For Jonathan Readey, being a lecturer in the Nonfiction Writing Program of the Department of English is the best of three worlds. It allows him to span the worlds of academic writing, creative nonfiction, and journalism, all of which he is passionate about. Beyond the day-to-day lessons that he teaches, he puts a lot of energy into making sure his students understand the importance of studying these three skills together, a combination he feels will help his students out in the real world.
His passion for reporting should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Readey’s professional history. As a college graduate in 1996, Readey worked as an assistant producer for a CBS affilliate in Columbus, Ohio, where he grew up. It was there that he got his first taste of journalism, going out into the field to interview people and then writing the stories that would be read by anchors on the news. He enjoyed the work, but wanted more. As he continued his academic career, acquiring three master’s degrees — in American literature, creative writing, and English language and literature — and then earning his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, he yearned for a vocation that would allow him to explore his three areas of interest.
Since arriving at Brown two years ago as a visiting lecturer, Readey has made it his goal to help his students develop that same range of skills, knowing that it would serve them well regardless of their eventual career path. Still, he confesses a tremendous feeling of gratification when he sees the name in print of a student he helped mentor. He spends a lot of time outside the classroom helping students develop longer-length pieces for publication. He says that he feels fortunate to have found a program that encourages such interdisciplinary learning among students: “It’s amazing that students at Brown can chase all kinds of creative expression ... that’s so rare.”
This fall, Readey will be teaching four classes: “Critical Reading and Writing II: The Research Essay,” “Travel Writing,” and “Introduction to Creative Nonfiction.” In the spring, he’ll lead two sections of “Critical Reading and Writing I: The Academic Essay.”
Readey also plans to revise his dissertation into a book manuscript. In many ways the dissertation is the embodiment of the critical thinking that he is constantly trying to pass on to his students. It compares built memorials to contemporary novels when both commemorate the same tragic event, and it examines similarities and differences between the two media and the unique contributions written memorials make to the tradition of built memorialization.
Readey says his dissertation emphasizes the importance of being a “critical consumer of your world, reading the ideology on the surface and between the lines.” In other words, it’s a useful skill to understand how to look beyond the face value of what’s presented to you, be it a granite memorial or the subject of a novel — a skill that can be applied well beyond the classroom.