Dr. Bellee Jones-Pierce joins Centenary as assistant professor of English
SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary welcomed Dr. Bellee Jones-Pierce this fall as a new assistant professor of English. Jones-Pierce, whose research interests and teaching background include work in medieval and early modern literature, creative writing, composition and rhetoric, and disability studies, brings a wealth of knowledge and experiences as well as a strong appreciation for the liberal arts to her position at Centenary.
Jones-Pierce completed undergraduate degrees in creative writing and psychology at Huntingdon College – a small, Methodist-affiliated liberal arts college in Montgomery, Alabama – and was attracted to the position at Centenary due to the shared mission of the two institutions.
“I know the worth of a liberal arts education grounded in service, community, and real-world experience,” said Jones-Pierce. “I also know that value increases exponentially for students from the South, where I have lived my whole life. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the work of scholarship, service, and community that takes place at Centenary.”
Jones-Pierce earned her Ph.D. in English literature from Emory University, where her dissertation, “Able Verse: Disability and the Lyric in Early Modern Literature,” brought together her interests in disability studies, early modern literature, and the lyric form. Prior to her doctoral work at Emory, she also earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Georgia College & State University and an M.A. in English literature from the University of Alabama’s Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies.
In addition to exploring her research interests in scholarly articles and conference presentations, Jones-Pierce has published original poetry in The Journal, Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, honeydü: the sweetest thing, Roger, and Rhino. She has taught British and world literature, composition, creative writing, poetry, expository writing, and special topics in literature at Georgia College & State University, the University of Alabama, Emory University, and Middle Tennessee State University.
At Centenary, Jones-Pierce is excited to be teaching a Trek 116 course in the spring called “Monsters & Outcasts,” which will allow students to explore a diverse set of topics - beauty, fashion, ability and disability, race, class, politics, adaptation and appropriation, and ethics. The course uses literary inquiry to help students learn something about themselves and their society’s values by examining what that culture has deemed least desirable, the “monsters” and the “outcasts.”
“I want my students to ask hard, fruitful questions and to value inquiry in others,” explained Jones-Pierce. “I also want my students to gain a sense of mastery and ownership over their learning. It’s important to realize that mastery is not incompatible with inquiry. Having answers doesn’t mean we stop asking questions. Writing, incidentally, is the best way I know to ask questions and find their answers. One of my former teachers used to say, ‘Ask the page.’ I try to shift students’ approach from ‘I write to illustrate what I know’ to ‘Writing can help me figure this out.’”
Additional courses Jones-Pierce has planned for this year include “Shakespeare and Film” and a Literature and Culture course entitled “Making Love: Early Modern Amorous Lyric,” an investigation of the ways early modern love lyric has shaped our contemporary understanding of both love and poetry. Readings will include John Donne, George Herbert, Robert Herrick, Andrew Marvell, Phillip Sidney, Katherine Phillips, Aphra Behn, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and others.
Centenary students will also benefit from Jones-Pierce’s interest and expertise in disability studies. Along with Lindsey Row-Heyveld of Luther College, Jones-Pierce is a co-founder of Premodern Disability, a resource aggregator for disability scholars of the medieval and early modern periods. Row-Heyveld and Jones-Pierce are compiling a cross-period, cross-disciplinary calendar and resources including bibliographies and pedagogical materials. This project offers opportunities for student research and collaboration at Centenary as well as Luther.
“Disability and questions of access pop up everywhere in my courses—as they should, considering one in four adults in the United States is disabled,” said Jones-Pierce. “I intentionally include disabled voices and point out the ways we speak about dis/ability. I also call attention to the ways I design my courses for accessibility, and I ask students to take part in that work with me. Disability studies is wonderfully interdisciplinary, so students who are interested in literature, history, the history of medicine, anthropology, and many other subjects could find themselves at home in the project. Students who would like experience in compiling bibliographies, synthesizing information, and other research tasks in the humanities might also find it fruitful.”