Noted for his course development and teaching skills during a tremendously difficult year, Christopher J. Lee ’21 PhD is the recipient of a 2021 Excellence in Teaching Award. He is a doctoral candidate in English and will graduate on May 1. This award recognizes outstanding pedagogical achievement by a graduate student in any discipline.
This past fall, Lee helped to teach a new, fully online, course in the midst of a global pandemic. He “demonstrated a rare ability to help students of all skill levels become more thoughtful readers, and he is especially good at helping them navigate challenging literary material so that they learn to become adept at writing clear, concise, and revealing analyses,” says Jim Egan, Professor of English. Lee created a supportive online community for discussion where he was able to challenge each student to push themselves to think deeply and expand their critical thinking skills.
After serving as a TA for Professor Egan’s course, an anonymous group of students posted their appreciation for Lee on "Blueno Bears Admirers". “Christopher Lee, the TA for Lit Reformatted, is a wonderful human being. We admire you fam. Thanks for dealing with us.”
In addition to English, Lee has also taught courses in the American Studies department and for the Gender and Sexuality Studies program. In one such course for Gender and Sexuality Studies, Senior Lecturer Denise Davis shares, “analytical and synthetic at once, Lee used visual materials to clarify and illustrate his points, managing to convey a formidable number of difficult ideas economically and with a sure, steady confidence. The students were riveted.”
Lee says that one of the most meaningful classes he taught was a directed independent study on "Critical Trans Studies" with two undergraduates in the Fall of 2017. The entire class was collaborative and co-constructed, from the syllabus and reading list to the assignments. After the class ended, he and the undergraduates continued to work together to bring trans activism and critique to Brown. Lee helped to develop this course without any institutional credit, because he wanted to be able to support the academic growth of the students on a topic that would otherwise not have been offered at Brown. The students share that this experience was an invaluable part of their education.
“It's so gratifying to be recognized for the teaching I've done at Brown. Because much of my teaching has been devoted to trans/queer of color critique, this award feels particularly significant,” says Lee.
Beyond working as a teaching assistant, Lee’s dissertation explores “Unspectacular Violence,” namely, the registers of anti-queer and racialized injury that fall beyond narratives of individual brutality. He analyzes how more broadly framed motors of harm—for instance, housing insecurity, criminalization, and welfare rollbacks— can be weighed as articulations of targeted violence.
The primary aim of his dissertation is to chart the multiple modalities through which trans and queer lives have been subjugated to policing, surveillance, and other institutions of state-sponsored violence, along with the multiple ways that trans and queer communities continue to resist and survive in the face of these overwhelming stuctures of deathdealing.
After graduating on May 1, Lee will return to teach as a Dean's Faculty Fellow in the Fall of 2021.
Learn more about the other students selected for the 2021 Excellence in Teaching Awards.