Class of 2020: Antoinette Williams-Tutt, Road Novel Scholar, on Returning Home to Teach at Southern Methodist University

Antoinette Williams-Tutt (Photo courtesy of Williams-Tutt)

Antoinette Williams-Tutt (Ph.D. ’20, French) is a Texan with a passion for Québécois road novels. This fall, in her new role as a lecturer at Southern Methodist University, she’ll share this interest and related ones with students in her classes. She spoke to us about how she found her voice at The Graduate Center and what’s ahead on her own road. 

The Graduate Center: Congratulations on your appointment!

Williams-Tutt: Yes, I am really thrilled about it. You know how difficult the academic market can be, especially the humanities. So it’s really wonderful to have this opportunity. And on top of it, I’m actually from Dallas. Southern Methodist University is in my hometown.

GC: What are you most looking forward to in your new role as lecturer?

Williams-Tutt: I’m in the World Languages and Literatures department. It’s a mostly teaching-centered role, so I am looking forward to getting to develop more classes in French and English. In my 10 years of being an adjunct professor I’ve actually not ever taught in English, so I will also get a chance to develop French literature and Francophone literature centered courses to a wide range of audiences.

GC: Tell us about your research. 

Williams-Tutt: My dissertation analyzes road novels by Québécois authors that adapt and reinterpret the American model made famous by Jack Kerouac, American of French-Canadian origin, who wrote On the Road. It addresses questions of Québécois national and cultural identity and examines the preeminence of family, separation, home, and belonging, tracking the experiences of men, women, and Indigenous Peoples present, and sometimes notably absent, in these road novels.  

GC: What drew you to your topic?

Williams-Tutt: I took a program in Montréal to teach French as a foreign language, and I just fell in love with everything that was around me, the architecture, the people, the culture, the food and everything. And I think that is where I started thinking, I love Québec. I love everything about this. I was able to take Québécois literature and film classes. And I tried to pursue this as my specialty.

GC: What’s ahead for your research?

Williams-Tutt: I want to look at different things within the umbrella of Québécois road literature. I’m looking more at Indigenous women writers. Cultural identity is the fulcrum of the Québécois road novel. Who am I? Who is writing in this way? Who is using road literature and travel writing in this way in North America in French expression?

GC: You’re also a singer and French diction coach.

Williams-Tutt: I credit singing with helping me learn languages. At a young age, I sang in many different languages. I think having a musical ear definitely helps with the rhythm and the tone and everything of learning language. And I was the French diction coach for the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus women's ensemble, an ensemble I sing with. I’ve also taught individual singers.

GC: Any advice for doctoral students? 

Williams-Tutt: The biggest piece of advice I would say for me was learning to trust myself. My confidence in my voice as an academic has quintupled if not more in this academic community. You have a right to say something. Trust yourself. Trust your voice.

GC: How did The Graduate Center prepare you?

Williams-Tutt: It was getting feedback from my professors, their approachability, and feeling like I was able to talk through ideas, which was a skill that I needed. Pressing yourself enough to even know that it’s okay to talk about things. It’s okay to change your mind. You don’t have to just stick with something because you said you would. If it doesn't feel right, if you’re not finding the research, or if it just feels like forcing something, it is 100% okay to let it go. 

Submitted on: MAY 29, 2020

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