Transcending boundaries: A new faculty profile of Molly Ferguson

Say hello to Molly Ferguson, who recently joined our Ball State English family as an assistant professor.

Molly earned her Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in August 2010 and has been teaching at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY since 2011. Molly will be teaching courses in postcolonial literature, contemporary British literature, Irish literature, drama, and gender studies. She favors texts with complex narrative techniques, magical realism, and black comedy.

Nashville booksHer research has focused on contemporary Irish literature and ghost stories, investigating how supernatural and folk tales in the writing act as safety valves for the collective anxieties of a culture.

Moving forward, she is working on framing postcolonial writing that draws on the supernatural as human rights speech. Much of her work and teaching intersects trauma theory with feminist and postcolonial theories.

Here, Molly outlines her journey.

How did you get interested in Irish literature and ghost stories? 

I went to Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, where I had the opportunity to study abroad in Galway, Ireland – a foundational experience for my journey in Irish Studies and world literature. While in Ireland, I was invited to a free performance of Connor McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower. That show profoundly affected me, and I became enthralled by contemporary Irish literature. At the University of Connecticut, we had a strong Irish Studies program and I was able to meet several important Irish writers like Emma Donoghue, Colm Toibin, Marina Carr, and Eavan Boland.

Through these interactions and my coursework, I began to notice inclusions of folk tales and re-interpretations of ghost stories that expressed cultural concerns and political expressions. As I traced these, I started my project of exploring how supernatural elements (i.e., banshees, vampires, fairies, selkies, pookas, etc.) conceal and yet thoughtfully translate concerns about the present.

How would you describe yourself as a teacher?

I think I’m a connected and interactive teacher.

I love to weave popular culture, graphic novels, and film into my classes, and to ask students to adapt and reinterpret what they read through their own worldviews. My classes involve a lot of group work and hands-on application of close readings to the class concepts we are working with. I think of every new class as its own little microcosm, where the dynamic of the people in that particular room shape the way I teach and respond to them. I’m most proud of assignments where students re-package and re-present what they’ve learned in class to serve them in another mode of communication, like my “Everything But the Paper Project” or my “Creative Reinterpretation Project”.

Both postcolonial and gender studies are interdisciplinary, so transcending disciplinary boundaries is a common practice in my courses.

What are you working on right now?

At the moment, I’m working on an article bringing into conversation two post-colonial writers that aren’t often compared: playwright/filmmaker Martin McDonagh and novelist Salman Rushdie. McDonagh once called himself “the Irish Salman Rushdie,” a comment that began my interest in examining how both artists are exploring the dark side of globalization. Specifically, Rushdie and McDonagh are both contributing to a transnational discussion about terrorism and the origins of terrorist thinking.

Welcome to the English Department, Molly!

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