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
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.
Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of department chair. Offered every year.
"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, the 1700-1900 or diversity 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 serves as an introduction to the fields of health humanities and disability studies. Structured around 4 thematic clusters, this class explores the political, ethical and cultural dimensions of representing illness and disability across different genres from novels to films. How do such representations affirm, challenge or reimagine notions of illness and disability at different scales from the individual to the collective? We will consider not just how sick and disabled people narrate their own experiences but also how physicians and medical practitioners reflect on their own experience in the clinic. What ends do these many narratives serve and what are their limits and affordances? What experiences and identities escape or exceed narrative? How do the humanities uniquely prepare us to address these questions? This course will be reading intensive, in that you will be engaging with both primary texts and secondary texts, the latter of which will model different critical approaches in the interdisciplinary fields of health humanities and disability studies. This course will prepare you to assess and interpret different narrative forms centered on illness, disability and health. Course assignments will challenge you to think across these forms and to integrate them in well-supported, nuanced argumentative writing. This counts toward the post-1900 requirement or approaches to literary study for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Offered every other year.\n
This course aims to define the novel, to trace the causes of its rise in 18th-century England, to study some great and various examples of the genre from Aphra Behn to Jane Austen, and to learn about a historical period quite different from our own even though we may find there some of the roots of our own culture. The novel will be defined against epic, romance, drama, historiography and newswriting. Various types of novel also will be distinguished: fictional biography and autobiography, epistolary fiction, the picaresque, the fictional travelogue, the Oriental tale, sentimental fiction and Gothic fiction. Particular attention will be paid to authorial prefaces, dedications and advertisements to determine what the novelists themselves thought about the emerging genre and how they imagined their relationship to the reader. This course also will provide an introduction to such major theorists of the novel as Mikhail Bakhtin, Ian Watt and Michael McKeon. This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.
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.
This course will introduce students to the wide range of questions, scandals, lessons, and pleasures to be found in nineteenth-century novels. We will attend to questions of how the 19th-century novel differed from its predecessors and successors how the novel, as a genre, grappled with the nineteenth century's relentless social, political, and technological changes and how novels functioned within and across national boundaries and literary traditions. How were 19th-century novels packaged and marketed? Who read them, and how did they read them? How have they survived into other media (including authorial public readings and theatrical and cinematic adaptations) since their initial publications? How might careful study of another era's fictional literature help us both to understand that era and to reexamine our own historical and cultural moment? This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of the instructor.
In the 19th century, Britain was nothing if not haunted -- by (among other things) history, doubt, science, political unrest, desire and sexuality, other parts and peoples of the world, and the unfathomable complexities of the human psyche. This course will provide an intensive introduction to Victorian literature and culture through an examination of its ghosts. Among the literary works we will read are fictions by Emily Bronte, Hardy, Eliot, Gaskell, Dickens, Pater, James and Wilde; poetry by Tennyson, Browning, Arnold, Christina Rossetti, Swinburne and Hardy; and autobiographical writing by Oliphant. We will explore extraliterary movements and phenomena that illustrate how Victorian people attempted to document and/or make contact with ghosts, including spiritualism, spirit photography and psychical research. And we will give some consideration to the ways the Victorian period has haunted its successors. Students can expect to complete two major essays and a final exam, deliver at least one oral presentation, and compose occasional short reading papers or discussion questions. This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.
This seminar will require students to undertake a research paper of their own design, within the context of a course that ranges across genres, literary periods and national borders. Students will study literary works within a variety of critical, historical, cultural and theoretical contexts. All sections of the course will seek to extend the range of interpretive strategies students can use to undertake a major literary research project. Each student will complete a research paper of 15 to 17 pages. Senior English majors pursuing an emphasis in literature are required to take instead ENGL 405. Students pursuing honors will take ENGL 497 rather than ENGL 410. Prerequisite: senior standing and English major or permission of instructor. Offered every year.
Individual study in English is a privilege reserved for senior majors who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a writing project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. Because individual study is one option in a rich and varied English curriculum, it is intended to supplement, not take the place of, coursework, and it cannot normally be used to fulfill requirements for the major. An IS will earn the student 0.5 units of credit, although in special cases it may be designed to earn 0.25 units. To qualify to enroll in an individual study, a student must identify a member of the English department willing to direct the project. In consultation with that faculty member, the student must write a one-to two page proposal for the IS that the department chair must approve before the IS can go forward. The chair’s approval is required to ensure that no single faculty member becomes overburdened by directing too many IS courses. In the proposal, the student should provide a preliminary bibliography (and/or set of specific problems, goals and tasks) for the course, outline a specific schedule of reading and/or writing assignments, and describe in some detail the methods of assessment (e.g., a short story to be submitted for evaluation biweekly; a thirty-page research paper submitted at course’s end, with rough drafts due at given intervals). Students should also briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies them for their proposed individual studies. The department expects IS students to meet regularly with their instructors for at least one hour per week, or the equivalent, at the discretion of the instructor. The amount of work submitted for a grade in an IS should approximate at least that required, on average, in 400-level English courses. In the case of group individual studies, a single proposal may be submitted, assuming that all group members will follow the same protocols. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of their proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline.