Essays: Reflections and Ruminations

Essays: Reflections and Ruminations

By Robert DiYanni, New York University




The essays gathered here reflect my central pre-occupations—reading and writing, teaching and learning, the arts and humanities, especially music. They were written over a period of three decades, some of them published in part, most of them published here for the first time.

I wrote each of them out of an attempt to better understand how I do what I do. I wrote them to consider what value each of my preoccupations holds for me—and what value they might hold for others, including readers like you.

I have no axe to grind in any of these essays.

I have no single thread of argument to make between and among them.

Nor do I have a motive beyond sharing my experience and reflecting on that experience to consider its wider, broader implications.

I enjoyed writing my way through each essay, and I hope you take pleasure in reading them and finding some value in them for your personal and professional life.






One                 Three Quick Takes

Two                 How to Gain More from Your Reading

Three               How to Read Great Books

Four                Metaphor & Meaning

Five                 Music and the Humanities

Six                   Musical Excursions: 20 Places

Seven              Music Teaching and Learning: 20 Occasions

Eight               Remembering Robert Scholes, Scholar/Teacher

Nine                The Tears of Things

Ten                  Vietnam Triptych

Eleven             An Approach to Teaching

Twelve            Why the Humanities?



One                 Three Quick Takes


Take One: Aesthetics & the Essay

To what extent does the essay have an aesthetics? And: How might we approach an essay aesthetically? Let’s briefly consider a few aesthetic aspects: shape, style and language; philosophy, beauty, and thought.

The shape an essay takes, the ways its language and thought evolve a fitting form, provide an aesthetic experience that constitutes a significant part of that essay’s meaning. What, for example, does the unfolding form of Dillard’s “Living Like Weasels” or “Transfiguration” reveal? What does each essay’s shape—the development of its thought whose contours can be charted, graphed, diagrammed—contribute to our experience of reading it?

Style provides a more familiar entrée to an essay’s aesthetics. Dillard’s style suggests the richness of her imagination via verbal vividness, imagistic profusion, tonal intensity. How do her essays’ images convey cognitive and affective meanings?  Style offers an aesthetic window onto an essayist’s mind and a glimpse into her heart and soul.  Style stirs our feelings while spurring our thinking.

Language is fundamental to the aesthetic of the essay. The essayist’s linguistic choices determine everything else. Diction and syntax, imagery and figurative language, selection of detail, tone, moment-to-moment movement, and large-scale structural elements constitute an essay’s emerging form and embody its multiple meanings. The direct and uncompromising language of Orwell’s essays can be as eventful as the sacramental language of E.B. White’s essayistic celebrations, or as wondrous as the highly charged language of Dillard’s epiphanies, the polyphonic voicings of Loren Eiseley’s mysteries, James Baldwin’s eloquence, and Michel de Montaigne’s meandering wonderings.

From the standpoint of philosophy, aesthetics emphasizes the essay as the revelation of a writer’s mind, directed less to a singular idea than toward a complex network of attitudes, perceptions, concepts, and values. Aesthetic philosophies typically coalesce around the notions of art as mimesis, expression, and significant form. These aesthetic concepts highlight the ways essays exist as works of art, as representations of mind and world, and as expressions of feeling through form.

Aesthetics, of course, is always associated with the beautiful and its varied attributes: harmony, proportion, symmetry; eloquence, elegance, grace. Beauty inheres in an essay’s language, in its form, in its display of mind in motion.

These aspects under which we consider the aesthetics of the essay collapse upon one another. Language morphs into style and structure; images embody ideas; expression mimics representation; form molds feeling and shapes thought in an aesthetics of delight.

Let’s sample a bit of George Orwell’s “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad” to essay some of these aesthetic speculations. Here’s how the essay begins:

Before the swallow, before the daffodil, and not much later than the

snowdrop, the common toad salutes the coming of spring after his own fashion, which is to emerge from a hole in the ground, where he has lain buried since the previous autumn, and crawl as rapidly as possible towards the nearest suitable path of water.  Something—some kind of shudder in the earth, or perhaps merely a rise of a few degrees in the temperature—has told him that it is time to wake up: though a few toads appear to sleep the clock round and miss out a year from time to time—at any rate, I have more than once dug them up, alive and apparently well, in the middle of the summer.

What can we say about this opening paragraph? We note, surely, its matter-of-factness, its unadorned language, its clarity, and not least its surprise in celebrating one of nature’s ugliest creatures. We note its imagistic surprises (that “shudder in the earth”) and informational ones (toads “miss[ing] out a year”), as Orwell reveals his feelings about spring through his affection for the toad, whose very commonness somehow, paradoxically, ennobles it.

