Liberal arts professors tend to appear quite busy as they sprint across campus from staff meeting to staff meeting, their bags overflowing with academic journals and used notepaper. Always curious about on-campus happenings, MUSE set out to discover what exactly these busybody professors were really up to. The answer for three hard-working professors was simple enough – writing.
Francisco X. Alarcón – Spanish Department
Besides teaching in the Spanish department at UC Davis, Francisco X. Alarcón has also published a dozen volumes of poetry, the most recent being a picture book of bilingual children’s poems titled Animal Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú.
As a bilingual poet, Alarcón said that learning and speaking more than one language, despite the necessary investment of time and effort, is beneficial for almost all people.
“My belief is that to learn and speak a second or a third language is a tremendous asset for any educated person in the world, the United States and especially in California,” he said in an e-mail. “There are more than 12 million Latinos now living in the state of California, and the majority of those Latinos are bilingual.“
As for poetic inspiration, Alarcón has drawn from both the innocence of children and the natural beauty of northern Argentina’s Iguazú National Park. One assignment for a class of fifth graders asked the children to write a poem about how they saw themselves in 20 years. The poems moved Alarcón to write Poems to Dream Together. Similarly, while admiring Iguazu’s magnificent landscape, Alarcón said he again felt the need to write.
“I write most poems really in a fit of passion, without any set plan. “Most poems come to me unexpectedly, sometimes in places and times I least expect to find inspiration,” he said. “I wrote a whole book of animal poems – where the animals speak in first person – while visiting Iguazú National Park.“
Fran Dolan – English Department
With rising divorce rates and the persistent debate over gay marriage, English professor Fran Dolan’s latest book, Marriage and Violence: The Early Modern Legacy, addresses an issue that has been on everyone’s mind for some time now. In fact, Dolan’s book traces ideas about marriage from the 16th century all the way up to today’s pop culture.
“I’m interested in how we describe marriage or married couples,” she said. “There’s phrases and attitudes that began in the 16th and 17th centuries that still survive today in how we talk about marriage.“
Dolan said she took a special interest in the notion of marriage as only having room for one person, as suggested by the popular romantic notion that, in marriage, “two will become one.“
The structure by which Marriage and Violence connects both past and present was inspired in some part by Dolan’s experiences teaching classes about the history of marriage and domestic violence.
“I always wanted to start at the beginning and move forward in time,” she said. “The students wanted to come into class and talk about the connection between the past and the present. I learned from the students to appeal to a larger audience.“
The core of Dolan’s book concerns itself with the common conception of marriage as an unequal relationship that includes one dominant member.
“Conventional wisdom says that if you both try to be in charge, you’re going to fight with each other. I’m trying to say that this idea comes from a place – it has a history. And we can rethink it. It’s possible to imagine marriage as a relationship of equality. That’s the argument of the book.“
Lucy Corin – English Department
English professor Lucy Corin’s book of short stories, titled The Entire Predicament, addresses a number of diverse scenarios.
“As far as plots or scenarios go, there’s [a story] about throwing pate into the ocean, one about going to the dentist when there’s a sniper on the loose [and] one about a house getting overrun with mice and how that drives a man into the tundra,” she said in an e-mail.
Corin, who published her first work while still a senior in college, elected to wait until she finished her Masters of Fine Arts degree before sending out more stories.
“My real job is to learn to write, not to learn to write something I think people would publish,” she said. “That’s still what I make myself remember whenever I feel like I’m getting caught up in desire for recognition.“
Being a writer compels Corin to pay extra attention to the events in her life.
“That’s what I do as a fiction writer everyday, really, is look at everything I encounter in terms of how it could make a great story.“
ZACK FREDERICK can be reached at email@example.com.