John Donaghy

Lecturer in Writing

Teaching Interests:  I teach Writing 5 and Writing 7.  

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In both courses I teach composition as way of coming to terms with complexity; my students work, often collaboratively, to develop strategies for approaching difficult problems in a variety of disciplines.  I help them take advantage, strategically and deliberately, of two universal, though largely unconscious, human capacities: the capacity to perceive patterns in complex environments and the capacity to formulate (often instantaneously) guiding hypotheses which account for those patterns and render the complexity navigable.

In both courses I help students develop composing processes that move back and forth between the kind of hard-edged, logical, sequential thinking they imagine is typically ‘academic’ and a softer, more diffuse and intuitive thinking which allows tired thoughts to rearrange themselves into something new.           

In both courses I encourage my students to encounter their own inwardness – their intellectual habits, their unconscious assumptions, their desires, resistances and fears – through disciplined encounters with richly human texts.

Recent Course Titles:  
Dream Texts: An Interdisciplinary Look at Dreams and Dreaming//  Systems that Eat Themselves: Beowulf, The Interpretation of Dreams, and the Sub-prime Mortgage Crisis//  Dartmouth Writers:  Writing Process Across the Disciplines//  Reading and Writing the Iliad:  Translation and Interpretation in Lattimore and Pope//  Drama and Trauma: Dionysus, Trauma Theory and Greek Tragedy

Informing Interests:  Writing:  I write because I am unhappy when I don’t and because writing helps my teaching – a lot.  The aggravating messiness of my own composing process keeps me honest.  When I am writing, I am far less likely to make unrealistic demands of my students or give them over-elaborated assignments and naïve advice.  In the past I have published poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction.  I am currently working on a memoir and regularly exchange manuscripts with other writers.

Reading:  I am interested in classic, modern and post-modern understandings of trauma, violence and loss. Therefore I have for several years been pursuing three lines of reading: 

1. Psychoanalytic theory -- both classical (Freud, Jung, Klein, Winnicott) and European (Lacan, Kristeva). 

2.  Attic Tragedy (I have learned Ancient Greek the better to get inside these texts). 

3.  Theology – St. Augustine through John D. Caputo. 


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Parker House 303
HB 6032
Institute for Writing and Rhetoric
A.B. Dartmouth College
M.A. University of New Hampshire