Travis Chi Wing Lau (he/him/his) joined the Kenyon faculty in 2020 and is an assistant professor of English. His research and teaching focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literatures and culture, health humanities and disability studies. Alongside his scholarship, Lau frequently writes for venues of public scholarship like Synapsis: A Journal of Health Humanities, Public Books, Lapham's Quarterly, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. His poetry has appeared in Wordgathering, Glass, South Carolina Review, Foglifter, and Hypertext, as well as in three chapbooks, "The Bone Setter" (Damaged Goods Press, 2019), "Paring" (Finishing Line Press, 2020), and "Vagaries" (Fork Tine Press, 2022). He received the LGBTQ+ Faculty/Staff Advocate Award in 2022.
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 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 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.
"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 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 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 include Woolf, Wollstonecraft, Austen, Gaskell, Eliot and Barrett Browning, among others. Students write two essays and take a final exam. This counts toward the 1700-1900 and diversity requirements for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Open only to first-year and sophomore students.
This course serves as an introduction to British literature and culture of the Restoration and early 18th century (c. 1660-1745). This period witnessed profound national transformations: the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 with Charles II’s return from exile and the 1707 Act of Union, which joined Scotland to England and Wales. A burgeoning literary marketplace and leisure class facilitated the development of literary forms like the novel and a return to the theaters. The rise of Enlightenment thinking, which privileged reason and sensory experience, began to shape larger cultural discourses about the future of the British nation and the nature of man that would culminate in a series of revolutions by the end of the century. Focusing on the theme of embodiment, we consider how writers in this period imagined bodies both within and without the British Isles. How did 18th-century literature attempt to represent bodies and the relationship between bodies in the face of ongoing debates about what constituted humanness? How did these writers conceive of racial, gender or sexual difference, and to what ends? Which bodies mattered, and which were only fictions or even unworthy of representation at all?\nThis course prepares students to read and analyze both primary sources from the period and secondary sources that model different critical approaches. The course assignments also prepare students to think across multiple texts and draw them together in clear, nuanced arguments that link form and content. The course also trains students to think about literary texts within their historical contexts and trace continuities from the 18th century to the present. This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Open only to first-years and sophomores.
This course serves as an introduction to the fields of health humanities and disability studies. Structured around four 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 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 is reading-intensive, engaging with both primary and secondary texts, the latter of which model different critical approaches in the interdisciplinary fields of health humanities and disability studies. This course prepares students to assess and interpret different narrative forms centered on illness, disability and health. Course assignments challenge students to think across these forms and to integrate them in well-supported, nuanced argumentative writing. This counts toward the methods requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Open only to first-year and sophomore students.\n
Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Only open to first-year and sophomore students.
This course introduces the “rise of the novel” thesis articulated by Ian Watt (“The Rise of the Novel,” 1957) that has been central to 18th-century studies but has since been challenged and revised in the field. Alongside theoretical readings in the history and theory of the novel, we read different forms of the 18th-century novel (the “true history,” the picaresque, the novel of manners, the bildungsroman, the travel narrative, the gothic) while situating them in their material, social and political contexts. What constitutes a novel, and what is novel about the novel? What is the novel’s relationship to other genres and forms? This course is reading-intensive, engaging with both primary texts and secondary texts, the latter of which involve not only critical interpretations of novels but also theories of genre and reading. This course prepares students to think about the novel historically and theoretically. Course assignments develop close-reading skills and ability to produce well-supported, nuanced arguments that intervene in larger scholarly conversations. This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement for the major.
This course explores 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 includes 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 therefore includes dramatic poems, whether or not such works were intended for performance, and a consideration of the epic impulse. The course examines 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. Students are introduced to recent critical studies of Romanticism. This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.
This course introduces students to the wide range of questions, scandals, lessons, and pleasures to be found in 19th-century novels. We attend to questions of how the 19th-century novel differed from its predecessors and successors; how the novel, as a genre, grappled with the 19th 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)? How might careful study of another era's fictional literature help us to both understand that era and re-examine our own historical and cultural moment? This counts toward the 1700-1900 and diversity requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.
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 provides an intensive introduction to Victorian literature and culture through an examination of its ghosts. Among the literary works we 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 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 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 for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 210-291 or junior standing.
This seminar requires 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 study literary works within a variety of critical, historical, cultural and theoretical contexts. All sections of the course seek to extend the range of interpretive strategies students can use to undertake a major literary research project. Each student completes a research paper of 15 to 17 pages. Senior English majors pursuing an emphasis in creative writing are required to take ENGL 405 instead. Students pursuing honors will take ENGL 497 instead. Senior standing and English major or permission of instructor.
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 earns 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 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 30-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 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.