Gina Carfagno ~Staff Writer~
Xavier University has appointed a new chair of the English department, Dr. Graley Herren. The Newswire decided to sit down and chat with him.
The Xavier Newswire: What is your position at Xavier?
GH: I’m a Professor of English. I’m also the chair of the English department.
XN: What classes do you teach and which is your favorite?
GH: I’ve taught more sections of Studies in Fiction and Literature & the Moral Imagination than anything else. But my areas of specialization are Modern Drama, Modern Irish Literature, and Modern British Literature. My favorite subject to teach is Irish literature and culture, and nothing beats teaching my study abroad course, Literature & the Arts in Ireland, each summer over in Ireland.
XN: What do you hope to do for the department?
GH: As a teacher, I hope to keep offering core and majors courses that the students find valuable. I hope that my enthusiasm for the works I teach is contagious, or at the very least, I hope students can see what it looks like to care passionately and think deeply about literature. As a scholar, I hope to contribute to the growth of learning in various fields. The majority of my previous work has been on the Irish writer Samuel Beckett, but lately I’ve been focusing mostly on the New York writer Don DeLillo. As chair, I hope to foster an environment in which my colleagues can thrive as teachers and scholars. I also hope to lead a smooth transition for English into the new Core Curriculum.
XN: What is your favorite book?
GH: To say a book is important is one thing; to say that it is your favorite is often something quite different. But I’m lucky because my favorite novel also happens to be the most important novel of the 20th century: James Joyce’s Ulysses. Every time I read it and teach it my admiration for it grows. Ulysses is an 800-page novel that takes place in one day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin. In that one day and in that one book, Joyce comes as close as anyone I’ve ever read to capturing the whole of human experience. It’s really difficult at times, but it’s also stunningly powerful.
XN: How many years have you worked at Xavier?
GH: I started at Xavier in the fall of 1998, so this is my 16th year here.
XN: What is your favorite part of the study of English?
GH: I say this all the time, but I’ve got the greatest job I can imagine and the only one I’ve ever really wanted. I get to choose great works of literature, read and re-read them, think, talk, and write about them, and share ideas with others about it every day. These are the things I’d want to do even if I had some other job, but I’m lucky enough to actually make a living doing what I love.
XN: What do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies?
GH: I’m a sports fan, so I go to games as often as I can, especially the Reds. I’ve also played fantasy baseball every season since 1988 and am pretty obsessive about it. I work out regularly at O’Connor and run during the warm months. During the summer, I also love hanging by the pool at Coney Island and reading a lot.
XN: Any fun facts?
GH: My son is named Dylan, after Bob Dylan.
XN: Anything else you would like to add?
GH: There are still a few seats available for the study abroad program this summer in Ireland—sign up and we’ll have a fantastic time!