Professor Ryan Jerving

Assistant Professor of Writing | Rome 561 | 202.994.3854


In my three years in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University (now going on four), I've taught classes focused around questions of visual rhetoric, intellectual property, and the challenges facing universities in the 21st century. I try to come to the writing classroom, not as an expert scholar in any of these fields, but rather as a curious and engaged researcher and writer trying to pose useful, novel, and non-obvious questions. In other words, my classes model the process by which one works toward becoming an authoritative voice in a scholarly conversation, and the course ends up being very much a collaboration as students and I work to construct the intellectual problems that interest us and, we hope, others. (See, for example, I-Prop: A Scholar's-Eye View of Intellectual Property, a web resource collectively built by several semesters of students in my UW20 courses.)

Beyond that, Google me and you'll learn:

  • that I was born on January 4, 1968 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, descended, at least in part, from Johann Kastel born in Bavaria in 1822. (Scratch me and you'll also uncover some Norwegians, Scots, and, we think, Swedes.)
  • that my out-of-class research basically concerns writing's place within the culture industries, and focuses upon early jazz literature; popular poetry, film, and theater; and documentary modernism. I'm completing a book project, now long in the making, to be titled Hepped: Jazz and American Modernism, 1917-1945, which explores the ways writers figured jazz to sound out anxieties about nation, ethnicity, and the work of the artist in an age of mechanical reproduction and mass mediation. Look to the right side of this page for links to articles I've published on this topic.
  • that I have an opinion on
  • that I have an opinion on Gertrude Stein's Lifting Belly.
  • that I have an opinion on the Potbelly's vs. Coggins' sandwich wars on our own campus (you have to scroll).
  • that I'd had an opinion on Eudora Welty's photography (I'm the one in the middle).
  • that former GW students describe me as both a "great professor" and "incredibly boring."
  • that I am a two-time co-director of the annual University Writing and Research Symposium.
  • that I've taught American poetry in Ankara, Turkey, and Japanese film in Urbana, Illinois.
  • that I was an organizer and humor columnist for the Graduate Employees Organization at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • that I've played ukulele for The Viper and His Famous Orchestra. NOTE: I regard my ukulele as a primary research tool into 20th-century American culture, AND I'm proud to say that Tangleweed has just recorded one of my compositions ("Last Call Waltz").
  • that I've written the entry on "The Cotton Club" for the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, which you can also read as plagiarized on Wikipedia.
  • that I'm giving a talk in October at the Modernist Studies Association conference titled, "A Story with Sax Appeal: Staging Discord, Archiving Dissonance."
  • that I do "live grading" in my classes (and here's a pretty good third party account of how this works).
  • that I steal ideas from my colleagues.

What you can't learn about me through Google probably isn't worth learning. Though just in case you're wondering, I'm currently reading the August 9, 2006 draft report of the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education, Steve Davenport's award-winning first book of poems, Uncontainable Noise, and a great many back issues of This Old House.


Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign - English Literature.
M.A., University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign - English Literature.
B.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison - English and Mass Communications Research.


“Early Jazz Literature (And Why You Didn’t Know),” American Literary History 16.4 (Winter 2004): 648-674.


“Jazz Language and Ethnic Novelty,” Modernism/Modernity 10.2 (April 2003): 239-268.


--American Studies Association
--American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
--Modern Language Association
--Modernist Studies Association


Modernism and mass culture, visual culture/rhetoric, intellectual property and writing