Faculty Profiles

Rick-Gibson-August 2023

Richard Hughes Gibson, Ph.D.

Professor of English

On Faculty since 2009
Blanchard 214

Dr. Gibson's C.V.

My career in the humanities began when my freshman advisor—a theater professor—tricked me into taking a two-course sequence on ancient literature (Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews) and comparatively “modern” masterpieces stretching from Augustine’s Confessions to Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. Two years of literature, history, and philosophy classes later, I still hadn’t begun my intended economics major. I soon relinquished my plans to become a financier while leafing through manuscript copies of T. S. Eliot’s personal correspondence (an experience that would culminate in my first academic publication). I was hooked on the humanities: I knew that however I’d earn a living, I’d spend the rest of my life reading, wandering around art galleries, and making pilgrimages to special collections libraries.

Fortune smiled on my plans, leading to a doctorate at the University of Virginia. In addition to gaining expertise in nineteenth-century British literature, I discovered the delights of teaching during my time at UVA, particularly the joy of the effervescent discussions that arise among engaged readers. Perhaps we can say that in grad school the humanities hook sank deeper. Wheaton College was kind enough to offer me a job in 2009, and in the ensuing years the institution has given me the freedom to draw on my broad background and to explore new interests in my courses. My teaching rotation now includes classes on Classical and Early English literature, Romanticism, Modernism, Modern European literature, the medieval poet Dante Alighieri (the literary love of my life), Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (dubbed “Tolstoevsky” by students), and literary approaches to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Every other year, I team-teach an “applied media theory” course—meaning a class on media where your hands get very inky—with the calligrapher and graphic designer Jeremy Botts (with whom I occasionally publish artists’ booklets under our Manibus Press imprint).

My professional writing is similarly wide-ranging. I have written three books: Forgiveness in Victorian Literature (2015); Charitable Writing (2020), co-authored by my friend and colleague James Beitler III; and Paper Electronic Literature: An Archeology of Born-Digital Materials (2021). In academic journal articles, I have written about Adam Smith’s practice of “comparative cognition,” social networks in War and Peace, the portrayal of Virgil in The Divine Comedy, early modern friendship, Charles Dickens’s love of “domestic economy” (i.e. Victorian home economics), women translating Homer into English, liturgy in Wordsworth, and modern efforts to print a “readable” English Bible, among other topics. I have also written for popular audiences in multiple venues, but I am a regular (and grateful) contributor to one, The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture. See the “academic publications” and “popular publications” tabs for more details on my writing.

My current projects include 1) a series of “miniature” reflections on the art of fiction, 2) a study of the early history of text generation, and 3) a slow-marinating meditation on the role of liberal arts education in our “technopoly.” In the early months of 2024, I will be delivering the Ken and Jean Hansen lectures at Wheaton’s Wade Center. My theme is “The Way of Dante: Charles Williams, Dorothy L. Sayers, and C.S. Lewis Journey through The Divine Comedy.”

University of Virginia
Ph.D., English Literature, 2009

My dissertation, Forgiveness in Victorian Fiction, was directed by the estimable Karen Chase, Herbert F. Tucker, Jr., and Alison Booth and became my first book. I also studied nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry with the scholar-poet Stephen Cushman.

University of Virginia
M.A., English Literature, 2006

Princeton University
B.A., English Literature, 2002, Summa Cum Laude

Paper Electronic Literature: An Archeology of Born-Digital Materials. Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2021.

Reaching back to early experiments with digital writing in the mainframe era and then moving through the personal computer and Internet revolutions, I chronicle one vital but often overlooked aspect of the material history of computational creativity--paper. The book reveals that digital literature's old media elements have much to teach us about the cultural and physical conditions in which we compute; the creativity that new media artists have shown in their dealings with old media; and the distinctively electronic issues that confront digital artists. This book is quirky, nerdy, and definitely not for everyone, but it was a joy to compose.

Charitable Writing: Cultivating Virtue Through Our Words. Co-author: James Beitler. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2020.

Jennifer Holberg of Calvin University has described this book perfectly: "In this delightful book, Richard Hughes Gibson and James E. Beitler III take an approach unusual in writing studies—something I can best call ekphrastic criticism—to offer us a lovely new way to consider the art and craft of writing and the vital ways it is linked to our very discipleship. For Gibson and Beitler, to 'listen humbly, argue lovingly, and keep the time of writing hopefully' is to understand our own faith incarnated in our words, the high calling of writing as spiritual practice."

Forgiveness in Victorian Literature: Grammar, Narrative, and Community. New Directions in Religion and Literature Series. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.

This scholarly monograph examines how Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Oscar Wilde wrestled with the religious and social meanings of forgiveness in an age of theological controversy and increasing pluralism in ethical matters. 

