Travis Chi Wing Lau joined the Kenyon faculty in 2020 and is Assistant Professor of English. His research and teaching focuses on the intersections between literature and medicine and the longer histories of disability and pathology. Lau is currently working on a book manuscript entitled “Insecure Immunity: Inoculation and Anti-Vaccination, 1720-1898”, which explores the British cultural history of immunity and vaccination in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Alongside his scholarship, Lau frequently writes for venues of public scholarship like Synapsis: A Journal of Health Humanities, Public Books, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. His poetry has appeared in Barren Magazine, Wordgathering, Glass, The New Engagement and in two chapbooks.

Areas of Expertise

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, health humanities, disability studies


2018 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Pennsylvania

2013 — Master of Arts from University of Pennsylvania

2012 — Bachelor of Arts from Univ of California Los Angeles

Courses Recently Taught

"We think back through our mothers if we are women," Virginia Woolf writes in "A Room of One's Own." Taking Woolf's meditation on women and creativity as our point of departure, we will examine a range of fictional, poetic and polemical writing produced by British women from the late 18th century through the early 20th century, a period that witnessed increases in the literary and cultural opportunities available to female writers, as well as challenges to those opportunities. We will explore debates over "proper" education for women; the role of culturally sanctioned "plots" (most notably, romance and marriage plots) in shaping women's lives and narratives; complex negotiations between public and private experience, particularly between work and domesticity; and the aims and achievements of women's activist and political writings. When has it been possible, or desirable, for female writers to "think back through [their] mothers"? If a tradition of women's writing exists, what motivates and characterizes it? How did these women writers create new plots -- or terminate familiar ones -- in response to incommensurable or uncontainable desires and allegiances? How did these writers respond to traditions they inherited from their predecessors, whether male or female? Course authors will include Woolf, Wollstonecraft, Austen, Gaskell, Eliot and Barrett Browning, among others. Students will write two essays and take a final exam. This counts toward the women's and gender studies concentration and the approaches to literary study or the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104.

We will begin this course by spending several weeks on Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" (examining in passing another work of the 18th century inspired by "Gulliver's Travels", "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen"). Satire is one of the predominant forms of the 18th century and finds its grotesque complement in the graphic arts. We will study various examples of visual satire -- notably the "progress" narratives of William Hogarth. We will examine the emergence of the novel in this period, focusing on its multi-generic character. We will explore the overlapping of categories -- history and fiction, travel and novel, news and novels, philosophy and fiction -- in works such as Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's epistolary account of her travels to Turkey, Eliza Haywood's spy/masquerade novel "Fantomina", and Susanna Centlivre's play about metamorphosis, "A Bold Stroke for a Wife". Periodical literature first appears in the long 18th century. We will explore the phenomenon of spectatorship in this period in relation to the institution of the masquerade, the science and philosophy of empiricism, and the rise of the penitentiary and systems of surveillance. This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Offered every year.

This course will explore some of the complexities and contradictions in the literature of the Romantic period. A period that came to be identified with the work of six male poets in two generations (Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge; Byron, Shelley and Keats) also is the period in which the English novel achieves considerable subtlety and broad cultural influence. In addition to the poets, then, the course will include works by such novelists as Walter Scott and Maria Edgeworth. While lyric poetry becomes increasingly dominant and the sonnet undergoes a revival in this period, there remains a poetic hierarchy in which epic and tragedy occupy the highest positions. The course will therefore include dramatic poems, whether or not such works were intended for performance, and a consideration of the epic impulse. The course will examine the tension between populism (and popular superstitions) and the elitist alienation of the Romantic poet, and the relationship between political radicalism and both Burkean conservatism and an abandonment of the political ideals of the French Revolution in favor of imaginative freedom. In addition, this course will introduce students to recent critical studies of Romanticism. This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.