Surprises come strikingly in subsequent sentences:

At this period, after his long fast, the toad has a very spiritual look, like a strict Anglo-Catholic toward the end of Lent.  His movements are languid but purposeful, his body is shrunken, and by contrast his eyes look abnormally large.  This allows one to notice, what one might not at another time, that a toad has about the most beautiful eye of any living creature.  It is like gold, or more exactly it is like the golden-colored semi-precious stone which one sometimes sees in signet rings, and which I think is called a chrysoberyl.

First, humor, then seriousness. Leave it to Orwell to find the one beautiful aspect of the much-maligned toad—that golden precious-stone eye. In his customary fashion, Orwell focuses our seeing and enlarges our thinking, while suggesting that perhaps the common toad isn’t so ugly after all, though it has, as he later notes, “never had much of a boost from the poets.”

Orwell’s celebration of the toad as an unconventional harbinger of spring quickly elides into a political question: “Is it wicked to take a pleasure in spring, and other seasonal changes” while “we are all groaning, under the shackles of the capitalist system?” His answer is an unequivocal “no”—that an enjoyment of the natural world, instead, enhances our lives in ways that transcend matters practical and political. A note of optimism creeps into the essay when Orwell suggests that through a love for nature—“trees, fishes, butterflies, and…—toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable.” He takes added pleasure in the “satisfying reflection” that nobody can inhibit our pleasure in “watching the toads mating, or a pair of hares having a boxing match in the young corn.”

The aesthetic of “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad” invites consideration of both the “what” and the “how” of the essay, this essay in particular, and the essay more generally, as a genre. This splendid essay reveals Orwell’s pleasure in the beauties of nature, while inciting our pleasure in seeing him celebrate that appreciation.  The form of his essay conveys its myriad feelings and shifting thoughts lucidly and luminously—like the luminous eye of the common toad and the uncommonly lucid mind of George Orwell.

Take Two: Comparing Poems

Comparison is one of the best ways of teaching anything; it is especially useful for teaching poems. In his ABC of Reading, a book about poetry, American modernist poet and critic Ezra Pound recommends that we study poems in the manner of biologists comparing specimens. Here how Pound puts it: “The proper METHOD for studying poetry and good letters is the method of contemporary biologists, that is careful first-hand examination of the matter, and continual COMPARISON of one ‘slide’ or specimen with another.”

We will follow Pound’s suggestion by putting up for your inspection some specimens of  poetry. Here is the first of  two poems in which a speaker considers his relationship to his father. Our approach will simply be to walk through the poem, stanza by stanza, noting details of interest that provoke our thinking.


Photograph of My Father in His Twenty-second Year

Raymond Carver

October.  Here in this dank, unfamiliar kitchen
I study my father’s embarrassed young man’s face.
Sheepish grin, he holds in one hand a string
of spiny yellow perch, in the other
a bottle of Carlsbad beer.

In jeans and denim shirt, he leans
Against the front fender of a 1934 Ford.
He would like to pose bluff and hearty for his posterity,
wear his old hat cocked over his ear.
All his life my father wanted to be bold.

But the eyes give him away, and the hands
that limply offer the string of dead perch
and the bottle of beer. Father, I love you,
yet how can I say thank you, I who can’t hold my liquor either,
and don’t even know the places to fish?


Raymond Carver describes a photograph of the speaker’s father, who is holding a bottle of beer in one hand and a string of fish in the other. We may never have seen a photo of our own father holding either of these, but we have very likely seen something not far different. In reading Carver’s poem, we might be stimulated to consider our own relationship with our father (or other family members), though the focus of our consideration may differ significantly from that of Carver’s speaker. That’s one of the inescapable effects literary works have upon readers, that prompting of personal reflection.

What’s striking about the photograph is its mixture of factual detail and interpretive explanation. The father’s face, the speaker suggests, is “embarrassed” and his grin “sheepish.” From the start, the poem is as much about the speaker’s connection (or disconnection) with the father as it is about the father himself. We might wonder why the father is “embarrassed” and why his grin is “sheepish” (the speaker’s interpretation)  and what those two words together might reveal about the father. The word the poet uses for the speaker’s viewing of the photograph—“study”—suggests that the speaker is looking for something in this picture of his father—something important to the speaker.

