Dr. Eric O’Brien is an Instructor in the English Department at UNO. He has taught Ecological Writing and Analysis in the Master of Arts in Critical and Creative Thinking since 2015. He also teaches First-Year Writing, Critical Approaches to Literature, and other literature courses at UNO.
Dr. O’Brien is a UNO alumnus who completed his BA in English in 2003, and he earned his doctorate in English Literature from the University of California, Davis, with a designated emphasis in critical theory. His dissertation examined intersections of agricultural writing and poetics from Milton to Wordsworth. In particular, the work analyzed Paradise Lost using the Digger writings of Gerard Winstanley, and it investigated farm writing from the first English Board of Agriculture to unpack agricultural figures in Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude.
What do you enjoy most about teaching a course that’s part of the MA CCT program?
My favorite part of the MACCT program is the wide diversity of interests and experiences that our students bring to class. Ecological writing and thought are universal concerns relevant to all humans living on our planet in the twenty-first century, but ecological writing can also reflect unique, individual perspectives—and our students certainly approach these works from a multitude of life and professional backgrounds. Students from culinary and food studies find they can learn quite a bit from active duty servicemembers, and health sciences administrators interacting with secondary education teachers collaborate to generate new analyses. That interdisciplinarity benefits all of us. Each semester, I learn just as much as I teach.
Nebraska’s position in the center of the United States places us at a geographical and cultural crossroads—but the MACCT program at UNO offers just as many crossings and intersections of students and ideas, regardless of location.
Tell us two interesting things about yourself.
When I’m not teaching, reading, or writing, I’m trying to transition from parenting two kids into mentoring two young adults. One daughter is in college and the other is in her last year of high school, so my role now is to shut up and let them make their own informed decisions. For someone who thinks and talks for a living, that’s a tough job, but like many of my graduate students, I’m learning new ways to interact with the world. My wife is an elementary education, English-language teacher in Omaha, and we are trying to rehabilitate an older home near the UNO campus.
To keep my mind fresh, I try to stay physically active: I race road, mountain, and cyclocross bikes with a local amateur team, and I coach youth mountain biking in the summer. I also try to spend at least a week or two every year deep in the wilderness, far from the things of humans.