Randall VanderMey

Randall VanderMey

Professor of English
Phone: (805) 565-7145
Email: vanderme@westmont.edu
Office Location: Reynolds Hall 105

Office Hours
Spring 2018
M 2:30-4:00 pm
T 2:30-3:30 pm
W 2:30-4:00 pm
TH 10:30-11:30 am
and by appointment

English Romantic and Neoclassic Literature, Literary Theory, Composition Pedagogy, Creative Writing, Journalism, Dante,
Classical Mythology



  • Ph.D.- University of Iowa, 1987; Dissertation: “Desire and Restraint in the Visionary Long Poem: Studies in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Wordsworth’s The Prelude, and T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets”
  • M.F.A. (Fiction)-U of Iowa Writers Workshop, 1978;
  • M.A.-U. of Pennsylvania, 1976;
  • A.B.-Calvin College, 1974

Teaching Experience

  • Westmont College, 1990-
  • Iowa State University, 1987-90
  • Dordt College (Sioux Center, IA), 1980-1987
  • University of Iowa, Teaching Assistant, 1976-79

Fellowships & Grants

  • Faculty Development Grants, Westmont College, 2003, 2001, 1999, 1995, 1993
  • Sabbatical Grant, Westmont College, Fall 2004, 1997-98 academic year
  • Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society Lecture, “Language, Labyrinths, and Love,” Westmont College, 1996
  • Appointed Fellow, South Coast Writing Project, UCSB, 1991
  • Appointed Fellow, University House, U. of Iowa, 1985-1986
  • Appointed Fellow, Dordt Studies Institute, Dordt College, Spring 1984 and 1985 (Project: Study of the role of film studies in liberal arts college curriculum)
  • Danforth National Teaching Fellowship, Danforth Foundation, 1974-76, 1978-80

Prizes, Honors, & Awards

  • 1st Runner-Up, Santa Barbara “First Night” Millennial Poet Competition, December 31, 1999.
  • Third Prize in Poetry Contest judged by Jeanne Murray Walker, Midwest Conference on Christianity and Literature, Taylor University, 1998
  • Second Prize, “The Phenomena of Place” poetry contest, Santa Barbara Review, January 1996
  • First Prizes in Fiction, Evangelical Press Association National Writing Competition, 1980 and 1982; Second Prize in Fiction, 1977
  • Hopwood Award in Fiction, U. of Michigan, Summer 1972

Recent Presentations

  • Keynote presentations at regional professional conferences, Denver, CO, and Austin, TX, February 2007
  • Public Poetry Readings, Santa Barbara, 2006, 2000, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1993, 1992; Taylor University, 1998
  • “Toward an Orectic Critique of Literature,” CCL Western Regional Conference, U of Santa Clara,” May, 1998
  • “Desiring in Faith as a Christian Reader,” Festival of Faith and Writing, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, April, 1998
  • “Desire, the Plastic Word, and Hidden Savoir-faire in Wordsworth’s ‘The Prelude’,” CCL Western Regional Conference, Westmont College, June, 1996.
  • “For Want of a Better Word,” Faculty Lecture Series, Covenant College, Chattanooga, TN, October, 1996.
  • “Integrating Writing, Reading and Thinking in Middle Schools” and “Integrating Writing, Reading, and Thinking in High School Language Arts,” NWCSI-CTABC Convention, Lynden, WA, Oct., 1994.

Recent Professional and College Activities (Selected)

