Linda S. Bergmann, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English
I grew up in Syracuse, New York, but I consider myself a Chicagoan,
having spent most of my adult life in that beautiful city. I decided to
become an English professor at about the age of 16 and never seriously
considered doing anything else, despite the many lean years of graduate
school and adjunct teaching.
My primary interest for the past few years has been the relationship between
personal narrative and literary, critical, and other public genres in American
culture, and particularly the development of professionalism and the emergence
of the modern American university from the last quarter of the nineteenth
century into the present. I hold a deep interest in feminist literary
theory; in theories of literacy, particularly those that address the social
functions of literature and literacy and the use of literacy for social
control and social change; in the changing American canon; and in American
humor. My current research is a continuation of my long-term involvement
with the Elizabeth Agassiz Papers and ongoing research in Writing Across
the Curriculum issues, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which
writing functions within institutions.
My personal involvement--my passion for language--is embedded in my belief
that learning to read, think, and write are crucial means of personal
fulfillment, and that the expansion of the canon and the inclusion of
broader populations in academic life--as well as our definition of literatures
and literacies--are transforming American culture in positive, inclusive
directions. I became an English professor because this is a job allows
me to get paid for pursuing and passing along my interests, and it offers
more personal fulfillment and intellectual engagement than any other career
I've considered. It offers a great deal of personal freedom--at least
after you make it through the early years.
I moved to Purdue University in August 2001 because of the opportunity
to teach at the graduate level. This is a major turn for me. I have always
believed that the very point of teaching is to make course work in English
interesting and meaningful to people whose primary academic goals are
in other fields of study and work. When I was in college, I used to argue
with my advisor all the time that general education courses were the most
crucial: that is, a general education course may be the last literature
course a student takes and my only chance to enrich her/his intellectual
life with the literature or theory I'm teaching. But at this point of
my life, the chance to have an impact on the next generation of teachers
is very appealing, and I am delighted to have come to Purdue.
Here are some brief "snapshots" of me (compiled by a former student)::
My advice to aspiring writers: "Revise, revise, revise..."
For recreation, I like to travel, love opera and the theater,
but most of my "recreation" is work-oriented, I'm afraid!
My favorite forms of literature are personal narratives, memoirs,
autobiography, and jeremiads.
One of my favorite quotes is from George Bernard Shaw's St.
Joan: "Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those
who have no imagination?"