Professor of English
Washington and Lee University
Lesley Wheeler is the Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, where she has taught since 1994. Dr. Wheeler’s specialty is twentieth-century poetry in English, but like other professors at small liberal arts colleges, she teaches across a range of fields. Her offerings include first-year composition classes on gothic literature; introductory poetry courses for general education students; creative writing workshops; and advanced seminars on many topics, from poetry after Katrina to mysticism in British and Irish poetry. These often feature extracurricular elements: poetry-related community service, for example, or performance experiments such as the Haiku Death Match. With Mattie Quesenberry Smith and other collaborators from Lexington-area colleges, Dr. Wheeler recently began a reading series entitled “Writers at Studio Eleven” to showcase local and visiting authors.
Of Dr. Wheeler’s several books, the latest is the poetry collection Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and a finalist for a Library of Virginia Award in 2011. Her most recent scholarly study is Voicing American Poetry: Sound and Performance from the 1920s to the Present (Cornell University Press, 2008). With Moira Richards and Rosemary Starace, she also coedited Letters to the World, an international anthology celebrating The Discussion of Women’s Poetry List, a web-based writer’s network. Dr. Wheeler returned from New Zealand in July after serving for five months as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Victoria University of Wellington, where she researched a new project concerning poetry and community in the twenty-first century; she is also at work on two poetry collections.
In addition to the Fulbright award, Dr. Wheeler has held grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the American Association of University Women. Her essays, poems, and reviews regularly appear in scholarly journals and literary magazines, from the Modern Language Association’s Profession to Poetry, Slate, and Shenandoah.
Dr. Wheeler received a B.A. in English with a minor in Political Science at Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University.
"My primary commitment as a teacher, scholar, artist, and citizen is to promote poetry as a vital mode of human experience… My undergraduates approach the genre warily. They expect poetry to be good for them, medicinal rather than pleasurable. Further, if they are fired up about changing the world, poetry represents a diversion from the action."