Berkeley English Lecturers and Postdocs

Joel Childers

Joel Childers


Professional Statement

I am lecturer in the Department of English at UC Berkeley, and a volunteer instructor at Mount Tamalpais College, formerly the Prison University Project, at San Quentin State Prison. 

I received my PhD in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2021, where I wrote the dissertation that has become my current book project, Feeling History: A Poetics of the Past in the Age of Enlightenment (under advance contract with Stanford University Press). This book queries the overlapping ambitions of literary criticism and the humanistic social sciences as they bear on an expanding British empire. It argues that eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century critics invented new ways of reading old texts and, in doing so, shaped the interpretive methods we continue to employ in the literary humanities today. 

As a scholar, my specialization is in eighteenth-century and Romantic intellectual culture. But I am especially interested in the idea of literary history, which I study alongside emergent or radically shifting ideas of "race," ethnicity, and world religion throughout this period, most often in the context of Britain’s (settler) colonies in the Americas and South Asia. The eighteenth-century's fascination with history and historical literary forms allows me to do research into earlier periods as well—from allegory in Greek antiquity to romance in the Middle Ages. I consider a broad awareness of pre- and early modern literature and theory a necessary component of eighteenth-century and Romantic scholarship. 

As a teacher, my courses are wide-ranging, though usually with a focus on poetry and poetics. I have taught seminars on the French, Haitian, and Industrial Revolutions, and the history of romance and (settler) colonialism; as well as composition courses on political cinema, romantic supernaturalism, and modernist short fiction. I also have also taught public facing courses on how to read poetry and, at San Quentin, on “lyric poetry and society.” 

An article drawn from my book project can be found in New Literary History 52.1, and an earlier essay on phenomenology in Proust and Sartre can be found in Philosophy and Literature 37.2.

Selected Publications and Papers Delivered

"The Romance of Criticism," New Literary History 52.1 

"Proust, Sartre, and the Idea of Love," Philosophy and Literature 37.2

English Department Classes