For Graduate      Students

Prospective Graduate Students:  I am always interested in working with graduate students in my areas of expertise. Please note, however, that I cannot agree to direct your PhD dissertation work, in advance, over email, before you are admitted to the program and before I have worked with you in classes and on exams. Also, I don't personally decide on grad admissions and I don't have my own funding to support graduate students. Generally in the U.S., in the humanities,  admissions and funding are through programs and centers, not individual faculty. There is no need to meet with me or directly send me your information. I am sorry but I may not be able to answer all the email I receive from prospective graduate students. There is a great deal of funding available for graduate students at U of O, in environmental studies and other areas. Please contact the Graduate Directors of the English and Environmental Studies programs for more information about applying. 


Office Hours for grad students will resume September 27 for Fall 2021, running from Week One to Week Ten of the term. In person, in 205 PLC, Tuesdays, 3:30-4:00 (please wear mask over nose and mouth); and virtually on Mondays 1-2 by appointment only (email for appointment and zoom link). 


Winter Break/Spring Break: Please note that I cannot meet, read materials, or submit reference letters during our short and busy winter and spring "breaks"--please plan ahead and time these requests so the deadlines do not correspond with "breaks."

Graduate Courses: Academic Year 21/22


Winter 2022: ENG 419/519: Contemporary Literary Theory:  Animal Studies/Plant Studies

Beginning with and featuring the U of O Common Reading, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer and concluding with Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ experimental work Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, this class will ask what it means to write about plants and animals, to embark on speculative forays about their perspectives, to place other species at the center of our stories, to learn from them, to creatively engage with scientific knowledge about them, and to expand the human scope of ethical consideration to include them. We will read and discuss literary criticism and theory in animal and plant studies, such as that by Jakob Johann von Uexküll, Michael Marder, and Donna J. Haraway, along with some poetry and short stories. The final project will bring the theoretical perspectives to one specific plant or animal of the student’s choice, will include a creative option, and will be part of a blog that the class creates. Depending on the scheduling, the class may attend an event with Robin Wall Kimmerer. [Graduate students in the class will write a longer final project, along with a shorter version for the blog.]

Spring 2022: Graduate Seminar:

Posthumanism and Indigenous Thought. 


Spring 2021 Graduate Course: 

ENVS 633: Environmental Studies Thesis Development. Mondays 2:15-3:45 

"Interdisciplinary readings in environmental studies focused on topics chosen by each student in consultation with instructor. Preparation for presentations at the Joint Campus Conference."


Fall 2020: Graduate/Undergraduate Course: 

ENG 469/569:    Literature and the Environment: Ocean Life in Literature and Film

Although environmental studies has focused on terrestrial environments, the concern for ocean ecologies and the interest in ocean life—from jellyfish to octopus to whales—is rapidly expanding, in the burgeoning field of the blue humanities. This class will explore ocean life in literature, film, and theory, from monstrous figures in classical mythology, through Jules Verne’s 19th century novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, to the  surrealist short films of Jean Painlevé, to Nnedi Okorofor’s Afrofuturist SF novel Lagoon, to contemporary poetry, film, and popular science.   We will discuss the environmental implications of how marine species are depicted—for example, as monstrous, alien, aesthetically breathtaking, or extraordinarily intelligent—as we attempt to imagine and think with some of the most captivating creatures from the sea.   Graduate students will have additional theoretical and other scholarly readings and write a final paper. 


Spring 2020

Graduate Seminar: ENG 615: Advanced Study in Lit Theory: Environmental Theories 


Efficient, Clear, Email Communication: Current students: check your UO email for information. Please use my official UO email address for all inquiries regarding current courses or letters of recommendation: Please do not use Facebook for anything professional, especially not requests for recommendation letters, etc. Please avoid multiple strings of emails: put everything you can in one clear email (e.g., the zoom link and the attachments and any other information) and use the subject line for topic, date and time. Please avoid making unnecessary work and confusion.


