By: Emily Hanson
This past fall, Whitworth welcomed Dr. Bert Emerson to the English Department. For those of you who were fortunate enough to take a class from him — either his Survey of American Literature Before 1865, British Women’s Writers, Novels of the Upper 19th Century , or Hamilton — you know him as an enthusiastic professor with a grudge against the dark and the cold. For those of you who haven’t gotten the chance to interact with him yet, I was able to ask Bert ten questions so that you might get to know him as well.
Where have you taught before Whitworth?
I have taught at Pomona College and at Cal Poly Pomona.
What about Whitworth made you want to come teach here?
I was drawn to Whitworth because it is a liberal arts college,that has the small school experience. The community was a big part of it as well. I was really interested in the faith and learning aspect of Whitworth because it was different from the other schools that I have taught at.
What exactly do you specialize in?
19th century American Literature and Political Culture.
What has been your favorite class to teach at Whitworth?
They have all been wonderful. The Survey was a challenge because it covered such a vast time period. The Novels of the Upper 19th Century was amazing because of the depth and trajectory with which we explored the novels with. With British Women Writers, I was able to explore and read books that I haven’t in a long time while thinking about how much the culture of Britain and America were intertwined and affecting each other. With Hamilton, I was able to immerse myself in Jan Term and think about the founding of America and explore the literature there.
What work of literature has influenced you the most?
That’s a really broad question, I don’t know how to answer that, there are so many different possibilities and different literatures that affect the present day — but it has to be provocative and innovative; like a cliché destroying and imaginative work.
Being from Alabama and California, what about Spokane is different, aside from the weather?
The weather is a big part of it, but it is interesting to see that there are good people in different places, along with different attitudes. The local culture is also something that is always different from place to place and something that I want to explore. I want to experience the world, and I believe in the inherent goodness of people and it is amazing to see the different manifestations of that.
What are you looking forward to most at Whitworth? What are your goals?
I’m excited to craft my way of teaching as well as working with the student’s getting to know them, as well as the community. Getting to know Spokane — when it’s warm and in the light. Writing as well, I get to finish my book. My goals are to get to know and work with every student, help them learn culture and knowledge and writing skills. I hope to make sure that everybody improves.
What research are you working on right now?
I am writing an introduction to a book on democracy in America which is also connected to my book project about democratic thinking before the Civil War.
What book do you seem to come back to?
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
No fun facts, I’m a pretty boring person.
As I quickly learned after getting the initial answer to question #10, that it was a lie, he just told me not to write about it in the article. But, as I hope you are all interested in getting to know Bert better, as he is a delightful person and is great at having thoughtful and deep conversations, I hope that you swing by his office, get to know him better, and ask about that fun fact — I promise that it will be worth it.
Dr. Emerson has also recently published an article for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Check it out here.
Emily Hanson is one of our freshman writers and is a lively addition to the team.