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Dr. Kevin J. Porter

Name

[Porter, Dr. Kevin J.]
  • Associate Professor, English
  • Associate Professor of English
  • Chairperson, English

Professional Preparation

    • 2002 Ph.D. in EnglishUniversity of Wisconsin - Madison
    • 1997 M.A. in EnglishAuburn University
    • 1992 B.A. (magna cum laude) in EnglishTrenton State College

Appointments

    • Sept 2008 to Present Associate Professor of English
      University of Texas at Arlington
    • Sept 2002 to Aug 2008 Assistant Professor of English
      University of Texas at Arlington

Memberships

  • Professional
    • Jan 2002 to Present National Council of Teachers of English
  • Professional
    • Jan 2007 to Present MLA: Modern Language Association
  • Professional
    • Jan 2002 to Present Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition
  • Professional
    • Jan 2002 to Present Conference on College Composition and Communication

Awards and Honors

    • Dec  2009 Travel and Professional Development Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Apr  2009 Travel and Professional Development Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Dec  2008 Department of English Nomination for Outstanding Research Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Apr  2008 Travel and Professional Development Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Feb  2008 Tenure and Promotion to Associate Professor sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Feb  2008 COLA Nomination for Outstanding Research Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Mar  2007 W. Ross Winterowd Award sponsored by W. Ross Winterowd and JAC (formerly, the Journal of Advanced Composition)
    • Mar  2006 Faculty Development Leave sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Mar  2006 Travel and Professional Development Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Sep  2005 Who's Who in Humanities Higher Education sponsored by Academic Keys
    • Oct  2004 English Department Travel Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Mar  2004 English Department Travel Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Mar  2003 English Department Travel Award sponsored by University of Texas at Arlington
    • Mar  1999 English Department Travel Award sponsored by University of Wisconsin-Madison
    • Sep  1998 Composition Technology Fellowship sponsored by University of Wisconsin-Madison
    • Jul  1995 Graduate School Fellowship Travel Award sponsored by Auburn University
    • May  1994 Muriel Phillips-Folloder Poetry Award sponsored by Baylor University

Research and Expertise

  • Areas of Interest and Expertise

    Composition theory and pedagogy; cultural studies; critical theory; hermeneutics; J.R.R. Tolkien; literary theory; philosophy of language, mind, and time; rhetorical history and theory; semiotics.

Publications

      Book Review In-press
      • "Review of How to Talk About Videogames.” Forthcoming in American Studies.

        {Book Review }
      Published
      • "Review of Fish Sticks, Sports Bras, and Aluminum Cans: The Politics of Everyday Technologies." Forthcoming in American Studies.

        {Book Review }

      Book Chapter 2017
      • “Writing(,) Hypothetically.” Abducting Writing Studies. Ed. Sidney I. Dobrin and Kyle Jensen. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2017. 81-120.

        {Book Chapter }

      Book Review 2016
      • "Review of The Hoarders: Material Deviance in Modern Culture." American Studies 55.1 (2016): 152-53.

        {Book Review }

      Book Review 2015
      • "Review of How to Watch Television." American Studies 54.1 (2015): 413-15.

        {Book Review }

      Book Review 2009
      • “Review of Acts of Enjoyment: Rhetoric, Žižek, and the Return of the Subject.” JAC 29.4 (2009): 876-82.

        {Book Review }

      Journal Article 2006
      • "Is There in Truth No Composition?" JAC 26.1-2 (2006): 299-310.

        {Journal Article }

      Book 2006
      • Meaning, Language, and Time: Toward a Consequentialist Philosophy of Discourse. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.

        {Book }

      Journal Article 2003
      • "Literature Reviews Re-Viewed: Toward a Consequentialist Account of Surveys, Surveyors, and the Surveyed." JAC 23.2 (2003): 351-77.

        {Journal Article }
      2003
      • "Composition and Rhetoric Studies and the 'Neglected' Question of Meaning: Toward a Consequentialist Philosophy of Discourse." JAC 23.4 (2003): 725-64.

        {Journal Article }

      Book Review 2002
      • "Review of Truth and Consequences: Intentions, Conventions, and the New Thematics." JAC 22.2 (2002): 454-58.

        {Book Review }

      Journal Article 2001
      • "A Pedagogy of Charity: Donald Davidson and the Student-Negotiated Composition Classroom." College Composition and Communication 52.4 (2001): 574-611.

        {Journal Article }

      Book Chapter 2000
      • “Tale 27.” Comp Tales: An Introduction to College Composition through Its Stories. Ed. Richard Haswell and Min-Zhan Lu. New York: Addison Longman, 2000. 35.

