Picture of John McDonald

John "Craig" McDonald


Professor of English, Chair of the English Dept.


College of Arts and Sciences

Office Location:

Bristol Campus: Tadlock Rm 103

Office Phone:



"O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you." St. Augustine, Confessions

Thy life's a miracle. Shakespeare, King Lear

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

I appeal to you by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

I am blessed. Wendell Berry, "Boundary"



You’ve no doubt followed a car (perhaps you drive one!) plastered with slogans and stickers proclaiming the driver’s commitment to various causes. As I’ve gotten older, I’m beginning feel like one of those cars, accumulating quotations that describe my aspirations or that act as landmarks in my spiritual and intellectual development. Having taught now for some 36 years, these quotations have entered into my lifeblood, expressing my longings and aspirations—for myself, for my family, for my students, and for my colleagues and friends at King.

I did a short stint as a campus intern with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and at one point considered seminary; but through the witness of a high school English teacher and a couple of faculty members at the College of William and Mary felt God’s call to teach. While in the English master’s program at William and Mary, I learned about the medieval studies program at the University of York in northern England, and Karen and I moved. What I appreciated greatly about the program, aside from the privilege of living in abroad and meeting people who have been good friends for many years, is the ability to study where medieval literature, art, and history was made. It’s hard to relate the feeling of conducting research using manuscripts that are over 500 years old and of studying medieval stained glass, not through color prints but with a pair of binoculars in a cathedral. It helped to drive home the point that this is the work of people—who lived and dreamed and created.

My wife, Karen, and I just celebrated our 40th anniversary. She practices the art of “holy listening” as a spiritual director, and our home serves as assisted living quarters for our dog Annie and our cat Jezebel. Our daughter, Kate, a priest with the Scottish Episcopal Church, and her husband, Justin, a writer and web designer, are moving to Tiberias in Israel, where she will serve as a pastor. My son, Seth, is an engineer with GE; and his wife, Kristine, is a member of the faculty. They have given Karen and me a delightful grandson, Will.

I have taught at King since 1982 with a 2-year break to serve as headmaster at Sullins Academy. One of the more rewarding roles I have played was developing and directing the Snider honors program, in which students and I, along with numerous colleagues, who contributed to the program, sought to unpack the phrase in King’s mission statement “cultural transformation in Christ.” There is little to compare to the magic of seeing a student transformed—intellectually and spiritually. As one of Wendell Berry’s characters states, “I am blessed.”

In ways I feel like the proverbial jack of all trades, master of none. In the past, I’ve enjoyed playing the bagpipes and writing poetry and novels, although currently I do neither. Reading, as one might expect of one whose profession is Engish, is a favorite activity; but in many ways I’m a visual person and enjoy watching British mysteries with Karen. Having worked as a carpenter’s helper in high school and part of college, I generally have a remodeling project or two during the summer. Working with my hands is rewarding and has given me a profound appreciation for skill and the hard labor of artists and craftsmen who do that as a living, not just dabble, as I do.



D.Phil., English, University of York York, UK, 1980

M.A., English, College of William and Mary, 1976

B.A., English, Davidson College, 1974

Recent Publications and Presentations


2013 “A Money Changer in George Herbert’s Temple” (to be published this year in an anthology by the George Herbert Society)

2010 “Community: The Heart of Honors Study.” Journal of Education and Christian Belief 14.2 (2010).

2006 “What does St. Paul’s Have to Do with the Tabard Inn?: F. D. Maurice and the Imagination” (a paper presented at the Ewbank C.S. Lewis Colloquium, Taylor University, May and published in the transactions)

2004 Review of Ronald Black’s An Tuil (a collection of 20th-c. Gaelic poetry). Studies in Scottish Literature.

1992 Review of Roderick Mackinnon’s Gaelic: A Past and Future Prospect. Studies in Scottish Literature.

1990 A critical edition of Johannes de Irlandia’s Meroure of Wyssdome. Scottish Text Society.

1987 “John Ireland's Meroure of Wyssdome and Chaucer's Tale of Melibee.” Studies in Scottish Literature, 21: 23-34.