  • Participant, Global Perspectives in the Syllabus Workshop, Westmont College, Oct. 28, Nov. 4 and 25, and Dec. 9, 2014.
  • Participant, with four student journalists, ACP/CMA National Convention, Philadelphia, PA,  October 23-26, 2014.
  • Participant, with six student journalists, ACP/CMA National Convention, New Orleans, October 23-27, 2013.
  • Participant, Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT) Train-the-Trainer Workshop, Washington, D.C., November 18-19, 2013.
  • Participant, CLA Performance Task Academy Workshop, San Francisco, CA, October 5-7, 2012.
  • Chair, Department of English, Westmont College, 2007-2013
  • Chair, Campus Diversity Committee, 2006-
  • Faculty Advisor, Horizon (student newspaper), 2006-
  • Co-leader, Europe Semester, Fall 2003, Fall 2008
  • Judge, Pillsbury creative writing competition, Santa Barbara Foundation, 2004
  • Contributing Editor and Creative Consultant for The Write Source (research and development arm of Houghton Mifflin), 1987-Pres
  • Participant, The Glen Workshop in Poetry, Santa Fe, NM, August, 2000, and Glen Eyrie, CO, 1996
  • Writing Workshop Leader, 1st and 3rd Annual Christian Writers Conferences, Westmont College, 1997 and 1999
  • Reader, Subject A Exam in Writing, UC System, Berkeley, CA, 1999
  • Moderator for Sectionals at CCL Conferences, Santa Clara University, 1998, Westmont College, 1996
  • Chair, Futures Project Sub-Committee on Assessment of Writing and Oral Communication, Westmont College, 1996-97
  • Conference Coordinator, Christianity and Literature Western Regional Conference, Westmont College, 1996.
  • Member, Performance Level Setting Task Force for CLAS (California Learning Assessment System), CA State Dept. of Education, 1994
  • Member, Faculty Research Committee, College Publications Board, Admissions Committee, Westmont College, between 1993-1997
  • Organizer, Interdisciplinary Colloquium, “The Implications of Chaos Theory for Literary Studies,” Westmont College, 1993


  • The College Writer’s Handbook (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
  • The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching, 2nd ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
  • Charm School: Five Women of the Odyssey (Artamo Press, 2006)


  • The College Writer:  A Guide to Thinking, Writing and Research.  5th Edition.  Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2015.  [1st Edition:  2004].
  • COMP: Write, Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2011.
  • COMP: Read, Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2011 .
  • The Contrary Reader: Interdisciplinary Readings for Writing, Thinking, and Discussion.  [Unpublished]
  • The College Writer’s Handbook (Houghton Mifflin, 2006, 2007)
  • Charm School: Five Women of the Odyssey (Artamo Press, 2006, 2007).
  • Diamond Lane. A Novel. 1999. Unpublished
  • Kenosis: A Song Cycle (24 poems) Self-published. 1999.
  • God Talk: Triteness and Truth in Christian Clichés. InterVarsity, 1993.
  • Tsuang, Ming T. and Randall VanderMey. Genes and the Mind: Inheritance of Mental Illness. Oxford UP, 1980.
  • Commissioned biography: Merizon: The Great Journey. 1986. Fiction
  • Stories in Campus Life 1981, 1980, 1979, 1977. Poetry
  • Poems in Christianity and Literature, Mars Hill Review, Potpourri, The Penwood Review, Where Icarus Falls (ed. M.C. McEntyre), The Raintown Review, Santa Barbara Review, The Cresset, Cafe Solo, The Lion Christian Poetry Collection, Santa Barbara News-Press, Pro Rege, The Banner, Reformed Journal, Mad, Sad, and Glad (ed. Stephen Dunning), Brown Penny Review, and elsewhere.

Essays and Reviews (Selected):

