Saturday, June 18, 2016

A courtside seat with Joycelyn Moody

Joycelyn Moody listening to a AALCI Fellow

I've been here before. I've seen it occur 49 different times over the course of 7 years. And I always have the best seat in the house.

A Fellow from the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute walks in the room and takes a seat on one side of the table. On the other side is Institute founder Joycelyn Moody. I'm sitting down to Moody's right or left, where I have a profile view of her while also facing the student.

The Fellow's project description is on a sheet of paper in front of her on the table. Another copy is in front of Moody. Adjusting  herself to sit straight up, Moody smiles, and says "Hi. So good to see you." The Fellow returns the greeting.
Moody and AALCI Fellow Courtney Harris discuss her research outline.

Moody then places her hands on the paper, covering the words. She slides the document slightly away, signaling to the Fellow that they will wait before addressing the details of what is written on the paper.

"I've read this, thank you," she says referring to to the document. "But please, before we begin: will you tell me about your project?"

I've been here before, more than 4 dozen times, courtside watching Moody at work.

The Fellow begins speaking, somewhat taken aback by the request to tell Moody about the project without reading from the paper.

And so it begins: the Fellow talking and Moody listening intently and nodding. She asks questions, listens to answers, and then reaches for the paper to address some of the notes she had written. During the session, Moody begins raising additional questions and making suggestions, and in the process reminds us yet again that she is one of the greatest interlocutors we’ll ever encounter.

Moody listens as AALCI Fellow Christian Taylor discusses his research outline.

That hardly matters though. She's tuned everything out and zoned in on this specific moment of engaging with the Fellow about the project description.

I've observed the Fellow-Moody project description exchanges so many times now that it shouldn't be strange to me. But it is. How unusual, after all, to witness a senior, distinguished professor so thrilled to discuss two or so paragraphs of the still developing research plans of an undergraduate? Indeed, it's a rare sight.

I've been fortunate to have a courtside seat.

AALCI 2016
The Interlocutor, the Ghost Hunter: Joycelyn Moody    

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