IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Inside CU's faculty profile series
Our faculty are a source of great pride and bring a world of expertise, experimentation and excellence to our students and our community. Meet William Kuskin, associate professor in the Department of English.
William is relatively new to CU-Boulder. Born in New York City, he took his undergraduate degree at Vassar College and then went to work in advertising for three years. The main clients of the firm were Ex-Lax and Scott Toilet Tissue, and this quickly put the job in an odd perspective. Kuskin went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and taught for eight years at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, where he received tenure and became chair of the department. He lives with his wife and daughter in Boulder county.
What drew you to your field of expertise, and keeps you passionate about your work?
My main field of research is late medieval English literature. The literature of the Middle Ages is tremendously rich, and this is what initially drew me to the work. My specific interest is the intertwined development of literature and print technology. When the technology of printing comes to England, it comes not as a vehicle for law, history, philosophy or religion but for literature. This is a passionate relationship, this connection between the material object of the book and the imaginative world of literature, for us today as well as for the Middle Ages. For example, I've recently begun to have some scholarly fun with comics, which is a great example of how meaningful the object of the book remains to people in our so-called digital age. Witness last week's sale of Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman) for over three hundred thousand dollars!
Honestly, I enjoy literature. There are many exciting parts of my job—research and publication, teaching and the teaching of writing—but literature is at its core and is what I love, for there is simply no end to the literary imagination. From Geoffrey Chaucer through Thomas Pynchon to Alan Moore, literature has the ability to tap into what makes us human, but it needs us to activate it. At times it is difficult to recall this truth freshly. This is, I think, the central challenge of being a scholar of literature, as opposed to being an engineer: the initial love is also the end point as well. That is, the joy of the job is in the continual discovery and rediscovery of the literary work. You can never surpass the Canterbury Tales, only go deeper and deeper into it in a variety of ways. Communicating that is a great joy and a great challenge.
When I'm off duty, I like to explore the Front Range with my wife and daughter. I also have two Italian motorcycles in varying states of ruin, and I try to take one or the other up to the Peak to Peak highway every so often. Currently, though, my motorcycling basically amounts to my commute. Still, it's amazing what 20 minutes on a motorcycle every morning will do for your attitude. I'm still new to Boulder and could use a riding buddy!
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