Heather Treseler, a recent Ph.D. in English from the University of Notre Dame, has been selected to be a visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is spending the 2010-2011 academic year working on a book manuscript entitled Lyric Letters: the American Epistolary Poem, 1945-1985.
In her research, Treseler is examining how poets John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Randall Jarrell, and Robert Lowell assimilated conventions of letter writing in their poetry, with a particular focus on how that shaped their creative process.
“Questions that I had about what can go into a poem or what should be left out got me thinking and reading about poets and their use of biographic material,” she says. “I’m trying to understand the importance of the letter in the post-war era and determine what its place is in culture and literature more generally.”
In addition to Lyric Letters, Treseler is working on a secondary project about the postmodern elegy and a manuscript of her own poems.
“As a serious athlete [in high school], I was used to experiences of the sublime, and the sublime I found in high-level sport is something I also find in literature and poetry,” she says. “There’s something electric and necessary to the best poems. I think I’m drawn to what’s knotted up inside them and how they convey an essential experience of the world.”
Treseler, who received her B.A. in comparative literature from Brown University and her Ph.D. from Notre Dame in August 2010, is one of just seven fellows in the academy’s Visiting Scholars Program, which supports the work of promising humanists, social scientists, and public policy analysts in the early stages of their careers.
After her year at the academy, Treseler is planning to get back into teaching. “I love teaching, and at Notre Dame, I had the privilege of working with wonderful students,” she says. “As a scholar, I know that teaching also quickens my thinking and deepens my engagement with the material I’m researching.”