Professor of English
Phone: (805) 565-7043
Office Location: Reynolds Hall 101
TuTh 9:00 - 10:00
and by appointment
British and American, Jewish Authors
Professor Steve Cook began his full-time teaching career at Marquette University, then took a job at University of California, Santa Barbara–until Westmont called. “Dr.Cook” as his students call him, brought a diverse background to the study and teaching of literature. In addition to having been the C.E.O. of a retail chain, he set a national record in drag racing, and worked as a financial advisor for the nation’s largest securities brokerage house. Since then his literary interests have evolved from editing literary correspondence and teaching writing as well as a variety of courses in American literature, to developing his courses in American-Jewish Fiction, Ethnic Studies in American Literature, Film, and Literature of the Holocaust. While he is more passionate than ever about the work of John Steinbeck, and about developing Film and Ethnic Studies as programs of study at Westmont, he greatly enjoys contributing editorially to a variety of books on different subjects. His real passion in life, however, is his family: his son Ian and wife Terri.
- Ph.D., Marquette University., 1978.
- M.A., Marquette University, 1972.
- B.A., Colorado State University., 1966.
- Westmont College, 1981-Present
- University of California, Santa Barbara 1978-81
- Marquette University, 1973-75
- Marquette University, Teaching Assistant, 1969-73.
Other Professional Experiences
- Cook’s and Skaggs’ Drugs Inc., C.E.O., 1967-69; Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Financial Advisor, 1975-78.
Professional, University and College Activities
- Advisor, Westmont Newspaper, Horizon; Westmont Literary Publication, The Phoenix
- Contribution Acknowledged in Bruce Duncan, Cutwater
- Contribution Acknowledged in Gene Edwards, The Divine Romance.
- Contribution Acknowledged in Audrey Elliott, ‘And Then There Was Penny.’
- Contribution Acknowledged in Brian Fagan, Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Nino and the Fate of Civilizations
- Contribution Acknowledged in Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age
- Contribution Acknowledged in Brian Fagan, Before California: An Archaeologist Looks at Our Earliest Inhabitants
- Contributions Acknowledged in Pat Leddy, ed., “The Santa Barbara Review”
- Contribution Acknowledged in Joseph Schwartz, Hart Crane, A Critical Bibliography Supplement
- Contribution Acknowledged, Kathleen Peiffer, Brother Mine: The Correspondence of Jean Toomer and Waldo Frank, 2010
- Contributor Editor, The Santa Barbara Review, 1991-1997
- Editor, Arthur Gross-Schafer, The Rabbi Wore Moccasins, Unpublished Novel
- Editor, A.L. Lundy, Real Life on Cannery Row: Real People, Places of Events That Inspired John Steinbeck, 2008
- Editor, Westmont Faculty Handbook, Westmont College Viewbooks, Westmont College Catalogues
- Faculty Committee Member: Athletic Committee, Communications Board, Faculty Council, Off-Campus Programs Committee, Personnel Committee, Professional Development Committee
- Off-Campus Program Leader: England Semesters, 1986, 1988, 1994, and 2002
- Organizer, Chaim Potok (Jewish-American author) Week in Santa Barbara, 1991
- Session Moderator for Conferences on Christianity & Literature, Biola University, and Westmont College
- Member, College Communications Board, Faculty Council, Personnel Committee, Professional Development Committee
- Organizer, Visits and Talks by Holocaust Survivors Organizer, Lecture by Noah Ben Shea, Jewish Philosopher and Poet
- Participant, “Freeway Scholars,” The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, University of California, Santa Barbara
- Session Moderator, "Conference on Christianity and Literature," Biola University, and Westmont College
- Supervisor, Graduate Teaching Assistants in English, University of California, Santa Barbara
- Vice-Chair Westmont College Faculty Council, 1990
Fellowship & Grants
- Faculty Development Grants, Westmont College, 2002, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1991, 1986
- Sabbatical Grants, Westmont College, 1989 Spring semester, 1994 Spring semester, 2003 Spring semester, 2010 Spring semester
- Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society Lecture, “’Purchasers of Heaven’: Painting, Photography and Poetry in Hart Crane,” Westmont College, 1986
- Appointed Fellow, South Coast Writing Project, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1982
Professor Cook wants it to be known: "My best publications are my students."