The second stanza continues in the descriptive mode, but shifts in line three to something more interpretive, even judgmental. Notice the generalizing sentence that concludes the second stanza: “All his life my father wanted to be bold.” To what extent does this sentence imply that though being bold is what the father may have wanted for himself, it was unlikely that he achieved it?

The first word of stanza three, “But,” signals an important shift and confirms our suspicion that the speaker’s father wasn’t at all bold. The first sentence repeats the details of beer and perch, while adding a reference to the father’s eyes—which the speaker is reading, studying, interpreting. The second sentence contains an important and powerful shift of tone. Here, at the end of the poem, the speaker addresses his father directly, as if he were present.

There the speaker (and we suspect, perhaps, the poet as well) asserts his love for his father even while intimating that he is disappointed in what his father has and has not passed on to him. This final sentence is the only question in the poem; it leaves open to our interpretation the speaker’s attitude toward his father.

In considering the poem’s values, we might wonder whether Carver’s speaker is overly concerned with his image as a “man” who can “hold his liquor.” We might wonder whether the speaker blames his father for passing on to him an inability to drink liquor without showing its effects. We might also consider whether the speaker is too hard on himself for not measuring up to his father’s fishing skills. Does the speaker blame the father for not teaching him “the places to fish?” To what extent are those “places to fish” the speaker, presumably, does not know how to find, represent other things the father failed to teach him? To what extent is the image of manhood the poem describes celebrated and/or questioned by the poem?

Like Raymond Carver’s poem, Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sunday” creates a portrait of a father as seen through the eyes of his son. Like Carver’s poem, too, Hayden’s concludes with a question, a repeated question, in fact, that, like the question of Carver’s speaker, carries an emotional charge the poet leaves for us to interpret.


Robert Hayden

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays, too, my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blue-black cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house.

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?


The poem’s first words indicate that the housewarming chores the father performs were a daily ritual, not an occasional or even a weekday occurrence. We notice how Hayden combines images of cold and warmth, the father’s blazing fire dissipating the cold and diffusing warmth throughout the house. Structurally, we hear the poem shift focus as it moves from the first stanza to the second. Stanza one describes the father’s work and stanza two the boy awakening to a warm house, with stanza three retaining its focus on the son and describing a different kind of awakening—the speaker’s realization, belatedly, of his father’s acts of love for his family. It is in this final stanza that we feel most strongly the contrast between the speaker’s past and present, something invoked in Carver’s poem as well. For Hayden’s speaker, the contrast is between then and the now of the poem’s present, between the love that the speaker neither noticed nor acknowledged in the past, and the love he only later comes to recognize and understand.

But Hayden’s poem introduces a complication with its reference to “the chronic angers” of the house. Perhaps the speaker feared his father’s anger, which on occasion may have been directed at him. The plural form, “angers” rather than the singular “anger” may suggest that there was discord between the father and other family members as well. Whatever the nature of the fear, the speaker intimates that his fear was the source of his wariness of and indifference toward his father.

With the repetition of the words “What did I know, what did I know,” we sense the intensity and depth of the speaker’s feeling. And what he did not then understand and comes to grasp only much later is his father’s generous acts of familial love, which are described as “love’s austere and lonely offices.” “Austere” suggests self-discipline and difficulty; the father’s actions were spartan and spare. “Lonely” indicates that no one helped him; he performed his selfless sacrifice for his family alone. And it implies, as well, an emotional isolation from the speaker and perhaps from other members of the family.

And finally, the word “offices,” which carries a sense of duty with which the father fulfilled his house-heating obligations, with the additional connotation of the daily prayers recited by clerics, the first of them in the dark early morning hours. “Offices” thus conveys the speaker’s understanding of the father’s sacrifice of his own sleep for the sake of his family. The abstract language of the concluding lines may also indicate the speaker’s inability to express directly his affection for his father, an affection complicated by fear, yet possibly an inadequacy shared by the father as well.

A few words about the structure of each poem. Carver’s poem is constructed of three 5-line stanzas, fifteen lines in all. Hayden’s poem comprises four stanzas totaling 14 lines; his stanzas shrink one line at a time as the poem progresses, making stanzas of 5, 4, 3, and finally 2 lines—a concluding couplet, as in a Shakespearean sonnet. The ghost of the sonnet’s iambic pentameter hovers in both Carver’s and Hayden’s poems. Half the lines of each are in iambic pentameter; the other half variable with longer and shorter iambic lines.

