Featured Graduate Student

Combining the Love of Music and Literature – Shannon Draucker

A native of Hudson, Ohio, Shannon Draucker majored in English and Music at Dartmouth College before entering the doctoral program in English at BU. Her research and teaching focus on Victorian literature and culture, music and sound, the history of science, and gender, sexuality, and queer studies. Outside of BU, Shannon plays clarinet in the Dudley House Orchestra at Harvard and in various chamber groups around Boston. She successfully defended her dissertation this spring and this fall will start as an Assistant Professor of English at Siena College.

Why did you pursue a PhD in English at BU?

What struck me most when I visited the English Department was that the faculty were not only brilliant and prolific, but also incredibly generous, supportive, and student-oriented. BU offers graduate students so many opportunities to independently design and teach our own classes. I was also especially excited about the Graduate Certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I knew immediately that BU offered the kind of stimulating and supportive intellectual environment in which I wanted to begin my career.

What energizes you about your research?

The sense of surprise I find at every turn! In my reading and my archival research, I am constantly realizing not only how bizarre the Victorians were, but also how vividly they imagined ways of being in the world that many thought impossible at the time. Though classical music was (and still is) often associated with highbrow and “conservative” ideals, Victorian writers often depicted music-making and listening as subversive acts. In the texts I explore, we see female violinists whose playing makes walls shake and muscles quiver, ghosts who return to haunt the living with their virtuosic singing voices, and musical instruments who can speak, touch, and feel.

Has your relationship to music changed since coming to BU?

My musical life used to feel quite separate from my intellectual life. Practicing clarinet and playing in orchestras used to be an escape or outlet from my academic work. Now, in rehearsals and concerts, I can’t help but think about how the sound is affecting our ear muscles and nerves – or how the Victorians may have written about it!

What energizes you about teaching?

To me, the most exciting moments in class are those in which my students and I are thinking and learning together – putting our heads together to puzzle out a strange literary passage or musical text. BU students bring so many diverse perspectives to the table. In my recent course on “Music, Gender, and Social Change,” my students knew so many more musical genres and songs than I did, and I was constantly returning home with new playlists. This kind of collaborative work, based on shared intellectual excitement, is what I love most about teaching.

How have you overcome challenges while at BU?

My friendships with my fellow graduate students have sustained me throughout my time at BU. Graduate school – and academic life in general – can be isolating, but I’ve been incredibly lucky to share this experience with a group of wonderful colleagues who will be lifelong friends.

If you could describe your experience as a graduate student in English Literature at BU in three words, what would they be?

Stimulating. Challenging. Inspiring.