My principal research and teaching interests are in early modern (Renaissance)
literature, particularly drama, and most particularly Shakespeare. My principal
research approach is close reading, which is just what it sounds like:
I look very closely at the text for details and patterns that help explain
what the text means and how it creates that meaning. (As even that definition
demonstrates, I am not at all cutting-edge.) In the classroom, in addition
to looking (closely) at the text, I emphasize questions about authority,
class, gender, and race. I am also interested in performance issues: How
do the actors transform a script into a performance? What different interpretations
are possible? What choices have to be made? In addition, I’m interested
in looking at this literature as the popular culture of the Elizabethan/Jacobean
age and in light of the popular culture of our own period.
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Director, Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society
My research interests span several areas within composition and rhetoric studies. My current work focuses on the rhetoric of social change movements, including discourses surrounding gender equality in education and athletics, racial justice, educational reform, and medical/health communication. I participate in a variety of research groups and projects through the English Department's Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society, serve as principal investigator for the Blue Ridge Writing Project, and am an affiliated faculty member with Virginia Tech's Women's and Gender Studies Program. While much writing within social movements and organizations necessarily aims at building and sustaining support among like-minded people, I am especially interested in how existing theories of audience can be adapted to facilitate and more effectively account for successful communication across social, cultural, political, and philosophical differences.
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Director of Composition
My principal area of research within the field of composition studies broadly investigates issues of race, language and empowerment and/or language and dis-empowerment. In collaboration with the CSRS and the Moton Museum, I am currently working on a project that explores the relationship between rhetoric and social action working primarily with a brief reflective essay written by Barbara Johns, a key, yet rarely acknowledged, individual in the fight for equality in education during the Brown v. Board of Education trial.
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My area of interest is African American literature with a particular focus
on post-1970 contemporary African American writers. My current work examines
the form and function of story in examining several distinct features that
I have outlined as an integral part of these writers’ narrative strategies.
I am particularly interested in the intersection of story and discourse
in expressing new epistemological and ontological understandings of black
identity as a diasporic condition found in the works of contemporary black
male and female writers. I am also interested in these writers’ expressions
of ideas about black being in their works rather than a monolithic concept
of black identity. My interests in contemporary African American literature
combine with my additional background in early African American literature
prior to 1970. The narrative changes that I examine in contemporary African
American prose arise particularly in response to the burgeoning presence
of several social, political, and cultural movements and these narrative
changes are indelibly indebted to and reflect an awareness of early moments
in the African American literary tradition. I also have a background in
Critical Theory, specifically postcolonial and Diaspora theory.
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My central research interest at this time is the history and evolution
of humanist thought, how it is formulated, stored in archives, and used
to advance understanding. This approach is grounded in the history of ideas,
using the fault line between the Medieval and Renaissance periods to explore
the parallel changes we face in communicating results of humanist inquiry
today. I am especially interested in the contents and organization of medieval
and renaissance libraries—that
is, how writers such as Chaucer, Erasmus, and Petrarch used the textual
sources available to them. I am also interested in the training of teachers
in the study of early English literature, the role of the humanities in
liberal education, and the varieties of humanistic rhetoric.
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My research integrates work in the fields of Scientific and Technical Communication and Science and Technology Studies (STS)–the history, sociology and philosophy of science and technology. Specifically, I examine the role of persuasion in science–the rhetoric of science. My research interests extend to issues regarding interdisciplinary approaches to science and technology, the social production of knowledge (social epistemology), non-fiction writing, scientific controversies, and the role of public intellectuals. My approach is philosophically and textually based. More broadly, my research explores how we know, critically assess, and communicate what we know about science and technology. In considering "how we know what we know" I analyze ways in which knowledge is both in, and about, the world. Recently, I have become interested in how academics and intellectuals, as distinct groups, conceive of, and approach, inquiry. Understanding how we form problems helps us to create meaningful knowledge–not just put knowledge to work.
