I teach courses in modern British fiction, literature and psychoanalysis, and poetry and poetics. The question driving my teaching right now is: what conduces to the feeling of aliveness? Why do good poems and novels seem to draw us close to something we'd call being, and is there a way to talk about this phenomenon in non-fuzzy, theoretical terms? What do poets variously say about the sense of readiness that precedes creation, and how does the adherence to form help to enable this readiness? Finally, in a particular poem or short story, how does the form of the line or the sentence, or the displacement that is metaphor, hold the reader in such a way as to make certain emotional intensities safe? These questions offer occasions for exploring a variety of aesthetic theories, as well as psychoanalytic paradigms ranging from Freudian models to object relations theory and to some suggestive new thinking at the intersection of psychoanalysis and Buddhism.
My current scholarship takes up similar questions in the context of academic life and its rigors and rigidities. I am writing a book on the ways in which professional training in the humanities, conducted with the best of intentions, can thwart the feeling of aliveness by partially dissociating practitioners from their intuitions and their deep affective resources. It is an interesting time for people entering the field of English because just now we are seeing a phase of widespread soul-searching within the discipline, from which new theoretical paradigms and new approaches to the life of the text are emerging.
2016-17 courses: Autumn 2016, Teaching Undergraduate English (graduate). Winter 2017, Virginia Woolf (undergraduate).
Graduate: Cognitive Approaches to Modernism; Psychoanalytic Interpretation; Authenticity; Poetry and Being; Affect and the Self; Virginia Woolf; Literature and Psychoanalysis.
Undergraduate: Ulysses; Virginia Woolf; Introduction to Poetry; Creative Nonfiction: The Essay.
- "When Nothing is Cool," The Point Magazine 10 (2015)
- "The Unnamed Work of English," ADE Bulletin 151 (2011)
- "The Artist’s Unfinished Business,” Clio’s Psyche, December 2011
- "The Near Enemy of the Humanities is Professionalism," Chronicle of Higher Education, November 23, 2001, B7-B9
- "Critical Response: Professional Harassment," Critical Inquiry 26 (2000)
- "Stein and Cultural Criticism in the Nineties,” Modern Fiction Studies 42 (1996): 647-61
- Reading Gertrude Stein: Body, Text, Gnosis (Cornell University Press, 1990)
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1982. Teaching at Chicago since 1981.