James Arnett teaches courses in western humanities, and 20th/21st-century British, postcolonial, and transnational literature. His research interests are affect, postcolonial, psychoanalytic, and Marxist theories, materialism, literary realism, and ethics. His work has been published in Literature Interpretation Theory and Doris Lessing Studies. His current research is on contemporary transnational African novels.
Research and/or Creative Interests
My current research project is on figures of economy and affect, and critiques of neoliberalism in contemporary transnational African literature.
The list of interests includes: 19th/21st century British literature as well as contemporary African and transnational Anglophone literature; Marxism and Marxist theory, affect theory, queer theory, postcolonial and transnational theories, and psychoanalytical theory. I specifically study the novel, and have a particular interest in literary realism. I am also, always, interested in the intersection of literature and ethics.
I teach 20th century British and Anglophone/postcolonial/transnational literature, as well as literary theory, and a host of general education courses, including Introduction to Literature.
My classes are discussion heavy, and typically involve a mixture of brief lectures and longer, moderated classroom discussions. Whenever we're in class, we always have the book open in front of us, and we read specific passages with an eye to what the larger work might mean, and how the larger work might function.
Why did you become an English professor?
I'll never forget this: in my first college English class, the gregarious, kind, whitehaired, beatificallysmiling professor walked in and said, "Do you know why you're here? I know why *I'm* here. I'm a professor. Which means that I *profess* the value of literature," as he went on to cite a number of instances of how and why literature is a particularly good location for attempting to understand the world around us. I'm deeply thankful to Dr. Jim Kilroy at Tulane for the clarity and force of that statement, and as a lifelong reader, I know this to be true: that literature is a sustained experiment (in every instance) of trying to understand the world better, both for the writer and the reader.
Why teach X?
I teach literature because, in an age of listicles, instant messages, and social media, literature represents a sustained, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes boring, often thrilling! but invariably important, encounter with other consciousnesses. This encounter, no matter how resistant or skeptical you are, will only serve to augment your better judgment and fellowfeeling.
Outside of being a professor, what do you do for fun and/or relaxation?
I spend a lot of time catering to my corgi, Phineas; anyone who's met him knows he's a demanding companion. I also enjoy traveling, and have been all over the world. I enjoy road trips (forgive me: in spite of the environmental cost). I enjoy foreign films, but I've also seen every episode of Survivor. I like cooking and eating pies. I am an avid public radio fan (except for A Prairie Home Companion; I can't stand A Prairie Home Companion).
What are your expectations of students?
My expectations for students are that they come to class prepared, ready to engage with the text, with each other, (and, thirdly) with me. Students need to keep up with the readings and be proactive with their questions and responses.
What's something about you that might surprise your students?