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Gloria D. Smith Professor
The first thing you do as a black poet is unzip the suit of your black
skin and walk away from it. The second thing you do as a poet is find that
suit of yours that fits you oh so well and step right back into it. That
suit paints behind your eyelids so you see it when you dream. That suit
is osmotic: it lets out sweat, breathes for you – your biggest organ – and keeps out the
elements. All history is in that skin. Poetry plays your skin like an instrument – listen,
touch, taste, look, and sniff. Dream-skin. Skin-song. Human.
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I am a language variationist, and I specialize in studying the phonology (sound system) and morphosyntax (grammatical structure) of American English dialects. I am especially interested in looking at the correlations between language and identity, as language informs and is informed by all aspects of our cultural socialization. My work focuses on issues of social, ethnic, regional, and gender identities and has challenged traditional sociolinguistic assumptions about language boundaries and the trajectory of language change with respect to these identities. Additionally, I look beyond the level of the sentence into the scope of discourse. Utilizing critical discourse theory, I examine discourse language variables at both the descriptive and theoretic levels of analysis in order to better understand the role of language change and identity construction around issues of language policy.
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Director of Undergraduate Programs
My research interests include professional writing pedagogy, civic engagement, and the role of the academy in creating a participatory democracy. My focus on civic engagement emerges from historical research into the Aristotelian concepts of technê and phronesis and qualitative studies involving engaged students and teachers. I argue for service-learning as a pedagogical strategy that helps students and teachers become reflective practitioners and more engaged citizens through service and advocacy. My current project, a collaborative one, involves working with a group of university colleagues from a variety of disciplines and NGO leaders from across the globe to produce a book focusing on leadership and social change.
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My current research focuses on the editing
and translating of medieval legal texts from the British isles, particularly
those written in Old Irish and Old English. Working with
medieval legal texts is a largely interdisciplinary endeavor involving
linguistics, paleography, codicology, archaeology, and social history. I
am also interested in medieval vernacular literature, including texts
written in medieval Irish, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, and Old
and Middle English. My teaching interests include medieval literature,
linguistics, Arthurian literature, law and literature, and medieval
I am interested in all aspects of the study of human language, but, in particular,
its cognitive components, e.g., the sound system, word formation, syntax, etc,
especially with regard to how they change over time. I work with data from many
languages, but do most of my research on Celtic, Germanic, Native American, and
Australian languages, and Latin and Greek. My graduate-level offerings usually
bear on the interrelationships between linguistic and cultural behaviour or the
exploitation of linguistic structures and mechanisms for purposes of verbal art,
and various aspects of Celtic studies.
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My research interests are located in the intersection of information technology, technical communication, and multiculturalism. From the inside, I am interested in how technical communicators create and manage knowledge while interacting with professionals from other fields in the globalized organization. From the outside, once the technical texts are delivered to the customers, I like to study the way in which documentation (delivered through the Internet, print, or digital media) faces political and cultural borders in order to satisfy users' needs. Major areas of my work include projects about 1) human-computer interaction in the humanities and 2) occupational safety and health communication for Hispanic workers.
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Professor, Director of Creative Writing and the MFA Program
As an author and a teacher, I'm interested in both print and digital writing. My most recent books are The Family Corleone (a prequel to The Godfather, based on a screenplay by Mario Puzo) and the short story collection, Burning Man. Earlier books include the novel Saint John of the Five Boroughs; the short story collection, Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha: New and Selected Stories; the novel, Wolf Point; and a collection of literary and experimental short fictions, In the Park of Culture. My interest in digital writing (which is also called new media writing, hypertext, or electronic literature) dates back to the earliest days of personal computers, and I have a novel and a poetry collection available on CD from Eastgate Systems, as well as various works available online. My most recent piece of digital writing, "Chemical Landscapes, Digital Tales," was written in collaboration with the photographer, Mary Pinto, and is included in the Electronic Literature Organization's CD/Web anthology, The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume I. I also write plays, and a recent one, a two-hander entitled Possum Dreams, was read in New York at Urban Stages, with Edie Falco (she couldn't refuse) and John Benjamin Hickey as the principals..
