Mary Ellis Gibson, the newly arrived Arthur Jeremiah Roberts Professor of Literature and chair of the English Department, brings remarkable breadth and depth to Colby as a scholar of literature in English, including works by British, American, and Indian authors. Arriving last fall from the University of Glasgow, Gibson is excited about the desire in the English Department to take a leading role as the College embarks on new interdisciplinary initiatives in the arts and humanities and particularly in efforts linking study of the environment and the humanities.
“We are eager to do our share in that,” she said. “I am hopeful that the [environmental humanities] project will allow us to help students see how taking courses in government, environmental policy, environmental science, English, and creative writing are synergistic—really, really synergistic. We need all of these sides to our knowledge right now. The more multifaceted our knowledge base can be, the more chance we have to make a real difference to the planet.”
Gibson’s work weaves together history and literature, focusing her research on American and other language poetry since the industrial revolution. Among the questions she explores from an interdisciplinary perspective are, how do poets understand or remake tradition? How does literary form respond to ideas of history, political hopes, and personal understandings of identity?
Her impressive scholarly background is informed and enhanced by an understanding of “the reciprocal relation of research and teaching,” Gibson said.
“Teaching often leads me to new areas of research, and my research always finds its way back into curricular development and classroom practice,” she said.
Gibson earned her bachelor’s at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. She taught more than 30 years at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro before spending 2013-16 at the University of Glasgow. Gibson has written or edited eight books and two special editions of scholarly periodicals ranging from Victorian poetry to literature of the American South to Colonial literature in India. She was granted tenure at Colby in November 2016.