Spotlight on Dr. Dwight Lindley, Associate Professor of English
Written By Mark Naida
It is common to find Dr. Dwight Lindley standing out on the quad with his students or his peers, talking until the sun begins to dip behind the Searle Center and he realizes he is late for dinner.
After all, it wasn’t too long ago when Dr. Lindley was a student at Hillsdale himself. Though he knew only a little about the school from a newspaper article and his mother’s Imprimis subscription, he felt drawn to the College and applied with confidence that the school would accept him. Upon his graduation in 2004 with degrees in both history and English, he spent a year working on a farm before beginning graduate school at the University of Dallas.
The work at graduate school drew him deeper into philosophical study and acquainted him with figures like Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Nietzsche. With this new foundation, he began to understand the role that historical context plays in the study of literature and explore the deeper questions which most interested him in Victorian literature.
“In the late modern West there is plurality of cultures with the growth of the economy and the expansion of travel capacities and empires. People were asking, ‘How do we know what is right and wrong if we can’t consult what our people have always done?’” Dr. Lindley explained.
These sorts of questions would become central to the lectures Dr. Lindley now gives to his students. As he believes that the historical reality of the text can truly help form a commensurate understanding of the text, he includes the prevailing intellectual trends from a work’s time period in order to provide a glimpse of the rich human setting in which the work was composed.
Dr. Lindley summarized his philosophy of literature in this way: “The way that I tend to teach and think about literature is a doorway to everywhere. It gives you an imaginative path into the things we care about that we have a hard time living with and thinking about. It is going to take us deeper into life, or else it is not worth doing.”
His classes possess a weight that reflects this. Students confront the text with all they know, attempting to understand the text on its own terms so that they can better understand themselves and their own situation. This devotion of the students to scholarly pursuits impresses Dr. Lindley and fills him with gratitude.
“Hillsdale students give of themselves,” he said. “There is a generosity toward awesome books and texts on the part of Hillsdale students that we cannot take for granted in the academy today.”
An example of this occurred early this spring when Meghan Perks, a senior English major, came into Dr. Lindley’s office hours to explain to him her fear that the study of literature is superfluous compared to the study of philosophy or theology. From across his desk, he explained that Christ spoke in parables because He knew that deep in man is an ability to learn the truth through stories and representations of reality. Perks explained that this interaction encapsulated Dr. Lindley’s approach to literature and the way in which he guides his students to understanding.
This devotion to scholarship, which Dr. Lindley experienced during his own time as a student at Hillsdale, was one of the biggest reasons he wanted to return as a professor. Though he applied for over fifty positions across the States, Dr. Lindley was relieved to come back to the place where his intellectual life truly began. Now, six years later, Dr. Lindley is a newly tenured professor and recipient of the 2016-17 Emily Daugherty Award for Teaching Excellence.
“My main response is just utter gratefulness that I get to live this life,” Lindley said. “It is random and contingent that I even got a chance at all. They were just hiring for my specialty when I came out of graduate school. It feels like a blessing, in part, because it didn’t have to happen.”
Mark Naida is a senior studying French and English. He writes for the Forum Magazine and the Hillsdale Collegian and also participates in the music and theater departments.