Articles in Scholarly Journals

“Adam Smith and the Mind at Work” (forthcoming at Adam Smith Review)

“Lowth, Chateaubriand, and the Tradition Behind Erich Auerbach’s ‘Odysseus’ Scar’” (forthcoming at Religion and Literature)

“Wordsworth’s Liturgical Excursion." Christianity and Literature 72.3 (Fall 2023): 405-422.

“Contact-Tracing War and Peace: A Critical Experiment in Social Network Analysis." With Monica Colón. Russian Literature 140 (July-August 2023): 163-190.

“Charles Dickens, Domestic Economist.” Dickens Quarterly 39.1 (Winter 2022): 61-81.

“The Holy Book Which Is a Book: On the Quest to Print a Readable English Bible.” Religion and the Arts 26.1 (Winter 2022): 165-184.

“Portraying Friendship by the Book: An Example from the Erasmus Circle.” Erasmus Studies 42.2 (Fall 2021): 182-199.

“Companions in the Study.” Co-author: James Beitler, Religion and the Arts 25.4 (Fall 2021): 471-484.

“Beatrice’s Praise and Virgil’s Consolation: Two Appraisals.” Dante Studies 137 (2019): 77-106.

“Does Hector’s Helmet Flash? The Fate of the Fixed Epithet in the Modern English Homer.” Oral Tradition 33.1 (Fall 2019): 89-114.

“Signs of Friendship: A Response to Alexander Nehamas’s ‘The Good of Friendship.’” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 109.2 (Summer 2019): 1-7.

“On Women Englishing Homer.” Arion: A Journal of the Humanities and the Classics 26.3 (Winter 2019): 111-144.

“Browning’s ‘A Forgiveness’: A Grammatical Reading.” Special Issue on Poetry and Forgiveness. Ed. Emma Mason. Literature Compass 11.2 (February 2014): 74-83.

“Counterfeit Phrases and Illusory Eschatons: Forgiveness in Jude the Obscure.” The Hardy Review 13.2 (Autumn 2011): 109-121.

Book Chapters

“George MacDonald’s Ecumenical Faith in Poetry.” George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. 61-68.

“Nineteenth-Century Spiritual Autobiography: Carlyle, Mill, Newman.” Co-author: Timothy Larsen. A History of English Autobiography. Ed. Adam Smyth. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Other Scholarly Writing

“Evangelicalism.” Co-author: Timothy Larsen. Victorian Literature: Oxford Bibliographies Online. Oxford University Press. 2012. [Annotated Bibliography of Best Current Scholarship]

“Keeping the Sabbath Separately: Emily Dickinson’s Rebellious Faith.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. 9th Edition. Eds. Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, and Kelly Mays.  New York: Norton, 2005. 2292-2301. [Reprinted in the 10th Edition, 2010]

“T. S. Eliot’s Mistaken Date.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 65.1 (Autumn 2003): 101-105.


“Realism against Utopia.” Rev. of Wonder Confronts Certainty by Gary Saul Morson. Hedgehog Review 25.2 (Summer 2023): 135-138.

Rev. of Archival Fictions: Materiality, Form, and Media History in Contemporary Literature by Paul Benzon. American Literary History 35.2 (Summer 2023): 1064-1067.

“Spirituality Ascendant. Rev. of The Religious Revolution: The Birth of Modern Spirituality, 1848-1898 by Dominic Green. Hedgehog Review (Fall 2022): 112-115.

Rev. of Religious Vitality in Victorian London by W. M. Jacob. Cercles: Revue pluridisciplinaire du monde anglophone (April 2022).

 “A Happier Enlightenment.” Rev. of The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness by Ritchie Robertson. Hedgehog Review (Fall 2021): 138-140.

“Biography of a Pamphlet.” Rev. of A Victorian Curate: A Study of the Life and Career of the Rev. Dr John Hunt by David Yeandle. Victorian Web (June 2021).

“Print Radicals.” Rev. of Remaking Romanticism by Casie LeGette. Coleridge Bulletin 56 (Winter 2020): 85-88.

“You’ve Been Hacked.” Rev. of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshanna Zuboff. Hedgehog Review 22.2 (Summer 2020): 132-134.

“Cross-Cutting Lives.” Rev. of Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind by Michael Massing. Hedgehog Review 20.3 (Fall 2018): 143-145.

Rev. of Imagined Spiritual Communities in Britain’s Age of Print by Joshua King. Religion and Literature 48.3 (Spring 2018): 162-164.

“A Reader’s Report.” Rev. of Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Digital Age by Sven Birkerts. Hedgehog Review 19.1 (Spring 2017): 121-123.

