Faculty Profile

David Ball

Associate Professor of English (2007), Department Chair

Contact Information


East College Room 401

Office Hours for Fall 2015: Mondays 12:00-2:00, Tuesdays 10:00-12:00 and by appointment


My areas of expertise include nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature and culture, American modernism, graphic narratives, and literary theory. These eclectic interests shape both the form and content of my classes, which are all structured as multidisciplinary inquiries into the ways that literary study informs, and is informed by, other fields of knowledge. In the coming semesters, I plan to teach courses in multicultural American literature, contemporary literary theory, graphic narrative, experimental literature, and the the intersections between literary and art history.


  • B.A., Stanford University, 1998
  • M.A., Princeton University, 2003
  • Ph.D., 2007

2015-2016 Academic Year

Fall 2015

FYSM 100 First-Year Seminar
The First-Year Seminar (FYS) introduces students to Dickinson as a "community of inquiry" by developing habits of mind essential to liberal learning. Through the study of a compelling issue or broad topic chosen by their faculty member, students will: - Critically analyze information and ideas - Examine issues from multiple perspectives - Discuss, debate and defend ideas, including one's own views, with clarity and reason - Develop discernment, facility and ethical responsibility in using information, and - Create clear academic writing The small group seminar format of this course promotes discussion and interaction among students and their professor. In addition, the professor serves as students' initial academic advisor. This course does not duplicate in content any other course in the curriculum and may not be used to fulfill any other graduation requirement.

ENGL 101 Graphic Narratives
This course will serve as an introduction to an emerging medium in contemporary American literature: the graphic narrative. Beginning with a brief historical study of comics through the twentieth century, we will be examining recent graphic novels and memoirs (by artists/writers such as Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware, Craig Thompson, Adrian Tomine, Scott McCloud and Charles Burns), as well as animated films (Disney, Pixar) and conventional authors (Michael Chabon, Paul Auster) who examine comics in their fiction and have been adapted in graphic form. Among the questions we will be asking are: Can comics become literature? How does the grammar of comics function and how does its mode of simultaneous seeing and reading complicate conventional approaches to reading literature? What relationship exists between comics, film, and other twenty-first century narrative media? We’ll be assessing these questions against the larger landscape of contemporary American literature, with an eye toward developing the core skills of literary analysis, critical thinking, and argument-based writing. Students will be asked to compose their own online comics, write multiple thesis-driven essays, and complete a final examination.

ENGL 403 Lit Controv, Crit Question
In preparation for the writing of the senior thesis, the aim of this course is to reintroduce students to some of the key concepts within literary criticism ("author," "text," "ideology," "race," "gender," "empire"), as well as from other disciplines such as economic theory, psychoanalysis, and semiotics, which have guided contemporary literary theoretical inquiry. These terms will be approached not as a shared vocabulary among the theorists we study, but rather as themselves sites of contestation. Prose, poetry, and film will be read alongside these theoretical works to provide both a testing ground for their ideas and a way to complicate their presuppositions. Along the way we will constantly be querying the literature/theory distinction, determining to what degree we can perceive literary authors as critical thinkers and theorists as creative writers. Among the writers we will study are Althusser, Auster, Barthes, Benjamin, Butler, Bechdel, de Man, Derrida, Dickinson, Emerson, Freud, Foucault, Gates, Kafka, Marx, Morrison, Poe, Rushdie, Said, Saussure, and Wharton.