Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

New Faculty Profiles

Dianne F. Sadoff

I’m the type of life-long learner who likes to learn a new discourse for every project. I take pride in my ability to teach students the pleasures and skills of interdisciplinarity. My students learn to apply the discourses of political science and history to the study of fiction and the tools of gender studies, psychoanalysis, and the history of feminism’s emergence to the study of women writers. In my film and literature classes, I teach students to read film through the lens of aesthetic, visual-culture, and historical analysis and to understand the difference that media makes to the study of narrative structure and situation. By teaching my students in an interdisciplinary way, I hope to inspire them to become life-long learners too.

~Dianne F. Sadoff

 

Dianne F. SadoffIn the fall of 2006 we welcomed Dianne Sadoff to our department. Before coming to Rutgers, Professor Sadoff taught at Antioch College, Colby College, the University of Southern Maine, and Miami University, where she also served as chair of the Department of English and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. In the summer, she has regularly been appointed to the faculty of the Bread Loaf School of English. Sadoff has received grants to support her scholarly work from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Her scholarship represents expertise in several fieldsVictorian studies, feminist and psychoanalytic theory and criticism, and film (particularly films that remake nineteenth century texts).

Sadoff is the author of two significant books, both of which address the relations between psychoanalysis, nineteenth century literature, and feminism. Her first book, Monsters of Affection: Dickens, Eliot, and Brontë on Fatherhood, examines the struggle between fathers and children embedded in the work of these three Victorian novelists. Writing about Dickens, she concentrates on the sons rivalry with the father, while in Eliot she explores the daughters desire for the father, and in Brontë the daughters punishment by the father.

Sciences of the Flesh: Representing Body and Subject in Psychoanalysis, her second book, demonstrates the importance of both literary and historical approaches to the understanding of psychoanalysis. In the words of Carolyn Dever, of Vanderbilt University, Sadoffs Freud is a narrative Freud. Her book engages the rhetorical, metaphorical, and narrative strategies that underwrote the development of Freuds theory, as well as the particular social, clinical, and political contexts within which psychoanalytic theory developed.

In both these books, Sadoff is (in her own words) concerned with the relation between psyche and soma. In her analysis, she interweaves current and past feminist theory with current and past psychoanalytic theory in a mutually critical relation. Diana Fuss, of Princeton University, puts it this way: in the first [book], Sadoff reads the scene of metaphor psychoanalytically, in the second she reads the scene of psychoanalysis metaphorically.

Sadoff has also co-edited two important essay collections. With William E. Cain, she published Teaching Contemporary Theory to Undergraduates, the best source on that difficult endeavor; and with John Kucich, she published Victorian Afterlife: Postmodern Culture Rewrites the Nineteenth Century, a fascinating collection of essays about the survival of Victorian texts, themes, and cultural attitudes in the present.

Professor Sadoff is an experienced administrator, having served both at Miami University and in professional organizations. When she was president of the Association of Departments of English, she led a workshop for new departmental chairs that was a model of effective mentorship. She has been a regional delegate to the Modern Language Association; has served on the executive committees of the Dickens Society and the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature; and has served as a curriculum consultant and an external reviewer many times.

She is completing a book entitled Victorian Vogue: The Nineteenth Century British Novel on Screen. She will be teaching from this research this fall, when she will offer a graduate seminar on Nineteenth Century British Fiction on Film and an undergraduate course on representations of vampires, past and present. Sadoffs reputation as a teacher precedes her. Fuss has described Sadoff as a catalyzing class presence who knows how to promote discussion and how to push the level of discussion up several notches. Fuss experience of a tutorial with Sadoff at Colby College was a life-changing experience that propelled her into graduate school and inspired her career. We are lucky indeed to be able to offer our students ready access to Professor Sadoffs model of rigorous scholarly excellence and generous professional mentorship.

 


Dianne F. Sadoff's faculty profile » 

John Kucich

I used to try to interest students in Victorian culture by proving that it resembles our own, despite appearances to the contrary. Now I try to show them that it was even more different than they think.

~John Kucich

 

John KucichThe first of the English departments hires supported by the Mellon Foundations recent million-dollar grant, John Kucich comes from the University of Michigan, where he taught for twenty-seven years. The author of four books and numerous articles, Kucich is one of the worlds eminent specialists on Victorian literature and culture.

The titles of his books indicate something of the focus of his scholarship: Imperial Masochism: British Fiction, Fantasy, and Social Class, The Power of Lies: Transgression in Victorian Fiction, Repression in Victorian Fiction: Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Charles Dickens, and Excess and Restraint in the Novels of Charles Dickens. Professor Kucichs current project considers why Victorian writers on all sides of the political spectrum idealized organic social hierarchy.

