Kurt Taroff

Lecturer in Drama, The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland

Grad Year: 1995

Other areas of sudy/degree(s):

PhD in Theatre, City University of New York, 2005

A solid base

Always fascinated by literature of all kinds, becoming an English major was an easy choice for me.  The decision to spend my college years studying English literature was one I have never regretted for a moment, and the diverse background I developed in fiction, poetry and theory has continued to serve me well throughout the years.  I entered the program thinking (as many do) that I would go on to law school, but the more time I spent in the classroom engaged in debate and fruitful discussions with committed students and faculty, the more I felt that academia was where my future lay.  I had only taken a single class in drama (Shakespeare) when I decided to write my Senior Honors Thesis on issues surrounding the work of Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw, entitled "Work and Plays: Protest of Industry and Capital in Drama, 1880-1914."  Working with Professor Peter Bauland to prepare the thesis gave me my first taste of a major research project and reinforced in me my desire to pursue a career in the field.  While working toward a PhD in English, I interned at New York Theatre Workshop in Manhattan, where I was involved in the original off-off-Broadway production of the Tony Award-winning rock opera Rent.  Observing the transformation of a play from page to stage (to international sensation), combined with the work I had done at Michigan, led me to turn my attention from English to Theatre.  In 2005, I received my PhD in Theatre from the City University of New York Graduate Center, where my dissertation was "The Mind's Stage: Monodrama as Historical Trend and Interpretive Strategy", which explored the history of a dramatic genre that has existed for over 200 years with little critical attention.  Writing the undergraduate thesis as part of the Honors program taught me valuable lessons in research that proved enormously beneficial throughout graduate school, and particularly with the dissertation, and the experience of the long writing project provided crucial confidence and experience when it came to the daunting task of writing a dissertation, and now, of turning it into a book.  Following the PhD, I was awarded a two year Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.  It was a wonderful experience teaching at a top-flight institution while further revising and expanding my dissertation.  Finally, this past fall, I took up an appointment as a Lecturer in Drama at the Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, a member of the Russell Group of top UK research universities.  Moving abroad has thus far proved a fascinating experience, giving me a first-hand look at a rapidly changing society, and at the same time, presenting me the opportunity to learn a different academic system and explore alternative approaches to both education and research.

Passion for learning

My education in the English Department at the University of Michigan has remained a central part of my life at every step in my career.  The program honed my skills in writing, research and ways of reading and interpreting works of literature and theory, undoubtedly giving me a leg up when I moved on to graduate school.  Perhaps more importantly, the enthusiasm for learning and literature that English at Michigan instills is something that remains with me, and I strive to pass that on to my students today.

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