This interview is part of our New Faculty Profile Series, which highlights faculty who have joined the Literature Program in recent years.
Dr. Dan Kubis (he/him) is Teaching Professor in the English Literature Program. Dr. Kubis mainly teaches the Introduction to Literature and the Short Story classes within the program, and his research is evidenced in the Being Human podcast, which he hosted from 2015 until the series conclusion in 2022. You can access the series archive via Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts. Dr. Kubis is also the former Assistant Director of the Humanities Center.
The following interview was conducted by Alyssa Carnevali, undergraduate intern for the Literature Program’s social media account. Ms. Carnevali and Dr. Kubis discussed a series of written questions; responses have been edited for clarity and concision.
What are your primary fields of research and teaching?
I am mainly interested in academic literary criticism and its importance to the public. Along with my podcast, Being Human, I also write book reviews for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Boston Globe, and other places, with my focus being on writing to a public audience from an academic space. I primarily teach courses taken as a GenEd, so I see the importance of showing how literature matters to everyone, regardless of the field of study.
Would you describe your journey toward these topics?
I did not come from an academic family; my interest in the aforementioned topics came from personal enjoyment and questions I find myself asking. After graduate school, I worked in the Provost’s Office at Pitt. I also have administrative experience working in the admissions office of the California College of Art in San Francisco.
Which questions motivate your teaching and writing?
I am immensely interested in academic literary criticism and why the topic might be important to the general public. I am also motivated by community engagement; I recently co-authored an essay with Esohe Osai in Pitt’s School of Education about a community engagement project with Westinghouse Academy.
Would you speak about your approach to teaching, maybe by sharing a bit about a recent course--its texts, concerns, assignments, projects, etc.?
I primarily teach Introduction to Literature and the Short Story – classes that allow me to create a further investigation into the works listed on the syllabus. In the Introduction to Literature class, I educate students on the importance of close reading and paying attention to the language used by an author, a system that allows students to gain familiarity not only with the written word but with the importance of novels for the general public. Similarly, at the end of the semester, for my Introduction to Literature class, I encourage students to use close reading to introduce the class to a work not listed on the syllabus. This project allows me to learn with students about new topics or books and see the practice of reading in action.
Was there a teacher, mentor, family member, event, book (or some combination thereof!) that shaped your thinking, teaching, and your desire to study literature professionally?
I originally attended the University of Pittsburgh as a double major in philosophy and architecture. After attending graduate school, I lived in San Francisco and abroad in Poland as a teacher. While living in San Francisco and Poland, I discovered a love for reading and literature and decided to return to school. I returned to the University of Pittsburgh for a degree in English Literature, and I worked on my dissertation with Jonathan Arac, the Director of the Humanities Center from 2009 to 2020. Dr. Arac was a model and a mentor, as he was open to different ideas and people and had a fundamental commitment to always take a student’s ideas seriously.
What is one of the best experiences you've had teaching literature at Pitt?
One of my favorite experiences while teaching literature is when I’m introduced to a new way of thinking about a work that emerges out of class discussions with students. Similarly, at the end of the semester, my students create projects on books or topics they are personally interested in, allowing a wide range of new ideas and works to be introduced to me and to the class.
What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of the literature program/university life?
Spending time with family.
What are you reading right now?
Sally Rooney’s novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You?
What is one book you wish more people would read?
Maggie Nelson’s, The Argonauts.