Professor of English and Cultural Studies
Martha Kuhlman, Ph.D.
For Professor of English and Cultural Studies Martha Kuhlman, Ph.D., the classroom should be a place for exploration. “My favorite part of teaching is getting students to discover things about themselves that they didn't know, and witnessing those a-ha moments,” she says.
The courses Kuhlman teaches, on subjects ranging from creativity and the arts, to critical theory, to Central European Literature, engage students in looking at the world in new ways. “Art and literature offer a way of opening up and engaging the imagination,” she says. “Books are the cheapest form of time travel and space travel. You can be transported into another person's situation and imagine what they're experiencing – and that can be a really powerful tool.”
Sharing such viewpoints and experiences is important to her. “One of the first conversations I had with my students in critical theory was about what they wanted to get out of the class. Most of them said, 'I want to hear about different perspectives,'” says Kuhlman. ”I told them ‘Great. You're definitely in the right place.’”
To that end, one of her favorite projects involved bringing a cartoonist to her graphic novel class to work with her students on creating their own mini-comics. “Bringing artists into the classroom is ... something that students haven't seen before,” she says. “To see an artist who's passionate about what they do, and to work with them directly, can be really inspiring.”
Kuhlman, who serves on the executive board of the Comics Studies Society, brings that drive to explore to her work outside the classroom as well. The author of a number of scholarly articles, including a piece in the MLA volume "Teaching the Graphic Novel," Kuhlman, who speaks Czech, German, and French, is working on a book titled "Comics of the New Europe." This scholarly work analyzes graphic narratives from a range of countries including the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, the former East Germany, and the former Yugoslavia.
Her interests extend into the field of the arts, as well. She was inspired to create her recent “Kafka Komix” art exhibit by exploring the author’s Metamorphosis with her Honors Introduction to Literature students. “I actually came to an art practice through my teaching,” Kuhlman explains. “When I first started teaching creativity in the arts, I had to really dive in and research and think about how I was going to design the curriculum. And as I was creating the assignments I thought ‘Oh, I really want to do that, too,’ which gave me the desire to get back into art making.”
That commitment to both teaching and furthering her field, she says, is shared by her colleagues at the University. “Bryant's English and Cultural Studies department stands out because we have really extraordinary faculty,” says Kuhlman. “They’re passionate about teaching, but they also publish, they travel, and they create. They're known worldwide.”
Areas of Interest
• Central European Literature
• Critical Theory
• The Graphic Novel
• The International Detective Novel
• American Comparative Literature Association
• Modern Language Association
• Northeastern Modern Language Association
• Comics Studies Society (executive board member)
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“One of our tasks as educators is to challenge [students], encourage them and nurture them so that they graduate as individuals ready to do something positive.”