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Indiana University Bloomington

Kathy O. Smith

Kathy O. Smith

Email | 812-855-3283


Associate Chair
Clinical Associate Professor
Composition Program Coordinator
Director of Basic Writing and Special Programs

Ph.D., University of Missouri Columbia, 1988

Although I spend a considerable amount of my time doing various kinds of administrative work both for the English department and for the composition program, my academic interests, when I am able to indulge them, tend to focus on the intersection between Renaissance/early modern British poetry and Renaissance/early modern theories of poetry, logic, and rhetoric. A firm believer in C. S. Lewis’s claim that, "Rhetoric is the greatest barrier between us and our ancestors. . . . If ever the passion for formal rhetoric returns, the whole story will have to be rewritten and many judgments may be reversed," I take special delight in teaching undergraduate courses that permit me to share these interests. Yet, whether I am teaching a course on Elizabethan or early seventeenth-century poetry in particular or an introductory literature course to first-year students, my approach and my goals are pretty much the same: essentially, I aim to engage students in our reading to the extent that will prompt them to undertake the work of acquiring an understanding of and appreciation for texts that, for many of them, seem at least initially remote and irrelevant. To that end, we practice a critical approach to our reading that Lester Beaurline once described in the introduction to his essay on Ben Jonsonšs shorter poems: "Since art is a matter of choices, appreciation requires a knowledge of alternatives, and when we try to imagine the possible choices that lay before a poet, we can better understand his accomplishment. In other words, if appreciation is an act of imaginative sympathy, adequate criticism demands that we compare what a poet wrote with what he might have written." To the extent that my class prepares and enables students to participate in that act of imaginative sympathy and so begin to rewrite the story, as Lewis foretold, I consider it successful.


Research Interests

Rhetorical criticism; history of rhetoric; logic and argumentation; early modern poetry and critical theory; basic writing