Assistant Professor of Writing and English; Director of Campus Writing
Office: Marston 246
Education: BA, MA, PhD, University of Washington. Specialties: 18th- and 19th-century British Literature, the essay as a genre, composition pedagogy and practice
Traynor Hansen earned his PhD in English Literature from the University of Washington, where he specialized in British literature of the so-called long-eighteenth century, culminating in the work of writers of the Romantic movement. As an undergraduate, Dr. Hansen came to the decision to study English literature relatively late. When an advisor suggested he take a class on Romantic literature, Dr. Hansen assumed that “Romantic” meant there would be lots of romance. He had no idea what he was getting into. But his experiences in that class — reading Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Keats’s Odes, Shelley’s Frankenstein, and, above all, Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater —made such an impact on him that, by the end of that term, he had committed to pursuing graduate studies so he could keep reading and writing about these startling texts produced during such a tumultuous period of literary history.
Dr. Hansen’s scholarship focuses on the development and practice of essay writing, from the sixteenth century through the nineteenth. His dissertation, Revealing Character and Concealing Identity in the Romantic Familiar Essay, is a study of essays written for literary magazines and newspapers during the first few decades of the nineteenth century. These essays, written by writers such as Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb, and William Hazlitt, are in many ways the forerunners to the essays that appear today in magazines like The Atlantic, Harper’s, and The New Yorker, as well as other “long reads” that are scattered across the Internet today. Just as today’s media offers a tremendous amount of information, sharply divided along partisan lines in a highly charged political landscape, so did the periodical environment of the early nineteenth century. Dr. Hansen’s scholarship explores strategies that writers used to navigate those tensions and establish relationships with their readers in the process. It’s like Twitter, but 200 years ago!
Dr. Hansen’s interest in the writing strategies of “literary” essayists led to his interest in the strategies that scholars of all levels use in their own writing, from students in first-year writing classes to professional academics. As a professor of Writing and English Literature, he is deeply invested in helping students navigate all stages of their writing processes and recognizing that different approaches work for different writers in different writing situations. He is especially invested in helping writers work through Writing Anxiety and other problems that occur in the writing process. These are those moments where writers feel most vulnerable and experience that greatest uncertainty about their own ability to see themselves as scholars and participants in the ongoing conversations of academic life. His Writing 1000 classes give students opportunities to navigate the writing process by writing about about topics related to race and social, economic, and political inequality in the United States, while his Writing 1100 class focuses on reading, researching, and writing about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
If you give him the chance, Dr. Hansen will also talk your ear off about baseball (he’s a long-suffering Seattle Mariners fan), Star Wars, LEGOs, or any number of 90s TV shows (he once almost met Mark-Paul Gosselaar, a.k.a. Zack Morris).
- “Public Confidences: Hazlitt’s ‘Table-Talk’ and the Romantic Familiar Essay.” Prose Studies, vol. 41, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1–25.