ASU Department of English chair to step down; national search commences

By

Kristen LaRue

Mark Lussier, chair of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University since June 2013, has announced he will step down from the position effective June 30. A national search for his replacement is underway.

Under his leadership, English made several innovative curricular changes, introducing a popular online master’s degree and launching new cross-disciplinary bachelor, master and doctoral-level degrees, including an undergraduate writing, rhetorics and literacies concentration and a doctoral degree in linguistics and applied linguistics. In addition, the unit has partnered with other ASU entities on large research projects funded by the Modern Language Association, the Mellon Foundation and the U.S. State Department.

Lussier said he had accomplished what he set out to do.

“My goals for the department across the last three years were relatively straightforward,” he said. “First, I wanted to improve the budgetary and fiscal foundation upon which all our degrees and programs rest. Second, through collaboration with other units, we’ve embedded our presence across the university. Those commitments have been realized somewhat faster than even I anticipated.

“The time has come,” he elaborated, “to return to the activities that have sustained me across my years at ASU: teaching and research.”

George Justice, dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and also a professor of English, praised Lussier for his service and commitment.

“It has been my privilege to know Mark Lussier for 20 years and to have been able to work with him as chair of the Department of English over the past three years,” he said.

“Mark is one of the most dedicated, energetic and positive-thinking faculty members I know. He has done a great job leading our department in difficult times for the humanities nationally, and I am grateful to him for his great ideas and dedication to the job. Now I can look forward to lauding his achievements as a professor of English, for which he is nationally known for contributions to British Romanticism and critical theory.”

Lussier, a specialist in the literature, philosophy and theology of the Romantic period, has focused his published research across a large period of activity, with his work engaging culture and literature from late-17th to the end of the 19th century. His research particularly focuses on the intersection of science and spirituality in the era’s literature and art, and he is a frequent plenary speaker at major international conferences.

His first book, “Romantic Dynamics: A Poetics of Physicality” (St. Martin’s/Macmillan, 1999), analyzed the relation of poetry and physics in the work of prominent Romantic writers, and his last monograph, “Romantic Dharma: The Emergence of Buddhism in Nineteenth-Century Europe” (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2011), was honored in 2013 as a runner-up for the ASU Institute for Humanities Research Transdisciplinary Book Award.

He co-directed both the 2012 and 2006 International Conferences on Romanticism, which were held at ASU. The 2006 conference resulted in the edited collection, “Engaged Romanticism: Romanticism as Praxis,” published with ASU researcher Bruce Matsunaga. He most recently co-authored with ASU lecturer Dana Tait “The Encyclopedia of Romantic Writers and Writing,” to be published later this year by Wiley-Blackwell. Lussier is currently completing a manuscript titled “Blake & Lacan,” which is scheduled for completion during summer 2016.

Lussier has taught in the Department of English since 1994. He served as president of the University Senate and chair of the University Academic Council at ASU (2012-2013), as well as president of the faculty for Tempe campus (2009-2012). Other administrative posts at ASU have included directing English’s graduate studies program (1997-2000) and serving as assistant director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (1989-1991).

Previous to his time at ASU, Lussier served as the administrative and senior program officer for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1982-1985), and media arts director for the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans (1986-1987). He earned a doctorate in English at Texas A&M University in 1989.

Lussier led the Department of English during a time of explosive change and growth at ASU, and the unit has kept pace as one of the largest and most productive English departments in the United States. Currently, the department is composed of several interrelated graduate and undergraduate programs spanning the art and science of language, including: creative writing; English education; film and media studies; linguistics, applied linguistics and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages); literature; and writing, rhetorics and literacies. In addition, English is also the home of the largest writing program (composition instruction) in the U.S., shepherding some 10,000 ASU students per semester — in hundreds of majors and disciplines — through college writing courses.

Dean Justice is committed to having new leadership for the expanding unit in place for the next academic year: “Duane Roen [vice provost, Polytechnic campus] will be leading a national search for the next chair of English, who we hope will be here and on the job this summer.”

Lussier will return to teaching and research duties in English, where he plans to focus his work on the interconnections between environmental and medical humanities.