We had the honor of welcoming Visiting Scholar Vrushaa Subramanian to Oberlin College. Vrushaa is an Assistant Professor in the English Department from Lady Doak College, a women’s college in Tamil Nadu. Vrushaa is using her semester here in Oberlin to observe undergraduate teaching and work on her dissertation research on American women’s breast cancer narratives in literature. Vrushaa’s research interests were inspired by The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Upon reading the text, she was struck by author Siddhartha Mukherjee’s ability to explain cancer in a way that both medical professionals and laypersons alike could understand. Additionally while working on her MPhil, she found Audre Lorde’s Cancer Journals one of her greatest resources. As a Ph.D. candidate, decided to center her analysis on American non-fiction narratives, hence her research at Oberlin.
Being a book-lover at heart, Vrushaa has fallen in love with the Oberlin College Library, finding more sources for her dissertation than she can carry back home with her. The ease with which she can order books online, and find online resources here in America is also changing the path of her learning. But, here at Oberlin College itself, she has begun taking an interdisciplinary approach to her work. She is spending time in the Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies department, as well as the Sociology department, where she can delve into interdisciplinary subjects like Feminist Research Methods and Trauma Studies. One vital resource that she’s found is Arthur W. Franks The Wounded Storyteller, and the position of telling stories in the healing process of trauma.
Vrushaa has also been keen to learn about different teaching methods and is considering pedagogy for the courses she teaches at Lady Doak. In Lady Doak, often texts need to be read together in class, as different students have different reading levels. Upon her return, she hopes to introduce recommended or optional readings to guide motivated students who want to gain a deeper understanding of the course themes. She has ambitions to implement an Ex-Co system similar to Oberlin’s at Lady Doak College, as she’s currently taking the Queer Women on Screen Ex-Co. She believes that the peer-based learning fostered by the Ex-Co program is something that could really reshape processes of learning and collaboration at Lady Doak College. When you can’t find her in the library or Shansi house doing her research, you can find Vrushaa at Lorenzo’s Pizzeria or using an American Netflix account to catch up on the new season of Grey’s Anatomy.
Vrushaa says, “My four-month stay in Oberlin has been greatly enriching. It has helped me find what I want to do in my research, and has provided me the clarity that always eluded me. This sabbatical has truly rejuvenated my interest in research, and my passion for learning. The Shansi House and Oberlin have become very close to my heart, and I will always cherish the bonds I have made with the people here.”