Student Spotlight: Molly Volanth Hall

Molly Volanth Hall is a fourth year PhD candidate with the English department at URI and a force to be reckoned with. Molly joined the URI department after receiving a masters in Humane Education from Cambridge College in 2010 and a masters in literature from the University of New Hampshire in 2014. She focuses on ecocriticism, trauma, war literature, and modernist literature and is currently worked on her dissertation entitled “Ecologies of Materiality and Aesthetics in British Modernist War-Time Literature, 1890-1939.” She also very recently received a Dissertation Fellowship from the Graduate School for the coming 2018-2019 academic year and a NeMLA Summer Fellowship.

Molly has a co-edited book, Affective Materialities: Reorienting the Body in Modernist Literature, coming out with fellow URI PhD candidate Kara Watts and Dr. Robin Hackett from the University of New Hampshire. The collection brings together affect studies and ecocriticism to consider the modernist body, asking “how feeling, environments, and bodies relate to, co-constitute, and undo one another, and what the ‘matter’ is with modernist bodies.” Look for this volume from University Press of Florida, coming out in June 2019. Molly’s work with ecocriticism and trauma extends beyond modernism, such as a forthcoming article in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, “Beloved as Ecological Testimony: The Displaced Subject of American Slavery.” In this piece, she focuses on the relation of place and the failure of testimony to the post-traumatic subject in Toni Morrison’s novel.

While engaging with robust scholarship, Molly is also invested in the Public Humanities and pedagogy. She worked with Dr. Thomas Conroy and Dr. Rob Widell to create a public program, “Memory v. Representation: Soldiers’ Homecoming in History, Literature, and Testimony ,” to open up discussion about returning home from combat with the community. This program offered three public presentations with panels of veterans throughout the state with selected readings from literature to help focus the discussion. Molly is currently teaching Principles of Literary Studies for undergraduate English majors, and serves as a Graduate Teaching Assistant mentor, a two-year position that focuses on helping new literature TAs develop practical classroom practice and pedagogy. This past fall, she worked closely with Dr. Carolyn Betensky as a TA for World Literatures, the first large-scale lecture course for the department.

On top of all this, Molly is extremely active in service for the department, having founded both the department professionalization committee and peer writing group. In addition, she is working the the graduate assistant union, Graduate Assistants United, on a revision of the constitution and by-laws after 15 years. She is also coordinating a targeted rebranding campaign with Beth Leonardo Silva for the English department, which includes extensive work on the department website to better promote the work that the department and graduate students within the department do. Molly is enthusiastically helpful and has received the Excellence in Service award every year since entering the program.

It is hard to quickly summarize all of Molly’s accomplishments, as she is always seeking new opportunities to enhance her graduate education, such as a recent archive trip to the UK or working on the Next Gen PhD Grant for graduate education at URI. Molly hopes to complete her dissertation next year and given her productivity in the last four years, we not only hope that she is successful, but wholeheartedly believe that she will achieve her goal and more. Congratulations again to Molly on her recent fellowships!


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