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By Anna Blackburn, Graduate Writer

The DOECL is excited to welcome Professor Sarah Ficke as Teaching Assistant Professor. Prof. Ficke holds a PhD and an MA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a wide range of teaching experience, and her research focuses on popular media and how it impacts perceptions of history. Keep reading to learn more about Prof. Ficke:

What are you most excited about at UNC?

I’m excited to start developing assignments that connect with the university’s on-campus resources, like the Ackland Art Museum and the Special Collections in Wilson Library.

What is a project you’re currently working on?

My current research project is about the historiographical aspects of historical romance fiction, and the rhetoric surrounding historical romance fiction in online spaces. Historical romance fiction has been popular with readers for years, but the Netflix Bridgerton adaptation has pulled it even further into the spotlight. I’m interested in how interactions with historical romance media shape public discourse about history, historical events, and rhetoric around issues like race, colonization, and gender roles.

What is a piece of media you are currently interested in?

One book I love to recommend to people is The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. It’s fantasy set in a world inspired by Southeast Asia, which follows the historian, Chih, and their quest to understand the hidden early life of the empress In-Yo, who has just died. My favorite thing about this book is its puzzle-like narrative approach. The story is told by Rabbit, In-Yo’s longtime servant and companion, who helps Chih catalog the items in In-Yo’s abandoned palace. Each object’s story fills in a piece of the empress’s history, gradually revealing the personal relationships and political maneuvers that took her from exiled despised wife to ruler of the kingdom. It’s a book about the importance of small details, personal relationships, loyalty, and networks of resistance in the face of power. There are several more books in the series, all featuring Chih traveling the country collecting histories, but this first one is my favorite.

Learn more about Professor Ficke here.

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