M. Renee Benham


I have three goals in the English classroom: I want students to experience literature and to grow as readers and writers. By experience, I mean that I want students to realize and revel in the complexities of literature, as well as recognize its power to change both original and contemporary audiences. I help students experience literature through creativity and multimodality. I thoroughly contextualize each literary text we read: we play music from the period, explore historically-specific maps of the setting, and discuss the anxieties that kept initial readers up at night. Once the past comes alive, students can analyze a text in its original setting, and then apply those same analysis skills to the present – making students better readers of both texts and society. For example, after spending a semester observing how other races and religions are “othered” in Sherlock Holmes stories, students are able to examine how our contemporary tendency to “other” has continued (and even increased), but that the targets have shifted to Muslims and immigrants.

Additionally, while students often identify with a character they can relate to through shared experiences, engaging them in a text helps students move past this point to understand and empathize with a character and experience that is entirely foreign to them, a skill that makes them better readers, writers, and members of the human community.

For more about my teaching philosophy, click here.

For more information on specific courses, select the headings below:

ENG 2010 Introduction to Fiction and Nonfiction Prose: There and Back Again

ENG 3080J Writing and Rhetoric II: Sherlock Holmes Past and Present

ENG 1510: Writing and Rhetoric I: Sherlock Holmes

ENG 1510 Writing and Rhetoric I: The Rhetoric of Violence

Victorian Literature in London Study Abroad Program