        {Book Chapter }

      Book Review 2000
      • "Review of Post-Process Theory: Beyond the Writing-Process Paradigm." JAC 20.3 (2000): 710-15.

        {Book Review }

      Journal Article 2000
      • "Terror and Emancipation: The Disciplinarity and Mythology of Computers." Cultural Critique 44 (2000): 43-83.

        {Journal Article }

      Book Review 1999
      • "Review of He Got Game." Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature 14 (1999): 176-77.

        {Book Review }

      Journal Article 1999
      • "Response to 'A Comment on "Methods, Truths, Reasons."'" College English 61.5 (1999): 623-25.

        {Journal Article }

      Journal Article 1998
      • "Methods, Truths, Reasons." College English 60.4 (1998): 426-40.

        {Journal Article }

      Journal Article 1997
      • "The Last Great Man of Golf." Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature 14 (Spring, 1997): 1-6.

        {Journal Article }

      Journal Article 1996
      • "The Rhetorical Problem of Eternity in Yeats's Byzantium Poems." Yeats Eliot Review 14.1 (1996): 10-17.

        {Journal Article }
      1996
      • "'Games of Perfect Information': Computers and the Metanarratives of Emancipation and Progress." SubStance 79 (1996): 24-45.

        {Journal Article }

      Journal Article 1995
      • "Stylistic Considerations for There Is and It Is." The SECOL Review 19.2 (1995): 171-83.

        {Journal Article }

Presentations

    • March  2005
      Opening a Space from which to Write: The Argumentum ab Ignorantia

      Conference on College Composition and Communication (San Francisco, CA; March 2005)

    • October  2004
      Opening a Space from which to Write: The Argumentum ab Ignorantia

      UTA English Department Brown Bag Lecture Series (Arlington, TX; October 2004)

    • May  2004
      Pardoning Oneself from the Past: The Argumentum ab Ignorantiam

      Conference of the Rhetoric Society of America (Austin, TX; May 2004)

    • March  2003
      A New Pedagogy of Identity, Perspective, and Response: A Postscript

      Conference on College Composition and Communication (New York, NY; March 2003)

    • April  2001
      A Pedagogy of Charity: Donald Davidson and the Student-Negotiated Composition Classroom

      Rhetoric and Composition Colloquium (Madison, WI; April 2001)

    • March  1999
      Repositioning Truth and Rationality in Multicultural and Student-Negotiated Classroom Contact Zones

      Conference on College Composition and Communication (Atlanta, GA; March 1999)

    • April  1998
      Multicultural and Student-Negotiated Classroom Contact Zones: An Apology for Truth and Rationality

      5th Annual Students of Education Symposium (Madison, WI; April 1998)

    • February  1996
      A Voice from the Underclass: TAs and the Profession

      Arizona State University Composition Conference '96: Writing and Community (Tempe, AZ; February 1996)

    • April  1995
      Differences in the Actual and Theoretical Use of Expletives

      Spring Southeastern Conference on Linguistics (Athens, GA; April 1995)

    • February  1995
      A Sparkling, Brilliant Diamond

      Southwestern Popular Culture Association Annual Convention (Stillwater, OK; February 1995)

  • Past
    •  
      Authority and Persuasion

      Mapping Composition: Graduate Students Exploring the Territory (Auburn, AL; November 1994)

Courses

      • ENGL 5360-001 CONTEMPORARY CRITICAL THEORY

        In The Meaning of Meaning, first published nearly a century ago, C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards confidently asserted that the “there is no longer any excuse for vague talk about Meaning, and ignorance of the ways in which words deceive us” (p. 8, emphasis added). Excusable or not, vague talk about the very idea of meaning continues to this day, even by those scholars—myself included!—who explicitly try to construct a theory of meaning. What makes the concept—or meaning?—of meaning resistant to understanding, or at least to the linguistic expression of such understanding, in ways that particular meanings do not seem to be? Or is meaning a pure will-o-the-wisp, leading scholars into theoretical quagmires from which they never emerge? Perhaps meaning contributes nothing whatsoever to our understanding and should be discarded? We will explore these and related questions as we closely read Bertrand Russell’s An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth and Ruth Millikan’s Varieties of Meaning, supplemented by shorter readings by Donald Davidson, Gottlob Frege, Kevin Porter, Brooke Rollins, John Searle, Alfred Tarski, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2019 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 4345-001 Topics in Critical Theory: Roland Barthes

