here at the College of Charleston this year.

Meantime, ethnic literature classes are very popular among students of all races.

"Most classes on ethnic literature are full with many overload requests, so I think curiosity and a desire to learn about diverse groups inspires students," she says.

Frazier received her B.A. in English from the College of Charleston and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia.  She teaches composition, American, African American, and ethnic literatures.

Her research centers on contemporary African American, postcolonial, and women's literature. In addition, she is currently working on a book on the critical reception of Gwendolyn Brooks, an influential Chicago-raised poet who published more than 20 books.