Introducing Alex Ventimilla, PhD Intern

A guest post by Alex Ventimilla

Greetings, readers!

I am a second-year PhD student in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. I also hold an MA from this institution, as well as a BA in English Literature and Culture from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. And now, I am thrilled to be the third PhD intern at University of Alberta Press!

Talks and texts in which I try to explain my research are often loaded with academic buzzwords like “environmental humanities,” “eco-media,” and “posthumanism.” Yet, I like to think that everything I do is guided by my love for stories. I’ve always believed that the tales we read, watch, and listen to shape us in more ways than we realize. And if this were true, I used to wonder, couldn’t the right stories make a real difference in the world? Couldn’t they help us imagine a better way forward? It was my wish to address this question, this possibility, which eventually led me to give up a comfortable and carefree life as a freelance language teacher in Prague and pursue an academic career.

I’ve learned to be more attentive to the stories within the stories along the way. Some are grand narratives many of us unquestioningly accept, while others are the invisible, behind-the-scenes accounts of how things are made possible. As a research assistant for SpokenWeb, for instance, I became aware of the technical, legal, and logistical intricacies involved in preserving objects of study, in this case, historical literary sound recordings. Admittedly, archival procedures are highly specialized. Yet, working there heightened my appreciation for and interest in the processes that make knowledge available to both scholars and the general public. This is the sort of insight I hoped to gain when I applied to intern at University of Alberta Press, and I’m happy to report that I have not been disappointed thus far!

I have been with the Press since September 2021, which isn’t very long. Yet, I feel like I’ve already learned much more about publishing than I ever hoped I would–from reviewing manuscript submissions and contracts to formatting captions for images to marketing new volumes on social media. Participating in the work that makes a text available to the public, witnessing the effort my colleagues at the Press put into it, learning from their expertise, and helping them in whatever capacity I can, has been an enlightening experience, one that makes me appreciate the books that I read and the stories they tell far more than ever before.

I do not know to what extent publishing will figure in my future scholarly endeavours. Indeed, my research appears to be gravitating ever further away from print media these days. I do know, however, that not only have books managed to become an essentially timeless medium even as we dive deeper and deeper into uncertain times but that, in all likelihood, they will remain the main channel for scholars to make their work known to the world. As an aspiring academic who will certainly seek to publish my research in years to come, interning at University of Alberta Press has allowed me to familiarize myself with processes that will be a prominent part of my career. And as someone who believes in the power of literary works and wishes to contribute to the production of those that prompt us to reimagine our place and relation to the world, working alongside caring individuals with similar values is an incredible, invaluable experience.