Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Professor of English
Phone: (805) 565-7179
Office Location: Reynolds Hall 106

Office Hours
Wednesday: 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Thursday: 1:15-2:15 p.m.

Autobiography and Literary Nonfiction,
British and American, Literature and Medicine,

Marilyn McEntyre’s idea of a good time includes writing essays on topics that come to mind while driving to school; revisiting Hawthorne, Melville, Faulkner or O’Connor; and reflecting on medical themes and issues in literature and how literature helps us understand the natural world. Much of her writing over the past 12 years, including a book she recently co-edited, focus on “medical humanities.” She walks on the beach when she can, and writes a poem now and then. Three books of her poetry, In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer’s Women, Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrandt’s Religious Paintings, and The Color of Light: Poems on Van Gogh’s Late Paintings invite readers to reflect on art through the lens of poetry. She has just completed a draft of a book on stewardship of language: Care of the Word. Occasionally she and her husband entice students to an evening discussion with a little vegetarian pasta and strawberries.



  • Ph.D., Princeton University, 1984.
  • M.A., UC Davis, 1980.
  • B.A., Pomona College, 1970

Professional Activities

Contributing Editor to Literature and Medicine, Online Annotated Bibliography of Literature, Arts and Medicine.

Board Member, Center for Medicine, Humanities, and Law, U. C. Berkeley

  • Books(Until 1994 published under the name of Marilyn R. Chandler)
  • The Color of Light: Poems on Van Gogh’s Late Paintings, 2007.
  • Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrant’s Biblical Paintings, Eerdmans, 2003.
  • In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer’s paintings, Eerdmans, 2000.
  • Approaches to Teaching Literature and Medicine. Co-editor. Modern Language Association, 1999.
  • Where Icarus Falls (poetry), ed. Santa Barbara Review Publications, 1998.
  • Word Tastings (essays), ed. Santa Barbara Review Publications, 1998.
  • Dwelling in the Text: Houses in American Fiction. University of California Press, 1991.
  • A Healing Art: Regeneration Through Autobiography. Garland Press, 1990.

Chapters in Books

  • “Hope in Hard Times” in a volume on “Narrating Hope” edited by Mark Eton and Emily Griesinger, Azusa Pacific College, forthcoming, 2004.
  • “Institutional Impediments: Medical Bureaucracies in the Movies” in Sutured Words: Medicine in Film” forthcoming in 2004 from Duke UP.”
  • My Brother’s Keeper: The Cain and Abel Motif in Of Mice and Men” in Cain Sign, Michael Meyer, ed., University of Alabama Press, 2000.
  • “Sue Hubbel” and “David Quammen,” chapters in American Nature Writers, John Elder, ed. (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1997).
  • “Natural Wisdom: Steinbeck’s Men of Nature as Prophets and Peacemakers” in Steinbeck and the Environment, University of Alabama Press, 1996.
  • “A Virtuous Woman,” on K. Gibbons in Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale Press, 1996.
  • “Death by the Word: Victims of Language in Enemies, a Love Story” in Critical Essays on Isaac Bashevis Singer, Grace Farrell, ed. New York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1996.
  • “Voices Crying in the Suburbs” in Suburbia Re-Examined, Greenwood Press, 1988.
  • “Eliot, Einstein, and the East: Convergences in Four Quartets, Modern Physics and Eastern Thought” in Approaches to Teaching T.S. Eliot, Modern Language Association, 1988.
  • “Healing the Woman Within: Ellen Glasgow’s Autobiography” in Essays on Southern Autobiography, University of Georgia Press, 1988.

