Cynthia Dobbs

Cynthia Dobbs

Professor, Department Chair
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PhD, English, University of California, Berkeley, 1998

BA, English, Pomona College, 1987

Teaching Interests

My central goal as a teacher is to empower students.  My primary methodology is conversation. Sometimes this conversation takes the form of extensive comments on multiple essay drafts. Sometimes the conversation takes place in individual writing conferences, where I guide students in recognizing, testing, and clarifying their own ideas through their writing.

Often, most fruitfully, the conversation excludes me altogether, as I task students to tackle certain complex questions together through student-led lectures, "jigsaw" collaborative assignments, and group performances. Despite my title, I don't think my task is "to profess"; rather, I consider it my job to coach students as they broaden their interests, deepen their thinking, and embolden their voices. 

Research Focus

My scholarly interests are interdisciplinary in nature. Incorporating angles of vision from American cultural studies, modernist studies, critical race theory, gender theory, and affect theory, my work focuses broadly on the relationships between aesthetics and trauma in modern and contemporary American literature. My published scholarship has centered on American modernists William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, and Toni Morrison, looking at how each of these authors engages with questions of racial and sexual trauma, haunting, desire, migration, and cultural resistance. More recently, I have been studying contemporary poet and essayist Claudia Rankine's innovative use of form to question social constructions of "race" and gender as they shape the public and private experiences of disease and diagnosis.  

Finally, I am at work on a collection of narrative nonfiction and lyric essays concerning illness, the body, language, and identity.

  • Faulkner/Morrison
  • Blues, Jazz, and Literature
  • Black Women Writers
  • "Race," Gender, and Representation in Fiction and Film
  • Diagnosis
  • Surveys of American Literature
  • Creative Writing: Fiction
  • Creative Writing: Nonfiction
  • Introduction to Gender Studies
  • Pacific Seminars 2 and 3