David Greven Ph.D. '02
I doubt that many prospective graduate students have stated that their goal was to combine the approaches of Harold Bloom and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, but that was the one that informed my graduate school application’s personal statement. As a professor at Brandeis would later say to me, “graduate school is the most normalizing kind of experience,” a statement that certainly holds true for academia generally. Given the conformity of a great deal of academic practice, Brandeis is a refreshingly non-normalizing environment in which atypical sensibilities can flourish, nurtured by bracingly idiosyncratic and attentive faculty.
I was thrilled to be in graduate school, buoyed by visions of debonair and casually brilliant fellow graduate students tossing bon mots back and forth on verdant lawns upon which sagelike professors held court. What I got at Brandeis was the rigor to match my fantastical enthusiasms. I remain awed by the sheer brilliance of the scholars I was privileged to study with at Brandeis: Mary Baine Campbell, Paul Morrison, Wai Chee Dimock (now at Yale), John Burt, Eugene Goodheart (Emeritus). Not only are they intimidatingly, compellingly smart but also deeply committed to the life of the mind; galvanized by their example, I strive to merge my scholarly pursuits and teaching in a way that honors them.
My greatest debt is to my friend Michael T. Gilmore, whose critical acuity and skills as an advisor are incomparable, matched only by his great generosity and kindness. I knew I was going to become an Americanist the first day of his graduate pro-seminar. In addition, I made some of the most significant friendships of my life at Brandeis, for me its most affecting legacy.
Brandeis cultivates the wild offspring of academia, those of us who can’t be readily classified; this is the program’s strength. It is vitally important, because Brandeis is open to so many different perspectives, that a graduate student amply demonstrate his or her academic readiness for the job market. Getting your work and ideas and presence out there (publishing, conferences, et al) is key to securing a job post-graduation; Brandeis will be of most help to you on the job market if you demonstrate your ability to disseminate your ideas in a broad and committed fashion. But this endeavor begins in the classroom. I can’t encourage you enough to make your presence felt in class. Contribute your ideas and hold true to your positions even if—perhaps especially!—they meet with resistance. Too often, the temptation is to slink into submission; fight this impulse and make the discussion a personally significant one for you.
I am now an Associate Professor in the English department at Connecticut College. (I was tenured in my fifth year.) Before getting this job, I taught at Simmons College for a year, and for two years in the Humanities program at Boston University's College of General Study. My first book, Men Beyond Desire: Manhood, Sex, and Violation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) examines a figure I call the “inviolate male” of nineteenth-century American literature. This fall, I have two new books coming out: Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush (University of Texas Press, 2009) and Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek: Allegories of Desire in the Television Series and Films (McFarland, 2009).
As someone who works in several distinct fields at once—Americanist literary studies; film, television, and popular culture; psychoanalysis; queer theory—I maintain a strong conviction that heterogeneity is the key to scholarly fulfillment. To quote from my beloved Hawthorne, what I seek is “intercourse with the world.” Essays of mine have appeared or will appear in journals such as New Literary History, American Quarterly, Postmodern Culture, Cinema Journal, Genders, Jump Cut, Modern Psychoanalysis, The European Journal of American Culture, Refractory, Studies in American Fiction, Poe Studies: Dark Romanticism, and The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, as well as the critical readers Reel Food, Action Chicks, and Reading Sex and the City. At the moment, I am co-editing a special issue of The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review and have a book project under publisher’s review called Oneness Inscrutable: Hawthorne’s Fiction and Freudian Theory. I am on the advisory board for Genders and The Nathaniel Hawthorne Society, and read essays and manuscripts for journals and publishers such as PMLA, College Literature, Northwestern University Press, and Peter Lang. I am a winner of a Phyllis W. Meadow Award for Excellence in Psychoanalytic Writing for my essay “Rereading Narcissism: Freud’s Theory of Male Homosexuality and Hawthorne’s ‘The Gentle Boy,’” which will be published in Modern Psychoanalysis vol. 34(2), 2009.