Header image: Sandymount Strand, Dublin, on the morning of Bloomsday, June 16th
Read more about Private Snafu in my Public Domain Review article
Welcome to my academic webfolio!
I am currently Neag Assistant Professor of English at Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, where I teach a wide range of courses in literature, composition, and film studies. I received my Ph.D. in English literature from Tufts University in May 2013. During my last year as a graduate student, I was a recipient of a dissertation fellowship at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts (CHAT). My scholarly interests include nineteenth and twentieth-century British, Irish, and Anglophone literature, especially the aesthetic, legal, and medical discourses that characterize the “scene of the modern."
At present, I am in the process of completing a book manuscript, Spyography: Modernism, Espionage, and the Militant Aesthetic State, which I plan to submit to university presses next year. My project examines the recruitment of writers into the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6), the resulting literary infringements of the UK Official Secrets Act, and the appropriation of the figure of the spy by what Lionel Trilling called the “adversary culture,” the leftist intelligentsia of the 1930s. A sample of my research related to this project has been published in The Space Between, Virginia Woolf Miscellany, and Twentieth-Century Literature.
In my other publications I explore the dialectic of concealment and disclosure in modern American and Irish literature. In “Coming to Accounts: Fraud and Muckraking in Charles W. Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition,” published in the European Journal of American Studies in November 2013, I show how Chesnutt’s novel prefigures forms of investigative journalism in its exposé of racist “monopolies” of both literary and political representation. My article forthcoming in James Joyce Quarterly, “An Incident in Hyde Park: Basil Thomson, Roger Casement, and Wakean Coincidence,” uncovers a potential source for HCE’s mysterious crime in Finnegans Wake, a sexual scandal involving a Scotland Yard official who was also accused of forging the infamous “Black Diaries” used to convict the Irish revolutionary, Sir Roger Casement. Turning from the political to the clinical gaze, “Slices of Life: The Artist as Vivisector in Giacomo Joyce” reconsiders Joyce’s Trieste notebook in the context of his medical studies. Published in Hypermedia Joyce Studies in December 2010, this paper serves as the basis for my second book project, Vivisective Modernism, in which I argue that the turn-of-the-century vivisection debate transposed the question of medical ethics to literary aesthetics.
As both a scholar and a contributor to the Public Domain Review, a London-based website showcasing online archives, I am also committed to exploring digital humanities resources and sharing them with a popular audience. My first article, “Robert Baden-Powell’s Entomological Intrigues,” discusses the founder of the Boy Scouts and his memoir, My Adventures as a Spy (1915), which describes an unusual method of encrypting secret information in drawings of butterflies and other natural objects. This article inspired—and was quoted on—an episode of the CBS Sherlock Holmes series, Elementary (“The Diabolical Kind,” January 2014). My second essay, “Ignorant Armies: Private Snafu Goes to War,” analyzes propaganda and training films produced by Warner Bros. for the U.S. Army during the Second World War. For my contributions to the Public Domain Review, I was commended by Slate editor, Rebecca Onion, in her May 2015 article, “Reading History on the Web: the Best Sites.”
Like my research, my teaching emphasizes the material conditions of literary production and reception. After working for five years as an ESL instructor in Prague, Czech Republic, I realized that the communicative or realia-based approach to language learning could be adapted to teaching literature and composition. In addition to strengthening expository writing and research skills, my courses encourage students to engage with texts creatively, by combining literary works with role-plays and other activities intended to help students approach texts not as isolated artifacts, but as dynamic intersections of art and lived experience. My Science Fiction course, for instance, allows students to frame their final paper as a work of short fiction, in which they advance an argument about contemporary culture by defamiliarizing it through a speculative context. Similarly, in the online World Literature course I recently designed, students create musical playlists for works such as Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, framing their choice of song as an interpretative act.
My courses in modern and contemporary British literature likewise emphasize the role of aesthetics and performance in fields that seem, at first glance, to have little to do with the humanities, from science and technology to law and national security. In addition to surveys and major author courses, my syllabi include specialized seminars: a course on the relationship between artists, surgeons, and (mad) scientists, titled Medical Modernism; a theoretical course called A Modern Bestiary, reconsidering the figure of the animal in works by Kafka, Orwell, Woolf, and other writers through the lens of Critical Animal Studies; and The Culture of Intrigue, an interdisciplinary course exploring the Edwardian and modernist parallels of twenty-first-century security issues, from Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent to the War on Terror.
The purpose of this website is to present my scholarship, teaching philosophy, teaching competencies, teaching experience, and sample syllabi. For a printer-friendly version of my teaching portfolio, please click here. You may also find a printable version of my curriculum vitae here. Feel free to explore the site by clicking on the links at the top of the page, or you may contact me by email at email@example.com with any comments, questions, or feedback. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter @Mark_D_Kaufman.