        A question: What do the Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and the Marquis de Sade have in common with James Bond, the Tour de France, and an advertisement for Panzani pasta? Answer: All of them have been analyzed with insight, erudition, and wit by Roland Barthes (1915-1980), a French literary theorist and cultural critic. As capacious as these categories are, they do no more than suggest the prolific nature of his scholarly and creative work and the prominence of his public career; and they leave untouched the turmoil of his private life. This course is necessarily limited in its objective: It can, somewhat paradoxically, do no more than provide a few lines for the sketch of the life and work of the writer who (in)famously announced “the death of the Author.” We will devote most of our time to close readings of four quite different and succinct books that span Barthes’s career: Elements of Semiology (1964), which provides a clear and concise introduction to the structuralist approach to language and, more generally, to any system of signs; Mythologies (1957), which identifies why and how “myth” continues to operate in contemporary culture; The Pleasure of the Text (1973), which problematizes notions of authorship and readership; and Camera Lucida (1980), which examines photographic images in terms of their structure, function, and effects on viewers.

        Fall - Regular Academic Session - 2017 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 3300-001 Topics in Literature: The Lord of the Rings as Modern Mythology

        In 1961, one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s critics, Philip Toynbee—despite the fact that each volume of The Lord of the Rings was in its eighth or ninth hardcover impression!—opined that “today these books have passed into merciful oblivion.” Yet Tolkien’s masterpiece has outlasted its early critics, not merely lingering into the twenty-first century, but thriving, bolstered by the phenomenal critical and commercial success of Peter Jackson’s film versions from the early 2000s. Why? What are its sources of continued vitality? And what sets The Lord of the Rings apart from its many forgettable or already-forgotten imitators? We will explore these questions among others as we study Tolkien’s attempt to make a modern mythology for England in The Lord of the Rings and in (excerpts from) The Silmarillion. We will learn about Tolkien’s life and career; his personal and professional interests in philology, mythology, and medieval studies; his elaborate writing and revising processes; and some of his many wellsprings of inspiration in literary, mythological, linguistic, or historical sources—some obvious, like the allusion to the creation story in Genesis that we find in the opening of The Silmarillion, and some subtle, like the name of the dragon Smaug (from The Hobbit), which is the past tense of the reconstructed Germanic verb “smaugen” (i.e., “to squeeze through a hole”). We will also talk about what function, if any, myth retains in the twenty-first century; the logic of gift-giving and the webs of obligations it creates in Tolkien’s work; and, as time allows, some of the ways in which Jackson’s films remain true to and depart from the texts. But, beyond discussing all of these topics, I wish to encourage a greater appreciation for and enjoyment of the aesthetics—both aural and visual—of the writing itself, especially the languages that Tolkien drew upon, extended, and, at times, invented during his creation of the most celebrated and influential secondary world in high fantasy: Middle-earth.

      • ENGL 4399-002 Senior Seminar: Existentialism, or, The Projects of Our Lives

        According to Walter Kaufmann, “Existentialism is not a philosophy but a label for several widely different revolts against traditional philosophy”; although embodying “a timeless sensibility that can be discerned here and there in past,” it has only since the mid-nineteenth century “hardened into a sustained protest and preoccupation.” Kaufmann believes that the core of existentialism is comprised of “[t]he refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life.” But when all schools of thought are overthrown, what remains for the individual confronted with the sensation of being “abandoned” in a possibly meaningless world and plagued with the manifold problems that attend daily life, if not doubt intensifying into anxiety and then anxiety intensifying into dread? Maybe, for those strong enough and honest enough to weather the maelstrom intact, what remains is precisely nothing (or no-thing) at all but the seemingly paradoxical freedom and necessity to think and act—not in ways that confirm for ourselves that what we are (our “existence”) is what we must be (our “essence,” whether determined by God, nature, or society), but in ways that unsettle what we have been—because what we always are, from birth until death, is a continuing, future-oriented project constituted by successive choices for which we alone are responsible. As Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, rather than our essence preceding our existence, our existence precedes our essence: “Man is not only that which he conceives himself to be, but that which he wills himself to be, and since he conceives of himself only after he exists, just as he wills himself to be after being thrown into existence, man is nothing other than what he makes of himself.” The goal of this course will be to consider, then, what “existentialism” has meant, what it means now, and, perhaps most importantly, what it might yet mean for each of us in the ongoing projects that are our lives; to do so, we will engage in exploratory study of the varied existentialisms—both philosophical and literary—of, among others, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kafka, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2017 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 5311-001 Foundations of Rhetoric and Composition

        This reading-intensive course offers an intellectual and institutional history of rhetoric and composition studies. Special attention will be given to the history and ethics of writing instruction; the (sometimes contested) importation of rhetorical theories into contemporary composition classrooms; the institutional formation of “rhetoric and composition studies” and its ambiguous status in the academy; and the major contemporary approaches to writing instruction.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2016 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 2303-001 Topics in Literature: The Lord of the Rings as Modern Mythology

