Meet Dr. J. Bruce Fuller, who graduated from the English doctoral program at UL Lafayette in 2015 and is now a Stegner Fellow at the University of Stanford in California.
Why did you pursue your English degree with a concentration in creative writing, and why did you choose UL Lafayette's English Department in particular? What stood out?
I had just finished my MFA in poetry at McNeese, and was considering PhD programs. UL Lafayette gave me the opportunity to teach a wide variety of classes as a doctoral student, as well as the chance to design and teach courses in my areas of interest. I am a big proponent of graduate teaching, as it really prepares students for the job market and gives the early experience needed to be a successful teacher.
I think it is important for creative writers to go for the PhD as I think it will be the desired terminal degree in the future.
Tell us about your dissertation and your research. What was the question you asked, and what did you find?
My dissertation was a hybrid dissertation of creative and critical work. The creative portion was a book of poems called The Woodsman’s Son, which explores family history and family dynamics over several generations.
The critical portion explored the development of animal poems in American poetry. I wanted to see how this sub-genre of nature poetry came to America through its European and Ancient Greek roots. Starting with William Blake, I attempt to follow animal poetry through Blake’s influence on Walt Whitman, and, through Whitman, I examined the animal poems of Galway Kinnell and Mary Oliver.
What was of particular interest to you about your research project?
It was interesting to see how these two very different projects, the creative book and the critical book, connected and talked back and forth to each other.
The work I did on my dissertation helped me develop several smaller projects that have come out in the interim, including my newest chapbook The Dissenter’s Ground, which I wrote during the dissertation process. That book was also helped greatly by my coursework at UL Lafayette, in particular a class I took on William Blake. Another section of my dissertation became another chapbook, Lancelot. I also published my book Flood while here at UL Lafayette.
What experiences did you enjoy most at UL Lafayette?
The chance to complete my graduate work in my home state. I am concerned with brain drain in Louisiana, at a time when we need our brightest the most. Though I had offers from other schools, UL Lafayette was competitive in stipend pay, transfer credits, and teaching opportunities. The choice to attend UL Lafayette was actually quite easy for me. There is a culture at UL Lafayette that isn’t found anywhere else. The opportunity to study and work in my home culture, and raise my children here, was very important to me.
What are you doing post-UL Lafayette?
I am currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. The Stegner Fellowship is one of the oldest writing fellowships in creative writing, dating back to the 1940s. I am very fortunate to be a part of that tradition, one which also includes UL Lafayette’s own Ernest Gaines. The fellowship gives me the time to edit and complete my dissertation for publication, as well as write new work. Stanford has been wonderful and very supportive of me and my work, but I miss Louisiana very much. I miss the food. I miss music in the streets.
Learn more about creative writing and the PhD in English at UL Lafayette.