September 9, 2019
Wheaton College welcomes Dyanne Martin, who is serving the College as an Assistant Professor of Core Studies and English.
Name: Dyanne K. Martin
Ph.D., Comparative Studies, Florida Atlantic University, expected 2020
Certificate, School of Criticism and Theory, Cornell University, 2017
M.A.T., Writing Emphasis, Florida Atlantic University, 2010
B.S., English Education, Florida International University, 1999
What was your favorite class in college?
Literature classes always seized the largest corner of my heart. My parents cultivated a love of reading in me at a very young age. My mother, who read aloud to me repeatedly from the time I was a baby, claims I began reading at the age of three, but I don’t recall this. However, as far back as memory takes me, I do know that I always loved stories. I devour books, sometimes binge-reading three a day when I have time off from work. I reach forward to see what the new writers are producing; I reach back to know what the old writers have said. The power of narrative on the imagination is immeasurable. Reading extends horizons and opens portals to new worlds. Done well, literature broadens our perspectives, teaches us history, excites our creativity, and fosters empathy. I have seen literature change people’s lives—not always for the better. Be careful what you read: it’s like food. If you eat only junk, your body will break down and be susceptible to disease. So it is with the mind.
Before Wheaton, what were you doing?
I was a tenured professor of English at Broward College in Florida, a school filled with diverse students from every socio-economic level and from many nations. I was privileged to work with an array of learners, including first-generation students, and to help them develop the academic skills necessary to succeed both in and out of the classroom. Before Broward College, I taught in various high schools for twelve years. I am grateful for the experience and the training that teaching in these environments afforded me.
What big question are you trying to answer through your work?
Racial tensions run high in our time: people on both sides of the color line engage in hostility, rage, and blame, but what waits on each side in terms of redress, rapprochement, and even atonement? Positions are staked out and fresh weapons taken up in the ongoing war on racism, but are we making progress? Are race relations better now than in the pre-Civil Rights Era, or have we taken a decided step backwards? I am deeply interested in representations—or the “rhetoric”—of race in the Americas, especially as presented in the literature that circulates around the mainland and off its shores. My current project focuses on the complexities of race and the ways in which people negotiate these nuances, as represented in the literature of the Americas.
What’s one interesting or intriguing thing that you have learned recently?
Because Florida is too hot and filled with too many reptiles for me to have enjoyed the outdoors, I am very excited about rolling up my sleeves and learning to garden here in Illinois. A professional landscaper recently walked me around our property to explain the pre-existing flora and fauna that my husband and I are now responsible for cultivating, and I learned that I have poison ivy in my yard! I thought it was pretty until I discovered its danger. The world can be like that, too. Beware the “pretty” leaf: find out what it harbors within before you draw near. See as the Lord sees rather than as mankind sees: “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Do you get butterflies the night before the first day of school?
Whenever I am in an unfamiliar environment for the first time, I experience those pesky butterflies. But the second I walk into a new classroom, they vanish, and my excitement over introducing students to the power of language and literature eclipses the flutter of nerves. In my professional life, I am happiest when I am teaching.
What would you have liked to tell the freshman version of yourself about going to college?
Ha! How much space do you have? I would have told myself (1) find Jesus and (2) life passes more quickly than you realize. Don’t waste opportunities and time: work as unto the Lord and let him redeem every experience.
When you’re not teaching or researching, what do you like to do?
I would rather read than do most other things in my free time. You will find me reading everywhere (in a parking lot, in the supermarket line, in the doctor’s office, during meals); it is a lifelong love and habit. I feel incomplete, or maybe just bereft, without a book close by. Reading keeps me in contact with the great souls of people of other times—their lives, their ideas, their experiences. When we read great literature, we walk with giants.