by George Hajjar
Dr. Gene Jarrett is happy to return to New York after almost three decades of being away. Born in the Bronx, Dr. Jarrett attended Stuyvesant High School, before going to New Jersey to study literature at Princeton University. His favorite parts of the city include Washington Square park, Central Park and City Island. Because he has already lived in the city, adjusting to New York from his previous city of employment, Boston, has not been an issue for him.
To Dr. Jarrett, undergraduate education comes with a host of opportunities for the individual to grow. Undergrad education gives the chance for people in underrepresented groups to have access to opportunities that they wouldn’t get otherwise. It is important to the development of the mind, and in creating a sense of belonging within a community. He hopes that he can facilitate in this process both within the English department, and in NYU’s College of Arts and Science.
Dean Jarrett is currently working on a biography of poet Paul Dunbar, a central figure in his first two books. He is interested in how some African American writers tended to avoid writing racialized characters in a white society. For example, Dunbar’s first book lacked a black character in its cast. Dr. Jarrett is trying to construct a comprehensive biography of Paul Dunbar that charts his life, including the details of his relationships with other major figures like Theodore Roosevelt, as well as with his family.
In delving so deep into the life of another person, biography as a writing style reveals the imperfections of people. Dr. Jarrett wants to explore how people work through challenges. This was one of the reasons why he cares so deeply about Paul Dunbar. Dunbar died young, his parents were former Kentucky slaves, and he didn’t receive any formal education. Despite this, he was still able to make a successful life for himself. Dunbar worked through his challenges to be able to become the poet, playwright, and novelist he is remembered as. Dr. Jarrett is publishing this book with Princeton University Press, and the biography is expected to be released by the end of 2019.
Although he did not teach a class this semester, Dr. Jarrett hopes to start teaching undergraduate or graduate classes within the next few years. He has experience teaching Postbellum American literature classes. For example, African American 19th century literature, and Corporate Capitalism in American Literature in the 19th century. In a similar vein, he is interested in the the relationship between the humanities and computational thinking. As an undergrad he studied both English and Mathematics and wants to bring math rigor to literary study.
Dr. Jarrett has an ingrained sense of pride in NYU. His sisters-in-law and mother-in-law all graduated from this school; and his first book, and last monograph were published by its press. He believes that NYU is at the “nexus of higher education.” The academy faces many challenges today, and NYU can be a leader in creating a better future for college students and educators. Welcome to the department, Dean Jarrett.