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Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Debbie Lelekis

TAMPA, Fla. --

What areas did you study? What subjects have you or are you publishing in?

I studied literature at USF as an undergraduate (B.A., 2001) and was a master’s student (MA, literature, 2004) before pursuing my Ph.D. in American literature at the University of Missouri (2012). My book “American Literature, Lynching, and the Spectator in the Crowd” comes out mid-October from Lexington Books. In the book, I examine the work of four American writers at the turn of the 20th century, who confronted and pushed beyond the passive observation and static visual performances traditionally associated with the terms "spectator" and "spectacle." Each chapter focuses on fictional lynch mob scenes. Additionally, my book explores the intersections between American journalism and fiction in the 19th century, a topic that I’ve been writing about in other contexts as well for recent conference papers and future articles.

What other projects are you working on?

Another big project that I am currently involved with is a collaboration with a former student on an article about the futuristic cities in Brad Bird’s film “Tomorrowland” and Walt Disney’s dream of a living community that eventually emerged as the theme park Epcot. We are examining the tensions between fantasy and reality that continue to challenge Disney’s mission to promote technology and global communication as a means of creating a better future.

What classes are you or will you be teaching? How would you describe those classes?

I am an assistant professor at Florida Institute of Technology, and I teach literature surveys, special topics courses and Writing about Literature. My classes are generally very interdisciplinary in nature, incorporating history, politics, cultural studies and film in conjunction with key literary texts. This semester I’m teaching a course on Civil War literature, and we have been reading from a wide variety of genres including letters, diaries, speeches, fiction and poetry.

What is your favorite memory of graduate school?

Graduate school helped me to hone my research interests and develop my voice as a scholar. I loved being involved with the colloquium events at USF!

How is/was the transition from being a graduate student to a faculty member?

I view the transition as a fun challenge. The main thing I’ve had to learn is how to balance all the different aspects of the job – research, teaching and service. There are a lot more meetings than I had expected!

How would you describe your experience on the job market?

I feel extremely lucky to have obtained a position right out of graduate school. The process of applying for jobs, doing phone interviews and participating in several campus interviews was exhausting and at times hard to juggle, while I was still finishing my dissertation, teaching at a local college and taking care of a newborn baby.

Link to Dr. Lelekis’s forthcoming book:

Our alumni spotlight is a feature we publish intermittently in which we focus on the achievements of one of BA, MA, MFA or PhD graduates. If you have a suggestion for a spotlight, please contact Laura Runge (


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