My chief aim in teaching, no matter what the course, is to increase my students' confidence in their abilities to pose problems and solve problems using the various practices of academic inquiry: reading, writing, discussion, inquiry, research, and reasoning. I seek simultaneously to decrease their confidence that they know many things that should not be subject to further inquiry. I am content, that is, to let most students go on knowing that their parents love them. I am not content for them to go on believing that Shakespeare's primacy as an artist is a fact of nature rather than a social construct. Especially in my teaching of literature, I ask my students to push toward an additional layer of analysis: what forces are at work to make literature--and specific works of literature--culturally or politically or socially, or even personally, significant? I hope that, through my classes and all the others they take, students gain confidence both in assessing the likelihood that a given response to a problem (a theory, an essay in literary criticism, an editorial, an argument) is more or less valid than another and in predicting how and why a relatively satisfying response will, and should, itself be challenged.
In class sessions and paper assignments, I try to present problems to solve rather than material to absorb; I try to propose a variety of suggested approaches rather than to offer solutions. I try to encourage students' critique in discussion and writing; I try to support them in taking risks. In class, I try to balance large group discussion, in which I can more directly shape the direction and point out the kinds of intellectual moves discussion participants, including the authors of class texts, are making, with small group discussions that require students to work more independently. In all, I hope to share my passion for a life of intellectual engagement, to share books, to share the pleasure of writing and of conversation. I hold high standards for my students and I take joy in the many ways they meet those standards.
I am interested in the ways that people write, learn to write, and use writing to make sense of their lives. I have worked on women who kept diaries on the Overland Trail between 1845 and 1965. I have worked on what archival sources tell us about how writing has been taught in colleges since the mid-19th century. I have worked on how students in the late 20th and early 21st century are learning to write. As the Director of the Writing Center here, I am especially interested in the work of writing centers.
I hope soon to launch a project on memory and writing.
"Writing, Vocation, Value: The Liberal Arts in a Knowledge-Based Economy." Solicited book chapter for Composition(s) in the New Liberal Arts, ed. Joanna Castner Post and James A. Inman. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2009.
Local Histories: Reading the Archives of Composition. Co-edited with Patricia Donahue. Pittsburgh Series on Composition, Literacy, and Culture. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press, 2007.
"Locating Composition History." In Local Histories: Reading the Archives of Composition.
"Moving the State to War: Appeals by Nicias, Alcibiades, Bush, and the US Congress," with Catherine Collins. In Experiencing War: Trauma and Society in Ancient Greece and Today, edited by Michael Cosmopoulos. Chicago: Ares Publishers, 2007.
"First-Year Writing in First-Year Seminars: Writing Across the Curriculum from the Start." WPA 26(2003).
"The Pathos of Pathos: The Treatment of Emotion in Contemporary Composition Textbooks." In A Way to Move: Rhetorics of Emotion and Composition Studies, edited by Laura Micciche and Dale Jacobs. NH: Boynton/Cook, 2003.
Close Reading (ENGL 201)
Introduction to Literary Theory (ENGL 202W
Chaucer (ENGL 345)
Shakespeare's Comedies (ENGL 341)
King Lear (HUM 497W)
Writing Workshop (ENGL 137W)
Metamorphoses (IDS 101), a College Colloquium
Senior Seminar in English (ENGL 499W)
Coming soon: new courses on Medieval Literature and Early Modern Drama!