Like Bruce Springsteen, I was born in the U.S.A. (Passaic, N.J., to be specific), and I have a passion for American writing. When I was in college during the early 1970s, I wanted to be current and hip, so I gravitated toward contemporary American literature—the writers of the 1950s and 1960s. When I went to graduate school, I became interested in Ernest Hemingway and the Lost Generation, and my M.A. thesis focused on the American novel of World War I. For my Ph.D. dissertation, I moved back to the book that Hemingway claimed began American literature: Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Perhaps that text provoked an interest in the literature of slavery, so I found myself, for the past several years, absorbed in the American antebellum era. And lately, I’m finding the Puritans more and more fascinating. As time passes, I seem to move backward in my literary tastes.
I teach two of the English program’s American literature survey courses and a variety of special topics courses, including courses on Hemingway, the Southern Literary Renaissance, the African American novel, the literature of the Civil War, and the literature of the 1950s and 1960s (a nod to my college days). In the survey courses, which span Plymouth Rock to World War II, we cover many of the major American literary figures: Anne Bradstreet, Ben Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Fredrick Douglass, Emily Dickinson, Stephen Crane, Richard Wright, Hemingway, and others. William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury is always a highlight of the second course in the sequence.
I used my first sabbatical, in 2000, to write a book on Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: Lincoln’s Moral Vision: The Second Inaugural Address. That great speech presents Lincoln’s unequivocal condemnation of slavery as an American sin that brought upon the nation God’s punishment in the form of a great civil war. I have also written about American slave narratives and post-Civil War literary texts with slavery at their centers—Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, for example. Lincoln’s Moral Vision was named an Honor Book in 2003 by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and a collection of writings that I edited, Early Black Reformers, won the National Council for the Social Studies’ Carter G. Woodson Secondary Book Award in 2004.
I also write about my passions—sports and flyfishing. My articles on baseball and other sports have appeared in The New York Times, Sports History, The National Pastime, Baseball Research Journal, Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine, and other publications. (I’ve been a New York Yankee fan since birth.) My fishing tales have appeared in On the Water and Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature. Reading a trout stream and reading a challenging literary text require the very same skills.
I came to Roger Williams College as an adjunct faculty member in 1979, and I’ve stayed for more than 30 years. Obviously, I love my work here, and you’ll love to study English here for four years. Please join us.