Foreign Languages and Literatures professor Dr. Jordi Marí received the 2014-2015 Lonnie and Carol Poole Award for Excellence in Teaching during a ceremony celebrated on April 21, 2015 in Caldwell Hall Lounge. The Lonnie and Carol Poole Award recognizes outstanding NC State faculty for their excellence in teaching.
A native from Barcelona, Spain, Marí has been teaching for almost thirty years — eighteen of them at NC State. He is also a renown scholar specialized in 21st-century Spanish cultural studies and contemporary Spanish cinema, and the author of two books and many scholarly articles. Currently, he is working on a third book on contemporary Spanish horror cinema.
In the following email interview by Samuel F. Sotillo, Dr. Marí talks about himself, his lifetime fascination with the “arts and letters,” and his current research interest on what he sees as a “renewed fascination” with horror films among contemporary Spanish audiences.
Samuel F. Sotillo: First, could you tell us a little bit about your background? Where are you from? Where did you go to undergrad and graduate school?
Jordi Marí: I was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain. I completed my undergraduate degree in Spain, at the University of Barcelona, and then came to the U.S. to complete my MA degree at California State University, Los Angeles, and my Ph.D. at Cornell University.
SS: What was the intellectual trajectory that brought you to academia?
JM: I had always been fascinated by the “arts and letters” — particularly history, literature, the visual arts, music, and cinema. And when I realized that I really enjoyed teaching I knew that I would pursue a career in the humanities, the arts, and teaching. I never had too many doubts about that, really.
SS: What was your latest book about?
JM: It was a volume of essays on the political, literary, artistic, and cultural relationships between Spain and the U.S. throughout the last forty years. Prior to that I had published another book on the manifestations of cinema in the contemporary Spanish novel.
SS: What are you working on right now?
JM: I am in the last stages of a book on contemporary Spanish horror cinema, a genre that has experienced a spectacular renaissance in the past twenty years. I find this renewed fascination with horror to be a very intriguing phenomenon that presents a lot of questions for the cultural & film studies researcher.
SS: In what ways do you think that your research and your teaching are connected?
JM: They constantly feed and inspire each other. One of the first advanced seminars I taught at NC State was based on the book manuscript I was writing at the time — which later would become my first book. Conversely, both my second and third book projects stemmed directly from graduate and undergraduate seminars I taught at NC State. Now, every time I teach those seminars I incorporate many ideas and information from the books. The fact that there is constant synergy between teaching and research should be hardly surprising, because creating, developing, and teaching a course requires a lot of research, just as writing scholarly books and articles is a fundamentally pedagogical activity.
SS: What do you enjoy and find most challenging about teaching? What most rewarding?
JM: The most challenging thing is being able to engage all the students in the class, capture their interest, cope with their diverse language levels — in the Spanish courses — and intellectual backgrounds, address their different learning styles in an effective manner — in other words, being able to make the class a productive, meaningful, enjoyable experience for all the students. I haven’t fully achieved this goal yet but I keep trying. As for the most rewarding, without a doubt, it is the interaction with students — I’m sure I learn much more from them and receive much more inspiration from them than they ever will from me. A teacher is always learning and growing; there’s no room for boredom.
SS: Anything you are reading right now?
JM: In this profession one is constantly reading, and not just one thing at a time but many — from student papers and thesis to scholarly articles and books, from literary texts to archival materials, and so on. One book I’m enjoying a lot these days is Mientras llega la felicidad, a biography of Spanish writer Juan Marsé.
SS: What is your favorite film in Spanish and why?
JM: Impossible to choose one — there are so many films that I like, fortunately.
SS: What do you look forward to most presently?
JM: Reaching the end of this questionnaire
SS: Finally, do you have any advice for students — who might be thinking about their future career options — on why they should consider majoring or minoring in a Foreign Language?
JM: A degree in a Foreign Language will open you the door to a variety of cultures, languages, and traditions. Knowing other languages, literatures, and cultures will allow you to effectively connect, communicate , and work with people all over the world. It will train you to think critically—and to act critically as well. The education you will receive with a Foreign Language degree will empower you to make a difference in the world. And it will be a very marketeable asset in the job market, either on its own or in conjunction with a major or minor in virtually any other field.
Posted by SF Sotillo.