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Director of GEDI
and Associate Professor of English
My research and teaching interests represent a bit of a hybrid approach in our discipline; that is, my work engages the fields of African American literature, pedagogy, and composition/rhetoric. I am interested in the ways in which we read race and recognize agency in the texts of 19th-century African American women, and in the ways we read and/or misread the rhetoric of resistance(s) within the larger genre of African American literature. I am also interested in how Freirean pedagogical praxis might be reinvented and reshaped to help us better address the teaching of literature and writing in the complex 21st-century cultural contexts in which we live and learn. Most recently, my work as the Director of the Graduate Education Development Institute (GEDI) focuses on exploring how the critically engaged integration of teaching and technology might help foster creative and independent learners who are attentive to broader social contexts in their acquisition of domain knowledges.
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My research, like my teaching, focuses on African-American literature.
I am most interested in African-American women writers, particularly in
their strategies for resisting, through their art, oppressive practices
and structures, both social and literary. Black women’s fiction, which is currently enjoying a great
flowering, has been one important focus of my work, but I have also written about
black women’s poetry. I have recently become interested in the relationship
of gender to genre and in the relationship of genre to the social and political
contexts out of which—or against which—literature is written; these
relationships seem especially compelling when one considers the development of
African-American women’s literature over the last thirty-five years. My
current project takes me into a different kind of writing, at least for me: I
am writing a literary biography of Nikki Giovanni for a new series on women of
color, which is being published by Praeger. My research for this volume will
involve my surveying a wide range of materials, including Giovanni’s personal
papers at Boston University’s Mugar Memorial Library, which occupy
nearly two hundred library cartons. I will also be conducting interviews
with scores of people who have known Giovanni at various stages of her
life and her career. The challenge of this project is not simply the challenge
of writing biography, as opposed to criticism, but also (and much more
daunting) the challenge of writing a biography of a living writer.
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Clifford A. Cutchins III Professor of English
I work on American poetry, with a particular emphasis on the way a poem
enacts the movement of the mind and emotions. I concentrate on contemporary
poets, often reading them alongside philosophers (Wittgenstein, Stanley
Cavell) or earlier writers (Whitman, Dickinson, Eliot). In two of my books,
I’ve paired critical
analyses with interviews with poets and am now completing a book-length interview
with a single writer—a form that interests me and seems to fit my way of
thinking. My own creative work—a play, some poems—could also
be seen as another attempt to enact the process of reading, from a slightly
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Director of The Writing Center
Currently, I am working on four distinct but interconnected projects. The first has to do with the role the alternative press plays in the work of small, nonprofit activist organizations–especially street papers, public advocacy sheets, and small newspapers coming out of networks involved with homelessness and issues of poverty and violence. An early version of that work appears in the journal Reflections. The second project has to do with the connection between popular visual representations and public policy. An article, co-authored with Diane Shoos, on lynching photos and other visual representations of execution appears in College English (July 2005). A second visual culture and literacy project, this one with Mariolina Salvatore, has to do with the role holy cards or immaginette have played in the school and religious lives of Catholics. Finally, my ongoing interest in the teaching of writing is reflected in the textbook Reading Culture co-authored with John Trimbur and in Picturing Texts written with Cynthia Selfe, Lester Faigley, and Anna Palcek.
