Robert Baker

Robert Baker


Home Department: English
Office: LA 219
Office Hours:

T 1:00 - 2:30       

W 12:00 - 3:00

R 1:00 - 2:30



Personal Website


Courses Taught in Recent Years:

   Contemporary Poetry

   Modernist Poetry


   Virginia Woolf

   James Baldwin

   Pastoral, Ecological Philosophy, and Environmental History

Personal Summary

My background is in comparative literature, and my primary fields of interest are modern poetry from the romantic period through the present, twentieth-century and contemporary fiction, and literature and philosophy. My first book, The Extravagant: Crossings of Modern Poetry and Modern Philosophy, describes a history of attempts in modern poetry and philosophy to re-articulate, in secular terms, experiences of awakened life and widened vision once articulated in religious languages. It includes detailed discussions of Kant, Wordsworth, Lyotard, Rimbaud, Nietzsche, Bataille, Kierkegaard, Dickinson, Mallarmé, and Derrida. The narrative of the book shapes a sympathetic critique of post-structuralist theory as a late, challenging, but finally desperate version of romanticism. My second book, In Dark Again in Wonder: The Poetry of René Char and George Oppen, is a study of two late modernist poets, one French and the other American, both of whom were fully engaged in the political upheavals of the 1930s and 1940s, both of whom turned time and again to the old metaphysical questions that are still with us. In the conclusion to the book I address a tension at work in both of these poets—a tension between an existential understanding of the self and an historical understanding of the self—and trace it back to different ways in which modern culture has recast Axial Age horizons of meaning. I have also published a translation of a volume of Char's poetry, The Word as Archipelago. In the book I'm currently working on, The Broken and the Mended, I try to illuminate connections between older spiritual bearings and questions at stake in contemporary environmentlist thought. 


Cornell University

   Ph.D., Comparative Literature, 1997

   M.A., Comparative Literature, 1993

University of Wisconsin, Madison

   B.A., English, 1988

Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain (Fall 1986)

Field of Study

Poetry and poetics

Modern poetry of Europe and the Americas


Twentieth-century and contemporary fiction

Literature and philosophy

Theories of modernity


Selected Publications


The Word as Archipelago, a translation of René Char's La Parole en archipel (Omnidawn, 2012)

In Dark Again in Wonder: The Poetry of René Char and George Oppen (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012)

The Extravagant: Crossings of Modern Poetry and Modern Philosophy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005)

Recent Essays

"Spiritual Idealism and Tragic Wisdom: The Scope of King Lear," in Fictional Worlds and Philosophical Reflection, ed. Garry Hagberg (Palgrave, forthcoming)

"Is There a Place for Spirit in Jane Bennett's Vital Materialism?," Cultural Critique 111 (Spring 2021)

"What Do the Inconsolable See? From Virgil's Orpheus to Marilynne Robinson's Ruth," Religion and the Arts 24.1-2 (April 2020)

"What Do We Mean When We Talk about Transcendence? Plato and Virginia Woolf," Philosophy and Literature 43.2 (October 2019)

"'A Kinship between Air and Awareness': Mei-mei Berssenbrugge's Hello, the Roses," ISLE 26.1 (Winter 2019)

"Forrest Gander's Phenomenology of Encounter," Paideuma 45 (2018)

"The Art of Masks in Anne Carson and Samuel Beckett," Chicago Review, website (October 2018)

"Versions of Ascesis in Louise Glück's Poetry," The Cambridge Quarterly 47.2 (June 2018)

"'All voices should be read as the river's mutterings': The Poetry of Alice Oswald," The Cambridge Quarterly 46.2 (June 2017)

"The Poetics of Encounter: Paul Celan's 'Psalm' and George Oppen's 'Psalm,'" Religion and Literature 48.1 (Spring 2016)

"The Sprawling Genius of Thylias Moss," Religion and Literature 47.3 (Autumn 2015)

"C. D. Wright's Deepstep Come Shining: A Wheeling Collage," Genre 45:1 (Spring 2012)

Home Department

Department of English 

Area of Expertise





Affiliate of Global Humanities and Religion