Ultimately scholarship and teaching are about caring . . . caring about others, caring about our environment, and caring about understanding all ofthat, and trying to make it better.
Helping her students to understand human nature through the examination of creative expression is at the core of philosophy Professor Anna Ribeiro's integrated scholarship. Ribeiro explores the philosophy of art, concentrating on the aesthetic aspects and cultural significance of poetry, in her research and her classes. She is writing a book that sifts through global poetic traditions from their origins through modern times in order to provide a comprehensive view of the art form. This past summer, she developed an introductory philosophy course for students participating in the College of Engineering's study abroad program in Spain. As part of her service to the university, Ribeiro is collaborating with colleagues to update the core curriculum requirements in the component area of language, philosophy, and culture. Ribeiro, originally from Brazil, says she always had a fondness for poetry, but her appreciation for philosophy took root during her undergraduate years at Hunter College in New York. When she heard the words of René Descartes (known for imparting, "I think, therefore I am"), Ribeiro says she "never looked back."
Learn more about Integrated Scholar Anna Ribeiro in this question-and-answer session.
What are your research objectives and interests?
My area of research is the philosophy of art, and among the arts I have focused on poetry. It is a cultural and artistic practice that spans the globe and that has been with us for millennia, so it has a lot to teach us about what it is to be an artistic practice and what it means to use language in artistic ways. I also think that understanding poetic practices can help us gain a better understanding of language and cognition in general, including the role of the aesthetic aspect of linguistic sound perception in cognition and aesthetic experience.
How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
The arts are integral to human life, and so understanding them is tantamount to understanding ourselves.
What types of service projects have you been involved with?
My main service contribution at the moment is in helping revise the Texas Tech Core Curriculum in the Humanities. We are reviewing all the courses that satisfy the Humanities core requirement, which will now be called 'Language, Philosophy and Culture'. It is a great responsibility, since we are in effect specifying the fundamental background that all Texas Tech students should have in these areas upon completion of their degree.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on several book chapters, one for an anthology on philosophy and poetry, another for a Companion to the Philosophy of Literature, another for the second edition of the Encyclopedia to Aesthetics, and so on, but my main research project for the past couple of years has been a book on the philosophy of poetry. In this monograph I offer answers to several philosophical questions about poetry: how to define what makes a string of linguistic sounds a poem, what kind of ontological category poems belong to, whether we can make any generalizations about the formal characteristics of poems and their aesthetic qualities, what role the 'I' in lyric poems plays in our understanding and appreciation, and many others.
In terms of teaching, I recently designed and taught a brand new undergraduate course completely outside of my area, on the major philosophers in the history of Spain, from the Seneca of Roman times to Miguel de Unamuno in the twentieth century, for our International Program in the TTU Center in Seville. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and a great learning experience.
Where do you find your inspiration?
In anyone who is curious about how things are and how they work, and who is not afraid to work hard to find out—because it does take a lot of time and effort. I view this kind of curiosity and willingness to work to satisfy it as being ultimately about caring, about others and about the world in which we live. Scholarship and teaching are, at bottom, about caring enough to make this world a better place, through understanding it, and through helping others understand it as well.
What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?
In our department, senior faculty members are assigned as mentors to incoming faculty, and that was invaluable to me. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful mentor, Dr. Howard Curzer, who was immensely kind and generous with his time and advice; I could stop by his office any time to ask any questions about teaching, research or service. So I would advise new faculty to seek out a mentor if that is not already part of their departmental policy. Beyond that, I would suggest that new faculty seek to improve themselves continuously in all three areas: in research, by going to conferences often, because you learn so much in both presenting your research and attending others' presentations; in teaching, by reading books about how to improve student learning and taking advantage of our Teaching and Learning Center; in service, by finding ways to contribute to your department, to your university, and to your profession at large. In other words, never to cease asking the question: How can I make things better—for my research, for my students, for my university, and for my profession?
I was born and raised in Brazil. I had never left my country until I came to the United States with hopes of going to college. I absolutely loved the liberal arts education that I found here, because for the first time I was able to take courses in areas as diverse as Physical Anthropology, History of Art, Philosophy, the Greek and Latin Roots of English, and so on, before settling on a major—or two, as in my case. In Brazil, college degrees are professional degrees (following a European model), and there is only one semester of 'core' requirements. Once I took my first philosophy course, I added philosophy as a second major (the first was English), and I have been studying it ever since, not only in the U.S. but also in Belgium, where I first went on my junior year abroad—something that would have been unthinkable for me in Brazil. Coming to the U.S., and attending college here, has not only opened the doors of knowledge to me, and in an area that I would never even have encountered in my college career in Brazil, but also the doors of the world, so to speak. I have presented my research work all over the United States as well as in Barcelona, Lisbon, Murcia, Nottingham, Oxford, Oslo, Paris, and Victoria, BC. I am the first person in my family to earn a doctoral degree.
BPhil, Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, magna cum laude, 1996
BA, Philosophy and English, Hunter College, City University of New York, summa cum laude, 1997
MA, Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, magna cum laude, 1999
PhD, Philosophy, University of Maryland at College Park, 2006