Lars Johnson

ProfessorEnglish Department

Dr. Lars O. Johnson is a Professor in the English department.

Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is informed more by “learning” than it is by “teaching”: my own and that of students. This is what makes my job and discipline so exciting; there is always another question, another way of looking at, another way to appreciate a text. No matter how often I read and re-read those texts I commonly teach, some detail or direction, technique or topic that I hadn’t noticed or considered before becomes apparent and changes the way I think about the text, the author’s background, the larger social and cultural contexts informing the author’s views, etc. And this is possible, in part, because of what I learn from my students. Their comments, questions, and insights enable me to see the text differently. Two primary objectives I have are to provide an environment in which dialogue about literature and writing can take place and for students to realize the value of always asking “so what?”: “What does this mean?”  “How does this text work?”  “What is the significance of this pattern?”  “Why did the author choose this technique, this genre, this structure, and how are these related to the content?” My hope is that the give and take between me, students, and the texts, as we pursue working answers to questions like these, opens spaces for learning and thinking.


M.A. in Literature, with an emphasis in Scandinavian literature (Minnesota State University).  Thesis: “Par Lagerkvist: Cubist Narrative and the Quest for Existential Meaning.” Ph.D. in Literature and Criticism (Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA). Dissertation: “Shouting for God: Resistance and Liberation in African American Evangelical Autobiography.”

Academic Specialties

Eighteenth and nineteenth century American and African American literature, Scandinavian literature, and literary theory.


“Gaining Wisdom—Losing Control: Teaching Wisdom in the Student Centered Classroom.”  Teaching for Wisdom: Achieving Higher Order Thinking in our Graduates.  The Collaboration for the Advancement of College Teaching and Learning.  February 2004. “Recovering the Body in Gail Godwin’s A Southern Family.”  Pennsylvania College English Association 2005 Annual Conference.  April 2005. “Black and Blue: Reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye through the Lens of the Black Arts Movement.”  Midwest Modern Language Association.  November 2005. “Deep Learning Across the Disciplines: Connecting Students to Colonial American Literature.”  The Collaboration for the Advancement of College Teaching and Learning.  November 2006. “Profaning the Sanctified—Sanctifying the Profane: Empathetic Responses to Womanhood and the Expression of Desire in Kate Chopin.”  College English Association.  March 2007. “Diaspora Poetics in Antebellum African American Autobiography: John Marrant’s Narrative (Dis)continuity.”  Midwest Modern Language Association.  November 2011. “Sacrament.”  The Cresset: A Review of Literature, the Arts, and Public Affairs  LXXIV.2 (2010): 48.

Invited Talks

“Pär Lagerkvist’s Architectonic Approach to Literature.”  Bethany Series in Scholarship.  November 2001. “Early African American Religious Autobiography as Scholarly Subject.”  Guest lecturer for Dr. Todd Nathan Thompson’s graduate seminar, ENGL 983: American Authors/Themes and Literary Theory.  October 2011.

Professional Memberships

  • Midwest Modern Language Association
  • College English Association
  • Sigma Tau Delta

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