Hi. I’m Cole.
Somehow you’ve stumbled upon my webpage. This is the place where I collect my various professional interests. You can find out about my research, my teaching, or take a look at some of my design work or my games.
I suppose I should say a little about myself. These days I live in Austin, where I’m a PhD candidate and assistant instructor in the English Department at the University of Texas. My research primarily concerns the impact of empire on the 19th century novel and the ways both narrative and technological innovations changed how people understood the world around them. I also have interests in 18th century georgic poetry, cinema, American postmodernism and the digital humanities.
Outside of my work in those areas, I enjoy thinking and writing about game design. You can find more information about that interest on my Games page. I also occasionally take on graphic design work as well.
In my dissertation, I attempt to trace the impact of the British Empire upon narrative production in Victorian England. In particular, I am interested in how two or more disparate scenes in a particular story could be woven together using storytelling techniques that attempt to approximate simultaneity.
Sometimes the individual moments are intimate, separated by a single room or even a small crowd, and, other times, these scenes are divorced by great seas and landmasses. In either case, novelists, journalists, and travelers in the nineteenth century clearly felt an impulse to bring their world into some kind of temporal alignment. Because of my focus on narrative technique, this is a formalist project, but it is one that is sensitive to the political consequences of spatial and temporal compression. For, if narrative practices can make a world seem smaller and more knowable they can also erase the vast peoples and histories that lay between.
I begin my project with the stakes of such erasure. In my first chapter I consider the travel writings of Joseph Wolff, whose ill-fated attempt to rescue two British officers imprisoned in central Asia was informed, in part, by a sense of the world cultivated through this kind of narrative production. While his own attempt ended in failure, the narrative of that attempt relies on the same storytelling gymnastics that helped justify it. I suggest that these narrative techniques can be traced, primarily, Walter Scott’s “crusader” novels which are the subject of my second chapter. In my analysis, Scott emerges as a crucial thinker whose novels attempt conjure up a nation unified both socially and temporally. Wolff’s application and replication of those narrative techniques helps us understand how literary production can directly shape how we understand the world around us. After Scott, I look at William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Newcomes and consider the way it attempts to undermine Scott’s temporal politics and offers a view of the world that is significantly bigger and more anarchic than Scott’s marauding knights might prefer. Critically, it is the novelist(Thackeray), rather than the journalist-adventurer(Wolff), that ultimately recognizes the limits of narrative production. Nevertheless, it was Thackeray’s own era that saw the realization of these simultaneous dreams with the expansion of the telegraph network and the growth of steam packets that offered global service. For this reason, I conclude with a discussion of Kipling’s science fiction novel, With the Night Mail and his poems on submarine telegraphy. For Kipling, the simultaneous fantasies offered by fiction had now been realized. But, rather than take these innovations for granted or use them as the foundation for an even more aggressive temporal utopianism, Kipling emphasizes their fragility and suggests that, perhaps, they offer just another fiction.
Democracy demands an engaged and civil electorate, and I believe it is the central job of teachers to prepare students to be creative and curious thinkers who are willing to interrogate their own assumptions. The practice of reading and writing can provide students with tools they need to navigate the world they have inherited.
I have been teaching students of all ages for nearly a decade. I have corralled preschoolers on science field trips and led discussions on Dickens in upper-division college courses. The one constant goal of my teaching practice is to close the gap between my students and their subject. Literature should broaden our sense of the present moment and help us feel the weight of history on our lives. In this sense, a course on British Romanticism is useful because so many questions and anxieties from that period remain unresolved. This focus on immediacy is sensitive to the challenges that face our discipline because these are the same challenges that threaten our civic life.
[Links to some course pages coming soon]
I specialize in information rich graphics that treat their subjects seriously. This seriousness stems from my professional history in design. I cut my teeth designing posters for research symposiums and other university events on subjects that often demanded a great deal of sensitivity. My goal is to match the nuance of the subject with a quality design that avoids cliche. This work has led to several large design projects, including directing the graphics for the 2014-15, and 2016-17 speaker series for the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies.
I have also been responsible for the graphics on every one of my published game projects. I apply the same ethos that informs my academic work to these images and try to create layouts and graphics that is sensitive to the source material while offering users with a functional and pleasing platform from which to explore the game. Like my academic work, I try to use a game’s graphics to develop arguments being made by the game’s mechanics and consider the artwork a fundamental element of the work.
Examples of my graphic design work can be found here.
I grew up in a household where there was always a game set up on the table. At an early age my siblings learned American staples like Chess, Euchre, Risk, and Monopoly and were always encouraged to experiment with our own designs. Play was a fixture of life.
Though my own tastes have shifted since then, I still play and design games regularly. I consider games a serious art form, capable of expression and argumentation and worthy of critical engagement. My own designs are positioned at the intersection of my research and my pedagogy. I’m especially interested in designing games that offer new perspectives and fresh subjects.
You can find out more about my recent and forthcoming designs by clicking on the images below.