September 26, 2017 at 12:04 pm

English Welcomes New Faculty, Edmond Chang

Dr. Edmond Y. Chang, posed in front of window

Dr. Edmond Y. Chang

by Kristin Distel

The English Department welcomes newly hired assistant professor Edmond Chang, who comes to OHIO from the University of Oregon.

Chang, who holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, currently teaches Introduction to Prose Fiction and Nonfiction and Writing about Culture and Society.

An Emphasis on Class Discussion

No matter the size of the class, Chang notes, he runs each course like a seminar, ensuring that each class session is discussion-based. Each of his courses has 11 students, a stark change from the 80-student literature classes to which he grew accustomed at his former institution.

One of the many benefits of this smaller class size, Chang notes, is the ability to get to know students more personally through class discussion.

“I try to be as personal as I can be, and the seminar-style class structure makes this possible,” he explains.

Mixing Media and Playing Games

The variety of coursework he assigns also helps ensure that students of all majors can engage meaningfully in his courses.

“My students are reading a lot of different texts and completing a range of writing assignments,” he notes. “One class is writing single-spaced, one-page critical analysis papers. I’m a big proponent of the short form because it helps prepare students to write summaries, abstracts, and business memos.”

Additionally, Chang’s students have the opportunity to write a nontraditional project that he describes as “a mash-up paper.” While students are welcome to write a more traditional research paper, he also encourages them to think about their own disciplines and interests.

“The students can mix media—they can write short stories, create videos, develop websites, or write songs, for example,” Chang says. In order to maintain the course’s emphasis on the development of writing skills, Chang notes that if students complete a nontraditional project, they must still write a project rationale to explain their rhetorical choices.

In Chang’s Writing about Society and Culture course, video games are the primary text; the class even plays video games as a group as a means of discussing literature. The games work in conjunction with the assigned readings and documentaries that the class discusses.

“The purpose of this strategy is to get the students to crystallize and present an idea. During individual presentations, each student selects a video game and uses the week’s readings and critical questions to explore what the game tells us about gender and race,” Chang notes.

Teaching as a Natural Outgrowth of Scholarship

In addition to contemporary American literature, Chang’s personal scholarship focuses on digital culture, video game studies, pop culture, and queer theory. Uniting these diverse interests is sometimes difficult, he explains, but “Wearing different hats is important in part because I want to be legible to different fields.”

No matter the subject matter or theoretical lens, Chang consistently grounds his arguments and analyses in texts.

“This stems from my training in English language and literature,” he notes. “Once I have a strong basis in the text, then I invite other theories and methodologies into that close reading. My work is about furthering the analysis of the topic I’m working on, not simply furthering the theory. I’m interested in application and articulation, not just thinking about ideas. However, I would argue that putting things into practice is actually a means of deepening the theory.”

These emphases and theoretical practices combine to form a richer, more engaging classroom experience for Chang’s students.

“I believe in picking right tool for right purpose, especially in terms of teaching,” he adds. “It’s important that I don’t shoehorn my interests into my classes if they aren’t the right fit for the course or the students. I always try to challenge myself to build something new for my students.”

‘Queerness Cannot Be Designed’

Chang is currently working on a book about queerness and digital games—the subject of most of his recent publications and conference presentations.

“My recent work thinks about video games and ways in which the technology that undergirds them is always already normative. I’ve termed this phenomenon ‘techno-normativity,’ which is an extension of heteronormativity,” he remarks.

Chang bases his argument in part on his assertion that “algorithms are never neutral.” His work interrogates the biases inherent within the technology that gives rise to video games.

“The very fabric of gaming code is imprinted with the values of belief of people who wrote it, and those values are widely gendered and racialized. I am trying to find queer spaces within games. I am interested not just in queer representation or narrative but also whether the game itself computationally forces the player to do things that we see as a queer moment, rupture, or possibility.”

The book, tentatively titled Queerness Cannot be Designed, prompts scholars to think about the ways in which video games confine players.

“Game designers are starting to consider games that are not about accrual and gathering, not about narrative tropes and romance, but rather about incorporating randomness and glitches deliberately. My book looks at games that are doing normative things and hopefully finding kernels of queerness in those games. I’m looking towards games that are pushing those boundaries,” he explains.

Finding His Place at OHIO

Part of what drew Chang to OHIO was that fact that it offers “the research university experience with small, liberal arts feel,” he remarks. Upon interviewing with the English Department, he immediately found that the department seemed like a good fit, and that it aligns with his own interests and values. “The department here is looking into how we might modernize English studies, update the curriculum, and engage 21st century skills,” Chang adds.

He was also drawn to the prospect OHIO offers of working with and teaching graduate students—an opportunity not afforded at his previous institution. OHIO’s diverse student population was also an appealing factor in Chang’s decision.

“I know the university and the department are thinking about diversity and inclusion. As a very visible faculty of color and a queer faculty of color, I recognize the fraught position that can be. However, I do want to be visible, and the department has really embraced that politic,” he remarks.

This visibility affords him a unique position from which he can engage in conversations about racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression.

“I am open and available to all the different stripes that my students are. I want to be a fulcrum off of which students can leverage themselves,” Chang says.

More information about Chang’s work is available at his personal website.

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