        In 1961, one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s critics, Philip Toynbee—despite the fact that each volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was in its eighth or ninth hardcover impression!—opined that “today these books have passed into merciful oblivion.” Yet Tolkien’s work has outlasted its early critics, not merely lingering into the twenty-first century, but thriving, bolstered by the phenomenal success of Peter Jackson’s film versions. Why? What are its sources of continued vitality? And what sets Tolkien’s work apart from its many forgettable or already-forgotten imitators

        We will explore these questions among others as we read and discuss as much of Tolkien’s work as is feasible within the confines of a Maymester course: The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which Tolkien did not think of as a trilogy at all, since each text cannot stand on its own) and The Silmarillion (completed by his son, Christopher). Secondarily, we will learn about Tolkien’s life and career; his personal and professional interests in philology, mythology, and medieval studies; his elaborate writing and revising processes; and some of his many wellsprings of inspiration in literary, mythological, linguistic, or historical sources—some obvious, like the calque of the creation story in Genesis that we find in the opening of The Silmarillion, and some subtle, like the name of the dragon Smaug (from The Hobbit), which is the past tense of the reconstructed Germanic verb “smaugen” (i.e., “to squeeze through a hole”). We will also talk about the ways in which Jackson’s films depart from Tolkien’s texts, and why; the function, if any, that myth retains in the twenty-first century; and the logic of gift-giving and the webs of obligations that it spawns as they play out in Tolkien’s work. But beyond discussing all of these topics, I wish to encourage a greater appreciation for and enjoyment of the aesthetics—both aural and visual—of the language(s) that Tolkien draws upon, extends, and, at times, creates.

        Summer - Intersession - 2015 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 2303-001 Topics in Literature: The Lord of the Rings as Modern Mythology

        In 1961, one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s critics, Philip Toynbee—despite the fact that each volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was in its eighth or ninth hardcover impression!—opined that “today these books have passed into merciful oblivion.” Yet Tolkien’s work has outlasted its early critics, not merely lingering into the twenty-first century, but thriving, bolstered by the phenomenal commercial and artistic successes of Peter Jackson’s six films. Why? What are its sources of continued vitality? And what sets Tolkien’s high-fantasy writings apart from its many forgettable or already-forgotten imitators?

        We will explore these questions among others as we read and discuss Tolkien’s major works: The Hobbit (which began as a sentence jotted in a student’s exam book that Tolkien was grading), The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which Tolkien did not think of as a trilogy at all, since each text cannot stand on its own) and The Silmarillion (completed by his son Christopher in 1977, four years after his father’s death, but actually begun in 1914). Secondarily, we will learn about Tolkien’s life and career; his personal and professional interests in philology, mythology, and medieval studies; his elaborate writing and revising processes; and some of his many wellsprings of inspiration in literary, mythological, linguistic, or historical sources—some obvious, like the calque of the creation story in Genesis that we find in the opening of The Silmarillion, and some subtle, like the name of the dragon Smaug (from The Hobbit), which is the past tense of the reconstructed Germanic verb “smaugen” (i.e., “to squeeze through a hole”). We will also talk about the function, if any, that myth retains in the twenty-first century; the logic of gift-giving and the webs of obligations that it spawns as they play out in Tolkien’s work; and, if time allows, the ways in which Jackson’s films depart from Tolkien’s texts, and why. But beyond discussing all of these topics, I wish to encourage a greater appreciation for and enjoyment of the aesthetics—both aural and visual—of the language(s) that Tolkien draws upon, extends, and, at times, creates for the most celebrated and influential secondary world in fantasy: Middle-earth.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2015 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 3371-001 Advanced Exposition

        Expository writing is typically defined as a kind of writing in which authors attempt to inform, but not necessarily persuade, their readers about a particular topic. The distinction between “informing” and “persuading”—i.e., between “explaining” and “arguing”—is, of course, contestable, but it seems reasonable to assume that a reader may be informed by a text without being persuaded by it or that a writer may write about a particular viewpoint without advocating it. The first major goal for 3371, then, is the improvement of students’ abilities to critically read and effectively write brief expository texts (e.g., rhetorical précis) and short papers. The second major goal is to hone your skills in writing concisely and precisely, coherently and cohesively. That is, whereas most writing courses focus on invention or production (i.e., writing more) and perhaps sentence-level mechanics (i.e., writing correctly), we will repeatedly practice strategies of writing more effectively in fewer words); to do so, we will attend closely to matters of meaning, structure, and style at all levels of discourse, from words to phrases to clauses to sentences to paragraphs to sections to complete texts. Along the way, I will try to “demystify” concepts such as “coherence,” “clarity,” “concision,” etc.