“A Circuitous Route.” Rev. of The White Road, by Edmund de Waal. Books and Culture Online (February 2016).

“Trollope’s Professions.” Rev. of An Autobiography, by Anthony Trollope. Books and Culture (November/December 2015): 34-36.

Rev. of St John and the Victorians, by Michael Wheeler. Religion and Literature 44.3 (2012): 253-256.

“Two for the Road.” Rev. of Places of Faith, by Christopher Scheitle and Roger Finke. Books  and Culture (July/August 2012): 16-18.

“Extravagant Reversals.”  Rev. of Victorian Parables, by Susan Colón. Books and Culture Online (June 2012).

“Poets Landscaping.” Rev. of Abandoned Quarries, by John Lane, and Riffraff, by Stephen Cushman.  Books and Culture Online (November 2011).

“Artist of the Portrait.” Rev. of The Picture of Dorian Gray: Annotated and Uncensored Edition by Oscar Wilde. Ed. Nicholas Frankel. Books and Culture (July 2011): 35.


Essays in Print Magazines

“Language Machinery." [on the intellectual origins of generative AI] Hedgehog Review 25.3 (Fall 2023): 110-125.

“The Critic’s Critic.” [on George Steiner] Hedgehog Review 23.3 (Fall 2021): 9-12.

“You are a Writer.” Common Good 7 (Fall 2021): 20-21.

“Paper Revolutions.” Hedgehog Review 21. 3 (Fall 2019): 14-16.

“Technology and Modern Friendship.” Hedgehog Review 21.2 (Summer 2019): 83-90.

“Just Staying in Touch? The Idea of Phatic Communication, Then and Now.” Hedgehog Review 20.1 (Spring 2018): 9-12.

Friendship by the Book.” Hedgehog Review 19.1 (Spring 2017): 11-13. Includes audiobook version.

Web Features

I have written more than thirty essays for web publication over the last five years. The majority have appeared at The Hedgehog Review. You can visit my author page for a complete list. Here are a few favorites:

Other Web Writing:

"The Charms of Trollope and his Twentieth-Century Reputation." Victorian Web (2021).

“In Search of Charitable Writing.” Plough Quarterly (December 2020).

The Cassiodorus Necessity.” Plough Quarterly (September 2020).

The Cat in the Acknowledgments Page.” Inside Higher Ed (May 2018).

I have taught more than twenty different courses during my time at Wheaton College, including classes on ancient literature, digital media, Nobel laureates, and a hands-on exploration of the history of the book. I have taught upper- and lower-division courses within my department; I have contributed to general education through First-Year Writing courses and advanced integrative seminars. These experiences have contributed to my growth as a scholar and teacher and helped me to develop a (roughly) biennial rotation that includes the following courses:

ENGL 215: Classical and Early English Literature

This course is a long argument that old books--such as the Homeric epics, Athenian tragedies, Dante, Shakespeare, Don Quixote--are still valuable to the residents of late modernity.

ENGW 103: First-Year Writing

In addition to providing a framework for academic argument, my section explores writing as a spiritual practice and the virtues that the writing process demands and matures.

ENGL 355: The Romantic Period

The lessons of this course are that the Romantic period 1) was wild in all kinds of ways and 2) almost certainly isn't over. An ideal course for people who enjoy poring over poems and paintings.

ENGL 364: Modernism, 1900-1939

This period can be daunting because the urge to experiment brought many artists to the outskirts of sensible language and imagery. But if you want to grasp the fate of literature (and the pictorial arts) in our own time, this course is a must.

ENGL 433: Literature of the Bible

Robert Alter: "What role does literary art play in the shaping of biblical narrative [or, we might add, poetry]? A crucial one, [...] finely modulated from moment to moment, determining in most cases the minute choice of words and reported details, the pace of narration, the small movements of dialogue, and a whole network of ramified interconnections in the text." Enough said.

ENGL 462: Tolstoy & Dostoevsky

Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and Anna Karenina? The course is bad for your eyesight and good for your soul.

CORE 342: Dante's Commedia as Poetry, Philosophy, and Theology

This course, co-taught by a literary critic and a philosopher, examines the overlapping dimensions of Dante's masterpiece: we approach it as an epic of ideas, as a spiritual education and a testimony (a confession?), as a travelogue that doubles as a series of philosophical dialogues, as a mosaic of unforgettable images.

CORE 347: Technotexts

The units of the course crisscross the globe, as we examine the historic relationship between texts and the media--oral, written, and digital--through which they are conveyed. But what really sets this course apart is that we learn by reading, by discussing, and by making media under the guidance of a calligrapher/graphic designer/Schriftmeister (look it up).