Chris Stuart teaches courses in American literature (particularly the American novel), and humanities in the University's interdisciplinary honors program. He has been named Outstanding Teacher by The University of Tennessee National Alumni Association and serves on the Editorial Board of the University of Tennessee Press. His scholarship has appeared in such journals as American Literary Realism, Critique, and Literature and Belief. His current research focuses on the works of Henry James.
Research and/or Creative Interests
Most, but by no means all, of my published scholarly work involves Henry James in some way.
I have also edited a book on the importance of the body in memoir and autobiography, and I am currently at work trying to defend authorial intention as a legitimate interpretive pursuit. Generally, one could say that I have consistently been out of step with the philosophical trends of my own profession. I think postmodern thought has often overstated the indeterminacy of truth, the indeterminacy of textual meaning, and the extent to which responsible interpreters can safely disregard a writer's deliberate artistic choices.
I teach courses in all periods of American Literature, but I am especially interested in American fiction. A reflection of my own special interests, I have developed courses such as "Death and Dying in the American Novel," "Insanity in American Fiction," and "American Autobiography." Most recently, I have developed a course that examines the literary theory of authorial intention while at the same time we examine the intentions of American fiction writers as expressed in their works, in their plans for their work, in their own commentary on their work.
My teaching approach is very simple and very lowtech. Generally, I ask students to read, to be thoughtful, and then to sit in a circle and discuss what they have read and thought. As a student, I always enjoyed such seminar style courses the most. As a teacher, that's still what I find the most rewarding, and my students often seem to agree.
Why did you become an English professor?
My father spent his career as an English Professor, and I had no intention of following in his footsteps. Rather, I had intended on becoming a leftist, activist attorney. Then I discovered how boring my political sciences classes were, and how engaging my English courses were. By my sophomore year of college I was watching my favorite teachers and realizing I wanted to do what they did. Now and then, I even succeed.
Why teach X?
I cannot see how this question is any different from "why teach?" I think there are too many good answers.
Outside of being a professor, what do you do for fun and/or relaxation?
My very favorite thing to do for relaxation after a long day is chatting with my beautiful, interesting wife while I sip a gin and tonic and peruse the latest issue of The New Yorker.
What are your expectations of students?
I expect them to do the assigned reading, whether it's a pleasure or just plain work, to bring their views to our discussions, and to make a consistent effort to become better academic writers. I encourage a wide range of views and opinions in student writing and in the classroom, and I am not shy about voicing my own.
What's something about you that might surprise your students?
I don't think there's very much, at least not that students don't find out pretty quickly when in my class. I am not very mysterious.