        Writing is always writing about something to someone. That “something” will be, for this course, derived from our readings and discussions about interconnections between literacy, writing instruction, grading, higher education, and society. And that “someone” will be, in addition to me, your fellow classmates, who will read and respond to your writing just as you will read and respond to their work; consequently, a significant portion of class time will be spent in peer groups.

        Note: 3371 is a course in advanced exposition; as such, students are expected already to be able to write proficiently. Although we will discuss issues related to grammar and mechanics, they will not be the focus of this course. Students who lack such proficiency will find this course extremely difficult, if not impossible; students who are largely proficient will likely need to spend extra time working on assignments, visiting the Writing Center, etc.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2015 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 5360-001 Topics in Critical Theory: Donald Davidson and Analytic Philosophy

        Within the past two decades, the work of Donald Davidson has become of increasing interest to theorists in English studies. Davidson, widely recognized as one of the most influential analytic philosophers of the second half of the twentieth-century, has developed a complex philosophy of language and action that challenges not only the work of major figures within the tradition of analytic philosophy, such as Frege, Wittgenstein, Austin, and Dummett, but also the work of continental philosophers, such as Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard. In this course, we will follow the development of Davidson’s thought, from his early work on the connection between meaning and truth to his later development of an anticonventionalist account of language that, paradoxically, dispenses with the concept of language. As Davidson famously (or notoriously) puts it, “There is no such thing as a language, not if a language is anything like what many philosophers and linguists have supposed. There is therefore no such thing to be learned, mastered or born with.” One of the goals of this course is to try to understand the reasoning that leads Davidson to such a radical conclusion; Other goals surveying part of the analytic tradition that Davidson simultaneously extends and undermines and discussing a few of the ways in which Davidson’s work has been received by scholars in English studies.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2015 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 3371-001 Advanced Exposition

        Expository writing is typically defined as a kind of writing in which authors attempt to inform, but not necessarily persuade, their readers about a particular topic. The distinction between “informing” and “persuading”—i.e., between “explaining” and “arguing”—is, of course, contestable, but it seems reasonable to assume that a reader may be informed by a text without being persuaded by it or that a writer may write about a particular viewpoint without advocating it. The first major goal for 3371, then, is the improvement of students’ abilities to critically read and effectively write brief expository texts (e.g., rhetorical précis) and short papers. The second major goal is to hone your skills in writing concisely and precisely, coherently and cohesively. That is, whereas most writing courses focus on invention or production (i.e., writing more) and perhaps sentence-level mechanics (i.e., writing correctly), we will repeatedly practice strategies of writing more effectively in fewer words); to do so, we will attend closely to matters of meaning, structure, and style at all levels of discourse, from words to phrases to clauses to sentences to paragraphs to sections to complete texts. Along the way, I will try to “demystify” concepts such as “coherence,” “clarity,” “concision,” etc.

        Fall - Regular Academic Session - 2014 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 4371-002 Advanced Argumentation

        In this course, we will examine classical and contemporary theories of argumentation and apply them to specific academic and nonacademic texts. Assignments will focus on coming to terms with these argumentative theories and applying them to the analysis and production of the various forms that persuasive texts may take (e.g., academic essays, editorials, political speeches, fables, bumper stickers, etc.). But we will also step back and ask ourselves whether argument—or at least some set of argumentative practices—is itself an act of violence of a different sort, a kind of symbolic violence.

        Fall - Regular Academic Session - 2014 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 2303-001 J. R. R. Tolkien and the Making of a Modern Mythology

        In 1961, one of Tolkien’s critics, Philip Toynbee—despite the fact that each volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was in its eighth or ninth hardcover impression!—opined that "today these books have passed into merciful oblivion." Yet Tolkien’s work has outlasted its early critics, not merely lingering into the twenty-first century, but thriving, bolstered by the phenomenal success of Peter Jackson’s film versions. Why? What are its sources of continued vitality? And what sets Tolkien’s work apart from its many forgettable or already-forgotten imitators?