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University Distinguished Professor
Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies
The recognition of Middle Passage as our porthole to prolonged space travel is
a unique way to understand both slavery and space which I explore in Quilting
the Black Eyed Pea.These two apparent opposites, our shameful past and the
possibility of water and atmosphere on a distant star, must combine to make not
just poetry but a better theory of life. My primary interest is the evolution
of Black America and the impact of that evolving upon Earth. Rhythm and Blues
was born from a fusion of gospel and jazz. Fusions continue in many other aspects
of the Black experience whether it is food, clothing, painting, movies or any
other art. We even Rock the Vote these days. Charles Darwin went in search of
The Origins of the Species. Much of his work has been used against him and the
rest of us. I am in search of Darwin by land and sea to put together my theory
of luck and happenstance. If luck and happenstance are factors, then responsibility
has to change. My primary interest is in learning something new.
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Various research interests: 19th-century British literature and culture (especially
the Romantics, with Lord Byron and Jane Austen looming largest), irony, Philhellenism,
Darwin and Darwinism, and medical humanities, particularly the relations of literature
and medicine. My typical method of investigation pairs close reading or explication
with situating literary texts in their social, historical, and cultural contexts.
Current projects include a comparative book on Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, and
the cold, clear, empirical perspective they share and an essay for a collection
on Byron and ghosts.
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My primary teaching in the Rhetoric and Writing program is in critical theory and medical rhetoric. My research is grounded in feminist cultural studies and the interpretation of medicine as an institution and set of material practices. I have published one book on the emergence of transsexuality in the mid-twentieth century, Changing Sex and another on breastfeeding in contemporary American culture, Mother's Milk. Both texts explore medical and popular representations of the sexed body through semiotic and rhetorical analysis. My third book is an exploration of social anxieties about mothers' bodies in the context of modern fears of contamination and contagion, Viral Mothers. In addition to my solo work, I am involved in several collaborative research projects concerning breastfeeding, feminism, and public health; environmentalism; and contemporary antivaccination movements. I am a faculty affiliate of Women's and Gender Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and ASPECT (all VT programs), as well as Project Biocultures (University of Illinois at Chicago), and a member of Virginia Tech's Consortium on Research and Education in Energy Efficiency (CREEE). I have a secondary appointment as professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke.
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Associate Professor, Co-Director of Ph.D. Program
I try to develop thoughtful, theoretical, philosophical examinations of the processes and products of college-level writing instruction in the hope that we may create more useful and fulfilling experiences for composition students and faculty alike. To do so, I look hard at both a variety of documents (historical treatises on rhetoric and teaching, 20th century accounts of poststructural theory, contemporary textbooks, and students' writing, to name but a few) and at my own experiences and practices as a writer and teacher. One result of this work is my abiding interest in the exploratory essay, which I read and write as a literary artifact, use as a vehicle for my scholarship, and employ as an alternative, empowering genre for students' thinking and writing. Of late my work has focused on the idea of rhetoric as a way of being in the world through language -- through invention, structure, and style -- and the ways this concept might usefully complicate our understandings of genre and autism.
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I write poems and stories. I have little faith or interest in my thoughts
on writing. Those who do a thing are often too close to be perceptive commentators,
particularly where love is involved. I love writing, maybe most of all
because it doesn’t matter, because poems don’t lift bridges or make refrigerators
shinier. The nakedness of the endeavor—just one person, sitting at a desk,
trying to express something they feel in a way that will allow others into their
mind—may be among the most human things we do. We are the mouths
of the world, and through poetry we speak.
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My research and teaching reflect my Comparative Literature training and
my background in European literature, particularly German and Polish,
Czech and Russian. Much of my research focuses on reception studies,
the way that a given work is interpreted across cultures. Drama is my
primary genre including theatre history and theory of representation.
However, I am also trained to cover the history of realism that includes
both drama and fiction. I am also very interested in film theory and
history of film. Among my areas of research in comparative literature
is the study of literary movements and particular modes of representation,
such as the Holocaust in representation in European and American film
and literature, the literature of the absurd and grotesque with a particular
focus on Central European twentieth century literature to include writers
such as Kafka, Gombrowicz and Kundera, and the continuity of the Faust
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Shoshana Milgram Knapp
My main research focus has been nineteenth-century fiction—American, British,
French, and Russian—with some attention to related twentieth-century writers.
