Profile by Anthony J Caputo (’17)
Robert Mundy is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Pace University. He has previously worked at SUNY Old Westbury as a Writing Center Professional. Robert attended Stony Brook University, CUNY Graduate Center, and St. John’s University, where he studied both Comp/Rhetoric and Gender Studies. His research focuses on composition, writing centers, and gender/masculinity studies.
Rob is currently working on a coedited/coauthored book project that considers the relationship between public controversies and private identities in the Writing Center. Some of his recent publications include “’I Got It’: Intersections, Performances, and Rhetoric of Masculinity in the Center” and “No Homo: Toward an Intersection of Sexuality and Masculinity for Working-Class Men.”
The Lingua Franca
Q: So, what sparked your interest in English?
A: Hmmm, where to begin? I guess I have always been creative and outspoken. I mention both characteristics because that is how I understand myself as a writer and the writing I try to develop—equal parts creativity and voice. Entering college, I wasn’t all that sure what I was supposed to be doing—what was the purpose of this venture. A bit lost, I gravitated to what I knew—the stories I had written in my journals, poems I had penned to girls I never had the nerve to talk with, my fears and sorrow. Looking back on those days, I studied English because something inside of me said that these were my people—that they felt what I felt, saw what I saw, and had neuroses like I have.
Q: How did you find your passion?
A: Much of my desire to write extends from a need to challenge the status quo. From the beginning, though, I wrote as a means to figure it all out—to discover who I am and why I feel the way that I do. As a researcher, I have taken up conversations my brother and I have had over the years to better understand the complexities of gender. Although I often think about the larger sociocultural and socioeconomic issues we as people face—I tend to start with me. Man, that sound narcissistic.
Q: Which leads me to my next question. Do you have any advice for students who are very unsure of what they want to do with their lives? When did you decide to commit your life to teaching and what passion or circumstance drove that commitment?
A: I wish I had a profound story to tell. I write and teach because that is what I do. In truth, I am a one-trick pony. This is all that I am really good at – all I ever really wanted to do. I think Bukowski said it: “Find what you love and let it kill you” – that has always been my approach.
Q: That’s an interesting outlook that I hope not only I can learn from but others as well. Knowing your passions, did people discourage you in your choice of majors?
A: My parents were just happy we, my brother and I, went to college. I’m not sure they understood the whole design (as I just noted about myself), either. All they understood was that we needed to go if we were to be successful.
Q: Was English/Education your first choice, or were there other options you considered?
A: As an undergrad – yes. As I graduate student, I wanted to paint. Mom said no. She couldn’t imagine how I could survive as a painter.
Help Along the Way
Q: So, passion is certainly a factor but what helped you along the way? Do you have any idols?
A: When I started to identify as a writer, as a much younger man, I remember replacing my Michael Jordan poster with one of Jack Kerouac. So, I tend to turn to old Jack for such an answer. As a man and a writer, he spoke to me in way few others have. Musicians have also inspired me – the Joe Strummers, Patti Smiths, and Jim Carrolls of the world. Richard Hell is pretty cool – and my inner 7-year-old wants to say Paul Stanley from KISS.
Q: What’s your best memory of an English class? Why?
A: Missy Bradshaw – Stony Brook University – “Deconstructing the Diva.” She first introduced me to Michel Foucault (French philosopher, theorist). His work blew my mind, and I suddenly realized, as I noted before, that English is bigger than I had ever imagined. For the first time, I was beginning to see the sociological side of writing. English was no longer the “classics” for me. Looking back, that was a big moment, as I never returned to the “traditional” English that first brought me to the college.
Q: Was there a particular faculty person who influenced you? In what way?
A: Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with some truly brilliant people. I noted Missy before – but Harry Denny, my dissertation director, really influenced me as a man, teacher, and writer. Together we have published a bunch of writing together – the book I mentioned and a book chapter called “No Homo.” Presently we are working on an article about masculinity and sexuality. Harry was my greatest teacher and supporter. He taught me just about all that I know about my job – from how to be a leader to how to be a good colleague.
Adding Character to Context
Q: We tackled some of the reasons you decided to pursue English in education and in life, but let’s add a little more context to that. What are some interests and hobbies you enjoy?
A: I play a good amount of basketball. Recently, I got involved in Krav Maga, an Israeli fighting style. I’m not so interested in the fighting, per se – but I need to get into better shape – and walking on the treadmill bores me to tears. Beyond that, I paint, play guitar, bike…
Q: Favorite ninja turtle?
A: Splinter (hope that is acceptable).
Q: (Laughs) Good answer. What are your favorite things to read and to write?
A: I write predominately about gender – namely masculinity – and composition/rhetoric and writing centers. As a reader, I get stuck looking at texts for work most of the time, but when I am free to read for myself, I tend to explore memoirs and graphic novels.
Q: What are some of your greatest accomplishments?
A: I recently coauthored my first book—a text that looks at public controversies and private identities. I could talk about my writing all day, but that is boring. As a kid, I threw a nine-pitch inning once. That was pretty incredible. Three strikes in a row to three consecutive batters.
Q: What is something commonly accepted that you wish would be different?
A: Sexism – homophobia. Man, this could easily turn into a manifesto.
Q: Switching gears, what do you find peaceful or soothing? What eases your mind?
A: I wish I had an answer for you. I would benefit from some peace. I really enjoy watching college basketball, particularly St. John’s University.
Q: Favorite art-form? Song? Movie? Book? Comedian? Actor?
Song: Age of Consent
Movie: Raging Bull
Q: How do you feel about our social and political climate in regards to English majors? Or in regards to college and education in general? Are they under attack?
A: Well, we could talk about that all day, so I’ll just say this: Art seems to be under attack given the present climate (see cuts to the NEA and NEH). And, for me, that is all right. I think that tension was what brought me to the arts. Art, writing, etc. keeps culture honest. When art is at its most vulnerable is when it is most powerful.
Q: “When art is at its most vulnerable is when it is most powerful.” That’s quite a profound statement and one I’ll certainly remember.
Finally, any advice for current English majors?
A: Well, I am not much of an advice guy, but I would say to cast a wide net. I went into my studies thinking that English was “X” and only “X” – but eventually learned the field is much larger than that. Think about what you value and what moves you—how powerful this major truly is. Hmmm – ask questions. We are here as a department to help and support you.