On the morning of May 15, 2020, graduate student Keyla González Díaz nervously logged on to Google Meet to defend her thesis titled “Gender, Pedagogy, and Werewolves: Duality in Reading and Teaching Quinn Loftis’s Prince of Wolves.” The moment she had been working towards for years finally arrived. Even though she defended her thesis in Google Meets, the nerves were the same as if it had been face-to-face.
“For generations, werewolves have been a symbol of an uncontrollable male desire,” González Díaz said. She describes how Quinn Loftis changed the civilized-savage binary in her novel, Prince of Wolves, “suggesting that this binary is false and young men should be in control of themselves.” In her thesis, González Díaz analyzed two male characters from Prince of Wolves and interpreted their actions in the metaphor of succumbing to the “wolf” of toxic masculinity or suppressing this and practicing self-restraint. Another part of her thesis focused on teaching novels that explored gender constructs such as this one. This pedagogical analysis focused on teaching first-year students enrolled in English classes at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (UPRM).
The inspiration behind the work
When asked what inspired her thesis, González Díaz remembered having a passion for reading about werewolves when she was growing up. “I always enjoyed reading how these male werewolves would struggle with their basic instinct and would give their lives for the woman they loved.”
Later on, when she stumbled upon a copy Prince of Wolves by Quinn Loftis back in 2015, she fell head over heels for the storyline, especially the kind of love shared by the main characters. As she read the book over and over, she noticed a pattern. González Díaz described how many of the male werewolves in the novel were intensely “possessive towards women, especially to those they considered their soulmate.” The male main character, however, broke away from this behavior “and treated his soulmate as an equal,” she continued.
González Díaz saw the importance of breaking away from social constructs, especially those pertaining to gender roles and toxic masculinity. She recalls how she came to realize these were “important topics to be included in the curriculum and this type of novel could be used to discuss them in an ESL classroom.”
The graduate student believes novels like this one could help students identify toxic masculinity traits as well as pull away from them. In addition, having role models such as the main character in Prince of Wolves, students could model their own behavior in terms of gender roles, or breaking away from them. This novel also portrays bilingualism and biculturalism, an aspect of the novel that would help students in an ESL classroom identify with characters that remind them of their own experiences. González Díaz considers how novels like this one, regardless of being YA, belong in the classrooms because it exposes students to social topics that are relevant in their own lives.
The writing process and its challenges
González Díaz now admits that the biggest challenge she faced throughout her entire experience in the MAEE (Masters of Arts in English Education), was writing during the four years of strikes, Hurricane María, countless earthquakes, and the COVID-19 pandemic. “These situations would get me so nervous and anxious because I thought that I would never finish nor graduate,” González Díaz shared.
She recalls how most of the time, she didn’t have the inspiration or proper state of mind to be able to write. However, she used the COVID-19 quarantine to focus on her research and writing. “Luckily, I was able to achieve this with the help of my committee, family, friends, and with the mindset that this would be my year, the year where I would finish my thesis and graduate,” González concluded.
González Díaz has sage advice for other graduate students and aspiring undergraduates: “Always work with something you love and are passionate about. It helped me a lot when I was writing and it felt like less of a struggle when it came to writing.”
What comes next?
González Díaz is currently studying and preparing to take the GRE in the Fall, aiming to apply for a PhD program in December. She aspires to pursue a PhD or doctorate program in teaching Young Adult (YA) literature in an ESL classroom so that one day she can become a college professor.
She admitted that, even though she has done lots of research and has a few universities in mind, she still needs to do further research before reaching a decision on where she will apply. However, in the meantime, González Díaz will seek jobs in the public school system.