Suparna Roychoudhury, Associate Professor of English

Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship

As one of Suparna Roychoudhury’s students wrote, “Prof. Roychoudhury is arguably one of the most brilliant people I know in terms of making difficult material and theory less difficult with relevance to our daily lives.” The whole Mount Holyoke community came to feel the same way last fall 2019 at Convocation. There Suparna gave us an inspiring, intellectual context with which to begin the new school year, wherever we are in time: “Time is not finite and sequential but elastic and layered. As Shakespeare put it, ‘What’s past is prologue.’ It is always the beginning and the end and the middle…Time is not a wave that sweeps us up, rather it cools and shimmers within us…We are Mount Holyoke. We carry the time.” With those words, we were united – students, faculty, and staff – in experiencing an exhilarating start to the academic year.

Suparna Roychoudhury arrived at Mount Holyoke in the fall, or harvest semester, of 2012, after having received her Ph.D. in English from Harvard and taught there for a year. She holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering as well as bachelor’s degrees in English from the University of Sydney and from the Australian National University. Her academic specialty is English Renaissance literature and she is known for her focused research on Shakespeare.

Since coming to Mount Holyoke, she has taught courses at all levels of the English curriculum, from her 100-level classes, Brave New Worlds and Self-Portraiture, and her 200-level classes in Shakespeare, Cognitive Theory and Literature, Renaissance Poetry, and Transnational Literature, to her wide variety of 300-level classes including Early Modern Drama, The Cunning Renaissance, Cosmopolitanism, and Literature and Science, 1516-1674. A student writes that Suparna’s course “definitely exceeded…expectations – to say the course was eye-opening would be an understatement.” Students describe their teacher’s contagious enthusiasm and passion for the course material, and they praise her intensity. They maintain that their writing is more concise now, that they appreciate and are proud of the elevated discourse in their classroom, and that they understand citations. But most important, as one student writes, “I loved writing papers for this class and would put my heart in[to] writing them.”

Professor Roychoudhury is especially interested in the relation between literature and the history of science. Skimming the titles of her many articles one is intrigued by words like: phantasia, imagination, melancholy, mental tempests, anatomy, ecstasy, fantasy, pathology, medicine, and psychology. Her recent book, Phantasmatic Shakespeare: Imagination in the Age of Early Modern Science, is a fascinating study of pathological imagination and how Shakespeare’s works “foreground ambiguities in the early modern conception of imagination.” “Phantasia” is the Greek root of the word “fantasy,” and in this book Professor Roychoudhury analyzes psychological pathology and modern imagination as they are revealed, interwoven, and explored in Shakespeare. Her superb study of these topics elucidates the intersection between literature and the history of scientific discourse. Suparna’s other work has appeared in such journals as: Philological Quarterly, The Spenser Review, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Modern Philology, and The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies.

At the conclusion of Suparna’s essay on the pathologies of Macbeth she writes, “There remain the problems of distinguishing the diseases of imagination from its ordinary operations and of determining how we relate, or ought to relate, to our unruly minds…It may be that we are enclosed microcosms needing always to be guarded from the external and internal bodies that threaten to unravel us. But it is more likely that this very matrix of interlocking effects…precisely constitutes the entirety of a person.” Here again, Suparna has succeeded in making difficult material less difficult by revealing its relevance to our daily lives.

Please join me in celebrating Suparna Roychoudhury’s superb work and the enthusiasm, passion, and deep wisdom that she brings to her classes, as we present her with the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship.