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Reading the Visual

A visit with Nancy M. West, Associate Professor, English Department

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: Kodak photography photographs camera memory

Valuing collaboration

Topics: collaboration research

Collaboration has been at the forefront of West’s research from the beginning. Although collaboration is said to take twice a long as working on something by yourself, West reports “I’ve always thought it was really sad in some ways to be an academic, working so much in isolation. Questions arise, such as ‘whom am I writing this for, how many people are going to read it, and what social good am I doing?’ For me collaboration helps alleviate some of those anxieties about the usefulness of the work. Whenever I get anxious, I can turn to my co-author and ask, ‘Why are we doing this project again, and why is it important?’ We can sort of borrow each other’s energies at different times. There is truly that spirit of doing it together—a joint venture.” In this spirit, West has collaborated on a number of conference papers and articles with graduate students and other colleagues because she finds that collaboration pushes her in different ways. For example, working with Pelizzon, with whom she wrote From Celluloid to Tabloid, challenged West to be a better writer. “She is a wonderful stylist,” says West of her poet collaborator, so that “whenever I write a sentence and revise it, I wonder if it is a sentence she would like, or how I could make it better. She also tells great narratives, knows how to tweak anecdotes really well, and knows how to make a critical book read like a narrative, which is a real gift.”