- Appendices: "Summaries": (32 Interpretive Chapter Summaries), Real Life on Cannery Row, Angel City Press, 2008
- Article: "The Mystagogical Imperative in Hart Crane," American Congress of Social Psychiatry," Santa Barbara, 1981
- Article: `a matter of felicitous juggling': Maxfield Parrish and Hart Crane," The Santa Barbara Review
- Article: “Seeing as Saying: Art and Hart Crane,” The Santa Barbara Review, 1996
- Book: The Correspondence between Hart Crane and Waldo Frank, Whitston Press, Troy, NY: 1998.
- Book: ‘Purchases of Heaven’: Art and Hart Crane. 2003. Unpublished
- Video Script: “Education as Living,” Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara, CA., 1999.
- Book Review: David Jasper, Coleridge as Poet and Religious Thinker, Christianity and Literature, Spring 1986
- Book Review: Edward Brunner, Splendid Failure: Hart Crane and The Making of the Bridge, Christianity Today, Summer 1987
- Book Review: Noah Ben Shea, Great Jewish Quotes, Santa Barbara News Press, 1993
- Book Review: Rob Rosenthal, Homeless in Paradise: A Map of the Terrain, Santa Barbara News Press, 1994
- Essay: "Toward An Ontology of Voice in the Classroom," Westmont Magazine, 1982
- Essay: “Peter Pan in Hell,” Faculty Dialogue, Spring/Summer, 1987
- Juvenilia: "The Nutcracker Suite Retold," A Fund Raising Coloring Book for the Santa Barbara Symphony League
- Poem: "A Little More Optimistic," Mosaic
- Poem: “Playing at the Father’s Art,” "Not Even A Comma, " "What A Curious Thing to Do," "Pulling Back the Water Ahead," "Hand Game," "West Suffolk Hospital," Santa Barbara Review, 1991-1997
- Video Script: "Education, Not As Preparation, But As Life." Santa Barbara City College, Admissions, Santa Barbara, CA, 1999
- Journal Review: David Jasper, “Coleridge as Poet and Religious Thinker,” Christianity and Literature, Spring, 1986.
- The Implications of Post-Modernist Critical Theory for New Believers, Gaucho Christian Fellowship, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2001
- “The Imaged Word It is,” Pairing Pictures and Words in Hart Crane,” Pop Culture Association, Las Vegas, 1996.
- A three-part “how-to” Series, From Object to Subject: Telling One’s Story, First Presbyterian Church, Santa Barbara, 1995
- A six-part Series on Jewish-Christian relationships, First Presbyterian Church, Santa Barbara, 1993
- On Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev, Plenary Address, Westmont College Freshman Orientation Dinner, 1991
- On Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, Plenary Address, Westmont College Freshman Orientation Dinner, 1990
- “The Mystagogical Imperative in Hart Crane,” American Congress of Social Psychiatry,” Santa Barbara, 1981.
- Two Workshops, Teaching Literature and Composition, English Graduate Students, University of California, Santa Barbara.1980
- Article: “’Purchasers of Heaven’: Painters, Photographers, and Hart Crane,” The Santa Barbara Review, 1996.
- Book: The Correspondence of Hart Crane and Waldo Frank, Whitston Press, Troy, NY: 1998.
- Essay: “Peter Pan in Hell,” Faculty Dialogue, Spring/Summer, 1987.
- Poem: “Playing at the Father’s Art,” Santa Barbara Review, Fall/Winter, 1993.
- Review: David Jasper, “Coleridge as Poet and Religious Thinker,” Christianity and Literature, Spring, 1986.
- Video Script: “Education as Living,” Santa Barbara City College Office of Admissions, Santa Barbara, CA., 1999.
Contributions acknowledged in:
- Joseph Schwartz, Hart Crane, A Critical Bibliography Supplement. Bruce Duncan, Cutwater.
- Gene Edwards, The Divine Romance.
- Audrey Elliott, ‘And Then There Was Penny.’ Brian Fagan, Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Nino and the Fate of Civilizations and The Little Ice Age. Pat Leddy, ed., The Santa Barbara Review.
