New Faces: Professor Jessica Maxwell

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Coming home: it’s as American as traditions come. Adjunct professor in English Jessica Sheets Maxwell is well familiar with this adage and it is evident in her 151 English course, which focuses on the 20th century homecoming war narrative.  However, Professor Maxwell not only studies homecoming narratives, she is also living one.  A 2002 Rhodes graduate, this creative writing major has returned to her alma mater to continue cultivating the care and passion for literature and literary studies that she experienced here eight years ago as an undergraduate. This year, Professor Maxwell began her Rhodes teaching career while simultaneously working on her doctoral dissertation. 

After living in Memphis and working for Memphis Magazine for a year after graduation, Professor Maxwell moved to Washington DC to pursue her PhD in 20th century literature. During her second year in graduate school at George Washington University, she began teaching classes similar to 151. “DC was spectacular,” Professor Maxwell says, adding, “It was important for me to go somewhere different: meet different people and see a new part of the country.”

As exciting and uplifting as the experience proved, she could only stay away from home for so long. In the spring of 2009, the Maxwell family returned to Memphis. “I’ve always wanted to work at a school like Rhodes,” Maxwell notes. Returning to Rhodes with a new “professorial” perspective, she quickly noted the growth of the English department, particularly the Film Studies program, the number of creative writing and 151 classes offered, and the student attendance at department functions like lectures and readings.

Professor Maxwell’s advice to Rhodes students, valuable given her unique ability to personally empathize with the perspectives of both students and teachers, “Experience the world a bit. You can always come home.”


--Jordan Cook ‘11