Dr. Anthony Wilson
From Faulkner to Facebook
English Professor Dr. Anthony Wilson believes his students have something significant
“Words, language is so fundamental to our identity, to who we are, to who
we can become—and so enjoyable at the same time.
“I love the idea that so much of who we are individually and collectively
comes from the stories we tell and are told,” he explains.
From childhood, Dr. Wilson says he’s always loved the works of authors like Dr.
Seuss and Shel Silverstein, “those poems that are about words themselves.”
He and his colleagues in the English Department encourage students to rediscover
and rekindle the joy they got as a kid learning to read.
For some, though, studying literature brings up the ultimate question, “When am
I going to use this poetry in the future?”
“It’s not like somebody’s going to pull you over, put a gun to your head and say,
‘Quick, analyze this poem,’” he smiles.
He uses a “toolbox” analogy.
“I tell my students, ‘You’re not going to use it the way you’d use a hammer.’
“Think about studying literature the way you might approach the work you do as
an athlete, for example, in the weight room. You don’t do curls because you have
to do them on the field in the middle of a game. You do the exercises to strengthen
your body as a whole, so then you’re much better at doing everything else you’re
called upon to do,” he explains.
He compares his classes to “strengthening your intellectual muscle.”
When it comes to writing, Dr. Wilson believes a lot of students get discouraged
because in the past they’ve had a very “rules-oriented approach.”
He says the first step to liberating students from the “chore” of writing is to
develop in them the sense that they have something to say that’s worth reading.
“That’s what you get at a school like LaGrange. Your professor’s going to be reading
what you write with great care and attention and isn’t just going to be marking
commas and run-on sentences.”
He believes grammar and punctuation are extremely important but worries that students
see writing as a hoop they have to jump through.
“If a student recognizes that he or she has something significant to say, along
with that conviction comes the desire to improve.
“It’s easy to overcome a deficiency in preparation (for college) if you can instill
that sense that what you have to say is important,” he continues.
“Think of all the different ways that we’re writing now as opposed to even five
years ago and the ways others see our ‘written’ selves. Maybe grammar doesn’t matter
so much on Facebook and Twitter, but still you’re judged by how you present yourself.
The better you become at writing, the better your virtual self will come across.”
Dr. Wilson’s specialty is Southern literature; his favorite author is William
Referring to Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” Professor Wilson says, “He manages
the particular experience of living in a small Southern county and the very real,
visceral issues of race and gender and identity.
“Southern literature takes all of the big issues in American history and distills
them into their most powerful form.”
Also, he enjoys “stepping outside that box” to teach courses on subjects like
the British Romantics.
“I’ve had some wonderful experiences here at LaGrange. I’ve taught in other
places, but I haven’t felt as needed. We certainly have some excellent, well-prepared
students here, but I think the difference is the relationships I build here are
that much more meaningful.”