Faculty at the School of Arts and Humanities
Areas of Specialization: 20th/21st century British and Anglophone literature; ordinary language philosophy; critical theory
Office: JO 5.108
Office Hours: T: 2:00-4:00
Mail Station: JO 31
Email: [email protected]
I work on 20th/21st century British and Anglophone literature, sometimes straying into Victorian novels and digital new media. I was drawn to literary studies as an undergraduate in spite of intending to study political economics and international relations, because I found literature classes to be the most challenging, creative, and stirring places to explore the things that interested me: how people and societies are, and how people and societies might be.
My approach to literature is inspired by Ordinary Language Philosophy, which examines everyday language use in order to identify and demystify what the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein called the "pictures" that have "held us captive." The premise, here, is that we get ourselves into muddled thinking because of the muddled ways that we use language. Literature offers tools for escaping from our muddles. Instead of ambiguous abstractions, literature provides concrete examples about real—or imaginable—worlds, in the form of scenes, dialogue, modes of description, behaviors, characters' feelings, thoughts and desires, chains of cause and effect, and so much more.
My current project seeks to clarify a muddle at the center of modern democratic politics: a vague belief that public life should be an ongoing "conversation" between members of a community (odes to conversation are particularly frequent and urgent now that cable news and social media have made "common conversation" seem impossible). Noting that the "picture" of public life as "conversation" is very abstract, and therefore not helpful to democratic political goals, I turn to works of literature that investigate the conditions and possibilities of conversation at multiple scales of social life: in love relationships, friendships, political community, and digitally mediated social networks.
I encourage students not only to think about literature, but also to think with literature about subjects often covered in other disciplines. Literary studies is literally about everything imaginable—and it's also about the aesthetic forms that limit and expand our capacities to imagine. My goal is to help students expand their own capacities to understand, interrogate, and imagine. And I strive to establish a classroom in which all students, regardless of background, advantage, or disadvantage, can sharpen their confidence and skills to express what they've understood and imagined.
Before arriving at UT Dallas, I worked on my doctoral degree and taught at UC Berkeley, where I also was an active member of the student-workers union and did a lot of hiking, backpacking, and Irish ceilidh dancing.
Work Samples and Publications:
- "Must We Do What We Say? The Plight of Marriage in George Meredith's The Egoist," Stanley Cavell on Aesthetic Understanding, ed. Garry L. Hagberg, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
- "'A Many-Sided Substance': The Philosophy of Conversation in Woolf, Russell, and Kant," Journal of Modern Literature 40.3, Spring 2017: 1-17.
- "Virginia Woolf and the Art and Politics of Conversation: a closer look at JML 40.3," Indiana University Press Blog, July 20, 2017.
- "Tolstoy and Tahrir." The Normal School, Spring 2012: 22-27.
Ph.D. in English, University of California–Berkeley
M.A. in English, University of Oxford
B.A. in Literature, Duke University
Curriculum Vitae: Erin Greer's CV