Bio: Dr. Keri Yousif double majored in French and Journalism at Baylor University for her undergraduate degree. After earning her bachelor’s, she moved on to University of Texas at Austin to study French literature and nineteenth-century France studies for her master’s. She studied the same for her Ph.D., also at Texas, and ended up teaching French language, literature, world literature, gender studies, and cultural studies at Indiana State University.
Q: What brought on the interest in French?
A: I went to a small high school that had Spanish or French, and I wanted to do something different, so I took French. I had a teacher who had just gotten back from the Peace Corps in Morocco and she was amazing. Her French was really good, she spoke Arabic, and I just got hooked. The other thing she did was that she pushed us to read, and one of the first things we read was a short story by Balzac, and I ended up writing my dissertation on him.
Q: What sort of classes do you teach for the gender and cultural studies departments and why are they important?
A: I teach Femme Fatale, and I am going to be teaching a class in the fall on Les Misérables (it will be in French). I teach a course about the coming of age novel, which has gender in it. They are important, I think, to make students more critical readers and viewers of cultural products that are all around us, and to see that biases and discriminatory attitudes and behaviors are naturalized and embedded everywhere.
Q: Tell me about your fascination with nineteenth century France.
A: I love Napoleon, I love Napoleon the first, and I love Napoleon the third. I love the rebuilding of Paris. I’m really fascinated with the transition between the monarchy and the move to democracy. I’m interested in industrialization and capitalism: just this moment where every single aspect of society and culture is changing, and it’s changing radically. I’m interested in how they’re both sort of fighting against it and embracing it, and how they’re part of the change as the artistic forms change with society.
Q: Why ISU?
A: There’s a practical reason: it was a good job. It allowed me to teach what I want to teach. The reason I stay? It’s definitely the students. We have students who are pretty honest. If they didn’t do the work, they’ll say, “I didn’t do the work.” They are curious, they’re responsible, and they tend to own up to what they want. They’re pretty pragmatic. Anyway, the students are the reason I’ve stayed.
Q: What is your favorite place on campus?
A: The library, easy. This seems very obvious to me. I have a carrel in the library, so I go up there all the time to read or write.
Q: Why did you decide to teach?
A: It just was fun. It’s still fun to see students discover, and to see them thinking differently. Primarily as a language instructor, it’s so awesome for a student who was able to say nothing at the beginning of the semester to be able to hold a conversation.
Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?
A: Predictable, but reading. It’s not very exciting, but I read a lot and I read everything.
Q: If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
A: Paris. I’ve been there many times, and it is just my other place. You know how they say that you have a certain “other place” in the world that you could’ve been from or you could’ve had a home? Paris is just my other home.