Thursday, November 2
William Styron died (NYT, you might have to subscribe) the other day.
When I was a freshman at Sewanee I had a lot of trouble with writing (I blame this on my high school but that's another story). I had the same professor for both English 101 & 102.She seemed convinced that I could write I just hadn't been given the skills. After the first couple or three writing assignments she had me in her office weekly were we would go over what I had done correctly and what I had done incorrectly. She was an extremely patient woman and I was a willing student, I mean, I never really thought about. The teacher says "come see me", you go, right? At Sewanee, English 101 was poetry + The Sound & The Fury by Faulkner; English 102 was Shakespeare plays. My professor, whose name I can't remember, suggested we continue working together in ENG 102, our weekly meetings continued and improvements became apparent and consistent. By the end of the semester I was making B's, maybe even an A, on my papers and my professor had announced she was leaving Sewanee to go somewhere in CA. During our last meeting, which was more a congratulatory thing, she expressed her pleasure at my growth by given me her copy of the Confessions of Nat Turner. I didn't know the book or the author. I have no idea if she gave it to me b/c I was Black or b/c she actually thought I would enjoy it. It was years later before I read it but I did. I read it, I enjoyed it. It was my first exposure to the Nat Turner story. I knew he'd led a slave rebellion but I didn't know anything surrounding it nor was I informed enough to realize this was a book of fiction. I'll have to pull it out again to see what I think now.
I think of that professor periodically, probably more than any of my non-departmental professors. She took what seemed like a strong interest in my potential and she helped. At a liberal arts college like Sewanee you cannot survive without being able to write well. For her to help me that first year was instrumental in my ability to make it through an Anthropology program with as little effort as I put in (I worked but not as hard as I should have).