Both poems, moreover, present a volta, or turn, about two-thirds of the way through, in the manner of a Petrarchan sonnet. Of course, neither Carver’s poem nor Hayden’s conforms strictly to  Shakespearean or Petrarchan sonnet conventions of rhyme and structure—not Shakespeare’s three quatrains plus couplet and not Petrarch’s octave and sestet. Neither poem is a sonnet, and yet, the deep structure of these two modern poems about fathers owe something to the sonnet’s brevity, focus, and concluding illumination.

Take Three: Building Houses, Building Books

My father built houses; I build books. He constructed many more houses than I have made books—hundreds to my forty plus. As he worked on a new house, he always had a radio playing. Later, when I wrote my first books, I had music playing in the background.  I still write on occasion with SiriusXM playing on my computer.

Besides learning to enjoy and value music from my father, I like to think I also learned from him a few things about designing something and then building it. My father planned the designs for the houses he built, developing a detailed blueprint, with every room and space drawn to precise specifications. I watched him make his blueprint sketches and revise them repeatedly, as he entertained new ideas, and working within the constraints of materials and budget. I learned a few things about process, including the importance of flexibility in making changes and adjustments to both the overall design and to small details, as well as to understanding and working within limitations and constraints.

I was lucky to enjoy the kind of education my father never did, earning a Ph.D. in English from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 1976. My dad, on the other hand, took just his high school diploma into adulthood. Only much later did he attend college on the GI Bill, earning a community college degree the same year I was awarded my Ph.D. Our family celebrated these tandem degrees, as excited about his late-in-life associate degree as they were for my doctorate. Although my father labored manually all his life, he appreciated learning and valued it, insisting that his children study hard and do well in school. That he himself could enjoy the pleasures of a modest college experience, however belatedly, was a satisfaction to us all.

My father began a construction business when I was a child. He teamed up with his brother Henry and my uncle, Andy Kasper. They formed the K&D Construction Company and went on to build hundreds of houses, most of them Cape Cod style single-family dwellings.

Some years later, when I was a teenager, my father took me on a house-building project so I could learn what went into constructing a house, foundation to roof. I learned something about each phase of construction, beginning with the planning and revising of the blueprint, and then starting with the actual building, with digging out the cellar, including the rectangular perimeter, which once cement had been poured and cinder blocks stacked on top, would provide the home’s foundation.

After the concrete foundation dried and hardened, it was ready to be built upon, first with layers of cinder blocks, cemented together and stacked one row upon another, forming the cellar or basement, later with wood footers atop the foundation’s perimeter, to which were nailed two-by-four studs sixteen inches apart, framing out the walls. Two-by-eight headers framed the gaps for doors and windows, with variously sized woods anchoring everything in the footers that rested on the concrete foundation.

Pillars were erected upon which were set giant girders, which ran across the foundation and served to support the floors of the house that would later be built above. I remember my father building these girders, nailing two-by-twelves together and setting them atop the pillars already in place on the cellar floor. How he hoisted those giant girders himself amazes me even now in memory. I could only myself provide the most minimal assistance through all this heavy work.

During the building, my father explained everything, providing the rationale for each step of construction, offering his reasoning for the decisions he made, where he had latitude and where he didn’t, detailing the building code requirements for depths and widths of the foundation, thicknesses of materials, including the framing studs, as well as distances between studs that lined up straight to form the interior and exterior walls, onto which would be nailed, respectively, sheet rock or plywood. The sheet rock would be taped and spackled, and later painted. The exterior plywood served as the base for wood shingles nailed in overlapping rows, straight edged and level to the eye.

The care and precision taken with framing and shingling are analogous to the writer’s care in constructing a paragraph, crafting e a sentence, shaping a phrase, crafting a sentence, developing a paragraph, constructing larger units of discourse—essay, chapter, book.

A roof was framed as well, its two-by fours, two-by-sixes, and two-by-eights latticed and angled upward, anchored to the framing wood below. Joists had to be constructed to support the roof rafters. Once the rooms had been blocked out, their walls raised, sheet rock nailed and painted (two to three coats), plywood or other roofing material would be nailed as a base for overlapping roof shingles that would be nailed down, after having been sealed with tar to protect against water entering the house.  Everything had a function and a name. And everything conformed to strict building code requirements, to be evaluated by the local Building Inspector, a role my father himself assumed later in life in the town in which I grew up, Dover, New Jersey.

I learned a good deal about making, about building, about planning and making adjustments in the process. I also learned about persevering through difficulties, about meeting challenges, about not cutting corners, about following through patiently and with persistence, completing each phase of the work steadily and carefully. I learned about craft, the craft of building houses and the craft of building books. Houses suitable for living, books suitable for teaching and learning.

