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Anthony Vital

Professor of English

Haupt Humanities 220
Transylvania University
300 North Broadway
Lexington, KY 40508-1797

Phone: (859) 233-8260
e-mail Anthony Vital

“Yes, we tweet with words, but we need them too for our most important thinking. They help us understand our past; they guide us into the future.”

Anthony Vital believes strongly that English courses in a liberal arts setting offer an excellent opportunity for students to think carefully about words used well. “Words matter. We have to be passionate about them as we seek the best, most intelligent, compassionate way through history on our planet.”

Literature’s play with words is adventurous, and here lies its power to give us rich insights into ourselves and the world we have inherited. “Good thinking is never thinking in a vacuum, and good writing—the best of literature, the best of writing about literature—encourages us to think beyond the page, beyond the walls of the classroom to our shared humanity, its joys and sorrows, its struggles and responsibilities.”

Having experienced living on three continents—Africa, Europe, as well as North America, Vital has had many opportunities to reflect on our “shared humanity” and the responsibilities we have to each other and to the earth. He believes his teaching and research projects can all be traced, one way or another, to this wide-ranging experience.

At Transylvania, he has developed courses that focus on lyric poetry as an expressive form; on writing from Africa—including a May term course on writing from South Africa’s apartheid period; on the development of postmodern thought in literature and theory; and on ways we think and feel about nature. He worked with students to launch the university’s first organization devoted to environmental issues and then joined a small group of faculty from across campus to initiate Transylvania’s environmental studies minor. As longtime faculty advisor to The Transylvanian literary magazine, Vital has played an active role in encouraging student creativity.

His continued connection with Africa feeds his work on postcolonial theory. He regularly presents conference papers that encourage reading African literature with an understanding of underlying social justice and environmental concerns. From these papers, he has published articles exploring the importance of considering ecology, environmental justice, and the postcolonial condition when reading these texts.

His recent research revisits Romantic poetry with these issues in mind. In April 2011, he presented a version of his findings—“Recalling British Romantics for a Postcolonial Planet: Nature, Loss, and Hope”—to the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas. 

Vital appreciates that his position at Transylvania has allowed him to nourish his many interests and explore the connections among them. “For all of us, a liberal arts setting offers opportunity to make the connections we need for life in our contemporary world.”


  • Bingham Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Jones Faculty Development Grant for research in South Africa
  • Kenan Grant to support sabbatical research travel

Want to know more about Transylvania's English program?

Academic history

Courses taught

Areas of research

Recent publications


Academic history

  • Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1982
  • M.A., University of Cape Town, 1977
  • B.A., University of Cape Town, 1974

Courses taught

  • Art of Persuasive Writing
  • Poetry Workshop
  • Introduction to Poetry
  • Perspectives on Literature
  • Metafiction
  • Postmodern Literature
  • Introduction to African Fiction
  • South African Fiction, 1960-1994
  • American Writing of Nature
  • The Culture of Nature
  • Re/Imagining Cities
  • Survey of British Literature, 1660 to the present
  • The Eighteenth Century British Novel
  • The Romantic Lyric
  • Romanticism and Liberty
  • Eros and Gender Politics
  • Capstone Seminar: Postcolonial Writing

Areas of research

  • British Romanticism and 18th century literature
  • Postcolonial writing—African and British
  • South African fiction, politics, and the environment
  • American nature writing and environmental culture
  • Contemporary poetry

Recent publications

  • "Waste and Postcolonial History: An Ecocritical Reading of J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron." Environment at the Margins: Literary and Environmental Studies in Africa, Ohio University Press, 2011
  • "A Place for Romanticism in Postcolonial Ecology? Julia Martin’s South African Travelogue, A Millimetre of Dust." Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, 2010
  • "Toward an African Ecocriticism: Postcolonialism, Ecology and Life & Times of Michael K." Research in African Literatures, 2008
  • "'Another Kind of Combat in the Bush': Get a Life and Gordimer’s Critique of Ecology in a Globalized World." English in Africa, 2008
  • Vital, Anthony, and Hans-Georg Erney. "Postcolonial Studies and Ecocriticism." Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, 2006-2007
  • "Situating Ecology in Recent South African Fiction: J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals and Zakes Mda's The Heart of Redness." Journal of Southern African Studies, 2005
  • Vital, Anthony. "Ecocriticism, Globalized Cities, and African Narrative, with a Focus on K. Sello Duiker’s Thirteen Cents." Ecocriticism of the Global South. Ed. Scott Slovic, Swarnalatha Rangarajan and Vidya Sarveswaran. Ecocritical Theory and Practice. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 2015. 213-32.

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