Professor of English
Anyone familiar with Professor Ann McClellan knows she is proud of her midwestern heritage and is a dedicated Anglophile. Many also know of her dedication to scholarship and service, as demonstrated by her selection for two PSU faculty awards this year: The Award for Excellence in Faculty Service and the Award for Distinguished Scholarship.
As a scholar, McClellan models professionalism and critical thinking, and she lauds Plymouth State for deeply encouraging scholarship. “There’s a great community of teacher-scholars here,” she says.
McClellan’s work explores the complex relationships between literature and culture, with research ranging from fictional representations of British women intellectuals to her current project on Fan Culture and the Popularity of Sherlock Holmes.
On sabbatical in 2011 she started researching on the continuing popularity of Sherlock Holmes and what it means for a literary character to have such fame. She explored the cultural movement of new Sherlock Holmes incarnations on television and film and discovered a whole new world of people who are interested in these stories and write original work about them, hypothetically filling in unknown gaps about what is happening between seasons or events. For example, after the cliffhanger at the end of BBC Sherlock’s second season, many fans published their own stories about how Sherlock faked his own death, having to wait two suspenseful years for the BBC to solve the mystery.
McClellan says, “At its heart, research is learning. I want to join in these conversations that other people are having around the world. I may be in rural New Hampshire, but engaging in scholarship makes me part of a larger conversation,” she says.
McClellan sees her scholarship and service as integrally linked. For example, she is a presenter for the New Hampshire Humanities Council Humanities to Go series. Recently she presented “(Not So) Elementary, My Dear Watson: The Popularity of Sherlock Holmes” at the Dunbar Free Library in Grantham, New Hampshire.
“Here I was, as a representative of Plymouth State University, talking with a group of 35 people from New Hampshire about literature, literary history, cultural history, media … and interacting with them in a free environment that educates the public about what we do in higher education. I share with them in a fun and comfortable way that intersects with their interests, their behaviors, and their leisure time.” She has presented the program to similar audiences in numerous communities over the past several years.
McClellan believes faculty members have responsibilities to their academic discipline and their field of study, but also to higher education as an institution. “The older I get, the more political I am about service, and the importance of service. We are here at an institution of higher education because we have been charged with managing, maintaining, and literally creating new knowledge and curricula,” she says.
“Who is going to educate the American public, our legislators, parents, and students about the importance of higher education and its relation to civil liberties, independence, politics, democracy, free speech, the arts, etc., if not us? Investing in the structural and ideological values of the institution and of higher education is a huge part of the element of service,” she concludes.
Award nominators say McClellan’s service to the campus is just as commendable as her public service. One wrote, “Dr. McClellan is not only present; she is a driving force for service to our students, our faculty, our staff, and our community. … Her work matters; it makes a difference. …She is tireless in her efforts and she gets results.”
McClellan is a multi-term department chair and has chaired a committee of other department heads for two consecutive terms. She has served on numerous university committees, many also for several terms. In 2015 students recognized her with their Distinguished Academic Advising Award and in 2010 she was presented the Kalikow Award for her significant advocacy of women’s issues. She has served as a judge for the National History Day competition held at PSU three times, presented a PSU Alumni Lunch and Learn Talk, and has been an advisor to organizations and academic programs such as the Women’s Studies Council, the Sigma Tau Delta Honorary English Society and the Iota Iota Iota Women’s Studies Honor Society.
McClellan concludes, “As an academic in a state university my purpose is to work for the public, and people should not perceive that as elitist or as exclusionary. ‘Intellectual’ shouldn’t be a bad word. With state legislatures reducing tax support for higher education combined with the anti-intellectual rhetoric frequently filling news outlets and prime-time television, it is even more important for full-time faculty to serve as stewards for their students, their disciplines, and their universities,” she says. –Elizabeth Cheney ’89, ’99G
Photos by Kaleb Hart ’11