“Part of education is the ability to inculcate a sense of social and political agency,” says Dr. Gayatri Devi, professor of liberal arts. “This means students have total freedom to articulate their sense of who they are, and the critical attention they pay to issues outside of their own lives is amazing.”
Dr. Devi joined the SCAD faculty in Fall 2021, intent on recontextualizing her expertise and beliefs after nearly three decades in higher education. “I’ve never taught at a university like SCAD,” she says. “The fact that SCAD caters exclusively to the arts and humanities and design and performing arts is incredibly affirming to me.”
SCAD Chair of Liberal Arts, Dr. Rebecca Cantor shares this enthusiasm: “Dr. Devi is a pro in every sense of the word. A seasoned writer, scholar, and educator, she brings all her experience into the classroom every day. I am thrilled to have Dr. Devi join the department, and I’m excited for every student who will get to take a class with her at SCAD.”
This quarter, Dr. Devi is teaching From Ink to Ideas (ENGL 123). “One of the assignments is an ecopoetics assignment, where students identify an environmental issue that they care about. The first part of the assignment is a creative response to the environmental issue they’ve chosen. The second part is like an artist statement, explaining their thinking and why they picked this issue. I receive incredible essays from students with paintings and drawings and comics as part of the work.”
Dr. Devi also teaches Foundations of Story (ENGL 142) “where we look at narrative theory, and how to construct stories in different traditions in different genres” and, at Dr. Cantor’s behest, Cinema in Context: From the Fairground to the French New Wave (CINE 705).
“In my graduate seminar, I have students from the U.S., China, Taiwan, Turkmenistan, Nepal, India, South Korea, and different parts of South America and Central America,” Dr. Devi explains. “They all have frames of reference to film traditions from their own country.”
A proponent of what she terms “transnational curiosity,” Dr. Devi was born in Travancore, in the state of Kerala, India, and came to the U.S. in 1990 to earn her Ph.D. at University of North Dakota. (She retains ties to the institution as contributing editor to North Dakota Quarterly.) Devi speaks Malayam (“my mother tongue”), Hindi, and English, and studied Sanskrit to facilitate reading the classical poet and playwright Kalidasa. She co-edited the book Humor in Middle Eastern Cinema (Wayne State University Press, 2014), available at the Jen Library, and her next book, on indigenous cinema worldwide, is forthcoming later this year.
It is something of a sweet surprise then, when Dr. Devi reveals that she has “always wanted to be a torch singer” and that being a “big fan of Johnny Mercer” contributed to her interest in living in Savannah. Perhaps this fun fact shouldn’t be unexpected, and actually reflects a pedagogically pertinent worldview.
As Dr. Devi says: “Deep cultural contact, deep love and respect for other people and their cultural products — to me, those things matter.”
Learn more about the diverse degree programs at SCAD.