Paul A. Vatalaro
Ph. D. State University of New York at Binghamton
Almost every semester I tell my students that I have placed at least one work that scares me on their course reading lists. In my Horror Fiction and Gods and Monsters courses, students probably think I’m talking exclusively about works that continue to make me shudder whenever I read them. What I really mean, however, is that I’ve selected texts that will force me to stretch beyond the boundary of my own knowledge. Good teaching, after all, isn’t just about challenging students; it’s also about the instructor’s willingness to challenge himself in order to become a stronger scholar and hopefully a better person, and this usually involves tackling the unfamiliar, venturing into the unknown. The promise of discovery keeps good teaching and good learning alive. Though at times nerve-racking, this commitment represents my way of sharing with my students that mixture of excitement, uncertainty and initial lack of confidence that comes from moving outside of a comfort zone and entering that pleasurable space created by a literary work in which one might learn new things about one’s culture, about one’s world, about one’s time in history, and about oneself. I have found that this enterprise reduces the distance between my position and goals as a professor and the position and goals of my students.
Professor Vatalaro specializes in British Romantic literature. His articles have appeared in a number of scholarly journals and his book, Shelley’s Music: Fantasy, Authority and the Object Voice, has been published by Ashgate Press.