I was born in Detroit and went to Pioneer High in Ann Arbor before completing a BA in English at Northwestern in 1972. From there I went to the University of Virginia, where I got an MA and PhD in English in 1974 and 1977 respectively. I arrived at "K" within a month of finishing the doctorate, in August of 1977. I directed the Women's Studies Program here from its inception in 1980 until July of 2000, and I still teach in that program as well as in English.
I became a teacher because my own great teachers were such powerful forces in my life. But any philosophy of teaching that I have I've developed since coming to "K." For me, developing as a teacher has meant unlearning most of the old orthodoxy about teaching. I very quickly abandoned what radical educational theorist Paolo Freire called the "banker" model -- the teacher makes deposits of knowledge into the student -- in favor of the midwife model: my job is to help the student give birth to something new. I see teaching fundamentally not as the transmission of knowledge or information, but rather as a relationship and a conversation. That is, of course, an ideal, but there have been lots of moments at "K" when I've seen it become real in a classroom, and I can't think of anything more exciting. Finally, as a teacher I want to play a crucial role as a guide who leads students into greater critical consciousness of the world they have inherited, and a greater sense of themselves as powerful actors in that world. My disciplines -- literature, writing, Women's Studies -- lend themselves wonderfully to that enterprise.
My teaching interests and responsibilities include women's literature, nineteenth-century British literature, creative nonfiction, and autobiography. My research and writing are in those areas as well. I write autobiographical essays and creative nonfiction, as well as literary scholarship. In addition to articles and poetry, I have published two books of essays, CALLING: ESSAYS ON TEACHING IN THE MOTHER TONGUE (1992) and SEASON OF THE WITCH: BORDER LINES, MARGINAL NOTES (1995). Most recently, I am very interested in the emerging field of Critical Whiteness Studies -- the study of racial whiteness and its role in systems of racism -- and am writing essays on the topic of whiteness and teaching.