In the modern tradition of his discipline, English language and literature, Joe Fargnoli would be described best as a “generalist” in the true sense of the word. He has always felt at home in the liberal arts. He considers himself a scholar, but an American scholar. “Life is our dictionary,” Emerson tells us. As a longtime practicing writer, Fargnoli made sure from the first as an aspiring poet that he had one foot planted outside the academy and firmly on that vast, native ground of which Whitman sings. “Study out the land,” Whitman chants.
By the time he had reached high school, Fargnoli had attended 37 different schools and traveled and lived in 44 states. His scholarship reflects such interests and diversity. On the one hand as a student, he took immediately to the Elizabethan age, its poetry, its inheritances, its renaissance of literary culture and its lasting legacies of English letters, drama and theater. On the other, his scholarship settled on the intersections of literature, history and culture in the US since the Civil War era. One area of his research looks at the crafting of interdisciplinary discourses that address the issues of inclusion and representation in what has been called “history from below,” the voices of peoples themselves articulating their own histories and storytelling traditions. No wonder, then, that Fargnoli has felt quite comfortable teaching a wide variety of literature and writing courses to many different kinds of college students.