Shaffer, Brian W. 1960-
SHAFFER, Brian W. 1960-
PERSONAL: Born 1960. Education: Washington University, A.B., 1983; University of Iowa, Ph.D., 1989.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, Rhodes College, 2000 North Parkway, Memphis, TN 38112-1624. E-mail—[email protected].
CAREER: Rhodes College, Memphis, TN, associate professor of English, 1996—02, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, 2000—, professor of English, 2002—.
MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa, 1983.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow, University of Iowa, 1984-88; Frederick P. W. McDowell Graduate Scholar Award, University of Iowa, 1986-87 and 1989-90; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, University of North Carolina, 1989-90, and University of California, 1993; Clarence Day Dean's Award, 1995 and 2000.
The Blinding Torch: Modern British Fiction and the Discourse of Civilization, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1993.
(Editor, with Hunt Hawkins) Approaches to Teaching Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and "The Secret Sharer," Modern Language Association of America, 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Brian W. Shaffer, an associate professor of English at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, attracted academic notice for his first book of literary criticism, The Blinding Torch: Modern British Fiction and the Discourse of Civilization. Critics found this work—which considers the fiction of Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Malcolm Lowry, and the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, Terry Eagleton, and Clifford Gertz—to be highly specialized. In his analysis, Shaffer identifies the centrality, during the period between 1897 and 1947, of cultural debates in literature around the concept of "civilization." These, he shows, were often structured around conflicts or oppositions: between Western and non-Western, materialistic and organic, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic, male privilege and female marginality.
Nicola Bradbury noted in Review of English Studies that Shaffer's thesis is strongly supported, cogently argued, and informed by "fresh thinking," though sometimes "not merely packed but sometimes pickled with scholarship." Modern Language Review critic Macdonald Dalyalso appreciated the originality of Shaffer's thesis, but the critic also found several flaws in the author's theoretical analysis, particularly in the argument that the literary texts "absorb the discourse of civilization even as they assault it," a conclusion Daly dismissed a "a dusty old tune played on a shiny new instrument." Choice reviewer A. R. Nourie found The Blinding Torch to be lucidly written but likely to be of importance primarily to graduate students and faculty.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, November, 1993, p. 456; September, 1999, J. Tharp, review of Understanding Kazuo Ishiguro, p. 147.
College Literature, June, 1994, p. 191.
Modern Language Review, January, 1995, pp. 166-167.
Review of English Studies, January, 1995, pp. 111-112.*