A native of the US South, my degrees are from Florida State University (BA in Classics and English, summa cum laude, 1978) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (MA and PhD in English, 1981 and 1986).
My first academic position was as Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University in Marion (1986-89), after which I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where I served as Assistant, Associate, and then Full Professor in English and Women's Studies at Georgia State University (1989-2010).
In 2010, I moved to Ireland to take up the post of Glucksman Professor in Contemporary Writing in English at UL. From January to June 2015, I served as an Adjunct Visiting Professor at the Université de Lille 3, Lille, France.
I've served as the Director of the Yeats International Summer School and the President of the International Yeats Society.
In addition to my passion for literature and language, I have abiding interests in classical and traditional music.
My research focuses on modern and contemporary Irish, US, and world literature in English, especially poetry. I am a specialist on W. B. Yeats, especially his occult life and work.
My book The Aristocracy of Art looks at the rhetoric of autobiographical fiction and its relationship to the issue of class in James Joyce and Thomas Wolfe. Wisdom of Two, my second book, analyses the spiritual and literary collaboration of W. B. and his wife George (Hyde Lees), especially their experiments with automatic writing. I have also been part of teams that have produced scholarly editions of the Yeatses' automatic writing and other occult experiments (Yeats's 'Vision' Papers) and the two versions of Yeats's book of esoteric philosophy, A Vision (1925 and 1937).
I write about literature from a perspective shaped by a love for and questioning of form. I'm interested in the relation between abstract form and felt experience, and I have an abiding interest in what escapes the patterns humans make in the world. Besides Irish literature, I also have particular interests in the literature of the US South, women's writing, and the relation between poetry and music.
I have served as Director of the Yeats International Summer School (2013-15) and as President of the International Yeats Society (2013-17).
I believe that good teaching is opening a space in which learning can occur. It requires listening as well as talking, stillness and silence as well as activity and communication. Although I talk a lot in the classroom, my goal is not necessarily to insert myself into the teaching and learning space but to notice what is needed and provide that.
I'm also of the opinion that teachers are obsolete as sources of knowledge. In the digital age, teachers are guides through thickets of information rather than yet another source of raw data. As a teacher of literature and writing, I am most valuable when I can show how important these things are to thinking deeply and well. I'm convinced that society and the individual people in it rarely thrive when such thinking is rare.
My courses are mostly in the areas of poetry and modern/contemporary literature in English, but basically I am fascinated by language and its arrangement into art, in literary and theoretical texts that range widely in the times and spaces of their composition.