Teaching

Where I teach

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Iowa where I teach graduate and undergraduate courses. My book history courses are cross-listed with the UI Center for the Book where I hold a joint appointment.

Who I teach

My undergraduate students are primarily majors in English (including Creative Writing), English Education, and Theatre Arts -- although I also welcome students in all areas of study. I supervise students writing a thesis as part of the English Honors Program and I have conducted several independent study courses (including research projects funded through the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates). I have also worked with students in the University Honors program, including the Writing Fellows and the Honors Teaching Practicum. Some of my students have won the English department's Shakespeare essay prize and a few have subsequently pursued graduate study in book history and early modern studies.

My graduate students are primarily drawn from the programs within English (including both the PhD in English and the MFA in Nonfiction Writing) and from the Center for the Book (including the MFA in Book Arts, the joint MA program with the School of Library and Information Sciences, and the Graduate Certificate program). I regularly serve on dissertation and comprehensive exam committees for students who work in medieval and early modern studies, or who have a methodological interest in book history and media studies.

As the Chair of the Graduate Placement Committee in English, I also direct the department's new Professional Development Practicum. For a course description, list of resources, and a guide to the initial stages of the job application process, go here.

What I teach

Course descriptions can be found online at Iowa's MyUI website. Selected course descriptions from my current and recent courses can be found below.

Undergraduate

English Honors Seminar: "Renaissance Texts as Technology"

Literature and the Book: "Shakespeare's Bones"

Literature and the Book: "Shakespeare's Books"

Shakespeare: "Shakespeare's Villains"

English Renaissance Drama: "Vice, Villainy, and Vengeance"


Graduate

Early Modern Literature and Culture: "How to do New Things with Old Books"

Shakespeare

Professional Development Practicum: "Professional Development and Career Planning"


Undergraduate


English Honors Seminar: "Renaissance Texts as Technology"
ENGL:4000

The ways in which we encounter, read, and study literary texts have recently and radically shifted, offering us unprecedented opportunities—and an exceptional potential for confusion. The current digital revolution is only the latest in a long series of textual and technological transformations that have often provoked apprehension and enthusiasm in equal measure among writers, readers, and consumers. It has heightened our awareness of the varieties of textual forms, and given us extraordinary tools to make sense of them.

This course offers an introduction to the field of book history, an interdisciplinary area of inquiry interested in all of the forms and modes of literary and textual production, as well as the people responsible for those forms and modes: writers, readers, publishers, booksellers, and customers, among others. We will focus on the literary culture of the English Renaissance, a period that experience a seismic shift in textual culture not unlike our own. Texts circulated in an array of forms, and was used in ways that can seem unfamiliar, and even surprising. We will read foundational historical and theoretical works, alongside canonical and marginal literary works. We will explore the technologies of manuscript, print, and sound, and the ways these technologies shaped the habits of reading and writing in the age of Shakespeare. We will also learn how textual editing and textual criticism continue to determine and to shape the literature that we read.

Working with literary texts, current scholarship, archival materials, and major online and print reference sources, students will develop the interpretive and research skills that are now necessary for the study of Renaissance literature, while building on and extending their individual interests and strengths. We will be exploring ways to preserve the work we do, and to make it accessible to others, through online exhibits. Our class will be supplemented by visits to Special Collections and the Center for the Book. Students will be encouraged to develop their own research projects, which could easily lead into thesis projects.

Literature and the Book: "Shakespeare's Bones"
ENGL:3140 / UICB:3140

William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, and so this year marks the 400th anniversary of his death. He was buried inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon with a simple gravestone, notable only for the cautionary curse inscribed on it: “Blest be the man that spares these stones, and curst be he that moves my bones” – evidence, perhaps, of his abiding concern with the materiality of mortality (especially if Hamlet’s famous encounter with the gravedigger is any indication). Seven years after his death, a group of actors and publishers produced the book that is now called the “First Folio,” a collected edition of his dramatic works that is now widely considered to be the most important (not to mention the most expensive) book in English literary history. Just as Shakespeare’s tomb offers both a blessing and a curse, Shakespeare’s tome is presented as preserving and perfecting his (literary) corpus. As Ben Jonson famously declared in his poetic tribute, “Thou art a monument without a tomb, And art alive still while thy book doth live.”

