Yesterday, at the Oaklands, colleagues and students honored Dr. Gwen Raaberg for twenty-two years of outstanding service, inspired teaching, and excellent scholarship in the Department of English and the Gender and Women's Studies Program.
Dr. Raaberg earned her doctorate from the University of California, Irvine and began her faculty career at University of Texas at Dallas. In 1989, she came to Western Michigan University, where she became the driving force behind our highly successful Gender and Women’s Studies program.
Along with Mary Ann Caws and Ruedi Kuenzli, Dr. Raaberg edited the influential collection, Surrealism and Women, which was published in 1991 by MIT Press. She held prestigious visiting appointments and fellowships at UCLA, Case Western, California Irvine, Kossuth Lajos University in Hungary, the University of Virginia, the Humanities Research Institute at the University of California, and the Institute for Women and Art at Rutgers.
In his summary of the rich fabric of Dr. Raaberg's record of professional recognition, English Department Chair, Richard Utz, resorted to the nineteenth-century habit of "listing," in this case listing words and terms from Raaberg's numerous presentations and publications:
"Gender and Difference, Experimentation and Social Critique, The Aging Body, Cinematic Assemblage, Aesthethic and/or Politics, the Poetics and Politics of Fragmentation, Theory under construction, Aiming Canons, Spacial Form in Feminist Collage, Feminist Experimentalism, Embodying the Avant-Garde, The Heterogeneity of American Literature, The Readymade, Kulturmorphologie, Psychology and Self-creation, Myth and Irony, The Interdiscipline of Women's Studies, Ekphrasis and the Temporal/Spatial Metaphor, Mythic and Ironic Modes, Dada and Surrealism."
Dr. Raaberg shared her impressive interdisciplinary expertise with countless undergraduate and graduate students in English, Gender and Women’s Studies, Sociology, History, Public Administration, and Education Leadership. Her expertise in contemporary art, culture, and literature made her a highly valuable resource for doctoral candidates. For instance, one of our finest graduate students, Jennifer Smith, worked closely with Gwen to write a dissertation entitled: “Highly Ambiguous Condition: The Transgender Subject, Experimental Narrative and Trans-Reading Identity in the Fiction of Virginia Woolf, Angela Carter, and Jeanette Winterson.” The breadth and scope of Dr. Raaberg’s scholarly interests enabled the English department to offer courses that inspired students and kept them from succumbing to what the British call "specialism." Her work inspired them to be comparatists.
Twenty years ago she started, with Alan Zagarell (Anthropology), an interdisciplinary faculty reading group in Post Modern theory that was active for 17 years, usually meeting at her house. Many of English faculty were regular participants, as were faculty from history, anthropology, foreign languages, political science, education and other fields. Gwen Raaberg, as one colleague put it in an e-mail, "added a great deal to the intellectual life at WMU."