King's Profile – Vidya Natarajan
Academic Counsellor and part-time instructor, Department of Modern Languages
What courses do you currently teach?
- English 2730F: Children’s Culture and Literature, 1700 to 1914
- English 2735G: Children’s Culture and Literature from the 1950s to the present
- English 3998E: Creative Writing (I team-teach this with Dr. Dorothy Nielsen)
Area of research:
My Ph.D. research was on how British and Indian texts of the early 20th century positioned South Indian classical dance and its performers within the discourses of empire, art, nationalism and citizenship. I am fascinated by the interplay of gender politics, struggles for cultural power and aesthetic theories in the writings of this period. I have recently revisited my research to work up background for a historical novel I am writing.
What is your educational background and past work experience that brought you to King’s?
As a teenager, I started teaching dance to fund my own lessons. During my university years I worked as an arts-and-culture writer for a newspaper. Later, I taught English at a college and then worked for some years as an acquisitions editor at a publishing house. When my son was born, I went freelance, editing, illustrating and writing for children, and teaching dance. All this was in India, before I came to London. I taught Writing and English courses at King’s before I applied to be an academic counsellor.
How does your department make a difference?
The Academic Dean and Associate Dean are key administrators who oversee the building and integration of academic programs at King’s. The Dean’s Office is always buzzing with activity. The academic counsellors help students choose programs that are appropriate for them, and work with them to make sure they are meeting the requirements of those programs. We counsel students when they are first admitted to King’s, and we are usually given the privilege of handing them their diplomas on graduation day. The guidance students get at our office from the counsellors and the program assistants (who also, incidentally, assist professors and Chairs of Departments) often makes a difference to the smoothness of students’ progress towards graduation.
What do you like best about your position, and about working at King’s?
For the moment, I am happy to wear two hats at King’s, and I think teaching and counselling feed into each other. Both involve some attentiveness to the minds and aspirations of young people; both involve creating the best possible environment for learning, self-knowledge and academic decision-making.
King’s is a friendly institution; among the things I noticed fairly early on was that people here take inclusiveness seriously. Having come to Canada from India, where poverty is such an abiding problem, I also have great respect for those academic programs at King’s that are founded on concern for marginalized people and for the environment.
I often wonder what I have done to deserve the wonderful colleagues I work with. They make coming to work a pleasure, and many of them have become good friends.
The campus is a lovely place; I often walk along the river when the weather is warm, and every time I go up the stairs to my office in the Dante Lenardon building, I can smell the wood panelling.
What are your interests outside of King’s?
I occasionally perform Indian classical dance and teach master classes for a Toronto dance company called InDance. I write fiction and creative non-fiction, and illustrate children's books. I am putting the finishing touches on a novel based on my Ph.D. research. In the winter, I make time to read for pleasure, rather than for work, and spend hours playing Scrabble or watching silly DVDs of television shows with my husband and son. In the summer, I like to garden or just walk or bike around London.