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7 new faculty join ASU’s Department of English

Cohort includes MacArthur and Grammy award winners


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September 05, 2023

The Department of English at Arizona State University welcomes a new group of award-winning faculty into its ranks this fall. 

Joining other international leaders in the humanities at ASU, this new group consists of literary scholars, theater practitioners, rhetoricians and linguists. 

“The English department has been fortunate in its hires, and this year is no exception,” said Krista Ratcliffe, Foundation Professor and chair of the Department of English. "The new faculty are not only top-notch scholars; they are also deeply committed to ASU’s charter and students.” 

The Department of English has six distinct areas of study — creative writing; film and media studies; linguistics and applied linguistics; literature; secondary English education; and writing, rhetorics and literacies — in addition to the nation’s first cross-humanities undergraduate degree in culture, technology and environment, which just launched this fall.

The department also administers the university’s Writing Programs, which delivers writing instruction to increasing numbers of undergraduates each year. In fall 2023, that’s again a record number — more than 12,000 in the program’s courses — according to enrollment projections.

Let’s meet the newest stellar crop of humanities teachers, scholars and artists at ASU: Cedric Burrows, Ty Defoe, Larissa FastHorseMichael John Garcés, Mariam Galarrita, Shahar Shirtz and Peter Torres.

Cedric Burrows, associate professor (writing, rhetorics and literacies)

ASU directory photo of Cedric Burrows

Burrows joined the English faculty this fall and will begin teaching during spring of 2024. His book “Rhetorical Crossover: The Black Presence in White Culture” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020) won the David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research from the National Council of Teachers of English for outstanding contributions to rhetorical scholarship.

Currently, Burrows is researching a new book on how narratives surrounding Black history are constructed in public spaces such as museums and memorials. He holds two advanced degrees in English: a PhD from the University of Kansas and an MA from Miami University (Ohio).

Ty Defoe, professor of practice (literature)

Courtesy image of Ty Defoe

Defoe is a citizen of the Anishinaabe and Oneida Nation, a Grammy Award-winning interdisciplinary artist, and a self-described “sovereign story trickster” who “fosters relations for Indigenous and decolonial futures.” Defoe creates work with, and for, diverse stakeholders, including rural communities, Broadway productions and the metaverse, and has earned fellowships from MacDowell, Sundance and The Kennedy Center, among others.

Defoe’s artwork spans creative work of all kinds, from performance to dramatic writing; his play “Firebird Tattoo” was published in “The Methuen Drama Book of Trans Plays” (Bloomsbury, 2021). He holds two MFA degrees: one in musical theater writing from New York University and another in creative writing from Goddard College. He is the co-founder of Indigenous Direction, an arts consulting firm, with Larissa FastHorse.

Larissa FastHorse, professor of practice (literature)

Photo of Larissa FastHorse by Conor Horgan

FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) is a 2020–25 MacArthur Fellow whose satire, “The Thanksgiving Play,” made her the first known female Native American playwright on Broadway. FastHorse is the book writer for the updated “Peter Pan” musical, which will play at ASU Gammage in 2024. She is also a film and television writer, most recently for NBC, Dreamworks, Disney, Netflix and others.

Together, FastHorse and Defoe created Indigenous Direction to advise companies and artists who want to create accurate work about, for and with Indigenous peoples. According to the organization’s website, they "use Indigenous cultural protocols and ways of looking at the world to guide theater and filmmaking/writing.”

Michael John Garcés, professor of practice (literature)

Photo of Michael John Garcés courtesy Stage Directors and Choreographers Society

Garcés is a playwright, director and a recipient of a 2020 Doris Duke Artist Award in the theater category. His other honors include recognition from the Princess Grace Foundation, Sundance Institute and National Association of Latino Arts and Culture. He is the author of the chapter “Beyond Demographics” in the anthology “Theater and Cultural Politics for a New World” (Routledge, 2017).

For many years, Garcés was the artistic director of the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles, where he oversaw myriad productions of groundbreaking work, including “Native Nation,” “Urban Rez” and “Wicoun” by FastHorse. He is currently the executive vice president of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Defoe’s, FastHorse’s and Garcés’s appointments at ASU are affiliated with the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS), whose mission is to “promote the most expansive, creative and daring scholarship in medieval and renaissance studies.” The trio will offer programming for ACMRS and teach English and film and media studies courses.

Larissa, Ty and Michael are all leading figures in the theater world who are working at the intersection of the classics, Indigenous narratives and community-designed pieces,” said ACMRS Director Ayanna Thompson, a Regents Professor of English at ASU. “They bring a wealth of knowledge and experience, and they will enrich our students’ lives immensely.”

Mariam Galarrita, assistant professor (literature)

Courtesy image of Mariam Galarrita

Galarrita has been a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English since 2021 and looks forward to taking on her new faculty role. Also an affiliate of ACMRS, her research focuses on early modern English drama and travel writing, premodern critical race studies, racial trauma, science fiction and language. Her current book project explores the first recorded Asians in early modern England.

Galarrita is teaching two, filled-to-capacity literature courses this fall, one on-ground and one online. She holds two advanced degrees in English: a PhD from the University of California, Riverside and an MA from California State University, Fullerton.

Shahar Shirtz, assistant professor (linguistics and applied linguistics / TESOL)

ASU directory photo of Shahar Shirtz

Shirtz will begin his appointment in the Department of English in January 2024. In his research, he combines quantitative and qualitative methods, and concentrates primarily on Indo-Iranian languages and the Indigenous languages of the Pacific Northwest. Shirtz’s interests in theoretical linguistics include linguistic typology and constructional models of grammar, with a focus on the grammatical and lexical means deployed by language users to express various discourse functions.

Shirtz is co-editor of the volume “Beyond Aspect: The Expression of Discourse Functions in African Languages” (John Benjamins, 2015). He holds two advanced degrees in linguistics: a PhD from the University of Oregon and an MA from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Peter Torres, assistant professor (linguistics and applied linguistics / TESOL) 

Courtesy image of Peter Torres

Torres's current work in applied linguistics, most recently published in the Journal of Pragmatics, unpacks the language of pain in the context of the American opioid crisis. Additionally, Torres investigates the intersection of sociocultural and race factors with language, exploring their combined impact on patients’ perceptions of pain.

Torres is teaching two introductory courses in linguistics this fall, one at the undergraduate level and one at the graduate level. He holds a PhD and MA in linguistics from the University of California, Davis.

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