Before you do anything today, mark on your calendar for Monday, October 24th, 3 p.m., at the WJ Niederkorn Library for a talk on literature by Professor Roy A. Swanson.
Roy Arthur Swanson was a fixture in the Comparative Literature department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee since the late 1960s. I came to know him in 1996. I took my first class with him, not realizing a tidal wave was about to wash over me.
I had the original thought of doing a Classics minor with a major in Anthropology, but after that one class, the class I had wanted to take but wouldn’t give me any credits in my Classics minor (but took it anyway), I knew which way I wanted to go.
Over the years I tried to take every class I could with the professor, and when I couldn’t I did an independent study under his care. A minor in Comp Lit evolved into a double major.
When I started my graduate work in the MAFFL department (Masters in Foreign Language and Literature), I knew who I wanted as a guide. Before my first semester was finished, however, I learned that my mentor was going to be leaving. Oh, he’d be around, sharing an office with another retiring Comp Lit professor, Rachel Skalitzky, but he would not be able to be my advisor anymore.
I was bummed.
As luck would have it though, the new professor advisor I was directed to, Professor Kristin Pitt, would be a great move and the start to a good friendship.
It’s been about 8 years since I last saw Professor Swanson. I think of him often, hoping he is well and still kicking in his blue suede shoes. When I saw a posting for his new book, Rain and Darkness, I, first, purchased it, and second, read it. It’s as though I never left his class room.
It’s all there, the same spark I witnessed sitting in his lectures, the constant reminder of the anima and animus-the feminine and masculine-the delicate dance of the light and dark, the duo of chaos and entropy. One cannot exist without the other, and with a touch of irony, I find it everywhere; politics, music, art and literature, every day life, relationships, nature.
I think of other things he taught me too, like how criticism doesn’t have to be negative-rather, criticism is about finding the value in something, the deconstruction of the text or the work, to see what lies below the visible surface and to delve into the inner workings of the piece as a whole, not just a part. He has changed my entire view of literature, and of life. He has influenced my own writings and how I view the world. I know he has no expectations of me, but I hope I can live up to my expectations of him.
Needless to say, I am overly excited to welcome him to my beloved library. To have my mentor here, among the books I love so much, to have him here and talk about his knowledge of literature and language, to have him here so I can finally say, Thank you, Professor Swanson, for showing me what I had been missing and taking me into a world I never knew existed, and perhaps would still not know existed if it hadn’t been for you.
“I’ll get by as long as I have you. Oh there’be rain and darkness, too. Ah, but tears may come to me, that’s true, but what care I, say, I’ll get by, as long as I have you.”*
The library has added Professor Swanson’s new novel, Rain and Darkness to the collection. Also, please visit our Facebook page, under “WJ Niederkorn Library,” where I have added a short video of the man in black.
Monday, October 24th at 3 pm.
At the WJ Niederkorn Library
316 W Grand Ave
Port Washington WI 53074
*From the song “I’ll Get By” Lyrics by Roy Turk