Kucich asks tough questions about cultural and literary issues we too often take for granted in thinking about the Victorians. As he explains, I focus on psycho-social dynamics traditionally considered to be characteristic of Victorian cultureso characteristic that no one bothers to think about them anymoreand then ask whats unsatisfactory about the explanations that have always been given for those dynamics. Thus in considering The Power of Lies, he looks at Victorians beliefs that the nations moral and industrial progress was found in earnest veracity, which indeed was a quintessential definition of Englishness, at least in the minds of the English middle class. His recent study, Imperial Masochism, demonstrates the crucial role masochistic fantasies of suffering, self-sacrifice, and painful defeat played in the British understanding of colonization and class identity. Here we discover why Stevenson, Schreiner, Kipling, Conrad, different as they are as novelists, were the writers most instrumental in moving colonialism from the periphery of serious British culture, to its center. Despite their diverse political views, together these authors made imperialism and social class central concerns for the middle class reading public.

Throughout his work, Kucich uses novels as his chief source of evidence. His compelling reasons remind us anew of fictions centrality in forming the ideas and values of middle class Victorians. No other form of writing in Victorian culture so powerfully brought together discourse about history and politics with psychological discourse, he writes. A splendid introduction to his way of approaching cultural questions raised in the Victorian novel is his essay, Intellectual Debate in the Victorian Novel: Religion, Science, and the Professional, included in The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel. Noting how religion and science are the focal points of well-nigh all intellectual debates of the period, Kucich makes us aware how seldom religion is a subject in the pages of Victorian fiction, even as religious concerns saturate the fiction, and religious doubt, in particular, helped to shape the way novels represent scientific ideas themselves. For him, the absence of religious discussion in Victorian novels reveals an intriguing paradox, namely, that contemporary religion and science coincide in their quest for some grounds of consoling belief in either social or moral order. Yet it is also true that the professional intellectual, whether a lawyer or doctor or other member of the educated class, had begun to replace the clergyman as a source of moral counsel and disinterested advice. At the same time the professional secularization of knowledge sometimes made professional authority seem irreverent or even fraudulent.

Kucich teases out such paradoxes in all his writingand leaves his readers freshly alert to the ways that the writing of the period participated in crucial dialogues about the nature of reality, society, and cultural authority. His analyses of the major Victorian novelists begin in listening to their texts, asking questions about the obvious and the metaphorical, about the intentions of plot and story, and about the work of omniscient narrators who are so characteristic a feature of the novels. His thinking is informed by a deep historical understanding and by a profound sense of theoretical formulations, particularly those of Michel Foucault, who charted the ways of disciplinary order in modern states. What all readers take from Kucichs work is a sense of the limitless aspirations and the conceptual limitations of the Victorians, no matter what genre they were working in.

Professor Kucich teaches courses in Victorian fiction and in literary theory at both graduate and undergraduate levels. His presence at Rutgers English ensures that the department, which has long been a premier national center for the study of Victorian literature and culture, will continue to shape the future of this field. As one of his colleagues has said, reading John Kucich is to immerse oneself in the best that has been known and thought by present-day Victorianists.

 


John Kucich's faculty profile » 

Gregory S. Jackson

In my courses I try to instill a sense of community among my students in the midst of what, at a vibrant research institution, can sometimes seem like an impersonal environment. Making unfamiliar literature and historically distant cultures relevant and ‘respectable’ to a diverse body of students—and making those objects of study worthy of their time and energy—is a challenge that I enjoy. I’m especially gratified when my students learn, and even come to love, these unfamiliar texts and contexts.

~Gregory S. Jackson

 

 

JacksonGreg Jackson comes to Rutgers from the University of Arizona, where he has been an assistant professor of English since 2000. We are delighted to have lured him away from Arizona, as he is a scholar rapidly winning admirers around the country. He has published articles in several leading journals (PMLA, Representations, American Literary History), and the book he is working on promises to be a major new statement in the field of American literary studies.

Rutgers English already ranks among the top graduate programs in American literature; Professor Jackson adds to that strength, and to our undergraduate offerings as well, both because of his scholarly reputation and because of his versatility as a teacher. He has experience in teaching all periods of American literature, from the colonialin which he has also published some notable scholarshipto the twentieth century.

