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Cynthia Dobbs

Cynthia DobbsTeaching and literature are my great passions. (Granted, playing with my kids and my hound also rank up there -- but that's not why you're here!) Engaging with students in deep and far-ranging conversations about literature, history, and culture in the intimate seminar spaces afforded at Pacific is, for me, a joy.  As a graduate student at Berkeley, I would often look with some sadness at the undergraduate experience there: while the faculty were top-notch scholars and lecturers, undergraduate students simply did not have the kind access to them that I experienced as an undergrad at Pomona, a liberal arts college much like the College of the Pacific.  When I found the job at  Pacific after completing my Ph.D., I knew I'd found what I was looking for: the opportunity to teach and mentor students I would get to know well. The bonus for me (and for you): Pacific offers a supreme liberal arts college experience, alongside the exciting additional opportunities offered by a multi-school university.

  So here at Pacific I am able to teach a course like "Blues, Jazz, and Literature" in really exciting ways. In the class, students and I explore how thematic and formal aspects of work songs, spirituals, blues, and jazz have shaped and been shaped by 19th and 20th century American literature and culture (especially, but not exclusively, African American literature and culture). We analyze these musical and literary forms as explorations of the history of racial and class conflict in America; as meditations on individual and collective loss and longing; and as means of aesthetic transcendence. But what's most exciting to me is how we conduct this analysis.  The Brubeck Fellows (from Pacific's Conservatory) come to our class and give a performative history of jazz; we  go as a class to listen to the blues in Sacramento;  students conduct research on the impact of major musical figures and movements on the poetry and novels that we analyze closely in class. Students learn to read and listen closely, write well, and think creatively. We have  blast.  What more can we ask?