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Open House 2017

English Professor Brings Dramatic Literature Back to Campus

“My mother tongue is performance,” said Ryan Hatch, one of the newest additions to Cal Poly’s English Department faculty.

A self-described lover and critic of the theater, Hatch has known for a long time that the art of performance would be at the center of his intellectual and scholarly work.

Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit with a mother who owned a dance studio, Hatch started dancing at a young age. “I took all types of dance; performance was in my blood,” he said.

As multifaceted as any stage actor switching roles, Hatch easily moves between philosophy, literature, performance and dance.

“There was never any question about what I was going to do. When I was very young, 13 or 14, I knew that I was going to be a poet, and I wrote quite a lot,” Hatch recalled. “And then when I fell in love with philosophy, and the kind of thinking that philosophy made capable for me, I felt that what I had been trying to achieve through poetry could actually be better realized in philosophy.”

Hatch, who earned his doctorate in English at The State University of New York, Buffalo, initially went to New York City to finish his dissertation, eventually developing close ties with the playwrights, directors and other theater artists he consulted with. During his time with the New York theater scene, he became a critic.

As an academic, Hatch embraces an interdisciplinary approach to his study of drama, and his experience with New York’s theater scene is reviving the critical study of dramatic literature on campus. From his experiences in New York, his current exploration of Los Angeles’ performance culture, and his understanding of text, Hatch has found a happy niche within the department. Not just literature, and far from being only performance, drama is an invigorating hybrid of the two — reminding English students of the inherent interdisciplinary nature of the major.

Hatch strives to expose his students — majors and non-majors alike — to the imagination of drama and the progressive authors who have advanced, or are advancing, the genre.

“Contemporary playwrights are moving beyond the paradigm of drama to create new theatrical structures,” Hatch said.  “I’m interested in not only re-introducing the study of drama to the department, but also in bringing some appreciation for experimental and avant-garde literature.

“The state of playwriting is changing so rapidly, and there’s so much amazing work happening, especially in the United States,” Hatch continued. “This department boasts a lot of strengths, and I’m looking forward to making drama one of them.”

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