English professor’s research methodology published by Oxford University Press
Associate Professor of English Amy Rubens, Ph.D., who is also currently serving as the inaugural Presidential Fellow, contributed to the textbook “Research Methods in Health Humanities” (eds. Craig Klugman, Ph.D., and Erin Gentry Lamb, Ph.D.), which was recently published by the Oxford University Press.
Rubens’ contribution, a chapter titled “American Studies,” covers methodology used for research on literary and other texts. Its purpose is to uncover how representations of bodily illness in literary and other texts are connected to larger concerns about American identity, values and citizenship. Essentially, the American “body” writ large.
“It was truly an honor to have this chapter published, because this is a landmark text for the health humanities field,” Rubens said. “Over the last 10 years, there's been explosive growth in the health humanities at the undergraduate level, and this is our attempt to define the field by giving meaning to some of the tools that we use to do health humanities research.”
The publication of the chapter, Rubens said, heavily represents her work with Radford University students.
“I’ve been using the research methodologies outlined in my chapter for some time, but I started doing some of this work when I was writing my dissertation. I was able to develop it, refine it and break it down into meaningful steps that an undergraduate student can understand and then use in their own work,” Rubens said. “I feel like it is a nice representation of my identity as a scholar and of my work with Radford students.”
An example of the methodology in action comes from a class that Rubens teaches at Radford University, titled “Author in Context.”
“We're not just going to read things in isolation. We are going to look at context, the author's life and publication trends,” Rubens said. “Things don't just come into being because it magically happens.”
One author, whose life is analyzed in conjunction with their works, is Eugene O’Neill, an American playwright known for the drama “Long Day’s Journey into Night.”
“He actually had tuberculosis and credits his career as a playwright to that,” Rubens said. “He won many awards, including the Nobel Prize in literature and several Pulitzer prizes. That disease changed his career path, and that's why he became a writer. And, not coincidentally, if you look at a lot of his plays, tuberculosis comes up in a lot of them.”
Taking in that important context is critical to a full understanding of a work, regardless of the medium.
Through applied learning opportunities such as this, Rubens’ work with Radford University students is helping define English research methods on a global scale.