Chair and Associate Professor of English
Office Hours: During the spring semester, office hour meetings will be done over the phone or using Zoom. Please email me to schedule a time.
About me: My name is Bernie Rhie. Hello, and welcome to my department webpage! I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of English as well as the Department Chair. I teach courses on a variety of topics, including: the concept of the “self” and the representation of subjectivity; the influence of Buddhism on American literature and culture; the history, theory, and practice of meditation; Asian American literature; and philosophical approaches to literary studies. I’m also very interested in contemplative pedagogy, and I’ve been exploring ways to incorporate contemplative practices like mindfulness into my teaching (if you don’t know what “contemplative education” is, check out this introduction to the field).
In the fall of 2020, I’m teaching a hybrid version of ENGL 239, “Zen and the Art of American Literature.” In the spring of 2021, I’ll be teaching a hybrid version of ENGL 138, “What is a Self?”
I also lead the Williamstown Zen Group, a meditation group that meets weekly on Tuesday evenings (online during the pandemic). This sitting group is open to all.
I’ve also created an Instagram account (Zen_Prof) that offers meditation tips and Buddhist wisdom for today’s (stressed out) college students (though all are welcome to follow!). Follow on Instagram or subscribe by email.
M.A. University of Pennsylvania, English (2001)
Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, English (2005)
Areas of Expertise
- Stanley Cavell, Wittgenstein, Phenomenology, Literary Theory, Zen
Additional Areas of Interest
- Contemplative Education, Buddhism in the West, Influence of Buddhism on American Literature and Culture, Asian American Literature
Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism (New York: Continuum 2011). A collection of commissioned essays that explore the relevance of Cavell’s writings for literary theorists and critics. Co-edited with Richard Eldridge (Philosophy, Swarthmore College). This volume is connected to a conference I organized with Richard Eldridge, which took place at Harvard’s Humanities Center in October 2010. More information about that conference can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/cavell-conference.
- “Encountering Cavell in the College Classroom: Four Undergraduate Experiences,” co-authored with four students who took ENGL 440, “Wittgenstein and Literary Studies” (Spring 2018): Isabel Adrande (‘18), Stephanie Brown (‘20), Louisa Kania (‘20), and Nelly Lin-Schweitzer (‘21). For a special commemorative issue of Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies, No. 7 (2019): 85-95.
- “The Philosophy of the Face,” in Garry Hagberg, ed., Wittgenstein on Aesthetic Understanding (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017): 305-327.
- “Wittgenstein on the Face of a Work of Art,” nonsite issue #3 (October 2011), a special issue based on the conference “No Quarrel: Literature and Philosophy Today” (Boston University, April 1-2, 2011).
- “Cavell, Literary Studies, and the Human Subject,” co-authored with Richard Eldridge, in Eldridge and Rhie, eds., Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism (New York: Continuum, 2011).
- Founder of OLP & Literary Studies Online, an academic blog for scholars who work at the crossroads of ordinary language philosophy and literary studies. URL: https://olponline.wordpress.com/index/ (blog active from 2009-2017)
- Intro to Zen Online, a meditation podcast created in response to the coronavirus pandemic. URL: https://williamstownzengroup.org/intro-to-zen-online/
- Zen_Prof, an Instagram account created to offer meditation tips and Buddhist wisdom for college students. URL: https://www.instagram.com/zen_prof/
Awards, Fellowships & Grants
- Nelson Bushnell ‘20 Prize for Teaching and Writing, Williams College, 2020
- Aliis Non Sibi Prize, Berkshire School, May 2016 (“selected by members of the graduating class, the recipient of this award follows the motto ‘for others, not ourselves.’”)
- Diane Hunter Prize for Best Dissertation, English, University of Pennsylvania, 2006 (Dissertation title: The Philosophy of the Face and 20th Century Literature and Art; Susan Stewart, dissertation advisor)
- Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, University of Pennsylvania, 2000
- Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, U.S. Department of Education, 1997-2001
- Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1997-2002
- Honors Thesis Prize, English, University of California at Berkeley, May 1997 (Thesis title: “Coleridge’s Middle Passage: Associationism, Abolitionism, and Anthropology”; Stephen Best, thesis advisor)
- Patrick Pacheco Memorial Scholarship, Santa Rosa Junior College, May 1995 (for a transferring sophomore who shows promise as a future teacher)
Overview of Teaching at Williams
(Click on underlined course titles below to see syllabi)
- Zen and the Art of American Literature (Fall 2020)
- What is a Self? Investigations in Literature, Philosophy, and Psychology
- Meditation and Modern American Life (Inside-Out course taught at the Berkshire County House of Corrections)
- Director, English Department Honors Program and Instructor, English Department Honors Colloquium (2018-2019)
- Introduction to the Novel (Spring 2019)
- Independent Study on Borderlands, Latinx, and Asian-American identities (Manami Diaz Tsuzuki)
Independent Study on the Influence of Buddhism on American Literature and Culture (Louisa Kania)
Independent Study on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (Sam Swire)
Self and Subjectivity: Investigations in Literature, Philosophy, and Psychology (Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program)
Asian American Literature: Prose (Tutorial)
Teaching High School English in Independent Schools (Winter Study)
The Ethics of Fiction
The Problem of Modernity and the Modernist Imagination (Tutorial)
Literary Theory and Ordinary Language
The Human Face in the Modern Imagination
Beginning Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (Winter Study)
Philosophy and Poetry: Ancient Quarrels and Modern Questions
Introduction to Asian American Literature
Time-Consciousness in Modern Literature and Philosophy
Teaching at Other Institutions
Berkshire School (2015-2017): 11th and 12th Grade English, Dystopian Fictions (Senior Elective), Modern Wars and Modern Literature (Senior Elective), Meditation for Beginners (Pro Vita 2016), Yoga and Mindfulness (with Stephanie Turner, Pro Vita 2017)
Boston University (2013): Contemporary Literature and Ordinary Language, for the BU Graduate Program in English, co-taught with Robert Chodat
Germantown Friends School (2003-2005): 12th Grade English, Introduction to Western Philosophy, Self + Portraiture: Modern Views of the Person (Spring Elective)
University of Pennsylvania (1998-2000): American Modernism in Verse, Poetry and the City: The Prelude through Howl, British Romanticism, American Literature to 1900
- “Mindful Teachers, Teaching Mindfulness: Slowing Down to Deepen Learning” (audio), an experiential session for “Slow: A Symposium in Praxis & Theory,” hosted by MCLA and MASS MoCA. November 1, 2019.
