When I was applying to different graduate programs, I spent a lot of time scrolling down various English Department Faculty web pages trying to figure out if these were the kind of people that I wanted to spend the next year and a bit learning from, looking up to, researching with, hysterically weeping in front of whilst pleading for an extension, etc., etc. You can learn a lot about a professor’s qualifications and research interests from these pages, but not necessarily what he or she is LIKE as a person. I thought that I’d try to change that a bit by showcasing how funny, intelligent and kind I’ve found the faculty to be here at Trent.
My first interview (victim?) is with none other than Zailig Pollock, the Director of Trent’s Public Texts program, and awarded teacher par excellence. I exaggerate not at all when I say this man is brilliant beyond all belief, but still down to earth enough to enjoy the idiotic glory of a film like Independence Day. A non-stop asker of questions (probably why he knows so much… duly noted), below he’s taken the time to answer some questions of my own. Blogosphere, meet Zailig; Zailig, blogosphere.
So what’s keeping you busy lately?
1. Working on my research project, The Digital Page, a digital edition of the collected works of P.K. Page.
2. Catering to my students’ every need and whim.
Describe your perfect day. Feel free to be creative, i.e. does Ryan Gosling show up at your front door?
In the morning, between 9:00 and 11:00, run the New York Marathon (easy route, best crowd). Spend the afternoon in Tuscany. In the evening give my grandchildren a bath and put them to bed in Seattle.
You’re handed a free ticket to anywhere in the world. Where do you go, and why?
Shiraz, so I can visit the tomb of Hafez in the Musalla Gardens and pay homage to the world’s greatest lyric poet, before Iran is obliterated by pre-emptive air strikes.
What are the last three books that you read? Did you enjoy them?
The Swerve: How the World became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt.
Nemesis, Phil Roth.
Case Histories, Kate Atkinson.
The Swerve - interesting but surprisingly conventional for a book by a groundbreaking theorist like Greenblatt – but he seems to be getting interest in writing approachable rather than groundbreaking books these days. And writing an approachable book on the Latin poet Lucretius is an achievement.
Nemesis - good but need to reread it. There is a revelation near the end that throws an entirely new light on the story and storyteller, and I need to reread it with this in mind.
Case Histories is good but not as good as the TV mini-series, but, then, it doesn’t have Jason Isaacs starring in it.
Name your top three favourite films. Be honest :)
Local Hero. Kind of hard to say after that, they all seem to blur together. Maybe, Les grandes illusions and Blade Runner.
What kind of music do you like? Do you have any favourite artists/groups?
Bach. I am afraid that I discovered Bach when the Beatles appeared and pretty much missed the sixties and all that flowed from them.
What do you think is the most valuable and/or unique aspect of the Public Texts program?
The most important aspect is undoubtedly the devoted faculty. Students are taken very seriously. Our unique aspect is our focus on texts and the work they do in the world. This allows us to pursue an amazingly wide range of texts of every sort imaginable, but to still feel we are all involved in an important shared pursuit.
Choose three words to summarize your own experiences as a graduate student.
I did my graduate work in England where the method followed was more or less benign neglect. It did mean that I was able to get my work finished much faster than would have been possible in North America, and to get on to the job market before it had completely closed down as it did in the mid 70s. So I would say: Terror, Despair, Joy.
Any advice for those currently pursuing their own graduate degree?
Do it if you love it. You will be better for it whatever the unpredictable future holds.
And finally: if you could have any superpower, what would it be, and why?
Hmmmm, invisibility or flight are the usual options. How about, the ability to get away with 2 hours of sleep a night instead of 4.