Later, in studying the composing practices of Beethoven and the Beatles, I noticed similar concerns and obsessions, with a driving impulse to get things right, revising, correcting, adjusting, over and over again, until with enough takes on the themes under development (Beethoven) or the song’s lyrics and music being modified (the Beatles), composer and performers sense that the piece is ready.

I didn’t realize the value of those lessons in construction until many years later, when I began writing my doctoral dissertation, and a few years after that as I edited and wrote my first books. I went about making those books the way my father built houses—methodically, one section at a time, piece-meal, planning the whole but working the smaller parts individually, staying focused, remaining on task, revising along the way, trying always to get the words right, to make a book that was worth reading like a house worth inhabiting. I was composing my books as well as constructing them, the way a composer organizes a musical composition, working both within and against compositional constraints and practices, trying to provide something familiar that readers would recognize while offering something of difference as well to excite their imagination.

I built college texts for teaching writing and literature, books for first-year college English courses. These initial attempts defined what would become my life-long teaching and writing themes and practices—connecting reading, writing, and thinking; reading and teaching essays; reading and teaching imaginative literature; teaching and learning across and among humanities disciplines: literature, music, history, art. In fact, my very first two journal article publications were about the connections between writing and music, with a focus on “composing,” and then between literature and music, through connections between the music of Charles Ives and the American transcendentalist writers, especially Emerson and Thoreau.

Teaching at Queens College, CUNY, in the 1970s, I teamed up with a colleague, John Clifford, to produce our first book, Modern American Prose: A Reader for Writers, published by Random House in 1983. Constructing this book was a pleasure.  Discussing ideas with John about which modern American essayists and essays to include in it and what kind of pedagogy to develop for it were among our pleasurable tasks. We worked separately, each of us writing author biographies and essay headnotes along with questions for reading and writing assignments for half of the book’s writers. And we also worked together, sharing our work, critiquing each other’s writing and assignments, dovetailing and unifying our execution to match our conception, yet retaining our individual styles and voices.

This would be the first of many jointly written and edited college texts I would produce, mostly with my friend and mentor Pat Hoy, who paved the way for my teaching at Harvard and who taught there four years himself before leaving to direct the expository writing program for two decades at NYU, a program in which I taught with Pat for two years..

While working on Modern American Prose, I met Bob Boynton, who had, with a partner, just established a new publishing company, Boynton/Cook. In looking through a couple of their first published books, I realized that my approach to teaching reading and writing were eminently compatible with Boynton/Cook’s pedagogical publishing philosophy. And so, after talking with Bob Boynton, I sent him a proposal for what became my first solo book—Connections: Reading, Writing, and Thinking, which came out in 1985.

I didn’t realize it then, but the title of this book identified what would be a persistent theme of my teaching and writing for what is now approaching half a century. As with Modern American Prose, Connections had a guiding concept. My first, co-edited book focused on the work of fifteen writers only, rather than, as was common in freshman reading texts for writing classes at the time, providing between 50 and 100 essays, each by a different writer. For our fifteen writers, John Clifford and I provided four or more selections each, to offer students a chance to get to know each writer better and to establish connections between and among those four essays.

The guiding concept of Connections, of course, was exactly that—making connections, though this time less among different pieces by a single writer, than among the skills of reading, writing, and thinking. I realized through writing and editing Connections for Bob Boynton that what I had been doing in my writing courses at Queens College was not only teaching students how to write, helping them become more competent and confident writers, but also teaching them how to become critical readers, better able to understand and interpret what they read, and, in addition, aiding and abetting their thinking, pushing them to question and reflect, to analyze and synthesize their reading—in short to think critically about their reading, with writing serving as stimulus and provocation. And I came to realize later via the suggestion of my friend BillCostanzo that making these connections was the central theme of all my subsequent books and of my decades long work in the classroom as well. Making connections has been the work of my professional life as teacher, writer, editor, workshop leader and consultant on best pedagogical practices in reading, writing, and thinking.

In the process of building these first two books, I came to understand just how valuable had been my house building experience with my father. Seeing my books through the publication process to become finished works standing on their own was a source both of pride and of joy, feelings much like those I experienced in watching my father construct a house.

