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Emma Davenport

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Ph.D. Candidate in English




Emma Davenport is a Ph.D. candidate in English, studying the intersection of the Victorian novel and legal theories of contract. Davenport received her master’s in English from Georgetown University in 2014, her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2008, and her bachelor’s in political science from Carleton College in 2005. She has been a Preparing Future Faculty Fellow (2019-2020), has completed a Certificate in College Teaching, and has received numerous grants and awards. Davenport currently holds a David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Internship, an opportunity that allows hands-on experience in the acquisition of rare materials, the process of preparing them for use, and research and teaching with primary source material.

Notably, Davenport has served as instructor of record for four courses at Duke, one of which was through the Bass Instructional Fellowship program. These include two advanced English courses and two introductory seminars, as well as an intermediate course that she will be teaching in the summer of 2022. Davenport is applauded by her mentees and students for her patience and dedication to making sure her students are thinking critically about their work. She is noted for balancing her high expectations for her students’ and mentees’ work with enthusiasm and encouragement to help guide them. 


How have you evolved as a teacher compared to when you first started?

I’ve become more experimental in my teaching over time—trying out new course structures, new activities, new assignments, and projects. Working with other teachers in interdisciplinary contexts—in the Ph.D. Lab for Digital Knowledge, for instance, or with the Bacca Fellows—has introduced me to a variety of teaching techniques and given me a forum for sharing ideas and problem-solving with peers. These opportunities have helped me increase my versatility as a teacher, and I continue to make it a goal to introduce at least one new element in my teaching with each course I offer.

What is something you have done as a teacher that you are really proud of?

The creativity and insight of my students in their approach to literature is so inspiring to me, and it brings me a great deal of pleasure and pride to facilitate their work. For instance, two of my literary theory students wrote particularly excellent final papers that I thought spoke to the themes of a couple of upcoming national conferences; so after the course ended, I mentored them through the process of proposing to present their work at these conferences and, when their proposals were accepted, of preparing to share their research with other scholars. It was a joy to see their work recognized and to help them develop as literary critics.

What resources or strategies have you found to be helpful in your development as a teacher?

My students are my greatest resource for developing as a teacher. I ask them for feedback frequently, whether informally at the end of a class session or through midterm and end-of-term surveys. When they indicate that there’s a change I can make that will help them learn, I incorporate their suggestions into my courses in real time, rather than stowing those suggestions away for a future iteration of a course. I find that their recommendations are often thoughtful, reasonable, and creative, and working together with my students to ensure that they are getting the support they need makes us jointly responsible for their success and wellbeing.


Excerpts from Davenport’s nomination

“Not only does Ms. Davenport go out of her way to improve, expand and supplement her pedagogical repertoire, but she’s also a leader in helping others to do likewise.”

“Such spontaneous desire from students to build on the experience is a clear testament to Emma’s ability to balance demands for rigorous work from her students with her enthusiastic encouragement to develop their own ideas and insights.”

“She has used resources at Duke to develop expertise in digital humanities pedagogy which she’s employed both in her own most recent class and in the classes of others.”