Michelle Sroka

Ph.D. Candidate in English, 2013-Present 

I specialize in the long eighteenth century in Britain and British Romanticism, with an emphasis upon labor, gender, and ecocritical concerns. My dissertation project, The Poetics of Labor, examines how laboring- and middle-class writers in Britain imagine and articulate the act of labor in poetry and prose, seeking to understand what the artistic representation of labor might reveal about the relationship among labor, its human participants, and their communities. My research also extends into contemporary issues of female representation and marketing: this past summer, I managed a Data+ research group, Women's Spaces, that investigated how women are portrayed by magazines, and how those portrayals influence ideas of femininity, beauty, and feminism in our society. 

At Duke, I've taught widely varied courses. My most recent course, Human, All Too Human: A Survey of British Romanticism (Fall 2017), surveyed the major works of British Romanticism, incorporating laboring-class and female voices in addition to Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Shelley. Poems were examined through the lens of what it means to be "human", as well as compared with political and legal writings of the period, to determine what views of humanity emerged during this time, who was included in such discourse, and how such work has influenced the development of contemporary American culture. I was also nominated by several students in this course for the Stephen Horne Teaching Award, the highest teaching award for graduate students in the department. The prior year, I taught a creative nonfiction writing course through the English department, Writing at the Crossroads: Introduction to Creative Nonfiction Writing (Fall 2016). This course engaged students in both textual analysis and creative output, as students read and critiqued creative nonfiction essays, poems, stories, and documentaries from the 20th and 21st centuries, and then used this analysis and critique to write several creative nonfiction pieces of their own. I also served as an instructor in the Thompson Writing Programteaching a Writing 101 course, The Anti-Hero in Contemporary Literature and Film (Fall 2015). Students learned how to write analytical and argumentative responses and essays through the fiction of Junot Diaz and Gillian Flynn, as well as the television shows The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, centering their critique and analysis in the figure of the "anti-hero" in these works. The majority of my students were engineering, math, and science majors, and thus I taught both basic elements of writing (topic sentences, paragraph structure, etc.) as well as higher-level analysis and critique (developing and sustaining arguments, incorporating academic and scholarly sources, using theoretical literary and film terminology). 

Prior to attending Duke, I was a middle school English Language Arts teacher in Dallas, Texas, through Teach for America. I received a number of awards during my two years of teaching, including Teacher of the Year (2012-13) and Teacher of the Month (January 2013). I also served as the Lead Teacher for the middle school during my second year, observing other teachers, writing reports, and creating and leading pedagogical workshops at both the school and district level. 

Educational Background
Bachelor of Arts, University of San Diego (2011)
English (major), Spanish (minor), summa cum laude

Member, Phi Theta Kappa Society (2011) 

Fellowships, Supported Research, & Other Grants

Summer Research Fellowship awarded by Duke University (2017)