Nationally Recognized Author and Allegheny Alum Returns to His Roots to Teach a New Generation of Students

Graham Barnhart’s time with his Allegheny College faculty mentors undoubtedly set the stage for his career as an author and recipient of multiple nationally recognized fellowships. Now, the 2007 Allegheny graduate has returned to his roots to give back to a new generation of students. 

“The truth is that since I was a student I’ve hoped for a chance to teach at Allegheny (or a similar institution),” Barnhart explains. “I admire my faculty mentors so much, and loved my time here, I’d take any excuse to come back.”

Graham Barnhart ’07

Author of The War Makes Everyone Lonely and recipient of multiple nationally recognized fellowships, Barnhart enlisted in the Army soon after graduation. After his time in service, he went on to pursue an MFA in poetry from the Ohio State University and a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas. 

While not his first semester back, having taught two courses in fall 2021, Barnhart is nevertheless eager to take what he learned and apply it to the format of Spring Semester Module 1, in which classes are intensive three-week courses. Matthew Ferrence, department chair and associate professor of English, echoes Barnhart’s enthusiasm. 

“It’s awesome having Graham ‘back home’ at Allegheny, sharing his expertise in poetry with the added bonus of being an alumnus. He’s been in the same place as his students, literally, so he teaches from a unique perspective in our department,” says Ferrence. “Plus, his own varied path having received a prestigious Stegner Fellowship in poetry and also having served as a special forces medic deployed to Afghanistan demonstrates the way poetry, literature, and the arts writ large are a powerful aspect of human experience.”

Reflecting on his own time as a student, Barnhart reveals that after graduating from Allegheny, he constantly relied on the skills he had developed in his creative writing workshops, especially during his time in the Army.   

“Creative writing and the military might seem like disparate fields, but the ability to give and receive clear, productive feedback is vital to both, as it is vital to almost any personal or professional relationship,” says Barnhart. “While giving and receiving feedback was an invaluable skill throughout my military career, the process of learning that skill shaped my perspective on the world both as a writer and a human being.”

Barnhart is teaching a new section of English 110: Introduction to Literary Studies in Module 1. The course focuses on literary texts and their film or TV adaptations. He plans to look at classic texts like Gawain and The Green Knight and Beowulf as well as more contemporary examples like the 2020 film Zola adapted from a Twitter thread. Barnhart adds: “I’m having a lot of fun choosing our primary materials, and I can’t wait to see how the students engage with them.”