Faculty Profile: Dr. Charlotte Fiehn

By: Shira Kramer  |  May 11, 2024

By Shira Kramer, Senior Opinions Editor and Social Media Manager

How long have you worked at YU?

Since August. I think technically this is my first year.

What do you like most about working at YU?

Well, I went to a women’s college myself, so I kind of like a women’s college. I had reasons for wanting to go to a women’s college as an undergraduate, and I like the idea of supporting women’s education for a variety of different reasons.

What made you passionate about English?

I have no idea. My mom will tell you that it was her getting me to read at two years old, which is complete rubbish. My dad was an English major and I grew up with books and I never didn’t think about reading. By the time I was ten, I knew I wanted a PhD. I actually wanted to be a journalist for the longest time. My grandpa was a journalist and I did the freelance writing thing for about a decade before I went into academia. I always wanted to be a writer. I always wanted to do things with books.

Is there anything interesting that you’re currently working on?

I have a book that’s finished. I have to do the final edits for it. I don’t know if it’s coming out this year or next year, but that’s about George Eliot’s female characters in all of her novels, so that should be fun.

Do you have any advice for students interested in a career in English?

I would say it’s a fabulous career. I’m still a student so I hear this all the time in the context of being a student and listening to people tell other graduate students what they should or shouldn’t do and talking about literature in relation to other humanities subjects. They’re very scathing and [they say] an English degree doesn’t do anything. You can make a lot of money based on your ability to communicate. Greta Gerwig was an English major who broke every box office record with the Barbie movie. I’d say it’s a great career. It gives you lots and lots of options.

What do you want students to know?

I have three dogs. Georgie, Ginny and Teddy. I didn’t do my PhD until I was 27. I am actually Jewish. I converted to Judaism in a completely weird way. I wanted to convert from the time that I was 18, but my parents were not into it at all. My dad to this day still tries to feed me and my kids ham. We actually converted in Cambridge. Daniel Deronda [by] George Elliott [made me think of Judaism]. I watched the end of Daniel Deronda, which is about a Jewish guy who finds out that he’s Jewish and then he decides to embrace his Jewish identity and he goes to Israel at the end. George Eliot afterwards learned Hebrew and loved languages.

What book would you recommend everyone to read?

Middlemarch by George Eliot. The reason I would recommend it is because my daughter’s reading it right now. She’s loving it so much, and she’s going to be an academic. She’s going to go be a Jane Austen specialist, but she’s very begrudgingly admitting that she kind of likes it more than Jane Austen, which is very hard for her because she doesn’t want to be like me.

If you could bring in any guest lecturer, alive or dead, who would it be?

I’m working on this, so I can give you the actual answer. There’s a guy called Ken Flanagan, who lives in New York. He’s a big film guy, but he’s a fabulous writer, and he loves talking to students. If I can find an excuse to bring him in, I’ll bring him in.