Articles in
Academic Medicine, Auto-Biography Studies, Equinox, Dickinson Studies, Humor, KPFA Radio Station (program), Lectionary Homiletics, Literature and Medicine, Medical Humanities, Mid-Atlantic Almanack, Mills Quarterly, Modern Language Studies, Northwest Review, Notes on Mississippi Writers, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Pharos, San Jose Studies, Santa Barbara Review, Studies in American Jewish Literature, Theology Today, Walt Whitman Review


  • Faculty Research Award, Westmont College, 2000.
  • Teacher of the Year Award (Humanities), Westmont College, 2006, 1999.
  • ACLS Cummings Foundation Contemplative Practice Fellowship, 1998.
  • Dean’s nomination for National Professor of the Year award, 1991.
  • Phi Beta Kappa of Northern California Outstanding Teaching Award, June, 1989.
  • ACLS Arnold Graves Award for Outstanding Teaching: One-year research leave, 1988.
  • Whiting Fellowship, Outstanding Teaching award, Princeton University, 1984.

Research interests.
My primary area of research and publication is in the relatively new field of “medical humanities.” I work with physicians, nurses, and other health careprofessionals as well as medical and pre-medical students to reflect on approaches to medical treatment, medical ethics, medical technology, public health, and the relationship of medicine to spirituality. I also teach and write in the area of environmental studies, particularly looking at how literature reflects attitudes toward the environment, earth stewardship, and notions about nature. Beyond that, I am interested in and teach courses at churches in poetry and prayer; representations of faith in fiction, and the roots of religious discourse and reflection in 19th-century American literature.


At Westmont I teach:

Composition in which I emphasize ways of achieving clear, lively, substantive writing; how to craft a graceful sentence; pitfalls of degenerating public discourse; grammar; and apprenticeship to good writers from a variety of fields with a variety of styles.

Introduction to Literature in which I emphasize understanding the parameters of different genres, understanding story, drama, and poetry as ways of knowing; understanding style; mastering basic vocabulary for talking about literature, and recognizing writers’ strategic and technical choices.

Modern Grammar and Advanced Composition in which I emphasize precision of language; moving from description and summary to analysis, argument, and reflection; development of one’s own “voice” in writing, and apprenticeship to good stylists.

Major American Writers to 1865 in which I emphasize sermon and autobiography as root genres in American writing, the idea of wilderness and the wild, and the romantics’ wrestling with religious, psychological, and political issues as reflected in literary texts. Centerpieces of the course are Walden, The Scarlet Letter, and Moby-Dick.

Major American Writers 1865-1912 in which I emphasize the development of creative tensions in American writing and thought between urban and rural life, big money and poverty, and different regional interests; the “woman question”; post-war and pre-war national image; and internationalism.

Major American Writers 1912-1945 in which I emphasize post-war disillusionments; literary communities; development of gender and race issues; literary experimentation (especially modernism); war and economic depression as contexts of literature.

Contemporary Literature in which I emphasize literature as public conversation; political, social, and economic pressures on writers in an environment dominated by electronic media and the press; spirituality and multi-culturalism in literature; changing venues of cultural transmission.

Modern Poetry in which I emphasize reflection on what distinguishes poetic use of language from prosaic; uses of ambiguity; relationship between language and music; language development and precise usage; modernism and post-modernism; poetry and visual art; poetry and prayer.

Literature and Medicine in which I look at texts that allow us to reflect on the clinical encounter and its constraints; the cultural and social contexts of medicine and medical dialogue; medical ethics through literature; plagues and epidemics in literature and history; poetry and pain.

Literature and Environmental Issues in which we consider how writers reflect attitudes toward nature, the wild, environmental protection and preservation, and what pressures come to bear upon writers taking part in the public conversation about the environment today.

Contemplative Reading in which we study the ancient method of lectio divina as a way of reading Scripture and bring that to bear upon ways to read and reflect prayerfully on texts that address us directly and deeply and help to shape the life of both mind and spirit. We practice different ways of working with visual art and music as well.

I also do frequent short courses in churches, women’s retreats, and workshops for healthcare professionals.

Some General Suggestions for Students:

  • Get the gift the writer is offering.
  • Move on from “what” to “how” and “why.”
  • Take possession of your own learning.
  • Use language as a precision instrument, not a blunt weapon.
  • Dwell in possibility.
  • Play.