The poetry of the English romantic poets, in particular of Shelley and Wordsworth, is my central professional concern. The study of these poets has led me both backward and forward in time, backward through the centuries-long, polyglot tradition of Western poetry that they come out of and profoundly alter, and forward in time to such diverse continuers of their way with words as Seamus Heaney, Robert Frost, and Adrienne Rich. Besides undergraduate and graduate courses in my specialty, I teach a wide variety of courses: Introduction to Poetry; Shakespeare; American Literature; the Bible. My Rousseau in England: the Context for Shelley's Critique of the Enlightenment (California 1979) closes with a reading of one of Shelley's major poems that would have it enacting a poet's way of knowing the world that was even then, in 1822, being repressed and marginalized by the dominant intellectual and epistemological assumptions of modern Western culture. Such philosophical preoccupations have led me to a cross-disciplinary engagement with the "ordinary language" philosophy practised in various ways by John Austin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Stanley Cavell. This lateral move into philosophy has eventuated in several articles, one of which is reprinted in Ordinary Language Criticism (Northwestern 2003).
As I write (Fall 2003) I am nearing completion of a book on Shelley's poetry, tentatively entitled The Constitution of Shelley's Writing, and totally rethought and revised in view of what I have learned of language and thought from these philosophers. In the classroom, I gladly look for and teach both the clarity and the mystery of language, both its trenchant force and its subtle graces. I look for and teach these qualities as they are to be found not only in what I ask my students to read but also in what I require them to write.