Office— Department of English, University of Oklahoma, Gittinger Hall, 760 Van Vleet Oval, Norman, OK 73019-2055. E-mail— [email protected]
University of Oklahoma, Norman, Department of English, David A. Burr Chair of Letters.
Text and Culture: The Politics of Interpretation, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.
Ravishing Tradition: Cultural Forces and Literary History, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1996.
Cannibals & Philosophers: Bodies of Enlightenment, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2001.
Why Education Is Useless, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.
Unhuman Culture, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2006.
Contributor to various journals, including ELH, Novel, Critical Inquiry, Representations, and SubStance.
Daniel Cottom serves on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma in the English department as the David A. Burr Chair of Letters. His primary areas of interest include literary and cultural theory, cultural studies, and nineteenth-century English literature. Cottom has written numerous books on education and literature, with a particular focus on many of the great English authors of the 1800s, including The Civilized Imagination: A Study of Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, and Sir Walter Scott; Social Figures: George Eliot, Social History and Literary Representation; Text and Culture: The Politics of Interpretation; Abyss of Reason: Cultural Movements, Revelations, and Betrayals; Ravishing Tradition: Cultural Forces and Literary History; Cannibals & Philosophers: Bodies of Enlightenment; Why Education Is Useless; and Unhuman Culture.
In Why Education Is Useless, Cottom addresses the historical tendency of hostile behavior or attitudes toward the idea of education. He researched the subject using literature, philosophy, art, and film in order to determine what attitudes existed toward education at different points in history, with the purpose of determining what brings about the particular mindsets identified. The underlying argument is that the educational system in the United States is indeed useless, and that drastic measures must be taken to put a more effective, practical system into place. Ultimately, however, his argument becomes cyclical, returning to the idea that the current "useless" system is necessary for education to live up to its true definition. Samuel T. Huang, reviewing the work for Library Journal, advised that "this radically important study is recommended for all academic libraries."
Abyss of Reason looks at common struggles of meaning in today's culture. Cottom uses the nineteenth-century fascination with spiritualism and the twentieth-century movement toward surrealism as a way to compare disparate cultural movements. He examines how these struggles relate and differ and what factors result from the struggle between them. His primary goal is to examine the basis of our different ways of thinking or types of knowledge, not to truly compare contrasting ideologies or the movements they spawned. The resulting book is a dense volume that challenges readers' understanding and pushes them to absorb a large amount of material in order to follow his discussion. Linda M. Shires, writing for Victorian Studies, noted that "in spite of the intelligence evident on each page of this book, however, some of the writing betrays self-indulgence." She concluded that "the drama of the nineteenth-century aesthetic which Cottom outlines … requires a more nuanced fleshing out to be fully persuasive."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December, 2003, M. Lorenzen, review of Why Education Is Useless, p. 759.
College Literature, February, 1991, review of Text and Culture: The Politics of Interpretation, p. 108.
Journal of Modern Literature, fall-winter, 1990, Ivo Vidan, review of Text and Culture, p. 294.
Journal of the History of Ideas, January, 1992, review of Abyss of Reason: Cultural Movements, Revelations, and Betrayals, p. 166.
Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Samuel T. Huang, review of Why Education Is Useless, p. 132.
Nineteenth-Century Literature, June 1987, Everett Zimmerman, review of The Civilized Imagination: A Study of Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, and Sir Walter Scott, p. 107.
Reference & Research Book News, May, 2002, review of Cannibals & Philosophers: Bodies of Enlightenment, p. 2.
Times Literary Supplement, May 27, 1988, Rosemary Ashton, review of Social Figures: George Eliot, Social History and Literary Representation, p. 576.
Victorian Studies, winter, 1994, Linda M. Shires, review of Abyss of Reason, p. 370.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1988, review of Social Figures, p. 53.
Oklahoma University English Department Web site,http://www.ou.edu/cas/english/ (November 11, 2007), faculty profile.
University of Pennsylvania Press Web site,http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/ (November 11, 2007), author profile.