It wasn’t, however, until my third book, this one devoted to the study of literature, that I constructed an approach to teaching that I have put to use consistently in my classes and books ever since. That book, Literature: Reading, Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and The Essay, was published by Random House in 1986. Planning the first edition of Literature, creating a kind of blue print for its construction, I developed a tri-partite pedagogy inflected across experience, interpretation, and evaluation. Experience focused on a reader’s personal and subjective encounter with literary works. Evaluation emphasized the values embodied in those works—social, cultural, political, religious, moral. And for my middle term, “interpretation,” I laid out a four-part structure: (1) making observations, (2) establishing connections, (3) making inferences, and (4) drawing conclusions. I have used this structure, with variations, through six editions of Literature, the last in 2007. I have put this framework to work in my textbooks on teaching fiction, poetry, and drama; on essay reading and writing, and on critical thinking and interdisciplinary humanities. It has provided me with a solid foundation for teaching and learning—and for building books.

And now more than forty years after I built my first book, I continue to construct others—books for students, for teachers, and for general readers. With my colleague Anton Borst, I co-edited Critical Reading Across the Curriculum, a two-volume work for teachers that explores what critical reading means for different disciplines, how to become a critical reader, and how to teach students to read critically in the various academic disciplines. Anton and I also wrote  a book on effective teaching: The Craft of College Teaching: A Practical Guide published in 202 by Princeton University Press. I want all these prospective biblio-constructions to echo the themes of my teaching career—making connections between books and life, thinking critically and creatively, engaging with texts and ideas through experience, interpretation, and evaluation.

I am still creating new variations on these intertwining themes.

My father built houses. I build books. Through every aspect of creating those books, planning and revising their forms, constructing them with firm foundations, elegant enabling structures, and carefully crafted details, I remember him. I try to continue his legacy of building habitations for living and for thinking. His houses offer comfortable places for physical living; my books, I hope, provide stimulating spaces for the life of the mind.


Current Writing Projects

My current writing projects are linked below: (1) a book on reading literature (Improvisations); (2) two books on getting smarter (fast and across the board); (3) a pair of memoirs about my teaching life (50 years+) and my life with music (even more years!). Also included is information about my biggest work-in-progress: an encyclopedic summa pedagogica, with the current title: Provocative Pairs—Learning with the World’s Masters (152 chapters—and counting—each chapter a dozen double-spaced pages, with most chapters devoted to a pair of great masters past and present).

For each of these works in the making, I have provided a table of contents and preface. A couple of them also include a sample chapter. An additional book I have in the works is Poems to Live By, for which I’ve included about a third of what I’ve written so far—also with a brief TOC and prefatory note.

Provocative Pairs—Learning with the Masters

Volume I:
Major Influencers Past and Present

Provocative Pairs—Learning with the Masters

Volume II:
Humanities, Sciences, and More

Simply Smart One

How to Get Smarter Fast

Simply Smart Two

How to Get Smart About Humanities

Simply Smart Three

How to Get Smart About Science and Math

Reading Literature: Improvisations and Explorations

The Teaching Life: Why Teaching Matters

Living with Music: A Glorious Journey

Poems to Live By

Essays: Reflections and Ruminations

Robert DiYanni

Robert DiYanni

Author ⪢ | Professor ⪢ | Consultant ⪢

Robert DiYanni is a professor of humanities at New York University, having served as an  instructional consultant at the NYU Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Center for Faculty Advancement. For these centers he conducted workshops and seminars on all aspects of pedagogy, consulted with faculty about teaching concerns, visited and observed classes, and provided a wide range of pedagogical consultative services. Professor DiYanni serves on the faculties of the School of Professional Studies and the Stern School of Business at NYU. He earned his undergraduate degree in English from Rutgers University, attended a Master of Arts in Teaching program at Johns Hopkins University, and received a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the City University of New York Graduate Center.  

In addition to his work at NYU, Dr. DiYanni has taught at City University of New York, at Pace University, and as a Visiting Professor at Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and at Harvard University. As a high school teacher for four years and a college professor for more than four decades, Professor DiYanni has taught students from eighth grade through doctoral candidates. Most of his teaching, however, has been with college and university undergraduates. His numerous workshops, offered in more than twenty countries, have been attended by secondary school teachers and administrators, as well as by undergraduate college and university faculty and administrators.

Dr. DiYanni has written and edited numerous textbooks, among them, Literature: An Introduction; The Scribner Handbook for Writers (with Pat C. Hoy II); Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities, (with Janetta Rebold Benton), the basis for a series of lectures given at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Modern American Poets: Their Voices and Visions, which served as a companion text for the PBS television series Voices and Vision, which aired in the late 1980s.

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