English Grad Student Pursuing His Calling
May 24, 2016
Influenced by his grandmother, his ASU mentor, and renowned author James Joyce, graduate student Alex Barchet has embarked on a journey that will soon take him to a new and exciting destination.
His journey began in an unlikely place, between the pages of Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
“Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”
“That book spoke to me on a variety of levels, critical, historical, personal and psychological,” Barchet said. “Ever since that point, my studies have been increasingly focused on James Joyce’s prose, specifically on his observations about language and the nature of communication.”
A San Angelo native, Barchet will graduate with his master’s degree in English this summer and has been accepted as a doctoral student at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. The institution, which has published the prestigious James Joyce Quarterly for more than 44 years, is waiving Barchet’s $25,000 annual tuition and has offered him a graduate assistant position to help cover his expenses.
“In my research, I’ll be focusing on Transatlantic Modernism with a focus on, you guessed it, James Joyce,” he said.
Besides his fascination with Joyce, Barchet’s pursuit of an advanced degree was also influenced by a force much closer to home.
“My grandmother is one of the most knowledgeable and intelligent people I know,” he said. “She had a full ride to the University of Chicago, but her family would not allow her to take it. Instead, she was pushed to become a secretary. She still talks to me about regretting that. It motivated me to apply for a doctoral program because I didn’t want to be 75 years old and talking about regretting it.”
As an ASU undergraduate, Barchet earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in English and history. He then took a year off, but his love of literature brought him back to ASU for his master’s degree.
“I read Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ as an undergrad,” he said. “It always makes me think of San Angelo, like the song ‘My Little Town’ by Simon and Garfunkel.”
He first read “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” during an ASU graduate course taught by English professor Dr. Mark Hama.
“He got it,” Hama said. “You could just tell that he got it. I started giving him more background on Joyce. It’s an entire universe, James Joyce scholars. He’s been bitten by the bug.”
Barchet further scratched that itch by reading Joyce’s masterpiece, “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake.”
“It was probably rushing it to decide after only a year what I was going to study for the rest of my life,” he said. “Dr. Hama and I have been doing an independent study of ‘Portrait’ for the past two semesters. James Joyce is hysterical. He’s so satirical, and I love it. But he’s not easy or fun to read. It’s more about the challenge. It’s something you enjoy after you finish. It takes effort to read Joyce.”
While he expects it will take him five years to earn his Ph.D., Barchet’s goal is to become a professor, like his mentor.
“I have taken eight classes with Dr. Hama,” he said. “He’s the reason I became an English major and one of the reasons I came back to ASU for a master’s. I appreciate that at ASU I had the opportunity to work with him that often.”