A mysterious professor with many stories to tell
From growing up loving hockey and diving off a spring board to studying Victorian pornography and finding a passion for research and having many hidden stories, Emily Wicktor, assistant professor in English, is a mystery on campus.
In 2012, Wicktor started at North Dakota State as the first-year writing director. She has since become an assistant professor in English. “I kind of geeked out a lot,” Wicktor explained, when discussing her passion for helping people learn more and answer their research questions.
Many in the English department wonder if Wicktor is even “real” because she has never had any social media or photos of herself online anywhere. Sometimes to make herself laugh she’ll make up a story and see if it is believable enough because many cannot stalk the internet to find the answer.
She is mostly known at NDSU for teaching and researching Victorian pornography and sexuality. She started this research because she was interested in Victorian history, but was disappointed that most were “fallen women” stories. Most had significantly young women revolving around a man seducing them and ending up pregnant in between the chapters.
Wicktor became frustrated with the bleak scenes, so she turned to Victorian pornography of the time for the explicit talk about sex. Through her research, she had access to a private case with “the filthiest, dirtiest, Victorian pornography,” Wicktor said.
Although “Esther Waters” by George Moore is not a well-known Victorian study, it is Wicktor’s favorite book because many Victorian novels are overdramatic and have the woman be a tragic character. In this novel, however, the woman is a survivor.
Growing up, Wicktor’s parents never withheld content that was seen as taboo from her, which made it normal to her to talk about. “I grew up in a household that had unhidden Playboy magazines,” Wicktor said. “I grew up on HBO and dirty jokes — my parents are rad, loving, filthy, wonderful people who are fantastic.”
Originally from St. Cloud, Wicktor made it clear that she could not be any more from the central Minnesota area. There is a cemetery in Santiago, Minnesota where her Norwegian ancestors lay from 1823 to her plot at the end.
As a child she knew Minnesotans as two different types: those who had a cabin versus those who would go camping. She was one with a cabin, while her husband grew up camping, therefore making her integrate into canoeing and tenting. This led to her becoming a “super fan” of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Wicktor and her husband go into “primitive management areas (PMAs)” where there are no marked camping sites and where it “is the best way to get away from people” and see wildlife up close in their natural habitat.
One time when entering a PMA, they witnessed two wolf pack kills of a female moose and her calf. While staying in this area, they were surrounded by the wolf pack for around 20 hours. All of which Wicktor explained was “weirdly worth it.”
Wicktor met her husband at St. Cloud State in a poetry class. She had written about masturbation, and on her poem, he wrote multiple critiques and scratched out notes at the bottom making her assume that “this guy is probably just a dick.” Later, she learned that he spoke to a woman next to him and said, “I’m going to marry her,” and that he scratched out “I love you” at the bottom of the paper. This man later became Wicktor’s husband.
As a graduate student teaching her class at the University of Kansas, she ended up throwing up in front of her class. “If you’ve puked in front of a class, nothing can really phase you,” Wicktor shared. She uses this story as a way to calm her students who are looking to be teachers themselves.
At NDSU, Wicktor teaches many English courses, but enjoys starting with freshmen in Literary Analysis to seniors in English Capstone because she is able to see people at the beginning of the degree and at the end. This allows her to see how much they have grown into their major.
At 10 years old, Wicktor became a spring and platform diver for 13 years. “I was the classic student-athlete,” Wicktor explained. She applies this to her teaching moments because she knows how it feels to wipe out. She also later became a diving coach, which also demonstrates the idea that she likes to teach others.
Later, at the young age of 20, she was robbed at gunpoint while working at a movie theater. After giving him the money, she became angry because she wanted to count the money at the end of the night, so she chased him into the parking lot and then he shot back at her. Now, she looks back and explained how dumb it was to chase the robber.
Looking back on her time at NDSU, Wicktor explained how lucky she is to have such fun coworkers. She explained that the late Amy Rupiper Taggart was someone who she admired. “Every day working with her was probably a favorite memory,” Wicktor shared.
Wicktor said she prides herself on focusing on feminism and rhetoric in her studies. This led to her and a group of English lecturers, that tend to focus on feminist rhetoric and have attended the Feminists and Rhetoric conference, to create “AcaSHEmeia.” This is their band that they created for the DIY theme this year. They take ’80s songs and change the lyrics to either a feminist or academic focus.
They played at the fall luncheon, and NDSU President Dean Bresciani loved it and had them sign the pamphlet.
Wicktor received a Ph.D. in English from University of Kansas and had a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Tulane University in New Orleans before coming to NDSU.