        We will explore these questions among others as we read and discuss as much of Tolkien’s work as is feasible within the confines of a Maymester course: The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which Tolkien did not think of as a trilogy at all, since each text cannot stand on its own) and The Silmarillion (completed by his son, Christopher). Secondarily, we will learn about Tolkien’s life and career; his personal and professional interests in philology, mythology, and medieval studies; his elaborate writing and revising processes; and some of his many wellsprings of inspiration in literary, mythological, linguistic, or historical sources—some obvious, like the calque of the creation story in Genesis that we find in the opening of The Silmarillion, and some subtle, like the name of the dragon Smaug (from The Hobbit), which is the past tense of the reconstructed Germanic verb "smaugen" (i.e., "to squeeze through a hole"). We will also talk about the ways in which Jackson’s films depart from Tolkien’s texts, and why; the function, if any, that myth retains in the twenty-first century; and the logic of gift-giving and the webs of obligations that it spawns as they play out in Tolkien’s work. But beyond discussing all of these topics, I wish to encourage a greater appreciation for and enjoyment of the aesthetics—both aural and visual—of the language(s) that Tolkien draws upon, extends, and, at times, creates.

        Summer - Intersession - 2014 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 3371-001 Advanced Exposition

        Expository writing is typically defined as a kind of writing in which authors attempt to inform, but not necessarily persuade, their readers about a particular topic. The distinction between “informing” and “persuading”—i.e., between “explaining” and “arguing”—is, of course, contestable, but it seems reasonable to assume that a reader may be informed by a text without being persuaded by it or that a writer may write about a particular viewpoint without advocating it. The first major goal for 3371, then, is the improvement of students’ abilities to critically read and effectively write brief expository texts (e.g., rhetorical précis) and short papers. The second major goal is to hone your skills in writing concisely and precisely, coherently and cohesively. That is, whereas most writing courses focus on invention or production (i.e., writing more) and perhaps sentence-level mechanics (i.e., writing correctly), we will repeatedly practice strategies of writing more effectively in fewer words); to do so, we will attend closely to matters of meaning, structure, and style at all levels of discourse, from words to phrases to clauses to sentences to paragraphs to sections to complete texts. Along the way, I will try to “demystify” concepts such as “coherence,” “clarity,” “concision,” etc.

        Writing is always writing about something to someone. That “something” will be, for this course, derived from our readings and discussions about interconnections between literacy, writing instruction, grading, higher education, and society. And that “someone” will be, in addition to me, your fellow classmates, who will read and respond to your writing just as you will read and respond to their work; consequently, a significant portion of class time will be spent in peer groups.

        Note: 3371 is a course in advanced exposition; as such, students are expected already to be able to write proficiently. Although we will discuss issues related to grammar and mechanics, they will not be the focus of this course. Students who lack such proficiency will find this course extremely difficult, if not impossible; students who are largely proficient will likely need to spend extra time working on assignments, visiting the Writing Center, etc.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2014 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 4345-001 Topics in Critical Theory: The Myth of Community

        This reading-intensive course has three major goals: (1) to examine how the notions of “community” and “society” have been theorized and applied; (2) to draw into the conversation some innovative and provocative work from historians, philosophers, sociologists about the role of discourse (and perhaps its diminishing efficacy) in imagining, maintaining, and strengthening the sense of the “communal”; and (3) to promote reflection on our own beliefs about, participation in, and complicity with “community” and “society.” The major texts for the course are Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, Pierre Bourdieu’s Language and Symbolic Power, and Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Inoperative Community.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2014 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 4399-002 Senior Seminar: Existentialism

        According to Walter Kaufmann, “Existentialism is not a philosophy but a label for several widely different revolts against traditional philosophy”; although embodying “a timeless sensibility that can be discerned here and there in past,” it has only since the mid-nineteenth century “hardened into a sustained protest and preoccupation.” Kaufmann believes that the core of existentialism is comprised of “[t]he refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life.” But when all schools of thought are overthrown, what remains for the individual confronted with the sensation of being “abandoned” in a possibly meaningless world and plagued with the manifold problems that attend daily life, if not doubt intensifying into anxiety and then anxiety intensifying into dread? Maybe, for those strong enough and honest enough to weather the maelstrom intact, what remains is precisely nothing (or no-thing) at all but the seemingly paradoxical freedom and necessity to think and act—not in ways that confirm for ourselves that what we are (our “existence”) is what we must be (our “essence,” whether determined by God, nature, or society), but in ways that unsettle what we have been—because what we always are, from birth until death, is a continuing, future-oriented project constituted by successive choices for which we alone are responsible. As Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, rather than our essence preceding our existence, our existence precedes our essence: “Man is not only that which he conceives himself to be, but that which he wills himself to be, and since he conceives of himself only after he exists, just as he wills himself to be after being thrown into existence, man is nothing other than what he makes of himself.” The goal of this course will be to consider, then, what “existentialism” has meant, what it means now, and, perhaps most importantly, what it might yet mean for each of us in the ongoing projects that are our lives; to do so, we will engage in exploratory study of the varied existentialisms—both philosophical and literary—of, among others, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kafka, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2014 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 2303-002 Topics in Literature: Ayn Rand (Fiction and/as Philosophy)

