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Saturday, September 25, 2021

An Interview with David Simpson

David Simpson is more than your typical English professor here at UC Davis. Before arriving at UC Davis in 1997, Professor Simpson was a faculty member at such prestigious universities as Cambridge, Northwestern and Columbia. He has regularly taught and studied Romanticism and literary theory, as well as published several books. His most recent work, titled Romanticism and the Question of the Stranger, was released in 2012.

Simpson will speak tomorrow at The Store Lounge in the Memorial Union from noon to 1:30 p.m. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session and book signing. The event is free and open to the general public.

MUSE: Can you give us a brief introduction?
Simpson: I’ve been here since 1997. I am the Needham chair; I teach 18th to 19th century British literature.

What made you decide to become a teacher and later a professor?
I suppose I’d have to say that I had influential teaching at the high school level. I was certainly one of those people who liked reading at an early age. Overall, charismatic teaching.

How does UC Davis differ from the other universities that you’ve taught at?
I’ve taught at two public universities and three private ones. There are more large classes here, as well as more first-generation college students. It seems much the same.

How would you say your works have evolved over the years?
I think, like anybody else, the things that I publish reflect things going on the world. For example, the most recent book would probably not have been written in the same way before 9/11.

Your most recent book, Romanticism and the Question of the Stranger, was released last year. Can you give us a brief overview?
It’s about the issues faced by British culture from the 1790s onwards regarding reception of strange or foreign elements. The French Revolution polarized people over the effects of revolution; it had its pros and cons. There was particular anxiety about the movement of people due to closed borders.

In your opinion, what makes Romanticism important in today’s world?
The past is always important. Many of the concerns that we still have took on their rhetorical forms in the late 1700s. You have the first global war; the mass mobilization of armies on the European continent, you have a slave economy in the West Indies, you have a concern with global events. On top of that, you have the beginnings of the ability to communicate those effects with the telegraph system. A very high number of Romantic concerns are still our concerns.

Anything else that you would like to share with us regarding your work?
Right now I’m working on the idea of the “rhetoric of terror”: When you have a war on terror, what does that mean? Whether that will become a book I don’t know. I will be teaching classes again in the fall of 2013.

BRETT BUNGE can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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