Monday, May 18, 2009

Dr. Corrine Dale Recounts “Herstory”

(submitted by English major Logan Allen): This Spring marked the final semester of Dr. Corrine Dale’s twenty-three year career at Belmont. In honor of her accomplishments, her friends and fellow faculty members celebrated her career with the establishment of The Corrine Dale Award for Achievement in Writing About Gender, unveiled at a reception following her May 2nd presentation entitled “A True Herstory of Gender Criticism.” Allison Berwald was honored as this year’s recipient of the award for her essay entitled “Take Back the Night: A Discouraged Discourse of Dissent.”

In her talk, Dr. Dale gave a candid account of her experiences of gender inequality throughout her academic career as a student, professor, and scholar. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique ignited Dr. Dale’s activist spirit for female equality in academia, inspiring her to reject the social constructs of what a woman should be.

In graduate school, women writers were not part of the curriculum. The program’s entirely male department favored the “Frontier Myth,” a method of analyzing literature that predominantly valued the male characters’ perspectives. Female characters and literature about the home and family were ignored and categorized as Sentimental Literature, not a serious genre.

Following graduate school, Dr. Dale became a tenure-track professor at Texas A & M University, where five of the one hundred professors in the English department were women. Dr. Dale and her female colleagues strove to correct gender inequalities around campus, including integration of faculty socials that culminated in a threat to take legal action.

Dr. Dale even fought sexual discrimination in the student body, secretly helping a female student file a lawsuit against the university for denying the student admission into a student organization because she was a woman. After a seven-year lawsuit, the student finally won but was horribly ridiculed by her fellow students.

In 1980, Dr. Dale won an MLA award for an essay of feminist criticism she had written. Although she traveled to New York for the convention and dressed for the occasion, the award was given no mention. And back at Texas A & M, Dr. Dale was awarded tenure but discouraged by her superiors to continue her studies of feminist literature, calling it a fad.

Leaving Texas A & M she returned home to Tennessee and also found a home at Belmont. “It was a relief,” she said. Since then, she has taught classes in American Literature, women writers, and Asian literature, and collaborated with other Belmont faculty to produce other academic projects.

Dr. Dale has no specific plans for retirement other than spending more time with her sons, feeding her love of travel, and continuing her research and study of her various literary interests, admitting that she has always thought of herself as more of a student than a professor. This is not a final goodbye, though, because she will be back in the Fall to participate in the Humanities Symposium.