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About John Webster

John Webster has taught at the University of Washington since 1972, arriving with a BA from UCLA and an MA and PhD from UC Berkeley. He has specialized in Early Modern literature, literary theory, rhetoric and composition, and pedagogical practice, and has published articles on Sidney, Spenser, Renaissance rhetoric and poetics, and the teaching of Renaissance poetry. Professor Webster has won both the English Department's Award for Distinguished Teaching (2000) and the University's Distinguished Teaching Award (2009).

Professor Webster was Secretary-Treasurer of the International Spenser Society from 1990-2000. His edition and translation of William Temple’s neo-Latin Analysis of Sidney’s Apology for Poetry appeared in 1984.

From 1986 to 1994 Webster was Director of Expository Writing for the University, overseeing the training and performance of teaching assistants for the English Department’s first-year writing programs (annual enrollments of approximately 6000). He has since worked in a variety of English Department and University mentoring programs for teachers of writing and teachers of literature. In 2000-2001 he taught the English Methods course for the University of Washington School of Education’s Teacher Education Program, and from 2000 to 2005 he was Co-Director of the Puget Sound Writing Project, a professional development program for K-12 teachers in Western Washington State. He continued to serve the Writing Project as University Coordinator until the Writing Project was dropped from the University due to falling financial support.

In 1998 Webster was selected by the Carnegie Academy for the Advancement of Teaching to participate in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Over a period of 7 years Webster gave seminars across the country inviting faculty to adopt new ways of working to improve teaching across the curriculum while also serving on the Modern Language Association’s Executive Committee for the Division of Teaching as a Profession (1999-2004).

Amidst this work Webster continued to lead the University of Washington’s biennial London Theatre and Concert Tour. Beginning in 1988 Webster took groups of 40 theatre-goers for two full weeks in London, blending theatre, concerts, and guest lecturers. The greatest of these lecturers was Dr. Roderick Swanston of the Royal College of Music--the most brilliant lecturer I have ever heard in a lifetime of listening to lectures! After 20 years of splendid concerts and stage performances, Webster's final tour took place in 2008.

Meanwhile, in November of 2003 Webster was appointed the inaugural Director of Writing for the College of Arts and Sciences, and in that position worked with faculty, administration and students towards make writing a central part of every student's experience at the University of Washington, in all disciplines and throughout all four years of each student's college career. As Director, Webster worked with 16 different departments in the College of Arts and Sciences introducing literally dozens of faculty members to new ways to engage and support student writing.

In 2004 Webster established the English 108 program: a bridge course for incoming undergraduates who feel less than fully prepared for College level writing. Titled “Writing Ready: Getting a Start on College Writing,” English 108 has provided significant levels of support for incoming students, and particularly for international students. Conceived as an intensive immersion into an academic reading, writing, speaking and listening environment for any entering student, English 108's assignments engage students in the study of cognitive science as it applies to writing and problem-solving. (For a more complete description click here).

Webster's publications from 2003-2013 include a lengthy biographical article on John Seton, the Cambridge University logician (c.1509-1567) in The Dictionary of Literary Biography (2003), “Whose Poem Is This Anyway? Teaching Spenser Through the Stanza Workshop,” in Pedagogy (Spring, 2003), “My Troubles with Perry: Developmental Scheme or Humanities Curriculum?” in the Proceedings of the International Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: 2001 and 2002 (2003), and reviews of Salvatori and Donohue's The Elements (and Pleasures) of Difficulty (2005) in Pedagogy (Winter, 2005) and of Bernstein, Burnett, Goodman and Savory, Making Teaching Visible: Course Portfolios and the Peer Review of Teaching, in Pedagogy (Winter, 2009). “Going International: Getting Ready to Write Through English 108” appeared in Writing Matters, Spring, 2012, and “On the Challenges of Working with the Writing of English Language Learners,” appeared in the National Teaching and Learning Forum, 22 (2013).

From 2013 to the present Webster's principal efforts have been in practical course design. He has developed two new courses, the first to be designed was English 270: The English Sentence Past and Present, a course meant to attract a student population that was approximately 1/2 native speakers of English and 1/2 students who are mainly but not only international students, and the second is English 244: "Watching Drama"--a course based on actually attending plays.