Chris Stuart teaches courses in American literature (particularly the American novel), and humanities in the University's interdisciplinary Brock Scholars program. He has been named Outstanding Teacher by The University of Tennessee National Alumni Association and served two terms on the Editorial Board of the University of Tennessee Press. His scholarship has appeared in such journals as MELUS, American Literary Realism, and The Henry James Review. His current research focuses on the issue of authorial intention in recent criticism of Henry James's work and on the potential literary critical applications of Donald Davidson's philosophy.
Ph.D. University of Connecticut 1999
M.A. John Carroll University 1992
B.A. Norwich University 1989
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 an anthology of critical essays on the importance of the body in memoir and autobiography, and I am currently at work trying to defend authorial intention as a legitimate aim of interpretation. 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. I have developed a number of courses that reflect my more specific interests, such as "Death and Dying in the American Novel," "Insanity in American Fiction," and "American Autobiography." More recently, I have developed a course that examines the literary theory of authorial intention while at the same time investigating the intentions of American fiction writers as expressed in their works, in their plans for their work, and in their post-publication 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.
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.
Why did you become an English professor?
My father spent his entire working life as an English Professor, and I had no intention of following in his footsteps. Rather, I 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 spend my career trying to make the same kind of magic.
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's something about you that might surprise your students?
I am a huge Buckethead fan and could be found in the front row at his last two shows in Chattanooga.