Letters of recommendation: Use Interfolio or a similar dossier service--faculty cannot write and send multiple letters. Please allow at least three weeks for someone to write you a letter of recommendation. I cannot write letters on short notice! Be sure to provide your letter writers with relevant examples of your work, information, and deadlines--organized in a clear, logical way, in ONE email. I cannot fulfill requests that are scattered across multiple emails. (It is in your best interest to help us write the best possible letters for you.) Please note that the only time I can write letters of recommendation for graduate programs, law school, fellowships, etc. is from September through November 20th. So plan ahead and be organized. Doctoral students going on the national job market must submit their requests for letters before August 1st of that year (see timeline below): please include  a date for the defense, a timeline for finishing the dissertation, and a description of the sorts of positions they are searching for.  I cannot write letters for one or two jobs or postdocs--either you are launching a full scale job search or you are not--there is no in between.  Please note: I CANNOT fulfill last-minute requests for letters and I will not write letters during the holidays or over winter or spring break. 

Basic procedures for MA thesis and doctoral dissertation writers:

  • Name your files with your LAST NAME first, concluding with a number indicating the revision or version. On the first page include "submitted [date]" or "revised [date]." (In other words, please keep things clear and organized for your readers. It is confusing if we have 13 files on our desktop all named "Thesis" or "chapter 3".)

  • Always include page numbers and a bibliography with everything you hand in. Please include a table of contents of the entire dissertation along with every chapter you submit. Electronic copies are preferable, since they save paper. 

  • If I am directing your work, I need to approve drafts before they are sent to the rest of the committee. If I am not directing your work, please do not send me drafts until your director has approved them.

  • Revisions: If you are handing in revised versions of a thesis or dissertation chapter be sure to include a summary of the comments you received from all your committee members as well as a detailed summary of the revisions that you made, noting page numbers where the revisions occur.

  • Time. Be sure to allow at least two weeks for your committee to read a dissertation chapter, three weeks for an MA thesis, and a month for an entire dissertation. When planning your defense remember that you will need time to make required revisions before you defend--do not schedule things too tightly or the defense may not go well. 

  • Check: official graduate school and departmental deadlines! 

  • Dissertation prospectus: Your dissertation prospectus should include most of the following categories: title of thesis/project; a list of 3-7 keywords;  an introduction to the topic; a statement of the problem and its significance;  description of the project; the working questions and/or hypothesis; a brief literature review (discussion of previous scholarship you will build on);  description of theory and/or methodology;  feasibility statement; chapter outlines;  timeline; initial bibliography; and any appendices, graphs, illustrations, etc.  In the timeline, be sure to include: chapter completion dates, time for revision, research trips, deadlines for grant proposals, IRB deadlines when necessary, conference dates, submission of publications (one from the dissertation + others), other professional training and credentials, digital or public humanities projects, etc. 

  • Regardless of other requirements, it is best to hold a 2 hour dissertation prospectus defense as well as a meeting with your entire committee, together, to discuss your first chapter, to get you off on a good start and ensure that all committee members are on the same page.

  • Scheduling defense: Once you have a defense date determined, please send a microsoft outlook email calendar invitation to everyone on the committee so that we all have the same date and time on our calendars. Be sure to schedule everything well in advance, and avoid scheduling summer defenses, or having faculty sign forms in the summer, when faculty may be out of town. Send everyone the final, defense draft of the dissertation, three weeks ahead, as one document with continuous pagination, notes and the bibliography.

Timeline for the national job market:

[Do not wait until September to begin this process! You and your committee need months to prepare!]

  • 0. Consider your comprehensive exam areas and your dissertation topic in terms of how it they will play out on the job market. Seek out advice. Start reading the job lists before you even take your comps. Consider alternatives to academic careers and seriously consider getting the experience and credentials for those alternatives. Reconsider a tenure-stream career track if you are unwilling to move to a place where you don't want to live. 

  • 1. Before going on the national job market you should have published two peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals, presented papers at a few conferences, accomplished a bit of professional service, developed your skills and experience as a teacher, and have most of your dissertation written and approved by your entire committee. 

  • 2. Consider developing expertise in the digital humanities and creating an offshoot or version of your dissertation as a DH project. Take advantage of workshops and other training sessions on DH at the MLA or locally. Develop technical and creative skills. Craft your digital presence and persona.

  • 3. Consider creating a public humanities event or an innovative service learning or community engagement project. 

  • 4.Take advantage of the many teaching workshops and professional education programs at U of O and put them on your CV once completed. 

  • 5.  Arrange for your dissertation director and at least one other person to watch you teach the spring before you go on the national job market. 

