James Phelan

Faculty Mentor
Distinguished University Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
Department of English, Columbus Campus

Bio: Dr. James Phelan teaches and writes about the English and American novel, especially from modernism to the present, as well as nonfiction narrative and narrative theory. He is the first person in the English Department to be awarded both the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award and the Distinguished Scholar Award.

He is the author of five books that develop the contours of a rhetorical theory of narrative. His most recent books are Living to Tell about It (2005) and Experiencing Fiction: Judgments, Progressions, and the Rhetorical Theory of Narrative (2007). He is currently the editor of Narrative, the journal of the International Society for the Study of Narrative. With Peter J. Rabinowitz and Robyn Warhol, Dr. Phelan co-edits the Ohio State University Press book series The Theory and Interpretation of Narrative. Phelan has also edited or co-edited numerous volumes, the most recent of which are Teaching Narrative Theory, which he edited with David Herman and Brian McHale, After Testimony: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Holocaust Narrative, which he edited with Jakob Lothe and Susan R. Suleiman, and Fact, Fiction, and Form: Selected Essays of Ralph W. Rader which he edited with David H. Richter.

Teaching philosophy: Care about the success of every student. Construct courses so that they emphasize both "knowing-that" and "knowing-how" (content and skills).

On being a mentor: Commitment to the University's teaching mission; interest in helping and learning from new faculty. I've found it rewarding to foster an environment in which we can all learn from each other.

Rewarding moment: I almost always find it rewarding to have a class discussion go to places I haven't anticipated.

Best teaching advice received or given: At the heart, there are three main variables in any teaching situation: the teacher, the student, and the subject matter. Effective teachers find ways to make the interactions among all three greater than the sum of their parts. One good way is to convey your enthusiasm for being in the classroom with this group of students teaching these particular subjects.

Advice for new faculty: Lean in.