        Ayn Rand, who was born in Russia in 1905 and who emigrated to the United States in 1926, is easily the most recognizable philosopher of the twentieth century—that is, if one recognizes her as a philosopher in the first place; for no other intellectual in the twentieth century has aroused so passionate and acrimonious a debate about whether her work is “worthy” of being called “philosophy” (with Jacques Derrida and Martin Heidegger standing as a distant second and third). The lingering controversy surrounding her legacy since her death in 1982 is perhaps befitting someone whose fictional heroes were often as uncompromising and idealistic—and repugnant, depending upon one’s point of view—as their author. In this course, we will critically engage Rand’s major fictional texts, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), and, as time allows, some of her many essays in which she attempts to articulate a coherent philosophical system called Objectivism. Finally, drawing upon the work of political commentators, we will consider whether—or to what extent—Rand’s prophetic vision of the political, cultural, economic, and moral dissolution of the United States in Atlas Shrugged is taking place before our very eyes.

        Winter - Intersession - 2013 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 5360-001 English 5360: Contemporary Critical Theory: Bakhtin and Dialogism

        This course will concentrate on intensive readings of the major works of Mikhail Bakhtin and his colleagues, V. N. Vološinov and P. N. Medvedev, whose work on “dialogism” remains of ever-growing importance to researchers in English studies broadly conceived. We will also acquire a rich context for the work of these members of the so-called “Bakhtinian Circle” by reading through some of texts of their precursors and contemporaries, including Croce, Marr, Saussure, and Vossler. We will conclude the semester with an exploration of some recent explications and applications of dialogism by researchers in such disciplines as critical theory, cultural studies, literary theory, and rhetoric and composition studies.

        Fall - Regular Academic Session - 2013 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 3371-001 ADVANCED EXPOSITION

        Expository writing is typically defined as a kind of writing in which authors attempt to inform, but not necessarily persuade, their readers about a particular topic. The distinction between “informing” and “persuading”—i.e., between “explaining” and “arguing”—is, of course, contestable, but it seems reasonable to assume that a reader may be informed by a text without being persuaded by it or that a writer may write about a particular viewpoint without advocating it. The first major goal for 3371, then, is the improvement of students’ abilities to critically read and effectively write brief expository texts (e.g., rhetorical précis) and short papers. The second major goal is to hone your skills in writing concisely and precisely, coherently and cohesively. That is, whereas most writing courses focus on invention or production (i.e., writing more) and perhaps sentence-level mechanics (i.e., writing correctly), we will repeatedly practice strategies of writing more effectively in fewer words); to do so, we will attend closely to matters of meaning, structure, and style at all levels of discourse, from words to phrases to clauses to sentences to paragraphs to sections to complete texts. Along the way, I will try to “demystify” concepts such as “coherence,” “clarity,” “concision,” etc.

        Writing is always writing about something to someone. That “something” will be, for this course, derived from our readings and discussions about interconnections between literacy, writing instruction, grading, higher education, and society. And that “someone” will be, in addition to me, your fellow classmates, who will read and respond to your writing just as you will read and respond to their work; consequently, a significant portion of class time will be spent in peer groups.

        Notice that 3371 is a course in advanced exposition; as such, students are expected already to be able to write proficiently. Although we will discuss issues related to grammar and mechanics, they will not be the focus of this course. Students who lack such proficiency will find this course extremely difficult, if not impossible; students who are largely proficient will likely need to spend extra time working on assignments, visiting the Writing Center, meeting with me during office hours, collaborating out-of-class with peer groups, etc.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2013 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 4399-002 Senior Seminar: Existentialism, or, The Projects of Our Lives

        According to Walter Kaufmann, “Existentialism is not a philosophy but a label for several widely different revolts against traditional philosophy”; although embodying “a timeless sensibility that can be discerned here and there in past,” it has only since the mid-nineteenth century “hardened into a sustained protest and preoccupation.” Kaufmann believes that the core of existentialism is comprised of “[t]he refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life.” But when all schools of thought are overthrown, what remains for the individual confronted with the sensation of being “abandoned” in a possibly meaningless world and plagued with the manifold problems that attend daily life, if not doubt intensifying into anxiety and then anxiety intensifying into dread? Maybe, for those strong enough and honest enough to weather the maelstrom intact, what remains is precisely nothing (or no-thing) at all but the seemingly paradoxical freedom and necessity to think and act—not in ways that confirm for ourselves that what we are (our “existence”) is what we must be (our “essence,” whether determined by God, nature, or society), but in ways that unsettle what we have been—because what we always are, from birth until death, is a continuing, future-oriented project constituted by successive choices for which we alone are responsible. As Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, rather than our essence preceding our existence, our existence precedes our essence: “Man is not only that which he conceives himself to be, but that which he wills himself to be, and since he conceives of himself only after he exists, just as he wills himself to be after being thrown into existence, man is nothing other than what he makes of himself.” The goal of this course will be to consider, then, what “existentialism” has meant, what it means now, and, perhaps most importantly, what it might yet mean for each of us in the ongoing projects that are our lives; to do so, we will engage in exploratory study of the varied existentialisms—both philosophical and literary—of, among others, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kafka, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2013 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 5357-001 Reading Processes

