Born in Columbia, Missouri, Bill Aarnes grew up in Fargo, North Dakota (his home blew away in a tornado when he was ten). He taught high school in Washington, D.C., for four years before attending grad school. He taught at Clemson University for two years before coming to Furman in 1981. He has written articles on Walt Whitman (the focus of his dissertation), Herman Melville, and Arthur Miller. He has published two volumes of poetry, Learning to Dance and Predicaments (both with Ninety-Six Press), and his poems have appeared in such venues as The American Scholar, Poetry, and NewVerseNews. Dr. Aarnes teaches courses in American and environmental literature.

Selected Publications


  • "'Cut This Out': Whitman Liberating the Reader in Specimen Days," Walt Whitman Review, March 1981
  • "Withdrawal and Resumption: Whitman and Society in the Last Two Parts of Specimen Days," Studies in the American Renaissance, 1982
  • "'Free Margins': Identity and Silence in Whitman's Specimen Days," ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance, Fall 1982
  • "'Almost Discover': The Spiritual Significance of Soldier Talk in Whitman's Specimen Days," Whitman Review, June December, 1982
  • "Tragic Form and the Possibility of Meaning in Death of a Salesman," Furman Studies, December 1983
  • reprinted in Modern Critical Interpretations: Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, edited by Harold Bloom (Chelsea House, 1988)
  • "Qualms: 'Bartleby' and the Death of Scholarly Interpretation," Furman Studies, December 1986
  • "James Seay," in Contemporary Southern Writers, edi ted by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain, 1994

Poetry collections

  • Learning to Dance, Ninety Six Press, 1991
  • Predicaments, Ninety-Six Press, 2001

Recent poems

  • "Instructions on a Packet of Instant Angel," posted on Caper, 2010
  • "Ekphrasis" and " Never Mind," posted on Fogged Clarity, 2010
  • "Sludge We Can Count On," posted on New Verse News, May 28, 2010
  • "3:15 A. M. in a Florida Condo" posted on Autumn Sky Poetry, 2010
  • "Eleven AM," FIELD, Fall 2010
  • "responsible," Iodine. Winter 2010/11
  • "Customer Service" posted on Magnapoets, July 2010
  • "Ode to Summer" and "Ode to the Gale's Wild Blueberries" posted on The Centrifugal Eye, Fall, 2010
  • "Earthling," Poetry Quarterly, Fall 2010
  • "Nationwide Hankering" posted on Leveler, September 4, 2010
  • "Drafting the Mushroom," Tipton Poetry Journal, Fall 2010
  • "bathygraphy," posted on Stirring, Fall 2010
  • "Nocturne for Black Keys," "Filling the Page," "Ode to Personification ," "Ode to the Ineffable," and "Painstaking," posted on ken*again, Summer of 2011
  • "prelude" posted on Prime Number, 2011
  • "subterfuge" posted on Ascent, May 2011
  • "Five Hesitations," Red River Review, May 2011
  • "Finding Faith in a College Town," posted on Curbside Quotidian, May 5, 2011
  • "yes," posted on carte blanche, May 31, 2011
  • "Debt-Crisis Admonition to Pledge Signers," posted on New Verse News, July 26, 2011
  • "life," posted in Qarrtsulini , August 31, 2011
  • "Morning in Abernathy Waterfront Park" and "Random," posted on Sleet Magazine, Fall 2011
  • "Fabric" in OVS, Spring 2012
  • "Naked, "The Mom Egg, Spring 2012
  • "numb" Wordsmith, posted June 6, 2012
  • "The Summer After his Sophomore Year," posted on New Verse News, August 20, 2012

Name Title Description


Writing Poems

Emphasizes awareness and proficiency in the craft of poetry. Students should be prepared to write frequently, to duplicate their work for discussion, and to comment upon their classmates' work.


Literature and the Environment

Focus on works commonly considered major examples of environmental writing and examine the theoretical/critical considerations involved in reading these works. Writers include: James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Mary Austin, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and Barry Lopez will be read and discussed. Theoretical problems such as the relation of writing to lived experience and the justice of emphasizing all life over human life will help focus discussions. Class participation demonstrating considered familiarity with assigned reading will be required, as will written work demonstrating thoughtful command of issues raised by the course.


Early American Literature

Study of American literature from the colonial period through Cooper. Focusing on major works by Franklin, Brown, and Cooper, considering such forms as the sermon, diary, captivity narrative, and spiritual biography.


Emerson to Dickinson

Study of Emerson, Thoreau, Douglass, Stowe, Whitman, Fuller, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville and Dickinson. Through exploring poems, essays, novels, and personal narratives, this course examines living well, considering relationships to nature, to God, and to one's self. In addition, the course examines concepts of good and evil and the political realities of slavery and the disenfranchisement of women.



Topics include formal/theoretical discussions that stress spiritual and moral concerns, exploring contrast with other forms such as biography and memoir, and the study of specific sub-genres. Film adaptation or autobiographical film may also be considered. Alternating versions will include either an American emphasis or a global emphasis.


Senior Seminar in English

Course topic changes with each offering.

The Johns Hopkins University
Catholic University
Oberlin College

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