Professor focuses book on courtship in novels


English professor Melissa Adams-Campbell is finishing editing her book, “New World Courtship: Transatlantic Alternatives to Companionate Marriage,” which is about cultural differences and romantic relationships in early American literature. The book will be released next fall.

By Sabreena Saleem

English professor Melissa Adams-Campbell is putting the final touches on her first academic book, “New World Courtship: Transatlantic Alternatives to Companionate Marriage.”

The book, which will be released in fall 2015, focuses on American fiction from 1767 to 1813. Adams-Campbell said she’s interested in thinking about how novelists of the period looked at cultural differences and romantic relationships and what they did with courtship practices inside the novels.

“I read a bunch of things in graduate school, and I think I sort of realized that I wanted to work on questions about gender and women pretty early in my graduate study. So, then it was a matter of figuring out how to do that in a way that was new and interesting,” she said.

“New World Courtship” started out as a dissertation and has been in the making for seven years. Adams-Campbell said her audience for the book is students and other scholars.

“… It’s taken a lot of different turns, so it’s a pretty different animal than it was when I originally started,” Adams-Campbell said.

Managing the tasks associated with being a professor and finding time to work on writing has been the trickiest part, she said.

“I think it’s just really important to have a sense that every day you try to make some time to do some writing, even if it’s only an hour …,”Adams-Campbell said. “It’s really easy to be swept up in the other things that are going on in your life. You really have to devote attention to that.”

Many classes Adams-Campbell teaches, including Earlier American Literature and American Ethnic Literature, focus on fiction and Native American novelists. Adams-Campbell said a research grant she received when she came to NIU helped her interview people at the Mohawk Reservation. She has used those interviews in her book.

Even though Adams-Campbell doesn’t plan to use her book in her courses, she would like to teach some of the novels she discusses in the book to students, she said.

“They’re really just a bunch of strange pieces that don’t normally get taught in classes, so it’s a fun challenge to try to figure out how to make those texts legible for students who don’t have a lot of experience in the early period,” Adams-Campbell said.

Although “New World Courtship” won’t be released until fall 2015, Adams-Campbell is already planning her second book, “Archives of Resistance.”

“… I’m actually thinking a lot about Native American oral traditions, as [students may] know from taking classes with me,” Adams-Campbell said. “I want to think about the ways that oral tradition could actually be a reserve of knowledge in similar ways to the ways libraries and book collections can store knowledge. We don’t think about oral tradition often in that way so I think there are exciting things to say about it.”