After earning his Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Loyola Marymount University, Chris Chien, M.A. ’15 was awarded the Dornsife Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Southern California, where he is currently working towards his Ph.D. Chien is pursuing a variety of interests, including the areas of sound, diaspora, transpacific studies, and queer studies. He has previously presented at MLA conferences on angelic gender fluidity in John Milton’s Paradise Lost and post-colonial affect in the work of Herman Melville and Amitav Ghosh. Chien’s current studies include examining the performativity of diaspora, masculinity, and the capitalist ethos in Eddie Huang’s memoir Fresh off the Boat and its adaptation as an ABC sitcom.
Q: Why did you choose LMU for graduate school?
A: I chose LMU because I was impressed by the intimate and tight-knit English graduate program. The seminar sizes are small and ensure a good amount of attention from professors–if you want it! I found a great many mentors among faculty, and each one was intent on developing my academic abilities, pushing me to new heights, and nurturing crucial professionalization skills necessary to succeed in pursuing graduate education, my particular choice, and also teaching at the college level, which many of my colleagues chose to pursue.
Q: How did LMU prepare you for the Ph.D. Program at USC?
A: In terms of applying for graduate programs, the steady support and personalized, one-on-one feedback that LMU faculty provided during the preparation of my entrance application allowed me to best speak to my own strengths and put my best foot forward. In the very first semester of the English grad program, the required Critical Methodologies and Introduction to Graduate Studies course not only prepared us for the world of publishing and conference presentations, but also steeped us in to the academic “discourse community” and the expectations of graduate level work. The English program’s final capstone project, which required, among many other components, a chapter length paper was rigorous preparation that attuned me to the demands of a Ph.D. program. This foundation allowed me to “hit the ground running,” upon entering the program at USC.
Q: What are you studying at USC and what is it preparing you to do next?
A: I’m currently in the Department of English at USC, and have just recently had my first piece of academic writing published on “Sounding Out!”, a sound studies blog indexed in the MLA Bibliography. I’m developing more work on the performance of masculinities, diaspora, race, and the transnational as they relate to Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat. I plan for this work develop into a dissertation on diaspora and transnational queerness and gender in Asian American culture.
Q: Tell us about your previous work on gender fluidity in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
A: The development of the paper on angelic gender fluidity in Paradise Lost was a great experience for me. I first produced the paper for the Critical Methodologies course I mentioned earlier. I then took the paper to present at the RMMLA (Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association) conference. After that, the Department of English awarded me funding to further develop the piece in more detail to send out for publication. I aimed high and sent it to the foremost journal on Milton studies in American (Milton Studies) and though the paper was not the right fit for the journal, I received a bounty of feedback from eminent Milton scholars and also was mentored by LMU’s Dr. Miskolcze and Dr. Ryan through the process of preparing and submitting a manuscript for publication. Taking a paper produced in the very first semester of the Masters program and developing it over two years for publication was a truly generative and valuable experience.
Q: What advice do you have for students interested in in LMU’s English Graduate program?
A: My advice to students interested in the English Graduate program is to be organized, self-motivated, and work independently. Not only are these skills crucial for success in any graduate program, but they will show your professors that you are a serious and capable student. Know what you want to get out of the program from day one and mold your own graduate path based on that goal; of course, remain flexible and use the MA to explore different interests as well. I would have never developed my passion for Critical Theory had I not been introduced to it by Dr. Ryan, a truly passionate and experienced professor.