- President, Association of English Graduate Students
- Teacher of the Year, Westmont College, 1986
- Alumni-Faculty Development Grants, 1986, 91, 96, 98, 99.
- NEH Summer Workshop in Christianity and Literary Theory
After having finished but not published a study of the poet Hart Crane’s interests in Modernist artists as “purchasers of heaven,” Professor Cook’s attentions have turned to writing up a way of reading John Steinbeck’s work involving a concept in biology called “symbiogenesis.” The application of the concept occurred to him as a result of dialogue with students about Cannery Row and East of Eden while teaching a seminar on Steinbeck several years ago. The idea-and Steinbeck’s work-just keep coming back and tapping him on the shoulder until he pays attention.
Professor Cook would still like to see all of the American-Jewish novelist Chaim Potok’s public lectures in print. Several years before Rabbi Potok passed away, Professor Cook wrote him about the idea and Potok wrote back, giving him permission to go ahead. However, as so often happens with Professor Cook, teaching interests have intervened, especially in the exciting prospects afforded by developing a Minor or an emphasis in Film as Literature, and by attempting to contribute to diversity initiatives through courses on ethnic writers.
Professor Cook’s approach to teaching all of his courses is Socratic. It’s also, according to some of his students, “personal”; ie., he is often personally impacted by what he reads and wants his students to know it, to know they aren’t there to run a prescribed course of hurdles that have no relevance for them. He tries, very forcefully at times, to engage his students in the “so what” question. For example, he will push and cajole his students into asking what difference it makes to spend time reading about the death march of Hungarian Jews a half century ago in Poland. What does it have to do with safe and comfortable Christian students in the 21st century on an idyllic campus in Santa Barbara, California? Or, another example: why consciously “read” a film? What difference would it make in our experience whether we just passively looked at Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, or attempted to study just how the conscious use of film techniques helps shape, even determine a viewer’s experience?
Moshe the Beadle in Night, says that questions possess a power that do not lie in their answers. These kinds of questions, the kind that T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock avoids by asking instead, “Do I dare to eat a peach?” are the kinds of questions that liberate, that move us beyond the kind of thinking that is conditioned to wonder about no more than “…but will it be on the test?” Asking the “so what” questions helps us understand why we are doing what we are doing in and with an academic course.
Then again, Professor Cook says he also loves anomalies like “the imaged word it is/that holds hushed willows in its glow/the unbetrayable reply/that no one can know.” “How,” Cook says, “can this poet assert there is a reply that is unbetrayable and yet is unknowable at one and the same time?” Professor Cook went on to say that he had no idea what the poet meant, but that he bet he and some students could find out. Moreover it is that need to find out that keeps him passionate in his conviction that education was not merely preparation for life; it IS life.” As one of Professor Cook’s students said, “he pushes students to reach beyond the understanding they think they have in mind by re-examining what they have in hand.”
For some sense of the substance of each course, current and not-so current syllabi are on the college web site.
Courses Most Frequently Taught
- Film Studies, ENG 101
- Race and Ethnicity in American Literature, ENG 134
- Modern American-Jewish Fiction, ENG 136
- First Year Studies in Literature, ENG 06
- First Year Honors Seminar in Literature, ENG 06H
Not including the courses listed above, Professor Cook has also taught:
Modern American Women Writers, Modernism in Art and American Literature, Modern Grammar and Advanced Composition, Journalism, Creative Writing, Contemporary American Fiction, American Literature between Two World Wars, American Literature from 1850-1915, Literary Theory, Applied Critical Theory, Literary Analysis, Rhetorical Analysis, Holocaust Fiction, California Writers, English Romantic Writers, and the British Novel, and Composition. Seminars have included T.S.Eliot, Chaim Potok, and John Steinbeck.Recommended Reading List:
- Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev, Davita’s Harp
- John Steinbeck, Cannery Row
- William Faulkner, Go Down Moses
- Primo Levi, Survival at Auschwitz
- F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
- T.S.Eliot, “The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock,” “The Wasteland,” and “The Four Quartets.”
- Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
- Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist-fight in Heaven
- N.Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn
- Toni Morrison, Beloved
- Nathaniel West, Miss Lonelyhearts
- Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
- Elie Wiesel, Night
- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
- Milton Steinberg, As A Driven Leaf