The historical Shakespeare may be long dead, but Shakespeare is certainly alive and well in our contemporary culture – in bookshops (and classrooms), in the theatre, as a cultural icon, and in the form of the First Folio itself, a copy of which will travel to all 50 states during the centennial year (including right here to the University of Iowa). In this course, we will examine the various kinds of memorials created for Shakespeare over the last 400 years, with particular emphasis on the ways in which Shakespeare has been embodied by and entombed within books. We will also examine the ways in which Shakespeare’s works meditate on the intersection of materiality and memory; readings will include both familiar (Hamlet, the sonnets) and unfamiliar works.

This course will also provide an introduction to the major issues in the fields of Shakespeare studies and the history of the book, including authorship (and the death of the author), publishing, editing, reading, and more. We will also make ample use of the many resources available for the study of Shakespeare and his books, both online and in the Special Collections library h ere at Iowa. Course requirements will include a variety of research exercises and writing assignments; we will also plan a funeral party for the dearly departed Shakespeare.

Literature and the Book: "Shakespeare's Books"
ENGL:3140 / UICB:3140

What did Shakespeare keep on his own bookshelf? How did he read those books? How did he transform those sources into scripts for the theatre, and how did those scripts make their way into print, where they became books themselves? How did Shakespeare's contemporaries read his books? How did they use, adapt, and alter them? And how have they been read, adapted, and altered over the past four centuries?

This course will address these questions by focusing on Shakespeare's relationship to various kinds of books: the source texts he read, the books which occasionally erupt into the action of his plays, and, most importantly, the multiple versions of his plays produced by the collaborative environments of the early modern theatre and the book trade. "To be or not to be, that is the question" -- right? Well, infamously, that question first appeared as "To be or not to be, Ay there's the point." So we will consider Shakespeare's plays from the perspective of both stage and page, attending to the multiple materialities of Shakespearean texts. What emerges from this approach is an unfamiliar Shakespeare--not a solitary genius, but a writer enmeshed in various professional and literary networks.

This course will also provide an introduction to the major issues in the fields of Shakespeare studies and the history of the book, including authorship, publishing, editing, reading, and more. We will also make ample use of the many resources available for the study of Shakespeare and his books, both online and in the Special Collections library here at Iowa. Course requirements will include a number of short research exercises and writing assignments, midterm and final exams, and an individual research project.


Shakespeare: "Shakespeare's Villains"
ENGL:3287 / THTR:3287

In 1601, a young law student in London copied down an anecdote in which a besotted playgoer arranged a rendezvous with the lead actor of Shakespeare's company, Richard Burbage, while he was still in costume as the most infamous villain in English history, Richard III. As the story goes, Shakespeare heard of the rendezvous and usurped Burbage's place, with the punchline that "William the Conqueror was before Richard III." The admittedly apocryphal story shows how strangely seductive the character of Richard III was, despite--or perhaps because of--his unrelenting evil, manifested in his disfigured body. As the recent global media frenzy over the rediscovery of the historical Richard's skeleton (buried beneath a parking lot) shows, Richard remains an undeniably attractive figure for us. Indeed, audiences and readers continue to be drawn to the greatest villains in Shakespeare's works.

This course will attempt to explain our ongoing fascination with Shakespeare's villains by defining, re-defining, and upending our notions of what constitutes villainy. Characters like Richard III and Iago have long embodied and epitomized the Shakespearean villain--but the role of the villain, and even the term "villain," is far more complicated. As such, we will focus not only on plays that feature famous villains, but on unexpected and unfamiliar plays that will force us to reconsider what villainy meant for Shakespeare--and what it means for us.

This course is also designed as an introduction to the worlds Shakespeare inhabited, and to the ways he inhabits our world. We will learn about the professional theatre in which he worked, the poetic traditions in which he wrote, and the politically and religiously tumultuous country in which he lived. We will spend much of our time reading the plays closely and critically, in order to become both familiar and comfortable with reading Shakespeare's dynamic language; we will also encounter supplementary materials that provide context for the plays and poems. Readings will include Richard III, Merchant of Venice, Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth.


English Renaissance Drama: "Vice, Villainy, and Vengeance"
ENGL:3277 / THTR:3277

"Enter the Ghost ... and with him Revenge." So begins Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, one of the most popular and influential plays of the entire English Renaissance. A character who personifies "Revenge" frames and guides the action of that play, but the idea of revenge -- the violent result of a dysfunctional legal, political, and ethical system -- also haunts the entire period, which may explain why the drama of this relatively brief period remains so compelling today.