His field of concentration, however, is in the later nineteenth century. This is the focus of his book manuscript, American Pilgrim: Protestant Experience and the Progress of Narrative, which is already completed but for minor revisions. American Pilgrim is a timely book, showing just how deeply the culture of evangelicalism has shaped the literary tradition in America. Jackson traces the surge of socially minded evangelical novels of the periodincluding the perennial favorites In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon, and If Christ Came to Chicago, by William Stead. These extremely popular novels still resonate in contemporary consciousness, not least in the catchphrase What Would Jesus Do? But they are not widely regarded as landmarks of American literature. He shows that this evangelical culture, with its strong taste for vivid narrative, left its stamp on the more secular literature of progressive reform, in writers such as Jacob Riis and Stephen Crane, both of whom had evangelical roots. What the realist authors and progressive reformers learned from the evangelicals was not just a set of ethical interests in poverty and suffering, but a set of narrative devices for representing those interests and organizing collective response. In order to substantiate this point, Jackson devotes considerable space to a history of evangelical preaching. The homiletic tradition, which he traces from the early eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth, had developed a rich repertoire of narrative devices for interesting people in the strangers around them. The writers of the Gilded Age learned from the preachers before them, and were able to tap into a ready-made audience in so doing. Jacksons book has a wide canvas, allowing us to see unexpected movement between religious and secular cultures, between sermons and novels, between conservative and progressive orientations.

Professor Jackson has a remarkable warmth and energy that make him doubly welcome at Rutgers. This energy must be one reason why he won not one, but two different major teaching awards at Arizona. He immediately immersed himself in our undergraduate program, volunteering to teach some of our largest and most labor-intensive classes. His success as a teacher surely has some connection to the wide range of topics on which he can speak with experience and passionincluding veterinary science, firefighting, and bricklaying! There must be a topic on which he doesnt have some prior experience and interest, but were still trying to find it.

 


Gregory S. Jackson's faculty profile » 

Christopher P. Iannini

Students often come into a course on early American literature expecting to learn something about the origin of the Unites States. And as people who were born here, or moved here, or live here for the moment, they expect to learn something about themselves too. I try to impress upon them that for most of the colonial period people in the Americas had no idea that something called the 'United States' would ever exist, or that they were 'progressing' toward it. They inhabited a different world that needs to be understood on its own terms. When the class goes well, they do learn something about origins, but not in the way they expected.

~Christopher P. Ianinni

 

Christopher P. IanniniChris Iannini joined our department last fall as an assistant professor of American literature. Professor Iannini came to Rutgers following a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvanias McNeil Center for Early American Studies. Before that he was at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, where he earned his doctorate in 2004 for a dissertation entitled Fatal Revolutions: U.S. Natural Histories of the Greater Caribbean, 17071856.

Some of the most interesting literary analyses of recent years have been of texts that are not strictly speaking literary, but in which the writing matters as such, being an instrument not only of communication but of interpretation. How such texts are written is as important as how a novel or a poem is written. In this larger field of writing, some of the most fascinating works have been scientificnatural histories probably foremost among these. The factual orientation of such descriptive writings seems to provide the stuff of exceptionally rich and resonant belles lettres. In Ianninis analysis of one such work, William Bartrams Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, and East and West Florida, it becomes clear how Coleridge could have been inspired by Bartrams work and used it in his poetry.

Professor Ianninis own work with such texts, while it begins by taking them as literature and, indeed, treats them throughout as literature, extends into history and politics. The following passage from The Vertigo of Circum-Caribbean Empire, a wonderfully titled 2003 article in the Mississippi Quarterly, defines the precise but enormous stake of his work:

The culture of the early republic begins to read very differently when placed on a Caribbean-centric map of the New World in the long eighteenth century. The influence of Thomas Jeffersons Notes on the State of Virginia testifies to the importance of natural history to early American culture. Yet its very prominence has obscured a strong sub-current within the discourse. American natural historians as important as John Bartram, St. John de Crèvecoeur, William Bartram, and John Audubon presented the greater Caribbean as source of an ardently desired yet disruptive abundance. In exotic narratives and images of the region, they both extolled the benefits of the West India trade and circum-Caribbean expansion and warned of its potentially corrosive effects on national borders and beliefs.

Virtually all the issues of colonial and early American history are engaged in this passage, and by the materials it treats. In some previous scholarship, the rhetoric of colonization and national expansion has tended to be taken at its wordwith the historian or critic not always pointing out where this rhetoric failed to match reality, as is often the case, for instance, with Jeffersons nationalistic rhetoric. In this passage, Iannini looks at the reality of the situation of colonization, as well as at its rhetoric, and the result is both a completely different sense of the facts and a completely different reading of the texts.

The traditional view of the coastal colonies that became the founding coastal states, and of how these founding states constituted and defined the first and forever identifying avatar of the nation, is revised literally when we see that the national coastline descending south is not a single coast facing an open sea. Rather, it is part of a complicated geography that includes a collection of coasts across the Caribbean. The issue, thus, is not of lone self-making, but of relations. If scholarship has one foremost value, it is brilliantly demonstrated in this article and in Professor Ianninis work generally, which provides the terms and the materials for rethinking, and therefore for thinking.

 


Christopher P. Iannini's faculty profile » 

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