Nearly a decade ago, Lisa Schnell suffered a parent’s most difficult trial: the loss of her child. Her daughter, Claire, was born with a debilitating, and ultimately fatal, brain condition. Through years of writing, Schnell has maintained her connection to Claire. In many ways, she says, it is through the act of writing that she remains Claire’s mother.
Schnell is associate dean of the UVM Honors College and an associate professor of English. She has been at UVM in the English Department since 1992. Her scholarly work focuses on the literary and cultural lives and ambitions of women in 16th- and 17th-century England, though her most recent projects combine some of her early modern interests with contemporary theories of narrative, cognitive neuroscience and the work of mourning.
Schnell has taught courses in the English department on Shakespeare, Milton, Renaissance literature, the Bible as literature, and literary theory and criticism. For several years, she taught a sophomore seminar in the honors college called “Telling Stories: Truth and Narrative” in which students read work in evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience and narrative theory together with several novels that engaged and complicated the sense of “self” that the nonfiction reading presented. Several of those issues have found their way into the first-year honors college course, “The Pursuit of Knowledge,” a class Professor Schnell said she has greatly enjoyed teaching since its inauguration in the Fall of 2008.
Before becoming the associate dean of the honors college, Schnell served for several years as the director of undergraduate studies in the department of English; she also served a one-year term as acting director of the John Dewey Honors Program in the college of arts and sciences.