Nicole Blair, Ph.D.


Specialty: 19th & 20th Century British Literature, Comparative Literature, First Year Composition

Blair, Nicole

Contact information

Dept: Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
Room: BB 102R
Phone: 253-692-4786


  • Ph.D., English, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1989.
  • M.A., English, University of Southern Mississippi, 1982.
  • B.A., Music Education, Mississippi College, 1979.


My career has spanned 34 years. I have taught a great variety of courses at five different institutions of higher education, from the University of Southern Mississippi to the University of Washington, Tacoma. In that time, I have learned a great deal about teaching, and about students, and yet I have more to learn. My interests in research and teaching are very broad, as I have an interdisciplinary background. I have an undergraduate degree in music and a Masters and Ph. D. in English. My education has given me a unique perspective on the subjects I teach and an ability, I think, to look beyond the boundaries of any one discipline to see the ways all is connected. I am a lifelong learner.

The following poem from Alfred, Lord Tennyson sums up my philosophy of life: I am a part of all that I have met; /Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' /Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades /For ever and for ever when I move&. that which we are, we are; /One equal temper of heroic hearts, /Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will /To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


I am interested in many subjects, such as the connections between literature and music, the best practices of faculty in pedagogy, student success, etc. Currently, I am writing an article about the possible influences of Emily Dickinson on current Americana/Roots artists, as well as an article about the ways in which Flora Poste, the heroine of Cold Comfort Farm, also acts as the Trickster. Because my graduate training is in literature, it is my "go to" mode when it comes to research and writing.

In addition to these more traditional literary types of subjects, as a teacher of first year students, and as an administrator, I am also interested in the ways in which experiential learning impacts student success, and hoping to incorporate more service learning into my courses. My research into this area is nascent, but very promising. Here at the University of Washington, Tacoma, we have the privilege of working with a variety of community partners, to the benefit of all. Recently, I took my students to Franke Tobey Jones, where they spent a couple of hours playing games with residents who have dementia and Alzheimer's. One of the students sat down at the piano and played the songs he knew, much to the delight of the folks in the room. I am thinking of taking my guitar and playing for them on Saturdays. Community engagement is a research interest of mine, but by its very nature, this interest is experiential.

I enjoy working with students on their research projects, and have served as a faculty advisor for Global Honors theses and currently, Masters theses and projects. Last year I had the pleasure of working with student in Global Honors, serving as a reader. This year, that student is in the Masters program, and we are still working together. I am also serving as a faculty advisor for a student who is serving as a intern for the Tacoma Dome.


Since my appointment as Assistant Director of Undergraduate Education, I only teach three courses per year. Two of those courses are first year writing courses, in which we introduce academic writing. Core courses were originally taught in teams, so for the first three years, I taught with Sam Parker. Our theme was the Nature-Nurture debate. This course inspired me, when I started teaching it on my own, to further explore this social science theme. In subsequent iterations, I have focused on the nature of identity and how we both shape and are influenced by the world around us: in media, entertainment, politics and the way we interact with the natural world. Most recently, I have become interested in having students become more actively engaged with the world outside of the classroom and beyond the text. The theme for this course is now service learning. My teaching philosophy is fairly simple, based on my years of experience: I want my students to leave my class inspired to keep learning about the world they live in, and to make the world a better place than it was when they got here.

I am looking forward to teaching a course on Literature and Other Arts, a course just recently added to the list of courses at UW Tacoma. As an interdisciplinary course, we will be exploring the connections between literature and music, from the classical genre to more modern styles of music like jazz.

I do not teach graduate level courses at this time, although I do serve as a reader for graduate projects and theses. At this time, I am also the faculty advisor for student internships in the community.

Here is a list of the courses I regularly teach now, as well as courses I taught at UW Tacoma previous to 2006.

  • TLIT 390 - Varieties of Literary Criticism: In this course we explore the various theories and ways of critiquing literary and cultural texts.
  • TLIT 325 - Medical and Ethical Issues in Literature: The focus of this course is interdisciplinary, an exploration of the ways in which medical and ethical issues associated with illness and the practice of medicine emerge in literature, such as in Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • TLIT 200 - Understanding Literature: This is a basic, yet essential course, for anyone wanting to study literature in depth, as we read various kinds of texts and discuss ways of reading.
  • TLIT 240 - Studies in English Literature: In TLIT 240, we study prominent texts of British Literature. The time frame is up to each instructor. My favorite way to teach this course is through a theme, such as Gothic, in which we have read The Castle of Otranto, Dracula and Jane Eyre.
  • TWRT 211 - Argument and Research in Writing: This course focuses on writing critical analyses and arguments about texts and issues in the arts and sciences. When I taught this course, my students chose their own research projects from a variety of topics, including media, entertainment, politics and social issues. Their final projects were multi-genre in nature.
  • TWRT 112 - Introduction to Academic Writing: This course is similar to TCORE 101 but is taught outside of the core program; it emphasizes critical analysis, research and argument.
  • TCORE 101 - First Year Academic Writing: The first year writing course is taught with a particular theme in mind, the theme being the choice of the faculty teaching the course. My theme this year was service learning.

Previous to 2006, I also regularly taught the following: Nineteenth Century European Literature, Victorian Literature, Romantic Prose and Poetry, Literature and the Arts and Southern Writers.

Selected Publications

I am interested in having published a series of papers I wrote about William Maxwell, a seemingly neglected fiction writer from the Midwest and fiction editor of The New Yorker magazine. I became interested in Maxwell after reading one of his novels entitled Time Will Darken It. His body of work is a fascinating look at life in the Midwest between the late 30s and the 70s. It is my hope to have my work see the light of day within the next year.


I am a member of MLA, the Popular Culture Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the College English Association, and the Threadhead Foundation (based in New Orleans, a foundation that supports roots musicians).

Professional Service

I am active in serving the community through my volunteer work on campus (Volunteer Services) as well as with the Tacoma Rescue Mission and Habitat for Humanity. I regularly play music in my community at a variety of venues and love to support local music in any way I can.

Honors and Awards

I have been honored by the students of the University of Washington as their choice for Outstanding Faculty for the past three years. This has been an incredibly humbling experience for me and I am deeply honored by this award.