Every Place Has Something to It: A Shakespearean Sci-Fi Writer’s Journey to LaGrange

By Ben Fuller

Copy Editor, ’16, English

Twitter photo (2014_04_23 17_50_18 UTC)

The LaGrange College English Department welcomed Dr. Patricia Marchesi at the start of the 2015 fall semester. As one of the college’s newest faculty members, Dr. Marchesi specializes in Renaissance literature and drama. Though she has just set foot onto the LaGrange College campus (a place completely foreign to her), she enjoys her new colleagues and is quickly becoming acquainted with the student body as she teaches several freshman composition courses during her initial semester.

Dr. Marchesi was animated in describing her passion, but admitted that she was unsure about where her interests lay until much later on in her education. “A lot of people always know, but I wasn’t one of those,” she said, reflecting on her first serious studies of Shakespeare in a PhD program at CU-Boulder. Despite not having any initial interest in the Early Modern stage, Dr. Marchesi has always been “fascinated” by the theater. Reflecting on her own theater experience, she joked that it was “eons ago” when she herself was a thespian, although she “loved being on stage.”

She has more extensive experience in playwriting and composing librettos (scripts for musical theater). She is published in the anthology Adapting Gaskell, wherein she discusses the process of adapting and musicalizing the works of Victorian writer Elizabeth Gaskell for the stage. Dr. Marchesi wrote the book and lyrics for North and South the Musical, based on Gaskell’s 1855 novel. She described the challenge of writing the play as crafting something that is “inherently visual” out of a written medium. Though a far cry from her Renaissance passions, Dr. Marchesi admires the play for its “love story, social conflict” and general portrayal of industrial life in Victorian England and the “position of women” in that era.

Apart from her stage work, Dr. Marchesi, at CU-Boulder, studied the works of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, and Webster, and wrote a dissertation on depictions of magic in Early Modern plays. Though she hesitated to choose a favorite Renaissance writer, she set apart Shakespeare and Marlowe as perhaps the most influential and groundbreaking of their time. She admires both for “combining poetry and the beauty of language and putting it all on stage.”

Dr. Marchesi cited Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus as one of her favorite Renaissance plays. She stressed the importance of the spirit of individualism in Renaissance literature and believes Dr. Faustus is exemplary of this in that the work includes an individual protagonist who “wants to break any and all boundaries.” She wrote an article on Dr. Faustus, published in Staging the Blazon in Early Modern English Literature. In that essay, she compared the figurative dismemberment of women in Renaissance sonnets (the listing of the details of women’s body parts, such as in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130) and the literal dismemberment of Faustus in the play. She explained her thesis as Faustus “becoming the literal representation of what those sonnets do.”

Dr. Marchesi’s studies led her to teaching, an art that requires as much discipline, research, and performance as playwriting and acting. Dr. Marchesi’s teaching résumé reaches across diverse ends of the country. She first taught as a graduate assistant at CU-Boulder and then Colorado Technical University online. Before coming to LaGrange, she spent five years teaching at Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff.

In addition to travelling the U.S. for school and her profession, Dr. Marchesi has also seen widely diverse parts of the world over the course of her life. She was born in Rio de Janeiro, where her family is from, and she lived there until she was eleven years old. After that, her family moved to Vienna and Austria because of her father’s work with the United Nations.

She went to an international school, where she “got really interested” in British literature, setting the stage for her passion with the likes of Shakespeare. She also credited the British school with “helping [her] learn the language” (English) and revealed she was multi-lingual, learning German as well at this time. In regards to the various sojourns from her childhood to her teaching career, Dr. Marchesi mused that “every place has something to it.”

When applying for a new job, she found that “the position [at LaGrange] seemed like a good fit.” She had been entirely unaware of LaGrange. She noted that she loves the small area of LaGrange and its close vicinity to Atlanta. When she discovered the college, she found that it was “beautiful” and that she enjoyed “the different setup” from the major universities she had taught at prior. She related that, as an undergrad, she’d attended Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, another small liberal arts college. She said that it was here where she first “started thinking about Shakespeare differently” and that the individual attention she received helped “open [her] mind to a lot more.” Reflecting on why she came to LaGrange, she said realized that she “wanted in [her] heart to get back” to the experience of a small school.

When I asked about the transition from her homeland of Brazil to Georgia, she laughed and said matter-of-factly that “the weather here is just like the weather I grew up with in Brazil.” She went on to explain that she was pleasantly surprised at just how similar the two places are, though separated by vast distance. She praised Georgia for its vegetation, noting that trees were “one thing [she] really missed in Flagstaff.” Though she occupies a new home, it feels to her like she never left her roots.

Dr. Marchesi is also the published author of Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes. She laughed as she described the writing of the book as her “alternate life,” far removed from her usual Shakespearean studies. She described the story, intended for middle schoolers, as “a mix of sci-fi and fantasy,” but stressed most of all her intention to strike “a balance between characters of boys and girls.” She thus has opposite-gender twins as the protagonists, and both characters are intentionally very different from one another. She summarized the novel as the story of the twins discovering they are the only ones who can save the Earth from evil aliens by closing an interdimensional gap. Dr. Marchesi clarified that although she is a science-fiction writer, she is careful to avoid dystopian themes in her works, for she is “an optimist about the future.” The novel was a success, earning “Best First Chapter Book” in the 2012 Children’s Literary Classics Awards, along with top awards in both “science fiction and fantasy” and “pre-teen” categories. As she continues to teach the Renaissance to undergraduates, Dr. Marchesi toils away at the sequel for her science-fiction book.

Dr. Marchesi’s ultimate writing philosophy is the importance of practice and perseverance. “As you become more disciplined,” she said, “you learn how to channel your writing in the best ways.” She quickly added, “But still use your heart.” Writing must always involve passion and never become mechanical. Her message to students and all writers is this: “Whatever it is you’re writing, do it well.” It’s a message sure to resonate with the LaGrange College community as Dr. Marchesi continues to make her mark on campus.

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