So when I was about 10 or 11 I encountered
Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It took me awhile to actually read it, but the way Tolstoy was able to combine the Napoleonic Wars with the study of people’s search for the meaning in life and
the search for love and identity blew me away. I knew I wanted to study that and that involved
both history and English. I eventually gravitated more towards English, I enjoy both of them,
but reading Shakespeare seems more exciting than reading charts on corn prices.
I was not a good student in grade school and I was on the verge of being expelled academically
when I was a kid all the time because I was very poor at math and dyslexic so I couldn’t
spell at all and I much prefer my own imaginative world to the real world. Some people would
say I still do. In college I was able to study mostly history, English, philosophy, religion,
a little art and a little neuropsychology. I really enjoyed it and I certainly my own
pleasure of graduate has fed in into my desire to make being an undergraduate pleasant for
my students. My notion of fun is working hard and reading a lot and to persuade others that
that is fun, too. You can’t be a good undergraduate professor without a being a hand actor and
something of a preacher and something of a coach.
What I really want them to do is learn how to read and how to think. Not what to think,
but how to think. The great thing about intellectual life is the more you read the more you build
up a bank account, but the more you use funds from that account the more the account increases.
I don’t find that to be true with a bank account so much. Intellectually that’s what
happens. All of my work builds upon scholars who devoted
their lives to specific areas of study. There’s some standing on the shoulder of others there.
But I am also very lucky to have worked with just incredibly wonderful scholars not only
from the States, but from Europe and Africa, so that’s been a big help.