Mahala Higginbotham

Mahala Photo

November 2022 Student Spotlight

Department: English

Describe your research/creative scholarship in a few sentences that we can all understand: In the last few decades, academic attention to romance novels, and specifically African American romance novels, is finally heightening. I'm assisting in uncovering the traits that make African American romance novels unique, searching within the genre itself for subgenre nuance and thematic elements.


Q: What does your research look like on a day-to-day basis? What do you spend most of your time doing?

A: Currently, I'm in a "gathering" phase of research, poking my head into different avenues of work people have done in relatively recent decades. I've been reading about the history of the romance novel in general, throughout the weeks honing into certain authors, publishers, and subject matter.


Q: Who mentors your project?

A: Dr. Ayesha Hardison


Q: What surprised you about doing a larger research or creative project?

A: How complex every variable of thinking becomes when you factor in history. I've found that you can have any sort of personal opinion about any topic, but when you apply historical reference, your thoughts are easily remolded. I've not noticed until recently how vital an interdisciplinary approach is to research, especially in our current age.


Q:What did you find most challenging about getting involved in or doing your project? What advice would you offer to students facing similar challenges?

A: Sometimes the pool of reading is overwhelming, especially since I work in the realm of literature. The most helpful thing I've found is to group my sources based on who's referenced who over time, creating a "stream of consciousness" within the research itself. It definitely helps my own thought process as I immerse myself in specific topics.


Q: What do you like most about your project?

A: A lot of ideas can become highly theoretical. Since there's no definitively right or wrong way to theorize about literature, so that opens the realm of research nearly endlessly. There's never going to be a stone unturned.


Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not working on your project?

A: I write poetry, paint my nails, and watch brain-numbing sitcoms. I also enjoy listening to soundtrack scores and acoustic indie music