Kayli Adams ‘20
Christy Pottroff is a passionate Assistant Professor in the English Department at Merrimack College. She has been at the college for the past three years and has made a significant impact on the school. She teaches an array of classes, including “American Witches: In Salem and On Screen,” “True Stories: Nineteenth-Century Novels and the News,” “Poe, Hawthorne, and the American Short Story,” and “Literary Boston.”
Before Merrimack, she had a one-year fellowship at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously she was a doctoral student at Fordham University in New York City. Prior to that, she taught seventh and eighth grade Language Arts and Special Education in Kansas.
Her speciality includes teaching early American literature courses and helping her students understand the broader historical and cultural contexts of classic literary texts using interdisciplinary techniques. While reading literary works by Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, and Edgar Allan Poe, her classes listen to popular music from long-past eras; study the newest technologies, including the printing press, the clock, and the telescope; experiment with colonial-era recipes; and learn from newspapers and media circulating alongside novels and other literary forms. Her classes help students better understand the many ways people told stories in the past.
She is currently working on a book project, which is a literary history of the U.S. Postal Service.
“The book demonstrates the surprising extent to which the postal system determined the kinds of literary works that could emerge from and circulate within the United States between 1790 and 1870,” Pottroff said. Sometimes, the cost of a stamp or an exclusionary policy could have profound effects on who could be writers and readers. My interest in the history of media and technology likewise drives my work on a digital humanities mapping project that traces the expansion of the postal system in its first century.”
During this time of remote learning, she has been doing plenty of cleaning and creating things. “Later this afternoon, I’m going to sew a hotdog out of fabric…because why not?,” Pottroff said.
She has also been experimenting with 17th century recipes for her “American Witches” class. One way she does this is by using natural resources.
“I’m going to dig up some dandelion roots to make a video on 17th century medicine. These folk recipes often blur the line between witchcraft and medicine—and they also reflect information that was passed between generations of women.”
This year, she is looking forward to seeing her friends in person again, live music and bar trivia, and weekend trips to NYC and Philly. Although she is looking forward to the future, Pottroff is also staying present.“I’ve been focused on being in the moment as much as possible lately—and have avoided thinking too much about the future. Being in the present has given me a stronger appreciation for the small things—a good cup of coffee, feeling the sun on my skin, observing the early signs of spring.”