  • 6.  Write your dissertation abstract, job letter, and c.v. the summer before the market and give them to as many faculty as possible to critique by July 1 . Ask for and expect harsh critiques. Revise. Revise again. If you take a course on preparing for the job market, you should take that, at the latest, by the spring before you develop your materials. 

  • 7. . Polish your writing sample and develop a teaching portfolio. Have these ready by the end of September.

  • 8.The DOSSIER: In the summer, ask your dissertation committee, the person who supervises your teaching, and perhaps one or two other people to write job letters for you--these letters will be your dossier. Submit an organized set of materials to your letter writers by August 1st. . Send us one email that includes your job materials (letter, cv. ,dissertation abstract); copies of articles; dissertations chapters or the entire dissertation. We will need to consult these materials to write detailed letters. Arrange your Interfolio account or similar dossier service. Be sure to set up your Interfolio account so that the requests for letters go to Interfolio and not to faculty (use Interfolio emails for references, not actual faculty emails)! Faculty cannot/will not send or email letters for specific jobs, as candidates should be applying for 20-50 positions each year. Faculty are responsible for submitting one letter to Interfolio; the job candidate and Interfolio do the rest. Your dossier should be ready by October 1st. (Some jobs and postdocs do not allow the use of Interfolio, making it more difficult for everyone. Just sent us an email (one email with all of them listed in order) as a heads up that those requests will be coming directly from those institutions. 

  • 9. Study the October MLA JIL, The Chronicle job lists, and subsequent listings, and apply for positions in October, carefully crafting each letter for each position, and following the directions. (Curse the committees who ask for special, strange things!)

  • 10. Send out dossiers and writing samples as requested in October and November.

  • 11. In October or November, do mock interviews with faculty, preferably faculty who are not on your committee. Ask for criticism and suggestions. If mock interviews are not scheduled, ask for them to be.

  • 12. Hope for MLA interviews, which happen in January (prepare like crazy if you get them.) Be prepared for virtual interviews which could happen at any time. The job market is more irregular than it used to be.

  • 13. Prepare talks and questions for winter or spring on-campus visits. If you are fortunate enough to get to the final stages of the interview process for any position, inform your references, and prepare us for potential telephone interviews.  The search committee may call your committee. 

  • 14. Keep applying for the post-MLA jobs through the spring and even the summer. [Then begin again: it usually takes a few years to obtain a tenure-stream position.]

  • 15. Apply for postdocs, NEH summer seminars, archival research grants, and other forms of support that will enhance your scholarly credentials and improve your work. 

  • 16. If you are fortunate enough to land a tenure-track position, start a filing system before you begin the job, keeping paper and electronic documents related to research, teaching, and service, for use in your tenure case and third-year review. Save everything until you get tenure. If you are offered a job, try to get your previously published work to count for tenure during negotiations.  And get all promises in writing!!--always. Administrators come and go; and verbal agreements disappear into the air. 


The wretched state of the Academic Job Market

All graduate students should be aware that it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain a tenure-track job, especially in the Humanities. Be sure to research the academic job market years in advance of your search, making use of the MLA, the MLA joblist, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the AAUP, and U of O faculty as sources of information about preparation for your job search, job market procedures and timelines, and the reality of the academic market. All PhD students should make realistic plans at the start of their graduate work. No matter how driven you are to secure a tenure-stream academic position it would be prudent to formulate a back-up plan. Community college jobs are plentiful, for example, and some of them pay more than other academic positions. And the great thing about community college jobs is that you may be able to live in the geographic region you'd like to live in--which is extremely rare for the national job market. The brutal academic job market has generated the "alt-ac" track. Researching the "alt-ac" track would be a good idea. My own view is that while many people, in nearly any profession would benefit from an MA in English, there are very few people who should be pursuing a PhD at this point, given the wretched academic job market in the humanities and the daunting, formidable intellectual focus and time commitments a PhD requires.


If you are pursuing an MA or PhD in the interdisciplinary field of Environmental Studies, it would be best to consider the many possible career trajectories in that field and tailor your coursework, publications, technical and field skills, volunteer work, internships, and other professional development opportunities toward the positions that you seek. There is rarely a direct line between an academic field and a career path--so it is important to research the possibilities and put yourself in the best possible position to pursue them. 

 I wish you well!