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Muse

By Cathy Shuman

At first I thought weedy, but that was just posture.

Tall and thin, anyway, with anonymous brown hair and Russian icon eyes that sometimes opened wide for emphasis. Good-looking in the generic way they all are at that age. Sitting in my classes, they pose, with more or less finesse, the usual human puzzles. Pretty or plain, dull or sharp, none have stopped my gaze till—God knows why—this one, in whom I glimpsed, from time to time, an unexpected core of watchfulness. 

His silences, leaning back in his chair, seemed like frat boy hauteur, and the sudden shifts to vulnerable engagement like sucking up. But he used “frat boy” as a term of abuse in an essay once, and looking back I’m not so sure. “I agree,” he’d say in paper conferences, eyes on his work, making corrections. After class, he asked questions about narrative voice. The hardest part about revising his first assignment, he told me, was making himself read the feedback. But in the workshop he seemed utterly confident—nodding, making jokes, asking questions, long-fingered hands skimming like a DJ’s from laptop to written notes.

 

     

About the Author

Cathy Shuman, author of Pedagogical Economies: The Examination and the Victorian Literary Man, teaches creative nonfiction writing and literature at Duke University. 

 

 

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