        If you are reading this sentence, you are engaged in an act of interpretation, the goal of which is, presumably, understanding. But what does it mean to “understand” a text? Is there an instant in time in which a reader shifts from not understanding a text to understanding it? Is there a single, precise standard by which a person may (or should) judge (or be judged regarding) how well she has understood a text? Is understanding a cognitive state that results from culling information from a text, or is it a particular mode of being-in-relation to a text? Or is it something else entirely (perhaps even not an “it”)? In an attempt to answer such questions, this reading-intensive course will survey classical, medieval, modern, and (primarily) contemporary approaches to reading and interpretation in order to sample some of the diverse ways in which “readers” and “texts” have been conceptualized and studied.

        Spring - Regular Academic Session - 2013 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 2303-002 Topics in Literature: Ayn Rand: Literature and/as Philosophy

        Ayn Rand, who was born in Russia in 1905 and who emigrated to the United States in 1926, is easily the most recognizable philosopher of the twentieth century—that is, if one recognizes her as a philosopher in the first place; for no other intellectual in the twentieth century has aroused so passionate and acrimonious a debate about whether her work is “worthy” of being called “philosophy” (with Jacques Derrida and Martin Heidegger standing as a distant second and third). The lingering controversy surrounding her legacy since her death in 1982 is perhaps befitting someone whose fictional heroes were often as uncompromising and idealistic—and repugnant, depending upon one’s point of view—as their author. In this course, we will critically engage Rand’s major fictional texts, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), and, as time allows, some of her many essays in which she attempts to articulate a coherent philosophical system called Objectivism. Finally, drawing upon the work of political columnist and satirist Mark Steyn, we will consider whether—or to what extent—Rand’s prophetic vision of the political, cultural, economic, and moral dissolution of the United States in Atlas Shrugged is taking place before our very eyes.

        Winter - Intersession - 2012 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours
      • ENGL 4399-001 Senior Seminar: Existentialism, or, The Projects of Our Lives

        According to Walter Kaufmann, “Existentialism is not a philosophy but a label for several widely different revolts against traditional philosophy”; although embodying “a timeless sensibility that can be discerned here and there in past,” it has only since the mid-nineteenth century “hardened into a sustained protest and preoccupation.” Kaufmann believes that the core of existentialism is comprised of “[t]he refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life.” But when all schools of thought are overthrown, what remains for the individual confronted with the sensation of being “abandoned” in a possibly meaningless world and plagued with the manifold problems that attend daily life, if not doubt intensifying into anxiety and then anxiety intensifying into dread? Maybe, for those strong enough and honest enough to weather the maelstrom intact, what remains is precisely nothing (or no-thing) at all but the seemingly paradoxical freedom and necessity to think and act—not in ways that confirm for ourselves that what we are (our “existence”) is what we must be (our “essence,” whether determined by God, nature, or society), but in ways that unsettle what we have been—because what we always are, from birth until death, is a continuing, future-oriented project constituted by successive choices for which we alone are responsible. As Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, rather than our essence preceding our existence, our existence precedes our essence: “Man is not only that which he conceives himself to be, but that which he wills himself to be, and since he conceives of himself only after he exists, just as he wills himself to be after being thrown into existence, man is nothing other than what he makes of himself.” The goal of this course will be to consider, then, what “existentialism” has meant, what it means now, and, perhaps most importantly, what it might yet mean for each of us in the ongoing projects that are our lives; to do so, we will engage in exploratory study of the varied existentialisms—both philosophical and literary—of, among others, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kafka, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir.

        Fall - Regular Academic Session - 2012 Download Syllabus Contact info & Office Hours

Service to the Profession

  • Appointed
    • July 1999 to  June 2001 Assistant Editor

      Assistant Editor of Written Communication

Administrative Appointment

  • 2015
    • July 2015 to Present - Associate Chair, Department of English, University of Texas at Arlington