John Whittier-Ferguson

John Whittier-Ferguson is a Professor in the English Department at the University of Michigan, where he's been since 1990. His most recent book, Mortality and Form in Late Modernist Literature, was published by Cambridge in the fall of 2015. He is the author of Framing Pieces: Designs of the Gloss in Joyce, Woolf, and Pound (Oxford, 1996), and co-editor, with A. Walton Litz and Richard Ellmann, of James Joyce: Poems and Shorter Writings (Faber 1991). 
Mortality and Form is a study of the late poetry and prose of Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and Wyndham Lewis. It brings together works from the 1930s and 1940s—writing composed by authors self-consciously entering middle to old age and living through years when civilization seemed intent on tearing itself to pieces for the second time in their adult lives. Profoundly revising their earlier work, these artists asked how their writing might prove significant in a time that Woolf described in her Diary, in 1938, as “1914 but without even the illusion of 1914. All slipping consciously into a pit.” This late-modern writing explores mortality, the frailties of culture, the potential consolations and culpabilities of aesthetic form. It is at times horrifying or objectionable, at others deeply moving, and differently beautiful from the work produced by these writers when they were writing the texts for which they became famous. 

John has run the Undergraduate program, the College Writing program and the English Honors program at the University of Michigan. He is the holder of an Arthur F. Thurnau professorship and has been deeply involved in pedagogical training since he came to Michigan. He regularly teaches courses on Joyce, on Woolf’s novels, on Anglo-American modernism, on Modern Novels, on Modern Poetry, and on War and writing about war in the 20th and 21st centuries. 


Joint Property, Divided Correspondents: The T. S. Eliot-Emily Hale Letters

Almost as soon as they began corresponding in 1930, T. S. Eliot told Emily Hale that he treasured her letters—not just the words, but the paper itself: “I cannot bear to be separated from your letters at present, not so much for need to refer to the contents, some of which I repeat to myself often during the day and night, but for the touch of the paper and sight of the writing.”