Book that changed your life?
Many books have shaped me over the years: Lydia Maria Child’s Letters from New-York, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Toni Morison’s Beloved, N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain. But, more recently, I have found myself reflecting time and again on W.E.B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk. Known for its famous assertion that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line,” the book weaves together personal essay, sociology, history, polemic, fiction, and musings on the sorrow songs. We have to learn how to be different readers, to set aside what we may want for what we may need. The book teaches us that the largest issues call for the sociologist, historian, theorist, biographer, and storyteller. DuBois was all of these in one book.
How'd you end up an English prof?
I could say that it was because I could not keep playing basketball or that it was the magic of hearing my grandmother from Liverpool tell me Grimms’ fairy tales. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I have witnessed how stories and storytelling can have a dramatic impact upon what we think and how we act in the world.
Advice you're eternally grateful you learned?
Work hard. Act with humility. Speak and write with brevity and elegance—except when answering questions about books that changed one’s life.
Bruce has a broad and deep fascination with storytelling. He has published on how writers such as abolitionists Harriet Jacobs and Lydia Maria Child sought to create more inclusive narratives of American democracy. His book Poe, Fuller, and the Mesmeric Arts: Transition States in the American Renaissance explores why Edgar Allan Poe and Margaret Fuller turned to early notions of the hypnotic state in their tales or essays.
Bruce has published creative nonfiction in The Georgia Review, New England Review, September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond, and Gravity Pulls You In: Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum. Along with Debra Cumberland, he co-edited Siblings and Autism: Stories Spanning Generations and Cultures. More recently, Etruscan Press published his book, An Archaeology of Yearning, a memoir exploring his relationship with his autistic son. His creative nonfiction has been recognized through reception of a Pushcart Prize special mention.
Bruce teaches a service-learning, First-Year Seminar entitled Crossing Borders: Autism and Other Ways of Knowing. An Americanist by training, he also covers a range of survey courses: New World Narratives: American Literature, 1500-1790; Reform and Renaissance: U.S. Literature, 1790-1865; and African American Literature.