A Christian College of the Liberal Arts & Sciences

James Wardwell

Associate Professor of English

  • 585-567-9463 ext #4630
  • Chamberlain Center
  • English & Writing
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As an undergraduate I majored in the Bible (Gordon College 79) because I believed God was calling me into the ministry. I was going to be a carpenter otherwise. Toward the end of my college career I started filling my schedule with elective courses in literature, not because I did well in them (Oh, to the contrary), but because I loved the reading even though it took me forever to complete it. I particularly loved a course in Shakespeare partly because the professor wore a fur coat, prayed the Book of Common Prayer, and said things like “sic transit gloria mundi,” but mostly because Shakespeare put words together with commitment and passion. I starred favorite speeches in my text and read them aloud so often as to embed them within me.

Subsequently, while preparing myself for pastoral ministry (Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, M.Div. 82) because I had sufficient course work in Biblical studies, I filled out my schedule with innovative, independent studies like “The problem of Theodicy in Arthurian Legend” and “Twentieth-century American Novels as Sermon Illustration.” My passion for literary study had followed me and I began to perceive a fearful calling. I knew that God wanted me to serve as a scholar/teacher of literature, but I was afraid to try because I might fail at what I held so dear.

I still fear failure, but after completing a master’s degree in English and American Literature (Villanova 84) and a Ph.D. with a dissertation on the doctrine of sanctification in English poet/clergyman George Herbert’s work (U of Rhode Island 89), I accepted the call to teach at Houghton in 1989.  I continue to be thrilled by the reading I do and try to pass that excitement on to my students in class and in my writing. The combination of theology and creative literature assists me in writing about religious poets like Donne, Herbert, Geoffrey Hill and Aemelia Lanyer and in sermons for delivery in local churches. I’ve also transformed that initial Shakespearean inspiration into advising the Houghton College student thespians, accepting roles in their and other local productions, and writing several playscripts (awaiting production).