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Flagler Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Courtney Kersten

Sep 6, 2022

Dr. Courtney Kersten is an Assistant Professor of English. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Idaho and a PhD in Literature and Feminist Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She was a Fulbright Fellow to Riga, Latvia, and is the author of Daughter in Retrograde (University of Wisconsin 2018).

Faculty Spotlight Graphic Featuring Courtney Kersten

What is your favorite course to teach and why?

I’m not sure that I have a favorite. Rather, I love all of the courses I’ve taught for different reasons. I love teaching about animal studies because it encourages students to look at the non-human world with so much more curiosity and compassion. I love teaching creative writing because it’s a way for students to find greater ease and playfulness in expressing themselves. In general, I find meaning in helping students bring greater care and consciousness to how they interpret and write about the world.

What is your area of expertise?

I am a creative nonfiction writer and have worked in a variety of its sub-genres from memoir to biography to the lyric essay. I am also interested in feminist literature and theory and animal studies and, often, my creative work engages with these topics.

What book is on your nightstand right now? And why did you choose it?

I recently finished David Quammen’s Spillover which is about the relationship between disease and the animal world. The book was published in 2012, and he predicted that the next big pandemic would be a novel coronavirus that would “spillover” into the human population. I felt I had to return to his book as we grapple with the Coronavirus.

What has been your favorite piece of research you have conducted? And why?

I recently finished my dissertation which is a hybrid biography (as in, it combines memoir with biography) of the American astrologer Linda Goodman. I loved writing and researching it because of the big questions it asks about biography and writing about another person. It was such a challenge—not only to find sources and material but also to figure out how to navigate writing a hybrid manuscript. I’m also just a huge fan of Linda Goodman and am excited to be able to tell her story (as much as I could find that is).

What are five words you would use to describe your style in the classroom?

Playful, open, warm, rigorous, active

Why is it important for the College to have a major in your area?

Engaging in writing and studying creative writing not only helps us reflect back and analyze the current moment we’re living in, but it also gives students solid skills in writing and communication and helps them identify their core values.

What is one thing that no one would guess about you?

I was once obsessed with the band the Monkees.  

How do you embody Flagler’s Core Values in your classroom and on campus?

I believe that creative writing, and all writing, is connected to human growth. From the act of expression to revision, creative writing is a vehicle to becoming more aware and gentler with our personal development and to recognizing the uniqueness of our own story and voices. I believe that creative writing embodies Flagler’s principle of Transformative Learning in this way as writing can help us transform the stories we tell about ourselves and the world around us so that we exercise reflexivity and care in telling such stories.   

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