  • “Desiring in Faith and the Ethics of Reading” in The Strategic Smorgasbord of Postmodernity, ed. Deborah Bowen (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2007).
  • “The Cordless Tie That Binds,” The Banner, October, 1999.
  • “Jangling the Keys of Life,” in Write for College, (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). Also chapters on Writing Style, “Using the Writing Center,” “Writing the Personal Essay.”
  • “Phrase the Lord: Why Sounding Spiritual Can Be Hazardous to Your Faith,” New Man, June, 1996. Excerpted in Harper’s, October, 1996.
  • “Love a Teenager: It’s Possible.” The Banner, March, 1995.
  • “Beepers, Pagers, and Cellular Phones: Oh My!” The Banner, August, 1994.
  • “Just Kidding?” The Banner, August, 1994.
  • “God Told Me.” Reprinted from God Talk as “The Toothpick Man from San Dimas” in Catholic Digest, August, 1994. Also reprinted in Christianity Today, 1994.
  • Co-Author and Compiler: Write Source 2000 and Writers INC Language Series (workshops, supplements, and teacher units to accompany Write Source 2000 and Writers Inc). Write Source, 1993.
  • Contributing editor for, Writers INC: A Student Handbook. Write Source, 1989. Chapters on writing style, creative and logical thinking, sexism in language, and sections on essay writing, writing process, argumentation, and library research.”Standard English . . . Totally Beige.” The Banner (March, 1988). Repr. as “Why Slang Is Winner of Language Wars.” Des Moines Register (June 1988).
  • “I [Spade] My Cat.” The Banner (October 1988).
  • “Church of the Bent Knee.” The Banner (October 1988).
  • “Armand Merizon.” Art Gallery International (Sept.-Oct. 1986).
  • “Your VCR.” Christianity Today (22 November 1985): 14.
  • “Bad Taste for Christians.” Christian Home & School (April 1984).
  • Review of Robert Drake, The Home Place: A Memory and A Celebration. In Christianity and Literature (Winter 1983).
  • Review of John H. Timmerman, Other Worlds: The Fantasy Genre. In The Banner (3 December 1984).
  • “Guilt, Biology, and Mental Illness.” The Banner (December 1979). Plays
  • Body & Soul. One-Act. Wrote, produced, and acted. Baccalaureate Service, Westmont College, May 6, 1994.
  • Nightcall. One-Act. Produced by Theatre Arts Dept., Westmont College, April 27-30, 1993.

Research Interests
Ever since I read Dante, Milton, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, T. S. Eliot, Pound, Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams and others in grad school and saw how they used poetry to wrestle with human desire, I’ve been hooked on the topic of desire and the way it relates to imaginative vision. That general concern is the engine of my poetry and my recent unpublished novel, Diamond Lane; it has directed me into theory (of narrative, semantics, ethics, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, etc.); it has been my major concern in scholarly writing; and sooner or later I’ll bring it up in just about any class I teach, because I experience it as an inescapable fact of life. Along the way I’ve also studied film, Christian clichés, chaos theory, contemporary poetry, and visionary literature. I’m putting my best energies lately into poetry writing. Kenosis, a cycle of 24 poems I wrote about Christ’s “self-emptying as a model for the soul’s growth, has been set to music by Westmont’s Professor Steve Butler, and the whole piece is scheduled for performance on campus in late September, 2000. I’m also synthesizing conference presentations to present as articles, assembling notes for a book on marriage communication, and helping to steer a college-level upgrade of the Houghton Mifflin writing text, Write for College.


At Westmont I teach:

Composition. In this intro-level course, I stress economy and accuracy of language, imagination, control of form, mastery of strategies to reach an audience, strength of argument, and quality of library and internet research. After writing many shorter essays, students produce a lengthier research paper based on sources. I’ve usually had students elect an editor and publish their own class magazine. Click here to see the website my most recent Composition class put together (or Spring 2004).

Introduction to Literature. My aim here is to bring students to the point where they are confident, critically astute, articulate, and generous readers of poetry, novels, short stories, and plays. We write 6-8 papers, discuss continually in small groups and whole class, take some field trips to play performances, learn to recite poetry, and do a few other wacky things that you have to be there to understand. We’ve recently focused on works by Potok, Flannery O’Connor, C.S. Lewis, Stoppard, Shakespeare, Dante, Adrienne Rich, Eavan Boland, and quite a few others.

Introduction to Literature: Honors. This course resembles the Introduction to Literature I just described, except that it’s done in a seminar format with no more than 15 handpicked honors students. We talk more deeply, write more deeply, read more extensively, and take more road trips.

Literary Analysis. This is a challenging lower-level writing course meant to prepare students for higher-level thinking and writing about literature. I weave questions of theory throughout the course, focus heavily on class discussion and revision of essays, have students present a fair amount of material orally, and require a final portfolio of polished writings. The last time around, we read Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry, an anthology of short stories, Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk. Next time, no telling. I want students who take the course to come out able to think, talk, and write convincingly about the artfulness and the significance of the literature they read.