Shakespeare is credited with creating some of the most frighteningly memorable villains in literary and dramatic history -- Richard III, Iago, and Macbeth among them. But many of his contemporaries also catalogued human evil in ways that influenced, responded to, or superseded Shakespeare's villains. This course looks beyond Shakespeare to explore the great English drama that did not happen to be written by him. Some of these plays were more topical and immediately influential than the plays with which you might already be familiar. Playwrights in early modern England cast a keen satirical eye on current economic and political crises, producing dramatic works which fully inhabit and respond to their historical moment.

The plays we will read are populated by murderers, malcontents, and a Machiavel (who, like Revenge, also appears on stage). This course will introduce you to the professional theatre and the print culture of early modern England. We will read plays written by canonical authors (e.g. Marlowe and Jonson) as well as an anonymous tragedy ripped from the headlines. We will spend much of our time reading the plays closely and critically, in order to become familiar with the dynamic language and with early staging practices. We will also encounter supplementary materials and online resources that provide context for the plays


Graduate

Early Modern Literature and Culture: "How to do New Things with Old Books"
ENGL:7200

There has never been a better time to study old books. The anxiety that the digital revolution would make books disappear has subsided, or at least taken different forms. The challenges that digital technology presents remain substantial, and the need to focus on the artifacts of the past is no less urgent. But the potential of these technologies to expand the work of textual scholars is now fully recognized, accepted, exploited, and celebrated. Old books aren't going anywhere--and we are just learning what new things we can gain from them.

This seminar will explore the textual culture of early modern England by examining the various forms and modes of literary and textual production in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We will focus on a series of case studies: of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, as well as less strictly literary texts, from monumental religious books to ephemeral pamphlets and ballads. The juxtaposition of the canonical and the unfamiliar, the cultural and the commercial, and print and manuscript will be central to our work. As such, this seminar will also provide an advanced introduction to the interdisciplinary field(s) often categorized under the rubrics of the history of the book, print culture, bibliography, and the history of material texts. We will also explore and engage with the theoretical debates, technological tools, and critical methodologies at the disposal of the twenty-first century scholar. Early modern studies is perhaps the most technologically sophisticated and resource-rich area of literary studies, and this seminar aims to exploit the vast array of resources that exist--both in the field at large, and right here at Iowa.

Our seminar will be enriched by visits to the Special Collections library, which has a fantastic, if under-utilized, collection of early modern books; the John Martin Rare Book Room in the Hardin Sciences Library (which possesses an amazing array of early modern medical books); and the UI Center for the Book. Graduate students are encouraged to find provocative and productive connections to their own period preferences and areas of critical interest.


Shakespeare
ENGL:6220 / THTR:6403

Shakespeare has survived, and indeed has continued to thrive, in part because he and his works exist and persist in a number of versions. There is the historical William Shakespeare, native of Stratford-upon-Avon: a player, a poet, and a playwright (not to mention a successful speculator in real estate). There are also the works of Shakespeare, the poems and plays that first earned him a reputation that, like those poems and plays, would be made and remade, adapted and amended for centuries to come. Then there is "Shakespeare," a cultural icon and a global phenomenon (not to mention a successful brand). And there is the Shakespeare who inhabits the very center of our literary canon and our curriculum, transcending period boundaries and academic disciplines, ineluctably (if at times infuriatingly) influencing the ways in which we interpret and define literary activity itself.

This course provides an advanced introduction to all of the various versions of Shakespeare. We will spend much our time situating Shakespeare and his works in the context of early modern England, focusing on the theatre industry in which he worked, the political and religious debates in which he intervened, the burgeoning literary culture in which he wrote, the marketplace of print that made his fame, the textual environment in which he existed (and was transformed), and the subsequent critical industry that he continues to both inspire and authorize. We will engage closely with the poems and plays, along with a wide range of critical and historical material. In addition, we will use many of the powerful digital tools that now exist for the study of Shakespeare and his age. As such, this course will also provide an introduction to early modern studies--to the major issues at stake, and more importantly to the potential of what is one of the most exciting (and technologically sophisticated) areas of literary study. The goal is to engage with a variety of approaches that will strengthen and enrich your own research and teaching.

The course requirements will include a variety of short research and writing assignments, culminating in a paper suitable to be delivered at a conference. Students are encouraged to find productive and provocative connections between an aspect of Shakespeare studies and their own area(s) of specialization and interest.