Faculty Biography

SunHee Kim Gertz

SunHee Kim Gertz

Professor Emerita; Senior Research Scholar
Department of English
Clark University
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

Phone: 508.793.7126
Email: sgertz@clarku.edu



B.A. Carnegie Mellon University, 1973
M.A. State University of New York-Binghamton, 1977
Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1983

Brief Biography

Professor Gertz’s research and publications are centered in western European literature of the late middle ages (12th to 14th centuries). In particular, she works with Old French, Middle High German, Latin, Middle English, and Italian narratives and poetry, using literary, semiotic, and rhetorical theory (classical, medieval, and modern). Having worked on the structures of history, memory, semiotic theory, and contemplative practice, Professor Gertz has turned to researching the narrative structures of power. Her recent publications reflect this shift, including: an article on the Black Prince's staging ofhimself as King Arthur in Speaking Pictures: The Visual, Verbal Nexus of Dramatic Performance, published by Farleigh Dickinson University Press in 2010, and edited by the English Department's own Virginia Vaughan along with her colleagues Ferrando Cioni and Jacqueline Bessell; a journal article entitled "Fame and Politics: The Persuasive Poetics of Leadership," published in 2011 by Semiotica; and a book that came out with Palgrave Macmillan Press, Visual Power and Fame in René d' Anjou, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the Black Prince.  Her work-in-progress concerns the power of narratives to convey national myths. The topics of her classes change each year to reflect some of her current work. Consequently, a good number of her students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels have participated in conferences, delivering papers written under her supervision.

Current Research and Teaching

Since third grade, I knew I would be a professor. I just didn't know of what. In fact, I didn't know which field would become my area of specialization until my first year of Ph.D. studies. Moving from Chemistry to Philosophy to Art to Literature, I finally decided on Comparative Literature with a focus on western European medieval studies. The field allows me to read fascinating texts in various languages, to work with theory (my favorite areas are semiotic and rhetorical theories), and to puzzle over an ever-increasing list of questions that also take my areas of interest into account (even chemistry in the form of alchemy) in a profession I've always wanted to pursue.

Fortunately, teaching helps ground my scholarship; indeed, the two are absolutely integrated. I think that, my scholarship and interests serve as a locus--a place, a text--where students and I can converse, learn, pursue knowledge, and hopefully, interest others in that pursuit. Students who work with me learn not only how to discuss their views, but also how important it is to write effectively in order to think well and to re-write again and again in order to tease nuances out of complex thoughts. Whether we're working on Chaucer and other medieval authors, on poems or films and semiotic theory, on eastern and western thinkers who've written about contemplative practice, or on political leaders, we not only learn the importance of contextualizing facts, but in the process we also become acquainted with literary texts and philosophical thought, while analyzing important themes further allows us to understand how these diverse bits of knowledge may very well be relevant to our lives.

Especially in these times, when external demands dictate the pace of our days, advertising colors our self-perceptions and relationships, and even university life requires more focus on more and more professional concerns, it's necessary to have just such a locus so we may stop, think, and reflect, to (even though it may sound a bit dated) cultivate wisdom.

Recent Publications

My publications, five books and over twenty articles along with ten other short pieces, reflect this kind of interdisciplinary focus.  One of the five interdisciplinary books, for example, is an anthology on semiotic theory that was co-edited by a colleague in Psychology and a M.A. student from our own English Department.  My most recent book looks at the Black Prince and René d'Anjou, two late medieval leaders, through their writing and the lens of Geoffrey Chaucer's House of Fame--it is grounded, though, in our own times by a paradigm I created from recent political events and which was published seperately in the journal, Semiotica.

From Chaucer to Shakespeare, 1337-1580

2010: Visual Power and Fame in René d'Anjou, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the Black Prince New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Semiotic Rotations: Modes of Meaning in Cultural Worlds 2007: Semiotic Rotations: Modes of Meaning in Cultural Worlds: Information Age Publishing.
Echoes and Reflections: Memories and Memorials in Ovid and Marie de France

2003: Echoes and Reflections: Memory and Memorials in Ovid and Marie de France. New York: Rodopi.

From Chaucer to Shakespeare, 1337-1580

2001: Chaucer to Shakespeare, 1337-1580. New York: Palgrave.

Poetic Prologues: Medieval Conversations with the Literary Past

1996: Poetic Prologues: Medieval Conversations with the Literary Past: Klosterman.