Modern Grammar and Advanced Composition. This class brings together English majors with Communication Studies majors with Liberal Studies majors (preparing for teaching) and the occasional pre-med or pre-law student. I structure the course around four books. One, called A World of Ideas, takes us into the history of ideas while another, Rereading America, takes us into contemporary American issues. Together, those books prompt in-class discussion and writing which issue in eight essays. Meanwhile, we study from one book on voice and another on writing style. Everything comes together in the final, polished portfolio of four polished works.

Creative Writing. This upper-level course focuses first on perception, then on language, then on form, and finally on vision. Students turn in writings by regular, generic deadlines. At any time, they may choose to work in poetry, fiction, or dramatic script. Meanwhile, the class looks closely at principles and models of language, form, voice, characterization, structure, closure, etc. After honest criticism by one another and by me, we revise extensively; we have private conferences; and each student produces a final portfolio of his or her best writings. The writings that result sometimes knock me out.

Neoclassic Literature, 1660-1798. This course delves into the tumultuous period of post-Civil War England, the Restoration, the ages of Dryden and Pope and Johnson, with forays into the novels of the period, the weekly periodicals, the satire, the scandals, the social tensions, the changing face of society, the evolving role of women, the transformation of the English language, the religious battles, the legal reform, and the philosophies and personal pieties of various authors.

English Romantic Literature, 1793-1832. This look deeply into the revolutionary period of British Romanticism covers works by William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and Lord Byron, as well as works by less-often emphasized writers such as Hazlitt, Lamb, DeQuincey, and some of the previously ignored women writers of the period. I lead students through class analyses of the texts, but also try to set the works in their broad cultural contexts. The readings are organized under major themes such as revolution, primitivism, nature, the supernatural, apocalypse, and consciousness. In the past I’ve commonly concluded with a half-hour oral exam.

Dante: The Epic Journey to God (Masterpieces in World Literature). I love taking this “journey” with students, because it introduces them to the medieval mind, which most of us know little about, and it acquaints them deeply with one of the world’s greatest works of literature, Dante’s Divine Comedy. Reading in English translation, we first tackle Virgil’s Aeneid and some other of his writing, then Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy, then all three books of the Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Along the way, we may read from Augustine, troubadour poets, St. Thomas Aquinas, and other writings by Dante. In some ways, this course pulls together the whole curriculum. It’s full of history, politics, religion, psychology, philosophy, astronomy, natural science, and, of course, consummately beautiful poetry.

Modern British and Irish Poetry. I taught this course on the 1998 England Semester but may adapt it to campus classrooms in the future. We read whole books of poetry by such poets as Hopkins, Hardy, Eliot, Thomas, Larkin, Hughes, Fanthorpe, Heaney, and Boland. We write reflective journal essays on individual poems and present the papers in small groups. We synthesize papers and discussions and write a longer paper on several poets. Students in this course may choose a creative option to meet the writing requirement.

Literary Theory Seminar. This course is aimed mostly at graduate school-bound English majors, though it also appeals to some philosophy students and others interested in the major movements in literary theory this century. One book asks Why We Read, What We Read, and How We Read. Another examines “critical terms for literary study.” Another, by Terry Eagleton, gives a powerful introduction to formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, and various modes of post-modern theory. The goal is to learn to comprehend the often difficult writings of literary theorists with historical awareness and for each student to grapple with theoretical questions raised by Christian approaches to literature. Students are asked to choose a novel to study for the whole semester to give their theorizing a point of contact in practical criticism.

Writers’ Corner Practicum. This is a once-a-week meeting for those students who have been nominated and selected to be writing tutors for other students in the college’s writing center, known as “Writers’ Corner.” We develop as a community of people interested in writing, editing, and helping others grow as writers. In class, we role-play, we study grammar, we discuss all the challenges of meeting others, assessing their writing, structuring a time of discussion, dealing with strengths and weaknesses, thinking about approaches, perspectives, form, research, and much more.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
- Colossians 3:16

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant . . .”
- Philippians 2:5-7