Paul Delaney

Paul Delaney

Professor of English
Phone: (805) 565-6179
Office Location: Reynolds Hall 205

Office Hours
MWF 3:15 - 5:00 PM

Tom Stoppard and Contemporary Drama, 20th-Century Irish Literature, Shakespeare in Performance, Faulkner

Professor Paul Delaney was introduced to live theatre as a high school sophomore when an English teacher took him and others to a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Delaney has tried to return the favor by taking students to plays ever since he arrived at Westmont in 1972. Students in Delaney’s classes can count on being whisked off to live theatre productions, frequently of Shakespeare plays. Besides leading four England Semesters, he has in recent years been taking smaller groups of students to London, Stratford, and Dublin on Mayterm theatre jaunts.

Most of Delaney’s publications are in the area of 20th Century British and Irish drama. His critical volume Tom Stoppard: The Moral Vision of the Major Plays (Macmillan, St. Martin’s, 1990) traces the development of the moral affirmations that undergird Stoppard’s vaulting wit. The volume Tom Stoppard in Conversation (Michigan, 1994), which Delaney compiled and edited, has become one of the most frequently cited resources on Britain’s most prominent living playwright. As a Stoppard scholar, Delaney was invited to contribute essays to The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard (2001) and to A Companion to Modern British and Irish Drama (Blackwell, 2006). Delaney has also compiled and edited Brian Friel in Conversation (Michigan, 2000), a volume of interviews with the leading Irish playwright of the past half century. He has published essays on the poetry of U.A. Fanthorpe, the drama of Tom Stoppard, and the fiction of Mark Twain. In addition to invited lectures on Stoppard, Delaney has made conference presentations on plays by Marie Jones and Christina Reid, two contemporary playwrights from Northern Ireland.

Delaney has been active in the Conference on Christianity and Literature both regionally and nationally, serving two terms on the national Board of Directors and two terms as national vice president.



  • Ph.D., English, Emory University, 1972.
  • M.A., English, Emory University, 1969.
  • B.A., Asbury College, 1968.


  • Brian Friel in Conversation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.
  • Tom Stoppard in Conversation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994.
  • Tom Stoppard: The Moral Vision of the Major Plays. London: Macmillan Press; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.


  • Review of Synge and the Making of Modern Irish Drama, by Anthony Roche. Forthcoming in Modern Drama.
  • Review of Mending a Tattered Faith:  Devotions with Dickinson, by Susan VanZanten, Ruminate, issue 22 (Winter 2011–12), pp. 40-42.
  • “Portrait of a Playwright:  Stoppard Celebrates a Humanness That Is Not Just Biology, and Not Just Reason.”   Programme Note for The Old Vic revival of The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard, dir. Anna Mackmin, The Old Vic, London, 10 April 2010, pp. [10–11].
  • “`They Both Add up to Me’: The Logic of Tom Stoppard’s Dialogic Comedy.” In A Companion to Modern British and Irish Drama: 1880-2005 (Blackwell Companions to Literature & Culture), ed. Mary Luckhurst. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 279–288.
  • “Exit Tomás Straüssler, Enter Sir Tom Stoppard.” In The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 25-37.
  • “The Hospital Poetry of U. A. Fanthorpe.” In Teaching Literature and Medicine (Modern Language Association of America Options for Teaching series), New York: Modern Language Association, 2000, pp. 267-­76.
  • “Hearing the Other: Voices in U. A. Fanthorpe’s Poetry.” Christianity and Literature, 46.3­4 (Spring-­Summer 1997), pp. 319-­40.
  • Other publications in Critical Quarterly, PMLA, Modern Language Quarterly, Christianity and Literature, Western American Literature, Christian Scholar’s Review, Journal of Narrative Technique, Mark Twain Journal, Hemingway/Fitzgerald Annual.

Professional Service

  • Vice President, Conference on Christianity and Literature (CCL), 2000-2004.
  • Member, National Board of Directors, CCL, 1993-1996.
  • Organizer and chair of the CCL session on Denise Levertov, Modern Language Association convention, San Diego, 1994.
  • Regional Adviser to the CCL Board of Directors, 1981-85.

Faculty Research Award, Westmont College, 1992.