- “Zen Meditation and Contemplative Education” (video / handout), First Congregational Church, Williamstown, MA. May 12, 2019.
- “What is Zen?” (video), a presentation for the Greylock Talks Series, Mt. Greylock Regional School, March 15, 2019.
- “On Contemplative Education: Meditation and Anti-Oppression Pedagogy,” Williams College Davis Center Brown Bag Lecturette Series, March 6, 2019.
“Zen and the Art of Reading: Buddhism, Critique, and Contemplative Education” (slideshow), keynote address for the bi-annual Graduate Student Conference, Department of Comparative Thought and Literature (formerly the Humanities Center), Johns Hopkins University. Also leading a related seminar for conference participants on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s “Pedagogy of Buddhism.” February 22-23, 2019. By invitation.
“Zen and the Art of American Literature” (slideshow), Williams College Faculty Lecture Series, March 1, 2018.
Storyteller, Williams College StoryTime, November 12, 2017.
“Writing is Thinking 2,” workshop presenter and leader, Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature, Duke University, March 1, 2013. By invitation.
“On the Philosophy of the Face,” a lecture for the Department of Philosophy, Auburn University, November 11, 2011. By invitation.
“Wittgenstein on the Face of a Work of Art,” pre-circulated paper, for “No Quarrels: Literature and Philosophy Today,” a workshop/conference at the Humanities Foundation, Boston University, April 1-2, 2011. By invitation.
“Writing is Thinking: Writing as a Way of Life in the Academy,” workshop presenter and leader, Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature, Duke University, January 28, 2011. By invitation.
“Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of the Face,” a lecture at the Humanities Center, Johns Hopkins University, as part of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ “Futures Seminar,” October 29, 2010. By invitation.
“On Neuroscience and the Arts,” gallery talk associated with the exhibition, Landscapes of the Mind: Contemporary Artists Contemplate the Brain, Williams College Museum of Art, February 25, 2010.
“On the Philosophy of the Face,” workshop presentation at the first “Young Scholars Workshop,” Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature, Duke University, February 19-20, 2010. By invitation.
“On the Philosophy of the Face,” a lecture sponsored by the Critical Theory Emphasis, U.C. Irvine, November 10, 2009. By invitation.
“Philosophy and Literature: Reading across the Disciplines,” workshop participant, Mellon workshop at Wesleyan University, May 9-10, 2007. By invitation.
Selected Service at Williams
- Interview with Writing Center Director (Julia Munemo) about academic writing (video), Summer 2020
- Teach Summer Team 2020
- Associate Chair, Department of English, December 2019 – July 2020
- Chair, Department of English, July 2020 – July 2022
- Mindfulness Meditation Classes, Wellness at Williams Program, for Williams College Staff and Faculty, Tuesdays at Noon, June 18, 2019 – July 23, 2019.
- Instructor, “Intro to Zen” series. For Williams College faculty, students, staff, and members of the local community. Tuesdays, January 8 to April 30, 2019. (Williams Record article about this series here.)
- Chaperone, Davis Center Spring Break Trip to Philadelphia, March 20-22, 2019
- Interview and Selection Committee, Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford (Spring 2007, Spring 2008, Spring 2019)
- “Breakfast Club,” Breakfast Meetings with Faculty Job Candidates, organized by the Office for Institutional Diversity and Equity (2017-2020)
- Organized a faculty/staff discussion of the book Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning (eds. Daniel Barbezat and Mirabai Bush), July 11, 2018
- Curricular Planning Committee Working Group on Asian American Studies (2018-2019)
- Williams College Faculty Representative, C3/LADO (Liberal Arts Diversity Consortium) Visit, U.C. Berkeley, April 16-17, 2018
- Director, English Department Honors Program (2018-2019)
- Mindfulness Instructor, for Wellness at Williams (Spring 2018)
- First3 Program Coordinator (2018-2020)
- Faculty, Williams College Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program (Summer 2018)
- Co-organizer (with Seth Wax), Winter Study One-Day Meditation Retreats (January 2018, January 2019)
- Co-organizer (with Jason Josephson Storm), Williams College Meditation Group (2017-)
- Graduate Studies Advisor, English Department (2017-2018)
- Director of the Williams College Tutorial Program (2013-2015)
- Faculty Liaison, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) and Williams College Undergraduate Research Fellowship (WCURF) Programs (Spring 2012-Summer 2014)
- Elected untenured Division I representative, Faculty Steering Committee (2010-2012, 2007-2008)
- Co-organizer (with Holly Edwards, Art History), Williams College Visual Studies Initiative (2006-2007): a year-long faculty reading group and lecture series, with talks by Margaret Livingstone (Neurobiology), Mieke Bal (Literature), Kwame Anthony Appiah (Philosophy), and William Kentridge (Art)