Professor Harriet Pollack is an affiliate professor of American Literature at the College of Charleston. Professor Pollack received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and Haverford College and her PhD from University of Virginia. Before coming to the college, Professor Pollack lived in Senegal with her husband, who was doing field work, taught at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, and then taught at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
Though Professor Pollack was born and raised in Pennsylvania, Pollack has a long and deep connection to the South, and Southern literature. Most of her work revolves around the idea of the South as a narrative written on symbolic bodies – the “lady’s” body, the “black” body. As she explains, “rules of social order and the body politic are written on flesh, figuratively and literally, a fact particularly evident in U.S. history and literature, thick with traumatic recollections of black bodies transported, displaced, sold, and brutalized, and white female bodies guarded, protected, restrained, and punished.” Her book, Eudora Welty’s Fiction and Photography: The Body of the Other Woman considers a recurring pattern that pairs a sheltered young “lady” and an “othered” woman—underclass, foreign, or black. Pollack explained, “The othered woman, who is not a ‘ lady’ models ‘making a spectacle of herself’ for the girl character who is fascinated while she herself considers escaping cultural protections in favor of self-exposure.”
Today, Professor Pollack is off campus at her home in Mount Pleasant, SC. Right now, Professor Pollack is publishing a book series, “Critical Perspectives on Eudora Welty,” and for it, is creating a volume tentatively titled Eudora Welty and Mystery. For that collection she is writing an essay about Welty’s civil-rights-era novel Losing Battles, in which a comic mystery leads to sudden murder confession, and a black man hung for a white man’s crime, without consequences.
Aside from her many accomplishments, Professor Pollack is a friendly and humorous individual, who I very much enjoyed interviewing. My favorite moment of the interview came when I asked Professor Pollack how she’d like to be addressed, and I listed off options including Doctor, Professor and Ms. Professor Pollack responded with a smile and said, “just Harriet.”