The meanings of work in a scholarly specialty are central to the making of academic and disciplinary identity. This paper reviews how disciplines may be understood as institutions. It then offers an account of a single English professor and the organization of a course reflecting his specialized intellectual commitments and general approach to teaching. The study is framed in the form of representative “dialectics” in academic careers. The paper argues for more “local knowledge” in the study of faculty members, with attention to how specialization presents discipline-specific opportunities for academic identity and professional development.