Faculty Professional Interests
We are a group of professionals devoted to leaving a mark on our students and on the scholarship that defines our specialized fields of inquiry. Conscientious teaching fuels our professional lives. Productive scholarship inspires our teaching. We are accomplished teachers, because we remain students ourselves. Drama specialist Dr. Marie Plasse, who studies the dramatic body, for example, believes that learning to read Shakespeare well involves understanding how to overcome the element of “absence” in a play by finding and then following “road maps” for performance present within all dramatic texts. Dr. Geraldine Branca, the Department’s Medievalist, studies the ways in which a book’s layout, size and use of illustrations shape a reader’s understanding and interpretation, seeing common ground between the experience of reading an illuminated medieval manuscript and reading a graphic novel.
Dr. Paul Vatalaro, a specialist in British Romanticism, studies the psychological function of sound in Percy Shelley’s poetry and trains students to search beyond the conventional range of a poem’s language to find meaning in its phonic features. Dr. Ellen McWhorter, a specialist in twentieth-century American literature, enjoys approaching the study of Modernism through the lens of language philosophy, which allows the texts to go beyond mere saying in order to draw on experiences and modes of knowing that can be difficult to articulate. Professor Robert Keohan brings years of experience as a working journalist to his feature, sports and news writing courses, teaching students the importance of responsible reporting and the virtue of clear expression.
Dr. Steven Scherwatzky, who continues to work on the relation between politics and religion in the writing of Samuel Johnson, approaches eighteenth-century British literature from the perspective that literature reflects but also shapes historical conditions, often in an effort to enact cultural change. Dr. Kerry Johnson, who specializes in British Modernism, examines how the writers of her period use creativity and imagination to rewrite and revise dominant and often oppressive versions of history. She is also interested in how the colonies “out there,” at the so-called margins of the globe, have shaped and impacted what has been largely considered to be a European metropolitan phenomenon, that of artistic and literary modernism.
Dr. Kevin Plunkett, a specialist in nineteenth-century American literature, focuses on how the writers of this period helped shape evolving concepts of American identity, particularly Emerson and Thoreau, who became forerunners of American environmentalism and activist philosophy. And Dr. MaryKay Mahoney, the Department’s Victorianist, has a longstanding interest in popular culture that is reflected both in her scholarly work with detective fiction and in her seminar examining how Victorian writers reconfigured Arthurian myths to embody the central cultural concerns of that period.