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Faculty Profile

Carol Ann Johnston

(she/her/hers)Professor of English; Martha Porter Sellers Chair of Rhetoric and the English Language (1990)

Contact Information

johnston@dickinson.edu

East College Room 404
717-245-1268

Bio

Her teaching interests include literature of the Early Modern period with foci on Shakespeare, Milton, and lyric poetry; visual poetry including letterpress printing; the history and culture of the book and printing; New Historicism and Cultural Materialism, and Southern Women Writers. Her current research includes Thomas Traherne and seventeenth-century visual culture; John Donne and the book; Eudora Welty's discourse of masculinity. She has published a book on Eudora Welty's short stories as well as articles on Welty and critical reception, photography, lyric poetry, and language; her manuscript placing poet Thomas Traherne in the context of seventeenth-century visual culture re-centers his work in relation to Civil War politics and includes work on linear perspective, emblem books, court masques, iconoclasm, and mirrors. She has also published articles on Traherne and sectarianism, linear perspective, and court masques. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Shenandoah, Hawai'i Review, Pilgrimage, The Drunken Boat.

Education

  • B.A., Baylor University, 1978
  • M.A., 1980
  • M.A., Harvard University, 1983
  • Ph.D., 1992

2023-2024 Academic Year

Fall 2023

ENGL 101 How to Love Poetry
As chemists compound elements to make new solutions, poets test language in order to discover new gradations of feeling. Like a carpenter, a poet is a maker, crafting aesthetic objects out of words. We will explore poems as things made from words that engage our senses and thought in intense pleasure. We will become familiar with lyric (short) poems written in English from the 15th-21st centuries, not chronologically, but according to kind, such as: poems about place, love, nature, time, death, regret, the self, memory. We will also see how poets draw upon poems from the past, leaning upon historical poetic forms as emotional frames that support new kinds of solace, joy, and kindness. Students will write short exercises, two papers, and a final examination that detail the relationship between the formal aspects of poetry and how poems both signify and embody our worlds.

CRWR 219 Visual Poetry
Cross-listed with ENGL 221-02.Poetry began as verse recited by bards and scops going from town to town entertaining crowds with history, myths of origin, hymns, and genealogy. Rhythmic and repeating language made poetry an important aid to memory before writing existed. When the German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg introduced moveable type in 1440 Europe, the printing press could produce around 3500 pages per day, as opposed to the page or two produced by the scribe copying by hand. Mass printing of poetry transformed the focus of the genre. We will discover the myriad ways that poetry and print interact, including through typography, illustration, and design, by looking at artifacts such as broadsides, emblem books, and artists' books; by reading scholars and theorists discussing the evolution of poetry and print; by writing and designing our own visual poetry. Prior experience writing poetry will be useful for students taking the class.

ENGL 221 Visual Poetry
Cross-listed with CRWR 219-02.Poetry began as verse recited by bards and scops going from town to town entertaining crowds with history, myths of origin, hymns, and genealogy. Rhythmic and repeating language made poetry an important aid to memory before writing existed. When the German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg introduced moveable type in 1440 Europe, the printing press could produce around 3500 pages per day, as opposed to the page or two produced by the scribe copying by hand. Mass printing of poetry transformed the focus of the genre. We will discover the myriad ways that poetry and print interact, including through typography, illustration, and design, by looking at artifacts such as broadsides, emblem books, and artists' books; by reading scholars and theorists discussing the evolution of poetry and print; by writing and designing our own visual poetry. Prior experience writing poetry will be useful for students taking the class.

ENGL 341 Four Early Modern Poets
Three of the most admired poets in the English language, Shakespeare, Donne, and Herbert, have been often read, memorized, and mimicked since their publication in the seventeenth century. Mary Wroth, however, remained largely unpublished until the twentieth century and only recently has she been admired and studied. Poetry, and to a great extent literacy, were male-dominated in the seventeenth century, when only women of wealthy families had the chance to learn to read and write. We will examine the cultural context in which these poets wrote and ask to what extent art and our reception of art are governed by cultural forces such as gender, religious controversy, wealth, sexual practice, and biographical circumstance. We will ask: How can we discern whether arguments based upon culture and biography are legitimate? If great art is driven by cultural concerns, then how do we know where these outside issues enter into the texts? Our goal throughout our investigation of the art/culture debate will be to learn techniques of describing and analyzing poems as works of art.

Spring 2024

ENGL 101 Southern Women Writers
Cross-listed with WGSS 101-01. A course in prose written by women of the American South. We will begin with the diary of Mary Chesnut written during the Civil War and continue with notable writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, which may include Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, Ellen Gilchrist, Ellen Douglas, Kaye Gibbons. Some critical and theoretical texts will also be required. Writing assignments will include short explications, longer essays, and an exam. Attendance and participation in class discussion are required.

WGSS 101 Southern Women Writers
Cross-listed with ENGL 101-02. A course in prose written by women of the American South. We will begin with the diary of Mary Chesnut written during the Civil War and continue with notable writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, which may include Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, Ellen Gilchrist, Ellen Douglas, Kaye Gibbons. Some critical and theoretical texts will also be required. Writing assignments will include short explications, longer essays, and an exam. Attendance and participation in class discussion are required.

MEMS 200 Shakespeare & Co.
Cross-listed with ENGL 341-02.

ENGL 220 Intro to Literary Studies
In literary studies, we explore the work texts do in the world. This course examines several texts of different kinds (e.g., novel, poetry, film, comic book, play, etc.) to investigate how literary forms create meanings. It also puts texts in conversation with several of the critical theories and methodologies that shape the discipline of literary study today (e.g., Marxist theory, new historicism, formalism, gender theory, postcolonial theory, ecocriticism, etc.). This course helps students frame interpretive questions and develop their own critical practice. Prerequisite: 101. This course is the prerequisite for 300-level work in English.

ENGL 341 Shakespeare & Co.
Cross-listed with MEMS 200-01. Shakespeare's _Sonnets_ (1603) were late to the party; the "sonnet craze" in the English Renaissance peaked in 1581. But Shakespeare's Sonnets were the life of the party. The narrator falls for a beautiful, wealthy young man, and a dark, enigmatic woman; Shakespeare charts the fickleness of desire and obsession in 154 dazzling poems. Still the most famous love poems in English, Shakespeare's sonnets inflected three major poetry collections: Mary Wroth's _Pamphilia to Amphilanthus_ (1621), in which the lover/speaker is a woman; John Donne's _Songs and Sonnets_ (1633), frank love poems unpublished during Donne's lifetime, and George Herbert's _The Temple_ (1633), subtle poems addressing the nexus of sexual and religious power, published after his death from his hand-written manuscript. These four collections radically revise the tradition of the Petrarchan love poem in which the male lover pines after the fragile, yet unavailable, female beloved. For context, we will begin by reading some sonnets from Petrarch's _Rime Sparse_ (1327-68) to appreciate the conventions of the love poem that Shakespeare & co. revise, trash, blow up, steal, and exploit. We hope to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library to see early printed editions (and first folios).