Photo of Aaren Pastor

I'm a dual-title PhD candidate in English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.

I received my Master's in English from Penn State and my Bachelor's in English and Religious Studies from Rice University. Go Owls!

Dissertation

My dissertation began as a study of influence and evolved into a study of the transformative potential of ideas and texts. I believe language can have effects on the body and mind - or, as I like to schematize it, the bodymind! G.I. Gurdjieff was a Greco-Armenian mystic who developed a system of thought called “The Work” that held an attraction for many literary and artistic modernists in the 1920s. Gurdjieff believed that human beings were “asleep,” and he developed a method that sought to unify a human being across their emotional, physical, and intellectual centers. Think of it like an extreme form of self-care.

The rest of my dissertation explored complex responses to Gurdjieff's system of thought in the work of New Zealand short story writer Katherine Mansfield, African American author Jean Toomer and British-Mexican Surrealist Leonora Carrington. My dissertation pays particular attention to how race, gender, and age inflect a subject’s experience of “bodymind,” a term that has its origins in Buddhist traditions but has been critically used in disability studies. My work is informed by both Buddhist teachings and the work of Eli Clare, Margaret Price, and Sami Schalk. Finally, my dissertation asks if the very act of reading these works can effect a transformation of the reader’s own subjectivity; are these texts not merely objects but methods for living?

Publications

I have published primarily in academic journals and edited collections, although I do have experience writing, editing and researching for a foodie magazine in Houston!

My recent publications are on sex-gender testing, racism and transphobia in women's track and field, the stylometry of gender in modernist novels, and eating disorders and subjectivity in graphic memoirs.

Teaching

I often use the odd, the curious and the unusual as gateways to prompt in both my research and teaching more incisive questions about gender, sex, race, class, and the politics of literary canon formation. In the summer of 2019, I taught an embedded study abroad course in London, England. Place-based, my course focused on literature set in London and England with a magical or mystical bent. We were also able to take advantage of multiple fortuitously timed exhibits, such as "Dorothea Tanning" at the Tate Modern and "Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic" at the Wellcome Collection. We also went on an occult tour of the British Museum. Although occasionally initially bewildered by the fantastical writing of Leonora Carrington or Aleister Crowley’s alchemical ceremonies, after returning to the “basics” of describing the who, what, when, and where of their stories, we as a class were able to move from comprehension to critical analysis of gender and nationalism in post-World War I England.

I also have extensive experience teaching upper and lower level rhetoric and composition courses. My introductory composition courses are typically focused on issues of race, gender and class. I construct my syllabi with an eye towards encouraging my students to examine their own standpoints, biases, and differences and enhance their critical capacities. I also encourage the use of different media and creativity in response to my essay prompts. As a result, my students have explored a variety of argumentative styles and media in their projects: one built a website about children’s vaccinations, one wrote each essay in the course as a newspaper article, and one of my Business Writing students completed her final project on greenwashing at the clothing boutique she worked at, then presented it to her supervisors, who in turn took her concerns to upper management.

Contact

I can be reached at edits.aarenpastor[@]gmail.com