I also work with the Hebrew Bible, film, and non-fictional prose. In studying
the responses of one writer to another, I have published on such subjects as
Leo Tolstoy’s reading of George Eliot, George Eliot’s reading of
Victor Hugo, Chekhov’s reading of Herbert Spencer, Pinter’s cinematic
adaptation of a novel by John Fowles, and the impact of William James and Fyodor
Dostoevsky on Ursula K. LeGuin. Some of my research is a kind of literary detection.
I wrote the first scholarly articles about the mysterious “Victoria Cross” (whose
dates—1868-1952—and actual name had never before been documented).
I am currently writing a study of the life of Ayn Rand up to 1957 (i.e.,
from her birth in St. Petersburg, Russia, to the publication of her final
Shrugged); my project, which is based on access to primary sources,
presents her vision of the human ideal—the individual, rational mind in triumphant
action—as the integrating principle of her public and private life.
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My creative work ranges among several genres. In poetry, I often focus on the
complexities of love relationships or the countryside and culture of Southern
Appalachia, though lately I have also been examining the mythologies of Northern
Europe. My creative nonfiction deals with the gay/lesbian experience, especially
in Appalachia, as well as the vagaries of aging, the legacies of family, the
many facets of eroticism, and travel in both Europe and North America. My fiction
portrays the darker depths and intensities of gay male relationships. Much of
my creative writing is informed by my eager interests in Southern literature,
gay/lesbian literature, Appalachian folk culture, and Appalachian literature.
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As a poet and teacher of creative writing,
I am generally obsessed with unhinging and investigating the connections
between emotion, language, and story. I am more specifically
interested in different ways of constructing narratives — straight-up,
fractured, beat-boxed, lyric, winding, and metaphorically luminous
testimony-poems. Though it is deeply un-sexy, I preach the gospel
of syntactical energy. My work tends to deal with women’s
bodies and female sexuality, the perils and pleasures of adolescence,
urban peripheries and interstitial spaces. My writing is often
informed by my interests in very contemporary American poetry of all
schools and un-schools, poetry and performance, and ethnic American
fiction. In addition to being a poet, I moonlight as an academic. I’m
currently pursuing a doctorate in Religion and Culture, focusing on
Jewish Studies, at the University of Virginia. My research interests
include Jewish and Muslim women’s literature, the Jewish-American
novel, material religion, and new ritual.
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My research specialty is nineteenth-century English fiction, specifically
the novels and journalism of Charles Dickens. My work has been described
ethnography” providing readings of the novels “which interpret Dickens’s
words in relation to the culture that shaped them, and which originally gave
them meaning.” Thus, I often find myself digging through an eclectic array
of materials—conduct books, sanitary tracts, emigrant manuals, to
name just a few of the texts I consider. I am particularly interested in
Dickens as the great poet of the Victorian city. Several of my essays analyze
Dickens's profound understanding of the city as a human artifact created
over time through a complex process of accretion, encroachment, adaptation,
and archaeological layering.
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Professor and Director of Graduate Programs
My research focuses on the material structures of the manuscripts and pre-1500
editions of the Canterbury Tales and the relationship of those structures
to their presentation of the text. The methodologies I employ in this work
are known as codicology and bibliography. I publish descriptions of these “witnesses” to
the Canterbury Tales in association with the Canterbury Tales Project,
on CD-ROM and the internet. An offshoot of this work is my interest in
watermarks, and in this regard I am involved in a large, ongoing project
in collaboration with Ernest Sullivan and Len Hatfield: The Thomas L. Gravell
Watermark Archive and Database (www.gravell.org).
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Fritz H. Oehlschlaeger
My current research interests involve the relationships between literature
and ethics and literature and Christian theology. My primary writing at
the moment is on a book manuscript looking at bioethical matters from a
standpoint that is partly, but not wholly, influenced by Christian ethics.
