Among those pursuing doctoral degrees at the University of Dallas, Professor Zach McCoy, an adjunct professor, teaches the ever-beloved freshman courses of Lit Trad I and II.
Alongside his courses, he is currently working on his dissertation proposal on James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and W.G. Sebald’s prose fictions. On his committee is Dr. Brett Bourbon, an associate professor at UD and a scholar in the works of Joyce, Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, among others.
“I’m grateful to have him and Dr. Osborn on my committee,” admitted McCoy.
Originally from Clearwater Beach, Florida, he grew up in the St. Louis area and later moved to Texas in 2012. Though he was not the most avid reader as a child, the first impactful title he read in his life was the novel “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.
“I was sixteen when I read it. I saw myself in one of the characters and it troubled me,” he stated. “At that time, I didn’t have the language to formulate how it bothered me, but I wanted to understand how we relate to fiction and how it becomes meaningful to us.”
It is worth noting that during McCoy’s undergraduate studies at a small, Christian liberal arts college in Missouri, while he wrote poetry, one of his more pronounced works was a play by the name of “Down the Ladder.” Though it was completed in a matter of months, later revisions were made, not to mention, the tinkering McCoy has made in the present day.
His alma mater, a Midwest theater company and a high school theater program are a few of the sites that produced this play. It concerns Death, a vivacious character, manifesting itself to a young man way too early; thus the young man launches himself into an adventure to find a way to keep Death at bay forever.
“It was inspired by my upcoming —foreboding — move to Texas after graduation,” said McCoy.
“If we make it allegorical, I was the young man and Texas, at the time, was Death. My views on Texas have changed, but not on I-35.”
A novel is also amid McCoy’s works in process, though his dissertation has been occupying most of his time.
After obtaining his undergraduate degree, McCoy decided to pursue his Master’s at the University of Dallas, writing his thesis over “Moby–Dick” with Dr. Bainard Cowan. His doctorate dissertation continued shortly afterward and into the present day.
“To the Lit Trad II students out there: in a way that may remind us of Dante as poet and pilgrim, but is distinct from it, “Ishmael” redescribes his experiences aboard the Pequod as if he were an exile, but, in recounting those experiences, he assumes the role of a would-be prophet.”
“I wrote on that dichotomy relative to the fate-freewill conflict in the novel: How can he perceive himself equally cursed and blessed, and how might that develop our reading of the book?”
Although UD is open to all religious affiliations, its population is predominantly Catholic. However, McCoy is Baptist, which grants him a unique perspective on the education received at the institution.
“I walked into UD with regard for Catholicism and the value Catholics place on education. That has only grown since I’ve been here,” he said.
“One of the highlights of my doctorate was taking a course on the Gospel of John with Father Farkasfalvy before he passed. His class developed how I read and approach scripture.”
On a more casual note, his two favorite books he recommends are “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky and “Ulysses” by James Joyce; as per tradition for UD literature professors, he could talk about Homer indefinitely.
As a younger viewer, his favorite movies included “The Breakfast Club” and “School of Rock,” as well as “The Godfather” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Presently, he appreciates titles such as “About Time” and “Another Round.”
Concerning wisdom for future scholars, McCoy said, “Nietzsche has this quote to people who say life is hard. He says, ‘Life is hard, but stop acting so delicate!’ Education is a challenge, but it is also a privilege. And challenges, like tests, are to be met and passed. Your professors want you to succeed.”
“So, that question that’s been nagging you for the last two weeks? Ask it.”