Today, for the first time in my college career, I truly felt as if my life was being changed. I am taking a Seminar on Toni Morrison. For anyone who doesn’t know, Toni Morrison is Nobel Prize winning author. She is famous for her works like Beloved, Tar Baby, The Bluest Eye, and Sula. I signed up for the course last year because a) I didn’t know anything about Toni Morrison, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn something new and b) Because my mom gushed at the class when I was considering taking it (I always trust my mother’s opinion: perhaps a strength, perhaps a weakness). Anyway, the Professor for the class is a woman who is awe inspiring. Her very presence in a room is one which makes me feel small. Not small in the sense that I am nothing, but more like small in the sense that I want to defer to her knowledge and wisdom. This woman has every right to be haughty: she is extremely well educated (Howard University and Yale), smart, statuesque, and involved with many on and off campus projects furthering her research. However, on the first day of class she told us she was training us to become the “architects of our own survival.” This particular quotation spoke volumes to me because I consider myself to be a seeker of knowledge. I never have once thought of my quest for knowledge as one of survival. Essentially, the obtaining of knowledge is a survival mechanism. I had never once considered survival as something to think about in the pursuit of my education.
Today, the professor took us on a walk through campus to explore Morrison’s themes of “haunting” in the book. I know what you’re thinking: “Haunting? Like ghosts and ghost stories?” Well, really, yes. William and Mary is an extremely haunted campus, and Morrison herself claims to have been haunted all her life. The walk through campus led to my understanding of different aspects of campus that aren’t always (or ever) highlighted on the cookie cutter tour. Today I learned where the flogging post was, a potential location of an enslaved person’s burial ground, and the site of a flag that was flown on a flagpole donated to the college by the KKK. I felt a little haunted myself when I left class today.
This woman is making me think in a way which I have never felt my mind bend before. I feel my brain and my thoughts contorting themselves in a manner which will make them more flexible to new ideas, and this means a lot because I consider myself to be a person who is VERY open to new ideas. I feel like this professor is changing my life, and I’ve only had two classes with her so far. This is what college is supposed to feel like I think.
“That is a beautiful sort of open and closed world. Open because anything can happen, and you don’t always know, you are just eager to follow, and closed because it is yours, completely yours, and other things outside of it are very secondary, almost irrelevant.”
-Toni Morrison, on filling a blank page