McBride Lecture Speaker Discusses Life, Literature and Purpose

McBride Lecture Speaker Discusses Life, Literature and Purpose

by Kati Herr

Everyone is geared for something, the McBride lecturer said at Simpson Thursday night.

Mark Edmundson of the University of Virginia gave a timeless piece of advice to more than 250 Simpson students, faculty and Indianola residents: Learn what they can in attempt to discover who they are and what they really want.

“My perception is that when you find the thing you are really cut out to do, then what seems like work to others will be something like play to you,” Edmundson said.

Edmundson is a professor of romantic poetry and literary theory at Virginia who has published a variety of books and received various honors, including receiving Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times for his book “Teacher” in 2002. Edmundson came with a wealth of personal anecdotes and literary expertise that he used to discuss the human experience with literature.

“We are creatures who can’t look back and change,” Edmundson said. “Literature has the capacity to allow us to look at ourselves.”

Edmundson described literature as the way in which humans can see the world as it really is.

“We are the person, on some level, that our parents think we are,” said Edmundson. “We are the person, on some level, that our priests want us to be, but it’s not right for everyone.”

Edmundson said that it is through literature and learning that a person can, if necessary, come out of joint with his or her background and create his or her own self image. He discussed literature with enthusiasm, saying that it is through literature that we have been revealed to ourselves.

An audience member asked Edmundson to give his predictions about the effect technology will have on literature to which he responded that it is our duty as learners to keep literature alive.

“It could give people access to amazing work that could change their lives,” said Edmundson. “Or it could give them access to normal drivel.”

Another audience member asked about what literature he considered most influential to which he said that usually young women will be more affected by young women and young men by young men. However, Edmundson said all persons should be open to the influence of all literature by every author.

Edmundson also said he was most influenced in his youth by reading “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

“I had a curiosity somewhat like his but I had been stunted by various things,” said Edmundson, who grew up in a working-class family in Medford, Mass., before going on to study at Bennington and Yale.

Edmundson said that while he didn’t necessarily agree with everything Malcolm X wrote, he respected every one of his words. He valued the personal drive of Malcolm X and soon made a vow similar to the one Malcolm X made.

“I made a resolution that I would learn what I could and use it for my betterment and the betterment of everything around me,” said Edmundson.