Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Touba Ghadessi Fleming

What I teach: I teach courses that look at Renaissance visual productions. But I make sure to teach works that students may not encounter in typical Renaissance courses—from the designs of gardens, to anatomical treatises, and to birthing bowls.

What keeps me excited about teaching: When students realize that their effort was worth it. When they are proud of what they produce and understand that their knowledge is theirs to keep. Forever.

Why I chose Wheaton: Rarely can one find an institution that prides itself on pedagogical excellence, strong student-teacher interactions, and innovative faculty research. Wheaton has all three. It is the perfect environment for me.

My research focus: I study the visualization of monsters in the Renaissance. Through an anatomical, political and social lens, I look at how dwarves, hirsutes, and castrati re-shaped the courtly world in which they lived. While rulers used them to entertain themselves, these human monsters used the court to get an education and sometimes even own land and receive a salary. The unresolved position of these abnormal individuals is echoed loudly in their portraits. I find their liminal situation fascinating.

My academic claim to fame: I managed to give a keynote address at a very serious academic venue that I titled “Monsters, Ink.” I have to give credit to one of my colleagues for the bold title, though I take credit for the bold move.

The connected course I’m teaching now: I am working on a connection between Professor of Psychology David Wulff’s “The Body in Human Experience” and my “Anatomies 1400–1600: Sexual, Forbidden, and Monstrous” course. I think the students will grasp the importance of interdisciplinary studies in a context that will help them understand how the human body has been constructed through the centuries.

One of the best books I’ve read: I find myself going back to Boris Vian’s L’écume des jours these days.

What few people know about me: I used to be a competitive equestrian rider and alpine skier. I miss doing both.