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Doctoral student in English wins competitive fellowship

by Sherry Fisher - October 3, 2005

Amanda Cagle, a graduate student in the English department, has received an American Association of University Women Dissertation Fellowship for the 2005-2006 academic year. Only 50 such fellowships are awarded nationally.

She competed against doctoral students in business, law, and medical schools, laboratory sciences, social sciences, fine arts, and the humanities.

Cagle, who is Choctaw, will spend the academic year at home in Louisiana completing her dissertation, “Pushing From Their Hearts a New Song: The Negotiation of Contested Spaces in Contemporary Native American Women’s Poetry.”

“Amanda Cagle is a remarkable young scholar,” says Robert Tilton, head of the English department and Cagle’s dissertation advisor. “Had she not won the AAUW fellowship, she would have completed her Ph.D. in English in four years, which is almost unheard of. The fellowship year will give her the time to revise and refine her already impressive argument. I am confident that upon completion of the dissertation, ‘Pushing From Their Hearts a New Song’ will quickly become one of the most important works in the field.”

Tilton says Cagle’s dissertation is in part the study of a “reclamation” process: “It is about how a number of the new generation of Native American women poets have reclaimed the traditional relationships women had to their tribal histories and cultures.”

Cagle is also an accomplished poet, and she recently had her memoir, “On the Banks of the Bogue Chitto,” published in Ontario Review.

Tilton adds that Cagle, who has taught several courses in the English department, is an excellent teacher. Last semester in her Native American Literature course, for example, she taught her students how to speak the Choctaw language.

“It was the type of immersion that our students rarely get the chance to experience,” he says. “Many of her students reported that her Native American Literature was the best course they had taken at UConn.”

Cagle, who was the Honors House supervisor, organized a large Pow-Wow on campus during the spring semester.

She has also written a grant proposal that would allow Choctaw students from Louisiana and Mississippi to attend UConn.

Cagle earned her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in English and French from Mississippi State University before coming to UConn for her graduate work. Jean Marsden, director of graduate studies in the English department, says, “Ever since her arrival at UConn, Amanda Cagle has excelled in all aspects of graduate study.”

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