My classes equip students to practice curiosity, inquiry, and skill sets necessary for the critical examination of texts. I focus on close reading skills that lead students and myself to questions and answers that the text can support. I emphasize the examination of genre, audience, style, vocabulary, and rhetorical strategies in all of my classes and I use writing-centered learning practices.
As an early Americanist, I am especially interested in fleshing out diverse literary, cultural, and transatlantic historical contexts as they inform and challenge particular passages of a text. My approach highlights bodies, characters and stories we might otherwise dismiss or ignore in American literature. In my classes, students are encouraged to take otherness seriously and explore how these stories in colonial America inform their sense of themselves and of America today. Students in my early American literature courses can expect to develop an understanding of the literary traditions of colonial and early national America and to be exposed to the diversity and richness of early American Literature—in genre, form, ideology, thought, and culture.
I subscribe to a text-centered (subject-centered or sometimes called third-object-centered) pedagogy where students and I work together to engage with a third object that is not ourselves and thus is a bit foreign to us all.
My text-centered pedagogy has been shaped by Quaker philosopher and education theorist Parker Palmer. Palmer has suggested this about text-centered (or what he calls subject-centered) teaching: “In a subject centered classroom, the teacher’s central task is to give the great thing an independent voice–a capacity to speak its truth quite apart from the teacher’s voice . . . .When the great thing speaks for itself, teachers and students are more likely to come into a genuine learning community, a community that does not collapse into the egos of students or teacher but knows itself accountable to the subject at its core.”
Examples of Courses Taught
Early American Survey
- English 321 Early American Literature (Saint Joseph’s Spring 2012, 2013, 2014)
This course surveys American literature written before 1860. Students can expect to develop an understanding of the literary traditions of colonial and early national America and to be exposed to the diversity and richness of early American Literature—in genre, form, ideology, thought, and culture. This course covers a wide variety of texts—histories, journals, sermons, poems, autobiographies, drama, and novels—written by a wide variety of authors—explorers, Indigenous leaders, colonists, priests, slaves, wives, captives, pirates, travelers, Native ministers, rebels, and poets. Some of the texts included in the course are by well-known American authors including Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. These texts are read alongside of lesser-known, but equally important authors in America’s diverse literary history such as Nat Turner, David Walker, Samson Occom, Henry Aupaumut and Phyllis Wheatley. Students can expect to study the ways diverse stories of the American self interconnect and conflict, the ways genre and period inform ideas of what it means to be an American, and what America represents in the literary imagination.
American Literature Survey for English Majors
- English 338: Realism to Modernism (New Jersey City University Spring 2015)
Like my early American literature courses, students can expect to be exposed to a wide variety of American voices in this class. This course focuses on the major literary periods from 1860 to 1914 including Realism, Naturalism, Local color, Regionalism, Sensationalism, Modernism, and the Harlem Renaissance. Notions of America as a "frontier" or "wilderness" are interrogated throughout the course as are concepts of Americans as "pioneers" and "cowboys." America as a "melting pot" or "contact zone" or borderlands is also examined. Questions such as the following shape the approach to the texts: What does it mean to be an American? How have American authors imagined and represented this place called "America" and "the United States"? How have those representations changed, contradicted, and informed each other? What does it mean to be an American author? Does a text have to do a particular cultural work or perform a specific literary identity to be “American”?
Upper Level Seminars
- English 480 Early American Captivity Narratives, 1500-1860 (Saint Joseph’s Fall 2012)
Some scholars claim that without the captivity narrative there would be no American Literature. This course leads students to interrogate this claim by reading a broad selection of captivity stories written before 1860 (mostly). The course examines captivity narratives written in English although these narratives were written in Dutch, Spanish, French, and Portuguese as well. We seek to define the genre of the “captivity narrative.” We read first-person accounts from settlers, explorers, sailors, and slaves. We read poetry and fiction that engages captivity. We also explore snippets of film and contemporary tv that retells captivity stories. In these readings, we look at the formation of the most well known convention of this genre: the white woman captured by Native Americans. We examine the spiritual analogy of captivity and redemption of the soul in many of these early texts such as Mary Rowlandson’s. We look at challenges to those conventions by focusing on women like Eunice Williams, Mary Jemison, and Rebecca Kellogg Ashley who chose for various reasons to remain in their Native American families rather than return to English territory. We explore how constructions of the “self,” the “nation,” and the “other” are challenged and codified through this genre and its use in fiction. We also explore how gender, race, and class influence the shape of the narrative.
- English 482 Echoes of Salem in American Literature (Saint Joseph’s Spring 2012)
The witchcraft trials of 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts carry a heavy cultural weight in American culture. During the trials, over 160 people were imprisoned; nineteen people were hanged, one was crushed to death while being tortured, at least five died in rank jails, and about 50 people confessed to witchcraft or spirit possession thus saving themselves from execution. In this course, we trace the echoes of the Salem trials across several centuries to contemporary culture today by examining literature related to the trials. In this course, we read court transcripts and examine how Salem’s story was retold by those who lived through it. We explore texts as well known as Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World (1693), Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1952), and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” (1835). We read poems by early American poet John Greenleaf Whittier and contemporary poet Stephanie Hemphill. Additionally, we’ll examine texts that were popular then but not now, such as John Neal’s Rachel Dyer: A North American Story (1820). We end the course with recent historical fiction about Salem including award-winning novel I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (1982) by Maryse Conde and New York Times bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (2009) by Katherine Howe. We explore social, religious, and literary contexts that informed representations of Salem, of witchcraft, and of the figure of the witch. And ultimately, we will develop an understanding about the persistence of Salem in our cultural memory.