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William Veeder

Professor Emeritus, Department of English Language and Literature, Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, and the College

In the classroom and on paper, I am working to integrate text and context. The pleasures of reading remain paramount for me. Now that the reaction against New Criticism has crested, I am exploring how to supplement readerly pleasures with the intricate, amplifying elements to be engaged through contextual study, and through psychoanalytic and gender theories. Whether classroom is focusing on American and British Gothic of the Nineteenth Century (Eng. 45100, 41800) or on contemporary fiction (Eng. 247, 270, 499) or on specific figures such as Henry James (Eng. 223) or Ambrose Bierce (Eng. 298), I work from James' wonderful dictum "in the arts feeling is always meaning." Each student's individual experience of the text is what I emphasize: our goal is not to agree but to define what we share and where we disagree. Respect for affective differences, rather than homage to a fashionable ideology or methodology, is the goal of my teaching. It is also my goal when I work with a student's writing. Attention to every aspect of the prose (from diction and syntax to structure of argument) is crucial because whatever students do upon leaving the Quads, they will have to be persuasive; they will feel fulfilled only if they can bring their intelligence and learning to bear on a problem that captures them. My lecturing and publishing have ever sought to explore how text and context interact. With Mary Shelley, Poe, J. S. LeFanu, Robert Louis Stevenson, James, Stoker, Faulkner, Nabokov, Flannery O'Connor, Witold Gombrowitz, Carlos Fuentes, John Hawkes, Cormac McCarthy, the challenge is always to explain how content is accessed most richly through form.

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