Uma Satyavolu Rau
Although in general the name of poesy be taken for some fiction, and though it is a common saying, “Les poètes mentent de moult de choses [the poets lie about many things]," yet the end of poetry is truth, to advance which these feigned images are formed . . . --Christine de Pizan
Uma Satyavolu Rau’s interests and intellectual pursuits have always been across boundaries: her PhD dissertation spanned roughly the period of 1750-1870’s, and considers the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment on the Long-Nineteenth-Century/Victorian Britain’s ideas of Civilization and Empire. It is neither strictly Victorian/British Studies, nor Postcolonial Studies; not exclusively literary studies nor historiographical, but embraces the both/and of many divides. And yet literary canons and traditions from diverse languages and cultures have always been of interest to her; in the English department, she will find any chance to teach Homer or Milton or Toni Morrison that she can. But Uma also believes that canons are constantly being contested and reformed, and that students especially benefit from the critical analysis of why we value books and reading, and why certain books over others. She believes that Literature is the Infinite Conversation and is happiest when engaging students, individually and as a class, as they enter into this conversation and form communities of readers and readerships.
She is passionately interested in undergraduate education, and has taught in the English Department and in the University Honors College at Pitt: Project Seminar: Migrant Wor(l)ds: Commerce, Contagion, and the City in 19th-Century Best-Sellers (Spring 2020); Banned Books; Literature and Medicine; Prized Books; Essays and Memoirs; Detective Fiction (Jewish Studies); Detective Fiction (Global); War; Independent Study: ENGWRITING 1901-1030 Exploring Genre; Literature and Science; Short Story in Context; Forms of Prose; Victorian Novel; The Modernist Tradition; Victorian Literature; Nineteenth-Century British Literature; History and Politics of the English Language; Introduction to Critical Reading; Junior Seminar: Literature of Melancholy; Independent Study: Jane Austen’s Novels; Satire; Myth and Folklore; New Literature (Literature and the New); Literature and Race; Black Literature; Introduction to English; The Gothic Imagination; The Dramatic Imagination; Seminar In Composition; Reading Poetry; Introduction to Literature; Literature of the Americas; Introduction to Shakespeare; Immigrant Literature; World Literature in English.
Elsewhere, she has taught English Composition; Survey of American Literature I & II; Survey of British Literature I & II, World Literature; Postcolonial Literatures; Women’s Studies; Non-Western Literature; Civilization and Art; World Literature in English; General Writing.
Uma’s interests in the mission of the Humanities and her passionate devotion to old-fashioned concepts like Beauty and Truth have directed her, over the last few years, into transhistorical, transcultural courses which bridge the gaps between imaginative truth of literature (poetry, fiction) and the centrality of factual, scientific knowledge. “Beauty is nature’s fact,” Emily Dickinson tells us; and perhaps one might venture the corollary, that Fact is nature’s beauty. Uma’s devotion to promoting such interdisciplinary knowledge has led her to devise the course Literature and Medicine. She now co-ordinates the English Department’s Medical Humanities Undergraduate Research Fellows in their research into strengthening humanities education for undergraduate preparing for the medical and healthcare fields, as well as science writing and narrative medicine. Christine de Pizan again: “These are my habits and the way I spend my life: studying literature.”