Liberty University English professor, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, is known for enriching students’ lives through a passion for literature, but her voice reaches far beyond the limits of campus. A contributing writer for Christianity Today, Think Christian, and The Atlantic, Prior regularly engages with relevant cultural issues. Her literary memoir, “Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me” was recently published by T.S. Poetry Press, and recounts the important role that books have played in her development as a teacher, a Christian, and a lifelong learner with a zeal for art.
A seasoned professor and expert on 18th century British literature, Prior teaches a myriad of courses to both undergraduate and graduate students at Liberty, including classes on women’s literature, the English novel, Christian authors, and many other genres. When presenting material, Prior’s goal is to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for critical thinking and discussion. In addition, teaching within the context of a biblical worldview allows her to demonstrate the impact that literature can have.
“My objectives for each course I teach are the same,” she says. “I want my students to leave the class loving God, life, and literature more than they did at the start.”
Prior’s “Booked,” recently named Best Literary Criticism of 2012 by Hearts & Minds Books, captures the essence of her teaching philosophy. For readers, her hope is to convey how literature affects, and even changes, lives. She weaves her personal spiritual journey throughout the book, and tells of finding God's calling for her life while pursuing her liberal arts education. “The real purpose of education is not training for a career or attainment of a job,” Prior says, “but rather the discovery of who God created us to be. When we learn that, we can fulfill it in our professions and as family members, citizens, and members of the body of Christ.”