Faculty Feature: Dr. Bob Wallace

with kathleen and qq

Dr. Wallace with Kathleen Piercefield and her multi-media Queequeg print
at her Senior Show in the Main Gallery in December 2004.

Our Regents Professor, Dr. Bob Wallace, shares some teaching memories as well as his current projects.

When did you arrive at NKU?  Why did you stay?
I arrived at NKU in August 1972, the year I got my Ph.D. from Columbia University.  I was very fortunate to be able to come to this new university, because that year there were only six jobs advertised nationwide in American Literature.  I have stayed because it’s been great to teach our students from the beginning, and wonderful to watch our department and university grow.

What is one of your fondest teaching memories?
I think of two brief conversations with long-lasting results.  Barb McCroskey, a student in my course in Music and Literature, asked if I could also teach a course in Literature and Painting.  About a decade after that, Fred North, a student in my course on Melville and the Arts, asked if he could submit a painting, rather than a research paper, as his final project.  I said yes to each question, and am eternally grateful for what I have learned from Barb, from Fred, and all those students who have followed in the path their questions opened up for me.

Please tell us about your latest publication.
My book on Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick opera has been an amazing personal and artistic experience.  I went to the world premiere of the opera in Dallas in May 2010 not knowing what to expect.  By the end of the performance I knew this was something I wanted to write about.  One month later I flew to San Francisco for an interview with the composer Jake Heggie.  By the end of our day-long interview, I knew that I wanted to make a book about the opera, and the creative team who created it, and extraordinary artists who performed it, my top priority.  I had to adapt my scholarly style as a writer to a new kind of subject, and audience, and I am grateful that my publisher made room for a lot of photographs from the production and a lot of interviews with creators and performers who shared their time and experience with me.

What is your current research project?  
I am currently writing a book about Frederick Douglass in Cincinnati in the 1850s.  I am learning a lot about Douglass himself as well as about the abolitionists who supported him here, some of whose stories have yet to be told.  We have more to be proud of here from that period in history than we are generally aware of.

What advice do you have for our student writer-researchers and those who wish or are just beginning to teach?
I think the most important thing for student writer-researchers or beginning teachers is to follow your passion, see where it leads you, and give it all you have.

Anything else?
As someone who joined our English faculty way back in 1972, I am particularly grateful for the fine young faculty we have hired in every subsequent decade, making this a better and better department in which to teach or study.

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Dr. Wallace with Nicci Mechler (our alum feature from September) from the “In Dreams” show at the NKU gallery.  Of course, Dr. Wallace inspired Nicci’s Dickinson art (featured in the background).

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