Alicia Collins ‘21
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Dr. Ellen McWhorter began her career at Merrimack College in 2009 and is presently in her eleventh year here. Today, Dr. McWhorter is an Associate Professor in the English Department as well as the Associate Director to the Merrimack College Honors Program. Dr. McWhorter likes working in both of the departments because she has always enjoyed working with students and it keeps her mind sharp. She has always had a passion for English and she enjoys watching students learn and develop similar passions for literature. Within the Honors Program she loves having the opportunity to work with motivated students on campus, and she believes that it is those students who have the determination to really make changes in the world.
Prior to arriving at Merrimack College, Dr. McWhorter attended Bucknell University for undergrad and was first majoring in pre-med. However, the pre-med track only lasted a semester because she wanted a life that revolves around the arts. She then switched her major to English and Philosophy. She fell in love with both majors and applied to grad school in both areas. However, in the end, English was her main trajectory and she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for both her M.A. and Ph.D.
When it comes to being an English professor on campus, Dr. McWhorter enjoys teaching English classes that are more upper-level classes due to the fact they are more centered on a particular subject. This also allows for students to dive deeper into a particular subject and analyze it more completely. Dr. McWhorter favors more Modernist-themed classes. These classes include deep studies in authors such as J. Alfred Prufrock, Gertrude Stein, and Langston Hughes. Another class also follows the Gatsby-era due to its overall impact on American literature.
When Dr. McWhorter is not teaching in classes, she is currently pursuing research with Dr. Christy Pottroff, who is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English. The basis of their research is “Finding Anne Bradstreet,” which reveals the life and legacy of the first poet in the new world, Anne Bradstreet. Bradstreet grew up and died in North Andover, Massachusetts, so both Dr. McWhorter and Dr. Pottroff’s end goal is to locate the remains of her home in North Andover as well as find her burial site. Thus far they have taken students to examine town archives, assisted with ground examination along with archaeologists, and went to watch dendrochronological samples be taken from older houses in the area. Dr. McWhorter and Dr. Pottroff both want this to be a learning experience, but at the same time they see it as an opportunity to give back to the North Andover community as a whole.
In Dr. McWhorter’s spare time she enjoys “studying vampire narratives.” Others may not believe this a true hobby, however, she finds following the narratives very interesting. She is a connoisseur of horror movies and currently she is watching 1960s television show “Dark Shadows.” Currently, she just watches for pleasure, but in the future she plans to write academic essays about the show sometime in the next couple years. She also enjoys gardening, cooking, and hanging with her wife, cat, and dogs.
If Dr. McWhorter could pursue any other profession besides her own, she would study psychotherapy. Most of her current knowledge in psychotherapy is only literary-based and what she has learned on her own through the years. When she studies texts she finds psychoanalytic principles within the literature. In the future, she would love to learn more about the brain’s ability to analyze literary pieces and why humans make the decisions they do.