Although Dr. Elizabeth Gruber has been teaching at Lock Haven University for 11 years, the associate professor of English said "it still feels new" to her. She realized teaching was her passion while studying English at the University of New Hampshire.
"I always loved being a student - the enthusiasm of my professors and peers was contagious. So I think my undergraduate days really did solidify my plans to become a professor," Gruber said. Her favorite qualities in current and past students are curiosity, because it "pushes students to excel"; respect for the excitement and discipline of academic work; and the ability to connect academic work to lived experiences.
She completed her doctorate in Renaissance literature at the University of Nevada. Because of the broad scope of Renaissance literature, however, she decided to pursue a "more intense focus on Shakespeare and Shakespearean adaptation."
"I'm still very interested in how Shakespeare is rewritten for diverse social, cultural and political contexts," said Gruber. "Here's one example: in 1925, a Shakespeare critic judged 'The Merchant of Venice' to be 'the happiest of Shakespeare's plays.' But by 1938, this play was pressed into service by Nazi propagandists. So Shakespeare has what one critic calls 'uncanny timeliness,' or 'the ability to speak to and for circumstances that Shakespeare could not have foreseen.' Shakespeare always seems to be current, or capable of exploring those issues that most preoccupy humans in any given era."
The social aspect of Shakespeare's sonnets also intrigued her. "I love the exquisite control on display in Shakespeare's sonnets: for all their predictability in versification and meter, they range across the varied terrains of love, desire, friendship, betrayal, decay, death and immortality," said Gruber.
She explained that the English department is fairly small with a consistent rotation of courses. She teaches Shakespeare each spring for two reasons: because her interest is strongly anchored in Shakespeare's literature and it is a course required of many of the English majors at Lock Haven University.
When teaching upper-level literature classes, Gruber enjoys choosing subjects that correspond to her interests, particularly Shakespearean adaptations and Renaissance literature.
Gruber's literary taste, however, is not confined to British literature. "I love both [American and British Literature]," she said..
She is not an expert on the Bronte sisters, but "Wuthering Heights," by Emily Bronte is exactly the kind of book that drew her to English in the first place.
She admires an eclectic variety of authors from Margaret Atwood to T.C. Boyle.
"I suppose novels command much of my leisure-reading time," she said.
Gruber's favorite modern author is Toni Morrison, especially her novel "Tar Baby," which is an adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest."
After entering a bookstore, she always ends up "looking at contemporary fiction, true crime and memoir/biography" as well as Shakespeare. "If there's a section devoted to Shakespeare, I'll definitely find it," she said.
In her free time, she enjoys the TV shows "Hannbial" and "Cold Justice." She also has been a life-long sports junkie.
"It's pretty easy for me to get caught up in the drama of athletic competitions," she said.
Hiking, backpacking, kayaking and trail-running are just a few of the outdoor activities that she has fallen in love with since moving to Pennsylvania.
"In the last several years, my husband, step-son and I have started climbing the High Peaks in the Adirondacks. We want to complete all 46 of these hikes," she said.
Gruber also enjoys spending time with her cat, Oscar, who she describes as "beautiful but bossy" and her dog, Max, who she says is "beautiful but ill-behaved."
Gruber has proven her talent and passion for teaching Renaissance literature while living life to the fullest through reading modern crime novels and exploring the natural beauty of the Keystone state.
"In the classroom" is published the first Monday of each month in the Education section. To nominate a teacher, email the teacher's name, where and what they teach and their contact information to education@sun gazette.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming edition.