I continue also to be interested in various aspects of American literature,
particularly but not exclusively that of the nineteenth-century. Thoreau
and the contemporary writer Wendell Berry are figures on whom I intend
to concentrate, at least for a time, after I finish the manuscript on which
I’m now working. A further and ongoing
interest of mine is in the debate concerning what I’ll call the conflict
between liberalism and tradition as it’s being played out in American
democracy and treated in work by such figures as MacIntyre, Hauerwas, Milbank,
Stout, Rorty, et al.
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My principal research areas are the history and theory of rhetoric. Past work, for example, takes up the 2500-year-old debate about rhetoric and technê, arguing that even in the light of the sometimes-radical ways that postmodern theory has changed our understanding of language, we can still understand rhetoric as a teachable, productive art. I demonstrate that such an understanding does not reduce rhetoric to a mere tool but instead embraces both its inherent value and its instrumental value, as well as the complex relationship between the two. Other research interests include rhetorical theories of invention and interpretation, as well as ethics in rhetoric and writing. This interest in ethics (ethics in the Foucauldian sense of the "care of the self") has recently turned into a new project in the rhetoric of medicine in which I analyze how discourses of genetic opportunity and genetic determinism operate within biosocial communities to produce the "genetically at-risk" subject.
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Katrina M. Powell
Associate Professor and Director of Women's Studies
I am interested in rhetorical constructions of identity, and how those constructions are tied to issues of literacy, language, and public discourse in genres like letters, oral histories, websites, or documentary films. Whatever the genre, I ask questions about how individuals see and present themselves to public audiences, and the ways that race, class, gender, region, sexual identity, ethnicity, and religion can affect those presentations. Recently I studied a collection of letters written by mountain families in the 1930s. These letters were written in response to families' imminent displacement from their homes in order to form Shenandoah National Park. Using multi-modal research methodologies (archival, discourse and rhetorical analysis, ethnography), I examined the ways that "displacement rhetorics" tend to exclude the very people being displaced, and the ways that the letter writers resisted their displacement through self-representation. Extending this study, my current project examines displacement narratives across events, comparing the ways stories are told about and by the displaced in natural disaster, civil unrest, and eminent domain. In addition, I am working on a project about the autobiographical texts of several feminist writers. Using performance, genre, and autobiography theories, this project examines the ways that life writing, as a rhetorical construction, functions as activism.
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David H. Radcliffe
Professor and Director, Center for Applied Technologies in the Humanities
I am a literary historian and antiquary working in British poetry from the Elizabethans through the romantics, taking a particular interest in how modern ideas about culture evolved from the older idea of "genius" that linked concepts of literature, education, and originality to national and regional identities. More particularly, I look at how traditions operated within the context of market economies in England, Scotland, Ireland, and America, tracking the diffusion of English literature as it developed from small coteries in courts and universities to become the broad-based institution we know today. I can lend a hand with projects involving bibliographic and philological research, and with electronic texts, databases, and dynamic Web pages.
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Professor of English and Alumni Distinguished Professor
I am a novelist and poet, so my primary focus is creative writing. I enjoy
working with writers on their novels, short stories, and poetry collections,
and I work best with those who are profoundly curious about themselves,
about their assumptions, and about the world around them. I am fascinated
by prosody and technique, and I believe that it is necessary for writers
to appreciate the power of language, the complexity of form, and the demands
of perspective before they can write anything meaningful. I am preoccupied
with the process that is involved when one transforms experience into artistic
expression, and I try to experiment with different genres to see how one’s
subject matter is altered by the limitations and potential inherent in
a particular form.