At Westmont I teach:

Studies in Literature

The great thing about fiction and poetry is that you can return to them on the page and relive the pleasures of previous encounters. The great thing about drama is that in live performance it always emerges in some new configuration; so even if you know a play there’s always some new delight. Although I love fiction, drama and poetry equally, I do try to include a couple of Shakespeare plays each semester along with two or three plays that we’ll be able to see in live performance—either in Santa Barbara or elsewhere in southern California. So we usually spend half of the course on drama with the other half divided between fiction and poetry. As in all the courses I teach, we use a discussion format. I want students to be active participants in analyzing and discussing texts. In reading texts, analyzing texts, and writing about texts, we practice skills that will apply in other disciplines and in future jobs. And as we read great stories, plays and poems, we also have the opportunity to expand our grasp of the varieties of experience in the world that God has created.

First-Year Honors Seminar in Literature

We go to plays together; we read poetry; we read fiction—then we get together one night a week to talk about what we’ve read. The seminar is discussion based. But since any discussion reflects the abilities of the participants; discussions in English 6H tend to be better than most. As the instructor I get to serve as referee, instigator and chauffeur as you strike sparks off of one another. I try to ask challenging questions and encourage you to dig a bit deeper than you may have done before. But in some ways the greatest gift that the honors seminar provides is the opportunity for you to be in a class with like-minded students as you sharpen yourselves to use your God-given abilities.


My emphasis is on Shakespeare in performance. That means we’ll be going to live theatre—from Santa Maria to Orange County with perhaps an overnight to the Old Globe in San Diego. But it also means that in class we’ll take parts and see what happens when we act out individual scenes. Some professors approach Shakespeare from the outside in with information about a play’s historical background or sources or an overview of its thematic concerns. I tend to start from the inside out by asking how one line works with the preceding line, how an actor might deliver a line, or even what’s going on in a character’s mind as she overhears what others are saying. I’ll accept one student’s description of my approach as “directorial”—though I have no ambition to stage plays outside the classroom. But I do try to find ways for us to enter in to the text and see how it is dealing with concerns that we ourselves find of pressing significance.

Major American Writers to 1865

In high school I was bored by snippets from authors who, as it turns out, had written wonderful full-length works that I didn’t discover until I got to college (or beyond). Loved Paradise Lost (but not “L’Allegro” or “Il Penseroso”); loved Absalom, Absalom! (but not “A Rose for Emily”). I’d rather give expansive works the time to expand us. In Eng 130 we get to explore The Scarlet Letter, Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman—but we also have a whale of a voyage awaiting us: Moby-Dick. We’ll read every word to discover what we know—and what eludes us.

Major American Writers 1865-1914

The three leading American realists—Mark Twain, Henry James, and William Dean Howells—are extraordinarily different from each other. All of them published their novels in installments in popular magazines. What would it have been like to pick up a magazine and encounter three such wildly divergent voices? Sometimes I teach the novels in installments so we get to have a sense of how they strike sparks off each other. We also get to spend time in quiet seclusion with the poet Emily Dickinson.

Major American Writers 1914-1945

We explore major book-length works by Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald and spend time with two giants of 20th Century poetry: T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost; and two of the greatest of American playwrights: Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams. The course is discussion based. I ask questions; students ask questions; together we talk about them.


Faulkner’s fiction is a vast interlocking mystery. It’s impossible to always make sense of everything the first time you read it—then later you’ll find that you already know something without being able to say for sure just when you learned it. I ask students not to read anything about Faulkner so we’re all reading the same material together at the same time and just interacting with the text. Each of us wanders into the big woods without aid of compass or watch or gun—then we reassemble around the camp fire in Reynolds to share what we have encountered.

During London Theatre Mayterm or on England Semester I teach:

British and Irish Theatre

Standing amid the groundlings at Shakespeare’s Globe gives us a taste of the kind of interaction between actors and audience that probably characterized Elizabethan performance. But we also get to see some of the best contemporary productions of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and to engage with the varied repertoire of the National Theatre. We sample West End productions, delight in the international theatrical fare at the Barbican, and explore some of the best work of London’s fringe theatres. Throughout, we read the texts, engage with the productions, write reviews, and discuss what we’ve witnessed as we help one another to expand the range of what we are able to appreciate and value.

Twentieth-Century Irish Literature

The gritty early poetry of Seamus Heaney and the profoundly moving plays of Brian Friel first attracted me to Irish literature after the generation of Joyce, Yeats and Synge. But it has been fascinating to see the way the Irish literary tradition has been reexamined and redefined by more recent women writers. Poets like Eavan Boland, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin along with playwrights like Marina Carr, Christina Reid and Marie Jones not only bring distinctive voices to Irish literature—they also raise issues of far-reaching consequences for all of us.