I bring to Mount St. Mary’s College experience teaching at several state universities, including Iowa State University and the University of California at Santa Barbara. I have been teaching at Mount St. Mary’s since 1980. I hold a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois. As a comparatist I studied the literatures of three cultures in their original languages. The Modern Novel in England, France and Russia (19th & 20th centuries) is my area of specialization. I recently took a sabbatical leave to study (in the original language) the novels of Ana Maria Matute and Benito Perez Galdos, two modern Spanish novelists. In keeping with my special literary interest, I regularly teach Eng 148 Twentieth Century English and European Literature, Eng 147 English Lit 1700-1900, and Eng 161 Study of the Novel.
I have always found it difficult to separate the study of literature from the knowledge of philosophy and religious thought. My recent book, The Redemption of Tragedy (State University of New York Press, 1995), is a study of classical tragedy from the perspective of mystical Christian Platonism. Before I wrote the book, I spoke on Simone Weil, the only speculative mystical Christian Platonist in the 20th century, at colleges and major universities throughout this country and in England. As one response to the book, I was invited to speak at the City of the Angels Film Festival at the Directors’ Guild of America in Los Angeles in October 2001. The topic of the festival was Touches of Evil.
Poetry and mysticism are closely aligned. It is no surprise, therefore, that I have become interested in writing poetry. I have published sonnets in Christian Poetry Review (April 2000), Pegasus (Fall 2001), Troubadour (2001), Parnassus Literary Journal (Spring 2003), The Lyric (Spring 2004), and Blue Unicorn (February 2006). I am currently compiling poems for my first book of poetry, Sonnets to Eliad. I now bring my creative writing experience to the teaching of Eng 162 Study of Poetry, a course which has long been a source of unique gratification to me.
I particularly enjoy teaching two interdisciplinary courses which I created. Eng 156H The Modern Temper, an upper-division honors course, is a study of modernist philosophy and literature from a critical perspective. Here I suggest a contemporary alternative to the philosophical and religious skepticism of the modern period. The second course, Eng 130 Faith and Fiction, is a study of Christian works from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century. In this course we study two dimensions of Christianity: exotericism (salvation) and esotericism (mysticism). In addition, every year I teach a course on the philosophical underpinnings of literature. Eng 181 Theory and Criticism offers a survey of literary theory from Plato through Jacques Derrida.
In large part, through teaching Theory and Criticism, I have come to believe that there is a need for a contemporary literary theory which takes into account the spiritual dimension of existence. Current theories—structuralism, post-structuralism, reader-response theory, feminism—tend to deny either implicitly or explicitly the existence of a transcendent realm, thereby marginalizing an important way of interpreting---and guiding---human experience. I believe the esoteric (mystical) dimension of the world religions could furnish the basis for a viable literary theory that is genuinely spiritual. In the Summer 2000 I was awarded a PEW grant to participate in the Summer Seminar for Christian Scholars at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The topic of the seminar was World Christianity. During the Summer 2000 I began to develop a theory of literature that is based on the esoteric dimension of Christianity. I have also given papers at a national forum for the C.S. Lewis Foundation held at UC Berkeley in October 2003 and at the Conference on Christianity and Literature in San Diego in April, 2004. These papers further explore the idea of a mystical approach to literary theory.
My interest in mysticism has directed my attention toward Eastern religions. My current focus is the mystical dimension of Buddhism. In the spring of 2006, I was awarded a sabbatical leave to study Japanese language and literature and to travel to Japan during the spring semester 2007. My particular interest is the Japanese Noh play (whose roots are Buddhist), the haiku, and the modern Japanese novel.
I recently developed two new interests: photography and acting. I began studying photography at Otis College of Art and Design in the Summer 2006. The Roman poet Horace has said that a picture is a poem without words. I hope some day to be able to blend the arts of photography and poetry. Acting also gives expression to the imagination. In the Summer 2006 I took a course in professional acting at UCLA. The experience gave me insight into drama like nothing else could have. This fresh (and continuing) interest increases my enthusiasm for a course which I began teaching this Fall (2006), Eng 163 Study of Drama. I try to use my recent experience with theatre as a way of enlightening the students concerning the performance aspect of drama, a vital component of the art.
My greatest personal interests are my inspirational husband (a satellite engineer at Aerospace Corporation—and a marathon runner!) and my two precious daughters, Emily (17) and Heidi (16). A third of the poems in Sonnets to Eliad are addressed to these three eliads (“loved ones” ) and to my late parents, Arther Trace ( professor and widely published author) and Gladys Pickett (professor and magnificent poet).