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Professor and Co-Director of the Ph.D. Program in Rhetoric and Writing
Within professional writing, I am interested in the genres that influence policy and decision making, especially reports. One specific interest is environmental policy. I draw on rhetorical theory to investigate ways in which discourse shapes values and action, considering not only individual texts but also texts as they are part of comprehensive strategic action to influence change. An example is "New Perspectives on Rhetorical Delivery" (TCQ Summer 2004), which considers the life history of a report as it was used in field work to encourage use of renewable energy and as it generated variations, other genres, and a new edition as well as changes in policy and action. A recent article, "Mapping the Research Questions in Technical Communication" (JBTC 2009), analyzes categories of inquiry in technical communication.
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Associate Professor and Director of Literature, Language, and Culture
I like to work at the intersection of scholarly, aesthetic, political,
and autobiographical discourses. My work focuses largely on Arab Americans,
a focus for which I was somehow prepared in the field of Native American
Studies. This background has led to a serious interest in all sorts of
comparative ethnic studies and an increasing focus on critical race studies.
I am an avid reader of all types of modern American literature, with
a special proclivity for Native literature, Arab American literature,
and so-called immigrant literature. I also try and find time for Anglophone
world literature, particularly that arising from Palestine and the Arab
Diaspora. These are the categories in which I have invested the majority
of my research. The rest of my research is trained on problematizing
the assumptions that invest those categories with meaning--i.e., I have
a secondary interest in literary theory.
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Professor and Director for the University's Center for 21st Century Studies
interested in weirdness—by which I mean those other voices that have always
resisted the long march from Rome to Iraq in western culture. I focus particularly
upon three zones of recent work in this other tradition, or tradition of otherness:
recent American culture often ghettoed (or is that garroted) as "postmodern," recent
thought often ghettoed (see above) as "poststructural," and writing
that analyzes the global order from what is often ghettoed (see above) as "postcolonial." Such
works have their antecedents going back at least to Heraclitus and frequently
work by shredding from without, or imploding from within, the forms within which
what we call "The West" takes place. I am fascinated by what
happens when writing and other media mix up the borders of form, media,
genre, culture, and view. I admire the dexterity and resourcefulness
of artists who contest the drone-thought of their eras. I try not to
be a drone when I teach or write about them (but, then, nobody's perfect).
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My research focuses on American literature, especially the late nineteenth
century. As founder of the Stephen Crane Society and editor of its journal,
I am involved in several projects pertaining to Crane. I am currently interested
in textual, biographical, and critical issues: How does a modern editor
establish the “correct” text
to read, how does biography affect the way we read the text, and what are valid
ways of interpreting it? Put another way, how does one reconcile the fact that
the published version of Crane’s most famous novel, The Red Badge of
Courage, differs dramatically from what he wrote in the manuscript,
and how does one sort out fact from fiction when one realizes that the
most influential book about Crane’s life and work is based on forgeries?
I am also interested in how culture influences the way that texts are
written and marketed.
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Ernest W. Sullivan
Edward S. Diggs Professor of English
Most of my research and teaching relates to authors who published between
1500 and 1700, with a primary focus on John Donne. My primary research
approach is textual bibliography—the study of the creation, transmission,
and consumption of literary texts and the artifacts on which they are inscribed.
The chief goals of this research are: (1) to understand how all of the
artifacts that contain the text(s) came into being and (2) to use information
about the genesis, transmission, and consumption of the text in all its
forms to illuminate the meaning of the texts. In actual practice, this
approach involves locating the artifacts (manuscripts, books, stones, etc.);
analyzing their physical characteristics (watermarks, ink, paper folds,
bindings, physical wear, handwriting, copyright records, wax seals, etc.);
using computer programs to sort out the relationships among their texts;
and, finally, establishing a text that most accurately represents what
the author wrote (for those using an author-centered approach) and critically
studying that text in the context of any other possibly authorial versions
of the text. Textual bibliography is not author or period specific; thus,
I have written on authors ranging from Shakespeare to Joseph Conrad as
well as on bibliographical theory.
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