Dr Laurie Johnson
How long have you been at USQ
I actually undertook my undergraduate studies at USQ more than 20 years ago, but in my current position, I have been at USQ for almost 10 years, starting out as a lecturer. I had long wanted to be an academic and began my journey in university administration at the University of Queensland, during which time I obtained my PhD. I had a clear direction of where I wanted to go in my career.
Why did you choose your current career path?
The idea of being in a university has always interested me – partly romantic I guess. I like the idea of universities as institutions devoted to learning and to the gaining of new knowledge.
What do you like most about your role?
I love the teaching side and also having the capacity to do research, even in fields that deal with very old material. I am currently working on Shakespeare and people say that surely you can’t find out anything new to say about Shakespeare, but that’s not the case – I am finding new things every day. I had a very good teacher when I was doing Shakespeare for the first time at school. My interest was ignited, not just with Shakespeare, but with the whole idea of the Renaissance world and the Elizabethan stage in particular. I have long imagined that if I had to live in another place and another time, that would be where I would choose to be.
Of you contributions or achievements at USQ what are you most proud of?
Currently I teach Introductory Literature and a course in the Art of Storytelling – the idea of narratives, film, short stories and what constitutes a story – as well as postgrad courses in Theory and in Shakespeare. I must say that the thing that fills me with the greatest sense of pride is when a former students get in touch with me to say how much they feel that I have influenced their life choices. That to me is what makes it all worth the effort. Some of my students go into teaching and others go on to be academics and some have said that they decided on that path from attending my classes
What are you currently working on?
I am currently doing research on Shakespeare, specifically focusing on the relationship between the players and the people who committed it to print. I said “players” as I don’t necessarily think of Shakespeare as a writer – I don’t think he thought of himself as a writer – he was an actor who wrote for his company. By looking at that relationship between the playwright and his company, it forces us to re-think the way we read those plays. Other actors had input as well – so it was not a single person writing, it was actors collaborating.
I still think Shakespeare was a fantastic writer, I just think the process through which he wrote was a little more complex than is usually considered to be the case. I have a seminar presentation accepted for the Shakespeare Association of America Congress in March 2012 ‘Patrons, Professional Drama and Print Culture’ and through that I intend to network and gain more knowledge in that area.
What excites you about teaching and learning?
I tell you what does excite me. As a student I remember those ‘lightbulb’ moments when something that had been baffling me suddenly made sense. I love it when I see my students have those ‘lightbulb’ moments – when it clicks.
How do you motivate your students?
I don’t have specific strategies. I do put a lot of work into the students and the courses I design and I think the enthusiasm and the effort that I put in comes across to the students and they are able to reciprocate.
What innovations have you implemented in your teaching?
Innovation in my teaching is about discipline innovation, about doing new things in English literature teaching. One of the things I have been trying to do in all of my courses is to focus to some extent on content, but also on process - giving the students clear strategies to produce outcomes that are recognised as discipline specific. This, I think, helps the students from the outset to see themselves as having a future in English studies, whether that be as researchers, teachers, or just informed readers. Also, I work on incorporation of digital literacies into the assessment in discipline specific terms; for example, how to identify online sources and discriminate between different types of sources.
Tell us about the grant/award you won from ALTC (OLT) or USQ?
I won the citation from ALTC in 2011 which was for, among other things, innovation in English literature with a view to producing knowledge makers. I like to have students thinking before they finish their undergraduate degree that they are already participating in the creation of new knowledge in English literature – not just absorbing the knowledge of the minds of the past - thinking for themselves.
What is your favourite place in the world and why?
I have been to a lot of places that I love and I would love to visit again. I guess in general, though, what makes a place great and what I love is when I am with family and friends; that to me is what makes life special.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
When I was doing my PhD studies, a lecturer at the University of Queensland advised us that we should not consider our dissertation to be our magnum opus – it will not be the last and greatest thing that we ever write. I think the same advice applies to a researcher – we should never think that we have finally closed the book on our research – there is always something that we could be doing that is fresh and new.
What is something about you that your colleagues may not know?
In addition to having a few poems and stories published, I have also written two comedic novels; neither has been published but both have been revised a few times. I do draw as well – I once aspired to be a cartoonist.
Contact Dr Laurie Johnson