Professor Fred Whiting, currently in his fifteenth year of teaching at UA, has witnessed The University of Alabama expand and change extensively during his time here (“We now have a Chick-Fil-A as well as an Arby’s,” he remarks). He also notes changes in faculty dress protocols over the years, citing a former colleague who regularly wore a muscle tee and flip-flops to class. Whiting’s contributions to the Department of English and academic environment generally, however, are somewhat less flippant.
Whiting is currently at work on a book provisionally entitled The Inner Limits, which situates the emergence of “pathological man” during the twentieth century within a larger “conceptual genealogy of monstrosity.” Monsters, Whiting observes, are “intrinsically bound up with issues of genre and form,” and it is the narrative form of the novel with which he is concerned, a form whose potential to “illuminate…the worldview one currently inhabits” intrigues him.
In addition to conducting research, Whiting serves as the Assistant Director of the Blount Scholars Program, an innovative liberal arts program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1999 by philanthropists Winton and Carolyn Blount, the program is a four-year living and learning community that features small, seminar-style classes, extensive exposure to faculty, and an integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum leading to a minor in Liberal Arts. Students in the program live and take classes in the Blount Living and Learning Center, a campus residence hall specifically designed to integrate social and intellectual life. This integration,” Whiting remarks, “provides Blount students with the atmosphere of a small liberal arts college in the midst of a major research university.”
Whiting’s mission has always been education, or as he puts it, “working the academic grift: reading books and talking about them with other people.” To which he bemusedly adds, “astonishing that such a job exists, really.”