1982 “The Thre Prestis of Peblis and The Meroure of Wyssdome: A Possible Relationship.” Studies in Scottish Literature, 17: 153-64.

1980 “The Perversion of Law in Robert Henryson’s Fable of the Fox, the Wolf, and the Husbandman.” Medium Aevum, 49: 244-53.

1977 “Venus and the Goddess Fortuna in the Testament of Cresseid.” Scottish Literary Journal, 4: 14-24.


2010 Presentation on Among His Personal Effects, an historical novel (Robert Henryson Society, Dunfermline, Scotland)

“Shakespeare and the Art of Strip Tease” (King College, Lecture for the School of Arts and Sciences)

2009 “In His Right Mind” (King College, Faculty Lecture)

2005 “Craftsman or Technician?” (Kayseean article, November; draws on research from F. D. Maurice)

2005 “’Just weights’ and the ‘Battle of Waterloo’: F. D. Maurice’s Notions of Radical Incarnation” (Convocation, King for a Day, September; draws on research from F. D. Maurice)

2005 “Clichés in our Blood” (Baccalaureate dinner, May)

2004 A reading from “Through a Looking Glass, Darkly,” a novel in progress (King College, Faculty Lecture)

2004 “Extending the Right Hand of Fellowship: Wendell Berry’s Remembering” (Faculty Symposium, King College)

2003 “Art for Art’s Sake: Poetry, Piping, and Tensions in the Aesthetic Experience” (Faculty Symposium, King College)

2002 “Erasure, Memory, and Interpretation: Vision and Division in Blind Hary’s Wallace” (International Conference on Scottish Language and Literature, Rolduc, the Netherlands)

2001 “From Hollywood to Holyrood: The Feminine Real in Blind Hary’s Wallace” (University of Virginia—Wise Medieval and Renaissance Conference)

2001 “Ambiguity” (King College Faculty Lecture, with Dr. James Bowley, Professor of Old Testament)

2000 “Humor” (King College Faculty Lecture, with Dr. James Bowley, Professor of Old Testament)

1998 “A Common Man Looks at Music” (King College Faculty Lecture)

1998 “The Essential Bible: A Medieval Theologian’s View” (International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo)

1991 “Obligations and an Un-promising Prince in Henry IV, Part 1”; co-authored with John McDonald (South Carolina Philological Association)

1990 “Mirror, Filter, or Magnifying Glass: Conciliarism in John Ireland’s Meroure of Wyssdome” (International Conference on Scottish Language and Literature, University of South Carolina—published in Studies in Scottish Literature,

1989 “Mixing Politics and Religion: John Ireland’s Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard” (International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo)

1989 “Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on John Ireland’s Meroure of Wyssdome” (doctoral colloquium, Harvard University)

1987 “John Ireland's Literary Sensibility” (International Conference on Scottish Language and Literature, Aberdeen University—published in Bryght Lanternis, ed. J.D. McClure and M.R.G. Spiller, 324-36).

1987 “The Transformation of a Fool, or the Grammar of Deception: A Look at the Character of Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part 1” (Tennessee Philological Association)

1985 “George MacDonald's Vision of Grace” (King College, Faculty Lecture)

1984 “Passive Christian Action in Charles Williams’ War in Heaven” (Southeast Regional Conference on Christianity & Literature)

Current research

English Grammar; a textbook is in process

Courses recently taught

ENGL 2181 LECT British Literature I
ENGL 2480 LECT Oxford Christian Writers
ENGL 3200 LECT A Survey of World Literature
ENGL 3340 LECT English Grammar
ENGL 3360 LECT Religion and Literature
ENGL 3461 LECT Shakespeare
ENGL 4910 LECT English Capstone Seminar
HUMN 2171 LECT The Quest for a Meaningful Life
HUMN 2172 LECT The Quest for a Meaningful Life