Since arriving at Monmouth University in 2008 after completing her doctoral work at Washington State University, Maryanne Rhett, Ph.D. has become one of the most animated and innovative faculty members on campus - and she is a hit with students. Her broad research interests center around seemingly disparate topics - Islam, feminism and graphic novels - but as a historian, Dr. Rhett weaves disciplines together to deliver thought provoking courses to her students.
Dr. Rhett teaches courses on world history with a particular focus on Islam and the Middle East. She also teaches an interdisciplinary freshman introductory course on soccer, called The Beautiful Game, where she ties the sport into discussions of history, economics, culture, Title IX, hooliganism and racism.
Much of Dr. Rhett’s recent research revolves around the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a British document which paved the way for the creation of Israel and the modern Middle East, and its global implications for groups seeking political independence. Rhett also studies the impact of Islamic characters in comic books and graphic novels.
“It seems to be a trend in mainstream comics to incorporate Muslim characters. The new Ms. Marvel is a Muslim character from Jersey City. Nightrunner, one of Batman’s partners, is a Muslim French citizen who runs around the Paris suburbs,” Rhett says. “This is not without some controversy and criticism – it generated controversy from some conservative blogs, controversy so big that at one point it got to the Daily Show.”
In addition to making comics and graphic novels part of her courses at Monmouth, Rhett has also published research on their use as learning tools.
“During my masters work in Near East Studies, we used Persepolis in a course, and I fell in love and haven’t looked back since,” Rhett says. “Comics address what we want to talk about and do it in a brief, succinct way – and a way that students and professors can relate to.”
Why I'm proud of Monmouth
Rhett says “This is such an amazingly collegial environment. The people on campus are so friendly and so helpful, it feels like a familial place. Because of where Monmouth University is in its history, we have a lot of junior scholars who are doing amazing work and research across campus, it is really an exciting time to be here. There are a lot of people bringing in new ideas, and the future work that will come out of our interdisciplinary collaborations is exciting – there is so much excitement moving forward.”