DURANT, Okla. – When Lisa Coleman joined the faculty at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 1994, her primary areas of expertise included rhetoric and composition. Now, 20 years later, Dr. Coleman can add “Virginia Woolf Scholar’’ to her list of credentials.
Woolf (1882-1941) was an English writer and one of the most important modernists of the twentieth century. She was a significant figure in London literary society. Among her most famous works are the novels “Mrs. Dalloway’’ (1925), “To the Lighthouse’’ (1927), and “Orlando’’ (1928), along with the essay, “A Room of One’s Own’’ (1929).
A motion picture (“The Hours’’) about the effect the Mrs. Dalloway novel had on three women was made in 2002 and starred, among others, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.
“Woolf’s work is hard to read – she had high expectations of her readers,’’ Coleman said. “You have to read it and study it – some of it is very experimental. It’s not what you read on the beach.’’
In addition to her duties as a Professor of English, Coleman serves as the Director of the Honors Program at Southeastern. She has received numerous teaching awards and other recognition during her career.
As part of her studies, Coleman has attended 11 Woolf-related conferences in England, Scotland, Canada, and the United States, serving as presenter/panelist. In addition, she’s had three conference papers published as well as two book chapters on the subject.
“Woolf was a very disciplined writer,’’ Coleman said. ”She wrote novels and short stories, but no poetry. And like a lot of famous writers, she lived an interesting and sometimes troubled life (committing suicide at age 59).’’
Coleman admits that she had not read Woolf until her Ph.D. studies led her to an essay about women and writing. That sparked an interest that has led her to her dissertation – “(Re)Reading Woolf and Writing: Implications for a Postmodern Composition Pedagogy.’’
Coleman earned a Ph.D. in Humanities Rhetoric/Composition/Critical Theory at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in 1997. She also holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from UTA.
In addition to Woolf, Coleman says her other great passion is “social justice.’’
To that end, she has co-edited two monographs on diversity for the National Collegiate Honors Council – “Setting the Table for Diversity (2010) and “Occupy Honors Education’’ (forthcoming).