11.7.18 Teacher Feature

Professor Chris Barrett teaches her ENGL 2148 Shakespeare class inside Allen Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.

If you are more interested in comparing William Shakespeare’s work to Beyoncé or Frank Ocean rather than to other Renaissance writers like Niccolò Machiavelli, then LSU has the professor for you. 

English professor Chris Barrett’s general education Shakespeare class is only one of many things that makes her the highest rated LSU professor on the website ratemyprofessors.com. 

Since joining the University’s staff in 2012, Barrett has taught seven different English courses and conducted a bevy of independent study projects. Of all the different areas of expertise and focus, Barrett said she is most passionate about whatever class she is teaching at the moment.She said the stellar student reviews for her classes have blown her away.

“I was really touched,” Barrett said, “I have such affection for every student I’ve ever worked with, and it was just really humbling and amazing to see that some of the students recorded having had a great experience in those classes, too.”

Barrett grew up in New Jersey, got a bachelor’s degree at Princeton University and obtained a master’s and Ph.D. at Harvard. She said coming to LSU in the South has given her a unique experience in adapting to the culture and people.

“Anytime you go to a different region of the country, you learn how wonderfully different we can all be,” Barrett said, “I’ve learned at LSU that the academic culture has this genuine sense of candor and hard work that animates the students. I always get the sense that students are bringing their A-game to class. I’m constantly impressed by their resourcefulness and creativity.”

Barrett has published many articles and essays diving into different aspects of language in the Renaissance and popular writers from that time.

She has a published book titled “Early Modern English Literature and the Poetics of Cartographic Anxiety” and is currently working on another book that analyzes the ways people in the Renaissance interacted with the idea of environment — specifically, what they knew about trees.

Although her entire professional career has revolved around the English language and its history, she did not always think English would be her true calling. From the time she was young, her passions ranged from wanting to be a mathematician, sailor, journalist and even at one point a ventriloquist.

“I decided on literature because it was so intricate and exciting,” Barrett said, “There just seemed to be so much to dig into. I wanted to spend my life thinking about difficult, intricate stuff with committed people who were just as curious about it, too.”

Barrett is thankful for the University giving her an opportunity to pass on the passion of her life to her students. She transitioned from Harvard University to LSU through a nationwide job search, and the University happened to be offering the teaching and researching position she was looking for. The professor said she has fallen in love with LSU.

“Getting this gig has been the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me professionally,” Barrett said, “Everyone knows how awesome LSU is. I get to work with incredibly generous colleagues and a really diverse student body that brings all sorts of life and experience to it. Researching and teaching here has been a dream.”

Among multiple distinctions and other awards, Barrett has received the 2014 Tiger Athletic Foundation College Level Teaching Award, the 2014 English Graduate Student Association Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award and last year’s LSU Student Government Outstanding Faculty Award. Barrett said the recognition from SG in particular was really humbling.

“It’s the thing in my professional career that I’m most proud of,” Barrett said. “My time at LSU has been amazing, but that was really the highlight of it. It is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

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