Lehigh Valley-based poet and educator Robert Fillman ’09M is looking forward to a return to scholarship. He recently accepted a Teaching Fellowship at Lehigh University to pursue a Ph.D. in English with hopes of establishing himself as a scholar and a professor.
“I look forward to the opportunity to immerse myself in critical studies once again and to enter into discussions with some of the brightest minds in my field,” he says.
Fillman’s interests include nineteenth-century American literature; trans-Atlantic Modernism; Ecocriticism; poetry and poetics; and though he’s not sure of his doctoral research topic, he hopes to focus on the life and writings of Robert Frost.
“I am fascinated by the notion of the ‘nature poet’ in general, of whom for me, Frost remains a central figure,” he says. “I would be interested in tracing the development of nature poetry from its meditative, lyrical beginnings in the eighteenth century to the harsh brutality prevalent in its Modernist counterparts, perhaps even connecting contemporary nature poetry to the naturalist genre.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English and Business Management from Moravian College in 2004, Fillman decided to pursue a graduate education because he always dreamed of becoming a writer and professor.
Though he had considered several programs, Fillman notes that it was Arcadia University’s faculty, specifically Drs. Pradyumna S. Chauhan, Richard Wertime and Anne Kaier, who made the decision a simple one.
“I enjoyed the challenges,” he says. “If you can make it through a 15-week course with Dr. Chauhan and earn an ‘A,’ you’ve accomplished something.”
“Everything that I’ve taught in the classroom has, in one way or another, come from my experience at Arcadia,” he says, noting that Dr. Chauhan had the greatest influence on him as a student and now as an instructor. In the past three years, Fillman has taught courses ranging in topic from general research and composition courses, to special topic courses such as “War Writing.” “I can honestly say I employ aspects from Dr. Chauhan’s History and Teaching of Rhetoric class in nearly every course I teach.”
Fillman describes his approach to each course at Arcadia as “cathartic.” Examining the pile of unopened textbooks at the beginning of a semester, Fillman remembers feeling as if the sheer volume of information was insurmountable. “When it was over, after all of the papers were written and final exams completed, I wasn’t exhausted so much as I was invigorated and excited by the new knowledge I had accrued,” he says.
Before he even grasped his Arcadia University diploma, Fillman was hired to teach at Moravian College, Northampton Community College and Lehigh Carbon Community College, where he's taught mostly introductory courses for the past three years. Feeling confined by his limited role in crafting the curriculum, Fillman hopes that earning a Ph.D. will allow him more freedom to develop his own courses.
Fillman credits Dr. Wertime with some of his recent success. “I had worked hard to earn that acceptance, but Dr. Wertime was instrumental in my achieving that goal,” he says. “He worked tirelessly with me throughout the entire application process."
In addition to teaching, Fillman is a prodigious poet who has been published in The Meadow, WestWard Quarterly and Laconic. Recently he has been happily adjusting to fatherhood. He and his wife, Melissa, welcomed an addition to their family with daughter, Emma, in March 2011.