centers on the Pittsburgh life and writings of Willa Cather, a novelist best
known for her prairie trilogy set in Nebraska, but who also set several of her
best stories, such as “Paul’s Case” (1904) and “Double Birthday” (1929), in
Whenever possible, I
like to involve students in research and conferencing (See highlights of their
work under the Student Research tab).
I have published a dozen articles on
topics such as homicidal wolves, office heists, bicycling ministers, newspaper-
and clubwomen, Chinese missionaries, and dandies in Cather’s fiction, all with
connections back to Pittsburgh. I have been known to dig for clues around
gravestones in cemeteries as well as in regional archives and special
Meeting philanthropist Stan Brock (the
founder of Remote Area Medical) got me interested in America’s critical need
for universal health care, especially dental care. Each year I accompany SFU’s team of
volunteers to a free clinic such as MOM-n-PA, Pennsylvania’s dental mission of
mercy. With Dr. Lane Loya, I co-advise
the Environmental Action Society, SFU’s eco-club.
At Open Houses and via telephone and email, I enjoy meeting
potential English and Environmental Studies majors. I also enjoy speaking to groups about
Cather’s decade in Pittsburgh.
Each semester, I
teach several sections of WRIT 102, Research Writing, usually themed Science
Writing, and a popular LIT 104 course themed Medicine in Literature. Though the reading list for the latter varies,
we usually read bestsellers by Atul Gawande and Paul Kalanithi, a selection of
plays including Margaret Edson’s W;t,
poems and essays by nurses such as Cortney Davis, and sample the “new poetry of
disability” with a collection titled Beauty
is a Verb. Occasionally I teach first year seminars on the politics of food
and environmental utopias and dystopias.
In June 2017, I
co-directed the International Willa Cather seminar in Pittsburgh, a week-long
gathering of 92 people, including scholars from Taiwan, Canada,
Japan, and a dozen states.
Sixty academic papers, three walking tours around
the Pittsburgh neighborhoods Cather frequented, evening performances of organ,
orchestral, and operatic music, and a side trip to August Wilson’s birth home
filled out the week. WQED filmmakrer
Rich Sebak delivered the keynote and returned to tape our North Side walking
tour; that footage became part of his short documentary “People Who’ve Written
Books around Here” in the series Nebby:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lKBp1kHn2w, around the 16- minute mark.
In my small-screen debut, I’m being interviewed by
WQED's Rick Sebak during our North Side walking tour on June 17, 2017.
The Seminar was a collaboration between SFU,
California University of PA, Penn State Greater Allegheny, Duquesne University,
the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Willa Cather Foundation, and was
hosted by Duquesne University.
Currently, with Drs. Kimberly Vanderlaan and James
Jaap, I am co-editing volume 13 of the series Cather Studies, containing
15 essays on Cather and Pittsburgh, expected from the University of Nebraska
Press in 2020.
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