Q&A with English Alumna: Amanda Sigler 

Amanda Sigler at TU

Amanda Sigler (BA ’04) 

Degree(s) and graduation year: 

AS: I double majored in English and German 

Overview of career after graduation and current position 

AS: I went directly to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to study English language and literature for graduate school, where I earned my PhD in 2012. Upon graduating, I worked at several schools on the East Coast and had several shortterm positions with colleges in South Carolina and Virginia before coming to Baylor UniversityI am now an assistant professor of English on the tenure track in the English department at Baylor. 

I do a lot of work on modernism, which is literature of the early 20th century, and I particularly focus on the work of the Irish author James Joyce. I tend to do a lot of archival research, so I will travel to various libraries around the nation and around the world. Between research and conferences in both Europe and North America, my degree has given me a lot of international experience. My first Joyce conference I ever attended was at TU. I was an undergraduate at the time and delivered a paper under the direction of Sean Latham. 

Why study English at TU? 

AS: One major benefit of studying English at TU is you have professors who really care about you and who will work very hard to create professional opportunities for you. I would say that the close mentoring relationships and strong foundation I received at TU really prepared me for my current career success.  

What would you say to someone who is apprehensive about majoring in English? 

AS: If you’re someone who feels the pressure to pursue a major that is viewed as more practical or more financially lucrative, one solution is to double major, which has the added benefit of giving you two skill sets. If you’re thinking of majoring in business or a STEM field, I would encourage you to consider adding on an English degree. You will be able to see problems from new angles. You’ll be able to think about what your community needs and how you can contribute differently than other people in your field who don’t have that additional perspective 

I also think there’s a higher imperative than merely commercial success. And that is the imperative to preserve and pass down our culture and our history, and to keep telling and studying the stories that sustain us in times of crisis. In times of crisis, we do need people with practical experience. During COVID-19, our nation, and indeed our world, is in desperate need of medical doctors and health care providers, but societies also need individuals who can analyze situations skillfully, who can think critically and who can tell the stories that are unfolding in their communities. These are the skills that an English major will give you. In times of crisis, we need storytellers — people who can assemble information and create a meaningful narrative out of it that will both inform and inspire readers. 

Highlight from college: 

AS: There are many highlights from my undergraduate pursuits, but one activity I very much enjoyed was my senior honors thesis. For that, I was researching the papers of Richard Ellmann, who is James Joyce’s biographer. The Ellmann papers are housed in McFarlin Library’s Special Collections. A few other scholars have looked at them as well, but not as many as you might think.  They’re largely untapped so there’s a lot there that either no one has looked at in 50 years or only a very few people have ever looked at. In researching Ellmann’s papers, I was able to reconstruct the story of how he wrote Joyce’s biography in the 1950s. 

As a graduate student, I actually returned to my thesis and published it as an article in a scholarly journal called the Joyce Studies Annual. Reflecting on my TU experience, I would say that I really enjoyed getting to research in the archives and to tell the stories that have been long forgotten.