English represents the perfect mix of ideas and embodiment. You can encounter the great issues of philosophy and religion—modernity vs. tradition, the individual vs. society, grace vs. justice—all in the context of real people and real settings (well, fictional ones, but sometimes fiction is truer than history). English is among the most incarnational of disciplines, clothing thoughts and ideas in flesh and blood, in sound and meter, in character and plot.
As such, it gives wisdom for life. The voices of Thoreau, Ruskin, Pope, Waugh, Hopkins, Berry, Frost, Greene, Wordsworth, Blake, Larkin–to name a few–have given me sound advice for the past three decades. Beyond wisdom, they have given me eyes to see the beauty of this world and its opportunities for humor, making even the mundane stretches of life enjoyable and full of meaning.
While meaning, guidance, and wisdom are often seen as the province of religion, I don’t feel there needs to be competition between Christianity and literature. I’m a better reader of scripture because of the study of literature: English has trained me to listen to what the text is actually saying, rather than what I want it to say, and I have learned the ways that culture can distort my reading. Moreover, as indicated above, God has used countless authors, non-Christian as often as Christian, to challenge my values and awaken me to the perspectives of others.
I graduated from Hardin-Simmons in 1990 with a double major in English and Chemistry and earned a Masters in English from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1993. I studied for my PhD for four more years at UNC, completing my coursework and beginning my dissertation, before coming to Howard Payne in 1997. I remained “Mr. Kimery” until 2011-2012, when Howard Payne generously provided the opportunity for me to study at Baylor for 15 months and complete my doctoral work. At Howard Payne, I teach Freshman Composition, British Literature, 17th & 18th century British Literature, Victorian Literature, Technical Writing, Language Arts for Teachers, and a special studies course in Wendell Berry.
BOOKS I RECOMMEND
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Collected Poems by Philip Larkin
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.” – John Ruskin
“When they had arranged their blankets the boy lowered the lamp and stepped into the yard and pulled the door shut behind, leaving them in profound and absolute darkness.
No one moved. In that cold stable the shutting of the door may have evoked in some hearts other hostels and not of their choosing. The mare sniffed uneasily and the young colt stepped about. Then one by one they began to divest themselves of their outer clothes, the hide slickers and raw wool serapes and vests, and one by one they propagated about themselves a great crackling of sparks and each man was seen to wear a shroud of palest fire. Their arms aloft pulling at their clothes were luminous and each obscure soul was enveloped in audible shapes of light as if it had always been so. The mare at the far end of the stable snorted and shied at this luminosity in beings so endarkened and the little horse turned and hid his face in the web of his dam’s flank.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian