The Pursuit of Knowledge

Heidi Kunz’s expertise on F. Scott Fitzgerald results in prestigious invitation.

Years ago, Heidi Kunz learned that one of her students planned to take two English classes that would require reading Moby Dick and Paradise Lost simultaneously. She tried—and failed—to talk her out of it.

A few weeks into the semester, Kunz asked the student how she was handling the heavy reading load. “It’s no problem,” the student said. “They’re both really the same story.”

Heidi KunzThat student’s important literary connection excited Kunz, a Randolph English professor. “I love the kind of student who decides to come to a liberal arts college with small class sizes,” Kunz said. “They are intellectually engaged students, and that’s any teacher’s dream.”

Another aspect about Randolph College that Kunz loves is the opportunity to be intellectually engaged herself. While her focus is primarily teaching, she also dedicates time researching and writing about an assortment of literary and historical topics.

“I love having the ability to pursue what interests me without being limited to one area of specialization that I’m expected to follow forever,” she said.

Kunz’s research has gained attention during the past two years. In 2011, she was chosen to present at the international Fitzgerald Conference in France, and she was recently named to the editorial board of the prestigious journal The F. Scott Fitzgerald Review. She also has been invited to author chapters for several books.

One such chapter appeared in F. Scott Fitzgerald in Context, a book in the respected series by Cambridge University Press. Her piece, “Gender in the Jazz Age,” explained how Fitzgerald’s novels and short stories depicted evolving gender roles in the 1920s. At that time, some women adopted a “new feminism,” which involved pursuing a career while maintaining a family life. In response to the empowerment of women, the criteria of American masculinity also changed, with a focus on the development of the male body, she wrote.

“A lot of scholarly attention has been devoted to Fitzgerald’s depictions of women. Very little, until quite recently, has been explicated about his understanding of manhood and masculinity,” Kunz said. “I’m fascinated by how insightful he was.”

Kunz was also selected to contribute a chapter to The Poetics of Science: Literary Explorations and Cultural Difference. That work explored the contemporaneous American literary responses to Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer in America. In addition, Cambridge invited her to write an essay for Edith Wharton in Context. In this chapter, Kunz covered criticism of Wharton’s writing and broke new ground by including the reviews Wharton wrote of her own work.

“The scholars who have written about the reviews have not included Wharton’s own thoughts,” Kunz said. “I was really delighted to restore her to the contemporary conversation about her work.”