Did you have a favorite class to teach in college? What made it your favorite?
I started some time ago the two-quarter Shakespeare undergrad course, Histories/Comedies, Tragedies/Romances, and it's a great favorite of mine.
What would you have liked to tell the 20-year-old version of yourself about college?
Take as many different things as time permits. Try out various disciplines to find out what suits you best. I studied history and literature (at Harvard), and learned that evidently I was a student of dramatic and literary texts and history but not cut out to be a historian.
Did you go straight to graduate school after college? If not, what was the most interesting thing you did in the interim?
I was in the Naval ROTC and served three years in the regular Navy on board a destroyer right after graduating. A good thing. I did a lot of growing up and learning to take responsibility in those three years. Then, to grad school.
What made you decide to specialize in your current subfield in English?
I came to grad school thinking I might be a Victorian scholar (and actually published a paper on Dickens). Then I ran into Alfred Harbage, who opened up for me the world of Elizabethan theatre.
What is the most intriguing or quirky idea that you have learned from your recent research?
I'm working on editing Hamlet. I hadn't realized how full of errors the Folio text is. The quarto has a more direct line to what Shakespeare wrote. The Folio does of course have many important authorial changes, but a lot of the Folio variants are the result of various stages of copying or transmission.
What is your favorite work of literature to teach to undergraduates?
Probably Hamlet, though I am thrilled to focus on any play, really.
What do you like best about teaching college students at the University of Chicago?
College students are more open to ideas, often, than graduate students or other folks. More apt to ask questions one has never thought about.