Associate Professor Emeritus

For CV click here

I teach courses on modern British and American poetry, modern and nineteenth century British fiction, and occasionally topics like Population and Literature, Poets’ Prose, or Theories of Laughter.  My work–only on retrospect–has been concerned with some of the plainest, most neutral formats we have and their possible implications.  These formats include Interrogation or forced dialogue, which we see all the time, for example in television dramas; “demographics” and Census, often used as a plain court of last resort in public and journalistic discussions of the real; and the Prose Page’s layout, typography and design.  Each given—question-and-answer, counting people, prose rectangles and blocs—should be approached not just sociologically or neutrally but as (roughly) a poetry.  A poetics of forced speech, of census, and of the prose page, then–each has a history.   An early book about Conrad tried to show how often his dialogue scenes are strangely forced, Conrad quietly denying that the innocent purely conversational dialogue exists.  Studies of “demography’s” writ, currently everywhere (what group has not been called a “demographic”?), suggest that it is a set of population-stories, not plain historical truths, even though it seems and partly is a most telling or factual field.  There is, for instance, a history of census poems and novels that lead us back to “demography’s” actively figurative qualities.  The prose page itself is a bias about grouping and a measure, as a poetic meter might be.  In teaching, I work mostly through practical criticism and close reading.  I have also been publishing a row of eccentric comic essays on various kinds of visionary word play in literature, defending a comic criticism, teaching less often taught poems and novels, and publishing poems in different modes in various anthologies and journals.

Selected Publications
  • The Printer’s Error (2001)
  • Coercion to Speak: Conrad’s Poetics of Dialogue (1985)
  • Chain Hearings (1976)
  • “Wordsworth’s ‘We Are Seven’ and Crabbe’s The Parish Register,” Studies in Romanticism (2009)
  • “Fantasias in g,” Western Humanities Review (2007)
  • “The Nth Muse: The Image of Prose in Prose,” Western Humanities Review (2002)
  • “Trans.: O’Hara’s Russians,” Mississippi Review (2003)
  • “The Hoax and the Hex,” Western Humanities Review (2000)
  • “Brueghel’s The Census at Bethlehem and the Visual Anticensus,” Representations 54 (1996)
  • “The Blind Sailor and Mr. Buckley,” Mosaic (1996)
  • “The Prose of Populations,” Western Humanities Review XLVII (1993)
  • “The Mood of Overhearing in Conrad’s Fiction,” in Joseph Conrad: Critical Assessments (1992)
  • “The Novel of Activities,” Western Humanities Review XLI (1987)
  • “Talk Shows: On Reading Television,” in Emerson and His Legacy (1986)
  • “Population and Poetry,” Raritan (1982)
  • “Pictures of Speech: On Blake’s Poetics,” Studies in Romanticism (1982)
  • Poems in The Best American Poetry, 1989, 1990, 1995, 2004
Work in Progress
  • Scenes of Census: Literature Against Demography
Honors, Grants, and Awards
  • Kahn Award for The Printer’s Error (2001)
  • Guggenheim Fellow (1987–8)
  • Kellett Fellowship (1967–9)
  • Gitner Award for Distinguished Teaching (2005)